Have You Tried Dragon Fruit?


Dragon Fruit is a beautiful type of cactus also referred to as Pitaya. Its origin is unknown, but believed to be from Mexico and cultivated around the world.  It is more commonly found in Thailand and Vietnam.  The color can be a vibrant red or yellow with layers of leaves.

A dragon fruit is ready to eat when you press on the outside flesh and it gives slightly.  Any softer than this and it will be too ripe.  After washing the fruit, simply cut in half.  The flesh is easy to scoop out and contains black edible seeds, similar to kiwi (the skin is very bitter and inedible).

The taste is very mild and refreshing, slightly crunchy but not as tart as kiwis.  While dragon fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, they are also high in fructose and should be enjoyed in moderation.

The shell of the fruit is so pretty you can even use it to serve ice cream, yogurt or sherbet or sorbets. The fruit itself is best eaten cold.

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Cherry Tomatoes Fresh From the Garden


How lucky am I to get baskets full of cherry tomatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden every year!

Cherry tomatoes come in so many varieties and colors, and can range from tiny and round, to oblong, and as large as golf balls!

Not only are they high in antioxidants, they help lower cholesterol. And, they’re absolutely delicious – little bursts of fresh tomato flavor.

Check back soon for some scrumptious cherry tomato recipes!

Coconut Palm Sugar – Product Review


I heard about coconut palm sugar a while back but it wasn’t until I saw the product on Dr. Oz that I took an interest.

Being a dessert lover, of course I’m concerned about the amount of sugar my family consumes, so I was really excited to try coconut palm sugar. This sugar is also known as coconut sugar and is produced from the sap of flower buds from a coconut palm. It’s been around for thousands of years but we seem to be hearing about it more often, perhaps as we take a vested interest in our health and the foods we consume.

Coconut palm sugar is more commonly available as a granule, much like turbinado sugar, only darker in color.   Here are some benefits of coconut palm sugar:

  • Is considered safe for diabetics (please see disclaimer below)
  • Can help stabilize glucose levels
  • Rates low on the glycemic index
  • Very high in mineral content

The taste is similar to brown sugar with caramel overtones.  It can be used in place of regular sugar at a 1:1 ratio, and in my testing, it did very well except when caramelizing crème brulee, where white sugar would already be the best choice.

Coconut Palm Sugar

There are a lot of brands on the market so the choices can be overwhelming. What I like about this one from Xylitol Canada is that it is certified organic and available at a great price, even better when purchased in bulk.

It was not a difficult transition for us and we barely tasted any difference in our morning tea and coffee.  We used the exact same amount that we normally did with regular sugar or turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw).  The only problem we encountered was when we ran out and went back to regular white sugar.  It tasted soooo sweet!!!  We immediately purchased more coconut palm sugar; this time in bulk!

Coconut Palm Sugar from Xylitol Canada

You can also purchase products from their location (call ahead of time):

Xylitol Canada
41 Lesmill Road
Toronto, ON, M3B 2T3
Telephone: (1) 416-288-1019
Toll Free: (1) 866-995-9952

Note:
Keep in mind that coconut palm sugar is still a sugar, and should be used sparingly.

Disclaimer:
This review is based solely on my usage of the above product. It is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should always consult with your physician or other health care professional before starting any supplementation or use of products that may conflict with your medications, or if you have any health concerns.

Disclosure:
Product is courtesy of Xylitol Canada. This is not a paid advertisement.

Xylitol Gum and Mints – Aspartame Free – Product Review

XYLITOL GUM

Just like I’m addicted to desserts, the same goes for gum. I have packets of them everywhere, and buy them in bulk!

I started to worry about the amount of aspartame my family consumes and my naturopathic doctor, who I rely on for all our health matters suggested a gum made with xylitol.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute found in many fruits and vegetables. It’s formulated into a white crystalline granule that is low-calorie, low-carb, and safe for diabetics. It also has fewer calories than other sweeteners.

After reading up on xylitol, we tried several brands of gum. Our favorite one is from Xylitol Canada; it’s made with 100% xylitol from North American grown hardwood trees, is non-GMO and contains no artificial sweeteners.

