I am firmly rooted in the “I don’t like beets” camp, but last week when I did my online grocery shop I decided it would be a good idea to add them to my cart. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea, but knew I wanted to bring home some beets and checked out before I could change my mind. A few days later, the boys are unpacking the groceries and I suddenly realized I have to use these things. I’m going to attribute this lapse in good sense to making healthier food choices and my body craving food that’s grown in the ground.
I dug out the rotary shredder attachment for my stand mixer last night so I could stop staring at these ugly vegetables sitting on my counter. The shredder made short work of these babies, peeled and chopped first, and now I have a good size supply of shredded beets. I still don’t like them.
Later today if I find the motivation, I’ll probably attempt some chocolate beet muffins. First, I need to finish the amazing smoothie I snuck some beets into. They add a deep red hue to a refreshing – and yes, slightly earthy – concoction that includes a lightly sweetened berry iced tea I made yesterday, frozen blueberries, a handful of fresh strawberries, the remains of a rhubarb compote made earlier in the week, and some chia seeds for extra goodness.
This blend truly tastes like summer in a cup – rich with balanced, fresh, healthy flavours. So while I am still firmly entrenched in the I don’t like beets camp if we’re talking pickled, roasted, or other classic takes – pureed with complimentary flavours into a frosty summertime drink? I can definitely say I don’t mind them.
I am NOT a breakfast person. I am NOT a morning person. One of the nice perks about being home is the chance to hit a snooze button or forget to set an alarm entirely. Then I can putter upon awakening, give my tummy time to catch up, and then indulge in breakfast of sorts. Unfortunately, I often decide breakfast isn’t worth the effort and make unwise choices later in the day.
I am making a concentrated mindful effort to improve this one aspect of my diet. As a whole, I’m trying to be more thoughtful of the food I’m eating, but I’m still going to choose a glass of grape juice and probably a cookie or granola bar if my sugar is crashing even if I’ve made other not-so-nutrient dense choices up to that point. Staying conscious and – you know, alive – will beat counting calories every time.
That said, I’ve been working with my health care team to align a number of (I hate using this word but it’s all I have at the moment) issues and find the balance I need to improve my overall health. Movement, mental health, medication, and diet all have a role to play without getting into the complexities of keeping this incredible, dynamic, important machine running.
Back to breakfast… I’ve been experimenting with a lot of smoothies. Some are better than others (don’t ask me about the one that curdled in my glass!) and I’ve been making small swaps for certain ingredients to see if they help me feel better. (i.e. less milk, more almond or coconut milk options; less animal product, more plants.) I’ve also been trying to eat 40 different plant-sourced foods in a week. It’s a fun challenge and helps keep me from getting into a rut… but I’m not beating myself up if I don’t make it, you know? Again… balance. Smoothies have been a great way to play up the plant aspect and finding what works without spiking my glucose levels or leaving me hungry has been interesting. Unfortunately, smoothies can start to feel a little… the same.
When I’m dreading the thought of another smoothie, I’ve been turning to overnight oats instead. I know this is not a groundbreaking discovery, but hear me out. I don’t love the cold oats, but I either a) pull up my big girl pants and eat them anyhow or b) give it a reheat in the microwave or stovetop. For extra nutrients, it’s easy to throw in some chia seeds, flax, or hemp hearts without greatly affecting the taste and if you don’t have a certain ingredient, it’s so versatile (like the smoothie) that you will rarely go wrong. I mean you CAN go wrong (and I have) but usually, at worst, it’s just a little lacklustre. I think I finally found my favourite flavours combination this morning: mixed berry and cardamom. It reminded me of fresh berry pie, but healthy!
This was my exact recipe, prepared last night. I found it to be a bit too filling this morning, so I reduced the oats a bit for tomorrow and eliminated sweetener altogether. (P.S. it was higher in carbs than I anticipated, BUT because it was mostly “good” carbs – I say that as a diabetic and yes, I know a carb is a carb is a carb – I found my calculated insulin dosage actually surpassed what I needed. Even though I was full, my blood sugar dropped a bit too fast and quite a bit lower than I was comfortable with. I’m talking 2.4 post-meal. Yikes! Tomorrow I’ll reduce my insulin to carb ratio and see if that helps.)
All the yummy details…
In a glass container with a lid, add 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries. Top with 1 tbsp chia seeds. Add 1/2 cup dry quick oats. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Add 2 tbsp cultured coconut milk (yogurt substitute). Top with another 1/2 cup mixed berries. Add 1 cup almond milk, give or take, knowing the oats suck up all the liquid. I like mine really creamy and loose. Sprinkle with ground cardamom to taste (I think I used about a teaspoon, but really just eyeballed it.) Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, dump into a bowl and mix (or mix in the jar) and eat – or – mix, heat, and eat. Seriously – it’s an awful lot like berry pie for breakfast, but a bit leaner, with protein and heart-healthy ingredients. Win. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo… I ate it too fast, proof in itself that it was just that delicious.
I’m going to make a confession today: I don’t enjoy midweek breakfast. When the kids are is school, it means we rely on cereal, or breakfast bars and fruit, or sometimes family habits make an ugly appearance, and just like Mom, they skip. Give me an hour or two post wakeup and I’m ready for something, but I have a really hard time eating when I first wake up.
