Gaia is a little piece of heaven waiting for you in the Gatineau Hills.

I just attended a wonderful retreat in Wakefield Quebec.  I needed a quick getaway to recharge my batteries.  Gaia Wellness Retreat  did not disappoint.

Gaia takes care of you so you can take care of yourself and if you believe in magic you will find some here.

As a registered dietitian I feel compelled to review my experience with the food at the Gaia Wellness Retreat.

Owner and head cook, John Armstrong, oversees the vegetarian menu with help from Andrew and Jerome. These guys live for cooking and providing guests with nourishing healthy meals. Guests can expect home grown flavours right from the Gaia gardens with an emphasis on local produce. John knows that vegetarian cuisine is not just salads and quinoa.

While on a 5-day retreat I experienced a variable menu containing a healthy dose of plant-based protein. Meals are balanced and contain the recommended amount of protein, carbohydrate and fats. My favorite lunch meal during my stay was the Mexican inspired bean salad with sweet potato tortilla chips, local green salad with homemade vinaigrette and a cold  yogurt melon soup. My favorite supper was a sage flavored frittata served with cucumber tomato salad and a simple lentil soup.

image1To satisfy your sweet tooth there is an abundance of fresh and dried fruit available at any time of the day; as well as other healthy treats such as dark chocolate, hummus and crackers and my personal favorite a crunchy nut brittle. Beverages include a huge tea selection, freshly ground regular or decaf coffee and flavored spring water (during my retreat it was cucumber with apple). Feel free to bring your own drinks like kombucha. They have small refrigerators in each cabin.

 

At mealtime, I experienced new textures and combinations of flavors I never thought to try together. I guarantee you will be fully satisfied with each meal. If you are not accustomed to eating vegetarian you will love the variety and satiety achieved through this way of eating. You might even ask John for a recipe to bring home and incorporate into your own eating style!  (Remember that eating vegetarian is just one of a myriad of healthy diets.)

The best part is that John and his team will go out of their way to work around any food allergies, food preferences and fussy eaters (no questions asked).  No meat, fish or poultry are allowed on the premises.

Rest assured that the menu at Gaia provides for proper nutrition.

Enjoy the peace, enjoy the food….

 

Advertisements

Kale Mango Green Smoothie

Two of the newest fads in the food world is kale and green smoothies. Unlike many other food fads, these are ones I can get behind. I want to share with all of you a recipe I learned earlier this year for a Kale (Or Spinach) Green Smoothie.

Kale is a great dark green vegetable that provides vitamin A and K. The high fibre content in kale gives it a really interesting texture that I liken to collard greens. What I love most about kale salads is that unlike lettuce or other salad mixes, the dressing won’t wilt it down in just a couple of hours. It stays vibrantly crisp even after cooking it down in soups.

kale-by-b2

I had this smoothie while I was doing my Stage at Royal Victoria College – a McGill residence. They make this smoothie in their dining hall. I immediately told my supervisor, family and friends that I had just drank the best smoothie I’d ever had in my life. A couple of months later, I taught a basic nutrition class at two elementary schools and the kids loved it! They said “ew” and “gross” as they watched me pour all the kale into the blender but soon after, they oo-ed and ah-ed and proceeded to ask me for the recipe to give to mom and dad at home to make for them. I was really pleased with the outcome.

I love kale and spinach. However, I realize that not everyone does. BUT I can assure you that this smoothie may likely change you and your children’s minds about these dark and nutritious vegetables.

So follow this recipe and have a taste. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to the smoothie I had at RVC.

Kale Smoothie 2

Kale Mango Soy Smoothie (it’s Vegan!)

Makes 4-5 cups

  • 2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 cup no-added sugar orange juice or apple juice (or even just regular milk or water!)
  • 1 banana
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of kale (or spinach!!) – or more
  • 1 cup of frozen mangos

Directions

Add it all into the blender – I usually go with the exact order I listed (liquids first!). The recipe is approximate, and feel free to have fun with it. Add a lot of kale and spinach! If you like your smoothie thicker – add more frozen mango.

