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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.

 

Bio-Diversity & Smoothie Formula

After 38 hours of travel we made it back to Fernie from Thailand. Does it take 38 hours? No, no it doesn’t but after having five months of travel go pretty smoothly there is bound to be some hick-ups. All I will mention is that at the start of our trip we went to the wrong airport in Bangkok- delaying us another 24 hours on top of that.  It made landing in Cranbrook and getting to Fernie so exciting and worth every mile travelled. Going from the intense heat (35-40°C) and lush vegetation of Thailand to the fresh bite of mountain air was easier than we thought.  We are truly fortunate to live in this valley and country with fresh air that smells so good it feels like you are drinking in nutrients with each breath. And although the vegetation is so different we live in an incredible jungle-gym of mountains, valleys and forests.

Despite the easy transition of climate I was very much jetlagged, once adjusted to the time- I was back in the kitchen and making all the things I missed while away.  After all the family staple dishes, each morning I naturally gravitated back to the smoothie.  Truly one of the best ways to get nutrient diversity of foods is the trusty smoothie. Yes, I know – all we needed is another smoothie article in the universe. You might be sick of the nutritionist approved foodie blogs about smoothies, but I have to say being away from Canada, this was one of the things I missed the most. I have to admit, my smoothies don’t look pretty at all -nothing like the colorful pictures.  In fact, my smoothies look like swamp water, cement or brown gloop depending on what I use.  For example blueberries are a tasty ingredient then add spinach, and voila, a brown smoothie (so for any picky eaters out there drink out of coloured cups).

The difference between this smoothie article and most others is what they all fail to mention.  The most important or crucial thing to remember is to change your ingredients often.  This really goes for everything you eat!  Did you know there are around 7500 tomato varieties grown around the world, and yet most of us eat only what is available at our closest grocery store. On average an American is eating fewer plant species a year – roughly 30 species a year compared to our hunter gatherer ancestors that ate substantially more. Remember that a plant species includes a variety of plants. For example kale and cauliflower are of the same plant species.

What to do then? Try. New. Things. Always change up your leafy greens, forage, go to farmers markets, eat a vegetable you have never had before, shop around, find different ingredients and get inspired to try odd combinations like spirulina and pineapple or medicinal mushrooms and chocolate, add some nut butter and YUM!

Smoothies are a quick, easy, nutrient packed-punch to start your day or fuel you for a Fernie adventure.  When you are making a smoothie into a meal, think about balance.  To ensure balance, always have at least one item from each macronutrient; Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.  Without balance you can become hungry before your next meal, have a blood sugar spike and crash or just not feel full or satisfied.

Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, juices, coconut water

Fats: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, coconut milk, nut milks (almond milk), nut or seed butters (peanut or almond butter)

Proteins: Hemp seeds (1 Tbsp=5g protein), protein powders (organic whey & plant based proteins), spirulina & chlorella (blue green algae high in chlorophyll, protein and micronutrients)

Make it green: spinach, kale, collards, beet greens, dandelion greens (forage!), parsley, mint, fennel, romaine, green cabbage, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts

Optional: nutrient dense superfoods, spices (cinnamon & turmeric), herbs, cacao powder, goji berries, dark leafy greens, cold tea, medicinal mushrooms, bee pollen, etc.

Tools/Best Blenders: The Cadillac of all blenders is the Vitamix or the Belndtec, by far the best for constancy.  More affordable and still awesome is the Nutri-bullet. 

Everybody has their own smoothie recipe it’s very personal to your own palate.  There are lots of recipes out there, but mostly it’s whatever is in season or what you have in the fridge or freezer. To start you off, here is a good guide. Now go get creative!

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

Smoothie Formula

  • 1-2 cups liquid (H20, herbal tea, nut or seed milk, coconut water)
  • ½-1 cup fruits (or vegetables)
  • 1 serving of protein
  • 1-2 servings of fat
  • 1-2 cups greens
  • Optional superfoods

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Tip: Place your greens in first then pour the liquids, this way they will blend in nicely.