Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

I’m crazy for kale! Who isn’t these days?

Kale is taking the food world by storm and almost everyone is using this hearty, healthy green in various things like salads, juices, stews and smoothies!

It’s a nutritional powerhouse and beneficial to your health in many, many ways. If vitamins can be packed and labeled, they’d very much look like kale. From a range of vitamins and nutrients such as C, B, A, iron and even protein, the benefits offered by just one cup of this relatively infamous veggie can trump a lot of other foods combined. Anti-inflammatory, packed with anti oxidants, immune building and impressively fiber and iron rich, this fighting disease leaf is a force to be reckoned with.

Kale is one of the best vegetables for your health that you should happily have everyday. But let’s face it, raw kale isn’t as easy to consume directly like spinach. Sometimes known as “crazy lettuce”, this tough leafy green needs to be tamed in order to fully enjoy its deliciousness.

In this delectable salad, the key is to massage your fibrous kale for a few minutes and let it sit marinated in lemon juice. This simple rubdown step can deliciously transform this green from being bitter and strong to becoming silky and smooth. Pair it with a kick butt lemon tahini dressing and you’ll have one heck of a nutritional and healthy dish that’ll have you forgetting about those Caesar salad days.

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KALE SALAD:

Massaged kale, raw

Rinsed and soaked organic chickpeas

Diced cucumbers, raw

Diced bell peppers, raw

Chopped broccoli florets

Finely minced red onions

** 1 small pouch of Natera natural hemp seeds

LEMON TAHINI DRESSING:

1 lemon, juiced (about 2-3 tbsp)

5 tbsp of organic tahini (also known as sesame paste)

1 clove of garlic, pressed

1 tbsp of organic raw apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of water (add less or more depending on desired consistency)

Optional: 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Add dressing ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender and mix thoroughly. Pulse well.

Toss with salad ingredients. Combine well until there is not a naked kale leaf left! Sprinkle hemp seeds/hearts and devour.

Redefining 100% Natural – YES Please!

Today, I read a fantastic article on News.Mic about how many companies are labeling their products as “all natural” when in actuality, they’re far from that. The article talked about many unverified health claims from businesses like Snapple, Quaker Oats and Kashi using marketing tactics like claiming to use “all natural” ingredients or phrases such as “no artificial flavors or preservatives” and even “100% healthy and natural”. However, if you’re like me and carefully read every label, you know that all your left with in these products is loads of added sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup), toxic chemicals and synthetic substances like maltodextrin and my favourite, the ridiculous and unidentified natural flavors. That’s natural? No, it’s misleading.

Apparently the word natural doesn’t mean anything anymore. This is one of the most emotive words used in food marketing and consumers are being duped by many marketers who are constantly abusing it. Chances are, they probably don’t care about the public’s optimal health and how their “natural” ingredients can affect our long term health in the end. It’s being inaccurately thrown around and used inappropriately in order to make up for the harmful ingredients added and made to believe that they are acceptable to consume. At this point, the word means about as much as “real” does, especially when it comes to food marketing. This is why I’ve expressed on my blog 100 and 1 times about how truly important and crucial it is to read your food labels. Do not be fooled by the large bold words splattered on the front box stating to be wholesome and good for you. Even catch phrases like gluten free, low fat, half the amount of salt, can all be used to deceive you into buying their sugar/chemical laden products.

While some ingredients listed may be “naturally derived” from sources like soybeans, corn and canola oil, these ingredients aren’t the safest to consume and almost always manufactured artificially and manipulated. For instance, a company like Nature Valley can promote their granola bars as “100% natural” because the ingredients it contains like high maltose corn syrup is derived from corn (and most likely from GMO corn). But they ignore the absolute unnatural process it takes along the way to create this “natural” syrup. All this means to me is that foods that are genetically engineered or used with toxic chemicals are permitted to be labeled as natural. Unfortunately it is a processed sugar and should definitely not be marketed as a healthy, wholesome snack. Period.

[Eating] natural is such a nebulous thing these days but you can navigate and redefine it. Eat whole foods (you know, broccoli, spinach, mother nature stuff), buy products that only contain real quality ingredients, look for organic which means something substantial and avoid products that dub themselves as natural but use ingredients unpronounceable and misrepresented. Take the time to distinguish between the good and the bad. Remember that your health relies on it.

There’s a new premium drink in town! And they’re helping to redefine what it means to actually be ALL NATURAL.

