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Avocado Toast, Tropical Style

Breakfast, Appetizers, SnacksLina LiwagComment

I just love avocado toast!  It's so delicious, easy to make, comforting and it always makes me smile!  Especially when Spring in Toronto can't seem to make up her mind.  

There are so many versions or flavours of this wonderful thing.  And the good news is: the components are not complicated and anybody can make it!  This is a great family activity on a Saturday morning which the kids would love to join in.  

 

Fresh bread with the best ingredients is the most important thing for this recipe.  I love to use organic sourdough or rye bread.  For those who are sensitive to gluten, use your favourite gluten-free bread.  Raw flat bread made of almonds and flax seed is also a great option.  I've served the recipe using them in my last raw food tea party and they were a hit just the same.  Ripe but firm avocado is also a must - unless you're a fan of the more mushy ones like my hubby.  The rest of the components is a mix and match at your own preference -  be creative. 

Here's my own version of the avocado toast, tropical style.  It reminds me of Hawaii and Philippines.  I have served them many times to friends and family.  They're always  a crowd pleaser I must say!  The combination of creamy, sweet, tart, and crunchy items + herbs and toasted bread makes it a perfect and delicious option for breakfast, brunch or snack.  It will make you smile!

Avocado Toast, Tropical Style
Ingredients:
1-2 ripe but firm avocado, cut and pitted
1-2 ripe mangoes, cut into cubes
1/2 - 3/4 c. cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 tbsp. red onion, minced
1 small purple daikon or a few red radish, thinly cut
juice of 1/2 lime or more
1/4 c. cilantro leaves
pinch of good salt and optional black pepper
Slices of sourdough, rye bread or gluten-free option

Method:
Prep all the ingredients and before serving, toast the bread. In a bowl, mix  the mango, tomatoes, onions, lime, salt and some of the cilantro leaves leaving some for topping.  Depending on how big your bread slices and your avocados, scoop 1/4- 1/2 of the avocado and spread on the bread by using the tines of a fork.  Top with mango salsa, a few daikon slices and more cilantro.  Enjoy!

Below is another version using homemade flat bread, shaved purple cabbage dressed in cashew cream and edible flowers.  We enjoyed this last year in my Raw Tea Party. 
 

 Another  version using raw flatbread and purple cabbage

Another  version using raw flatbread and purple cabbage

Recently, I went home to the Philippines.   I had a good dose of my long missed tropical fixes and get to hang out with  my favourite people including high school classmates and teachers. My family lives in the northernmost tip of the country where we still grow our own rice, vegetables and lots of fruits since land is abundant there, thanks to our older generation who started it all.  The ocean is not too far away either although no beach days for me as it rained so much for the whole week that I was there.  I enjoyed spending time playing with my nephews and nieces in Manila, especially the younger ones.  I miss them so much!

  I'm very grateful that I have the best of both worlds: cosmopolitan Toronto and the muddy rice fields of my childhood.  I was able to ride in the same boats (just like in my high school days)  to cross the river in order to visit Aparri.  I still have several of my high school friends there.  Shopping in open markets  was fun!  There were fresh seaweeds and pako (tropical version of fiddleheads), taro shoots, the juiciest  jicama and the best bananas.  The supply of young and mature coconuts never runs out since all you need is a skillful young man to climb the tall trees in the backyard.  My sister is the new(er) modern-day  farmer, mixing some science and good old passed me down wisdom from older generation farming techniques.  She graduated from UP Los Banos many years ago specializing in Agriculture and is now managing what our ancestors left us.  These days, her garden has tons of red dragonfruits, bananas, pomelo in addition to trees my dad planted when we were young: mangos, tamarind, mandarin oranges, chico and coconuts.

 My dad is now 91.  He still has a sharp memory and is the classic story-teller who remembers things that happened so many years ago.  He loves to read using a magnifying glass and never his prescription glasses.  My heart was full.  Here are some of the photos.

 My dad at 91.  

My dad at 91.  

Homemade Granola

BreakfastLina LiwagComment

It's been rainy and chilly these recent days.  Just the perfect weather for comfort food: soups, stews, curries and yes, GRANOLA!  I've been making several batches of these for my family and also brought some for my co-workers.

I wasn't always into the 'granola making biz' since culturally it  wasn't something that I ate growing up.  Naturally, it wasn't always one of my fav foods to make.  That changed when my son started asking me to buy ready-made ones from the stores.  

And so since I wanted him to have a better option than store bought ones,  I had to start making them in my kitchen.  He did not really  like my uber healthy dehydrated sprouted buckwheat version.  He just wanted plain rolled oats with the rest of the fixings which, by the way, can also be made using a dehydrator.  However, since majority of the population does not own a dehydrator, I thought a baked version would be more relatable to everyone...especially to busy working moms like me.  

