Raspberry Coconut Protein Bars

Did you know you can make protein bars at home for a fraction of the cost of store bought ones? These Raspberry Coconut Protein Bars are healthy and a fun energy snack.

It’s Food ‘n Flix time again! In this monthly group a host picks a movie of their choice that pertains to food. Everyone watches the movie and then makes a recipe which the film inspired. It can be any recipe you want. This month’s pick is hosted by Amy of Amy’s Cooking Adventures, who suggested a fun chick flick, Failure to Launch, for which I made Raspberry Coconut Protein Bars !

Fill out the CulturEatz survey TODAY. All infos are at the end of this post! There are just a few spots left free before the contests closes. Enter the giveaway 🙂

Raspberry Coconut Protein Bars Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Great book gift ideas

Still looking for a few great gift ideas for the chef or foodie in your life? I have a few excellent suggestions for you today. This is a very varied mix of books touching on recipes, travel, health and treasures to be found in the pantry.

I have been enjoying every moment spent leafing through these books, testing their theories, trying out recipe and planning a few future seasoning purchases. I am including the main description of the books and a “my-2-cents” paragraph for each. Enjoy!

Yunnan_Cookbook

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Ultimate Coffee Smoothie and a guide

I have joined the smoothie craze this summer. I got a personal blender on my birthday in May and I have been drinking these down like there is no tomorrow. In fact on very hot summer evenings a well balanced smoothie is my dinner. There are many blogs out there with smoothie tutorials this summer. Well here is mine with a few twists that I have learned.

I have included 8 smoothie recipes below that cover a wide variety of tastes, exotic included. Try them and then go wild and change them up to suit your tastes. It’s all about experimenting. My favorite is the one I drink now every Saturday and Sunday morning, my Ultimate Coffee Smoothie. But first let’s look at my tried and true smoothie advice list.

Smoothie Turorial

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Ayurvedic Herbs: let me breathe, a tea for lungs and asthma

OK so I have not cooked all week. Working hard to get movement back in my wrist at physio (which is torture but going very well) and it was my birthday last week…so I was not the one cooking. Hence I think this is a great opportunity to publish my second post of Ayurvedic Teas. In m first post I gave you all the recipe for a very sedative tea when you are having a bought of insomnia.

Although I don’t have an official diagnosis since last late spring I often have asthmatic symptoms. This is due to my weakness in getting bronchitis. And I find with spring’s allergies my breathing can be more difficult. I now have a prescription pump but I wanted to see if I could get a little bit of natural help by researching my book The Yoga of Herbs for herbs that calm the excited lungs. Well I found a mix that worked. I have to warn you it has an odd aftertaste but it does bring relief. You can use it when you have a cough , bronchitis, asthma or anything related to the respiratory system.

Photo from www.satnam.eu

Ξ Asthma and Lung Tea Ξ

1/2 tsp Lobelia
1/2 tsp Mullein
1/2 tsp Hyssop
1/2 tsp Ashwagandha
1 cup of water

Put 1 cup of water in a pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and sprinkle the herbs on top. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Ideally drink 3 times a day but.

I am lucky as in my city there is a store that sells such herbs by weight, but if you don’t have such a store there are great online stores like Mountian Rose Herbs which has a huge selection. Let’s take a quick look at the properties of each herb used:

Lobelia stimulates the nervous and respiratory system, helping one to take deeper and stronger breaths.  It is a relaxant and also helps with nicotine withdrawal.

Mullein is an expectorant (loosens mucous), has anti-bacterial properties and has an soothing effect on the respiratory tract.

Hyssop is an expectorant (loosens mucous) and can be used as a gargle for sore throats.

Ashwagandha, known as Indian ginseng, is well known for its restorative benefits and strengthens the immune system. It helps with chronic inflammatory disorders, like asthma.

