Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart…


In an interesting turn of events, as we walked into the drugstore to get my little man a new toothbrush, he noticed and demanded to hold this tube of brightly coloured jelly beans. Once he was distracted by the toothbrushes I took a closer look and noticed my favourite line “no artificial colours or flavours” on the tube making it an official purchase “for baking” (as opposed to “for immediate stuffing in the mouth”). Upon even closer inspection it turns out that these beans are made in Ireland, and they somehow ended up on a random shelf in a Canadian drugstore, and to top off the weirdness of the situation, they scanned at 26 cents – ? I love finding new naturally coloured products and sharing the information about these progressive companies who “get it” and manage to create something fun and better for you. Take a minute to look at thejellybeanfactory.com and if a tube ends up in your or your little person’s hand, relish those lovely natural colours!

it can be done…

Wow, long time no post. I guess this is just what happens when you have a baby, and they take up more and more of your time as they grow. My son is 8.5 months now, and very demanding! Am taking the opportunity during nap time to tell you all that I am moving to the UK at the end of this month. We are going for a year and are excited and nervous about our big adventure. I had all these plans of blogging about what I’ll miss about Toronto, but that never came to pass. So, I am going to talk a bit about something I am NOT going to miss about Toronto, but that I look forward to in the UK – more foods made without artificial colours.

The other day I picked up some UK smarties (made without artificial colour) at a candy store and thought I would compare them to their North American counterparts, which use artificial colour.

Well, you tell me – is the difference so much that you or any kid you know is going to be heartbroken if they have to eat the ones coloured naturally? It’s crazy. I actually like the way some of the naturally coloured ones look better. And of course, the taste is the same, as far as I can tell.

So the big question is, why does Nestle in the UK make candy using natural colours, but cannot do the same thing in North America? Yes, I know the answer ($$$?), but I’d like to really know the answer they would give if I wrote a letter and asked them.

I feel lucky that I am going to be making my 1 year old’s first birthday cupcake in a country where I will have more options for going wild with the decorative toppings, along with my own naturally coloured frosting. Fun should not have to be artificial…

get your ABCs naturally at bulk barn

Bulk Barn is one of my favorite stores. What is not to like about a place where you can get all sorts of baking supplies, whole grains, organic ingredients and british candy all under one roof with the added benefit of buying in bulk? As I have mentioned before, my trips years ago to the Bulk Barn used to be all about the candy, and the rows of brightly coloured goodies are still mighty tempting, but now I see them in a different light. Most of the stuff is artificially coloured and flavoured, not to mention other yucky things like preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, etc. So, the other day I thought I’d see if I could find any candy that was relatively “natural” which I could use as fun toppings on my cupcakes. Well, the interesting thing was there was a small section of “natural” candies which were made with real fruit juice, but only ONE of the candies had ONLY natural colour and flavour – alphabet gummies. My only problem was after scooping out quite a few, I ended up with not a great variety of letters, much like a frustrating game of scrabble. I will have to go back and take a closer look at the letters in the bin – it would be nice to be able to spell something!

Oh and yes, they taste and feel like real gummy candies. Nice to know I can get something like this close to home rather than making the trek to a large natural foods store…

morning lemon – easy peasy green tea lemonade

Another successful copycat beverage – green tea lemonade. The natural foods store around the corner from me is having an awesome sale on Santa Cruz lemonade (regular and raspberry which is highly addictive) $1.99 a bottle – you should check your local natural store!

I brewed up green tea (I like Yogi brand) – 2 tea bags in approx 2 cups just-before-boiling water – and put into an empty lemonade bottle, which filled it up about halfway. I topped it up with lemonade, gave it a good shake and popped it in the fridge. A bit later over ice it was perfect.

almo(st) mochaccino

It was big news when Starbucks opened in my neighborhood, which is made up of mostly small independent shops and cafes. Of course it had to open near the end of my pregnancy, when I was desperately craving chocolatey/milky things daily. My husband and I got a bit too used to the 2 minute walk around the corner and also chose to ignore the significant amount of money flying out of our wallets. Well, now that baby is out, we have cut back significantly. A big reason for me besides spending too much is that too much dairy consumption by me noticeably affects my boy – in a spit up way! Not that it is causing him discomfort, but I was getting a bit sick of changing my/his clothes a couple of times a day.

