Healthy Lemon Chia Muffins

Usually we go home to Canada in July which is just when my lemon tree in Australia is ripening. I end up picking them all before I leave and handing them out to friends. But things being what they are this year, we didn’t go anywhere. So trying to find the silver lining (if you really want to see it!), I have been baking lots of lemon recipes. My family loves muffins, so lemon muffins was an obvious choice. So without any further ado, here is my healthy lemon chia muffin recipe!

Lemon Chia Muffins

4 Tbsp chia seeds

1 cup lemon juice (juice from 3-4 lemons)

2.5 cups self-raising flour (whole wheat preferably)

¼ tsp salt

½ cup maple syrup (the real stuff from Canada)

1/3 cup coconut oil melted

1 cup milk (I used macadamia, but you could also you almond or dairy)

½ tsp almond extract

Method

  1. Mix the chia seeds with the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes
  2. Preheat oven to 180C
  3. In another large bowl, mix the salt and the flour.
  4. Add the maple, coconut oil, milk and almond extract to the flour and mix well.
  5. Add in the lemon and chia mix.
  6. Divide out into muffin trays.

Depending on how big you make your muffins, cook between 12-16 minutes.

Add blueberries, raspberries or other fruit to mix it up.

Enjoy!

How do you get Incidental Exercise?

Do you take the stairs at work?

There are two different kinds of exercise – incidental and planned.  Planned is when you go out to just do exercise.  When you go for a run, to the gym, for a bike ride, boot camp etc.  Incidental exercise is all the exercise that you get through your day-to-day activities: walking to the train, walking to school, walking around the office, running after the kids in the backyard.

Planned or structured exercise is great, but this doesn’t always fit into the day. One of the barriers to exercise is that people often don’t feel like they have time to go to the gym for an hour.  Whereas planned exercise takes time, incidental exercise is often done while doing other things and it can be really helpful for our health as we do it more often.  Any amount of exercise is beneficial and lots of short spurts of exercise can have the same effect on your health as a longer session.

Several years ago

I like to turn planned exercise into incidental.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to just go for a bike ride or walk the dog.  But I also like to go out with purpose. I have a bike trailer that I used to use with the kids but now I take it to the shops to get groceries instead of driving.  And the kicker is no matter how tired I might be; I have to make it back.  Really this only adds about 10 minutes each way, but now I have incorporated exercising into shopping.

Now

The kids’ school is about 10 minutes away.  If I walk there and back that’s 20 minutes.   If I do that twice a day, at least 3 days a week I’ve done 60 minutes of walking!  So I’ve made a big dent into my 150-minute goal and I haven’t even gotten started on my planned exercise yet.  

Some other ways you can add incidental exercise into your day are parking further from the train and adding a 10-minute walk there and back each day. Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Do squats while brushing your teeth – 2 minutes per brush, 2 brushes per day times 7 days equals 28 minutes of exercise and you haven’t taken time away from anything else in your day.

The possibilities are endless.  You just have to be creative and see what fits into your lifestyle.  So, what are some ways that you get incidental exercise?

The lemons are ripening! Yay!

As the lemons start ripening on my lemon tree, I thought it would be timely to write about them.

I’m sure you have all heard of drinking lemon water.  It can actually be quite helpful. I don’t suggest only drinking lemon water (seriously if you ever see something telling you to only do one thing, run don’t walk away!), but a glass of lemon water in the morning can be great.

Lemons are acidic.  If you drink a glass in the morning it can help stimulate your digestive juices and get them ready for digesting breakfast.

Lemon water can help with constipation.  The combination of lemon and warm water can help to get things moving in the morning.

Lemons are loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids.  This means they can help boost your immune system and decrease inflammation.

Lemon water can help with kidney stones.  This is due to their high citrate content. If you have kidney stones though, seek professional health advice.  Don’t just drink lemon water and hope they go away.  Talk to your naturopath to see if this is appropriate for you.

Drinking a glass of water in the morning will help you stay hydrated.  Over night we don’t drink anything and can become dehydrated.  Drinking water in the morning can get us going on the right path.

You want to drink this in the morning, ideally half an hour before eating breakfast.  Consistency is best for seeing results.  

  1. Squeeze half a lemon of juice into a mug (real never artificial).
  2. Add hot water
  3. Drink
  4. Feel great;)

Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies with Rice Noodles

I love this recipe! It is so easy to make and super delicious. And 2/3 of the kids will eat it! Ok not ideal, but if I only shared recipes they would all eat, you wouldn’t have much to read. You can easily scale this up or down depending on how many people are eating and the leftovers are awesome! Experiment with how strong you (or the kids) like it. I am always adding different veggies depending on what is in the fridge, so don’t focus too much on the specific veggies I use, just add some and enjoy!

