An assortment of vegetables from my CSA box: bundle of orange carrots, a bunch of celery and a handful of mushrooms

How to Eat Organic on the Cheap with CSA

Food Philosophy, Personal

I’ve been M.I.A. for a little bit. Oops, sorry about that.

I started a new job about a month ago, and the extra responsibility has hit me like a ton of bricks. Work starts at an utterly ungodly hour which, on the bright side, has helped to regulate my sleep cycle, but when I get home, I am definitely not in the mood to do anything remotely productive. Mostly I spend my afternoons and evenings curled up with a book or hitting a yoga class, often while drinking way too many matcha lattes. But now that I’ve returned, I have something exciting I want to share with you lovely folks.

Introducing My CSA

Today is Wednesday, one of my favourite days of the week because it means that a CSA box arrives on my front porch somewhere between the hours of noon and 9pm. What is a CSA, you ask?

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”.

At the beginning of the growing season, you pay the farm a set fee and in return, you receive a share of the farm’s produce every week in the form of a CSA box. However, you also share the risks the farm faces, whether that is weather or pests – things out of the farmer’s control.

If you have never experienced the joys of the CSA, now is a great time of year to start. Each growing season brings its own unique produce. Over the winter, our CSA boxes tended to contain plenty of root vegetables and greenhouse lettuces and sprouts. I am currently drooling over the prospect of the warm-weather produce to come: juicy sun sugar tomatoes, plump berries, and an assortment of unrecognizable melons that prove to be scrumptious.

Advantages of Joining a CSA

Each box is a welcome surprise, and one that forces me to get creative in the kitchen. I often receive produce I would never have thought to purchase at the grocery store – garlic scapes, anyone? Tomatillos? Watermelon radishes?

There are costs to shopping at the grocery store.

Not only is shopping organic at the grocery store super expensive, but you are also losing out on the awesome nutritional potential of fresh and local produce.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always found that the signs over the produce bins at my local grocery store always read “Product of U.S.A.” or “Product of Israel” or some other far off place, meaning that your food has been transported a pretty long way to get to where you are. This can take a while, and in order to ensure this produce is not spoiled by the time it reaches the grocery store, it is often picked from the plant before it is anywhere close to ripe let alone brimming with nutritious goodness. The longer your produce remains growing and the closer it is to ripe when it’s picked, the more time it has had to suck all those awesome vitamins and minerals from the soil and the better it will be for your sweet bod.

Eating local is better for the environment and for your community.

Since locally grown produce does not have to travel very far to reach you, less energy is used up on transport. You might also notice that local food requires less packaging, which means that there is less to throw in the garbage afterwards. By supporting your local farms, you ensure that the future generations of your community have access to an abundance of nutritious food.

More vegetables from my CSA box: a beautiful head of green lettuce, a bunch of celery, and some carrot greens

Click here to find an Ontario CSA close to you (This link will be helpful to Ontario residents, but if you live outside of Ontario, I’m sure a quick Google search of local CSAs will be equally beneficial).

If you want to learn more about the benefits of eating local my favourite books on these subjects are In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I have also started putting together a library of my favourite nutrition and food resources for you! I’ll keep updating it as I come up with more. But for now, that’s my piece. I’ll see you next time!

Killer Crispy Kale Chips

Recipe

Bowl of crispy kale chips in a decorative glass bowl, sitting in the sunshine

Homemade Kale Chips are one of life’s great joys. They’re a healthy and delicious alternative to potato chips, and you’d be surprised by how easily an entire head of kale can disappear when consumed in the crispy, crunchy, bite-sized form that is the kale chip. There are endless combinations to how you can dress them, and seasoning can be whatever you feel like putting on them. Here are a few of the many reasons why kale is killer:

  • 1 cup of kale only has 36 calories, and 5 grams of fibre
  • Kale is an amazing vegetable for supporting the body’s detoxification pathways, it is rich in antioxidant phytonutrients, is anti-inflammatory, and can even help to lower cholesterol levels
  • High in iron: Iron is needed for the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, liver function and more. Per calorie, kale contains more iron than beef!
  • Great source of calcium: Calcium is needed for preventing bone loss which helps to prevent osteoporosis, and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk!
  • Rich in vitamins A, C, and K 

Uncooked massaged kale tossed with applewood smoked sea salt and nutritional yeast, spread out on parchment paper

Overhead view of oven fresh kale chips, in a decorative class bowl

This particular take on kale chips was probably the yummiest I’ve ever had. Ever. Erik and I were spoiled this Christmas by our family in North Carolina, who supplied us with some gourmet goodies from their local shops. They gave us two different infused olive oils (Basil, and Wild Mushroom and Sage) and three kinds of sea salt (they come in a bunch of funky colours, and each one has its own very unique flavour) which I’ve had quite a lot of fun experimenting with. They’re also a great way to jazz up any dish, ranging from salads, to soups, to whatever! For the splendiferous kale chips pictured here, I massaged them with basil-infused olive oil, and sprinkled them with some applewood smoked sea salt and a ton of nutritional yeast. Ugh, to die for.