Nee a crash course in Ayurveda? OK here we go. Ayurveda is a traditional form of medicine used in India which has been around for about 5,000 years. It is considered an alternative medicine in the Western hemisphere. In other words it can work but no doctor will know about it. Still today 80% of the population in India use Ayurveda. The main goal is to treat the mind, body and spirit as one. Treatments and practices include diet, exercise, meditation and massage. Each person has one of three main constitutions (doshas): Vita, Pitta or Kapha. Once you know your main one and which other may be unbalanced, you can prepare medicines to help heal your ailment according to your constitution. The book I mentioned above will help you figure it all out. I am only somewhat familiar with the herbal healing aspect of Ayurveda. The energy and medicinal quality of herbs or spices are classified and used to balance your doshas. For short term use this recipe should work what ever your dosha is.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor am I a trained healthcare professional.  This post is for informational purposes only. This information should not be used as a substitute for a consultation or visit with a physician.

Ayurvedic Herbs: Knock you out and go to sleep sedating tea for insomnia

After a few lovely nights of insomnia this would probably be my drink of choice too! I am quite familiar with insomnia, we have been best buds (enemies ) since my teen years. I have tried every thing, no need to send me suggestions. Please, don’t! I have heard them all!

I recently had a particularly bad bought of sleepless nights …partly due to the cutting in half a certain prescribed medication. I needed to find some form of reinforcement. I recently mentioned in a post that I was playing around with herbal concoctions along the beliefs of Ayurvedic herbal healing. Well I am sharing here my first herbal tea. I know this is not exactly your normal recipe post but I am sure some of you will be more than happy to test this tea out.

Many people are content to drink a cup of  Chamomile tea to help them take a trip to slumber land. For me  Chamomile relaxes me but does not make me drowsy. I needed something that would literally SEDATE me. I researched my book The Yoga of Herbs for herbs that would knock me out. I was so thrilled with my mix, I really felt sedated within 20 minutes and fell asleep easily. I a,m always keeping a jar of this stuff around the house. I make big batches of the dried herbs. If you only want to make one cup used 2 tsp per cup of water.

Nee a crash course in Ayurveda? OK here we go. Ayurveda is a traditional form of medicine used in India which has been around for about 5,000 years. It is considered an alternative medicine in the Western hemisphere. In other words it can work but no doctor will know about it. Still today 80% of the population in India use Ayurveda. The main goal is to treat the mind, body and spirit as one. Treatments and practices include diet, exercise, meditation and massage. Each person has one of three main constitutions (doshas): Vita, Pitta or Kapha. Once you know your main one and which other may be unbalanced, you can prepare medicines to help heal your ailment according to your constitution. The book I mentioned above will help you figure it all out. I am only somewhat familiar with the herbal healing aspect of Ayurveda. The energy and medicinal quality of herbs or spices are classified and used to balance your doshas.

My recipe below is good for anyone if used occasionally so don’t fret about it not being good for your dosha balance.

Ξ Good Night Sedating Tea Ξ

1 1/2 tsp Valerian
1 tsp Passionflower
1 tsp Skullcap
1 tsp Lavender
1 liter of water

Put your water in a pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and sprinkle the herbs on top. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. This amount will be good for 3 days. About 30 minutes before going to bed warm up 1 cup and enjoy.

I am lucky as in my city there is a store that sells such herbs by weight, but if you don’t have such a store there are great online stores  like Mountian Rose Herbs which has a huge selection. Let’s take a quick look at the properties of each herb used:

Valerian: treatment of choice for anxiety and insomnia, sedative, muscle relaxant and aids in preventing panic attacks. The root is the part used and it is very odorous – good or bad, for you to decide. Just keep it in a hermetically sealed jar.

Passionflower: a gentle sedative that soothes nervous tension and alleviates insomnia.

Skullcap: calms excitability and anxiety, mild relaxant, enhances meditation and awareness.

Lavender: calming and soothing, sedative, and has balancing effects on the mind and body.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor am I a trained healthcare professional.  This post is for informational purposes only. This information should not be used as a substitute for a consultation or visit with a physician.

Check out my other posts with home remedies for insomia or sleep problems:

Cinque Terre Memories and a 5 Star Pizza Perfect for a Youth Hostel Kitchen Meal

Quick announcement, my article Reviewing Restaurants – You Be The Critic was published today on the Food Bloggers of Canada site. Please go visit the site after reading this post.

