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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. 

Vegan Hemp Seed Parmesan Cheese

So my family loves cheese. I love cheese, however cheese doesn't love me.  I am lactose intolerant, or as my brother Mike says "You're not lactose intolerant, people are intolerant to you eating lactose."  If you don't know what he means by that, ask what happens when someone eats dairy that shouldn't eat dairy. :)

One cheese I miss is Parmesan. After trying a few alternative recipes, I came up with this quick and easy healthy substitute.  You can put this stuff on everything, Caesar salads, soups, pasta...you name it.  Store it in your fridge for up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long).

Vegan Hemp Seed Parmesan Cheese 

  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt (depending on how much you like salt)
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until everything is incorporated. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

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.

Healthy Pad Thai

After the winter season wrapped up in Hakuba and seeing a world champion sumo match in Osaka it was time to say goodbye to beautiful Japan and hello to hot and sunny Thailand!  Since we landed in this amazing country we have been in awe of the kindness and love this country exudes.  I play this game when I travel while walking down the street, I smile at people – and see how many people smile back.  It’s not an over-the-top smile, just a soft happy smile.  To my surprise, this is by far the happiest and smiley-ist country I have ever been to.  No matter what a Thai person is doing they will always smile back, huge and joyful- I have now learned it’s called the Thai Smile. 

The next greatest thing here is the food, oh my god the food! Vibrant fruits, smoothies, spicy soups, noodle bowls, satays. I mean summer food can’t get much better. Food heaven. So I set out to learn how to make some Thai dishes in a cooking class (surprised?).  I teach cooking classes when in Fernie, so I thought lets support the local community and dive into a small town class.  We were in the north of Thailand in a little town called Pai, very laid back and nestled in the mountains. Pai is the ultimate chill out, read a book, go for a hike, mountain bike, learn muay thai boxing and eat good food kind of place.  It was my Thai-Fernie away from Fernie. 

The tiny cooking class started in the afternoon.  This local lady, our chef, didn’t have her driver’s license so instead of her walking to the market I offered to come early and drive her on the back of my scooter. I secretly wanted in on the local market and she happily agreed. Here I was with a nervous little Thai women clutching me as we drove into town to the afternoon market.  There are three markets each day in this town, a morning, afternoon and night market.  The morning market is more commercial produce and meats that have driven far distances.  The afternoon market is only food grown or raised in the community and the night market is local vendors selling street food and goods.  Naturally this little Thai chef chooses to support her community and so this brought us to the sweltering hot entrance of the afternoon market. 

If you are anything like me and want to know what every strange looking foreign food is, this was the place. You could pass a stand with fresh tamarind– a long brown bean pod with sticky and tart date-like brown seeds and then right next to the tamarind stand is a lovely elderly lady selling ant eggs wrapped in banana leaf.  Yes, after a few deep breaths I tried ant eggs…when in Thailand right!?  We went from stall to stall, each having their own specialty, and gathered the ingredients we needed.  I had no idea you could buy fresh rice noodles (like you can pasta) which requires only stir-frying and no boiling, mind blown.  There were a few stands here I understood why us foreigners get upset stomachs from the food.  After working in the food industry in Canada where cross-contamination is avoided at all cost, then here I was watching a lovely lady handle raw chicken, then without washing her hands go straight for the tofu and then give you change with one hand while wiping her forehead with the other.  But like I said, When in Thailand! 

We returned with all the ingredients in tow, a tricky endeavor as these scooters are small. Among the super tasty recipes we made, this is one of them with a few twists.  You can easily add more vegetables like finely grated carrots or use spiral sliced vegetables as the noodles.  Bring some of Thailand’s flavour into your kitchen and hopefully bring the summer sun to Fernie. 

Authentic Healthy Pad Thai

  • 300-350g of thick rice noodles (you could use zucchini noodles too)
  • 1 knob of ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 package of organic chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch peices
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu, diced small
  • 2 local eggs
  • 1½ Tbsp + 1½ Tbsp coconut oil or sesame oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup green onion, chopped
  • 3 cups bean sprouts, for garnish
  • 3-4 large leaves of kale thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • ¼ cup crushed peanuts or salted cashews

Sauce ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chicken/vegetable or bone broth
  • 3 Tbsp coconut sugar or raw cane sugar
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tamarind paste 
  • 1 tsp chili sauce (I used sambal oelek)

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl combine sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Cut up tofu and place in bowl to marinate, toss until evenly coated.
  2.  Prep chicken, garlic, green onions, kale and lime wedges.
  3. Place a large pot of water to boil on stove. 
  4. In a sauce pan over medium heat melt ghee, add garlic and chicken.  Once chicken in cooked through, move chicken to the side of the pan and crack egg and scramble.  Once eggs are cooked though add sauce, tofu and kale. Reduce heat to low when sauce and tofu are heated though.
  5. Once water is boiling, cook rice noodles according to package instructions (usually only 3 minutes), drain and add to sauce pan. Stir and coat noodles in sauce.
  6. Transfer to serving plates and top with a handful of bean sprouts for each plate, crushed peanuts and squeeze fresh lime juice on just before eating.

