Benefits of Coconut Water

Is it just me, or is this summer (at least in Toronto) shaping up to be a scorching hot summer? I can barely remember the last time it rained for more than an hour and the low for the week is 33c with humidity. I’ve been having a hard time squeezing in my running mainly because the heat is sucking the life right out of me. Sounds like an excuse but believe me, I’d love to be out there running. I should be going in the mornings but believe it or not, it’s still too humid for me. Something’s got to give, right?

Since I haven’t been able to do much in the way of exercise, I’ve had some more time in my schedule to devote to writing, when I’m not watching back to back episodes of season 5 of Mad Men. I’m happy to report that my first article about coconut water has been published on STACK (a fitness and health website)! You can find it here. My article gives you some great information about just how awesome coconut water is – especially if you are brave enough to work out in the hot temperatures.

I hope you enjoy it and more articles to come!

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Recipe: Thai Inspired Stir Fry

Today’s recipe is an oldy but a goody. If you like Thai food but don’t want leave your apartment to get take-out or not enough funds in the bank to go to Thailand BUT you do have enough veggies in the fridge to make this (more or less) then you are in luck!

In keeping with the garlic theme, I made sure to include garlic in this recipe – and believe you me, it was a wise decision! It added a certain sweetness to the curry that otherwise would not have been there. Or maybe it was due to the coconut milk. Either way, it turned out pretty darned good.

In my quest to find foods that are both antiviral yet delicious, I stumbled upon coconuts. Coconuts for me have become this wonder fruit and I try to incorporate this ingredient into as many meals and drinks as I can on a daily basis. In my previous post all about coconuts, I gush about how not only they are high in magnesium (which is excellent if you are active) but they kill the bad bacteria in your gut and aid to flush it all out. Incredible.

Give this a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk (I used light organic)
  • 1 handful of baby carrots – chopped
  • 1/4 head of broccoli – the florets only
  • 1/4 cup of red onion – finely chopped
  • Chicken (as desired) – make sure it’s cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 bell pepper – cut into strips length-wise
  • 1 small romano tomato – diced
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms – diced
  • 1/4 tsp of chili powder (or to taste)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 servings of brown rice pasta, brown/wild rice or quinoa

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices and let this simmer until fragrant (usually about a minute or so). Add the onions and stir.

The red onions sizzling in the pan with the spices.

Then add the chicken pieces, tomatoes and mushrooms. Let all of this goodness simmer for about 5 minutes.

Here she is…in all of her glory….

Next, stir in the coconut milk (you’ll want to slowly mix this in so that it doesn’t splatter everywhere).

This is what I used…YUM!

Flip the chicken pieces over (they should be browned by now) and then add the broccoli and the bell peppers.

Stir everything together. Let everything simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the broccoli has cooked. You’ll know it’s cooked when it starts to appear softer in texture.

By now your rice pasta/rice/quinoa should be ready. Add this in and mix it all in together! Don’t be shy!

Let everything sit for a few minutes and serve.

The final product! I had 2 helpings and even had enough for lunch the next day.

Serves 2-3 people.

Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 to 20 minutes

Total: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

Carob: A great sugar alternative! (when life isn’t sweet enough)

One of the many challenges of staving off Candida is finding healthy alternatives to sugar, including, chocolate. Sugar in general is bad for your health. It contributes to:

According to Rheumatic.org , here are the top 10 reasons why you should be avoiding sugar, mainly, refined sugar:

  1. Sugar can suppress the immune system.
  2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in the body.
  3. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
  4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
  5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases).
  6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, the more sugar you eat the more elasticity and function you lose.
  7. Sugar reduces high density lipoproteins.
  8. Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
  9. Sugar leads to cancer of the ovaries.
  10. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose.

 

Pretty scary stuff.

 

Regarding Candida, sugar causes yeast in your intestine and gut to grow and multiply. So I avoid that sucker at all costs.

I’ve discover healthy alternatives to sugar and to add a little treat to my diet such as organic honey, agave, unsweetened shredded coconut, dates, raisins, and recently, carob and carob powder.