YES Drinks has a promise to their customers – everything they make will always be 100% natural (and about 85% organic), they’ll only use the highest quality ingredients, there will not be any shortcuts taken, no preservatives, artificial ingredients, stabilizers or flavor extracts used and will always be kept 100% plant based. Oh yeah, and no added sugars! Yay!

The handcrafted drinks are a natural and healthy alternative to many sugary (and sugary-healthy) beverages and snacks. They are naturally sweetened with stevia and contain absolutely no funky stuff. What you see is what you get. All of the delicious beverages are cold pressed low in calories, gluten free, vegan and contain familiar super foods like organic chia seeds, raw sprouted rice protein, coconut milk, turmeric and psyllium husk. They’re also a delicious way to get a large helping of natural protein and fiber. They won’t cut corners so that we are only left to enjoy increased vitality with the most nutritious and great tasting all natural ingredients. A company that truly knows what’s best for us to achieve optimal health.

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Simple to read and you know exactly what you’re getting. Just how it should be.

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I like the Belgian Cocoa Hazelnut “Milk” and the Vanilla Charge the best! They boast so much flavor (real natural flavors) and I feel great after having a few sips. The bottles are so convenient to have on the go and you can swap your morning coffee with one of these bad boys for a more beneficial wake up call! Which flavor will you say YES to?

Honest to Goodness Morning Power Protein Smoothie [Vegan, Sugar Free]

Drink to your health – right in the morning! 

One of the best things to have right after a well rested sleep is a delicious, healthy green smoothie loaded with nutrients. They give you a boost in energy, supply a radiant amount of nutrients, help improve skin conditions, reduce sugary cravings, assist in effortless weight loss and provide you with the daily dose of vegetables and fruits your body needs. While green smoothies and juices are all the hype these days, there are ways to get the most out of your daily dose of uplifting nourishment.

Steadily start your engine by swapping your dead, sugary, unhealthy breakfast with a pre-chewed living greens smoothie after your tall glass of lemon water or morning green tea. This way, your body reaps the benefits of the bio-available nutrients it has offer while preserving your delicate digestive fire.

The other day, I learned a fantastic habit to get the most out of my daily smoothies. Chew them! Digestion starts in your mouth, so by activating salivary enzymes by “chewing” your smoothie, you are basically letting your digestive organs know that food is on its way. Saliva is secreted when you chew your food, so by chewing your smoothie, you’re helping an important part of the digestive process by lubricating the sugars that essentially helps them break down easier in your stomach. Let’s face it – bloating can suck! So try chewing your smoothie instead of gulping it down in one sitting.

I’ve made this recipe almost everyday this week! It’s easy, quick and absolutely tasty. As you probably know from my previous posts, I keep on a low sugar, low glycemic diet in which I consume much more vegetables than I do fruit. The first tip to making a nutrient dense smoothie (or juice) is by keeping the greens-fruit ratio roughly 4:1. Leafy greens provide a substantial dose of calcium, iron, disease fighting phytochemicals and phytonutrients. You don’t necessarily want a sugar laden smoothie as it defeats the overall purpose. Frozen cucumbers is a great way to add some wholesome sweetness to your smoothie without having to use sugary fruits like bananas or mangoes.

A second important tip is making sure you get an adequate amount of protein combined with healthy fats. This is very important especially when you’re having your smoothie for breakfast or as a meal replacement. Raw almond butter and hemp seeds stow healthy fats including immunity and brain boosting Omega-3 fatty acids. Along with the vegan protein powder (whether it’s pea protein or brown rice protein), this smoothie is packed with the essential protein your body needs for daily fuel, growth support and maintenance.

Get the right energy you need by starting your day off with a smoothie bang!

An Ode To Smoothies – Recipes like this:

Banana-Free Smoothie 

Raw Alkaline Detox Blend 

Super Warrior Smoothie

Healthy Detox Model Blend

Easy Everyday Green Blend

Model-Friendly Milkshake

Drink Your Greens

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Ironic isn’t it? I don’t drink alcohol but I love using my tall Carlsberg glass for my smoothies! Who needs alcohol anyway when you can have a succulent and beneficial drink instead? 

What you’ll need:

Half a large local cucumber (frozen, cut into slices)

3-5 packed cups of organic baby spinach (or leafy greens of your choice!)

1 1/2 cups of unsweetened almond milk (or 1 cup of almond milk +1/2 cup of filtered water if you don’t want it too creamy)

1 tsp of organic raw almond butter (I love Dastony’s sprouted almond butter for this!)