I am sitting here on my couch leafing through the 2 photo albums from my fist backpacking trip though Europe. What a trip it was! It was 1996, I was 22 and I left my mom and dad for my first independent trip where I traveled through 9 countries and 25 cities in 60 days all by myself. It was a whirlwind trip as I did not want to miss a single thing just in case I never got to make it back to Europe. Digital cameras were a new thing back then hence the actual photo albums….I scanned a few pics for you.

This was years before the food blog, the food group or even really realizing my passion for food. But I knew I liked to eat and I was thrilled at the prospect of trying so many new specialties. It was my formative years in ethnic food. Budget was the first priority and before anyone would go spend the day sightseeing we had a few basics that needed to be settled, cheaply: food and shelter. Shelter as usually covered with a Youth Hostel and food took on many forms like sandwiches, pastries, going off the tourist path for a local cheaper joint and the occasional Youth Hostel kitchen.

This was years before the food blog, the food group or even really realizing my passion for food. But I knew I liked to eat and I was thrilled at the prospect of trying so many new specialties. It was my formative years in ethnic food. Budget was the first priority and before anyone would go spend the day sightseeing we had a few basics that needed to be settled, cheaply: food and shelter. Shelter as usually covered with a Youth Hostel and food took on many forms like sandwiches, pastries, going off the tourist path for a local cheaper joint and the occasional Youth Hostel kitchen.

When I was contacted by HostelBookers.com to submit a recipe for the Backpackers Recipe Guide, wow I was flooded by so many memories. This cookbook will be sent out to 20,000 youth hostels worldwide with a selection of cheap, easy and delicious recipes a traveler can cook in a youth hostel kitchen. How exciting it would be to have my recipe in there.

The village of Manarola

I have had my fare share of Youth Hostel meals and they were always fun and communal. There is one meal in particular that really stands out in my catalog of memories. And not just that meal but that destination, that youth hostel and the people I met there! It’s a doozy of a story so sit down and get comfy as I take you back 15 years (yikes), in early October, to a little town called Riomaggiore located in Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. Its a long post and story but I swear you will be thoroughly entertained!

The cool guide to travel with at that time was Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door. Do you remember his show on PBS? His travel show took you through the unknown, the cheap, the secret treasures that you did not find in regular travel guides. It was a great book to find cheap accommodation with sometimes quirky descriptions. And in those days Rick Steves was the only guy talking about Cinque Terre, a rugged stretch of the Italian Riviera composed of 5 villages:  Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Ξ Pesto and Mushroom Pizza Ξ

Ingredients:

  • 12 inch pizza crust
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 5 oz ( 150 gr) firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F /180 C.
  2. Place the pizza crust on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or aluminum paper).
  3. Spread the pesto on the crust leaving a clear edge on the crust.
  4. Top with mushrooms, tofu and the cheese.
  5. Bake the pizza for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes 6 slices.

I served this pizza for a potluck this weekend and it got rave reviews. This is truly one of the most flavorful pizzas I have ever made and it is so easy to make. Because of the tofu and the good amount of mushrooms, a couple of slices constitute a balanced quick meal. You do not need a lot of utensils besides a spoon, a knife and a baking sheet or aluminum paper. But my favorite part of this recipe is that it will satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores in one dish, not a claim many recipes can make. And who does not like Italian Pizza?

Back then there was only one option for cheap lodging and it was listed in the guide book: Mama Rosa’s Hostel in Riomaggiore. The guide said Mama Rosa met every train that arrived to round up the backpackers. The guide also said she ran her modest hostel with her son Sylvio. Although I doubted she would actually be at the train station a fairytale setting did start forming in my head of this private non touristy stop with Mama Rosa, the vineyards and her hot Italian son. That image got shattered real fast.

Oh yes Mama Rosa was at the train station. Try to imagine a 50 year old woman wearing a bright Barbie pink full jump suit with a bad light blond hair dye job waving her hands like all Italian mothers should announcing loudly:(say it with emphasis) MAAAma ROOOSaaaaaa, MAAAma ROOOSaaaaaa! I picked up my jaw off the Cinque Terre terre and followed her to the Hostel. What a dump! Some online reviews call it a slum and a notorious place. But what was I going to do!  I was there, it was cheap and I was in an isolated part of Italy.

