Archive for July, 2012

Homemade Condiments for Your Summer Gathering

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At Fuel we are all about injecting flavor into healthy foods and taking the enjoyment of eating clean to another level.  Fresh ingredients and homemade food is a huge part of our philosophy so I thought I would give you some ideas on how to make familiar summer condiments healthier and even more full of flavor.  Most people associate summer BBQ season with the standard adornments such as ketchup, mustard, and relish but these are often highly processed and loaded with refined sugars and preservatives.  I know most people don’t consider making homemade versions of these toppings but it is really super simple, in the end you will have something much healthier and the taste will outshine any bottled condiment lingering in your refrigerator I promise!

Let’s start with ketchup, probably the most popular all around condiment out there.  Unless you are buying an all-natural, organic type ketchup most conventional brands contain a whack of refined sugar and less than wholesome ingredients, take a look at the ingredient label and you will see what I am talking about.

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Have you ever wondered how natural flavor can be considered an ingredient…hmmmm?
According to Code of Federal Regulations natural flavoring is defined as:

the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.“….In other words, natural flavors can be pretty much anything approved for use in foods.

Even more reason to make easy and delicious homemade ketchup…you will never turn back!! We often serve a variation of this with our amazing turkey burger.  Here is a super simple ketchup recipe that doesn’t even require turning on the stoveImage

Ingredients:

1 cup sun dried tomatoes

1 cup fresh tomatoes, any kind will do but grape tomatoes add a nice sweet flavour

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup sweet yellow onion or shallots, chopped

10 basil leaves

1 tsp. all spice, ground

1/2 tsp. cloves, ground

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

6 dates, pitted

1/4 olive or flax oil

2 tbsp raw coconut nectarraw honey, or coconut sugar

1 tsp. himalayan or sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Soak dates and sun dried tomatoes in enough warm water to cover for about 20 minutes, then drain soak water.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, how easy is that!!
  3. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

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Mustard is my favorite condiment because is it so versatile, pungent in flavour, and has many health benefits.  Amazing on its own or as an addition to dressings, marinades, and dips mustard is a must have in my pantry.  Conventional mustard is not the worst offender in terms of unhealthy ingredients and there are many great natural brands that I use quite often, but there is just something about making it from scratch and putting your own twist on it.  This is a simple basic recipe but you could add all types of additional flavors, how about fresh tarragon, dill, or rosemary….yum!!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown or yellow mustard seeds (the brown seeds have more of a kick!)

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. white pepper, ground

1 tsp. tumeric, ground

1/4 filtered water, or just enough to achieve desired consistency

Preparation:

  1. Gently crush mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle, this will result in a ‘grainy’ type mustard.  If you prefer a ‘smoother’ consistency grind mustard seeds in a coffee or spice grinder.
  2. Add all ingredients except water to a blender and blend to combine.
  3. Add water slowly until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator up to 2 months.

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Conventional relish is another one of those sneaky purveyors of refined sugar which most of you are hopefully trying to avoid. Relish also contains artificial colors, unless you are eating kale relish that vibrant green color which so beautifully compliments your BBQ favorites is very far removed from anything natural.

Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of the most popular brands of prepared relish? You might find items like high fructose corn syrup, refined salt, colors such as yellow no. 5 (also known as tartrazine) and blue no. 1, natural flavor (yes it rears its ugly head again!), and preservatives such as polysorbate 80

Ditch that unhealthy stuff and try your hand at making a fresh relish, another great recipe that has endless possibilities for adding your own personal flare.  While I admit this one takes more prep time than the first two recipes due to all the chopping, it is definitely worth it! A simple trick to avoid the chopping is to do a rough chop of the first four ingredients and then pulse in a food processor with the remaining ingredients…so easy!

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Ingredients:

1 small jar of natural pickles, drained and finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 green pepper finely chopped

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 2 medium sized lemons

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or natural red wine vinegar

1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp. grated ginger or powdered ginger

1 tsp. white pepper, ground

Preparation:

  1. If chopping by hand mix all ingredients in a large bowl and let sit for 1 hour to allow flavors to marinate together.
  2. If using a food processor add all ingredients and pulse a few times to achieve a fine chop, you want it to be a little chunky.
  3. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Try one of these recipes at your next outdoor gathering, these make great host gifts as well, trust me you will the hit of the party!!

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Wishing you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day!

