raw chocolate mistake turned great

Oh, geez. Keep me away from online shopping. I was looking for cocoa butter and couldn't find any locally. So, do I order a small amount to try it out? No, I order 5lbs / $75 worth! Better to have more in case I run out I think. Saves me from paying shipping charges again in the near future I tell myself. Logical, yes. But now I have a large bag of hard, greasy, lumps that I'm sure will last me until the end of time. Thankfully, it's the most wonderful smelling lumps and lasts up to 5 years. I ordered from Real Raw Food for the first time. I also bought raw cocoa powder and cashew pieces. The quality was excellent and it arrived fast.  
My plan was to make raw chocolate (a lot of it apparently, now that I see how much 5lbs is). I tried my first batch almost immediately. The recipe called for maple syrup but I figured coconut sugar would be fine and just take a little longer to dissolve. Nope. Stayed gritty and settled on the bottom of the saucepan. It looked bad and I thought I made something inedible. But thankfully, no! I don't know what happened, but a day later, it's delicious: the coconut sugar changed into crunchy, chewy caramel. Best mistake I've made in a while and one worth telling you about.

This is what I was trying to do, following these directions from Oh she glows. If you are interested in trying my "mistake turned meant-to-do-that" here is what I did. 

crispy chewy dark chocolate caramel bites


Yields: 15+ pieces depending on how you break it up

Ingredients
  • 120 grams organic raw cocoa butter 
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
  • pinch of pink salt
Instructions
  1. Put everything in a small saucepan. 
  2. Heat on very low heat.
  3. Stir frequently, cleaning sides of pan with a silicone spatula until melted. Takes about 15 minutes. 
  4. The coconut sugar doesn't melt fully (even after I tried mixing on low for another 15 minutes). It sits on the bottom and doesn't change except becoming a little less gritty. 
  5. Cool in the fridge to give the mixture a little more body to the point where you can stir it and the sugar doesn't sink right away to the bottom.
  6. After cooling about 10-15 minutes, it should still be liquid but not runny. Pour on a silpat lined baking sheet (or use parchment paper) and freeze until hard. 
  7. When hard, break in pieces and store in freezer. 
  8. This chocolate (like all raw chocolate in my experience) melts as a lower temperature so best to store in the freezer or fridge. 

*Many uses for cocoa butter besides eating. Makes a great moisturizer. I just want to rub it all over and smell chocolaty. I designated a nice sized lump as moisturizer.  It's very firm and works best when warmed. A good idea is to drop a small piece in the bath.
Things are still on track for the cleanse starting this Friday. See the bottom of the last post for details. I hope you'll join me!

Jennifer aniston abs & interval training





As warmer weather approaches, it's time to let some spring fever in to inspire your fitness. I'm not someone who loves exercise so the idea of less time working out = same or better benefit is awesome really. This post is about what's been working for me and some info about interval training. 

What I've been doing lately:
  • 30 minute runs 2x a weekNew for me is adding sprint bursts of 10-15 seconds. It's painful and sometimes I want to barf but unless I push myself, I'll just leisurely jog around. I can already see the difference with the bursts. Getting stronger without running longer (which I don't want to do).
  • Interval training home workouts. In just 24 minutes I feel the way I used to after going to the gym for an hour. High intensity interval training--- benefits of a shorter workout:
    • Shorter workouts didn't make me feel as hungry as my endless exercise sessions which made it easier to resist eating back every calorie I'd just burned." Read more.
    • To be effective, H.I.T. must hurt. But a study found that when a group of runners practiced H.I.T. on the track, they enjoyed the workout more than a second group of runners who jogged continuously for 50 minutes. The H.I.T. runners, the study’s authors suspect, were less bored. What's the single best Exercise?
Doing 'knee' push ups (they still kill me)
lunging for my butt
These are my 8 exercises. I do them 2x (but not in a row) as hard as I can for 1 minute (except plank, you can't do much but be in plank position) then break 30 seconds in between.
  • plank (arms straight or bent)
  • bicycle
  • push-ups (knees variety for me)
  • dips (use edge of a table)
  • lunges
  • squats
  • one-leg squats
  • squat walk 
planking like crazy for 1 minute
Do you see how small my place is? I'm between the dining table and the kitchen island here. But there is always room for a mat! No excuses.
An interval stopwatch really helps. But if you don't have one, feel free to use mine. It's free online but if you use mine you won't have to set it up. 