1/2 a scoop of vanilla vegan protein powder

2 tbsp of raw hemp protein (Natera’s Natural Hemp Protein works great)

1 tsp of grounded flax or chia seeds

Optional: sometimes I like my morning smoothie a little bit tangy sweet, so I add half a cup of FROZEN sliced raspberries!

Blend the cucumbers, baby spinach and almond milk first for 1 minute. Add in protein ingredients and flax/chia.

Blend some more. Keep a bit of the smoothie chunky so you retain some of the needed fiber which you can then “chew” during consumption.

Chew, drink and feel powerful!

Choose Organic!

Organic Week is approaching us in Canada and I thought I’d discuss the benefits of buying organic and local whenever possible! Now I know the word “organic” can sound just as overwhelming and “trendy” as the word superfoodbut regardless of your diet, buying organic food is a smart and beneficial priority. Opting to buy even some organic and local foods can be an efficacious choice for personal and environmental health.

So why (try to) buy organic? 

Organic food delivers more nutrition and is higher in minerals and antioxidants than traditional foods. There have been many studies that have been shown that show an increased level of some nutrients in various organic foods. On average, organically grown foods provide roughly 20 percent more iron, 25 percent more Vitamin C and 30 percent more magnesium per serving. Significantly more minerals, vitamins, enzymes and micro nutrients than conventionally grown foods because the soil is handled and nourished with sustainable operations by accountable standards. So by consuming organic foods fairly consistently, we technically can double our overall daily nutritional intake!

Buying and eating organic also means avoiding and lessening your chance of chemical absorption. There are a cocktail of chemical poisons and pesticides that can be found in commercially grown foods in today’s society. More than 600-1000 active synthetic chemicals are registered for agricultural use in North America that produce about 45,000-55,000 different pesticides. More than 90 percent conventionally grown produce is guaranteed to contain pesticide residue. Most of them have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency prior to extensive testing for long term effects on our health. When we are exposed to a number of different toxic chemicals, that are most likely carcinogenic, for over a long period of time, we put ourselves at risk for adverse health issues such as cancer, birth defects, mineral deficiencies, hormone system disorders and other diseases. To dramatically reduce our exposure to these harmful. choose to buy locally organic foods that contain much lower concentrations of chemicals whenever possible. Purchasing locally grown food doesn’t always mean chemical or pesticide free unfortunately. The pesticide residue some organic produce sometimes come from the soil that previously sustained conventional farming, pesticide accumulation from neighboring farms or other environmental factors. But certified organic produce is always grown with absolutely no chemicals and pesticides! Better for your body and the planet in the long run.

Eating fresh organic produce also means a decreased intake of food additives such as MSG, food colouring agents, artificial ingredients, growth hormones and antibiotics. Your body will also thank you for providing it with food that doesn’t contain any genetically modified organisms (GMO) and hasn’t been put through irradiation. Popular grocery list items such as apples, strawberries, spinach, almonds, soybeans, and corn that aren’t certified organic and locally produced are contaminated with an alarming rate of GMO, with repercussions beyond our own understanding! Did you know that GMO foods do not have to be labeled in North America? How do we actually know what we’re eating if the government chooses to conceal it from us? Why is everything else labeled and deemed safe to consume but GMOs are kept hidden ingredient lists? Instead of labeling items as “non GMO” or “organic”, shouldn’t that be the natural thing to assume they are and label them when they aren’t? Since the organically grown food supply is not permitted to be genetically modified in any way, choosing to go organic is the only option to steer clear from ingesting genetically modified foods and having to play the ingredient guessing game altogether. 🙂

Sustainable organic food also tastes a lot better! I can’t imagine the amount of times I’ve bitten into a strawberry that wasn’t organic and it tasted like plastic! Not to mention how ginormous they were to begin with. Strawberries shouldn’t be the size of tennis balls. As a matter of fact, they’re actually quite small, sweet and absolutely lush! And if you compare the non organic, non local strawberries to strawberries that aren’t, you’ll not only notice the difference in size, but also in taste – big time! Organic produce tends to taste better and fresher for the most part. Well balanced soil means better produce which means better tasting nourishing food for us! And since most organic food is locally produced, it doesn’t need to travel as far as most conventional foods do. Because they’re picked closer to their peak ripeness, it allows the natural rich flavors to be more delicious and potent. Besides, is it really necessary be eating strawberries imported from Mexico when we’re capable of growing them here? *And by here, for me, it’s Canada! 😉 

