Hearty Pot Barley Bok-Choy Soup

Pot barley and baby bok-choy come together to provide a high fiber, anti-oxidant rich meal. I love one pot meals where you have tons of nutrients and couldn’t ask for anything more in one pot! This vegetarian meal is perfect to have for lunches during the rest of the week as well. And because it has everything in one pot —all you need to pack is one container for your healthy lunch.

Makes 8-10 servings

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 or 2 onions, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, minced

8 cups of vegetable broth (I use the McCormick Vegetable MSG free bouillon to create my own)

4 cups of baby bok-choy, bottoms of the stalks chopped off

3 peeled carrots, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

A 19-ounce can (540 mL) of white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

A 28-ounce (796 mL) can of whole tomatoes, drained and shredded

1 cup of pot barley

2 teaspoons of cumin

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of basil

Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 cup of frozen green peas

 

In a soup pot, add the vegetable oil over medium-heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring for about 2-3 minutes until onions and garlic are softened. Pour in the vegetable broth. Toss in the bok-choy, carrots, celery ribs,  white kidney beans, and tomatoes. Add in the pot barley. Stir in the cumin, oregano, basil and a few turns of freshly ground pepper. Splash in the lemon juice. For a moment, bring the soup up to a vigorous boil, then reduce to a low-medium heat. Cover with lid and simmer for 45 minutes, while stirring occasionally.

Prior to eating, add frozen peas. Love this trick! It helps cool the soup to prevent your little one’s tongue from burning on hot, hot soup!

If desired, add some more fresh ground pepper.

Nutrition Bonus:

Eating foods that are delicious AND good for me gets me excited. Did you know that 1 cup of cooked barley has 6 grams of fiber? That, folks, is the highest amount of fiber when compared to any other whole grain—yep, even quinoa! That isn't the only reason I love barley -- it's also a rich source of the mineral selenium. Selenium plays a role in our immune and thyroid function. But let’s not forget the baby bok-choy. It’s so easy to cook—chop off the bottom of the stalks and throw it in the pot. Now that’s my kind of cooking. Baby bok-choy, along with other cruciferous vegetables, is well-known for its anti-cancer properties. Many studies have shown that people who regularly consume more cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of developing breast, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer. (Cruciferous vegetables, Higdon Ph.D., Jane, Linus Pauling Institute)

Enjoy and be healthy!

Lalitha

Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR

Earthy Kale and Basil Pesto

Who doesn’t love a fragrant, savoury and delicious pesto? I adore pesto and the versatility of this simple "pasty" sauce. Not only is this recipe a concoction of so many nutrient rich ingredients—it's easy to make and won't kill the budget! Mix it into your favorite pasta for a burst of flavor or use it as spread on your favorite sandwich; whichever way you use it, this sauce won’t disappoint and a little goes a long way.

 

Makes ~1.5 cups 

2 cups of loosely packed, washed & dried fresh kale leaves

1 cup of packed, washed & dried fresh basil leaves & stems

1/2 cup of almonds

1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds

3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

2/3 cup of cow or goat feta cheese

2-3 cloves of peeled garlic

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 teaspoon of salt

Use a food processor to blend the kale, basil, almonds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, feta, garlic, lemon juice and salt together until a smooth pasty consistency has been reached.  Place contents in a container to store in the refrigerator for up to one week or store in the freezer. 

Nutrition Bonus:

Almonds and pumpkin seeds are more economical than the traditionally used pine nuts in this pesto, and they are both a great source of heart healthy fats. Pumpkin seeds are also a source of iron. Kale, one of the highest ranked anti-oxidant containing vegetables, provides an earthiness to the flavour of this pesto, is easily available in the winter, and is more economical than basil! 

This was my supper tonight :)  Enjoy!

Lalitha

Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR

 

My Crush on Lentils

Growing up as child, some of our family’s favorite meals revolved around lentils. As a child living in Lacombe, Alberta I was still very much a part of a multicultural household with my dad from India and mom from Guyana. My food experience was comprised of such a myriad of different flavorful and ethnic foods -- all mostly home-cooked.  One of the reasons I became a registered dietitian is largely attributed to the fact that my mother fostered within me a love for food and cooking at a young age through her delicious, homemade meals. I was lucky.

 My parents were and continue to be very economical and budget savvy. Homemade meals made sense and so did cooking with inexpensive foods such as lentils.  Living in rural Alberta, a bowl of steaming *dahl with rice was a welcome sight on a cold wintry day. In the summer, my mom would sauté lentils with onion, celery, and seasoning and use that as a spread on whole grain bread with butter pickles. At an early age, lentils found a very fond place in my heart.

The icing on the cake is that lentils are not only economical and delicious, they are nutritious! Lentils are a rich source of protein, iron, folate and fiber.  Furthermore, 99% of Canadian lentils are grown in Saskatchewan. Canada has become one of the world’s largest exporters of one of my favorite foods!