Jennifer Aniston's an inspiration to me for staying fit and healthy into the 40's & I was pretty excited when I came across this. I can literally feel the 2-pack bursting out as I do them (ok, not quite but my abs are super sore the next day). See what you think.


4 steps to Jennifer Aniston Abs


I'm starting a cleanse on Friday for 12 days. If you would like to join me, I would love the company and support! 

I'm not buying the kit, rather following the foods list for one I used in the past called Wildrose d-tox. I don't think it will be easy. But they say easy things aren't worthwhile, right?

Roasted veggie lasagna - no noodles!


Baked veggie lasagna on a blue plate with a fork
First, my detox update. I've been putting it off because it hasn't been going well. A 6 week detox? Way too long. I immediately went into deprivation mode and started to find ways to add more sweet and starch in my meals. I think I actually gained a couple pounds (ok, I know I gained a couple pounds).

More realistic is a 2 week detox that I'll begin March 1. In the meantime, I'll back off from restricting and think more about overall health (still using Dr. Mercola's beginner plan as my guide).

This lasagna is hearty & truly satisfying yet doesn't have any pasta noodles. It has a good dose of carbs from yams and potatoes as well as a nice helping of grated cheese and ricotta. I came across it in Fresh Juice Magazine. It's a little fussy and time consuming (I debated not writing that since you probably won't try it now) but the payoff is completely worth it.

Here is my slightly modified version (easier than original-less ingredients):

Roasted Veggie Lasagna, pasta-free


Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Yield: 1 full 9' x 13' lasagna baking dish

Ingredients
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 15 crimini or white mushrooms
  • 1 tub of ricotta (500 grams)
  • 1 medium yam
  • 2-3 small potatoes
  • 2 x 398ml cans tomato sauce 
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
  • fresh cilantro-a small handful
  • 2 tbsp dried chopped onion
  • grated mozzarella (about 1 cup)
  • salt & pepper

Instructions
  • Thinly slice all veggies. I used a mandolin for zucchini, yam and potatoes. I used a knife for the eggplant and the mushrooms.
  • Fry the mushrooms in a little butter on medium heat. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, add both cans of tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes & cilantro. Blend for 5 seconds or until well combined. Set aside.
  • Roast veggies to bring out their flavour. Definitely roast all the eggplant. Roast as much as you want to of the yam and potatoes (gets a little tedious with all the slices, I roast about half and leave the rest raw). To roast, lay slices in a layer on a baking sheet brushed with oil (or I recommend using a silpat). Sprinkle veggies lightly with salt. Bake for 10-12 mins at 425. The yams cook quicker than the others. Any of your veggies that you slice thick you will want to roast. Also, I initially tried roasting mandolin-thin sliced zucchini but they fell apart. I slice my zucchini by hand a little thicker and roast it for 10 mins. 
  • In the baking dish, pour 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom and spread it around evenly. Mentally divide the rest of the sauce in 3.
  • Start to layer your lasagna with your thinly sliced veggies.

Bottom layer: 1 zucchini
Layer 2: potato (use half the total amount)
Layer 3: entire eggplant
Layer 4: all the ricotta
sprinkle 1 tbsp dried chopped onion
1/3 of sauce
Layer 5: entire yam
Layer 6: potato (all the rest of the slices)
1/3 of sauce
sprinkle 1 tbsp dried chopped onion
Layer 7: fried mushrooms
Top layer: 1 zucchini
last of the sauce

  • Use the above as your guide. It's ok if a layer has 2 different veggies on it (i.e. if you run out of one or have too much of another). It's also ok to change the order of veggies.
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 400.
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle mozzarella on top and bake for 15 more minutes.
  • Let cool 15 minutes before eating.
baked veggie lasagna on a blue plate with a fork

If it's possible, it tastes even better the next day.

Have you tried making a pasta-free lasagna before? How did it turn out?

Honey oat bars

baked honey oat bars in a tower of 4 on a wooden cutting board with chocolate chips and oats

Even when I'm reducing sugar & carbs, (see what I'm doing with my diet) I still want to make healthy snacks for Craig's lunch (I know, lucky eh?). We both really like Nature Valley granola bars but I don't buy them anymore what with their less than stellar ingredients list (have a look at this!). I like to keep all my snack making as natural as possible. These are sweetened with only honey and have lots of protein and good fat with peanut butter and hemp hearts.

These contain no flour and could be made gluten free.


This recipe is from iheartwellness & I've made it many, many times. I make a couple changes to my version but it still turns out amazing. Great lunch bar, holds together really well and super easy to make.  Truly these taste about 100x better than Nature Valley bars.

