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No Bake Vegan Sweet Marie Bars

So in my family these are known as Mikkelsen Squares. A close friend of our family, with the last name Mikkelsen, used to make these for our family on special occasions like Christmas. I had no idea they actually had another name until this year! 

My husbands family have a tradition to make peanut butter cookies for Christmas as my father-in-law absolutely loves anything peanut! SO, this year I thought I would blend two traditions and tackle this easy to make recipe.

Don't get me wrong here, this recipe is not "healthy" by any means, but I chose healthier and less processed ingredients.  If we are going to indulge in nostalgic treats, why not change out the GMO and highly refined ingredients for better choices. I am also not the hugest fan of peanuts due to the mycotoxins and being a high allergen, but once a year I can bend and enjoy a peanut treat.  Remember to always "treat treats as treats". 

Happy and healthy holidays to you and your family! 

Mikkelsen Squares 6.jpg

Mikkelsen Squares

Aka: No Bake Vegan Sweet Marie Bars

  • 1 cup organic peanut butter (you could use any nut butter like almond butter)
  • 1 cup organic brown rice syrup (Lundberg is a great brand)
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds 
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 cups brown rice crisps (I like Natures Path or One Degree)
  • 1 bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chips
  1. Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper or grease it up with coconut oil
  2. In a pot over low-medium heat mix together peanut butter, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, coconut oil and sea salt until melted, bubbling and thoroughly mixed.
  3. Remove from heat and add brown rice crisps and hemp seeds.  Mix with spatula until well incorporated.
  4. Quickly transfer hot mixture to the baking dish and using your spatula or a piece of parchment, press and spread mixture.
  5. Spread chocolate chips on top while mixture is hot and leave for a few minutes for them to melt. 
  6. Using a spatula, spread chocolate evenly getting into the corners.
  7. Refrigerate until bars harden, about 1 hour.
  8. Cut into squares and serve. 

Japow

Some people are surprised when I say Japan gets some of the most snow in the world.  We live on the main island called Honshu in the Japanese Alps.  The weather and wind here is the ultimate recipe for epic pow days.  The cold wind from Siberia flows over the sea of Japan, picking up moisture and slams into the Japanese Alps puking meters of snow at a time!! The other best thing about Japan is if there is a meter of snowfall overnight, nothing changes.  The roads are cleared, the buses are on time and everything is a white wonderland. 

December 8, 2016

Our appartment

February 12, 2017

On the best days the consistency of the snow is what we call "blower pow", the kind of snow where it is so fine and light you can literally blow it away like baby powder. 

We expect there to be lots of snow for spring conditions in March.  Hope your winter or summer - whichever hemisphere you are in - is as wonderful as ours.  See all you Canadian folks at the end of March, 2017 where we will be back in Collingwood for the summer! Until then, happy shredding. 

Gingerbread Granola

The Holiday Hussle

We are settled back in the town of Hakuba, Nagano, Japan for another winter season.  It’s a tiny ski town nestled in what’s called the Japanese Alps on the north-west side of the main island. I am starting to master living on the road as this last year I have lived in 3 different places with 3 different jobs.  This month even if you are not travelling abroad you are most likely travelling to work parties, relatives and friend’s homes eating and perhaps drinking more than usual.  So I thought I would put together a survival guide for the holidays.  Some little tips to keep you on track but able to enjoy the celebrations of winter solstice and the holidays!

10 Ways to Keep It Healthy During the Holidays:

  1. Drink water. Simple but important. During these dry months we need to consume adequate amounts of water.  Spice it up and add flavouring to your water like orange peels and a cinnamon stick. Or drink caffeine free herbal teas to keep you warm.
  2. Be realistic and don’t try to lose weight during this time.  Don’t put the pressure on yourself and just try to maintain your weight.
  3. Listen. Do you hear what I hear? Listen to your own body.  There are usually lots of buffet-style gatherings.  Fill your plate with little bites of everything, go back for your favourite and stop with the first sign of feeling full.  If you really get in tune with this built-in alarm you will avoid indigestion and interrupted sleep.
  4. Sleep.  Hibernate. Make sure you find downtime and use it wisely.
  5. There will be lots of temptations this month that you may or may not give into.  Keep the meals at home healthy and indulge when you are out.
  6. Build up your immune system.  Take the right precautions with foods, vitamins and supplements to keep your immune system strong during times of travel and celebrations.
  7. Before meals take a digestive enzyme (found at your health food store), this can help your digestive system break down foods, especially the ones you don’t eat too often.  There are some chewable digestive enzymes you can take after meals if you forgot to take them before-hand.
  8. If you happen to over eat some of your favourite holiday foods here are some things you can do:

    a.      Go for a 30 minute walk! Bundle up with the family and head outside for only 30 minutes before you sit down into your food coma.  A 30 minute walk helps stabilize blood sugars and digest your food.  

    b.      Have some peppermint, fennel or ginger tea (or mix both together). If you are super hardcore you can chew on a ¼ tsp of fennel seeds.

    c.       Mix ½ tsp apple cider vinegar with ¼ cup of water and drink.

    d.     ¼ tsp of fennel seeds. Digestive bitters tincture taken in a ½oz of water is my go-to! 