All the ingredients I used for these kale chips: basil-infused olive oil, applewood smoked sea salt, nutritional yeast, and a head of kale torn into bite-sized pieces

Killer Crispy Kale Chips
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 bunch of curly kale (can be red or green, you decide)
  2. 1 tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil
  3. Sea salt, to taste
  4. Seasoning of your choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Tear kale up into chip-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl.
  3. If using olive oil, drizzle the olive oil over the kale and massage it into each leaf. If using coconut oil, the oil will melt from the heat of your fingers as you massage it into the kale.
  4. Sprinkle sea salt and other toppings over the kale chips and toss them in.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the kale chips in a single layer on the parchment paper. Do not put more kale on the baking sheet than will fit in a single layer as they won't cook through properly. You can save the remaining kale for another time, or bake a second batch.
  6. Bake the kale chips for 12 – 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don't get too crispy (by which I mean burnt :P).
Other amazing combos
  1. Sea salt and vinegar
  2. Nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper
  3. Homemade cashew cheese and chives
Annemarie Dixon http://annemariedixon.com/

7 Tips For A Vibrantly Healthy New Year

Holidays

The year is almost over, and my personal version of it has been both wild and wonderful. 2013 has been a roller coaster ranging from super amazing fun times, to some of the most stressful experiences I’ve had yet. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and looking back, I’m so excited by how I’ve evolved over the last year. There have been a lot of big changes and decisions I’ve had to make over the last few months, and the struggle still isn’t over, but I’m still going, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I’m very blessed to be spending this week nestled into a cottage in Muskoka with Erik (my other – cuter? – half) and his family. It has been a very different kind of Christmas than any I’ve had before since, this year, we are all much more health focused than we have been over previous holidays. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by and to be a part of such a loving and supportive community.

That being said, today I wanted to pass on some of that love and support to you lovely individuals! The year being almost over, I know that you’ve probably already started thinking about what sorts of New Year’s Resolutions you want to get cracking on in 2014. Here are some that will get you on the path to a vibrant, energized lifestyle! And you definitely don’t have to do them all at once. Start with one goal per week, and add on another resolution the next week. Baby steps, my friends!

Hydrate:
Aim for 1.5 – 2 L of filtered water every day. Our bodies are 75% water and as a result, water is essential for:

  • the function of every cell and system in our bodies
  • flushing toxins from our body
  • digestion
  • the absorption and distribution of nutrients throughout the body
  • lubricating our joints
  • reducing inflammation in the body

Try to avoid bottled water as much as possible. Not only is it harmful for your body (the plastic leeches some very unpleasant toxins into the water including carcinogens and nasty hormone disruptors that contribute to weight gain and estrogen dominance) but it is also harmful for the environment. Those piles of plastic water bottles will be left behind long after us humans are gone. Not to mention all the issues regarding growing worldwide water privatization. A simple solution is to invest in a glass or stainless steel water bottle and fill it up on the go. Do it! Your body and the environment will thank you.

Chew:
“Chew your water and drink your food.” Maybe you’ve heard this saying before? Try challenging yourself to chew your food at least twice as much as you do right now. We often eat our food so quickly, our brains are unable to receive a signal of fullness from our bodies until it is too late and we have stuffed ourselves. By spending more time chewing, you will be less likely to overeat. Chewing also sends a signal to the brain to release digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid which are necessary for breaking food down into absorbable molecules.

Eat your greens:
Leafy greens are a super concentrated source of nutrients and fibre which are both sadly lacking in most western diets and are essential for digestive health. Some examples of leafy green vegetables are spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, and cabbage. Try incorporating at least 3 of these delicious nutritional powerhouses over the next couple weeks. They are delicious steamed, sauteed, or raw, so be sure to enjoy them a few different ways!

Move:
The hardest part of becoming a more active person is the getting started part. If hitting the gym doesn’t seem particularly appealing to you, there are tons of other activities that might. Some fun examples are hot yoga, belly dancing, rock climbing, zumba, crossfit… I’m the kind of person who will quickly get bored with doing the same things over and over again, and perhaps you are too. Pick out 2 or 3 different activities that interest you, and make a commitment to trying them all! Most studios and gyms have an introductory rate for new members, so if you give something a good college try and still aren’t feeling it, move onto the next thing! My current routine has largely consisted of home workout videos and yoga at my favourite studio for the last year or so. Sometimes you’re just too lazy to leave the house, and having a back up plan for those days is great. Aim to get active for at least 30 minutes 3 – 4 days a week. It can also help to have a workout buddy or an action plan for the week to help hold you accountable.

