Dairy-Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Recently we discovered that one of my daughters is lactose-intolerant, and have been modifying our cooking and baking to accommodate her. Avoiding the stomach aches, headaches, and general bad moods that follow her consuming dairy make the extra effort worth it. This morning we turned a classic lemon loaf recipe by Jean Paré (author of the Company’s Coming series) into moist dairy-free muffins that were great for breakfast. 


Ingredients:

Wet:

1/2 cup Vegan Becel margarine

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup original almond milk

2 tbsp lemon juice 

Dry:

1 cup sprouted whole wheat flour 

1/2 cup white flour

1 tsp baking soda

 1/2 tsp salt

Grated rind of one lemon

Optional: a handful of blueberries. 



Instructions: Mix wet, mix dry, mix together gently until flour just blended in. Spray muffins tins with oil and scoop in the 12 muffins. Since half my kids like blueberries, and half not, I just stuck about 5-7 blueberries in the top of half the muffins, and left the others just lemon. 

Bake at 350 C for 18 minutes or until golden brown. 

Mix juice of one lemon with 2tbsp white sugar until dissolved. Slowly pour a little lemon glaze on each muffin and let sit a few minutes.

The muffins were nice and tender, and had a bit the texture of cornmeal muffins, likely due to the sprouted whole wheat flour. Enjoy for breakfast or afternoon snack with coffee, tea or juice! 

Super Simple Lentil Dahl

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This is one of my favourite easy, cosy recipes the kids love.
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It comes from this book I was given at my wedding shower 11 years ago! Lots of good ideas for healthy meals.
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Here’s what it looks like cooked.
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But I blend it because my kids like to eat it by dipping naan bread in it, and this way there’s no chunky veggies to pick out! 😉
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So here’s my quick and dirty way to share the actual recipe with you! You can tell from the splattered book I’ve made it often.
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My littlest eater likes to dip carrots in it and recommends hummus and cucumbers on the side.
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His big sister ate this many pieces of naan bread with it! Yum! Of course if it’s for dinner and not just lunch you can make some other curries to go with it or serve with salad. And if you’re gluten free it’s great with rice as well, instead of naan bread. Enjoy!

Summer Supper Save 

   
Here’s a quick recipe for one of those days when you feel like you have nothing but odds and ends in the cupboard. I usually make this as a black bean and rice bowl in the rice maker, but was missing lots of the essential ingredients…black beans, onions, garlic, salsa….so here’s what I made instead! This recipe was inspired by Robert Irvine’s Red Beans and Rice recipe on the foodnetwork.com.

  1. First cook a cup of brown rice with two-and-a-half cups of water with a tsp veggie powder, or use veggie broth instead.
  2. While it is cooking, heat up a large pot with a little olive oil and sauté several chopped sweet peppers (I used yellow), and a chopped red hot pepper.  
  3. Wander into the garden and pick a few cherry tomatoes, 5 or 6, a handful of chives, a some fresh basil.  
  4. Wash and chop the tomatoes and add to the pot. Stir in salt and pepper and a tablespoon of hot sauce. 
  5. Then drain and rinse two cans of kidneys beans and add to the pot. 
  6. After this all cooks for about 10 minutes, add chopped chives and shredded basil. 
  7. Once the rice is ready, mix it all together and serve with corn tortillas or tortilla chips. It’s really yummy….and just spicy enough to give a little heat while retaining lots of flavour. Pretty good for nothing in the cupboard! Can’t believe I cooked without onions and garlic…but it still had flavour! Enjoy!

 

Pregnancy Health: Getting Enough Fibre

  

This might seem like a less than thrilling topic, but it’s actually really important. Keeping your system cleared out when you’re producing waste for two people instead of one is quite essential. I know; I get really sick if I don’t. 

In all of my pregnancies but one, I’ve gotten a late pregnancy condition called colistasis, which means that at that point my body can’t cope well with the toxins from baby and myself, and doesn’t know how to get rid of them. So instead of eliminating them, it puts them under my skin. Sounds fun right? 😬 Especially when you’re too itchy to sleep.  So you see the importance of trying to prevent such a thing…but how? 

The only really effective way I’ve found to keep my body regular and on track is to eat Bran Flakes every day. Yup, good old Kellogg’s has done more to keep me healthy than trying to eliminate sugar, fried fat, excess salt, etc, even though those things are of course important, too. My OB suggested trying this in my third or fourth pregnancy, and when I’m really faithful to it I am much better. With my fourth I didn’t even get colistasis at all.