Cactus pears, Mama Rosa's kitchen and outdoor bathroom

The set up was rudimentary at best, I remember the roof of my room was a corrugated roof – it rained and it made that unavoidable musical noise you hear in movies. And the outdoor bathroom was perfectly visible to the people living in the houses above that flank of the mountain, as in they could have seen us on the toilet! The common area was the basic kitchen with a long table.

And when you thought you saw the worst of it, Sylvio teh son made his appearance: carrying a bucket of dirty water the imaginary hot Italian son was actually an ugly and toothless middle-aged bachelor in tattered clothes. As stupid and vain as it may sound I was in shock. And I was not alone as I confirmed with all the girls I met there that we had all imagined Sylvio up into an Italian Stallion. NOT!

Thank god when you are traveling like a backpacker you can put all these things aside and go with the flow. Because you know what? This was one of the most memorable and enjoyable stops on my trip in the end. I met quite a few really delightful travelers there – all with a copy of Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door under their arm.

My first friend was a tall German guy who was also at the train station. It was late afternoon when we got in so not much to do except explore the tiny village. We spotted the vineyard terraces above the village and we decided to go for a stroll through the grapes. Of course to make it to the grapes we had to find out if permission would be granted to climb the old stone stairs leading to the terrace by the 3 typical widowed women, all dressed in black. It was like a militia guards post. A little apprehensive, German guy and I flashed our biggest smiles and said our best Hellos and How are yous in Italian. Well we got the blessing and were allowed to climb up the stairs and stroll in the vineyards. I could not resist and I grabbed a raisin and bit into it. That was the first time I ever ate a raisin right off the vine: it was heaven, sweet, luscious and destined for a great wine.

The next day I joined another small group of travelers who were getting ready to hike the famous walking trail joining the 5 villages. After all that was the point of going to Cinque Terre. I only remember bits and pieces of that hike. I know it took about 5 hours to do including very quick stops and a lunch. I have a very vivid memory of the most quintessential Italian scene I have ever seen in my life: a old man climbing out of his cellar into his house with his feet barefoot and purple from stomping the grapes. I remember the hiking path being so narrow at times it was scary.

Narrow path, Monterosso al Mare beach and a Mediterranean dip

I can still feel the little pricks on my fingers of the cactus pears I picked right of the cactus, a fruit my new friends had never seen. Yes even then I was introducing people to new foods. And my last memory of the actual hike was our destination, the tiny beach of Monterosso al Mare at the end of the day where I was going to swim in the Mediterranean come hell or high water. After all the sun was going down at the end of that cooler October day but I am from Canada and I can handle cold water. And the guy with us agreed to join me. The locals looked at us like we were absolutely crazy.

It was such a great day. We took the train back to Mama Rosa’s where we bought food for a communal dinner. During the hike we found out Pesto was from this part of Italy so we made a simple dish of pasta with a pesto sauce bought by the ladle in a small shop, got extra cheese and a few bottles of wine in tow. For dessert we enjoyed the sliced cactus pears I had picked – still feeling the tiny shards lodged under my skin. That is how I remember Cinque Terre: rugged in every sense of the word but such a beautiful raw experience. And I owe it all to Mama Rosa and her Hostel!

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Got a simple recipe up your sleeve? Enter it and thousands of people could be cooking your recipe from a special cookbook that will be in youth hostel kitchens all over the world. To submit a recipe check out how to enter.

Don’t forget to go check out my article Reviewing Restaurants – You Be The Critic on the Food Bloggers of Canada site.

It’s the Drinking Water Apps Fault

So I am on like day 12 of being obsessed over new smartphone. It is my first one and it is an Android with the touch screen plus bells and whistles. It is freaking AWESOME. And than there are all the applications you can add, called app for short. Wow those are fun: there are games to play alone or with others, you can link up to you bank, check when the bus will past next, listen to music, etc.