There’s a myriad of exceptional decent reasons why you should always try to choose and eat organic whenever you can! Aside from avoiding chemicals and better taste and better quality, you’d also be supporting local economies and farming communities, help preserve our ecosystems, reduce pollution, protect our water and soils and preserve agricultural diversity. While there are some expensive organic items on our shelves today, there are ways to eat organic and local without breaking your budget. You can shop at bulk stores, food coops and/or local farmers’ markets like The Stop @ Wychwood Barns and Evergreen Brickworks which are two of my favorites in the city! If you’re a meat eater, you can maximize your plant consumption and swap for plant based protein options that are definitely less expensive like organic dried beans, nuts and more nutrient dense greens like kale, collard greens and broccoli which are actually affordable to purchase organic!

Some other simple guidelines you can gradually follow that will help you make the healthiest and safest choices:

  • Read the labels that are accessible on all of the foods you buy and learn about the ingredients.
  • Eliminate one conventional processed food product that you normally grab and buy it organic! Non organically grown apples, carrots, seeds and soft fruits are some of the most heavily pesticide sprayed products. If apples are usually on your list, opt to buy them organic. And if that’s not convenient or accessible, it is important to thoroughly wash the skin with apple cider vinegar to reduce pesticide intake. Remember, companies invest big money in chemicals that are resistant to rain drops! So soak, scrub and repeat!
  • Look for Non-GMO options for particular foods like grains, corn, soybeans, beans, nuts and frozen produce.
  • Buy local whenever you can! Try to stay away from produce that’s grown in countries that requires two plane rides! 😉 (It always makes me happy to see a product that’s in my case, 100% Canadian and local.)
  • Focus on buying produce that’s in season. You can freeze summer fruits and vegetables if you live in a country with a not so pleasant winter season.
  • Choose who your money goes to. Buy from companies that are committed to providing you the best worthwhile quality food…

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Mike and Mike’s Organics carries a variety of diverse nutrient packed finds such as nuts, seeds, dried fruits and fresh produce that’s good for you, nature approved and organic! All of their products meet the rigorous standards and handled according to strict procedures in order to be certified organic. This ensures that the quality of their products are deemed safe to consume for everyone. They carry a delicious line of good-for-you healthy munchies that you can happily choose from: raw organic almonds, pine nuts, cashews, trail mixes, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, walnuts – you name it! And all bursting with natural nutrition, quality taste and sustainable substance. Everything you would want (and more) in fresh valued food! Use them in salads, homemade baked goods, savory dishes, or soak ’em then eat ’em raw as healthy delicious snacks! They are all so unbelievably convenient and reasonably priced too (from as low as $3.99 to $8.99 depending.) If you care about your food just as much as I do or starting to make the change, Mike and Mike’s Organics is on your side.

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Organic Select will now be marketed as Mike & Mike’s Organics. Here’s a sneak peek of their new and upcoming brand! Same quality taste only now in a new fresh seal packaging. Easy to open and favorable for any time of the day! You’ll see their latest collections at your local store very soon. 🙂 

I admit, I don’t always buy organic. It can definitely be a challenge at times especially when it comes to eating at restaurants, the limited selections at our stores and of course, the cost of organically grown food. But when I do, I choose companies like Mike & Mike’s to help me out and I buy certain products organic whenever I can like spinach, frozen berries and corn. 🙂 The hope is that when we do start buying more organic food, that prices will eventually decrease. But this is all up to us – the consumers. The choices we make today as consumers not only affect our health but have a profound impact on tomorrow’s future. The best way forward it is to expand our enquiring minds, continuously question the food we feed ourselves today, reclaim our health by simple ways like choosing organic and voting with our dollars.

Do you vote organic? 

Feed Your Skin Naturally!

Good skin is always in!

I want to share a few natural beauty tips with you today. I’m often asked what I use to maintain my “healthy, glowy skin”and as flattering as it is, I actually don’t have a a line of high end beauty products that I use on a daily basis. My routine is quite simple and guileless. As you already know from a few of my recipes and posts, I like to keep things as natural as possible.

I always count chemicals and I am a thorough label reader – that’s including products I use on my skin too!