So here is my own 'Homemade Granola' recipe.  The great thing about this is that you can custom-make it according to your own combo preferences:grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruits.  Organic ingredients are always best to use in order to avoid pesticides, preservatives, GMO, sulphites and processed sugar.  

Homemade Granola
Ingredients (preferably organic)

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup coarsely chopped mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts)
3/4 cup coconut flakes
6-7 pitted Medjool dates (depending on their size)
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla
3/4 cup mixed dried fruits (goji, cranberries and currants)

Method:
1.
  Preheat the oven at 350F.  In a blender or food processor, combine the dates, water, vanilla  and lemon.  Blend/process until the mixture turns into a smooth and saucy-like consistency.  
2.  In a bowl, mix the oats and nuts.  Pour the date sauce over them.  Mix together, using your hands would be the best, and make sure they are evenly coated.
3.  Take two cookie or baking sheets and line them with parchment paper.  Spread the mixture then bake for 25-30 minutes.  Stir at least 3-4 times to make sure they cook evenly.  Check for doneness after 20 minutes as they can get overcooked and therefore too hard.  
4. Add the coconut flakes 5 minutes before they're done.  Combine the dried fruits after baking.

Suggestions:
Cashews, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
Dried figs, apricots, cherries, golden berries, blueberries

Variation on sweetener:  1/3 cup maple syrup or honey

 “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

This is a daily #notetoself for me since getting distracted and stressed out are things I struggle with if I'm not careful.  I recently checked out other versions of this Scripture and I have been amazed on what I found out and learned:

- Stop your fighting - and know that I am God 
- That's enough!  Now know that I am God
-Calm down, and learn that I am God
-Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God.
-Cease striving and know that I am God. 
-Be quiet and know that I am God
-Be in awe and know that I am God

The Message version which  I find the most interesting, says this: "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God. Surrender can be liberating when we give our worries and anxieties to God.  I know it's not easy but it's possible.  Praying and meditating on verses like these help me. I hope this encourages you as well.

Warmly,

Lina


Spring Smoothies + My Recent Trip To New York

Smoothies, BreakfastLina LiwagComment
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I truly am excited about Spring being here!  It's been a long winter and now my coat and boots have been put away.  I am also excited that we can have lots of berries, mangoes and watermelons... not just the usual apples or pears.

So with this new season, my family has been making lots of smoothies using the fruits and vegetables of the season.  While we have our own favourites, I try to be creative and regularly come up with different varieties just to make things fun and exciting.  Part of that is also embracing new healthy ingredients.  

Just recently,  we organized a “Lunch and Learn” smoothie making session at work and it was an opportunity for me to share some of my smoothie recipes with 15 ladies in our department (you can check my Instagram account here to see our picture posted that day).  A few of them were familiar with smoothie making while others were just starting.   After an hour, we all had a great time.  For me, I felt very encouraged that we can all learn together no matter where we’re at in our own pursuit of healthy eating. 

 
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So here are two recipes that I shared with my co-workers.  The green smoothie (to my surprise) turned out to be their favourite!  I purposely did not bring kale, chard or any other "hard core" greens that may be too much for others.  I find that that spinach and microgreens are the best introductory options for greens.  And yes, they love the  addition of dried golden berries, sunflower microgreens and hemp hearts to their new and improved smoothie making times. There's  an earlier post for a green smoothie in January with more of the "technical stuff" and you can check it here.

Spring Blast Green Smoothie
 
Ingredients: (Preferebly Organic) 
 
2 c. baby spinach
1 handful sunflower microgreens (about 1 c.)
 1 champagne mango, cubed (about 1/2 c.)
1  ripe pear, chopped
2 Tbsp. hemp hearts
2 Tbsp. sprouted chia powder (I used this)
 
1 Tbsp. coconut butter
 2 Tbsp. dried golden berries
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 of a small avocado
1 3/4 c. filtered water
2 very small slices of fresh turmeric or ginger (optional)
ice (optional)

Method:
 
Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth.  Serves 2.   The fresh turmeric is something new that my husband and I found to be a nice addition in smoothies and juices.  This was not used  at the lunch and learn session.  You can also use ginger if you prefer.  Ice is also an option if you like a much colder drink.

