Maple Cinnamon Buckwheat Crispies

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook Raw Food, Real World. The original recipe uses too much salt and (is yucky with the stevia packets that are recommended in the original). It became the family favourite after I changed up the proportions. This recipe tastes great with Hemp Milk and is great snacking food for the kids too!

Maple Cinnamon Buckwheat Crispies

What you will need:

2 cups buckwheat groats soaked overnight
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp unrefined sea salt
parchment paper

How to do it:

Step 1: Drain the soaking buckwheat and rinse to remove extra starchiness.

Step 2: Pulse buckwheat with the other ingredients (should look like a soupy oatmeal).

Step 3: Divide batter on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 4: Dehydrate in your oven at the lowest temp (until the top is dry to the touch).

Step 5: Flip over (it is ok if it comes apart) and continue dehydrating until completely dry and crunchy (a few more hours).

Step 6: Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temp.

Variation: Replace cinnamon with 2 heaping Tbsp of cocoa or carob powder.


Cranberry Zinger Instant Breakfast Porridge

This instant breakfast is rocking my world (I even feel a little guilty for taking soooo long to publish it- I feel like I`ve been holding out-but really I was waiting for the perfect photo!).

I have never really enjoyed cold cereal and I can take or leave oatmeal, BUT this hot cereal is so good, I could eat it every day and in between meals for snacks (and I do!).

I got the idea from Ruth’s Cereal which I thoroughly enjoyed (but the kids’ didn’t). I started wondering if I could make a grain free version (Ruth`s has buckwheat and while I know it isn`t a grain per say, I work with people with digestive issues for whom even the seed grains are not tolerable).

What I love about this is that it is pleasantly sweet with the greenleaf stevia, dried fruit and fresh fruit on top, but has no need at all for honey or unrefined sugar. I really don`t enjoy any kind of concentrated sweet flavour at breakfast so this recipe is just perfect being that it is naturally sweet, yet not in that yucky way that leaves you hungry an hour later!

This cereal is raw but way easier to digest because it is soaked in hot water for just a few minutes.

I have to say that this recipe is my absolute favourite of all the recipes that I have ever developed! It is totally kid tested and approved!

I am super excited to share this with you not only because it is nutritious and delicious, but because of the difference it could make in your mornings when you are in a hurry and need a quick healthy breakfast that is as easy as `just add boiling water`! Hooray!

Cranberry Zinger Instant Breakfast Porridge

What you will need:
1 cup unsweetened cocononut or shredded coconut
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 cup cranberries (unsulphured)
1 cup chia seeds
1 cup raw walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp greenleaf stevia (optional)

How to do it:
Pulse ingredients for 10-20 seconds in a food processor or coffee grinder and store in a glass jar in the fridge.

How to use it for 1 adult serving:

4 Tbsp cereal
½ cup very hot water

Let sit for a few minutes to thicken.

(Child-size serving: 2 Tbsp cereal and 3 Tbsp hot water)

Then add (all optional-the recipe is great on its own too!):

hemp milk or cream to your taste

1/2 cup fresh fruit chopped into bite sized pieces

I also want to share with you how one of my lovely clients (who is also our lovely designer) came up with a fun recipe developing activity with her kids based on this recipe (hopefully it will inspire you to do this with your kids too)!!

She took this base recipe and let the kids decide what kind of fruit and nuts they wanted to add to theirs!

Here is a shot of some of their creations:

When you are making your own versions, the most important thing to do is include chia seeds  (I also recommend keeping the proportions for the best texture).

Please share your favorite versions with us so that we can all have the benefit of a variety of nutrient dense fast food breakfasts!!

Lead, lipstick and Burt’s Bees

I once saw a picture in a magazine of a bowl full of broken lipstick. The magazine noted that the average woman ingests between 4-7 lbs of lipstick in their lifetime.

I thought it was disgusting then. Today it’s downright troubling. That’s because many of the world’s top brands of cosmetics contain lead – a known neurotoxin considered especially dangerous for pregnant women and children.

Above: The ingredients in MAC lipstick. Doesn’t look too natural does it?

A new FDA report found lead in nearly 400 kinds of lipstick including the world’s most popular brands such as Cover Girl, Revlon, Maybelline, MAC (my occasional poison), Clinique (my former poison) and even brands marketed as NATURAL like, BURT’S BEES (owned by Clorox Company).

But don’t worry. The FDA says it’s ok. Here’s an excerpt from their Lipstick and Lead Q and A:

Is there a safety concern about the lead levels (the) FDA found in lipsticks?

No. We have assessed the potential for harm to consumers from use of lipstick containing lead at the levels found in both rounds of testing. Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern.

