Get the Goodness In

I love avocado. REALLY love it!

It seems to be pretty popular, whether sliced on a sandwich, mashed and spread onto toast or mixed into a fine guacamole. It’s tasty, especially with a touch of lime juice and sea salt, but its most prevalent feature is its creamy, dreamy texture.

The high fat content gives us what we crave, that creamy feel in our mouth.

When you’re watching your weight or monitoring your fat intake, sometimes we feel guilty eating the almighty avocado….until now!

One of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is to add healthy greens or vegetables to dishes where I normally wouldn’t. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get in that extra nutrition once you know this trick.

For instance, like many people, I could LIVE on mashed avocado (with some lime juice and sea salt) on toast. When I crave the big, green fatty-but-awesome fruit, I mash in some extra nutrition by finely chopping whatever greens I have on hand. I use kale, spinach or arugula usually. Greens like romaine would probably be a bit too moist, but they might work.

The trick is to finely chop the greens so they blend in smoothly with the avocado. I just use the old-fashioned knife and cutting board to chop the greens, but I suppose the greens and the avocado together could be put in a food processor? Haven’t tried that.

If not on toast, I might spread my green goodness on some healthy corn chips (made with no oil!). Sometimes I’ll have both (toast and chips). Like I said, I just LOVE avocado.

Toast with guac

If I’m in a hurry, and I just don’t have time to chop up my greens, I might throw those greens right on top of my avocado spread. Works on the run.

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When making my fave toast, I sometimes don’t stop at the extra greens; I might throw on a few tomato or cucumber slices or some onion.

toast

There are tons of other ways to add in greens or veggies to your snacks or meals. When you do this for yourself, you’re adding oodles of extra phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. I say, “Why not get those nutrients in my body while I’m getting this other stuff in?”

Here are some tried and true ways to get more nutrients into your body:

Guacamole or Dips: add those greens! Finely chop greens into guac or hummus or your own unique bean spread.

Mashed potatoes: can add in finely chopped greens, green onions, or mashed cauliflower. Try one of these and play around with how much you add to the potatoes until you find the right balance that works for your taste buds.

Pasta: add your favourite veggies to your pasta to get in some more of the good stuff. I buy frozen, chopped kale, which is perfect for a last-minute add-in to any pasta dish. Any veggie will do. Sometimes, I just chop up whatever leftovers are hanging around in the fridge and throw them into the pasta. Have little nuggets of goodness around to add, such as capers or sun-dried tomatoes. Add them in. If you get good at this, you can start trying to make your meals more veggie-heavy and less pasta-heavy.

Soups: add almost anything goes here: fresh or frozen veggies, rice or other whole grains, greens etc. If you’re making a nice squash soup, add in some chopped red peppers or even some greens. If you’re making a broth-based soup, try adding barely; it really makes a soup hearty (and healthy too!).

Smoothies: it’s really easy to sneak in goodness in a smoothie. Many people focus on the fruit part of a smoothie. Some parents worry their kids won’t eat a healthier green smoothie. Give it a try, you sneaky cook. Add greens into your smoothies; chances are no one will even notice. You can start with a few spinach leaves, for example, and build up over time. Other things I slip into smoothies that don’t change the taste: turmeric, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds.

Oatmeal: don’t just have plain old oatmeal; load it up with fresh or thawed, frozen fruit, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, ginger etc.

So, before you serve or chow down on your next snack or meal, look around and ask yourself, “What healthy bits can I add to this?”

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

1, 2, 3… Salad Dressing!

Recently for lunch, I made a quick salad and a homemade dressing. Making your own salad dressing is probably easy for most people (blend oil, some kind of vinegar and add some spices) but making a healthier version can be trickier if you don’t know what to do.

Here are my rules/steps to make your own, oil-free dressing, which is low in fat and made with mostly whole foods. It treats your body with nourishment, your taste buds with delight and does NOT bog down your arteries:

  1. Choose a base: You need something that will serve as the base for your dressing. Look for something that will blend nicely and not be too thin or thick of a consistency.

I often use fruit. Mangoes and oranges are my favourite, but others like kiwi, pear and berries work well too. Some veggies work, like tomato or cucumber.

In addition to fruit and veggies, you can also use things like balsamic vinegar, but it is thin and strong. Balsamic vinegar can be overpowering and if used as a base, will make your dressing to thin/watery.