  9. If you are drinking, find ways to lower the alcohol percentage but still keep that cheery glow.  Make a holiday sangria or rose wine spritzer with floating cranberries. Drink some water in-between drinks.
  10. Give a gift of health for the holidays.  Buy or make your own. This large-batch Gingerbread Granola fills your home with a wonderful aroma of warming winter spices. It is versatile you can substitute a lot of the ingredients switch up the nuts, omit the chocolate chips and add Christmas coloured treats like crushed candy canes. It’s so delicious I’ll be surprised it makes it out of the house.

Gingerbread Granola

Makes 11 cups (fills 11x250ml mason jars)

Dry Ingredients:

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups nuts (I used pecans and slivered almonds)
  • ½ cup seeds (I used pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries & goji berries)
  • ¼ cup organic candied ginger, diced
  • ¼ cup white chocolate chips – for a pop of white (I cut up a vegan white chocolate bar)

Wet Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 6 Tbsp Canadian maple syrup

Spices:

  • 2 tsp ground true cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine wet ingredients and spices in a bowl and whisk together until it’s a syrup-like consistency.
  3. In a separate large bowl combine only the rolled oats, nuts and seeds. Using a spatula combine the wet ingredients to the oat mixture and combine until evenly coated.
  4. Spread evenly onto the two parchment-lined baking sheets and place into oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Watching the last 10 minutes as it tends to burn quickly.
  5. Remove from oven when golden brown and let cool completely.  Stir in dried fruit, white chocolate chips and candied ginger.
  6. Tip: To help cool faster lay out another sheet of parchment on your counter and spread half of the granola. 

Easy Overnight Muesli

I have a secret that I have been exploding to tell everyone but it is bitter sweet.  We are moving.  In fact, by the time you read this we will have already left this beautiful town of Fernie. It is a very exciting and scary move for us as we leave the mountains that was home for 14 years and go to live by the great lakes of Ontario near our tribe we call family.

 As time goes on I find it’s not where you are physically but who surrounds you. This town is really made of incredible people. Yeah the scenery and recreation are next level but it wouldn’t be the same if you were all jerks.  This community has open arms and a huge heart.  What this town has taught me is to honour who I am, with all of the great, the good and the not so good.  The ups and downs of chairlifts and life lessons. That sounds incredibly cheese-ball but I became who I wanted to be here.  I grew up with this hunger to please people and this meant custom packaging myself to each scenario or group I was with, I became this chameleon, always protecting myself from not fitting in. I have moved a lot in my life and had to make friends over and over.  Maybe you can relate somehow with a new job or having kids and going to parent meetings?  Being in Fernie taught me that it’s not about fitting in but rocking yourself and finding friends along that journey.  Thanks to the people who have touched me in this town, you know who you are.  For everyone else who lives here or visitors, please let your hair down, enjoy this Fernie lifestyle and wink at the mountains for me! Thank you for the person I have become here. 

Enough of the warm fuzzies, let’s talk food.  September is when life gets back to the groove of routine. Mornings get busier and by the time everyone gets out the door your coffee is cold and you haven't eaten breakfast. I have a fun solution. Breakfast really, is a very important meal. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you do not eat, you allow your blood sugars to crash and the rest of the day you play catch up, craving sugars or stimulants - which only perpetuate this spike and crash routine. The equation for a good breakfast is to incorporate protein and fats. These two macro-nutrients help stabilize your blood sugars by slowly releasing the sugars instead of a big spike and crash. Keeping your body balanced helps with concentration and avoids getting tired in the afternoon lull. This muesli recipe is fun and quick to prepare.  It also works great for travelling and camping! Most cereals and instant oatmeal have a lot of processed grains and sugars.  In this recipe the fiber, healthy proteins and fats from the whole rolled oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds and nuts will help keep you fuller longer and give you the energy needed for your morning!  The secret to this recipe is making a bunch of individual dry mix packages so you eliminate the prep for next time. I will be eating this on my move across the country to ensure a healthy whole food morning. 

