Beach Yoga & Choco Energy Balls

Throwing it back this Thursday to last summer’s beach yoga. Practicing barefoot in the mud during low tide took me right back to happily playing in the mud when I was a child.

And what is summer all about if not keeping your inner child happy?

Another thing that keeps my inner child happy is chocolate. Here’s a grown-up, healthy and vegan chocolate snack that will make your inner child smile and do your body good:

Choco Energy Balls

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

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Sugar free is the way to be

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in a raw food eatery in Calgary with my ex-boyfriend, his daughter and his son-in-law, celebrating father’s day. Don’t ask how this happened. It’s a long story.

The cool thing about this luncheon, though, was that the daughter and son-in-law had been sugar-free for a few months and they were singing the praises of this lifestyle like the truly converted.

They had more energy and more even energy throughout the day, balanced moods, their skin looked better and had both, effortlessly, lost weight, they said. And their eyes lit up when they talked about their new eating plan and how much it had improved their lives.

As they talked, I remembered feeling that way too when I gave up sugar. The only thing is that it’s hard and, invariably, I slink down the slippery slope that leads to sugar mountain.

But, what the heck, I’m feeling ready to take on the sugar demon one more time.

I’ll chronicle my experience (and recipes) here and start the journey with one of my sugar-free life savers. This pudding is rich, creamy and bursting with a deep, dark chocolate flavour. Here it is:

The Chocolate Avocado Raspberry Pudding

  • four bananas
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • splash unsweetened coconut or almond milk
  • 2 T raw cacao

Blend, garnish with fresh raspberries & unsweetened coconut and serve.

Chocolate & Blueberry Chia Pudding a Deux

chia puddingAre you looking for something sweet, dark and delicious to serve your Valentine in a few days?

How about a delicious chia pudding to share?

This easy parfait consists of the following two recipes layered with frozen blueberries and a little dusting of coconut flakes to top things off. It’s a yummy, healthy and energizing dish. Perfect for Valentines. 

Blueberry Chia Pudding

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 bananas
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • ½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • ½ cup organic nut butter
  • 3 T raw cacao

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Here’s to a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day xo

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Okay, here’s my second post about the wonders of chia and with another yummy recipe.

Did you know that chia can actually help you regulate your hormones? Pretty impressive for such a little seed.

Insulin, the stress hormone that your pancreas produces, can be slowed down by eating chia daily. How you’re wondering? By regulating the amount of glucose that enters your bloodstream. Another byproduct of having less stress hormones floating around in your body? An increase in the amount of testosterone in your system. Something that’s good for both males and females. See here.

Chia can also help with the interconnectivity of brain functioning, which means that it can actually help seratonin do its thing. And increased seratonin improves your mood and makes you more focused!

More reasons to eat chia every day and here’s a delicious recipe to help you do just that:

Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • One banana
  • 1/4 cup cacao
  • 5 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Blend all ingredients together. Let sit overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator. Layer the pudding with fresh, slices of fruit or top with coconut and chocolate shavings. Serve and enjoy.

Beach Days & Chunky Monkeys

Last Sunday I felt the need to unplug from the city so my pup and I headed to a sweet stretch of beaches a little west of my home and spent the day soaking up West Coast nature.

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We ran through the slippery, slimy (but therapeutic) mud of low tide.

low tideAnd then came home covered in salt and sand with a bit of an appetite.

The answer to that? A yummy Chunky Monkey smoothie..

Chunky Monkey

2 bananas

1 scoop chocolate protein powder of your choice

1 T cacao (organic raw is most delicious)

1.5 cups almond milk

1 scoop ice cubes for a milkshake consistency

Bourbon Balls

That skit never gets old and since the Holidays are just around the corner, how could I resist?

So, you’ve been invited to a few Christmas parties and want to bring some delicious treats. Well, nothing could be easier than this boozy, holiday recipe. And, hey, it’s a little bit healthy too with coconut oil, maple syrup, dark chocolate and almonds or cashews as key ingredients.  Put these in a mason jar, add a big red bow and you’re good to go!

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Bourbon Balls

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup ground almonds (or cashews)
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, grated
  • 1 T raw cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup bourbon of choice
  • 2 T. coconut oil (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch unrefined sea salt
  • Blend ingredients, form into balls, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Serve.

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Raw Vegan Macarons

Nourish

Verb: To provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

Whenever I spend a weekend in Edmonton, I beeline to a sweet little vegan restaurant called Noorish. They make the most delicious berry smoothies, vegan pad thai, vegan poutine (yes, vegan poutine!), black kale Caesar salad…yummmmm….but the dish I fell in love with the most is their raw, vegan mud pie. It’s smooth and silky, rich with dark chocolate and just the right amount of sweetness. Here, let me show you…

vegan mud pie

After taking a few bites of this rich, creamy dessert, I found myself chasing after the pastry chef, determined to get the recipe. And, I did.

So now I’m going to share this dark, delicious recipe with you! It’s full of anti aging coconut oil and raw cashews, so it’s very rich but rich with good fat. I’ve also changed the recipe from a pie to macarons. I made the pie once and ate the whole thing in one sitting. Oops.  I find I eat less if the dessert is in small pieces. The macarons have been described by one of my taste testers as the bottom of a Nanaimo bar. It’s a good thing.

Raw Vegan Macaroons

  • one cup coconut oil
  • one cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • one third cup Canadian maple syrup
  • one half cup raw organic cacao

Place all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix, blend well.

Form into balls and refrigerate for a few hours. Serve.

