MAP Wellness

MAP Wellness
Spreading the Health

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coconut-Apricot Chews

As I write this, I am sitting outside on my 17th floor balcony having breakfast. It is 8am on a Saturday morning in Toronto. Already it is 21 degrees outside. The high for later today?Thirty. I can already feel the warm humidity hugging my shoulders. I love it. No scratch that; I ADORE it.

The hot, hot heat is exactly what my body craves. This, a fact I found to be true the very first time I stepped off a plane in Costa Rica. The wall of thick, stickycalidity that greeted me on that tarmac served as welcome to both body and soul, and for the first time in my life, I felt at home somewhere outside of my homeland. I belonged there, and at that moment I made the declaration to myself that I would one day be a resident of CR, if only for a few months of the year.

Here in Canada I am cold all the time.My hands, my feet, my ears.It could be a case of poor circulation they say, but I like to think that I was a gal of the tropics in another life. I love the feeling of the scorching hot sun on my face, sweat beading down my back, the sultry air that encompasses a late summer setting sun. I desire the Pura Vida,asI know it is in my bones to live that way. And this coming week, my wellness company and all the hard work I have put into it, has me knocking on the door of opportunity as I take part in a meeting that may just be my ticket to a life lived on the Pacific Ocean coast. And if all goes well, a more permanent affair with Central America may not be that far off after all...And to that I say, bring it. Bring on the “pure life."

And now, in true easy-breezy Costa Ricanstyle, I present a delightfully simple treat, a true taste of the tropics, my coconut-apricot chews:

Coconut-Apricot Chews
1 C raw almonds
1 C dried apricots
½ C shredded unsweetened coconut
1 T coconut oil
¼ C raw unsalted sunflower seeds
¼ C agave syrup


1. In food processor, process almonds until they form a gritty flour.
2. To processor, add the apricots and process on low until fruit is broken down and well combined with the almond meal.
3. Add all remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a dough-like texture (it will begin to stick together in large hunks).
4. Remove bowl from processor and form dough into bite-sized balls (TIP: if you refrigerate the mix for 5-10 minutes it will be less likely to stick to your hands when rolling!)
5. Try one. Fall in love. Freeze or refrigerate remaining balls for keeping.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Easy "Cheesy" Pumpkin-Seedy Kale Chips!

Kale Chips. I adore them. Have ever purchased a sack of these tasty delights?  If you have, than you know that they are not the most economical treat to routinely much on.  Now, I am far from a frugal foodie; you’d be much more likely to catch me spending $100 on dinner at one of my fave restaurants, than on a pair of fancy shoes; but I do like to find a deal when it comes to home cooking and stocking my kitchen with plenty of whole food ingredients.  So what can you do to cut your kale-chip-costs, and still enjoy a healthy bite?  Just make your own!   And they’re easy, I promise. 

I like to use my dehydrator to make these crisps, but also get great results in the oven!

Easy-"Cheezy"-Pumpkin-Seedy Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp pumpkin hulled seeds
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast*
1/2 tsp sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil (You may need two!)
2. Thoroughly wash kale and dry well.  Remove thick stem parts and chop leaves into chip size pieces.
3. In a large bowl, combine kale, oil, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice and zest. Massage dressing into the leaves, to coat.
4. Spread kale evenly onto lined baking sheet(s), and sprinkle with nutritional yeast and salt.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes, and then take a peek to check crispness.  Separate any leaves that are clinging together.
6. Continue baking for an additional 30 minutes to an hour, checking often until chips are dried and crunchy.
7. Enjoy – guilt free!

*Dehydrator instructions: Spread kale onto as many dehydrator trays as necessary and dehydrate at 110 degrees for 10-12 hours.
** Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast sold commercially as a food product.  It is yellow in color and has a flakey texture and a nutty cheese-like flavor, making it a great flavour enhancer and favourite among vegans.  It can also be a great vegan source of vitamin B12 – a vitamin that can be hard find when following a plant-based diet.

Buy It! - Nutritional yeast can be found in bulk food and health food stores as well as many larger supermarkets

Sun Salute: Sun & Sun Patties

I think that it is very important for us all to take the time to nourish ourselves in the best way possible at every chance we get.  I also know that wellness is all about maintaining a proper balance in our lives, and there are infinite ways to go about doing just that. One of my fave ways to get more in tune with where I am at both physically and mentally, is through yoga.  A tried and true action that after a few mindful moments always seems to centre me, even on the hairiest of days.  Nothing beats a slew of sun salutations followed by Savasana, and then a snack!  So here, I present my very yogi treat: Sun Salute - Sun & Sun Patties

Raw Sun Salute - Sun & Sun Patties (Sundried Tomato & Sunflower Seed Patties)

1 C sundried tomatoes (preferably dry – not packed in oil)
¾ C RAW sunflower seeds
1 T sesame seeds (white or black)
3 T chia seeds
1 T curry powder
1 t cinnamon
1 T dried parsley
1 T fresh basil, chopped finely

Soak the tomatoes and sunflower seeds: in separate bowls, cover the tomatoes and seeds in water and soak for 8 hours.  Alternatively, you can use warm water and cut the soaking time to 2 hours.  Drain liquid before using.

