Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Very Special Celebration

This weekend was my son's first birthday party. It is hard to believe that he has only been in our lives for a single year as I can hardly imagine life without him. Not that this past year hasn't been without its ups and downs but there is little in this world better than when he snuggles in for a kiss or learns something completely new and celebrates with a huge grin.

Parenting is filled with decisions that you may or may not get right every single time but I figured, since I am a dietitian and all...I had better get food "right". So far, I feel proud of what a good eater my little guy has turned out to be. He eats pretty much anything I put in front of him; from spinach and plums to black beans and steel cut oats. Today he even shooed away a sandwich in favour of grilled sweet corn rubbed with lime and smoked paprika.

So when it came to choosing a birthday cake for him, I had some decisions to make. I initially was going to go the sugar free route with a cake from my Organically Raised book but the amount of labour required to do the purees and all the extra ingredients I would have to buy were a little off-puting considering all the other preparations for the party. When my mom brought over her Quinoa 365 Cookbook, we decided to make the carrot cake. Using quinoa flour, the cake is gluten free, doesn't contain too much sugar, has plenty of carrots and was absolutely delicious. My son ate every crumb of his portion and I didn't have a sugar wired mess on my hands afterwards. I had purchased a more standard cake for the party as well and I pleased to say that in a crowd of very diverse appetites, the quinoa carrot cake ran out first.

The finished product....all ready for the candles!

At the requests of my guests, here is the recipe:

Carrot Cake
Excerpted from Quinoa 365 (Whitecap Books) by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming and used with permission.

Discouraged by the high-sugar, high-fat content of carrot cake? This recipe will satisfy your carrot cake craving without all of the empty calories.


2 cups (500 mL) quinoa flour
2½ tsp (12 mL) ground cinnamon
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground nutmeg
1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup (250 mL) white or cane sugar
¾ cup (185 mL) vegetable oil (I used organic canola oil)
4 large eggs
1 cup (250 mL) unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
3 cups (750 mL) grated carrots


One 8 oz (250 g) package light cream cheese, softened
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) butter, softened
2 tsp (10 mL) fresh lemon juice
1½ cups (375 mL) icing sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch (3.5 L) baking pan or spray with cooking oil. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. This will make for easy removal of the cake.
Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the pecans. Set aside.
Whisk the sugar and oil in a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, applesauce and vanilla. Stir in the carrots.
Blend the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake on the center oven rack for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely to room temperature.
Beat the cream cheese and butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth and creamy.
Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the nuts. Cut into 16 portions and serve. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week.

(Desiree's note: you may want to omit for a children's party in case of allergy)
Here's to celebrations....whether big or small!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

UnDiet...Week 28

One of my favourite places to be in the summer...the peak. Food tastes better outdoors, after a big hike!

Hello UnDieters!

I am most uninspired by this summer's weather. I need the summer sun to fill up my "happy tank". So after 6 weeks of blah weather, I am feeling a bit blah myself. Just in case you might be suffering the same affliction, I want to offer some good mood food.

Your excruciatingly difficult challenge this week is to pick your favourite childhood treat and eat it. Think about what food you most associate with the happiness and carefree summers of childhood. Whatever that food is, take time to prepare it with the best ingredients you can afford and give yourself time to focus on your treat and savour it. Preferably outdoors, with an umbrella if need be. Think about how it makes you feel. What memories do you associate with the food? How does it actually taste? What is the texture like?

When we are stressed, we often turn to food to improve our mood but we typically choose poor quality food and ingest it with such disdain and speed that it does little more than weigh us down even further. And I admit that food should not be used as comfort on a regular basis. If you routinely use food to cover up emotions or challenges, it is important to find a healthier outlet - whatever that is for you. But sometimes you just need a little me time, in the way of something delicious. So this week, enjoy. And if you can put in a good word with the weather makers, will you order some sun?

Have fun,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

UnDiet...Week 27

Hello UnDieters!

How did your ingredient reading experiment go last week? Any shocking revelations? Any happy reassurances? Hopefully you felt a little more connected to what is in your food...and going into your body.

This week is all about celebrating the harvest once more. It is time to eat tomatoes. Nothing beats the flavour of a tomato straight from the field, with nothing more than a little salt and freshly cracked pepper. Aside from being gorgeous and delicious, tomatoes pack in a nutritional punch.

Packed with vitamin C to help support healthy skin through collagen production and vitamin A for skin integrity, tomatoes can even help defend your skin from sun damage thanks to the antioxidant, lycopene. Lycopene also helps to support prostate health. For the most lycopene absorption, cook your tomatoes with a little healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium for healthy blood pressure and low in calories...making them the perfect summer food.

Taste summer this week and try and eat tomatoes (grown close to home!) twice this week. Go for something new and try chocolate, zebra or other heirloom varieties to take a break from the everyday hot house, mass produced varieties.

Shine on,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eat...Mediterranean Kale with Halloumi

I mentioned on Monday that I would be cleaning up my act this week but of course that doesn't mean eating only plain, boring "health" food. It means eating wholesome, veggie fueled meals made at home. So today I stopped by Yek-o-Yek on Main St and picked up some halloumi cheese thinking it might make a nice "steak" to serve with the gorgeous organic greens in my fridge. If you haven't had halloumi before, it is a wonderfully salty firm cheese from the Mediterranean region that is unique because it actually holds up to frying. 

I like using lacinato kale because I prefer its softer texture and milder flavour. And even if you don't like greens, give this a try. My husband, who merely tolerates greens, actually took a second helping. I then picked my jaw up off the floor and continued eating my delicious dinner.


