Saturday, 21 February 2015

A healthy twist on broccoli salad

Margaret at always has the most delicious wholesome recipes! This week I'm re-posting one of her lentil recipes that she has entered in a contest.

Take a look at the recipe - if it intrigues you and has you considering swapping out the greasy bacon for smokey paprika lentils, leave a comment or pin from her blog! Feedback is always appreciated :)

Broccoli Lentil Salad

Click on the link below for the recipe!

Doesn't it look absolutely delicious? It can even be adapted to be vegan too. Enjoy!

Lentil Health Benefits

  1. Lentils are slow release carbohydrates, so they can help regulate blood sugar levels
  2. Lentils are high in protein, but if you are vegan or vegetarian, keep in mind that lentils and legumes do not provide a complete protein source. Combining legumes with whole grains or nuts and seeds will provide you with a complete protein over the day.
  3. The high fiber keeps you full longer, so lentils may be helpful in weight loss.
  4. High in potassium and low in sodium: potassium plays a major role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance. A balanced potassium distribution is crucial for the body to keep a steady heartbeat etc. Most Americans are deficient in potassium.
  5. Low in fat. I am a fan of healthy, naturally occurring fats in avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oils, even coconut oils. But our diet needs to consist of many naturally low fat foods as well (please don't buy reduced fat processed products...) and lentils are a great choice!
  6. A source of vitamin B6. All the B vitamins are essential for metabolism, but I find vitamin B6 especially important for regulating stress and adrenal fatigue.
  7. A good source of iron. This is especially important who have a higher requirement of iron (due to monthly blood loss) and vegans or vegetarians (since non-animal iron sources are not as well absorbed). 

Jenkins, D. J., Wolever, T. M., Taylor, R. H., Griffiths, C., Krzeminska, K., Lawrie, J. A., ... & Bloom, S. R. (1982). Slow release dietary carbohydrate improves second meal tolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition,35(6), 1339-1346.
Wikipedia nutrition fact label for boiled lentils.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sugar like Cocaine?!

Sometimes, people use gross comparisons to get their point across. It infuriates me when I notice how WRONG their comparison is, even if their point is correct. It's like spreading a rumor that has just enough truth to it so it spreads.

Ok, confusing thought without context. This is what I mean...
Regarding sugar, and making the point that sugar is essentially bad for you:

"...Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says, ".white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer." ...The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar's formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the "N", or nitrogen atom."

This is written in a very convincing manner. And I'm sure many people would believe that sugar is just one nitrogen atom away from cocaine.
But, although sugar is terrible for your health (for many reasons) it's NOT similar to cocaine. Yes, they are both organic molecules (containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) and they are both addictive... but that's it.

This is cocaine:

And this is sucrose (the most common type of sugar):

As you can see, there's no similarity in structure (thus neither in function). But this quote is used as evidence on a well-intentioned popular blog post and on an online article. 

List of structural differences: 
  • no benzene ring in sucrose (a very characteristically stable structural component)
  • no nitrogen in sucrose (a completely different element with its own functional structure)
  • 2 six membered carbon rings in cocaine vs. 1 ring of six and 1 ring of 5 in sucrose
  • 2 ester groups in cocaine, none in sucrose
  • 1 ether group in sucrose, none in cocaine
  • numerous alcohol groups (-OH) in sucrose, none in cocaine
  • different amount of carbons and hydrogens

Careful what you believe, especially on the internet.

Organic Chemistry 261 and 263 classes at University of Alberta

Image credit to Wikipedia.


P.S. Fun example of structure differences:
CO vs. CO2
One kills you silently, whereas the other is a harmless by-product of breathing.
(carbon monoxide vs. carbon dioxide)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Valentine's day lunch

So I thought I would share the special lunch I made for Valentine's day yesterday. Chicken pot pie is one of Harry's favorite meals, and I've been meaning to try make it for years now. Valentine's day was the perfect opportunity!

I am great at making cakes. I am decent at making cookies.
But I have only made pies a handful of times. And I've never had chicken pot pie, let alone made it.
On top of that, I have a current egg and dairy allergy. So I had to adjust the recipes I used...
But I was determined to make Harry's favorite food.

I used this recipe for the chicken pot pie filling, and used this vegan flaky pie crust.
These were my adjustments (and they worked well):

Vegan Flaky pie crust (doubled):
recipe from
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 2 ½+ cups light spelt flour
1 ¼ teaspoon salt  1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shiitake mushroom powder (optional)
½ teaspoon onion powder (ground onion flakes)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
¾ cup (161 grams) or 1 ½ sticks cold Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine, cut into ¼ inch cubes  161 grams Earth Balance vegan spread
6 Tablespoons (81 grams) or ¾ stick cold Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening, cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup cold water (I only used half of the liquid! Probably due to the flour change)
3 Tablespoons cold vodka
Refrigerated overnight.

I did have some trouble with this recipe - it was extremely sticky when making (which is why I used half of the liquid) and still relatively sticky when rolling out the next day. I might try with 3 cups of spelt flour next time right of the bat. 
Tip: roll out between wax paper sheets!!

Chicken pot pie filling:
recipe from
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
1-3/4 cups sliced carrots 2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup butter, cubed 3/4 cup mixed coconut oil, Earth Balance vegan spread, and splash of olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion 1 cup chopped onion
1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup spelt flour
1-3/4 teaspoons salt 3/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups milk 1 can coconut milk
4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast (boiled the night before)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
2 packages (14.1 ounces each) refrigerated pie pastry doubled the vegan pie crust recipe

I also added a bit of oregano and paprika to taste.

I baked at 350F convection for about 35 minutes. (This differed from the recipe.)