De-stress:
Stress will kill you. Literally. It is a huge contributing factor to disease. There are always going to be times in our lives when we are feeling stressed out, but how we manage and cope with that stress is critical to how it affects us. Learn how to say “no” when you know you can’t handle more on your plate. Stay organized, make to-do lists, and know what needs to be done when. Then come up with some strategies for relaxing – whether it is lounging in a steamy bathtub with a book or curling up with a cup of tea and a book or popping into the bookstore and picking up a new book – in my world, whenever a good book is involved, I know it’s gonna be a good time. Regular exercise, yoga, and meditation are some surefire ways to get your mind off of stress. Know what you need to do to ensure a relaxing evening, and do it!

Sleep:
When you get out of your bath, or whatever it is you’ve done to get you good and relaxed, try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. If you are the kind of person who struggles with falling asleep, it really helps to have a sort of ritual and schedule around bedtime. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and avoid eating within the 3 hours before that. An hour or two before bed, start to get into relaxation mode. Brew yourself a cup of tea, put away the electronics, and sit down with a book or whatever you know is going to help you settle down. Getting those glorious 8 hours of shut-eye will help you:

  • avoid weight gain (particularly in the belly area)
  • keep those cravings in check
  • regulate your mood
  • strengthen your immune system
  • improve your mental function thus boosting productivity – no more brain fog! (I’m not the only one who walks into a room and forgets why, am I?)
  • look and feel your very best!

Let go of guilt:
So you slipped up on a resolution or two. Feeling bad about it is not going to improve the situation, and it isn’t going to help you in any way. Let go, forgive yourself, get back on that horse! We’re only human, and we make mistakes. Punishing yourself for something that happened in the past does not serve you.

And with that, I’m off to enjoy some more downtime with my family. If you have any questions, please leave a comment, message me on Twitter @amdnutrition, or shoot me an email at info@annemariedixon.com. In the meantime, I’ll be sending lots of love your way and I will see you all in the new year! Happy Holidays!

November 2013: A Few of My Favourite Things

Monthly Favourites

Hi everyone! I’m hoping to start putting together a monthly list of my favourite products, books, documentaries, foods, and anything else that catches my fancy. I know, its practically halfway through December, but here are some things that I really enjoyed over the last month!

1) Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Liquid Soap: Dr. Bronner’s has been my go to body wash for a while now, because it has so many awesome qualities. Not only is it fair trade and against animal testing, its got a pretty stellar ingredient list (Water, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Lavandin Extract, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Lavender Extract, Citric Acid, Tocopherol). It can also be used for just about any cleaning job you can think of including shampooing your hair, as a laundry detergent, or for scrubbing all that porcelain in you bathroom. I even used the almond scented kind to brush my teeth with once, in a desperate situation, though I recommend not doing this because, as amazing as its ingredients are, it still tasted like licking a bar of soap.

I’ve been loving my before-bedtime showers lately, because the lavender scent is so soothing. Lavender is known for its calming, sedative effect which may be beneficial for anxiety and depression, headaches, and insomnia. When applied topically, it is also antiseptic which makes it great for speeding up the healing time of scrapes and cuts, in decreasing the appearance of scars, and helping to treat skin problems (eg. dry and itchy skin, eczema, acne, burns, etc).

bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap in lavender scent

2) Blackfish: My boyfriend and I sat down to watch this documentary sometime last week, and loved it. Its about the psychological damage done to whales held in captivity, the effects of that damage, and how frustrating, cruel, and horrifying their lives are. It was heartbreaking, but definitely a must-watch. You can find the trailer HERE

3) Algonquin Tea Company – Sacred Blend (Vision Community Clarity): The list of ingredients in this tea is short and sweet – white pine, sweet grass, and sage. In a world where most tea blends contain fillers, GMOs, pesticides, and other nasty ingredients, Algonquin Tea Company is an amazing find. All of their ingredients are “handpicked, organic, and ethically wildcrafted in the Canadian wilderness”. How flipping cool is that? This specific blend is meant to be used for meditation, but I’ve mostly been enjoying it before bedtime since its naturally caffeine-free and promotes nice, tranquil feelings.

box of Sacred Blend tea for vision, community, and clarity from The Algonquin Tea Company

4) Giddy Yoyo Raw Chocolate: Good quality cacao is a serious superfood, my friends. Some of its super powers include:

  • improving cardiovascular and digestive health
  • lowering blood pressure
  • protecting the body from free radical damage
  • improving mental and physical well-being

Giddy Yoyo cacao is impeccably sourced, and their chocolate is a heavenly thing to behold. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the creators of Giddy Yoyo on a couple of different occasions, and the love and care that goes into creating their product is pretty darn inspiring. If you ever have the chance to hear them speak, you should go for it. They always seem to have tons of free chocolate for their audience to sample. I managed to score one of their chocolate bars in orange flavour (though I think I’ve tried all of them by now) at one of their recent talks and it was SO good, I forgot to take a picture for you. But here is the link to their website in case you wanted to track down a local distributor. 