 

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Berry Blast Smoothie
 Ingredients: (Preferably Organic) 
 
1 c. spinach
1 c. red kale microgreens
1 c. blueberries
1/2 c. blackberries
3/4 c. strawberries
1 champagne mango, cubed (about 1/2 c.)
2 Tbsp. hemp hearts
2 Tbsp. sprouted chia powder (I used this)
2 Tbsp. lemon 
1/4 of a small avocado
1 1/2 c.  filtered water 
ice (optional)
1/4 c. coconut flakes (optional)

Method:
 
Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth.  Serves 2.    Add ice if you want a colder drink or freeze the berries before blending.  My son does not like coconut so I have marked the coconut flakes as an option (I love anything with coconuts).  This was his smoothie today:)  If you're a banana lover, you can also substitute the mango with 1/2 of a banana.

Other options: 

Different nut milks or coconut water.  
Other nuts and seeds of choice (nuts or bigger seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds when soaked overnight are best for digestibility) .

 

 

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Hopefully, you can try these recipes and enjoy them as well.   If you happen to be new in smoothie making, it may take a while to get use to it but it gets better with time.  Experiment with your favourite fruits and vegetables and be open with new and unfamiliar ingredients.  It wasn't easy for me personally.  I grew up in the Philippines where we didn't eat our vegetables raw.   Green smoothies?  Who knew?

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Here are some pics of my recent trip to New York.  The Institute for Integrative Nutrition had a Live Conference on May 4-5 for its students.  What an empowering and inspirational time to listen to great speakers and motivators.  It was also a great time to connect with so many future health coaches like me...about 1,100 of us during those two days at the Jazz at Lincoln Center.  Here's a page that shows the list the speakers. I just did not learn about Nutrition but also the call for mentorship, of becoming an agent of transformation and change and that showing people is more important than just telling them what to do.  I was inspired by these speakers who changed their lives first and are now helping to change other people's lives: Joe Cross (Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead), Christine Hassler and Michael Ellsberg.  

Today is a Holiday Monday in Canada and it was a good time to chill with the family. We had an outdoor church service yesterday and a picnic followed after.  I will definitely be  sharing some of the picnic pics next week.  I hope your week had a great start.  Enjoy the rest of it!

 

Warmly, 

Lina

 

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Austin’s Saturday “Deluxe” Pancakes (Banana, Chocolate and Strawberry Vegan Pancakes) + My Interim Health Coaching Certificate

BreakfastLina Liwag4 Comments
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Ahhh!...it’s Saturday morning...it’s  Austin’s designated “pancake day.” It’s a regular work day for my hubby so it’s just me and my son at home.  Pancakes are the focal point and the starting point of his weekend breakfast.  He usually has his smoothies during school days but in the weekend, he looks forward to what he calls his “deluxe breakfast.”   On Friday evenings, he’ll  actually  ask me “what time do I wake you up to make my breakfast, Mama?” I leave our home very early during the work week so Saturday morning is just the only time I get to sleep in a bit...my own little way of indulging.

 

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So I try to do different variations of pancakes.  You see, he started having some food sensitivity almost a year ago.   For six months, he had to be strict with the list of food he can’t eat and I sort of work around this list.   These days, we’ve been introducing some items every now and then and it seems to be working for him.  No more breakouts so far.  However, he can’t just go crazy yet so most times we still stick to no eggs, definitely no dairy and although he’s not really completely allergic to gluten, we try to simplify and use oat flour, buckwheat flour and the occasional spelt which poses no problems for him.

Blueberry pancakes are his favourite but  this week, I felt like making pancakes that’s a cross between chocolate banana bread and something I grew up eating in the Philippines - banana fritters. How yummy!  It brings back childhood memories for me (although at my age, I can't really eat this too much).   It would have been better if the bananas were from my dad’s backyard but hey, organic Ecuadorian bananas will do just fine. They are not local but Canada is just not the land for banana trees.  I hope everyone will enjoy this as much as we do.

 

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Austin’s Saturday “Deluxe” Pancakes (Banana, Chocolate and Strawberry Vegan Pancakes)
 
Ingredients (preferably organic)
 
Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 c. oat flour
1/4 c. buckwheat flour
3 Tbsp. cacao powder 
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder 
1/4 tsp. Himalayan crystal salt
1/4 c. chopped walnuts

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 nut milk of choice (I used homemade cashew milk)
1 very ripe banana, chopped (to be blended with the nut milk)
1 banana thinly sliced (to be mixed with the batter)
coconut oil to cook the pancakes
 Garnish:
sliced strawberries
sliced bananas
cacao powder
maple syrup

Method:
1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
2. Combine  the one banana with the nut milk in a blender and pulse until  well blended. 
3. Pour the nut milk/banana mixture into the dry ingredients.  Add the banana slices then  stir the mixture until well combined then set the batter aside for at least 10 minutes.
4. Heat a little coconut oil into a skillet and pour 1/4 c. of the batter for each pancake making sure 4  banana slices go to each one.  Turn the heat into low and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes.  It should form some bubbles on top and check the underside for doneness, then flip over to cook the other side.
5. You can place the cooked ones in a warm oven while waiting for the rest to be done. This makes about 10 pancakes. 
6. Serve by sprinkling cacao powder, top with a mixture of strawberries and more bananas then drizzle with pure organic Canadian maple syrup.  Enjoy!