The result:
Not the prettiest - but delicious!
The Valentine's chicken pot pie

The second chicken pot pie for my family.
The crust was beautifully flaky and the inside seasoned well. I'll definitely use these recipes again.

Healthy fats:
Personally - I like coconut oil. It has healthy medium length saturated fatty acids much like butter. Used in moderation, I think it's a healthy fat. So I'm happy with my substitution of butter with the oils in the chicken pot pie filling. 
Also, substituting the Earth Balance spread for the margarine stick in the crust recipe was a healthy choice as well. I couldn't find non-hydrogenated margarine (better than hydrogenated) so I bought the Earth Balance spread instead. These are much healthier fats than the processed margarine stick has. In fact, I might try using only the Earth Balance spread in the crust next time to get rid of the yucky hydrogenated fats in the vegetable shortening! Making the vegan butters and shortening as on the crust recipe website would also be a great option.

<3 Jessica


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Stress Management Tips

For me, this weekend was one of the more stressful ones, because I have 3 exams coming up this week. I realize I'll be stressed out until the last midterm of this week is done on Thursday. That's midterm season though, it's to be expected as a university student.

"Some of the negative physiological consequences of ongoing stress include hypertension, high levels of muscle tension, and lowering of immune system defenses" (Baghurst and Kelley, 2014).
The connection between stress and the immune system is well established - this is why we often get sick when it's so important to be at our best, for example during exams.

To reduce stress:
  • Exercise! Cardiovascular physical activity is especially good to reduce the effects of stress
  • Meditation or other relaxation techniques can be just as helpful (stress management)
  • Study breaks, generally recommended to be approximately every hour
Stress management techniques and physical activity were analyzed by Baghurst and Kelley (as well as other studies) to significantly reduce test anxiety, personal burnout and perceived stress in college students.

Animals tend to be a great study break partner - whether cuddling with your pet or watching birds feed. These are pictures of my study break partners today that visited outside my window:

This guy was always on the look-out

He ate lots - and stayed longer than any other bird


Does anyone know what kinds of birds these are??

 Baghurst, T., & Kelley, B. (2014). An Examination of Stress in College Students Over the Course of a Semester. Health Promotion Practice, 15(3), 438-447. DOI: 10.1177/1524839913510316 

<3 Jessica

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Healthy Snacks

I don't know about you, but I snack A LOT when I study. And with midterms coming up so fast, I've been eating more even when I'm not hungry. There's been days when I hardly have supper because I'm already so full on snacks from afternoon study sessions. Not good...
Studying on campus helps a lot. I am able to concentrate more and get less distracted by eating or thinking about food.

Nonetheless, studying at home is convenient, and I do it a lot. For any of you that have the same problem snacking, here are some delicious snacks that are also nutrient-dense. I figure that if I'm eating, I better be consuming lots of healthy anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Pecans and pumpkin seeds
1. Nuts or seeds.
My favorites, since I'm avoiding almonds due to an allergy, are: pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and cashews. Just keep in mind that nuts and seeds pack a lot of energy - pour a bowl, don't eat from the bag/container. This is a great tip for any snack.
Nuts and pumpkin seeds are absolutely delicious roasted in an oven or on a dry frying pan for a bit, until fragrant. Beware of burning. For truly raw nuts and seeds, it would also be worthwhile to soak and then toast to increase digestibility.

Delicious organic figs (from Costco)
2. Dried fruit
High in fiber and nutrients, this is a great snack option. My favorites: figs, medjool dates, & raisins.
However, beware sugar-sweetened craisins and other dried fruit with added ingredients like sulphites. Also keep in mind that even non-sweetened dried fruit has a lot of naturally occurring sugars - so keep portion sizes small, and consider them a treat.

3. Combine dried fruits and nuts for a delicious, homemade trail mix!

4. Hummus with veggies.
Mmm hummus. With lots of garlic. Makes any vegetable taste heavenly! The classic trio of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots works well for this snack and is very affordable. You can even make quick homemade hummus if you have a food processor around! (I don't recommend a Vitamix for hummus or other spreads.)

5. Cereal.
A bit on the sugar-y side, especially if you choose mainstream cereals. But some brands use truly whole ingredients and are also really healthy. Read the food label ingredient list!
Bonus: super quick and always available.

Roasted chickpeas with honey, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa glaze
6. Roasted chickpeas
Unfortunately there's a wait time for this snack, but it's well worth it! Chickpeas are high in fiber and a good source of protein. You can make them sweet, spicy, herb-y... whatever you feel like! All you need is a can of garbanzo beans, some oil, and spices. Google roasted chickpeas for lots of recipe ideas.

Mary's Organic Crackers with lemon & dill tuna
7. Crackers with toppings
I just love Mary's Organic Crackers! They go well with a chocolate almond spread for a sweet tooth, and I also like them with cream cheese and other savory toppings.

8. Rye crispbread with honey
A simple yet satisfying snack: Wasa light rye crispbread with unpasteurized honey. Just sweet enough for your sweet tooth but without danger of a sugar high.
Crispbreads have a lot of healthy fibers. They're obviously meant as savory snacks - but are often versatile enough for sweet treats as well (depending on the brand and flavors).

9. Fresh fruit or vegetables
An obvious nutrient-packed snack - my favorites include: avocados, kiwi, apples, broccoli, carrots and cherry tomatoes. If you have the time, a quick salad is always a satisfying snack.

10. Vega One All-in-one nutrition shake
Quick & easy. However, it's not my first choice since it is processed to an extent...but Vega One is great brand & delivers a delicious product. One scoop with water, shake, drink! I usually have this snack after workouts.

Happy snacking!
<3 Jessica