Michelle Waithe, holistic nutritionist at Fuel

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Hidden Talents of the Mighty Avocado and Other Neat Stuff About Healthy Fats

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Growing up my mum often had a few slices of green goodness on the side of her dinner plate which I curiously admired from afar.  Although I was a child who loved all fruits and vegetables, thanks to the prodding of my older brother Bruce, I was a bit weary of the suspicious looking creamy green accompaniment to my mother’s meals.  It was not until  my adult years that I began my love affair with the avocado.

Still a bit skeptical about its benefits due to my ‘low fat‘ brain fog in the 90’s, I began to explore nutrition but hesitated to make avocados a regular part of my own diet due to the overwhelming panic that fat would make me fat.  In this ‘fear the fat‘ phase of my life eating an avocado on the regular seemed like a crime against my self imposed dietary restrictions.  Once the fog lifted, probably when I started eating good fats again and got my brain cells back, I was able to understand the full potential of nature’s healthy fats and how important they are in our diets.  Fats in general have gotten a bad wrap and for good reason with all the highly processed junk out there but the mistake we have made is to bundle all fats into this category.  Yes, we want to avoid refined and genetically modified oils and fats contained in processed products but our body needs healthy fats in order to function optimally.  Fats are used in the body for cellular structure, producing hormones, insulation, and providing us with emergency reserves of energy.   We now know that all fats are not created equal and healthy fats should come from mother nature’s garden, preferably in their unadulterated whole food form.  Raw nuts and seeds, wild caught fish, coconut, and of course avocados are great choices and should be included in a well balanced diet in order to maintain optimal health.  If you keep your portions reasonable and maintain a clean diet in all the other food group categories fats can actually help to balance your metabolism, fear fat no more just eat the good stuff!

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So on to my love affair with the avocado.  Many nutritional virtues have been bestowed upon this delicious green fruit.  Besides being a great source of healthy fats, including a high concentration of the prized omega 3 fatty acids, avocados contain a number of anti-inflammatory compounds called phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFA’s).  These compounds work to regulate inflammation in the body which can have beneficial effects on everything from our cardiovascular system to inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Avocados also get a leading position on my superfood roster for their ability to regulate blood sugar due to a high fiber and low carbohydrate content, which gives them a starring role in my diabetes protocols.  Containing high levels of antioxidants, especially carotenoids, is another reason to give the avocado praise.  This mighty fruit will help protect you against free radical damage, which is responsible for the deterioration of cells, the aging process, and a contributing factor to many types of cancer.  Avocados are also high in oleic acid which is needed for the optimal absorption of these carotenoids making them much more available to the body, funny how mother nature creates elaborate synergistic combinations in simple guise.

Besides the nutritional accolades avocados are just plain delicious and extremely versatile, you might be surprised by the hidden culinary attributes of your average avocado.  We are all well versed in the traditional uses of avocados….

add to a salad yum!

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make a guacamole, dee-lish!

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slice and eat with a drizzle of raw honey…a little outside the box but seems approachable…

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what about something a little more outside the box…

make chocolate avocado pudding…say what?

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Raw Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

1/2 cup Mum’s Original Raw Cacao Powder

1/2 cup Ojio Raw Organic Agave Nectar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup water (less if you want a thicker consistency)

1/2 tsp. Mum’s Original Himalayan Rock Salt

Preparation:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with an ‘S’ blade or a Vitamix and blend until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour for a chilled version.

maybe a little avocado dairy free ice ‘creem’ on a hot summer night…are you serious?

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Banana Basil Avocado Ice ‘Creem’

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

2 medium sized frozen bananas (cut into chunks before freezer to make blending easier)

1 can Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup Ojio Raw Agave Nectar

1/4 tsp. Mum’s Original Himalayan Rock Salt

Preparation:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with an ‘S’ blade or Vitamix and process until smooth.
  2. Enjoy as a soft serve ice ‘creem’ or freeze for 1 hour for a firmer texture.

I have tried these two recipes with even the most discerning avocado skeptics and it fools them every time!  Even kids who squirm at the thought of eating a squishy green avocado gobble these up none the wiser.  These recipes are super simple and will inspire your own romance with the amazing avocado!

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What is your favorite way to use avocados? I would love to share your recipes!

wishing a you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day full of avocado goodness!

Michelle Waithe,

Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel


Crazy for Cilantro!!

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Cilantro is by far one of my favorite herbs! I have to say this is mainly due to it’s bright, fresh flavor but as a nutritionist it is my duty to give some recognition to the fantastic health benefits of this amazing plant.  Here are the top 3 reasons to include more cilantro into your diet:

1. Cilantro is a natural detoxifier and has a great ability to chelate heavy metals and pull them safely out of the body, you will often see cilantro incorporated into a whole foods or juice cleansing detox regime.  Not only does it take out the bad but it also puts back the good due to its high mineral content, in particular iron.