Hmmm. It’s like they’ve never even seen a woman re-apply lipstick after eating. Or leave those pink lip marks on the cheek of their child when kissing them good bye. Maybe they’ve never seen those pictures of toddlers applying copious amounts of lipstick to their face with innocent abandon when they get into their mom’s makeup bag….

If I didn’t know better, I would say it’s like regulators don’t even care…

Meanwhile, why are so many jurisdictions trying to reduce lead in water to 0 ppm if it’s ok? And why can some brands of lipstick be made without lead, while others ‘can’t’?

These are questions I have because even though I don’t regularly wear makeup anymore (in fact, I’ve taken to wearing Fermented Cod Liver Oil Beauty Balm as lip gloss) sometimes I do….

And this isn’t a new issue. Several years ago the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics pretty much shamed the FDA into doing some testing. It doesn’t look like the bad press then moved anyone to take action. In fact today, two brands (both made by L’Oreal) exceed the amount considered safe (5 ppm) in personal care products in the state of California.

If you didn’t already know it, bodycare products are like the wild west of labelling. Regulators have all but ignored these products but organizations like the EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have been campaigning to bring attention to the issue and force regulators to act (you can support their work through donations).

To get an idea of what’s going on with your personal care products take a look at this video by the The Story of Stuff and then read about your options (psst: there are lots of them and they’re perfectly natural!)

*If all of this has made you wonder about the products your family uses, take a look at the EWG’s Skin Deep database where you can search more than 69,000 products.

What now?

While we wait for the L’Oreal’s and the Procter and Gamble’s of the world to become good corporate citizens and nix their toxic ingredients, it’s good to know there are plenty of other options.

In fact, the best bodycare is so natural, you could eat it (which is what your skin basically does to anything that’s applied to it!).

For example, I have a regular at home spa regime to share that is super-luxurious and will actually nourish your body.

Not one of the ingredients is made in a lab. It all comes from my kitchen cupboard in fact. Although this isn’t a new concept (I remember being a teenager and using egg in my hair and cucumbers on my eyes) my motivation is different than when I was 15.

Back then I did it to save money. Today, I do it for my health.

We know that lipsticks contain lead, shampoos contain hormone disruptors and children’s products contain known carcinogens. Even labels that say ‘all-natural’, and ‘organic ingredients’ don’t guarantee purity.

Bodycare steeped in tradition

Plant and food-based beauty regimes have been relied on since the beginning of time. They’ve got staying power because they work. Sadly, advertisers have convinced us we need to douse our bodies with products and ingredients we can’t we can’t even pronounce in order to be ‘clean’ and ‘beautiful’.

You may already know that the skin is the largest organ in our body. It readily absorbs almost anything, so the very best policy is not to apply anything to your body that you can’t eat.

I kept that principle in mind when I created this ‘spa treatment’ that you can do at home anytime, with just a few simple ingredients* and tools.

You will need:

  • Unrefined coconut oil
  • Bentonite clay (from the health food store)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • A natural bristle body brush
  • Himalayan Sea Salt (crystals or rocks) or Epsom Salt
  • Emery board/nail file

*All of these things will last a very long time. Use the coconut oil for cooking, the bentonite clay for internal detoxification and the cider vinegar for salad dressings etc).

Step 1: Apply some unrefined, organic coconut oil to your hair. Start at the scalp and massage through to the ends. Leave oil on your hair through the next few steps. This is an age-old tradition that the women in India use to keep their hair in shiny and soft. It’s an incredibly luxurious treatment you’ll wonder why you didn’t know about before.

Step 2: Mix a tablespoon of bentonite clay with a bit of filtered water and a drop of apple cider vinegar (this is optional) until you get a nice consistency. Apply to your face and even your upper back. Avoid the eye and mouth area since this skin is generally more sensitive.

Bentonite clay is the same ingredient used in many of the masks applied at upscale spas. The apple cider vinegar has the same effect as a ‘peel’ but is much more gentle. You can leave this mask on for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and pat your face dry.

You may notice slight redness if you use the cider vinegar. Don’t worry, it will go away after within a few hours and your skin will look bright and beautiful.

Step 3:
Dry brush your skin. Use a natural bristle body brush. Use soft, circular motions starting at the feet, working your way toward your heart. Don’t brush your face. Remember to be gentle – you aren’t scrubbing the kitchen floor here!

Dry brushing is reputed to be an exceptional way to stimulate the lymphatic system. Many people swear that regular dry brushing also reduces cellulite.

Step 4:
Draw yourself a warm bath. Add 2-4 oz of Himalayan Sea Salt or Epsom Salts. Sea salt is used to detoxify the skin, relieve sore muscles and reduce tension. It’s also reported to be an effective treatment for several kinds of infections. Epsom Salt, or magnesium sulfate is absorbed through the skin and draws toxins from the body. It also sedates the nervous system, reduces swelling and relaxes muscles.