Another fantastic option is hummus. Ideally, you’ve made it yourself, and it has no oil. Store-bought hummus works just fine too. I almost always have store-bought hummus in the fridge because it is so handy.

  1. Choose a flavor: What kind of zing do you want? Add garlic, herbs, spices, or condiments to experiment with tastes you like. Sometimes, fruit will work to tone down some flavors. Dates add a little sweet taste to balance with dressing that seems a bit tart or bitter. Here are some faves of mine:

-ginger and garlic

-cilantro and garlic

-cilantro and lemon

-lemon and Mrs. Dash Original or Mrs. Dash Lemon

-soy sauce, ginger and garlic

-balsamic vinegar and garlic

-tomato, garlic, dates and chili peppers

Start to pay attention to flavors you enjoy and think about how they might fit into a salad dressing. Look online for flavor combinations that seem to work.

Other herbs/spices/condiments to try:

Mustard, dijon mustard, horseradish sauce, parsley, dill, basil, celery salt, ground pepper etc.

How did I figure out what I like? By experimenting.

I usually just open my fridge, see what’s there and then start to put together some ideas. Don’t be afraid to try things. Believe me, I’ve made some dressings that weren’t great. So what? I also made beauties I loved. You just have to try. Have some fun!

  1. Blend and Adjust:I combine my ingredients together and blend them. At this point, I’m checking for consistency. Is the dressing too thin? Too thick? If it is, and I’m in a rush, I might leave it. If I have time, then I’ll see what I can add to thin it out or make it thicker.

Too thin? Add a bit of tofu, hummus or a small handful of chickpeas or other legumes. Maybe a bit more fruit or veggie.

Too thick? I find this is the easiest fix. Just add a bit of water or other liquid like veggie broth or orange juice.

Blender Tip: I usually make dressing as I need it…just a small batch, so I use my Magic Bullet. I like it because it’s fast and easy to blend and clean up. However, it doesn’t blend dressing as smoothly. This means there might be some chunky parts. If I’m making dressing for a few people, for guests, or if I want to keep it in the fridge for a few days, I’ll definitely use my Vitamix. It blends dressings so smoothly, but it takes a few seconds longer to clean up.

Here’s what I did for the dressing I made a few days ago.

Let’s call it Mandarin Garlic Dressing

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Base: mandarin orange

Flavor: garlic* and cilantro

*If you notice the garlic has a bit of a dark colour, it’s because I buy peeled garlic in batches. The cloves go bad in the fridge before I can use them all, so I put only what I think I’ll need over a couple of weeks in the fridge, and then I freeze the rest. When a garlic clove thaws after being frozen, it has that dark colour. The taste doesn’t seem to change.

Consistency: It was a bit thick, but I didn’t mind; it tasted so fresh and delicious.

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The dressing I made may not be the prettiest you’ve seen, but frankly, I don’t care what my dressing looks like, as long as it tastes delicious!

Salad dressings provide the perfect situation for experimenting. There are only a small amount of ingredients, so if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped, then that’s ok!

Making your own dressings is one of the secrets to eating healthy salads, without adding all the fat, sugar and unpronounceable ingredients included in most store-bought dressings. The big secret is finding ways to replace that ever-expected ingredient: oil.

If you really want to cut out oil, try your own homemade dressing. Become your own food scientist by experimenting in the lab in your home: your kitchen.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Go Brown, for all your Rice

To me, the best kind of rice to always have in your kitchen is brown.

Long grain brown rice.

Short grain brown rice.

Basmati brown rice.

Why?

Brown rice is a whole food, a whole grain. White rice, however, has most of its nutrients stripped away

HealthyHabit

Make a batch of brown rice on the weekend and leave a container of it in the fridge. You can grab it quickly through the week and combine with some beans and veggies.

It’s so easy.

I really enjoy the brown basmati rice, Here are a couple of quick pictures I took this past weekend.

I started by soaking 3 cups for 30 min. (soaking time recommended on package).

Then I rinsed it and put it in a pot with 4.5 cups of water.

Next, it went on the stove on high, with the lid on, until it began to boil.

I turned the element down to low, without removing the lid and left it on the element for 30 min.

That’s it. I let it cool and then found a container.

Healthy rice for all through the week!

Wishing you a healthy, successful journey,

SignatureAli

Mrs. Dash – a kitchen must

Find “kitchen musts” on the SHOP page.