Taking all this into account, I decided I still needed a daily treat (trust me, when you are taking care of a newborn, you need this) but I didn’t want to spend lots of money, and I didn’t want to have dairy or soymilk. So, I decided to invest in a thermo-cup and create my own version of a mochaccino – 1/2 instant coffee, 1/2 chocolate almond milk. Of course it doesn’t taste like a Starbucks mocha, but more money in the bank and less laundry makes it worth it. Besides, I love almond milk, and it does taste pretty dang good.

If you don’t like to have too much dairy and you have never tried almond milk, I highly recommend it. It has a nice consistency – thinner than soy milk but not as thin as rice milk, and it tastes great (not too almondy like you would think). I use the original unsweetened on cereal, have used the vanilla for baking (makes cupcakes extra moist!) and the chocolate is good straight up in a glass.

Stay tuned for another faux Starbucks drink attempt soon – green tea lemonade!

product newsflash – naturally coloured candy canes

candycanes.jpgI have to interrupt the silence of December views to let you know about a great product – naturally coloured and flavoured candy canes made by Pure Fun, who have made an appearance on this blog before. I took a special trip to Whole Foods the other day, and was rewarded when I turned the corner into the salad bar section and saw a huge display of these beauties. I was so excited to try them – they taste great. It’s so nice to know you can eat something fun and sweet this time of year and not worry about the artificial colouring. And the price is not bad – $2.99 for a pack of 12 is definitely worth it to me. So I thought I’d share this photo of cupcakes I made for our neighbours using the candy canes as a topping on peppermint frosting. Unfortunately I did not get to taste one of these lovelies this time around, but have been told they were yummy!

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morning lemon – sweet sparkles

lemonadelabel1.jpgSo, being pregnant, I have a bit of an exaggerated sweet tooth. I try to keep it in check as best I can, but I figure, hey – I may only get this chance once so I might as well indulge a bit! Of course, even though I want something sweet, it doesn’t mean I want something loaded with high fructose corn syrup and artificial additives. At one of my favorite stores down the street Farmer’s Daughter, I often peek at/covet the elegant bottles of french lemonade. So the other day I thought – today’s the day I’m just going to let myself have one. There is good reason why I don’t indulge in these bottles more often, and it has nothing to do with the ingredients – it’s the price. The bottle I picked up was $7.25 (yikes) so if you ever see them anywhere for less than that, you’re getting a deal.

lemonadelabel2.jpgA short ingredient list – that’s what I love. Especially in these lemonades (I got the classic “french” style which is clear, but there is also a more lemony one, and pink, plus a few other interesting drinks in their product line) when all you’re looking at is carbonated water, beet sugar (as opposed to cane sugar) citric acid, and lemon aroma (which I’m assuming is from some sort of herb – maybe lemon balm?) The pink lemonade is coloured with elderberry concentrate – nice. As it clearly states on the bottle “contains no juice” – so it’s not a nutritional drink, it’s a treat. But a treat you can feel pretty good about instead of having a soda. I’m sure they would make a great mixer for alcoholic drinks at parties as well – I’ll have to get back to you about that sometime next year…

have you been to Bulk Barn lately?

flax.jpgI remember a time when I used to go to Bulk Barn to buy sour gummis and chocolate almonds. I also remember that the store was kind of grungy and seemed uncool. Maybe you have similar memories, and haven’t been there in ages. Well, I’m here to tell you that my recent visits have been quite different (except for the chocolate almonds :)).