 

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Suggestions:
1. If you want a thicker mixture, you can reduce the nut milk to 1 1/4 then the pancakes will be more dense and thicker.  
2. You can also use other berries for toppings.  By mixing the berries with bananas, it gives it a little tartness for an enhanced flavour. If you are using blueberries or strawberries, make sure that they organic since they are on the dirty dozen+ list of produce high in pesticide.  You can check the list here.
 

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Last week, I received my interim certificate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I’m halfway through my holistic health coach training.  How exciting!  It felt like I just  started yesterday but it has already been 20 weeks.   I am very grateful for this small victory and I can’t wait to finish the whole course!

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I hope everyone is enjoying this time of year.  Toronto had some winter weather with some snow and freezing rain last week but I will wait patiently for the trees and flowers to bloom.  I am looking forward to take pictures when they do!

Warmly,

Lina

 

Spring Chia Pudding With Blueberries and Champagne Mango

BreakfastLina Liwag6 Comments
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Happy Easter!  What a beautiful weekend we've had so far especially celebrating Easter Sunday.  And what better way to celebrate than having  a breakfast of chia pudding (or porridge)  - my all time favourite.  I posted a recipe in November which you can find here but I eat this regularly and just add different toppings depending on the fruits in season.   Many of us are fans of chia...I am a big chia cheerleader among my friends  and co-workers.  It works very well with me...it keeps me full until lunch time without any snacks in between.  It's been believed that the Aztecs and the Mayans relied on it for increased stamina and energy over periods of time.  But then again we also hear of others who cannot tolerate it and it's because we are all different...I am learning more about bio-individuality at IIN.  One man's food may be another's poison despite the media telling us that there is just one perfect diet  every time a new best-seller book comes out.  Our bodies are made differently and therefore react differently with different kinds of foods.   You can read a short article here which best describes bio-individuality frrom Joshua Rosenthal, founder and director of IIN.

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So back to our chia pudding ... blueberries and champagne mangoes I think are just so perfect around this time of year and so I have tweaked an old recipe little bit for a variation. The blueberries were blended and then mixed with the pudding so it has that purple colour.  And this is exciting to me because I love Champagne mangoes  with their golden yellow colour and  smooth texture... similar to the Manila mangoes I used to eat back home in the Philippines when I was growing up. This is also the time when they are in season there.

Spring Chia Pudding With Blueberries and Champagne Mango
 
Ingredients:  (Preferably organic)

For the base:
 
4 Tbsp. chia seeds
 1/4 c. raw cashews
 1/4 c. coconut flakes
1 piece of Medjool dates, cut into small pieces
1 c. blueberries
1/4 t. vanilla powder
 1 1/2 c. filtered water for blending (or more if you prefer a thinner consistency)
water to soak the cashews and coconut flakes (see Method)

For the toppings: 
1 -  1 1/2 Champagne mangoes, cut into cubes
1/2 c. blueberries
4 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
4 Tbsp. desiccated coconuts

Method: 
 
1. Soak the following in different bowls or glass containers  and keep them in the fridge overnight:
a) the cashews in 3/4 c. of water
b) the chia in 1/2 c. of water, stirring it a few times before placing it in the fridge (this prevents it from clumping)
c.) the coconut flakes and the date in 1/4 c. of water (same container)  just to soften them
2.  In the morning, discard the water where the cashews have been soaked.  The coconuts and the date will rehydrate and absorb the water.  Place these ingredients  and the  1 1/2 c. of water in a high speed blender then blend for about 1-2 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy.  No need to strain as the pulp is quite soft and not grainy.  Add the blueberries and vanilla and continue to blend for a few seconds until the blueberries are liquified.
3.  Place the soaked chia in a mason jar or a bowl then pour the blueberries cashew/coconut milk mixture slowly and mix until well incorporated.  Add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency.  Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Serve in nice glasses then add the toppings.  Enjoy!  

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This is truly delicious and if by chance you are not fond of chia pudding, give it a chance ...most people I know change their minds after the first try.

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Today, I get to celebrate Easter with my family and close friends.  The message at Church was awesome: because of Christ's resurrection, we have no more confusion, no more fear and no more doubt!  It gives me such great confidence and makes me grateful.  

Warmly,

Lina