Coffee, Chocolate and a Whole Lotta Love

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Picture yourself walking into a room with high, vaulted ceilings, exposed red brick walls and beautiful dark wood accents. The air is filled with the rich aroma of cocoa beans mixed with the irresistible scent of fresh, organic coffee and everything is blanketed in an atmosphere of love. Are you there? Yes. Then you’ve just imagined what the atmosphere at East Van Roasters is like. Located in the ground floor of the Rainer Hotel, this is a very special place.

I found out about East Van Roasters from an article in a local magazine and the piece not only made me drool with their description of the cafe’s artisan chocolate but also explained how they hire women in the DTES with “barriers to employment” ie: drug addiction, alcohol addiction and emotional issues. Working at East Van Roasters gives women battling these challenges the helping hand they need to get back on their feet and maybe even transform their lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

So when I also found out that the cafe hosts volunteer nights every other Wednesday, I signed myself up. The volunteer nights are called “Winnow Wednesdays” and winnowing means taking the hard shell off of cocoa beans. All of the volunteers sit together at a long, communal table and get down to work. We’re a bunch of strangers, sitting side by side and learning how to remove the sometimes finicky shell from it’s cocoa bean but working together helps the conversation flow easily and brings a lovely camaraderie too.

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During the volunteer evenings, East Van’s Director, Shelley, explains to everyone what the cafe is all about. East Van only buys fair trade, organic beans and pride themselves on the relationships they have built with their suppliers around the world.  She also tells us that the only pre-requisite for a shift here is to show up clean and sober. Then she explains that sometimes it’s just not possible for someone to show up clean and sober. So they are sent away and told to come back the next day, clean and sober. And if they don’t, they are told to come back the next day and the next day…until finally they do show up clean and sober and get a shift. She says that sometimes we all need a lot of chances and East Van Roasters is the land of 1,000 chances.

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The description of the many chances at East Van touched a place deep in my heart. My sister, Inga, and my niece, Crystal, both lived in the DTES (my niece got out but my sister spent the last years of her life here) and I know how much we all need a number of chances at times but residents of the DTES, in particular, need 1,000 chances and a lot of love and patience to go along with those chances.

Love, patience and a chance can be hard to find in our world so places like East Van Roasters are so special and so necessary. If we ever hope to create a functioning, compassionate society, we need many, many more places just like this.

 East Van Smoothie

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 organic bananas
  • 1 T. cashew butter
  • 6 East Van Roasters cocoa beans

Blend together (with love).

Serve.

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Bitchin’ Bananas

It’s Throwback Thursday and I’m California dreaming again…about frozen bananas.

photo (6)The first time I tasted a frozen banana was in Balboa Island, Orange County about four years ago. I was a little obsessed with “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at that time (yes, embarrassing but true), so visiting Orange County (the home of my dysfunctional, slightly alcoholic, drama queen housewives) was super exciting for me.  I loved being in their neighborhood and secretly hoped my friend Tammy and I would run into one as we toured around the OC.

But, I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about bananas, not housewives….

The astonishingly delicious frozen banana I had on Balboa Island was dipped in a sweet, milk chocolate and covered in fluourescently bright candy and chopped walnuts. It was sublime. “How do we not have these in Canada?”, I thought as I chowed down on my banana while soaking up the California sun.

Lately frozen bananas have been dancing in my mind again and I’ve been experimenting with a healthy, clean, vegan version of the treat I discovered in Southern California.

So, below is the recipe I concocted to duplicate all of the frozen banana yumminess but without all of the bad stuff:

 Laurel’s Bitchin’ Bananas

  • two large bananas
  • raw cashew butter
  • a hunk of 80% dark chocolate

Slice the bananas into .5 inch little circles, put a dollop of cashew butter in between two slices, like an oreo cookie and place in freezer.

While the banana chunks are freezing, heat the dark chocolate on a double boiler and when it starts to lightly bubble, dip the cashew banana chunks in the hot chocolate. Place back in freezer.

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Serve frozen, just out of the freezer.

Bet you can’t eat just one.

Raw Coco Bliss Balls

Eating a 70-80% raw diet is a really great goal to work towards for vibrant health. Raw food gives you tons of energy, keeps your weight under control effortlessly and makes your skin glow too. As much as I love the health benefits, I definitely have a sweet tooth to try to manage. One of the ways I manage my pesky craving for sweets is with the awesome recipe below. Coco Bliss balls satisfy my sugar craving without having any actual refined sugar in them. They also make you feel raw, healthy and fabulous while indulging in a sweet little something.

COCO-BLISS BALLS

Ingredients:

1.5 tsp raw maca powder (optional)

1 tbsp organic ground cinnamon

1 tbsp raw cacao powder

1/4 cup organic dark chocolate chips

8-10 soft medjool dates, pits removed

1/2 cup raw almonds

1 tsp pure organic vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a high power food processor and blend until small pebbles form. Roll into balls and refrigerate. Makes approximately 10 cookie balls.

In case you are curious, below is a little info on two of the key super food, anti-oxidant ingredients:

MACA: This plant is known as the Peruvian “ginseng” even though it’s not ginseng at all. However, it is known to increase energy, stamina, libido and reduce stress. It is an adaptogen, meaning, it’s important to take over a longer period of time to notice the effects. Maca is also very nourishing to the pituitary and hypothalmus glands, making it great for helping to balance male and female hormones.

Raw Cacao: The purest form of chocolate on planet earth. This food’s effect on mood and libido is due to it’s natural chemicals including anandamide and PEA which are known to make you feel more “blissful” and “loving”. Additionally, it stimulates feel good hormones such as endorphins and may increase serotonin since it’s a source of tryptophan. Raw cacao is also an excellent source of antioxidants and, last but not least, it’s also bit of a libido-booster.

And, with these two loving, blissful and libido boosting ingredients, Coco Bliss Balls may be the perfect dessert to serve next time you have a romantic date on the agenda…

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