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Enjoy healthier living with back-to-basics foodie ideas.

Easy un-microwave popcorn

I’ve come to realize there is a whole generation of people who didn’t grow up making stove-top popcorn, and even for those who did, it’s become a lost art – evidenced by the hordes of people buying caseloads of microwave popcorn. If you are still microwaving popcorn, cut it out. Seriously. It is nothing short of a health nightmare. A friend of mine once told me her granddaughter had been working at a movie theatre concession stand and started to develop an ongoing cough. Her family doctor diagnosed her as having symptoms of popcorn lung, caused by the chemical diacetyl, used for artificial butter flavoring. Sounds absurd, but just Google it for more information. Although some companies have taken steps to eliminate the chemical, it doesn’t need to be listed as an ingredient – it can simply fall under the category of artificial butter flavour, so the only way to ensure you and your family are not breathing and ingesting diacetyl is to make your own popcorn, which is an absurdly simple thing to do. Add a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil, or any high-heat oil into a pot, pour enough popcorn kernels to cover bottom of pot and place on stove. Turn stove on highest heat setting and keep an eye on it. Once it starts to pop, cover with a lid and move pot around to avoid burning. Turn element off after about 30 seconds and let it continue popping. Use melted real butter and salt for extra flavour or simply melt a bit of coconut oil and drizzle on top

Flax gel eggs

I did the math on this one and it’s definitely cheaper to use flax gel eggs in recipes than actual organic eggs, healthier than conventional eggs, and saves a trip to the store if you run out of eggs while on a baking spree. Grind flax into a flax meal. One tablespoon of flax to two tablespoons of water equals one egg. Combine the flax and water and let sit for a few minutes, then use in baking recipes where it calls for an egg.

Meal replacement drinks that won’t knock your immune system down I’m always baffled by the fact that doctors prescribe meal replacement drinks for patients with a disease like cancer, in particular. Essentially, what they are prescribing is a concoction of corn syrup, sugar and water mixed with synthetic vitamins. It’s hard to imagine that adding 20 grams of sugar (or more if you drink more than one) is a good way to boost your health, considering four grams of sugar is said to suppress your immune system for up to four hours. Why not create your own meal replacement drink to actually boost your health? Invest in an inexpensive smoothie maker, like a Magic Bullet. For an easy start, toss in your favourite frozen fruit, water, good quality protein powder, some spinach leaves and a healthy fat like coconut oil or flax seed oil, blend and enjoy. Experiment by adding extras like hemp seeds, walnuts, oatmeal, coconut water – just about anything you can imagine.

Spreadable butter

If you’re still in the habit of using margarine – cut it out, even flies avoid it. You can make your own spreadable butter and get an extra dose of healthy fats. Combine half cup of butter with half a cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Blend well. Add seasonings like garlic powder if desired. Store in fridge.

Healthier burgers

Sneak in nutrition next time you are making homemade beef patties. Add cooked white navy beans, white kidney beans or great northern beans to your beef. Mash beans so that they blend well in the raw hamburger beef. If you are into juicing, add the veggie pulp leftovers from your juicer or add pureed veggies like carrots, spinach or beets. The kids will never know the difference.

Regrow your vegetables

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, this idea is so simple anyone can do it, and you may never have to buy celery again. Next time you purchase celery, save the root part, rinse and place with stalks facing upward in a small bowl of water in a sunny location on a windowsill. Let it begin to regrow in the water for about a week, then plant in soil in a flower pot (or an empty large can with holes in bottom for drainage). Water generously. You can try this with bok choy roots, romaine lettuce and even grow garlic sprouts from a garlic clove.>

Go gluten free with DIy oat flour

You don’t need to own a flour mill to make flour – you just need something to grind it like a Magic Bullet or a coffee grinder. Grind dry oats in small batches until a flour consistency is achieved. You can easily swap out wheat flour for oat flour in cookie recipes, pancakes, muffins and loaves in a 1:1 ratio. Experiment with small batches. Old-fashioned oats, rather than instant oatmeal, work best for baking. Happy ‘gluten-free’ baking!