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • ¼ head of cauliflower 
  • Ginger – depends on how strong you want this to be.  I use about an inch long piece.  This gives a mild-medium ginger flavour.  Good if feeding kids.
  • 2 Tbsp of coconut oil
  • 400-500g chicken thighs cut into pieces
  • 2-3 Tbps of soy sauce – You may want more or less for your taste.  Experiment here.
  • 2 Tbsp honey – a big squirt of honey
  • 200g Rice vermicelli noodles

Cut up all the veggies into bite sized pieces.  Cut up the garlic and ginger until it is super tiny.

Stir-fry all the veggies, garlic and ginger in the pan with some coconut oil. Once these are about half cooked add the chicken.  Once the chicken is cooked, add the soy sauce and honey.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles as per the instructions.  I just pop mine into boiling water for 2 minutes and then strain.

Mix the rice noodles in with the veggie chicken mix.  Only put a small amount in at a time to make it easier to mix around.

All done! Enjoy!

Healthy Chia Pudding

Super Easy Chia Pudding

Chis Pudding Ingredients

My daughter loves to eat this for breakfast but it can be used as a treat during the day as well.  Chia seeds are mostly known for their great omega-3 content, but they also contain protein, fibre, iron and calcium. This recipe is sweet but contains no sugar.  So enjoy!

½ cup chia seeds

¾ cup coconut cream

1 ¼ cups Lyke Milk (or other milk alternative such as almond, oat or macadamia)

Mix together all the ingredients and stir for about 30 seconds to make sure the chia seeds are mixed around.  If you don’t mix right away, then they clump together and don’t soak up the liquid. Leave in a sealed container overnight on the counter or in the fridge (definitely the fridge if you have used cow milk).

In the morning, it can be eaten as is or mixed with berries or muesli.  We like to make a chocolate version by adding:

1/3 cup cacao powder

1-2 ripe bananas mashed well

Store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

I make this recipe dairy free, but you could use cow’s milk if you wish.  

Let me know what you mix with your chia pudding in the comments!

Vitamin D!

It seems like everyday there is more research coming out about the importance of Vitamin D. With it’s influence on our immune system, now is an important time to make sure you have sufficient Vitamin D levels.

How do we make vitamin D?

Sunshine is how we make vitamin D. When you are exposed to UVB rays, our bodies make cholecalciferol (D3) from cholesterol in our skin.  It is then converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the liver.  This is what is measured in a vitamin D blood test.  From here it gets converted to its active form, calcitriol, either in the kidneys or by the immune system and then released into circulation for the body to use.

Sunscreen blocks UV light, so if you are conscientious about applying it, you may not be making enough vitamin D in your body.  In the winter months, even in Australia, the days are shorter and the sun is lower in the sky resulting in less UV rays getting to us.  So even in Australia many people are vitamin D deficient.

What happens if we don’t get enough vitamin D?

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium from our diet.  So if we don’t get enough the body takes calcium out of the bones to use for muscle and nerve functioning as well as blood clotting.  This can result in softening of the bones called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.  

We have known that vitamin D was important for bone health for many years, but only recently have we realised that it affects other parts of the body as well.  We need it for a proper functioning immune system so that we can effectively fight off infections.  Vitamin D also decreases inflammation and low levels have a particular effect on the symptoms of asthma and arthritis.  Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

How do we get enough vitamin D?

Ideally we get it from the sun as this is the most effective way.  But we still want to be careful of getting burned. Depending on your location and the time of year, it is generally recommended to get outside before 10am or after 4pm for about 20mins with as much skin showing as possible.  Although winters in Australia are far from cold and snowy in most parts, we still don’t get much sunshine with shorter days and the sun being low in the sky.  My family doesn’t wear any sunscreen in the winter.

Some people may need to take a supplement.  If you have darker skin you won’t make vitamin D as efficiently.  Also menopausal women may need to supplement due to hormonal changes.  Anyone who diligently wears sunscreen or covers most of his or her skin with clothing should also consider a supplement.  The American paediatric association also recommends supplementing infants.  Breastfed infants are most likely deficient because their mothers are deficient and they are rarely left out in the sun.  

So try to get outside everyday if possible.  This is especially important with winter coming along as our days get shorter.  And if you think you may be deficient, talk to your naturopath about getting it tested.