  
The tricky bit is keeping on eating bran every day. But this seems to be the key. A few times I went through most of the pregnancy healthy, and then when I got a bad cold or cough neglected my bran flakes for a few weeks. That was enough to do it; I got colistasis again. And this condition is not only uncomfortable but increases the chance of stillbirth as your pregnancy progresses. I’ve experienced this. I don’t wish it on anyone. 

So that’s why I thought I’d share this simple trick, to keep up your bran which clears out your guts and keeps your system running clean, so you can be a safe environment for your baby to grow and develop. Here are a few ideas on how to consume it:

  1. As All Bran Flakes cereal at breakfast. With milk or yogurt, or if you have a cold, try almond milk instead for less mucous production.  If you’re getting bored, add berries or make it half Corn Flakes.  
  2. Bake the flakes into muffins…chocolate covers a multitude of sins, so just add cocoa powder to make dark, moist chocolate bran muffins. Or blueberries of course for a classic muffin. 
  3. Buy bran as a powder and throw it into your homemade pancakes…you can also make them healthier by adding applesauce or mashed banana instead of oil, and ground flax with a bit of warm water as an egg replacer. Oats or oat bran is also good to add to baking.
  4. Buy the All Bran Breakfast Bars and pack them in your purse for snacky moments, or days when you can’t stomach another bowl of cereal. 
  5. If you forgot to eat it for breakfast, have your Bran Flakes at bedtime with some chopped banana. Both milk and banana will help you sleep  better, and that’s always a good thing.🍌
  6. Buy other healthy, fibre rich cereals on occasion, to give you some variety. But don’t stay away from fibre all together for any length of time. 
  7. Buy fibre-rich crackers like Ryveta and eat them with cheese or peanut butter for a good protein snack. 
  8. Eat whole grain pasta and brown rice instead of white whenever you can. Quinoa is also a great choice for a hearty salad or as a side dish.  You can even throw it into bean burritos or stews.
  9. Eat other fibre rich foods like lentils and beans, and try to avoid things that will plug you up, like white flour products, too much dairy and fried fat. 🍟🍰🍩 Stinker I know…Some dark chocolate bars have a surprising amount of fibre, though, so if you promise just to have a little…🍫
  10. Finally, coffee is a diuretic, so while some women choose to eliminate it in pregnancy, I find a cup in the morning also helps to move things along. Besides me! 😉 Good luck and please share any ideas you have as well…happy baby baking! 🍼

    soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar

    My big sister—

    the poet, the editor, the mediator

    the strong survivor,  the loving mother

    the beautiful woman

    my inspiration, my friend—

    gave me this Dutch cake mix for appeltaart

    when she last came to visit us.

    And though she’s a province away,

    when I make it with my girls—

    carefully chopping the apples together,

    blending in the butter,

    brushing with egg to finish the masterpiece—

    I am with her, too.

    “Lekker gezellig!” deliciously cosy…

    The love of my sister

    wraps around me like these strips of dough

    around the nested apples,

    soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar.

      

    Brainless No-Bake, No-Measure Cookies

    Perfect for a quick snack on a lazy afternoon! Ready in 5 minutes…so you can please your low-blood sugar critters before they eat each other up…even if you forgot to plan their after-school snack!

      
    Here’s the basic idea…but feel free to ask for more details in the comments if you like!

    1. Warm about a cup of peanut butter in a pot on medium heat. 

    2. Add some apple sauce and stir.

    3. Throw in some chocolate chips and mix to help them melt. 

    4. Pour in a bit of (almond) milk and stir till creamy. 

    5. Dump in some ground flax. 

    6. Mix in quick oats until the whole thing sticky but fairly solid. 

    7. Remove from heat and drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. 

    8. Let cool a few minutes or until little fingers grab ’em! 

       
     

    Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad

      

    Here’s a simple recipe for a nice pasta salad you can have on hand in your fridge to pull out for a quick lunch or to bring along to a potluck. 

    Ingredients:

    ~one package spiral pasta/rotini, cooked and cooled

    ~a few tablespoons pesto

    ~one chopped sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red)

    ~1/3 cup crumbled sheeps feta (or other)

    ~1/4 cup chopped assorted olives, such as kalamata, royal, or sundried

    ~small handful of fresh parsley and fresh basil, chopped

    ~fresh ground pepper

    Steps:

    1. Cook and cool pasta, leaving it slightly firm. I used whole wheat this time, but rainbow spiral pasta (coloured by mixed vegetables) is also nice. 