2. Cilantro can help to lower blood sugar and LDL (bad) cholesterol, great for anyone with diabetes.

3. Cilantro has anti-inflammatory properties that may help with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, even inflammation due to strenuous exercise.

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Organic Vegan Dish: Quinoa Salad with Adzuki Beans, Peppers, Cilantro, and a Lemon Flax Oil Dressing.

You will often see cilantro added to our dishes to enhance flavour and to increase the overall health benefits of our meals.  Another great way to use cilantro is in your fresh green juices.  Simply add a handful when making a fresh pressed juice, you will be surprised how much this enhances the flavour!  Try growing cilantro in your backyard herb or container garden so you will have an endless supply.

Michelle Waithe, Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel Nutrition


Beat the Heat…Stay Hydrated

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I can say with a high degree of certainty that summer is here with a vengeance, all that stuff about global warming yeah well I am starting to take it seriously now!!  As Canadians we often spend the winter months dreaming of the long gone days of summer, basking in the sun’s rays playing outside and getting a little more active. Spring always seems to tease us with a taste of summer and the dance with winter’s fight to hang on just a little longer.  Once Canada Day hits there’s usually no question, summer is officially here.  Like bears coming out of hibernation Canadians around the country are eager to get out and enjoy the weather, get into their outdoor exercise routine, and drop those extra pounds.

Staying hydrated while exercising is always important to prevent fatigue, maintain or improve performance, and make the most of your workouts however, the importance of hydration in hot humid weather is even more crucial.  When the body engages in physical activity heat is generated internally, this is how we burn calories, and in order to maintain the body’s delicate internal balance it has to rid itself of this extra heat which is why we sweat.  Sweat has two main purposes, it allows the body to detoxify through the skin and it is the body’s automatic air conditioning system.  The amount we sweat depends on a number of factors, a few of which include the intensity of exercise, how hydrated the body is, and the key one here is the temperature of the surroundings.  The hotter and more humid the outdoor conditions the more we need to sweat to cool ourselves down.  If our internal air conditioner is working over time and we are not replenishing fluids to keep it going dehydration is a consequence which can have mild to very serious side effects.  The average person loses 1L of sweat for every hour of exercise, and that is in regular conditions, so the message here is replenish, replenish, replenish!

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Now that we understand why we need to hydrate let’s discuss the most effective ways to prevent dehydration and ensure our bodies are equipped to enjoy the hazy days of summer.  Of course the best way to keep the body hydrated is to make sure you are drinking throughout the day.  The most effective way to do this is to drink pure, clean water as your main source of fluids.  When planning exercise outdoors or spending extended periods of time in the heat be sure to consume 1/2-1 L of extra fluid beforehand to compensate.  While exercising also make sure to drink fluids, preferably a natural electrolyte or sport water drink, at regular intervals.  When we sweat the body also loses electrolytes, mineral salts dissolved in body fluids that regulate fluid balance, therefore it is important to replace these as well.  After exercise or extended periods in humid weather replenish fluids throughout the rest of the day at regular intervals to maintain hydration status for future activity.

Here are some of my favorite ways to hydrate the body naturally, tasty ways to beat the heat and keep your body at peak performance.  When buying bottled ‘nutrient waters’ avoid at all costs drinks which are filled with refined sugars, artificial colors (water should never be fluorescent blue or green yikes!!), artificial flavors and sweeteners.  Opt for the natural choices below.

Coconut Water – contains naturally occuring electrolytes, and its delicious too!  Look for unsweetened organic varieties, the only ingredient should be coconut water.

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GP8 Water – naturally purified water that contains 3-4 times the oxygen of regular water, this allows the body to maintain hydration status.

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Vega Rehydrator – a natural, alkaline-forming drink mix, free from sugar and artificial sweeteners, formulated with all the essential electrolytes the body needs to stay hydrated during workouts.

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Or try making your own!

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DIY Electrolyte Drink Recipe

1 cup filtered water

1-2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 pinch of sea salt (do not use table salt)

1/2 tablespoon of raw honey

At Fuel we encourage getting a little more active and soaking up some vitamin D when the sun is shining, just remember to always use common sense when exercising in hot humid weather.  If the humidex rating is above 35 avoid strenuous activity, save these days for sipping your lemonade pool side.  Know the signs of dehydration which include nausea and fatigue in mild cases, vomiting and cessation of sweating  in severe cases, this is very serious and requires immediate medical attention.  Know your limits, hydrate your body, and enjoy these long awaited days of summer.

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Michelle Waithe – Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel Nutrition