When you are ready to get out, rinse the coconut oil from your hair and splash some cool water on your face.

Step 5:
Use coconut oil to moisturize wherever necessary.

Step 6:
Now that you are totally relaxed, take some time to buff your nails with an emery board and then rub in some coconut oil. It’s an instant (non-toxic) manicure/pedicure.

Step 7:
Enjoy the glow!

For a change of pace you can also try using some flax gel as a mask. Soak a tbsp of flax seed in a cup of water for a few hours. Once the flax has been soaked, it becomes gelatinous and is chock full of Omega 3 fatty acids. That gel can be applied to your face and instantly brightens and tightens your pores. It can also be used in your hair to naturally tame your frizzies.


How the cereal titans keep your raisins soft (and other tidbits from an industry insider)

Ok. The cat has been out of the bag for some time in my family but boxed cereal is OUTLAWED in my house. As if I needed more reasons to hate the stuff, I got a brand new list when I heard the University of Manitoba’s head of Food Sciences lecture: What’s in Your Cereal Bowl? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

“From sugary loops to bran flakes and raisins, the breakfast cereal industry is a multi-billion business that takes up entire aisles of the supermarket. That bowl of cereal you ate this morning was grown by farmers, developed by food scientists and nutritionists, processed by large food companies and promoted by marketing professionals. Learn about food processing secrets, the truth about health claims and how to make good choices when it comes to breakfast.”

First of all, I’m going to say straight up that I believe there is a special place in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks for marketers and companies that target vulnerable, rushed, and uninformed parents with health claims , like “A good source of fibre” or “Made with whole grain” on their trashy cereals. That’s not even touching the fact they use cartoon characters, athletes and toys to specifically target children (btw- you can empower your kids to recognize and resist marketing).

Gary Fulcher speaks to a full house eager to learn what's in their breakfast cereal.

Gary Fulcher is the head of Food Sciences at the University of Manitoba and a former General Mills employee.

His talk kicked off a new lecture series. This is where I’ll admit I was tempted to leave about as quick as I arrived. That’s because once I looked around, I realized the series was being hosted by the University’s agriculture department, and the U of M has a long and convoluted relationship with Monsanto. I thought FOR SURE we were going to hear alot about the great things cereal grains and technology could do for people’s health and for cash-strapped farmers looking to move up the value chain…

While Fulcher WAS careful not to outright condemn processed, boxed cereal, (I’m guessing maybe he had received a word of caution from the university’s PR team- several of which hovered nearby throughout the talk), he did manage to share several things that would lead most logical folk to toss it- or at least START questioning what’s in their bowl.

He talked about the plethora of health problems- obesity, heart disease, diabetes, that have arisen as the world increasingly turns to highly-processed convenience foods which almost always include boxed or instant cereals for breakfast.

Fulcher compared his own childhood breakfast- which consisted of a daily bowl of old fashioned oatmeal, “the kind that takes 10 days to cook and after you eat it you’re not hungry for 3 days”, to the highly-processed, high-glycemic, puffed, and sugar-laden cereals that line the shelves of supermarkets today.

The cut-throat world of multinational food giants
The value of hearing from someone who spent time ‘on the inside’ always lies in their willingness to truthfully share what they have seen. For Fulcher, that included things like the ‘disgust’ of executives at General Mills when their chief competitor, Kelloggs decided to hawk Frosted Flakes to kids using the now infamous cartoon cat, Tony the Tiger.

“They said they would never pull the same crap.” Fulcher said, noting the lineup of General Mills now includes such quality products as Lucky Charms, Trix and Count Chocula…

Cereal manufacturing: what really happens

So what happens before that cereal makes it to your bowl?

Grains today are basically ‘mined’ Fulcher said. The germ and the bran – which contains all the oils and fat is stripped off because products are tougher to keep shelf stable when they contain oil.

“All the good stuff is basically thrown away or fed to animals,” Fulcher said.

That almost nutrient devoid portion is further processed before it is made into the flakes or puffs that wind up on the nation’s breakfast tables.

Because you now have a nutrient-deficient product, food manufactures then ‘fortify’ – or add back ‘pixie dust’ — synthetic vitamins and mineral in place of the ones that were stripped out.

“You would never eat cereal again if you went through the place where the fortification happens,” Fulcher noted.

But he talked about other tricks of the trade too. Like, how it’s possible for raisins to be soft and chewy and flakes crispy and dry inside the same box? Well, it’s simple, Fulcher said. You take the water out of the raisin and replace it with something that doesn’t evaporate as easily. That something is glycerin.

*While glycerin is traditionally made from natural sources like lard and tallow, it is also a main by-product from biodiesel production, according to author Rami Nagel.