Mediterranean Kale with Halloumi Steaks

This recipe is so quick, it is absolutely weeknight dinner material. By the time the quinoa finishes cooking, dinner is done. And you think you don't have time to cook.

1 cup    quinoa
2 cups  water
Pinch    thyme
1 piece lemon rind

1 tbsp    extra virgin olive oil
1 large  sweet onion (I used a Walla saying that!), thinly sliced
1 clove  garlic, minced
1/4         serrano pepper, minced 
1 bunch lacinato kale, shredded, stalks chopped and reserved
Pinch    salt, to taste
Remaining lemon rind, zested

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250 grams halloumi cheese, sliced in 3 or 4 pieces...for 3 or 4 people

Juice of lemon

First, prepare the quinoa: place quinoa and water in pot (rinse quinoa first if not pre-rinsed) with thyme and lemon rind. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks, saute the onion and the kale stalks in olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add serrano pepper, garlic and stir. Add remaining kale and saute over medium heat until glossy and wilted while searing the halloumi. Stir occasionally as halloumi cooks.

After you add the kale, heat the remaining olive oil in another pan to medium high heat. Place halloumi in pan and allow to caramelize, about 3 minutes a side.

When quinoa is finished, serve by scooping quinoa onto plate; top with kale and place halloumi on top of kale. Finish with a drizzle of lemon juice.

Serves 3-4


PS...where is the luscious food shot? Given my terrible photog skills, the photo didn't look half as delicious as the food tasted. Thought I would spare you :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cleaning up my act...

As a dietitian, I am under no illusion that making permanent lifestyle change is difficult. I work with hundreds of clients who share their challenges and their triumphs on the path. And I wouldn't dare say that I never have my own issues; I may know how to eat like a "saint" but I am human too!

In fact, over the last few months my own lifestyle habits have left a bit to be desired. I like to keep my healthy eating to 80-90% of my diet, leaving a little room for whatever is tasting good to me at the moment like poutine, red wine and ice cream. However, my healthy eating has looked a bit closer to 60-70% with a few too many chocolate bars and potato chips to name. And I haven't worked out in months. I can feel the difference. I just don't have the energy I usually do and when you get up at the crack of dawn (5AM!) and chase a little one around all day, it really hits you. 

So I am cleaning up my act this week. We are in the middle of a move and a generally insane month. It would be easy to put it off but the time is now. My husband is off so he can watch E while I work out and I have a bit of extra time to make food. I already worked out this morning and had a great breakfast and am feeling motivated and ready to go.

This isn't a diet or a detox or a cleanse. This is just me refocusing on taking care of myself and eating the foods I love to and that love me back.

I just might share my menus with you all...both for interest sake and to keep me honest. Watch this space....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

UnDiet...Week 26

Hello UnDieters!

Well, this is a special post: not only does it mark the halfway point in our UnDiet journey but it is also my 100th blog post on Eat Drink Be Happy! In just a year, this little blog has come a long way. From only a handful of my friends and family reading it to over a thousand of you checking it out every month. I can't wait to see it grow even more....and am eager to know what you would like to see here too. Feel free to send me an email or make a comment and let me know what kind of topics you are interested in seeing on Eat Drink Be Happy.

For this week on the UnDiet, I want us to explore our food choices by reading the ingredients on our food packages. I am not interested in having you "label reading" but INGREDIENT reading. There is an important distinction here; we can get caught up in the nutrients and become focused on eating more fibre, less salt etc. but these well intentioned goals can be co-opted by food manufacturers to make their processed, lifeless food seem healthier. Think Lucky Charms "made with 100% whole grain". "Cholesterol free!" potato chips. "Trans fat free" Oreos. 

While you can makeover a food with differing nutrient profiles, you can't hide what is in your food in terms of ingredients. Most of the packaged food we eat today is a combination of just a few ingredients: processed sugar, wheat, corn and soy in their many derivatives. These foods just kind of fill us up; they don't really nourish our body the way modern life demands.

This week, please choose at least two days to read the ingredients on each and every food you put in your mouth. If they don't have ingredients on the package, try the internet. Most food websites will offer this info. Then really think about what you are reading. Do you understand all the names on the ingredients list? Is it a mile long or is it simple? Are most of the foods you eat little more than sweetened, salted flour? Think about the foods you are putting into your body. Perhaps after taking a close look at the ingredients, you may shift towards foods with very different ingredients lists. Or better yet, foods without ingredients lists at all. Now there is a health goal that can't be messed with!

In Good Health,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

UnDiet...Week 25

Hello Summer (and UnDieters)!!

I hope you are enjoying the glorious summer sunshine; it has finally graced Vancouver with its presence for 2 consecutive days and I am feeling optimistic that it is here to stay.

So now that summer is here in our Pacific Northwest home, that can only mean one thing...berries. So this week, it is time to celebrate in true UnDiet fashion and commit to eating 1 cup of fresh berries every day. 

Berries are one of the most nutrient dense fruits that nature offers us. Not only are they full of filling fibre and glow restoring antioxidants, their nutrients also help to stave off heart disease, cancer and other chronic disease. Berries are also slow to release their energy, making them a great choice for maintaining stable blood sugars. Did I also mention, they are delicious? Nothing beats the succulent crush of berry juice dribbling down your chin - it is like summer itself. Choose whatever tickles your fancy at the market: strawberries or blueberries, raspberries, cherries or blackberries. Just enjoy a cup full everyday.

What to do with berries? Snack on them instead of something starchy at movie time; swirl them in yogurt for a snack or bake them with an oat topping for a treat. And if you really want to earn bonus points, go find yourself a few flats of berries and either can them or freeze them to enjoy local berries off season. 

Go berry pickin', people!