Friday, November 17, 2017

Lifestyle: Healthy lunches at home, work and school

How to Pack a Healthy Lunch for Kids (and the Kids at Heart)


Editor's Note:

I am so excited to have my friend, Jodi Dennie from SD Fitness as a guest writer on my blog. She has some amazing insight and tips on how to make school lunches healthy and fun for kids. But I'm thinking- these tips are definitely applicable for everyone, young or old. So read on if you're looking to get your health on -  whether you've got young mouths to feed or if you're just trying to feed yourself!

- Angelie

*By Jodi Dennie*

Once the kids are out the door, we pretty much have to rely on our awesome parenting and trust that they’ll make some good decisions when they are on their own. There is one thing however, that we do have more control over, and that’s what they fuel their day with at school.  

Ensuring our kiddos are equipped with healthy nutrients and vitamins will set them up with the energy they need to push them through their busy little days.  Breakfast is an important meal and can be tricky, but that’s a different topic for another day.  Today, lunch is the main event and I am sharing my top 5 tips for packing healthy, delicious lunches for our kids.



 

COVER ALL THE IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS

It is super important that kids get a balanced lunch including all the important nutrients. There are three categories that you want to make sure are in their lunch boxes daily- Protein, Carbs and Healthy Fats. 

Protein

Protein will keep your child feeling satisfied, full and alert in class and less likely to crave all those sugary treats.  

Great sources of protein for lunch can be found in:

Eggs 

Lunch ideas:
  • Baked egg cups in muffin tins with veggies + cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Spinach and egg scramble


Fish

Lunch ideas:
  • Mini whole grain pitas stuffed with tuna
  • Tuna wraps
  • Fish Sticks
  • Salmon patties 
Meats

Lunch ideas:
  • Turkey sandwiches or wraps 
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Turkey or beef chili
  • any leftovers from dinner
Beans and Legumes

Lunch ideas:
  • Edamame sprinkled with salt
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Falafel balls
  • Lentil hummus with veggies + pitas to dip
  • Black bean quesadilla                                                                                                            

Seeds

Lunch ideas:                                      
  • Baked goods with hemp
  • oatmeal protein balls with oats, seeds and chia
  • trail mix with oats, pepita, sunflower and chia seeds
Dairy

Lunch ideas:   
  • Greek yogurt parfait with berries and granola
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Cheese quesadilla with veggies/beans                                                                                          
             
Carbs

Whole grain complex carbs will fuel your child with energy.  Stick to whole grains that give added fibre like:
  •  whole wheat bread
  •  pita
  • wraps
  • brown rice
  • gluten-free or whole wheat pasta 
  • oats
  • whole grain pancakes or waffles
  • whole grain or gluten-free baked goods

Vegetables and fruits as well as beans and legumes are carbs as well, so load your plates with them/ My kids love sweet potatoes fries and fruit salad.

Fats

We want to make sure our kids are consuming fats - the good, healthy kind....and yes, there is such a thing.

Contrary to our popular belief about fats, our bodies require good healthy fats to supply nutrients that are essential for growth and energy. 




Fats are also super important to the brain (which is 70 percent fat). So, we want to make sure our kids are getting fats like:
  • avocado
  • seeds
  • eggs
  • coconut oil
  • cheese
  • salmon
Tip: Try guacamole with veggies and pita to dip, or sunflower butter (which tastes just like peanut butter but is even better for you) with celery.

ADD SOMETHING GREEN + SOMETHING BRIGHT


I always tell my daughters, ‘green means good and bright means right’, at least when it comes to your fruits and veggies. 



Green vegetables are loaded with nutrients and are super filling.  The brighter, more colourful the vegetable or fruit means the more antioxidants and nutrients they have. 

My go-to greens:
  • cucumber coins
  • edamame
  • green peas
  • celery with sun-butter and raisins
  • broccoli with dip
  • guacamole

My go-to brights:
  • apple slices
  • blueberries
  • grapes
  • watermelon
  • sweet potato wedges

MAKE IT KID-FRIENDLY

Now that you've got the basics covered, it's time to make it fun! 