5) Green Eggs and Yams: Including a good quality source of protein in your breakfast is essential for balancing blood sugar, curbing those cravings that tend to come up later in the day, and keeping you full and energized until lunch time. This recipe also makes a great winter breakfast because it helps you get your veggies in early in the day without having to resort to chillier options (Ahem, green smoothie, I am looking at you. Not to say that I don’t love a green smoothie, of course). You’ll find the recipe down below. 

green scrambled eggs on a plate with discs of roasted sweet potato

Green Eggs and Yams
Print
Ingredients
  1. 4 organic, free-run eggs
  2. 1 cup of your favourite greens (eg. spinach, kale, swiss chard)
  3. 1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
  4. 1/4 cup of organic goat cheese
  5. sea salt and pepper to taste
  6. 1 tbsp of coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Throw the first 5 ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Preheat a pan over medium-low heat. Add coconut oil.
  3. Once coconut oil is melted, pour in the egg and vegetable mixture.
  4. As the eggs begin to solidify in the pan, stir until they've reached your favourite scrambled egg consistency.
  5. Serve with a side of roasted sweet potato, or any other favourite veggie!
Annemarie Dixon http://annemariedixon.com/

Dinner at Live

Restaurant Review

Life can get a little bit crazy sometimes. Maybe you’ve taken on some extra responsibilities at work, picked up a night class, or have some other big project on the go. But what about your personal life? It’s during these extra hectic times in our lives that we also need to make sure to chill out on occasion and spend some of that precious down time with the people we love.

Let me just say, my life has been a little bit crazy as of late. But last night, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my friend, Nicola, for dinner at Live Food Bar in Toronto. Nicola and I have been friends since high school, and in the last year, she’s been been frantically finishing school as a design student before jumping right into her first graphic design gig. It was great to see her after so long and get caught up over a healthy and delicious meal!

Driving around in Toronto in the pouring rain at dinnertime was stressful, to say the least. I managed to find parking on a nearby side street, and made the trek through the rain to Live. Stepping into the restaurant was like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. The atmosphere in Live was bright and warm. The staff were very welcoming and friendly, and didn’t seem to mind my lame jokes. For instance, when I was joined by Nicola some time after my arrival, she decided she wanted to order the Pulled Burdock Wrap for her main but having no idea what burdock was, she decided to ask our server. She explained that burdock was a root vegetable that aids the body in cleansing. “By cleansing,” I asked, “do you mean it makes you poop?” (Side note: Nutrition school trains you to be oddly comfortable talking about poop, whether or not you are talking to a complete stranger.)

Should you find yourself at Live Food Bar, definitely try:

The Butterscotch Ripple Smoothie. BUTTERSCOTCH RIPPLE. How can you go wrong with that? This was a heavenly combination of coconut cream, banana, coconut sugar, date, lucuma, maca, and vanilla. I practically inhaled this, it was that good.

creamy and frothy glass of Butterscotch Ripple smoothie in front of one of the brick walls at Live Food Bar

The Hush Puppies. We decided to get these balls of sweet potato, cornmeal and quinoa, covered in maple glaze as an appetizer. These were awesome; so awesome I forgot to take  a picture. They came with a wasabi mayo which gave them a subtle kick to cut the sweetness, and were delightfully crispy on the outside, kind of like falafel.

The Black Bean Burrito. This burrito was quite unlike any burrito I’ve ever had before. It had some traditional ingredients: black bean hummus, brown rice, guacamole, corn & tomato salsa, spinach, and chipotle mayo. You could put guacamole on pretty much anything and I would love it. But the really stand out thing about this dish was that they pressed the burrito so that it had some crispy crunchy goodness to it.

crispy black bean burrito garnished with sauerkraut, drizzled hot sauce, and cashew sour cream

Dessert. I went for the Chocolate Hazelnut Bar which was a bit pricy considering how it was the size of my thumbs put together. Totally worth it though, because it was packed with hazelnuts, and rich enough that I didn’t feel like I needed anymore. I also picked up two Chocolate Cherry Cookies to enjoy with the boyfriend when I got home. I’m definitely going to have to try to recreate these at some point. They were not too sweet and go really well with a nice cup of tea if you’re feeling naughty.

Basically what I’m saying is: Go to Live. You will like it there. And with that, have yourselves a wonderful and inspiring weekend! I hope it is filled with tasty delights, lots of love, and relaxation.