Healthy (and Easy!) Protein Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups quick or rolled oats (120g)

1 cup puffed rice

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sunflower butter (can use almond or peanut butter if not taking to school)

1/2 cup raw agave or honey

2/3 cup protein powder – have fun with different flavours (70g). I use plain pea protein

1/4 dark chocolate chips, sultanas or dried cranberries (optional)

Instructions

Stir all ingredients together until well-mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a 9×14 pan lined with parchment or wax paper. (For thicker bars, you can use an 8×8 pan.)

Place another sheet of parchment or wax over the top and continue to smush down and spread until it fills the bottom of the pan.

Freeze until hard, then cut into bars.

For optimum freshness, store leftover bars in the freezer for up to a month.

And then Enjoy!

Adapted from: https://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2014/08/11/protein-granola-bars/

Beat Those Viruses this Winter! (and all year long!)

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While it is almost summer for all of you in the northern hemisphere, it is coming into winter down under which means cold and flu season has come around again. Although for those of us with kids in daycare and school it seems that cold and flu season lasts all year-round! Here are some helpful hints for keeping the whole family healthy in winter and all year long.

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Sleep is the most important activity your body needs. When sleeping, your body restores, heals, and creates important hormones. Get to bed early and stay there for at least 7-8 hours each night.  Avoid caffeine to ensure you get a good quantity and quality of sleep.  Read my blog article about caffeine for more information on the effects it has on your body.

Psychological stress is associated with a greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.[1]  Take time out – exercise, garden, meditate, whatever it is that helps you to relax.

What would one of my articles be if I didn’t mention exercise?  Exercise is important for everyone. To keep your immune system at its best you want at least a brisk 30-minute walk each day.  If you are an avid athlete you also need to take care, as very high intensity exercise can put a strain on your immune system.[2]bacteria on hands

Always wash your hands before eating.  There was a 75% reduction in flu-like symptoms when a test group wore masks and washed their hands.[3]  This is especially important for kids who are more apt to putting their hands in their mouths.  It can really be just that easy!

Our bodies are composed of 70% water. Proper hydration is important for the optimum functioning of all your body systems. Increase your water intake slowly getting up to 2L per day.  Check our my article about water for more information.

Hot-Cold showers are an excellent way of improving your immune system, increasing circula­tion and elevating energy levels. After finishing your regular shower routine, do 20 seconds of cold and 1 minute of hot. Alternate 2-3 times, ending with cold.  The increase in circulation will also help decrease sensitivity to the cold.

There are several supplements you can take to help boost your immune system. Daily zinc supplementation has been shown to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, reduce the incidence of acute lower respiratory tract infections in preschool children by 45% and reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 41%.[4]

There are lots of herbs that can help boost your immune system. You can drink my Change of Season tea daily to stay healthy while the weather is changing.  You can also check out my Cough and Cold Soother tea for a delicious mix that can help fight off germs if you get sick.

Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in immune cells and is quickly consumed during an infection.  It is a natural antihistamine and has been found to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections.

More than 80% of the body’s immune system is in the digestive tract.[5]  A lack of good bacteria in the digestive tract can cause a reduction in the immune system allowing increased infections.  Take a good quality probiotic to prevent bad bacteria from taking hold.

Vitamin D has a direct effect on the immune system. Vitamin D stimulates the production of natural antibiotic proteins thus killing more bacteria.  Insufficient levels are related to a deficiency in our immune system to protect us against infections.

If you have any questions, you can join one of my Boost Your Immune System talks.  Or if you are inspired to make lifestyle changes, but you aren’t sure where to start, you can join one of my 5 week step-by-step group Get Healthy programs.

These are just a few suggestions.  For personalized advice, contact your local naturopath. Let’s stay healthy this winter!
References

1  Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. PNAS, 2012 April 17; 109(16): 5995-5999.

2  Society for General Microbiology. Couch potato or elite athlete? A happy medium keeps colds at bay(Internet). ScienceDaily. 2012 January 5 (Retrieved 13 May 2012). Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105112158.htm

3  Aiello AE, Perez V, Coulborn RM, Davis BM, Uddin M, Monto AS. Face masks, Hand Hygiene, and Influenza among Young Adults: A Randomized Intervention Trial. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1): e29744.

4  Hunter P. Health Benefits of Zinc. Bioceuticals Advanced Clinical Insights, 2004; 5.

5  Plummer N. Dysbiosis and Disease: Ground breaking new research into probiotics and their role in preventing treating disease (presentation notes). FIT-BioCeuticals, Ltd. Online. 2010.