    2. Wash and chop pepper and fresh herbs.

    3. Mix pasta with pesto.

    4. Chop olives and remove any pits.

    5. Add sweet pepper, herbs and olives to pasta in a big bowl, crumble in feta, ground in a bit of fresh pepper and mix. 

    6. Enjoy right away or put in the fridge for later! 🙂

    Food Therapy: Baking Away the Blues

    Homemade Spinach Feta Pie

    This yummy recipe was inspired by my good friend and retired chef, Bonnie Mitchell, who first taught me to make spanakopita. Here it my version in a pie crust,  just out of the oven, but how did I make it? Here are the simple steps:

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine:

    a small container (250ml) ricotta or cottage cheese

    half a block crumbled feta (again about 250 ml)

    2 eggs

    pepper

    a pinch of salt

    a generous amount of dried or fresh dill, to taste (at least 1 1/2 tsp dried dill)

    2. While working in this dry steam a bag of spinach in a large pot or pan, maybe half at a time, until wilted.

    Let spinach cool, squeeze out excess liquid, and chop.

    3. Then add chopped green onions (3-5) or chives (a handful)

    4. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.

    5. Make a simple pie crust (no French pastry degrees required) from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbook.

    Actually I used whole wheat flour and threw in a tablespoon of brown sugar for good measure.    

    Here I am being spoiled and using the kitchenaide friends gave me, but this can be done by hand or with a pastry cutter as well.

    6. Grease pie plate with butter and place in pie crust.

    7. Put filling in crust.

    8. Put in preheated 350 C oven for about 40-45 minutes.

    9. Enjoy! Would be nice with a side of green or Greek Salad, or even Greek Lentil Stew, but that recipe will be for next time!

    So Much For Soup!

    Here’s what the kids thought of my dinner tonight….sigh!

    

    But for those of you who’d rather eat soup than throw it, here’s the recipe:

    I for one liked it!                            Homestyle Lentil Soup

    I added lots of fresh herbs from the garden, like thyme, sage, rosemary and chives, and found it lovely! Kind of like a vegetarian beef stew.

    So here’s to all my fellow moms who are trying to cook healthy, instead of putting IKEA toy food on the table cause it’s less messy! 😉 I hope that all of your dinners went better than mine tonight!

    On “Food Matters:” Nighttime Ramblings of a Herbalist’s Daughter

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    Tonight I watched a great documentary on Netflix called “Food Matters.” I liked it because while it addressed serious health issues related to poor nutrition, it wasn’t pessimistic or guilt inducing. Rather it focused on the amazing link between good nutrition and healing, and encouraged its viewers to be empowered to take their well-being into their own hands. The main message was: your body can heal itself if given the right nutrition.

    Good nutrition heals the whole body, or rather allows the body to heal its whole self. Eating more fresh, raw, healthy foods is safe, effective and affordable, so barring situations of extreme poverty perhaps, we can all do it. And by doing so, we can treat and even prevent many chronic diseases like heart conditions and cancer.

    This goes rather against the grain in our culture of specialized doctors and medications for every disease. The doctors and nutritionists in “Food Matters” sees drugs as toxins meant to target specific symptoms of disease, rather than heal the whole person. While very useful in some cases, the strong occurrence of serious and even lethal side effects from drugs make the return to overall vibrant health difficult when they are taken long term.

    Here are a few tidbits from the movie I found interesting. The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was very depressed. Upon recommendation he tried taking high doses of the vitamin niacin daily and recovered totally. He wanted this to be part of his program but was forbidden. Niacin is natural and safe yet doctors generally will caution against taking too much (ie enough to be effective) because they are not trained in nutrition. They’re trained, funded and promoted by drug companies who stand to lose millions if people cure themselves of chronic diseases, or better yet prevent them through good nutrition.

    Another interesting fact was that various alternative health clinics have found giving large doses of intravenous vitamin C very effective for curing cancer. Vitamin C targets cancer cells without harming heathy cells, and has no bad side effects. We might be inclined to rebel against this because it seems too simple, but compare this to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation which harm all cells and cause nausea, hair loss, etc. Large doses of vitamin C kick starts the body’s natural healing process, without harmful side effects, while most typical cancer treatments are themselves carcinogenic.

    Our bodies were made to be healthy, and good nutrition can keep them that way. We have the power to cure ourselves but must take responsibility for ourselves. We tend to flock toward the experts and feel we ourselves know nothing. This is a disempowered lie. As the movie says several times, we all know that we are what we eat. We can all take little steps to improve. We can listen to grandma and eat our veggies, and to mom and take our vitamins.

    One of the huge problems we have today is absorbing toxins from our food (pesticides, fungicides, etc) and not eliminating them. This is why simple things like drinking lots of water and eating lots of fibre can help us so much. We enable our bodies to pull the toxins out through our guts and release them, instead of reabsorbing them into our blood.

