Pork Belly Cabbage

 I have to tell you, I'm really digging cabbage these days.Yes, the humble, lowly ground vegetable that is generally the butt of many a joke about either the elderly or farts. Sometimes both. However, cabbage is so much more than the overboiled, limp staple you remember at large family gatherings. Cabbage is not only fairly inexpensive, but is filled with vitamins K, C and a whole lot of them fancy antioxidant-thingies. More importantly, cabbage can provide a lot of good bulk to a meal to fill you up without resorting to more calorie dense foods. But, can it taste good?

Yes it can! In fact, to get the benefits out of cabbage, cook it with the mindset that less is more. Cooking the cabbage for long periods not only makes it completely unappealing, but reduces the cancer fighting benefits that are present in cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and cauliflower. With this in mind, a quick saute is perfect for achieving a tender-crisp texture that can bring out the sweetness of the cabbage. Combined with some classic flavouring, cabbage could become a staple in your house just like it has in mine. Here`s a simple, inexpensive and delicious meal that combines another cheap staple, sliced pork belly, along with apple, onion and a bit of celery. The result is a homey, classic pairing that is easy to whip up and easy on your wallet:

Pork Belly Cabbage:

1 small head of green cabbage, sliced into strips
250g sliced pork belly, diced (this is not cured bacon - just the pork)
1 large diced apple
2 stalks celery sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste

In a large pan, brown the pork belly on medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes. You want to do this fairly slow so that the fat (oh yes...the delicious pork fat!) has a chance to render while the meat stays soft. Cooking this on too high of a heat will toughen the pork belly. 

Once browned, add the cabbage, apple, onion, garlic, celery and toss throughout the pork so that the vegetables become coated in the fat. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the apple cider vinegar. Continue to toss and stir fry until the the liquid has reduced, and the cabbage has reached either the tender crisp stage, or is soft to your liking. You can also put a lid over the pan for a few minutes to steam the cabbage to soften it. You want to stir fry at least for 15 minutes in order to allow the flavours to marry. This is where the simplicity of this dish wows - apples, pork and cabbage are divine as a combination . No wonder they are found in so many cuisines!

More cabbage facts:

- Digestive: cabbage juice has been shown to have a role in helping to heal ulcers and the digestive tract
- Cholesterol - Cabbage helps to lower LDL - or the 'bad cholesterol'
- Cancer Protection - Like its cousins, broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage has antioxidants to fight cancer
- Anti-inflammatory - All types of cabbage contain polyphenols that help to reduce inflammation


Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 297 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 89%
Calcium 6%Iron 10%
Nutrition Grade A

'Lara' Balls

Oh, treats that are healthy with 'sinful' tastes - 
How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways...

Firstly, this post is dedicated to my discovery of how easy it is to make Larabars at home. If you have never had a Larabar, they are one of those hippie-style energy bars that contain very few ingredients - ones you can pronounce. Yes, they're vegan, gluten, grain and dairy free, but they actually taste pretty good. I've been buying them as a great snack to have on hand, particularly when I want an energy boost or something a little sweet. Though they have no added sugar, the key ingredient is dates - which provides the structure and the delicious sweetness.

Secondly, Larabars are not cheap. Though I buy mine at Costco, most are sold individually for over $2.00 per bar. I tend to rationalize this cost as a 'health supplement', since there is a lot of fiber in each bar, courtesy of the dates. (You can only go so far with this - dates do have a lot of sugar, so eating more than one at a time is going to cause sugar spikes!) After my last purchase, I decided to seek out how easy it is to make your own....which leads me to...

Thirdly, homemade Larabars are everywhere and I just didn't know it. One quick 'google' led me to a series of Pinterest pins, blog posts and Instagrams all showing off the culinary brilliance of those more industrious than me - at least as far as homemade Larabars are concerned. So, I did what I normally do - reviewed them all and compiled what I liked into the mess recipe you see here before you. I'm pretty pleased - no - super psyched, actually - as these Lara Balls have not stood any chance in my house of remaining uneaten. They are far tastier than the store bought kind, and have a decadence that makes you believe they are off the limits. In ball form, you can have a few, and feel like you are cheating on some kind of regimen. Since these only take five minutes to make, you may end up making more than one batch...