It seems to me that somehow over the years Bulk Barn has cleaned up and changed its image a bit. I frequent the one at Shopper’s World Danforth (Vic Park/Danforth) and it is very tidy and has good staff. I also noticed a new one opened up recently at 2422 Kingston Road (sorry don’t know the major cross street!) and it also looks sparkly and inviting. Aside from the fact that they don’t seem as grungy anymore, the real treat is the products that I never realized they had. Pretty much anything you need to keep your natural/healthy pantry stocked is there – we’re talking oats, flax seeds (buy the whole seeds, and grind yourself to ensure freshness), organic quinoa, brown rice, unbleached flour, organic cane sugar, multigrain pasta, etc. They also have a nice line of herbal supplements, gluten-free mixes, as well as soy and rice milks. For bakers, there is wide range of supplies, including tons of frosting tips, and cardboard cake boxes. Basically, if you need something, Bulk Barn is a good place to look.

Buying bulk dry goods is a great way to cut down on excess packaging, and usually save yourself some money. Also, I hate it when I am baking something and I only need a bit of say, brown sugar, and a grocery store forces me to buy a whole bag which will inevitably end up getting hard as a rock in my cupboard. I say, thank you Bulk Barn for giving me a choice.

What is your favorite indulgence at Bulk Barn? Come on, I told you about my chocolate almonds…

morning lemon – a drop of pure fun

180px-lemon_drops.jpg The other day, someone told me that when they were young, one of their favorite candies was a lemon drop. I can understand the appeal. Read this definition from wikipedia, and tell me it’s not intriguing:
“A lemon drop is a sugary, lemon-flavored candy that is typically colored yellow and often shaped like a miniature lemon.”

I think it’s the miniature lemon part that I am most drawn too. They’re so cute! But unfortunately, when I looked up the ingredients, I saw some of my most dreaded foes, synthetic food dyes like yellow #5,6, etc. These food dyes are bad news – they have been implicated in allergies, ADHD, and have been shown to be potentially carcinogenic. It is a shame that so many products available in North America today still use these dyes, when many European countries have banned them. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I have been experimenting with herbs to colour food, and guess what – other people are catching on to the idea.

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I recently found these hard candies at Whole Foods Market which are made with natural ingredients, and coloured with HERBS. One of the flavours is lemon, and although not shaped like a mini-lemon, they look like little lemon slices.

purefunlemon.jpgAnd guess what – they taste good! Of course, they are candies, meaning once in a while indulgences, or maybe not at all depending on your situation. It is nice to know that for those who can indulge but still want to feel ok about what they are eating, the choices are increasing. It’s an exciting time in food history, when we are truly going back to basics, with a modern twist.

coupon book giveaway, changes coming

Very soon there will be some major changes to my blog. I can’t wait for you all to see them! Things have been very busy around here, what with working at the trade shows, writing for Torontoist, and general nutritionist duties! Thought you might like this pic of me at the Green Living Show working for The Healthy Shopper again (I’m on the left!)

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This time I got to talk to a lot of people about Nut Thins, a nut/rice cracker made by Blue Diamond which is gluten-free. I knew that there were a lot of people suffering with celiac disease, which is when the body cannot digest the proteins in wheat, rye, and barley resulting in a lot of suffering and big changes in lifestyle, but did not realize just how many until I encountered it first hand at the show. It seemed like about 1 in 10 people came by and said “I have celiac disease” or “My brother has celiac disease” or “Our friend has celiac disease.” They were all happy to find another tasty and convenient product that they could actually eat. It felt great to be able to hear their stories and answer their questions. One of my favorite blogs is Gluten-Free Girl, written by Shauna James, who has celiac disease and has finished her first cookbook. Her writing is extremely personal and poignant – I am sure her book is going to be a huge success, and there are obviously plenty of people ready and waiting for more gluten-free recipes. I am planning on doing a story on this subject for Torontoist – stay tuned!

I have saved the best news for last. The Healthy Shopper coupon book is now available in natural food stores, containing over $110.00 in savings on amazing natural and organic products!
healthyshopperbook1.jpgThe only problem is, they can be hard to find, they get grabbed fast leaving none for you, and if you order one online, you have to pay shipping. I will send one of these hot little numbers to the first THREE people (living in Canada) to comment with the top three questions they would ask a nutritionist. The coupons are good across Canada, so if you are outside of Ontario, you still qualify!

Now, go outside, soak up some vitamin D, and enjoy your weekend!