Homemade Jam in Less than 60 seconds

Let’s face it. When you’re leading a busy life, jam-making may not be on the top of your list of priorities. But what if you knew you could whip up a batch of homemade jam in 60 seconds flat? All you need is about two cups of berries, frozen or fresh, about 1 1/2 tbsp of chia seeds, and about 1/8 cup of maple syrup (or modify to tastebuds). Toss berries into a blender or Magic Bullet (if using frozen, allow to thaw and keep juices. If using fresh, add a touch of water). Blend well, then add chia seeds and maple syrup and blend again. Add more water if too thick.

Chocolate Sundae sauce

Google the ingredients in a conventional chocolate syrup and you’ll find high fructose corn syrup, sugar, polysorbate 60, artificial flavours and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Making it yourself requires hardly any effort and will provide a nice dose of healthy fats, iron, fibre and magnesium, and antioxidants if using raw cacao. Melt about 1/4 cup of coconut oil on low heat in a saucepan (avoid microwaving to retain nutritional value). Stir in about 2 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, or even better, raw cacao, and 1 tbsp maple syrup. Optional: 1 tsp pure vanilla. Stir well and drizzle onto ice cream, or use as a dip for fruits. Keep in glass jar on counter for few days, then transfer to fridge for longer storage. Sauce will harden in fridge, but can be remelted.

Create chickpea croutons

Try this gluten-free crunchy salad topper instead of regular croutons. Drain and rinse a 398 ml can of chickpeas. Pat dry. Toss with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper. You can add any additional seasonings like rosemary, thyme and basil if desired. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until golden. Turn chickpeas halfway through baking. Remove from oven. Chickpeas will harden as they are cooling. Let cool completely before storing in a jar with a lid.

Rice in an instant

Instant rice, though handy in a time crunch, has less nutritional value than regular rice. Cook large batches of organic brown rice and freeze into baggies for quick access at dinner time. Simply thaw rice in fridge and toss into a pot with a couple of tablespoons of water. Heat and serve.

Freeze your lemons for a pinch of health

Don’t toss those lemon rinds into the garbage. Lemon peel contains up to 10 times more vitamins than the actual juice, and you can easily freeze lemons so they’ll be handy any time. Be sure to always buy organic lemons to avoid consuming pesticides. Wash the lemon and pop it into the freezer. You can grate the frozen lemon and use the rind on salads, in dressings or to season foods.

Once thawed it will become mushy, so grate or slice when frozen. Peel the rind with a vegetable peeler and place it on a drying rack to create dried lemon peel. Leave it at room temperature for a few days to dry it until brittle, unless there is high humidity in the house, in which case you may want to use a dehydrator. Then pulverize in a food processor or grinder to create a powder to use in foods like a citrus and spice herb mix, or use the whole strips in a jar with olive oil. Let sit for a couple of weeks to create lemon olive oil. You can also make a cup of lemon tea with the dried strips.

Natural gatorade

Create your own sports drink for a refreshing way to hydrate and replenish electrolytes. Wash one lemon and two oranges. (Be sure to use organic citrus fruit). Squeeze the juice from the fruit into a blender or a shaker bottle. Save the peels. Add two cups of fresh water, 1/8 of a tsp of Himalayan salt and 1 tbsp maple syrup. Blend or shake until salt dissolves. Pour into a water bottle. Cut citrus fruit peels into smaller pieces and toss into the drink to infuse the water and add extra nutrients.

Homemade French Fries

French fries top the charts among the unhealthiest food choices you could eat. Although making your own from scratch sounds like a real chore, it’s one of the easiest foods to prepare, and healthy too, as long as you forgo the deep fryer.

To make your own fries in a flash, scrub potatoes clean (mix in some sweet potatoes to add extra nutrition and always opt for organic due to the high pesticide levels in potatoes). Cut into strips, leaving the nutritious skin on. Toss in a bowl, drizzle with some avocado oil (an oil that tolerates high heat), and spread onto a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Sprinkle with salt, and other seasonings if preferred, and bake in a 400 degrees F oven until lightly golden, tossing occassionally while they are baking.