While I feel much better about cutting aspartame out of our diet, I’d like to point out that all gums made with xylitol will not be as super sweet or juicy as regular gum. It took a while for us to get used to this, especially H, but the health benefits far outweigh the consumption of aspartame.

The gums are available in cinnamon, fruit punch, spearmint and peppermint. Our favorite flavour is peppermint!

XYLITOL MINTS

Xylitol Mints These cute mints come in environmentally friendly and reusable metal tins.

They are made from the same quality xylitol and one little mint will last a long time. They are available in a lot of unique flavors such as cocoa mint, fruit punch, lemon lime, licorice, peppermint and wintermint!

Xylitol Mints

For more information on these products, visit Xylitol Canada.  Here is a store listing.

Disclaimer:
This review is based solely on my usage of the above products. It is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should always consult with your physician or other health care professional before starting any supplementation or use of products that may conflict with your medications, or if you have any health concerns.

Disclosure:
Products are courtesy of Xylitol Canada. This is not a paid advertisement.

Baked Oatmeal with Maple, Brown Sugar and Toasted Nuts

I came across a new way to make oatmeal, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the stove-top method. It’s so easy and I really like the texture and taste, which is much like baked rice or bread pudding, only healthier.

While it takes about 50 minutes in total, including prep, you can still enjoy this delicious breakfast on weekdays.  It heats up very well in the microwave, and you can go about doing other things, as you don’t have to watch it!

The first time I made this, I found it quite sweet – 2 tbsp of brown sugar and maple syrup was excessive, and milk already contains sugar – 12 grams in 1 cup! The second batch, I used 1 tbsp each and it wasn’t enough. The 3rd time’s the charm … 1 ½ tbsp of both was just right. You can experiment to see what you like, in case you have a sweet tooth!

For added flavor, I’ve tried almonds, walnuts and pecans, as well as raisins and dried cranberries. Switch it up whichever way you like – this recipe is quite foolproof!

If you add milk to serve alongside the baked oatmeal, heat it in the microwave first. You don’t want to add cold milk to this hot and creamy goodness (H’s own kitchen note).

Baked Oatmeal with Maple, Brown Sugar and Toasted Nuts

Serves 4-6
Adapted from cbc.ca

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups large-flaked oats
  • ¼ – ½ cup toasted nuts (your choice)
  • 1 ½ tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp pure maple syrup
  • Ground cinnamon (I used ¼ tsp Saigon cinnamon or ½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon)
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups milk (your choice)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Grease an 8” square glass baking dish
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix oats, nuts, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Add milk and stir to combine
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, until oats have absorbed the milk
  5. Serve with fresh berries, toasted nuts and hot milk

Crofter’s Organic Premium Spreads – Product Review

I’m so excited to share our absolute favorite spreads with you! Crofter’s Organic Spreads are not your average jellies, jams or preserves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a product called “jelly” to contain at least 65% water-soluble solids (sugar), and must be made with concentrates or fruit juices. “Preserves” and “jams” must contain at least 55% sugar and 45% fruit. Crofter’s Fruit Spreads have only 44% sugar, so they are named spreads!

For the past eight years, we’ve been enjoying Crofter’s Organic Spreads and refused to buy any other brand. It took us a while to adjust our taste buds; after all, we were used to consuming sugary jams and jellies that didn’t have any true fruit flavor. Even the less sweet or “all fruit” jams can’t compare to Crofter’s!

Crofter’s Spreads are Non-GMO Project Certified, and certified organic.  We’re extremely concerned with pesticides! Their products are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, and the pectin is made from apples (not chemically modified). Crofter’s packaging is glass with BPA-free metal caps! Amazing!!!

The “Premium Spreads” are made with fair-trade cane sugar and have 30% less sugar than regular jams. The taste is truly delicious! We’re so hooked on the products that we’re very disappointed when we dine out and see other “jams” served. Once you try Crofter’s Organic Spreads, you’ll see what I mean, and you will “love” the pure, clean, fresh fruit flavor with a lot less sugar!

We crave them so much that we often give them as hostess gifts or part of gift bags for the holidays!