Add the sunflower seeds and tomatoes to food processor.  Process until the tomatoes are nicely broken down– I like mine still a bit chunky, but you can blend the mixture as smooth as you like.  Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.

           Time to form the patties.  I eye-balled about 1 ½ T per patty, but you can go as big as you like depending on whether you want a bite-sized treat or a more full size burger. 

Done!  Eat as is, at room temperature or for a denser patty, you can put them into a dehydrator for 3-7 hours.

These are great with a side of cashew sour cream and a dollop of guacamole (recipe follows!) or salsa.

Meg’s Guac
2 avocado, mashed
1/4 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 C fresh organic basil (balcony grown for this one!)
1/4 C organic cherry tomatoes, quartered
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a big bowl and dive in! Stores well in the fridge for a few days (if you can keep it around that long!).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weekend Wonder Bars

If you’re like me, your summer schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time to slow down and simply “be”.  It’s August already after all, and as the weekdays fly by, I always wonder how the weekends somehow manage to fill up and become less of a time for relaxation, and more like a race to cram in as much as possible pre-Monday’s return to work!

To this, I say thank goodness for Canadian long weekends!  For a change, I am seeing myself stay in the city this civic holiday, and with that in mind I plan on doing all the errands, work and obligatory weekend must-dos in twenty-four hours, as to leave me with a full two days to unwind, catch some rays by my pool, and enjoy the city while it is at its quiet best.   

There certainly is something divine about the deserted streets of Toronto’s downtown core after the mass exodus of cottage-goers have made their retreat.  Everything here seems to slow-down, calm down, and allow for maximum stay-cation bliss.

So, what’s on my agenda today?  Well first things first: breakfast.  Breakfast bars to be exact, and these chewy tropical treats are just the thing to fuel me through a long to do list.  Plus, the recipe will leave plenty of leftovers to pack for the road, and snack on all week long!

Weekend Wonder Bars

2 medium very ripe bananas
2 Cups rolled oats
¼ Cup agave syrup
1 Cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ Cup raw sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1.       In a large bowl, mash bananas using a fork or potato masher.
2.       Add all remaining ingredients and combine well with spoon or spatula.
3.       Press mixture firmly into a 9X9 baking dish (you may want to grease the pan with coconut oil if it is not non-stick).
4.       Bake for 25-35 minutes until desired texture is achieved (if you want them chewier, aim for 25 minutes, more crisp, go for 30-35 minutes!)
5.       Allow to cool, and then cut into 12-16 bars. 
These store well on the counter for a few days, and hold up very well when stored in the fridge or more long-term in the freezer.

By now, we have all heard about how oats are an easy and delicious way to incorporate some cholesterol lowering soluble fibre into our daily diets.  But they are also a great flavour vehicle too!  The sweetness of the coconut carries well in these bars, and you won’t feel like you’re devouring a bowl of oatmeal in bar-form.  The addition of flax in these delights also provides an extra dose of fibre to the mix, as well as the super good for you Omega-3 fats we are always trying to get more of in our daily diets. 

Feel Alive Raw Lemon Bars

Early morning alarms - as in 4am early - can equate to lack-luster energy.  I know this fact to be true.  You see, I get up long before the crack of dawn for my fulltime gig working as studio floor manager with Global TV’s “The Morning Show”.  With my bizarre schedule and twisted body clock, I know that I need reliable sources of fuel to get me going before we go “live” at 6am.  I have found that a cold, tall glass of “green juice” and a few nutrient dense snacks do just the trick.  Here, I am going to share one of my go-to recipes for a yummy breakfast bar that I frequently provide to 2 of my most important clients – the show’s hosts; Liza Fromer and Kris Reyes. 

Feel Alive Raw Lemon Bars

Food Processor
8X8 cake pan
parchment paper

1 1/4 Cup natural almonds
1 1/2 Cup soft dates*
1 Tbsp all natural vanilla extract
Zest from 1 organic lemon**
2 Tbsp juice from above lemon
1 1/4 Cup dried coconut (shredded or flakes)
1/4 Cup goji berries (link) or dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

* TIP: If your dates are hard, simply soak for 5-10 minutes in warm water and then discard the liquid
** TIP: You can use a lemon zester OR simply peel the zest using a good quality veggie peeler!

1. Process almonds in food processor until they resemble a gritty flour.
2. To the processor, add the dates, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Process on low for about :30 seconds to start the breakdown of the dates.  Continue to process on HIGH until VERY well combined - the mixture should stick together well, and be sticky to the touch.
3. In a separate bowl, combine coconut, goji berries and salt.  Add the date and lemon mixture.  Combine with your hands, until well mixed and the coconut is distributed evenly throughout.
4. Dump the mix into a parchment lined pan and press firmly into the pan, smoothing out the top with a spatula (the parchment will aid in removing the filling when it comes time to cut them up!)
5.  If you can resist diving in for a taste straight away, try refrigerating the finish product for an hour or two before you cut them into bars - the colder they are the easier they are to divide up!

You can experiment with the flavour combos here as well.  Try substituting in raisins for half of the dates.  Or use a combination of other nuts, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds in place of the almonds – any of your favourites should work!

The dates in this snack provide an instant blast of energy, and the monounsaturated fats and protein from the almonds (the seed of the fruit of the almond tree!) help reduce the glycemic load of the fruits, while also providing of fibre to boot!