Here's two different flavours to keep you returning for more:

Chocolate Brownie Lara Balls (about 12) 

- 1/2 cup pitted dates
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whiz these ingredients in a food processor until the mix starts to come together. If necessary, add a few drops of water to make things 'goop' together. Roll into balls - this amount should make about a dozen. You can also make this into bars if you like! These are so chocolately with a fudgey texture - no one will know they are just dates!

Carrot Cake Lara Balls (about 12)

- 1/2 cup pitted dates
- 1/4 cup shredded carrot
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (if desired - drops of water would work as well)
- 1 tbsp dried pineapple pieces
- 1 tsp crystallized ginger
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or use cinnamon, nutmeg, etc)

Whiz 'em until the mixture comes together, and eat them well before anyone else discovers them. These are so much like carrot cake that I'm considering covering them with cream cheese icing. It certainly has provided a great alternative for those of us who no longer eat wheat.

Here's the nutrition info for a serving, which is two balls:

Chocolate Lara Balls

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Serving
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 63
Calories from Fat 16
Total Fat 1.8g3%
Saturated Fat 0.6g3%
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 120mg3%
Carbohydrates 12.8g4%
Dietary Fiber 2.2g9%
Sugars 8.6g
Protein 1.1g
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1% · Iron 4%

This is definitely not enough!

Carrot Cake Lara Balls  

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Serving
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 80
Calories from Fat 30
Total Fat 3.3g5%
Saturated Fat 2.3g12%
Sodium 5mg0%
Potassium 110mg3%
Carbohydrates 13.5g5%
Dietary Fiber 1.6g6%
Sugars 8.8g
Protein 0.6g
Vitamin A 1% · Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 1% · Iron 2%



The Snack Box

This week, I'm going to share a little something that has made my life way easier during the week. It's not particularly unique or clever, but has helped keep us choose healthy foods when we are feeling lazy, which is a lot of the time. It's The Snack Box.

I'm not really the pinterest-iest of people, but I do like efficiency. Making lunches is simpler when you have a lot of pre-packaged items to throw in a bag. It occurred to me that we could save money and time by packaging up our own snacks, thus ensuring they are as healthy as they are convenient. And so began my new Sunday tradition of assembling the snack box.

What's in it, you say? All kinds of stuff like the following week's bounty:
- 1/3 cup servings of pecans
- 1/4 cup sliced strawberry and raspberry
- 1 cup servings of carrot, sugar snap peas, and pepper sticks
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt servings with strawberries
- 30g cheddar cheese portions
- 1/2 cup servings of apple sauce
- ham slice/cheese roll ups with jalapeño havarti, marble cheddar, and provolone

That's just the beginning of endless options. Your imagination is the limit.

For 45 minutes of effort, we'll have easy access to fast food from the comfort of the fridge. I'm also seeing less food waste, as we are eating it well before it spoils. The little gems in the snack box also serve as a great fallback for nights when cooking isn't in the cards. Guilt free gems that is!
What ideas would work for your own snack box?

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Those who know me also know I've adopted a paleo-style diet to manage the chaos in my gut. The great news is that eliminating grains and sugar has also eliminated the awful acid reflux and digestive problems that had been causing the chaos. The bad news is that it has also eliminated some of my favourite foods made with grains and sugar, like pizza. (Cue sad emotional piano solo...)

Alright, it's really not that bad. With the gift of the internet and some creative adventure, there are ways to try and make up for lost tastes, even if they are not exact. Pizza crust is just one of those things that serves as a perfect vehicle for the delivery of toppings. I like thin crusts with a bit of crispiness, and some cheese baked on the edges. So, when I heard about the miracle of cauliflower pizza crust, I had to try it out. Cauliflower is a popular substitute for grain carbs; you can whip it like potatoes, or grind it into 'rice'. It can take on a lot of flavour, and if you manipulate it just right, it can mimic the texture of what you're trying to replace it with. Making a dough with it is a challenge, though, because it's full of water. After reviewing a number of trials, tribulations and successful outcomes, I worked on my own recipe and came up with a crust that works!

Here's what you do...

1. Pulse the raw cauliflower, with the stem removed, in a food processor. You want the cauliflower to look like the size of rice grains. 

2. Heat the cauliflower in the microwave for about a minute on high or until the cauliflower is hot. Let it cool enough so you can handle it.