Bottom-line driven

Of course, it almost goes without saying that everything is run on a profit margin basis. That’s why cereals are puffed full of air and water (they’re cheaper to produce and ship that way). Just compare a box of Sunny Boy (a collection of grains like flax and rye) or a bag of steel cut oats to a box of Fruit Loops or Corn Flakes.

Extruders- the huge machines that push out the cereal, cost food manufacturers big money but it’s a small overall price to pay, Fulcher said, because they can pump out product around the clock without being serviced for as long as a year. He also noted that they could fill an entire room with extruded cereal in just a few minutes…

What ‘primitive’ cultures knew

I was really happy Fulcher acknowledged that primitive cultures knew how to increase the digestibility and unlock vital nutrients in their grains.

He gave the example of South American Indians who soaked Maize in ash and lime to unlock nutrients like niacin (Vitamin B3), which is completely inaccessible otherwise. This helped the population avoid Pellagra – something that afflicted cultures eating the same grains (exported by Columbus, for example) sans the accompanying critical preparation techniques.

So what now?

Judging by some of the questions that came up, it seemed many people there was eager to have their favourite breakfast cereal absolved – or at least for Fulcher to recommend a GOOD ONE. The sad truth is, boxed cereal is not a food anyone should be eating. There are plenty of other QUICK AND EASY real food breakfasts that will build your health, not tear it down.

“I wouldn’t recommend eating cereals for breakfast at all,” Fulcher said, instead..ignore what you’ve heard about cholesterol “and eat some eggs.”

How is cereal made anyhow? Check it out here although it doesn’t show the ‘mining process’ of stripping apart grains like wheat. (p.s. watch for the pixie dust (or vitamin fortification) being sprayed about half-way through.)

Winter: preservation off-season? Hardly!

Just the other day someone mentioned that winter is a great time to learn a new food preservation skill. I thought that was so insightful. That’s because it seems completely counter-intuitive.

After all – preservation usually focusses on fruits and vegetables  – both of which are not exactly abundant right now (at least not fresh, local produce). Especially not here on the frigid Canadian Prairies.

In reality, there are several reasons why winter is the ideal time to learn the traditional food preservation skill known as fermentation or culturing.

  1. You’re probably spending more time indoors. Learning a new skill is a great antidote to cabin fever and it’s also incredibly gratifying.

    Some of the supplies you might need...

  2. Fermented foods boost your immunity. And that means you could avoid hacking, sneezing, sniffling and coughing your way through what’s too often referred to as “cold and flu season’ (who came up with that anyhow?)
  3. Spring (and warmer weather) is right around the corner.That means you’re going to want to get outside and maybe even plant your garden. If you’ve got a green thumb, spending time in the kitchen (no matter how short a span) isn’t going to be a top priority!

    Can't you just tell spring is coming?

  4. You’ll be confident, prepared and ready to roll at harvest! As produce comes from your garden, your farm share (CSA), or local farmers’ market, you can preserve a little at a time instead of facing a big chore at season’s end. (and you can experiment with all your fresh herbs!)

So there you have it. At least four good reasons to get on it nowHave you learned any new food skills this winter? Or is there one on your wish list?

Sweet Yam Curry

This recipe was inspired because I ran out of curry powder and had to make up my own!

Sweet Yam Curry
(makes 4 small servings)

What you will need:
1 small yellow onion
3 Tbsp coconut oil
3 cloves pressed garlic
1 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp each of dill, fennel, fenugreek and smoked paprika
3/4 tsp unrefined salt
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of hing
1/2 large pepper
2 small yams
1 large beet or turnip
1/3 cup of raisins
1 cup water
1/3 cup of nutritional yeast

How to do it:

Step 1: Saute spices in the coconut oil.

Step 2: Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are translucent.

Step 3: Add chopped red pepper, beet (turnip) and yams and then saute for a few minutes.

Step 4: Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer until the vegetables are soft.

Serve with a dallop of creme fraiche or yogurt on top!

Homemade Naam Sauce (miso gravy)

This recipe gets it’s name from The Naam Restaurant- a 24 hour vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver, BC that is famous for it’s miso gravy served with potatoe wedges.

While I haven’t been there for a few years, this homemade version tastes just like it if my taste buds remember correctly!


Homemade Naam Sauce

What you will need:

2 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp unrefined sweetener
2 large cloves garlic pressed
1 Tbsp shredded ginger
1/2 cup spelt flour

4 Tbsp barley miso paste (add at the end to preserve the beneficial bacteria)

How to do it:

Step 1: Bring all ingredient except for the miso to a boil.

Step 2: Take off the stove.

Step 3: Add miso and process in a food processor or blender.

Serve over roasted veggies, grains or homemade fries!

* will update with almond flour and coconut flour alternatives to spelt ASAP so watch for that if you are gluten free