Matcha Tea & Latte

As spring touches the Japanese Alps of Hakuba, Nagano, Japan the rivers fill with white water and the sasa grass, the native bamboo shoots with long green leaves poke their heads through the snow again. The mountain air is warmer on your face, the corn snow is delightful around noon, two-toned faces of goggle tans are a sign of happy riders and the buds of green are making the streets of Hakuba sing spring.

I’ve felt green as grass since arriving here in November. For a total of 4 months I have had no internet at home and also have not had a cell phone, ipad or i-anything for that matter. Just a good ol fashioned laptop. It has been freeing in so many ways, it has come with it’s hardships and frustrations but this rare blessing has been just that, a forced but detached blessing.  I have read books, spent lots of time thinking, meditating and mostly being present with the people around me. While today’s world is so dependent on being connected 100% of the time, making sure all of our moments are recorded and shared. Having my own business I felt as though I needed to be always online.  it’s a huge eye opener how much it gives but also takes from every situation.  In the land of technology I found the present moment with no way of letting anyone else know, but me.

I couldn’t write an article with the theme green without chatting about something very traditional, ceremonial and sacred to japan, matcha. I’m sure you have heard by now the health benefits of green teas antioxidant value- it’s next level.  But instead of talking about green tea and if you know me at all by now, let’s turn up the gnar points and go for nutrient density, besides which we all know how to steep some tea, lets go crazy and eat the whole tea leaf!  Yes that is right, matcha is the powdered leaf of green tea.  The stems and vines are removed and the delicate leaf is carefully made into a fine powder. This fine powder of green tea is host to many healthful benefits. In fact there are more than 137 antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea! If that alone is not great enough, consuming matcha improves memory, concentration and metabolism. This chlorophyll-rich tea leaf gives a boost of energy but unlike coffees crash this green tea leaf provides a crash-free experience leaving you feeling refreshed. Just before harvesting the leaves produce L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps us balance caffeine, therefore a better option for those who are sensitive and can’t metabolize caffeine.

There are different grades and specific times this green tea leaf is harvested. Before harvesting the tea leaves are shaded from the sun to produce more chlorophyll (green blood of plants) which makes it a deep and vibrant green. The most prized matcha is the first harvest or ceremonial matcha where the leaves are carefully picked in the spring, giving it a smooth light flavour. The last harvest matcha is picked in the late summer rendering an earthy and slightly sharp flavour. The later harvested matcha is more affordable and mostly used for lattes, flavouring dishes, baked goods and other drinks.  It also works great as a food colouring. Because of matchas distinct flavour, if you are new to this try a matcha latte or adding it to/sprinkling it over some chocolate –my fave. 

Japanese tea ceremonies are an age-old tradition. Although the ceremony centers around the matcha tea, the focus is on the aesthetics of preparation, serving and drinking of the matcha.  It is a true art form to watch and witness.  The cups and tools of the ceremony are just as delicate and beautiful.  The bamboo spoon used to measure the matcha powder is called a chasaku and two scoops measure a perfect cup. This spoon looks more like a bent flat stick. The sifter (furui) and bamboo whisk (chasen) help deliver the smooth creaminess of the tea. The whisk is a beautiful tool with many delicate prongs to ensure the fine powder is mixed thoroughly.  

The beautiful ritual of making tea is about patience and delivering liquid nutrition to our bodies. Tea ceremonies were influenced by zen buddists and the art of preparing it is very meditative.  Let’s bring a little more green to your morning and try some matcha tea.

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

Traditional Matcha Tea

  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 5 oz or 2/3 cup hot water
  • Bamboo whisk

Place the bamboo whisk into a glass of water so the tines soak and become soft, flexible and supple.

In the bottom of your mug place 1 tsp matcha powder, if you have a matcha sifter or a fine mesh sifter you may use it at this point.  Sifting your tea will break up the fine clumps and guarantee a smooth and creamy cup of tea.

For a traditional cup of matcha tea, allow the boiled water to cool to 170 ˚F (just under boiling). Add 5oz of the hot water to the tea.

Using your bamboo whisk, vigorously whisk back and forth for 20-30 seconds to blend the matcha powder and water. Refrain from using a metal whisk, as an alternative you can use an electric milk frother.

Once blended move the whisk in a zig-zag motion to create a light foam or froth. Be sure not to press on the bottom and bend the prongs of your bamboo whisk.

Enjoy each sip of this healthful beverage.

Matcha Latte

  • 1 cup milk or milk alternative
  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 Tbsp raw local honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Bring a kettle of water to just about boil and turn off.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat.

Bring to a very light boil, whisking occasionally-this creates a froth.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and sweetener of choice. Whisk to combine.

In a mug, combine ¼ cup water and matcha.

Vigorously whisk back and forth to dissolve matcha.

Carefully pour milk into matcha and enjoy.