    This is especially relevant for me right now as I’m struggling with cholestasis, a pregnancy-related liver condition. In some women, high hormone levels mess with liver and gall bladder function and make it difficult for the body to process and eliminate toxins. The bile salts then get sent into the blood stream under the skin instead of eliminated, and make a person very itchy. Not fun! It took several pregnancies before an OB suggested bran flakes as a way to keep bad things from reabsorbing, and keeping up with them religiously makes a huge difference. As skipping them for a week or two can make the difference between getting this condition or not, I can only imagine that bran fibre must have great health benefits for others as well. The baby just kicked in agreement! Again, an affordable preventative nutritional solution with no harmful side effects.

    A relative of mine was very ill with MS. The medication she had to take several times a week made her feel awful flu symptoms and did little to improve her situation, if anything. When she transitioned to a vegan no-oil diet upon recommendation of my Dad, a master herbalist who also studies nutrition, she had vast improvements. Her weight returned to normal. Her energy improved and she has been able to work part-time again and to come visit her nieces and nephew. Of course she still struggles, but it makes enough difference that she firmly sticks with her new diet, and has learned to make delicious food without the things that cause her body harm. She no longer has to give herself shots several times a week with drugs which make her feel terrible.

    One of the things Iove about my Dad as a herbal doctor is that he is not an extremist. He’s all about baby steps. Make one little change at a time in order to reclaim your health and vitality. No crash diets. So here are some little health tips that seem doable to me, as a busy mother of soon to be six. I hope that means they are reasonable suggestions for you as well!

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    1. Drink more water, especially first thing in the morning. Flush out what’s been sitting inside all night. If you need a swanky new water bottle to remind yourself to keep sipping though out the day, go for it. Fancy it up a little sometimes by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon, which is a great cleanser and liver tonic.

    2. Eat more fibre. This is the powerful partner of water that will scour your guts and scrape out those pesky toxins, allowing your body to absorb the good nutrients you want it to. One super simple but effective fiber is All Bran Flakes. You can also get powdered bran to add to homemade pancakes, muffins, etc. Oats are good, too, and brown rice. If your kids won’t eat while wheat pasta, try Cattelli’s Smart Pasta, which looks white but has a higher fiber content. You can also throw nutritious quinoa in stews, wraps etc, without it being too noticeable.

    3. Cut down on fried oils. Many dishes are just as delicious when you satay the onions etc in a few tablespoons of veggie broth. Or try a little coconut oil, which endures heat well and adds a nice flavor. If you’d like the omega-three benefit of olive or flaxseed oil, try adding it to your stew or other dish once you’ve finished cooking it, to preserve its goodness.

    4. Eat more raw foods. The live enzymes in uncooked fruits and vegetables are so good for you, but are largely destroyed by cooking. How about a fruit and veggie platter at snack time, or on the table before a meal? Or some baby carrots and cucumber served with hummus as an appetizer? Of course salad is fantastic, and if you dislike all the washing and chopping involved, it’s worth it to grab a nice salad mix or some prewashed organic greens. There are all kinds available now, and it’s easy to fancy up your baby lettuces or spinach by throwing on silvered almonds, sliced strawberries or dried cranberries, and a sprinkle of feta cheese.

    5. Eat less prepackaged foods and read nutritional labels carefully. The salt content alone in many pre made foods is rather frightening…like a frozen meal that has 30% of your daily sodium….sometimes in half a portion! Not that I’m a queen of this…the other day my kids had alpha-getties for lunch, but it’s good to be aware…and save stuff like this for days you have the flu and can’t cook. It’s good to teach your kids to read the labels, too, so they understand why you say no to certain things. Recently my 8 year old read the pop bottle and exclaimed “Oh, 7-Up has 41 grams of sugar in it, Mummy, that’s why you don’t let us get it much!” “Exactly!”

    6. Even if it’s just sometimes, perhaps when on sale, buy some things organic. We can remember the favour we are doing our bodies in not having to spend energy removing extra toxins from pesticides from their systems. I didn’t say always or everything, because that can be expensive, but getting some organic veggies or fruit as a treat is surely a worthwhile investment in our health and that of our families.

    7. Portion your treats. I bought some pretty little metal bowls at an East Indian store recently, and though they are likely meant for chutney or other sauces, they are great for little portions of ice-cream or pudding, or even for a handful of trail mix or a few pieces of dark chocolate…instead of munching the whole bag or chocolate bar by mistake while you watch tv!

    That’s enough for one day! You’ll likely be hearing more from the herbalist’s daughter…doesn’t that sound like a fun medieval novel? 😉

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