The first step to great skin is by what you put at the end of your fork. I consume A TON of greens, stay away from meat and dairy products, wheat/gluten containing foods and don’t drink or smoke! You’ve already heard the importance of drinking lots of H20 but having more than 6 glasses of water a day really does make a difference. Keep it clean and drink up, buttercup!

Nutrition plays a critical role in the health of our skin. Acne, breakouts, psoriasis, dry skin, dull skin and wrinkles are all affected by your diet and lifestyle so by eating the right kind of foods, you can help by reduce or even eliminate these stubborn skin conditions. These are the main minerals and nutrients your body needs to naturally help you achieve healthy skin from the inside out:

Silicon: cucumbers, bell peppers, greens, flax seeds, lentils, BioSil capsules

Sulfur: garlic, greens like kale, broccoli

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds

Biotin: raw almonds, raw almond butter, swiss chard, raspberries, sweet potatoes

Zinc: nuts, pumpkin seeds, spinach. chickpeas, raw cacao

Antioxidants: blueberries (organic and wild), pure green tea, baobab powder, more greens!

I always incorporate these specific foods into my everyday diet whether I toss them all into a delicious salad, add them to smoothies or eat them raw as nutritious snacks. These essential foods have definitely been beneficial in improving and maintaining the health of my skin and they’re all nature approved too!

When it comes to a living healthy and natural lifestyle, what you put in your body is just as momentous as what your put on your body. Many people are still unaware of how great an impact the beauty cosmetic lines they use on a daily basis can have on their skin – and health! Our skin readily absorbs chemicals and other harmful substances deeper into our body through our skin layers and then ultimately into our bloodstream. The absorption rates on our scalp, underarms and face are 7-10 times higher than a lot of other body parts. And when we are constantly putting products on our skin that contain parabens, alcohol, petroleum, parfum/fragrance and other harsh chemicals, we are also consuming them and allowing them to get inside our bodies. The skin is the largest organ of the body and since it’s porous, you better believe that it absorbs whatever you choose to put on it.

It’s important to pay careful attention to the ingredients in our skin care products. Unfortunately, the majority of of the mainstream products on our shelves today contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals, carcinogens, allergens, synthetic additives and irritants that contribute to our wellness and what we see every morning in the mirror.

How can we achieve healthy, glowing skin naturally? Just like the food we eat, we should always read the labels, understand what we’re putting on our skin and consider a gentler, natural alternative that’s favorable for us and the planet. Minimalism is always the best option. So choose organic products and natural skin products with simple ingredients whenever possible. Or even use whole ingredients and make your own DIY safer products at home.

Here are my everyday skin/face essentials suitable for ALL SKIN types:

Organic virgin cold pressed coconut oil – Probably the only plant based moisturizer you’ll only ever really need! Don’t be afraid of applying oil on your face. It’s dehydrated and most likely dried out from the harsh alcohols and chemicals that a lot of skin care products consist of. Anti bacterial, anti fungal, anti septic and excellent for balancing the natural oils our skin produces. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of coconuts?! 😉

Baking soda – An affordable and easy way to balance the skin’s pH levels and a great exfoliator too!

Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar –  Great for healing acne, stubborn pimples and light scars. Works great as a natural, plant based toner.

S.W. Basics of Brooklyn – I’m absolutely obsessed with this line! It is probably the only company I’ve come across that uses pure, whole elements that’s sustainable, organic, cruelty-free and skin friendly. While many companies claim to be “all natural” or plaster ridiculous amount of labels to fool you into thinking their products are safe, chances are, if you turn to read the labels, you’ll find a plethora of not so hidden, not so natural ingredients. You can count on S.W. Basics to be 100% pure and only using the finest ingredients that’s actually good for you. They even think about our planet! Aren’t they so sweet? Their products are all fair trade and the ingredients are locally sourced from small, family farms. S.W. Basics also has exceptional branding (I’m a sucker for good branding and packages!) and their story is beautifully simple: Fewer ingredients means less chance for irritation, higher potency and a smaller, overall ecological impact. For them, less isn’t just more, it’s everything. And I agree! This is a line of products your skin will thank you for.

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All of their products have less than 5 ingredients. And they’re all ingredients you can pronounce and probably have in your kitchen cupboard. Luscious stuff like coconut oil, shea butter, ACV, olive oil, vegetable glycerin and cocoa butter. You also won’t need to do a back label read since all of the ingredients are conveniently listed right on the front of each product. So simple and no second guessing. They’ve made it so easy for us how can you not love them?

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Go ahead – put your best skin forward!

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