The Premium Spreads come in apricot, blackberry, blood orange, concord grape, four fruit (strawberries, raspberries, red currants and morello cherries), mango, morello cherry, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry, wild blueberry and biodynamic blueberry. That’s a lot of flavors!!! My favorites are blackberry, raspberry, strawberry and wild blueberry. H loves strawberry!

Are you craving Crofter’s Organic Spreads???  You can read more about Crofter’s Organic products here.


Disclosure:
Products are courtesy of Crofter’s Organic. This is not a paid advertisement.

NutraSea – Product Review

Are you taking your omega-3’s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are the “good” fats that can be found in foods such as fish, nuts, canola and sunflower oil. Our bodies are not able to produce omega-3, and you’d have to consume an enormous amount of these foods to obtain the optimal dosage.

Omega-3 (EPA & DHA) supplements can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Their benefits are numerous and include reducing inflammation, improving mental health and boosting your immune system. Omega-3 is also great for your hair, skin and vision!

It’s important to do your research when searching for omega-3 supplements. There are 3 forms of omega-3: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Supplements will have different ratios according to what your needs are.

Omega-3 supplements should be mercury-free without the fishy taste, or the burping up of fish oil. Purity is extremely important to us. We tried some samples of omega-3 capsules from different companies, and even though we took them with food, we couldn’t get over the burping! This was clearly a sign of an inferior product! Never again!

Which brings me to NutraSea products by Ascenta … I’m excited to share our favorite omega-3 supplement, which was highly recommended by our Naturopathic Doctor, and we’ve been taking it every single day for over eight years.

We take regular NutraSea, which comes in lemon and mango flavors. Both flavors are great, and the oil has a clean and slightly flavored taste. We usually buy the lemon flavor as it comes in a 500 ml bottle which is more economical. One teaspoon contains a total of 1500 mg of total omega-3 fatty acids. 1250 mg is guaranteed to absorb into our bodies. NutraSea | Ascenta has different omega-3 products.

Visit NutraSea to read more and find one that is right for you and your family. I am sure you will love and trust their products as much as we do!  More importantly, Ascenta products are third-party tested and certified for quality and purity.   You can even enter the lot number of your NutraSea product on Ascenta’s website to obtain a quality test result!

Notes:

Some people may think of omegas as omega 3-6-9.  The important omegas are omega-3 and omega-6 (6 in moderation).

Omega-6 – for a list of dietary sources
Omega-9 – to learn more about omega-9

Disclaimer:
This review is based solely on my usage of the above product/s. It is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should always consult with your physician or other health care professional before starting any supplementation or use of products as they may conflict with your medications, and/or if you have any health concerns.

Disclosure:
Products are courtesy of NutraSea | Ascenta Health Ltd. This is not a paid advertisement.

Quinoa Porridge

I never thought I would try quinoa for breakfast. To me, it’s more of a savory dish.

However, I woke up to another day of bitter cold temperatures and winter blues and decided to make it. I came across a simple and easy recipe from Martha Stewart. While quinoa porridge is an acquired taste, in my opinion, it’s an excellent way to start your morning while incorporating protein with every meal. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!

Quinoa is a superfood, packed with fiber and protein. It’s very nutritious and gluten-free. Quinoa also cooks fast at a 1:2 ratio (1 cup quinoa + 2 cups liquid such as water, broth or milk). You just bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Done!

Quinoa is slightly chewy with a nutty flavor, but it’s very bland! I added frozen blueberries, maple syrup, cinnamon and brown sugar, and topped it all off with some toasted pecans, pine nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds.

I have to admit; I prefer oatmeal, but if you do try quinoa porridge, or you’ve had it before, tell me what you think.

Quinoa Porridge

Adapted from marthastewart.com
Serves 2

  • 2 – ½ cups milk, plus more for serving (your choice of skim, 1%, soy, almond, etc)
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 tbsp light-brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  1. Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally and watch carefully as milk tends to boil over
  2. Stir in sugar and cinnamon. Cook, covered, until almost all the milk has been absorbed, about 8 minutes
  3. Stir in blueberries, and cook for 30 seconds
  4. Serve with additional milk, sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries (optional)

Kitchen notes:

  • It’s important to rinse quinoa, even if the packaging indicates it’s been pre-washed
  • I used red and white quinoa, and the color contrasts are beautiful
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six months