To further celebrate lentils, the United Nations General Assembly declared that 2016 is the “International Year of Pulses”.  Pulses and legumes offer such a wide range of nutritional and cost-saving benefits. From an environmental perspective, pulses also take less resources to grow and foster sustainable agriculture and soil protection. Only 50 litres of water are needed to produce 1 kg of lentils vs 13,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef!

I hope after reading this you feel inspired to try cooking and preparing some dishes with this hearty protein source. http://www.pulsecanada.com/ has a tonne of information and recipes but here is my own award winning lentil recipe below that my family and I love to prepare and eat. 

*dahl = a thick seasoned stew prepared from lentils; an important part of IndianNepali, PakistaniSri Lankan and Bangladeshi cuisine often eaten with rice, roti or chapati

No-Bake Lentil Power Bites

Makes 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size     

Ingredients:

A 500 mL can of brown lentils, rinsed and drained well

1 cup (250 mL) of peanut butter or your favorite nut or seed butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) of melted coconut oil

2 ripe bananas

1.5 cups of Medjool dates

1  teaspoon (5 mL) of pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (125 mL) of cocoa powder

1 teaspoon (5 mL) or your favorite baking spice (all spice, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or mace)

2 cups (500 mL) of quick or instant oats

1 cup (250 mL) of pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup (125 mL) of dark chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet or two with parchment or wax paper.

Measure the lentils, peanut butter, coconut oil, bananas, dates, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and baking spice into your food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer the works into a mixing bowl and stir in the oats, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips. 

Lightly oil your hands and scoop out some of the mixture. Roll into bite-sized balls and place on the baking sheet. Freeze until hard, about an hour or even overnight.

When hunger strikes, feel free to snack straight from the freezer or, if you prefer, let the power bites soften for a few minutes. You can pack them in a lunch box and feel confident that hours later they’ll still be delicious.

#LentilTips

Rinsing canned lentils drains away much of their sodium but leaves behind their protein, fibre and micro nutrients.  

ENJOY!

Lalitha

Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR

 

Help! My Kids Won't Eat Their Fruits & Veggies!

Around 70% of our Canadian children between the ages of 4-8 do not meet the daily recommended intake of 5 servings of vegetables and fruit (http://www.dietitians.ca/Media/News-Releases/2013/Childrens-vegetable-and-fruit-consumption.aspx).  There could be many reasons for why our Canadian children are not making the mark with this particular food group.  As a parent, I can empathize with picky eating and overall disinterest in the vegetable and fruit food group. We have to remember that our role as parents is to provide the healthiest environment for our children to let them thrive and that includes daily exposure to healthy foods. Here are some strategies that I implement in my house to ensure my daughter is getting in 5+ servings of fruits and veggies per day:

  1.  Start your day off right with fruit as part of a healthy breakfast.  We strategically place a fruit bowl in the middle of our counter for easy access. My daughter decides on what fruit she would like to eat--it could be half or a whole banana, oranges or even a kiwi. Chopped up fruit is delicious and easy in cold or hot cereal. Sliced banana is always flavorful with toast and nut butter. A breakfast parfait with berries, Greek yogurt and high fiber cereal  is rich in anti-oxidants, crunch and taste. 
  2. Take your child grocery shopping and have him or her decide what vegetables and fruit they would like to eat or try. Lunch usually tends to be a point of contention with many parents. You pack a lunch and often, a substantial portion of it comes home. If your child has a say as to what goes in their lunch bag, the likelihood of that food being consumed increases.  Mini bell peppers, baby carrots, cucumbers are all a hit in our household. I know some children love hummus or yogurt as a dip to go along with their veggies. Sliced apples with cinnamon or chopped pears mixed in vanilla Greek yogurt are a delicious sweet ending to a lunch meal or part of an afternoon snack.
  3. As a parent, model regular vegetable and fruit consumption.  If you do not eat vegetables and fruit, chances are your kids will not either. Positive peer pressure can be a great tool when it comes to eating that broccoli at supper. Avoid forcing your child to eat their veggies—this will cause a negative association with that food. Instead, make sure vegetables and fruits are present at meal times. When children see you enjoying vegetables and fruit they want to be a part of that! I always ensure two different vegetables at our supper meal; this provides greater exposure to varying vitamins and minerals, breaks up the monotony of consuming simply one vegetable (as we should be aiming to have half a plate of vegetables at our meals), and it allows family preferences to be taken into consideration. For example, we may have some raw, crunchy carrots along with some roasted asparagus—I love the latter whereas my daughter loves the carrots!
  4. Aim to have fruits and vegetables as healthy snacks. My daughter and I absolutely love fruit and/or vegetable smoothies as an after school or post-activity snack.  Smoothies are a great way to increase exposure to a variety of nutrients and they can pack a lot of flavor! Have cut-up vegetables ready to grab from the fridge to go along with cheese or hummus. The more accessible the better.
  5. Last but not least, as parents we control the foods that come into the house. Children are not responsible for going grocery shopping and purchasing food—we are. I’m often sad when I hear parents throwing up their hands and exclaiming they have no control over what their child is eating—yes, we do. We may not be able to control how much or how little our child is eating, but we can provide a nourishing healthy food environment for them that will hopefully foster a lifetime of healthy eating.