I found some really good info on the Bulk Barn website:

  • Unlike chocolate, it’s not full of fat, butter and sugar.
  • Naturally caffeine free
  • A natural source of sugar: can serve as a replacement for baking (such as bread, waffles, cakes, pies, muffins, etc)
  • Can be enjoyed by those who are allergic to or have chocolate sensitivities
  • Naturally sweet, high in carbs and very low in fat content

One easy way to incorporate carob into your diet is by adding a teaspoon or two into your smoothies.

Here’s an easy smoothie recipe that I like to make, nearly every day:

  • Frozen or fresh strawberries
  • Frozen mangoes
  • Coconut water
  • No sugar added soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons of carob powder
  • 1 tablespoon of protein powder* (optional)

*Because of wheat and sugar sensitivities, I opt for a whey protein isolate, called Inbalance (http://www.inbalancenutrition.ca/ ).

Question:

  • Do you face any dietary challenges?
  • How do you overcome them?

Challenge:

  • Is there an ingredient in your diet that you could substitute for a more healthy alternative?
  • If so, what is it?
  • Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference!

Enjoy!

Chickpea Coconut Curry

Well, I have been slacking this week. There really isn’t any valid excuse that I can give other than I have been taking a lot more time for myself these days and honestly, I’m loving it! In January, I’ll be starting my courses at Humber to be a project manager and between that, work and my Toastmaster responsibilities, I’ll be busy. Better to enjoy some down time now!

As today is Monday, I’d like to begin, or rather, re-begin (is that a word?) my “lunch a day” for a month challenge.

Today, my leftovers were chickpea coconut curry. YUM! It was Sunday evening, I had no desire or motivation to go the store so I scrounged up whatever I had in my cupboards and fridge and I came up with this little number.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small potatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ large tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 an onion (minced)
  • ½ can of chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • ¼ tsp of black pepper
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Chilli flakes to taste
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp of grape seed or olive oil or coconut oil (I used grape seed

This looks like a lot of ingredients, but it was SO easy to make!

Method:

  1. Cook the quinoa as directed.
  2. In a large sauce pan, pour the oil in and let it heat up. Then, add the onions and cook until they are soft. Add the black pepper, chilli flakes, coriander and thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes (until fragrant). Add the garlic and stir.
  3. Once this has simmered, add the potatoes and ¼ of the can of coconut milk and stir until simmering. Then, add the curry powder, garam masala and turmeric and stir. Let it simmer and add the other ¼ of the can of coconut milk. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, the chicpeas and the other ¼ can of coconut milk. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir the pot and add the quinoa and the rest of the coconut milk. Stir again and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

This may look kind of weird, but it was absolutely delicious and tastes even more amazing the next day.

If I could, I would have added spinach to this, but I ran out so I had to do without.  Shredded carrots would also be amazing in this too – or any other veggie that you love and cannot live without. I find that by layering the ingredients, you get a fuller flavour and a more cohesive sauce/curry.  If you don’t have quinoa, you could always skip the step and serve over brown rice.

Let me know what you think and share with me any variations that you may have tried.

Enjoy!

Lamb Coconut Curry

One new recipe that I tried recently, is lamb coconut curry. In fact, this was my first time EVER cooking lamb. And you know what, not that different than cooking beef. It was kind of a hybrid between chicken and beef. It was some good times and very easy. This recipe is simple and delicious. I will definitely be including it in my regular rotation.

This website acutally has a ton of great recipes. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is targeted to people with candida, these recipes are nutritious and suit a variety of tastes.

Here’s a pic of my masterpiece:

Enjoy!

Best First Date, Ever!

A couple of months ago, I was getting dinner at Kale and I noticed that they had desserts in their display. They had these coconut balls that instantly appealed to me, even before the lady behind the counter advised me that they were vegan, organic AND contained no added sugar. No added sugar? Were they bland? How were they sweet, then? Dates. I think dates are serious contenders for nature’s candy. Raisins, you better watch out! You’ve been warned!

Being an adventurous Aries, I decided that one day and one day soon, to make these myself. I scowered the interwebs in search of a recipe that omitted any kinds of sugar and had the simplest recipe with the simplest ingredients. I settled on the following, and ladies and gents, it turned out to be glorious! My parents and friends tried them and they asked me to make them again, which I totally will – when life settles down a bit (famous last words, I know).