I use Mrs. Dash, Original by adding it to soups, and rice and beans/veggies and other dishes while cooking. It also brings some life to dressings and sauces. It has NO salt, which is a bonus because you can have all the flavors without the salt. Of course, if your dish needs a little help in flavor, then at least you can control the portion of salt by adding your own.

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Product description: An all purpose, versatile blend of 14 savory herbs and spices including onion, black pepper, parsley, basil, orange peel and tomato adds flavor excitement to any dish.

Ingredients: dehydrated onion, garlic powder, black pepper, dehydrated carrot, lemon juice solids, dehydrated orange peel, parsley, tomato powder, citric acid, lemon oil, celery seed, basil, bay leaves, marjoram, oregano, thyme, savory, cumin, mustard flour, cayenne pepper, rosemary, coriander.

Look at that list! Everything looks like something I would put into my body. The only ingredient that is not ideal is citric acid, which is a preservative. Although it is naturally found in some citrus fruits, commercially used citric acid is not.

I’ve read different reports on citric acid. Some say it is produced by a mold that is fed sugar (usually corn-derived). To me, it’s important to recognize that it is a commercially synthesized product. It is just something to keep in mind. I think the main point here, is that on the Mrs. Dash list, it is the only ingredient that gives me pause. Ideally, the best herb and spice mixture would be one that you make yourself.

You can find Mrs. Dash products almost anywhere, but if you cannot, click on the image and order through Amazon.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Quickie Meals

Is eating healthy easy? It can be, but usually when you really want something worthwhile, it takes some effort.

So, you need a little effort to be able to eat healthy meals and avoid the convenience food trap.

Take 2-3 hours on your weekend to get ready for the week. It really is that simple.

Don’t think you have the time?…Make the time.

Let’s say we have about 12-18 waking hours each day of our weekend. That’s 24-36 hours on a weekend.

Anyone can fit in 23 hours to plan ahead.

What’s the pay off?

Healthy, guiltfree meals through the week that energize you and help you veer away from convenient fatty, sugary, processed foods.

Let’s look at what I did last weekend:

1. While home Saturday doing other things, I made a pot of brown basmati rice AND a pot of oatmeal (I added chia seeds and ground flax seeds to the oatmeal, once cooked). I popped them in the fridge, once cooled.

2. Sunday: I tried something a bit different that turned out to be a HUGE success! I found some thin plastic containers that are distinctly different from the other containers we use for food (I discovered these treasures at Dollarama). I made a meal in each one, which was ready to go for any meal during the week (lunch for my daughter or hubby to take to school/work or as a quick dinner).

Dollarama containers

Here’s what I made, labeled to identify the contents.

How I made them:

1. Mexican: I layered the following:

-rice (the rice I made the day before)

– black beans, raw chopped red pepper and salsa

-sautéed jalapeños, red peppers and Mrs. Dash seasoning (original)

2. Green Beans and Onions: I layered the following:

-rice

-sautéed green beans and onions with Braggs Liquid Soy Seasoning

My reward? A text from my daughter a few days later.

She has told me on two more occasions how convenient they are for her and how tasty they are.

Yay!

I love it when my ideas turn out well. The experience reminded me how EASY it is to prep and make healthy food!

Anyone can do this!

The idea is to play around with some basic foods and flavours you like as well as different containers.

One day, I might put together some more specific “recipes” for these quickie meals.

Hey…if I can do this, you can too!

Give it a try, if you really want to eat healthy.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Chickpea Etc. Salad

In our house, this “salad” is a hit as a spread on Wasa crackers.

It also works on top of a green salad or as a spread with a tomato sandwich.

Chickpea Etc. Salad

A No-measure Recipe

1. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.

2. Add to large bowl and mash, leaving some chunky bits.

3. Chop and add any veggies and herbs you like (for this batch, I used celery, red pepper, jalapeno, and cilantro). Choose amounts you like, according to your tastes.

4. Add lemon juice (fresh or bottled). Mix well. Add a tablespoon at a time, until you are happy with the taste.

5. Add several shakes of Mrs. Dash seasoning (original).

6. Mix well.

7. Add some sea salt to taste.

8. Something missing? Play around with it. Add a little pepper or more Mrs. Dash. If you have a sauce or condiment you like, try it.

Note: This recipe is oil free. You could add mayo, but then you take some of the health benefits away by adding such a high fat condiment.

You could also make this with black beans or another type of bean.

Let me know what combinations of ingredients make your Chickpea Etc. Salad a hit in your house.

Wishing you a healthy and successful journey,

Ali