Kids love bite-sized food, fun shapes and anything that they can eat with their fingers.  It's not necessary to stay up all night carving flowers and dinosaurs out of cucumbers and avocados, unless that’s your thing. 

I am just talking about a few easy and simple tips to making lunch more appealing to kids. The goal is for them to come home with empty lunch boxes.

Here are some tips to make the meal more appealing to your little ones:

  • Cut fruits and veggies into small pieces rather than sending the whole apple or pear
  • Skewer foods like berries, grapes, cheese, cherry tomatoes, or pieces of bread onto sticks or toothpicks
  • Use colourful silicon baking cups to hold foods in place and keep them organized in their lunch boxes
  • Small picks and utensils in their favourite colours are a nice touch
  • Kids enjoy dipping their food in sauces and dips like guacamole, hummus, sun-butter, tzatziki, salsa and yogurt.  Cut up some veggies for dipping or try apples, crackers, bread sticks, or pita.



PROCESSED VS HOMEMADE AND THE 80/20 RULE

When it comes to treats, I go by the 80/20 rule.  If 80% of their meal is healthy, clean and nutritious then I am okay with 20% being a more processed treat. 

I do prepare some baked goods like muffins and protein balls that are great for lunch additions.  

But, I also purchase pre-packaged snacks that the kids love. It's all about balance.  

Generally, I will pack 2 of these treats into their lunch.   



Some of our favourite store-bought snacks are:
  • squeezy fruit sauce pouches
  • granola bars
  • nutri-grain bars
  • goldfish crackers
  • fruit-to-go bars
  • freeze dried fruit
  • coconut chips 
  • chocolate chips
  • rice krispy treats


  CHOOSE THE RIGHT LUNCH BAG

I’ve tried a few different lunch-bags, but fell in love with our bento-style box by Yumbox.  There are so many options out there, but here are the 3 main checks that are a must:




1.    Leakproof- if you’re packing dips, yogurts, or sauces, you want a container that wont leak all over their bags and work.  Bonus if there are no detachable lids involved that tend to go missing.

2.    Green- choose a lunch system that helps to eliminate waste and the need to use baggies, and plastic wrap. We use reusable snack baggies for dry goods like pretzels and crackers, making for a waste free lunch.  If you are using a plastic container be sure it is BPA-free.

3.    Lightweight- opt for a lunch box that fits nicely into their backpack so there are less items for them to carry, especially for the little ones.



With these 5 tips in your lunch-making arsenal, I am sure you will be rocking healthy and delicious lunches that your kids will love!

 If you are looking for more tips on how to clean up your nutrition, my husband and I are all about living a healthy, balanced life - check out our Online Fitness Program which includes a full Nutrition guide with recipes. 




Friday, November 3, 2017

Travel: A Craft Beer Crawl in Ontario's South-west

Cheers to Craft Beers!


It's always nice to get out and explore what our province has to offer. There's so much going on in Ontario and I'm always amazed at the unique experiences you can find if you just look for them.

Now that November is here, I'm sure - like me, you are looking for fun and different things to do with your family and friends. Planning an exciting weekend experience is a great way to break up the long weeks of winter and gives you something to look forward to.

Photo courtesy of Jenelle Smit @nellescreations

I thought I'd put this post together to share some inspo for a fun activity that you can definitely enjoy- no matter what the weather has in store.



Craft Beer Crawl


I've never been much of a beer drinker, but I do love trying and tasting different foods and drinks. In recent years, I've started to really enjoy learning more about craft beers. So when I was invited to join a team of bloggers and writers to experience some of Ontario's own brews- I knew I wanted to come along.


Before this trip, I really didn't know that Ontario had so many Craft Brew Houses and Cideries to boast of. If you're into beer and food - these are must visit locations and very close to the GTA!

Getting There


When you're planning any kind of wine or beer crawl, it's a good idea to plan your transportation ahead of time. It's way more fun if everyone can partake in the activities and no one is stuck as the designated driver. Luckily, there are some awesome tour services you can take advantage of - Tour the Shore and Ride the Bine. I had a chance to check out both of these operators and had a great time!