Saturday mornings, on the other hand, are a smorgasbord of delight. Crepes with fresh berries, waffles with fresh berries, bacon and eggs, whatever – I enjoy putting in the time to make a heartier meal, mostly because it becomes brunch. We like to sleep in and I’m not even going to feel guilty. There were years when wake up was 5:30 a.m. or earlier with the oldest boy raring to go the minute his feet touched floor. He’s 14 now and sleeps in the basement. Some days I don’t see him until after noon.
With the change in our schedules we haven’t been up to race out and meet school buses. The kitchen has been a bit of a graze crazy zone and the kids still reach for a granola bar or yogurt before they pick carrots to snack on. One of the ways we find balance without the work of full meal prep has been smoothies… which are definitely not new, but a challenge as I find many carb heavy and they cause my blood sugars to spike like crazy.
My naturopath made some suggestions on easy smoothie changes and I’ve got to admit, they’ve been helpful. Less fruit and more veggies has been the big one… and now smoothies chock full of avocado, cauliflower, and spinach are the norm.
This morning we had a bacon and egg wrap just before noon but I knew we wouldn’t be having lunch so I wanted to amp up the vitamins and fibre to cut down on snacking. Kev and I enjoyed a mocha smoothie and when he tried it, he said it tasted like a chocolate shake “kinda”. It was a smooth and rich shake-like smoothie but it was full of good for you ingredients: almond milk, frozen cauliflower, frozen avocado, frozen banana, frozen spinach, cocoa powder, instant coffee, and maple syrup for a little bit of extra sweetness. We top it off with a dollop of whip cream to make it seem more decadent, but it’s a lower-carb, higher fibre substitute to any ice cream shoppe treat.
Does it taste just like a chocolate shake? Absolutely not. Does it take a bite out of any cravings for chocolaty goodness or coffee shop sugar-laden concoctions? Indeed it does and I can feel good (which leads to feeling better!) knowing that we’ve made some little changes to balance our diets.
What is your go-to smoothie recipe? I’ll admit that I’m a bigger fan of berry-based smoothies (still balanced with frozen veg) than my mocha concoction this morning, but one of my children consumes frozen fruit as if it’s ambrosia and even though my freezer stash is now empty again, I can’t really complain about that, can I? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little variety!
Justin (my supposedly not picky child) has been striking when it comes to breakfast. With the Christmas holidays, I let it slide as we often seemed to graze or do more of a brunch. With back to school and the attempt to get back into a routine, it bothers me that he’ll choose to leave the house at 7:30am on an empty stomach (and yet… I totally get it! Breakfast early is a hard one for me as well.) Instead of the drama, I’ve been adding an extra piece of fruit to his lunch bag… and know that the school office supplies breakfast as well to anyone that would like it, that the first break is fairly early and he’s not going to starve, and that as a mother I’m not a failure because there are plenty of food options in the house. However… breakfast… it’s the most important meal of the day, right!?!
I asked him yesterday if he would like me to bake something – banana muffins, lemon poppyseed loaf, etc. to tempt his taste buds. To him, baked goods are a treat, but with little changes I can up the protein, blend in some extra fruit, and cut back on the refined sugar without compromising the taste. I can also feel better about the breakfast battle. Our discussion led to the decision that I’d make a chocolate banana loaf…. and it just came out of the oven… and I may have had two small slices for lunch. (And they may have been delicious!)
Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe to share, because lately, I’ve been baking on instinct and prayers. A bit of this, a bit of that, cross-reference a classic recipe if needed. This Banana Chocolate Chia Loaf will never be reproduced in the exact same manner, but I’ve had the remarkable luck of each of my dump in the oven and hope for the best endeavours so I’m sure the next one will be just as tasty.
This hug-on-a-plate started with a few pouches of ChiAmigos (in two different flavours because I didn’t read the packages – whoops.) I added a few teaspoons of PC Organic Chia Seeds. These were all blended together with three bananas, a cup of flour, a little snack pack of applesauce (it was in Justin’s stocking from the extended family…), some salt, baking soda, baking powder, a good amount of cocoa, less than a quarter cup of oil, some water, a splash of milk, and a quarter cup of granulated sugar.
I used my KitchenAid mixer (best tool in my kitchen!) to blend it all together and then dipped a finger in to taste test. I found it was missing a little something and didn’t have the rich chocolaty flavour I had hoped for, nor quite the right amount of sweetness. I added more cocoa and drizzled in some maple syrup. The finger dip taste test passed muster this time. Baked for 45 minutes and it came out as perfect as you see in the image above.
It has a deep chocolate flavour that’s not overwhelmed with banana – it’s not overly sweet on the palate at all. I think beets or zucchini would work well in a similar concoction for an added veggie boost and it would be simple to use eggs, milk or no milk, oil or applesauce, maple syrup or sugar, or whatever you have kicking around. It should just have a mix of essential ingredients and be the right consistency going into the pan (slightly softer batter for a cake, a bit heavier for a denser loaf.) The only thing I feel like mine was missing was an extra banana (I only had 3 and they weren’t extra ripe) and some walnuts across the top would have been perfect! You could even add in chocolate chips if that’s the way you like it.
Baking is definitely a science… but it can also be a delightful expression of the heart with some experimentation along the way!