EASY OVERNIGHT MUESLI

 Dry ingredients:

  • ½-1 Tbsp coconut sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
  • ½ cup whole rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp hemp seeds (or ½ Tbsp unflavoured protein powder)
  • 2 Tbsp of either walnuts, slivered almonds, coconut or your favourite nut or seed

 Wet ingredients:

  • ¾ cup coconut milk or any milk alternative
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • ½ cup fresh fruit for topping (or 1 Tbsp dried fruit)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional to help break down oats, nuts and seeds)
  •  1 x 2 cup container – mason jars work great and are affordable

 Directions:

In a 2 cup container add the dry ingredients. You can make several dry mixes at a time and leave in the cupboard for an easy breakfast.

The night before add the almond milk and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Top with the fresh fruit and place in fridge.

In the morning pull out the muesli and you are ready to go!

 Forgot to make your overnight muesli the night before? No worries, you can make a porridge. Place both wet and dry ingredients in a pot excluding fresh fruit.  Add another ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 5 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and let it stand covered for 2 minutes. Top with fresh fruit and enjoy a warm bowl for breakfast.

Get creative! This muesli is really a blueprint for whatever you have in your cupboards.

 

Brain Fuel Coconut Squares

This is a staple recipe for summer (or winter) adventures that even the more skeptic people will like.  It's like a macaroon meets a energy bar. I always tend to stick to a low sugar content, so if you and your family have a sweet tooth, feel free to add more maple syrup or use chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs. Go ahead and make these delicious gems for the long weekend- you can even get patriotic and put goji berries for some Canadian flare. Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!

Even if you have been living under a rock for the last decade you will have heard about the many benefits of coconut oil.  This saturated fat is a powerhouse of nutrients.  Wait a minute, did I just say that it was a saturated fat, and it is healthy? Sure did.  Over the last 50-60 years we have heard saturated fat leads to heart disease, obesity, elevated cholesterol and even Alzheimer’s!  (Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.) The thing about fats we must understand now is that not all fats are created equally.  Key word being “created”.  While other saturated fats occur naturally the dangerous saturated fats are MAN-made and MANipuated into a saturated state called hydrogenation (where unsaturated fats are made into saturated fats yielding a rancid, thickened oil that only profits processed food shelf life). 

Hydrogenated fats like margarine or some peanut butters (trans fats as you might know them) were once deemed “heart healthy fats” but discovered as the enemy to good health.  Now just because this artificially manipulated saturated fat was labelled dangerous, than all saturated fats are bad right? Wrong? That would be like saying ketchup is just as good for you as tomatoes.

It takes us back to the whole food principle.  Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed, unrefined and are free from additives or other artificial substances.  They are foods found and consumed the way mother nature intended.  Natural occurring saturated fats are found in chocolate (coco butter), nuts, coconut, and animal fats like fish and butter, just to name a few.  Coconut oil in particular is the star of this bar. 

Coconut oil contains a saturated fat called MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides).  Our bodies send these medium chained fatty acids straight to our liver to be converted into energy acting like a carbohydrate with zero blood sugar spike.  50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is another saturated fat called lauric acid, rarely found in nature, that acts in the body as a virus and germ destroyer therefore anti-viral and anti-fungal.  Like other natural foods such as honey or maple syrup coconut oil does not go rancid! Great news for these Fernie Power Bars longevity…however they won’t last long due to popularity.  These are just a few of the many benefits of coconut oil. 

A word of caution.  Just because this oil is great doesn’t mean there are poorly processed coconut oils out there.  When buying them please look for the words like cold pressed, unrefined, virgin and organic.  This will guarantee the nutrients have not been altered or affected in the making.

If your day is full of spontaneous or planned adventures or even a lull in your afternoon energy, the Fernie POW’r Bar is a staple. 

Find this and other great articles in the Fernie Fix Magazine!

Fernie POW’r Bar (also known as crack bars)

Makes 25 squares

  • 2¾ Cups shredded coconut
  • 1 Cup coconut oil, melted
  • 6 Tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract   
  • A generous pinch of sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips

Prepare a 9X9 (or 8X8) baking pan lined with parchment paper. 

Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips/cacao nibs in a large bowl and mix well.  Using a spatula place mixture in the pan pressing it down so it is evenly distributed.

Spread the cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips across the top and with your spatula press them in so the top is relatively flat.

Freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour until set. 

Pop the parchment out of the pan and cut into 25 squares on a cutting board.

Store in a container in the fridge or freezer.

You can get creative and add things like goji berries, coco powder (you will need to add more sweetener), or other nuts and seeds. If you do, take it off the amount of shredded coconut to keep the same ratio.