Tour the Shore

Tour the Shore specializes in full and half day wine and beer tours in Huron/Lambton County (2.5 hours from Toronto). You can meet the tour in Grand Bend or you can get picked up in Toronto for an additional fee. Tours range from $90- $130 for 3-5 stops/tastings, transportation in a luxury van and dinner at Smackwater Jack's Taphouse. Their signature tours give you the ability to choose the area of Southwest Ontario that you'd like to explore and the stops you want to make.  You can even design a custom wine/beer experience too.

Our guide, Brad (the owner of Tour the Shore) was so informative and entertaining. He really made the experience so much fun!

Ride the Bine

Ride the Bine is a tour company that specializes in wine and beer tours in Norfolk County (2 hours from Toronto). I had never been to Norfolk before and I liked it so much, I was literally back the next weekend! This county has so much to offer and company owners, Amanda and Susan, really give you a taste of that with the unique and charming stops on their tour. Tours are about $95 dollars and include a local pick-up from your accommodations in Norfolk County.



Now that your ride is covered, I'm sharing my favourite stops on our tours, below. Hope these recommendations help you choose where to stop (and sip), when you're planning your own beer crawl.

Photo courtesy of Sik Photography

Where to Sip

Twin Pines Orchards and Cider House
This was my second time to Twin Pines Orchards. I love their Award winning cider, friendly staff and the charm of their gift shop and grounds.


Photo courtesy of Jenelle Smit @nellescreations


This is the perfect place for a little photo op too - their autumn decor was so stunning!


Cow Bell Brewing
This is a must visit. The brand new brew house is always a buzz with visitors. Stay awhile and learn about their sustainable and innovative practices while enjoying something off their full dining menu. Cow Bell is a destination in and of itself and soon will even have an outdoor amphitheatre on site that will accommodate up to 15, 000 people! Summer concert, anyone?

Oh P.S. for all you Harry Potter fans, they even had Butter Beer when I visited, in celebration of a Potter convention that was in town - how fun!




Bad Apple Brewing Company
This was a cute little stop to check out some hard ciders. They also have a full apple orchard with pick your own apples!




Stone House Brewing
A picturesque, little (you guessed it), stone house! This brewery has that family-run feel and we definitely enjoyed tasting their German-style beers. Try the Czech-style Stone House Pilsner.





New Limburg Brewery
A throw back to your elementary days, this brewery is inside what used to be a school. Delicious beers - it may be hard to pick which one you'd like to taste. We went with a flight and there was truly something for everyone.



This is the kind of place where you can sit down and enjoy your drink with some board games. You'll love the chalkboard decor, school desks and chairs which will take you back to your school days.



Hope you enjoy touring Ontario Southwest's Craft Breweries. Have any other favourites? Would love to learn about them in the comments below!

Thank you to my friends at Ontario Southwest  for sponsoring this blog post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.







Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lifestyle: Tips for Hosting an Autumn Brunch

Falling for Fall

I just love Autumn - the colours, the decor- the everything! It's such a magical time of year with all the golden hues and burnt orange colours in nature. I definitely love fall, so I was pretty excited when my mother-in-law asked me to help host a brunch party for my hubby's sister.

She was turning 31 so the idea was to have a pretty little spread at home, celebrating her big day. She's a lover of Autumn and an October baby so I knew just what to do.

Here, I'm sharing some details and tips for hosting a little Autumn brunch of your own.




The Colour Palette


If you're hosting an event in the fall, it's always nice to play up the natural colours of the season. Here I went with a sunflower motif and faux leaves in the colours of the season: rust, amber and burgundy.


I also used natural wooden accents with rustic platters and baskets. It really added a special touch to the fall theme.


The Menu


If you have a guest of honour, make sure you take their likes and dislikes into account. My "SIL" had requested waffles, so I had a great jumping off point. I decided to go with a "DIY Waffle Bar" which everyone seemed to like. Some of the garnishes I set out were: blueberry compote, maple syrup, whipped cream, berries and chocolate chips.