Here is a link to some other helpful tips for healthy eating geared towards children ages 4-11 courtesy of Dietitians of Canada: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Toddlers/Healthy-Eating-for-Children-Aged-4-11.aspx

This afternoon I garnered quite a few “cool” points from my daughter and her classmates for making and sharing this delicious smoothie in her grade two class today. I feel so blessed to be able to share my passion and love for nutrition. Here is the delicious “Green Lizard” Smoothie and recipe:

Green Lizard Smoothie     Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR. 

Ingredients (Makes 4-6 servings):

  • 2 cups of raw spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup of frozen mango
  • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • *1 ½ to 2 cups of cow’s milk or soy milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • Honey (if desired)

Directions: Mix all ingredients well in a blender.

*Add less milk if wanting a thicker smoothie

 

 

Now go and enjoy those fruits and vegetables :)

Lalitha

Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR

Savvy Grocery Shopping Tips

A great way to incorporate pulses is in salads! Here is one of my favorites--a tasty quinoa chickpea salad. 

A great way to incorporate pulses is in salads! Here is one of my favorites--a tasty quinoa chickpea salad. 

With our dropping loonie, expenses are on the rise--including the cost of food. Many people are starting to "penny pinch" and being more selective about their food choices. At the grocery store this week, I had to forego the asparagus that was being sold for $7.49/lb. I love asparagus but I’m not willing to pay that much for it. So, how do we continue to eat healthy on a tighter budget? Follow these 5 important tips:

1.     Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each week and meal plan. Meal planning can help create balanced nutritious meals, prevent food wastage, and alleviate the stress of not knowing what to eat. A meal plan allows you to easily create a grocery list which can keep you on task for your food purchases. Before you head to the grocery store, take inventory of your fridge and cupboards to avoid buying items you already have. By having a meal plan based grocery list, every item you buy will have a role in your food consumption which means less food wasted. Food wastage is a huge problem in our country. In fact, Canadians throw out the equivalent of approximately 31 billion dollars each year in food waste.  

2.     Opt for more *frozen vegetables and fruit. Most people think that frozen produce is an inferior choice in comparison to fresh--not true. In reality, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutritional value. Furthermore, they keep well and are ready (whenever you are) to be added to your meals. Items such as frozen green beans, carrots, green peas, spinach can pack a lot of nutritional value without a big economic hit! Choose plain frozen vegetables and fruit without any salt, sauces, or additives.

Ways to include some of my favorite frozen vegetables and fruit:

  • Frozen spinach--great addition to most pasta dishes, such as lasagna or spaghetti
  • Frozen green peas--delicious in soups, rice, quinoa, and whole grain macaroni
  • Frozen berries--add to help create a healthy smoothie or consume with Greek yogurt for a snack
  • Frozen green beans--makes a wonderful side dish with a drizzle of olive oil and sliced almonds or can be added to casseroles and soups  

*No Name or in-house brands will be less expensive

3.     Choose "no salt added" canned vegetables or "no sugar added" canned fruit. In a pinch, these products are great to have on hand especially at the end of the week when you are running low on groceries. From a nutritional perspective, I prefer fresh or frozen produce as most canned fruits and vegetables have salt or sugar added to them. Try and choose no salt added canned vegetables or no sugar added canned fruit whenever possible. If these products are unavailable, rinse your canned vegetables to reduce the sodium or salt content. BPA-free cans are also becoming more widely available. 

4.     Avoid buying the "pre" vegetables...yep, "pre-washed", "pre-cleaned", and "pre-cut". People gravitate towards these products because they are convenient and prep time is reduced. However, these items are significantly more expensive than what you would purchase without all the "pre"!   Try to prepare your fresh vegetables right after a visit to the grocery store. Cut up your carrots, celery, peppers, etc. and store them in containers in the fridge that make it easy for you to grab and go. Do the same thing with lettuce; wash, rinse and dry your lettuce and store it in a container in the fridge for easy access to make a delicious salad. 

5.     Fall in love with pulses---nope, not your heart beat---beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils! Pulses are such a fabulous and economical source of protein, fiber and iron. Black bean burritos, chickpea hummus with pita, Spanish rice and pinto beans are all delicious main entrees that are easy to make and keep your budget in check. If you're not keen on the idea of having pulses as your sole source of protein, consider adding them to meat-based dishes to stretch your dollar. For example, adding beans to chili will provide extra fiber, more interesting flavors and textures. Try adding black beans or lentils to your lean ground meat the next time you make burgers. Aim to include pulses at least 2 times per week. In need of some inspiration? Pulses Canada has some great recipes. 

Here’s a quick video from last winter that give a few other helpful hints:  http://globalnews.ca/video/1901743/nutrition-on-a-budget  

Happy (affordable) grocery shopping!

Lalitha