Here’s the recipe!

For me, I don’t own a food processor and I naively thought that a blender would be the next best thing. Normally, it really is but when it comes to mashing mass quantities of sticky dates and coconut pieces, it was very laborious and time consuming – BUT well worth it!

If you’re using a blender, like me, I would blend the coconut first, then slowly add the dates in batches. I added everything at once and it was the worst. Nothing blended. Everything stuck to the blade. I had to pour in some water to get things to move and was constantly using a spoon to de-clog the dates from the blade so that the coconut pieces would blend. Excellent times.  But, like I said, well worth it!

See how nicely they turned out?

The best part? GUILT FREE! Just like Margarita says! This works with nearly every diet (unless you are avoiding coconut, but why? WHYYYY?)

Enjoy!

Coconut, Chocolate, Banana Smoothy

Continuing on with my love of coconuts…

Here are some health benefits of coconuts:

  • Good for the kidney and urinary bladder problems
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day provide an excellent source of vitamin E
  • Coconut milk relieves stomach ulcers
  • Helps with constipation
  • Packed with vitamins and nutrients

Tonight, I had dinner with an old friend and ex-roommate whom I haven’t seen in far too long. It was great to catch up and people watch – it reminded me of when we lived together and we would sit on our balcony and comment on people who walked by in between sharing stories about our adventures from our night out.

After a nice sushi dinner and some tea,  I really wanted something more, and something a little sweet, but what? I came home and treated myself to a coconut, chocolate banana smoothy.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 banana (preferably ripe)
  2. 1 heaping teaspoon of coconut flakes (organic, if you can)
  3. 1 heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder (I used Fry’s)
  4. 4oz of soy, goat’s, almond, rice milk
  5. 4 ice cubes

Method:

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend.

Enjoy!

That’s a Tough Nut to Crack!

On my quest to make Coconut Date Balls, I bought my first ever coconut! I brought it home and then realized that I have never cracked a coconut before but thought, how hard could it be? It turns out, it’s pretty hard – literally. I found this great demo on youtube showing how to effectively crack this nut.  After following the instructions, it ended up not being as difficult as I thought.

Tools Needed:

  • Diamond head shaped screw driver
  • Flat head screw driver
  • Hammer
  • Towel or oven mitts
  • Cup or container
  • Veggie peeler

Here’s what I did:

As per the video, I pierced one of the three holes on the top. One of the three is soft – who knew? Why aren’t they all soft? Then I let the coconut water drain into a container which can be used later for drinking or added to a smoothy, which I will get to later.

Once all the juice is drained, I put the coconut in the oven at 375F for about 30 minutes – the video said 15 minutes but I guess it depends on how hot your oven is. Apparently, when it’s ready to be broken, it splits. Mine didn’t. Maybe I just got impatient and didn’t leave it in long enough? But I thought that 30 minutes in the oven was pretty generous.

Then, it’s time to crack the nut. That’s when the hammer comes in handy. This was my favourite part! Take some oven mitts or a towel and remove the coconut from the oven. Place on the counter or another hard surface and hammer the shell. Luckily, I have a concrete balcony, so I brought my coconut out there wrapped in my oven mitts and beat the hell out of it without scaring my neighbours TOO much. I don’t think anyone noticed me hammering, though. At least I don’t think so.

A Tough Nut To Crack!

Anyways, eventually, it will crack.  This is when you bust out the flat head screw driver.

As he shows in the video, the flat head screwdriver pries the coconut meat away from the shell. This wasn’t so bad. The worst part, for me anyways, was peeling the skin from the meat. I had a bit of an accident when the peeler slipped and nearly took off my thumb nail. I’m okay! But my nail is chipped and nearly torn off. All worth it though.

Once the skin is peeled off, I rinsed the coconut in cold water to get all the debris off. I stored it in tupperware container and put it in my fridge for when I’m able to make the coconut date balls. But the meat can be chopped into flakes or used for a variety of other recipes. It’s pretty fantastic!