Breakfast in a jar

Lack of time is often cited as a reason why people skip breakfast or, don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast. Here’s a simple solution for the time-challenged mom juggling kids and career, or even for the individual who is traveling, eating crummy breakfast bagels on the run. Save small, empty glass jars, washed and dried well, or invest in a few small mason jars. Fill a small jar with about 1/4 cup of dry oat bran, a tablespoon of flax seeds, a superfood like ground raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds, and some dried fruit (dried apple, raisins, cranberries, etc.)

Seal jar with lid and when ready to eat just add boiling water to desired consistency. Let sit for about a minute and voila, you have yourself a healthy, hearty breakfast. This is a great way to ensure, even on the road, you can nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast. Hotel rooms typically have coffee makers so access to hot water is right at your fingertips.

Better bang-for-your-buck Beans

Cooking your own beans and chickpeas from scratch, then freezing them not only saves you a slew money, but eliminates any of the extra preservatives and processed salt added to canned beans. This is kind of like a Sunday morning project. If making kidney, black beans, navy beans, chickpeas, etc. fill a couple of large bowls halfway with dried beans then add water to rim. Let the beans soak overnight. The next morning, pour beans into a large pot and bring to boil. Let simmer until the beans are softened. Keep an eye on the pot so there is sufficient water, and so they don’t boil over. Drain and cool the beans. Scoop into BPA-free baggies and freeze for later use in soups, chili, hummus, salads and more. Freezing doesn’t alter the texture of the beans and they taste fresh once thawed.

Creamy soups without the cream

Nothing hits the spot like a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter’s day. If you enjoy the creaminess of soups, you’ll want to give this idea a try. You can create a wonderfully creamy soup just using white potatoes in place of milk, cream, coconut milk, etc. Not only do you bypass the addition of dairy or vegan substitutes, but your soup will last much longer in the fridge when you don’t add a milk product to it. Potatoes work well for any cream soups like cream of mushroom, squash, carrot, etc. Just simply chop up a large potato and toss into the soup. Blend into a creamy texture as usual when it’s all cooked.

A Cheesy alternative

Addicted to cheese? Most people are. Nutritional yeast makes a nice go-to alternative and is chock full of nutrition, hence the name, and is much easier to digest than cheese. Try sprinkling it on popcorn, veggies, mashed potatoes or pizza. Homemade perogies can even be made with nutritional yeast, using sweet potatoes to add a cheesey colour, garlic and onion spices and nutritional yeast. You can even make a cheese sauce with nutritional yeast.

Butterless baking

Prunes provide an alternative for butter in baked goods and also reduce the fat content. Make a prune puree using 3/4 cups of pitted prunes with 1/4 cup of water. Substitute the butter with an equal amount of prune puree in dark baked goods.

Gluten-free bread crumbs

Typical store bought bread crumbs are often loaded with nasty ingredients, including hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, dough conditioners and preservatives. An easy way to make your own bread crumbs is by simply grinding up oat flakes in a Magic Bullet and adding any seasonings you like.

Homemade italian salad dressing

Want to save money while saving your health? Opt to make your own salad dressing – it’s much cheaper, and better for you. A typical commercial Itlaian dressing is made from soybean and canola oil (cheap and genetically modified…unless otherwise stated), sugar, EDTA and other stuff that’s hard to pronounce. A DIY dressing is so easy. Mix 1/2 cup of olive oil with 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar (or a blend of white balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar) in a jar. Add a tablespoon or more of Italian seasoning. Shake and serve. I like to make my own Italian seasoning using basil, oregano, marjoram, onion powder, garlic powder and Himalyan salt. I make a big batch of the seasoning and keep it in a sealed jar, then spoon into my olive oil/vinegar blend. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

Easiest way ever to dry herbs

The next time you have herbs in your kitchen that are starting to wilt, don’t toss them in the trash. Dry them for later use. Drying your own herbs may sound like a chore, but it’s the easiest task ever. Grab the bunch of herbs and tie twine around the stems. Hang in your kitchen for easy access. Hang off a rack, or even with a thumbtack on the wall. When you need dry herbs for your recipes, grab a stem and run your finger down the stem to remove the dried herb.

Swap out the butter on toast

Avocado spread on toast makes a yummy alternative to butter. Simply mash an avocado and use as a spread. Add salt and seasoning if desired.

May 18, 2018