Scales make it easy to add the gooey stuff (thus the optional gram measurements).
honey oat bars on a pottery plate
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Total time 40 mins

Yield: 15-20 bars

Ingredients

4 cups quick oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 1/2 cup peanut butter (370 grams)
1 cup honey (1 cup = 340 grams, I use 320 grams)
3 tsp vanilla

Instructions
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients in another bowl (heat honey & peanut butter on low heat if you need to- I did- the honey I'm using is firm).
  3. Add the wet to the dry and stir together until mixture is well coated.
  4. Pour onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. It will take up about half the cookie sheet. Press down to make an even, firm thickness. I use a rolling pin to help flatten it.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes rotating the sheet halfway through.
  6. As soon as they come out of the oven and are still slightly soft, score into bars lightly with a knife.
  7. When the bars are cool cut along score lines with a large knife
  1. pile of baked honey oat bars on a wooden cutting board. chocolate chips and oats in background

Shake it up! Green breakfast smoothie

green smoothie in a glass with a glass straw

Drink up!

Do you need to get more veggies in? I do. Especially more raw & green veggies. I don't gravitate to big salads in the winter so a smoothie is where I put stuff I generally don't like (raw kale, you are one of the good guys, but I think you taste terrible).

I have many, many variations, but this one is the best bang for your buck. Some smoothies are too much health and little taste. This one is perfect and you will not taste the kale (unless you're blender is weak-then you may have bits of unblended kale, a good reason to get a powerful blender*).

It looks like a huge list, but I like to throw as much good stuff in there I can.

Ingredients

Yield: 2 servings

  • a couple large pieces of kale, thick stems removed (they will blend but I find them bitter)
  • a large piece of swiss chard, thick stem removed (or other greens like spinach or lettuce)
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 scoops protein powder of choice (I use natural factors whey, natural or vanilla flavour)
  • 1 cup water (or other liquid but avoid fruit juice)
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • a few ice cubes (4-6 work well)
  • a few drops of liquid stevia (to taste, optional)
Instructions

Put everything in your blender and blend for 30 seconds or until it looks well blended.

*Note on Blenders: I have a Vitamix. I debated over a year before I bought it due to the price, but it was well worth it for me and it gets used daily.
kale, chard, banana, chia and flax seeds arranged on a cutting board




The protein powder I use + the coconut water.
whey factors and coconut water can on a counter






















Green smoothie in a glass with a glass straw. avacado, kale and chia seeds in background
What do you like to hide in your smoothie?

Looking for some no sugar, no flour snacks? Check out Simple snacks for detox plan.

Simple snacks for detox plan


Mercola beginner nutrition plan? Darn you and your highly desirable but difficult to attain ways!

I'm using this plan as a 6-week detox building up to my trip to Hawaii with goals of eating healthy and losing a few pounds that crept in this winter.

A key part of the plan is to eliminate flour (other starches like rice, potato and corn are really limited too) and sugar (natural sugars like honey and dried fruit are allowed in small amounts). Of course, I crave these exact things whenever I'm hungry. I'm learning quickly to have good snacks available.

No sugar, no flour snack options?


Celery and PB. I forgot how good this actually is. Treat yourself to organic celery!
organic celery with peanut butter on a pottery plate

Hummus and colourful peppers
This one by SummerFresh (roasted pine nut) has no added sugar (some do).
container of hummus with red and yellow peppers on a wooden cutting board
Chips? Detox? I'll explain. I love plain Lay's. The 2 of us usually go through a family size bag every week. They're not so bad, as long as you keep it to plain (I tell myself). But they are fairly processed, not detox worthy. By accident, I discovered I can make my own much more natural ones! As as long as I keep it to a small amount, I think Dr. Mercola would approve (hmm, probably not but too bad). 

Slice organic potatoes thinly with a mandolin then lay (in one layer) on a silpat on a baking sheet. Lightly salt. Bake at 425 degree for about 12 minutes. No need to flip them. They turn out just like Lays (well, close enough anyway).
pottery bowl with homemade potato chips on top of Fresh Juice magazine
My "Pop". Sparkling water + juice of 1/2 lemon + a dropper of liquid stevia. I get it ready in the morning, put the lid back on and have it later in the day.
perrier water, liquid stevia and half a lemon arranged on a wooden table

Stevia is my sugar daddy (if it's possible, I might actually O.D. on this stuff). I recently discovered the liquid drops and I'm hooked. I've been using the powder for several years. I have such a sweet tooth, it's terrible.