 3. Grab a clean cloth dishtowel, or cheesecloth, and put the warmed cauliflower in it - wrap the towel around it, and keep twisting. You are now squeezing as much water out of the cauliflower as you can. Squeeze, squeeze and keep squeezing the ever-loving sh*t right out of it. Your hands should be sore and protesting - keep on until you just can't anymore. Then squeeze a bit more. 



4. Place the cauliflower in a bowl, along with an egg, 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/2 tsp of salt. I also added some chopped rosemary and basil to up the flavour of the crust.

5. Mix all the ingredients by hand, and form into a ball. Roll out the dough into a flat pizza crust shape, place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and bake in a pre-heated oven at 400F for about 10-12 minutes, or until browned. 

At this point, you have a crust! Now, you can top it however you like, and bake it in the oven for an additional 12 minutes. You may want to adjust the oven time according to how crunchy you want the crust to be. 

Overall, this is a unique and healthy approach to making a pizza crust. It's not going to replace a wheat crust, but as an alternative, it really offers delicious flavour and a good base for all the ingredients you love on a traditional pizza. I'd suggest making more than one - it will go fast!

Mason Jar Lattes

 I like the occasional latte. My favorite is straight up coffee with milk, and also chai tea when I'm feeling cozy. The essence of a great latte is the blending of warm milk with the tea or coffee, topped off by a lovely peak of creamy foam. My very first job was slinging coffee at The Second Cup, a Canadian coffee chain. These days, I would have had a fancier title such as barista, but the job was the same. I had to learn how to make espressos,  lattes and sumptuous cappuccinos by perfecting the foaming technique.

In a café, you use a professional rig that not only steam brews your espressos, but has an attachment that allows you to heat the milk while creating the soft, pillowy foam to crown the top of the beverage. It takes a bit of practice, but for some reason, we always found beginners made the best foam. It is this airy topping that brings folks out to coffee shops to spend at least five dollars or more on something they cannot easily make at home without spending hundreds to do so.

Until now.

You see, I've stumbled across an ingenious way to make café quality milk foam right at home - with a mason jar and a microwave. Sounds kinda ghetto, doesn't it? Well, once you try this technique, you will be laughing at all those Starbucks hipsters desperately waiting in line like chumps. You'll have the secret that baristas around the world would, whatever. Here’s the directions:

Take a clean, half pint mason jar, and fill it quarter way with milk. This works best with 2% or whole milk, but not cream - the cream doesn't produce as much foam. Put the top on tightly, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. There should be enough 'bubbles' to reach the halfway point of the jar.

Remove the lid, place the jar in the microwave, and heat on high for 30 seconds or so, depending on your microwave. This warms the milk and stabilizes the foam. Pour the milk into hot tea or coffee that has been flavored and sweetened the way you like. Gently spoon the foam over top. Sprinkle with cinnamon or chocolate, if you desire.

Chai Tea Latte

1 cup hot chai tea, well steeped
1 tsp raw honey (or other sweetener, optional)
A few drops of vanilla extract
Warm milk and foam

Pour the honey and vanilla into the tea, stirring gently. Gradually add the milk, and stir until blended. Spoon the foam over top, and sprinkle cinnamon to serve.

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Steak Worth Making a Flap About

I love steak. I restrain myself from eating it all the time partly because too much of anything is probably not a good idea, but mainly because it costs just too damn much. If it were more affordable, I'd probably eat more than conventional wisdom advises. But really, is conventional wisdom all it's cracked up to be? We've been advised that red meat is the cause of all that ails us for the last 50 years or so, especially if it contains any visible * gasp * fat. Never mind that since then we've replaced fats with weird chemicals and metric tonnes of sugar, we do understand that eating beef is bad. I just don't buy it. 

I buy nicely marbled beef whenever I can because that's where the flavour is. The fat in the meat provides all sorts of interesting benefits as well. To begin with, beef fat is only 50% saturated. The other 50% is made up of monosaturated fat, the kind found in olive oil, which conventional wisdom would have us drinking in vats, it's so good for us. If you buy grass fed beef, all the better for this sort of thing, if you are worried about it. Beef also contains a dense assortment of nutrients like iron, zinc and the B vitamins, which are difficult to gain from plant sources or supplements. Compared to chicken and fish, you get nearly double to quadruple your nutrition bang for your buck as well. 

But enough of justifying why I would eat it more if I found an affordable source...Now to celebrate finding a wonderfully inexpensive cut of beef...Flap meat!