Shepherd’s Casserole (Pie) with a Twist

Finished Shepherd's Casserole Filling

My daughter says that pie is only pie if it has crust. When I first added Shepherd’s Pie to my recipe repertoire she was unimpressed. We have since started calling it Shepherd’s Casserole and she is much happier.

Ingredients

This recipe is healthier, and tastier, than the regular Shepherd’s Pie as it has pumpkin in the topping instead of just white potatoes. I never liked pumpkin growing up but in the last few years I have been really enjoying it and find it very versatile. I tend to buy a half or whole pumpkin and roast it. Then I stick it in the freezer ready to add to whatever I am making that day.

Cooking Veggies

This recipe is also loaded with veggies (look at all that healthy colour!), but it all mixes together in a super yummy mix that the kids love. If you are in a hurry, you can use only frozen veggies and save the time cutting up extra. Frozen vegetables are snap frozen and retain their nutrition, making them great for when you are in a hurry but want a delicious and nutritious dinner.

Pumpkin Topping

We make our version dairy-free as we have an intolerance in the family, but you can add cheese to the topping if you so wish.

Ingredients

 Filling

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter
  • 1 large clove of garlic diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 medium zucchini cut to bit sized pieces
  • ½ large red pepper (capsicum) cut to bit sized pieces
  • ½ head of broccoli. I usually cut it up quite fine so that it is easy to eat by accident
  • 500g ground (minced) lamb or beef
  • 600 g frozen peas, carrots, corn
  • 2 Tbsp Worchester sauce
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • 1½ cups stock – I like to use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder

Topping

  • 500g roasted pumpkin
  • 500g steamed or boiled potato with skins on
  • 2 Tbsp butter or vegan butter substitute
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional tasty or pecorino cheese

Directions

  1. Roast the pumpkin. Cut it into even slices and baste with some olive oil. Put in the oven for about 45 mins at 200C. You want the pumpkin starting to brown but not getting crispy.
  2. Cut up the potato. Steam or boil until tender.
  3. While those are cooking, put the coconut oil, garlic, onion, and fresh veggies in a large pan and fry until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the ground meat to the pan and break up as it is cooking.
  5. Add the frozen veggies once the meat has cooked.
  6. Add the Worchester sauce and tomato paste and stir in.
  7. Add the flour. Mix this through and allow the flour to cook for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the stock and stir while the sauce thickens.
  9. In a separate bowl, mix the cooked pumpkin, potatoes, vegan butter and salt with a hand mixer until it is mixed through.
  10. Put the filling in a large casserole tray.
  11. Spread the filling on top evenly.
  12. Add the optional grated cheese on top. Pop the whole thing in the oven for about 5 minutes just to melt the cheese.

 

Pumpkin topping

Enjoy!

This recipe makes quite a lot, so you can freeze the extra or use it for lunches the next day.

 

Shepherd's Casserole

Delicious Dairy-Free Chocolate Icing

Cupcakes 2

As I’ve mentioned before, the littlest person in our family has a problem with dairy. For previous birthdays, I have just let him have cake with dairy icing and we would deal with any potential side effects. Since it was only once in awhile he was usually fine. But it was his birthday and I wanted him to be able to eat cake without any worries (well he was never worried, he’s only 2!).

Don’t get me wrong, this is not one of my healthy recipes. Other than being dairy-free, there is certainly nothing healthy about it. But for those of you who can’t handle dairy, I wanted to share this super delicious, and super easy, alternative.

Ingredients

For my first attempt I tried the recipe with just soy cream cheese but it wouldn’t aerate and thicken up so it did slide off the cake a bit (was still delicious though). It needed the added fat from the vegan butter. This final recipe though will satisfy even the most ardent of dairy lovers.

We had just eaten cake a couple days before, so I put this icing batch on some of my Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins and it was delicious!

Little Hand

Ingredients

  • 255g of your favourite soy cream cheese (I’ve tried both Creamy Sheese and Tofutti Better Then Cream Cheese)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter (I recently found the one pictured by Funky Fields. It tastes terrific, but it does have nuts in it so isn’t school friendly unfortunately)
  • 3 cups sifted icing sugar (I try to buy an organic one from the bulk shop but when I run out I have to get the commercial one pictured from the grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cacao powder (Quality matters here. Cheap ones just don’t taste right)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In Bowl

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients into your mixer.
  2. Mix on medium for about 3 minutes until the icing becomes light and fluffy.
  3. Eat, um, I mean spread onto cupcakes or cake.

Makes enough icing to easily ice a double layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

Muffin Cakes

Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from the delicious one at Natasha’s Kitchen.