Other snacks I'm rocking right now:

Granny smith apple slices and PB

Cubes of cheese

Vitamix ice cream:
    1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other)
    1 scoop protein powder (unsweetened or stevia sweetened variety)
    1 tsp vanilla extract 
    A little liquid stevia to taste
    4 cups of frozen strawberries or other frozen fruit
    You really need a vitamix or a blentec for this recipe. Put it all in there and blend until the top turns to 4 blobs. Then it's done. Just like soft serve. Make 2 large servings. 

Zevia (real stevia pop). Comes in many flavours. Root beer is my favourite. can of Zevia stevia pop
Anyone have other no sugar, low carb snack ideas? I would absolutely love to hear about them.
Happy snacking all!

Missed my intro to the plan? Find it here.

Following Mercola's beginner nutrition plan

I think we all go through times of eating great, feeling great and looking great. Then there are times when we just need a little inspiration and motivation to get back on the wagon. I was looking for a little inspiration lately. Partly because I have a trip to Hawaii coming up in 6 weeks and partly because I've been feeling a little sluggish with all the bread and flour I've been eating (it's been whole grains but nonetheless, still contributes to feeling blah--for me anyway).

I tend to eat pretty good even when I'm eating too much flour. But even healthy eating can lead to weight gain and sluggishness. I occasionally refer to Dr. Mercola for his take on nutrition and I decided to see what he had to say on the subject. If you haven't heard of him, he's the physician behind the 'worlds #1 natural health website'. He is an advocate of anti-grain and anti-sugar. In fact, he interestingly encourages people to quit sugar before they try to quit smoking. A little extreme in my view on some topics, I still think he has a lot of good information and genuinely wants to help people be healthy. He has 3 plans on nutrition. Not diets, but rather healthy eating guidelines to follow for optimal health and ideal weight. Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. It looked pretty good, and I love an organized plan, so I got started with beginner.

Here's a quick overview of the beginner plan:
  • Eliminate wheat and other allergens. There's a chart. It's mostly things I don't eat anyway. But looking ahead to Carbs, he suggests reducing ones like rice, oats, quinoa and potatoes. That won't be easy. I won't eliminate but I'll cut back.  
  • Limit sugar and fructose to below 25 grams/per day. If you only eat fructose in the form of veggies and fruit, you'd consume about 15 grams per day. He says stevia is great. And natural sweeteners like honey are ok in the beginner stage. I love sweet things. 
  • Have 1/3 of daily food uncooked and eat more veggies in general. 
  • No artificial sweeteners. That seems like a no-brainer. 
I'm going to do this as a kind of detox for the next 6 weeks. Out with anything processed and in with whole foods. I'll follow the other aspects of the beginner plan as well. There are several pages to it,  but that's a start for now. I'll update on how it's been going in a week or so. Here's my inspiration to keep on track. Jennifer Aniston. It's hard to find a super tasteful shot of her in a bikini-but she looks fantastic. 43! 

Jennifer aniston in a bikini

Moist & yummy coconut sugar muffins

Friday baking! I'm working through a freezer half full of applesauce and making something healthy for Craig's lunch. Coconut seems popular lately doesn't it? New coconut milk products in the dairy section, coconut oil being spread on just about everything, and now there's coconut sugar. It's an unrefined sweetener produced from the flower buds of the coconut tree. It is one of the lowest glycemic index sweeteners rated at 35 compared to honey at 55 (not sure what that means but I think lower is better). These muffins are super moist and have a caramel sweetness. 

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 cup white bread flour 
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup milk of your choice


Instructions
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl (first 6 ingredients)
  2. Mix wet ingredients (last 6 ingredients) in a large bowl
  3. Add dry to wet ingredients
  4. Mix until just combined and spoon into prepared greased or lined muffin tins. 
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for around 25 minutes. I take mine out at about 23 minutes and they're perfect. 

The chaos on my counter when I start baking. It has to be all clean when I'm done. I think it's part of some neurosis that I have to have it all cleaned up by the time whatever it is, is out of the oven. 
Cooling off after all the baking, my beverage of choice is a new favourite. Sparkling water with lemon juice and a few drops of liquid stevia. It tastes like sprite or lemonade. 
This is the coconut sugar. Bought at Costco, which is why the bag is so big.  I use parchment liners in my muffin tins...they are great. Here's my review of them.

Looking for more muffins? Here are some variations with trial and error of different flours.
Have you used coconut sugar? What do you think of it?
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