Yeah, I know that sounds ridiculously unappetizing, but if you come across this at your local grocery store (or butcher if you're one of them fancy-pants foodies) buy it. (Especially before all the fancy-pants foodies do, which will gentrify the cut, and drive the price up like a condo in the North End.) The flap steak is also known as the 'bottom sirloin flap meat', and I've seen it listed at Sobey's with this description. At, they describe the cut as similar to other sirloin cuts in flavour, and I would concur. It's great for grilling, stir frying, making a steak sandwich, and even for roasting. Here's what I did to make this a fantastic dinner in no time flap...I mean flat:

1 lb of bottom sirloin flap meat...marinated in: 
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

I let this marinade for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, I made these Chipotle Cumin Sweet Potato Fries as a side:
Add caption

- 2 medium sweet potatoes, skin on, cut into sticks...tossed in:
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp seasoning salt
- 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
- 1 tbsp cumin

Preheat the oven to 425F, and lay all the fries in one layer on a greased baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

While all this is going on, heat a skillet to medium high heat, and add 1 tbsp of coconut oil. (If no coconut oil, use something with a high smoking point to avoid burning the oil.) Cook the steaks 3-5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the steak and desired doneness. Mine took about 4 per side for a medium-well result. 

To complement the flavours in the steak and fries, serve on a bed of lettuce with salsa verde and guacamole. 

Unflappably tasty and good fer ya!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Serving - Steak Only
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 251
Calories from Fat 104
Total Fat 11.6g18%
Saturated Fat 5.5g28%
Cholesterol 70mg23%
Sodium 979mg41%
Carbohydrates 14.6g5%
Dietary Fiber 0.1g0%
Sugars 12.2g
Protein 23.0g
Calcium 2% · Iron 18%


Lemon Garlic Butter Haddock over Vegetable Noodles

One of the hard parts of giving up wheat and grains is what to do about pasta dishes. There's a bunch of great sauces out there that I love to throw on top of any kind of pasta. For me, it's really all about the sauce, and the noodle is simply a vehicle to get it in my belly in a slightly less direct way, like spooning it in. So, I was intrigued by the technique of making noodles out of vegetables. Rather than buy a pricey spiral machine, I shelled out eight bucks for a julienne peeler. I was amazed at the simplicity and effectiveness of using it, especially since it fits into my philosophy of using the simplest gadget for the job. 

Not only was I impressed that vegetables could make a great noodle replacement, but so were the domestic product testers, who lapped up all the bites on their plates. The texture of both the zucchini and the sweet potato added enough bite to satisfy the need for a noodle, and added some additional flavour to the dish as well. They also paired well with haddock, cooked in a sumptuous lemon garlic butter sauce. Here's how to make it:

You need: (Serves 2)    
One medium zucchini
One medium sweet potato
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of a lemon
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp butter
Fresh Italian parsley
Shredded parmesan cheese to taste
salt & pepper to taste
2 haddock fillets

Making noodles!
Salting the Noodles

Clean and peel the zucchini and the sweet potato. Using a julienne peeler, cut the vegetables into noodles, and place in a sieve. Add the salt to the noodles and mix throughout. Let this sit for several minutes to allow the salt to draw some of the moisture out of the vegetables. 

In a non stick pan, heat the butter on medium-low, and add the garlic once melted. Cook for a minute, then add the lemon juice. Turn to low, and add the haddock. Cook 3 minutes per side, or until the haddock becomes opaque. Meanwhile, place the noodles in a microwave safe dish, an cook for 2-3 minutes, or until tender. Use some paper towel to gently pat the noodles to remove excess moisture. 

Place the noodles on a plate, add the fish over the top, and spoon the lemon garlic butter sauce over top. Dress with the parsley, parmesan cheese, and salt & pepper to taste. Oh. man. That's right some good!

...However, the best part is how light this dish is, despite how filling. Get a look at the Nutrition details for one serving:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Serving
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 352
Calories from Fat 114
Total Fat 12.7g20%
Saturated Fat 7.5g38%
Cholesterol 141mg47%
Sodium 256mg11%
Carbohydrates 17.8g6%
Dietary Fiber 4.0g16%
Sugars 6.7g
Protein 39.9g
Vitamin A 239% · Vitamin C 63%
Calcium 11% · Iron 18%

I'm sold!