Than I fell on the Drinking Water App. It asks you how many glasses you want to drink in a day, asks when you want to have your first drink (like 9 am) and the latest time to drink. When it is time to drink the phone makes a noise of a glass being filled. It’s a fun app for someone wanting to drink more water than they already are. If you achieve your daily goal a crowd applauds and cheers you. This is what the app screen looks like…

That got me thinking about articles I vaguely remembered reading some time ago: do you really need 8 glasses a day?, what is the size of a glass?, do your other beverages count and which?, and what about the water in the food we eat?

Oh gees, all I wanted was an app that may help me incorporate a healthier habit and inspire me to do more maybe? But now I am bombarded with existential questions about liquids. ENOUGH. Let’s get to the bottom of the glass and find the answers.

So according to wiki

The human body is made of between 55% to 78% water. Now how much you need per day depends on so many factors one cannot give a specific amount that fits every human being. Factors include on body size, level of activity, temperature, humidity. Some people may need one liter while another person needs  seven liters of water per day.

Who said 8 glasses a day?

We used to think that approximately 2 liters (6 to 7 glasses) of water daily was the minimum to maintain proper hydration. Where did this number come from? It goes back to 1945 when a recommendation for water intake was presented to the Food and Nutrition Board of the United States National Research Council. Since then many studies have been done to prove the claim, all have failed. In the US, the reference daily intake (RDI) for water is 3.7 liters per day (l/day) for human males older than 18, and 2.7 l/day for human females older than 18,  including water contained in food, beverages, and drinking water.

What does water do for you?

What is the size of a glass?

This one they all seem to agree on: eight fl oz each (240 ml).

What about the water in the food we eat?

Normally,about 20% of water intake comes from food, while the rest comes from drinking liquids. This means that with the current US recommendations, after eating you still need on average 3.0 liters (13 glasses) for a man and 2.2 liters for a woman  (9 glasses). Wait a minute that is even more then the old false recommendation of 8 glasses? Now I am really confused.

 


So how much do we really need per day?

Medical literature favors a lower consumption, an average sized adult with healthy kidneys needs no more than one liter of fluid (4 glasses). Another article I read recommended 1 liter of water for every 1000kcal you expend. If it is hot and humid, drink more, if you exercised drink more. If you sit all day and no nothing in a cool comfortable room there is no need to add more.

The “loose average” kcal burned in a day is 1800 ( an average people…some are at 1400, some are a 2200). So let’s take off 20% because that water was in our food. Now we have 1440 kcal which would be 1.4 liters or 6 glasses.

This is another formula (apparently) to learn what your liquid daily needs are:
To determine how much water you should drink, weigh yourself each morning for 3 to 4 days in a row (ladies not during your PMS or period cause you are bloated). If you lose a whole pound in a day, it means you came up short on liquids the day before. Drink a pint of water or juice first thing in the morning for every pound you’ve lost and adjust your daily intake until your weight is steady.

Do other beverages count?

Water is water is water? Actually no, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water. Same goes for beer, wine and caffeinated beverages. Of course I won’t recommend you only drink beer, but if you have a glass of milk in the morning, a coffee at work and a beer at night…if you are that average 1800 kcal person you just knocked off 3 of your 6 glasses.

In the end I decided to set my Drinking Water app to 6 glasses and I count all my liquids as water. So far so good.

A final note

I read a couple of sites that said you are your best judge of how much water you need to drink. I actually totally disagree with that because most of us misinterpret “I am thirsty” brain signals as “I need to eat something”. Yes most of your pangs of hunger are actually your body saying it needs fluids, not food. When you are really hungry you will know it – like you might want to steal the sandwich from that kid and run because you are starving.

Also some people only recognize thirst when they are already dehydrated. If that is your case better drink by prevention before you feel thirsty. Dehydration can be life threatening.

And yes you can die from drinking too much water too, although that is rare. It is referred to as water intoxication or hyper-hydration. If you drink so much water that your normal balance of electrolytes go out of wack your muscles and brain will stop functioning. Nearly all deaths related to water intoxication in normal individuals have resulted either from water drinking contests.