There's something about lots of toppings that is very party friendly. We added some more brunch favourites like parfaits, mimosas and store bought pastries/quiches to make a really nice spread.







A good tip when planning your menu is to keep in mind is that brunch should always have a combination of sweet and savoury treats. That way, there's something for everyone - regardless of what they feel like eating.


I also love the idea of DIY food stations. It ensures guests have something to do while they mingle and is an instant conversation starter. Plus - it's so much fun!

Prepare Ahead


When you're having any kind of event, it's always a good idea to prepare ahead of time. You want to make everything as seamless as possible when your guests arrive. Set out cutlery, serving spoons and platters ahead of time.




Also - anything that can be prepped early, should be - keep it ready and in the place where you will need it.

Tip: Prepare anything that needs to be served hot, at the very end so you don't have to reheat it.

For this boozy brunch, I prepared glasses with orange juice and a strawberry garnish ahead of time. That way, guests could add some bubbles right before they were going to have a drink.



When planning a party, I think the easier you can make it on your guests, the more fun they will have and the more relaxed you will feel while hosting!

All the extra effort and little touches always pay off when your friends and family have a good time. In this case, the birthday girl was all smiles so I'd say - mission accomplished.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Recipe: Apple Crisp

Holiday Dessert Traditions


Nothing says Autumn like the scent of apples and cinnamon in the air. With Thanksgiving around the corner, thought I'd share a seasonal recipe that really puts my family and I in the harvest mood.
My father's birthday is in October and desserts with apples and cinnamon are his absolute favourite. As a result, my whole family really looks forward to the smells and tastes of this autumn treat since it's the kind of dessert we grew up enjoying. You can be sure you'll find apple crisps, crumbles or pies on our holiday table every year.




This time, I made this traditional dessert a week early as I was feeling festive and couldn't wait to test out my brand new Staub ceramic casserole dish! It was so easy to clean up afterwards and I have to admit - the cute pan made for some pretty pictures!


If you're in the market for a good pan- ceramic is perfect since it cooks evenly like cast iron but is lighter and pretty enough to bring to the table.

Back to Baking

I'm not much of a baker since I like to experiment and don't measure much in the kitchen but this is the perfect dessert that any beginner can prepare.

If you're in charge of dessert for your holiday meal, I recommend giving this recipe a try. It's quick and easy, plus it leaves your home filled with the fragrance of holiday spices. Plus - you'll feel so Martha Stewart-y when you pull your bubbling dessert out of the oven.


If you're taking this dish with you to a holiday party or feast, make sure to pick up some french vanilla ice cream to serve along with it. My favourite brand is Breyer's for that old fashioned taste! Another great accompaniment is Caramel sauce - it's just such a perfect combination.


Apple Crisp

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Makes 8 servings


Ingredients:

Filling:
6 apples  (3 granny smith and 3 royal gala or honeycrisp) - peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 lemon- juiced
2 Tblsp sugar (I used organic cane sugar but white sugar is fine)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon






Topping:
1/2 cup cold butter
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar (1/2 cup if you don't want it too sweet)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon



1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Combine the apples with lemon juice, white sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Mix to coat all the apples in the mixture

3) Grease a baking dish or line with parchment paper. Add the apple mixture to the pan.






4) Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl. Using a fork or potato masher, combine the butter with the oat mixture until the oats form little pieces (crumbs). Cover the apple filling with the oat topping and use a spoon to spread it evenly over all the apples.

5) Bake until the crisp is golden brown and the filling is bubbling on the sides of the pan.


Side note: I sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top towards the last few minutes so it caramelizes nicely on the apple crisp.


I love serving this dessert piping hot with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. For an added holiday touch, I added some caramel sauce too - so good!!

Hope you enjoy this recipe and if you try it at home, I'd love to know what you think!

Happy Thanksgiving!

A special thanks to my friends at Zwilling Canada and Staub for partnering on this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.