The secret is, the vanilla soy milk. It adds a nutty and sweet flavour to the smoothie that milk or regular soy milk just doesn’t. Try it with other smoothies too! This is great for those who are lactose-intolerant or have dairy allergies.

As the weather in Montreal is getting nicer, try this and let it become a summer staple.

D the Intern

Faux Chocolate Chip Blondies

I am tired of baking with sugar sugar sugar and white flour which is like sugar.  I found a dessert recipe with chickpeas and peanut butter and I modified it and made it for the family.  They were so-so about it but I think it is because of the peanut butter taste. Kids these days just don’t like good ol’ PB. It’s actually kind of sad.

Chick peas are a protein-carbohydrate food and they add the perfect moisture to these faux blondies. You can reduce or omit the chocolate chips altogether for a healthier version.

Nothing like home baked goodness instead of boxed processed junk. (D the Intern made these to bring to work and they were happily devoured!)

blondies 3

Faux and Flourless 

Chocolate Chip Blondies

1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 can of chick peas (drained and rinsed)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all ingredients except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until very smooth.
Put in chocolate chips and pulse a few times until mixed in.
Pour batter into an 8”x8” greased pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. 


Note: The blondies in these photos were marbled by melting the chocolate chips in a double boiler first and later stirred in. This proved more difficult than expected because the chickpea mixture is very thick. The melted chocolate didn’t marble that nicely. Either way, it ended up being delicious!

Try it and let us know how it turns out and if you liked it!

 

blondies 2

Olive Oil in Texas? I thought they only had bubbling crude, black gold, Texas tea….

On a recent trip to Texas, while staying here, I took a day trip to a real organic olive oil ranch with my family. My Aunt and Uncle, who both live in Austin, adopted a little olive tree. We stopped by the ranch to check on it since Texas is having a drought. It turns out all these beautiful trees are being irrigated regularly and the hope is they will start producing fruit by next year.

Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Ranch is located in the Austin hill country and there is also a thriving olive oil agriculture in California. The climate in Austin is hot, hot, hot in the summer but olive trees love that. Olive trees are one of the toughest trees around and they can handle abuse.

One of the son-in-laws of one the Gambini owners gave us a tour of the orchard and explained the process of raising olive trees. These trees need to be pruned very often to facilitate fruit production. If they don’t get pruned they get lazy and grow all over the place like snakes, and then they don’t produce much fruit.

We learned that the USA regulates the production of olive oil to ensure a top quality rancid free product. I was always under the impression that European olive oil producers were under the same strict regulations. Not so, said our guide. He is convinced the best product stays in their respective countries and lower quality oil gets exported. Well, one taste of the Californian/Texan olive oil and I was convinced too. A a high quality olive oil causes a mild burning sensation when it hits the back of your throat and it has an ever so slight bitterness to it.

While we visited Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Ranch my uncle treated us all to olive oil gelato. What a delicacy! We sampled vanilla, chocolate and rosemary with different flavoured balsamic vinegar. My favourite for the ice cream was blackberry but the fig went well with the kettle chips.

To find out more about Texas Hill Country Olive Oil click here.

20130831-093323.jpg

20130831-093355.jpg

20130831-093421.jpg

Black Bean Brownies

Cooking time: 25 minutes Makes 16 squares

image
Ingredients
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
3 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
2 TBSP vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 Tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (if desired)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put all ingredients in a food processor (except chocolate chips) and mix until smooth
Feed chocolate chips through the top chute with quick on and off pulses
Poor mixture into a well greased 8″ x 8″ pan

Dr. Joe’s Chicken Paprikas

CHICKEN PAPRIKAS

½ cup canola oil
2 chopped onions
5 cloves of minced garlic
2 green peppers
3 tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
15 pieces chicken with skin taken off (legs and/or thighs)
½ cup water

DIRECTIONS

Saute onions and garlic in oil until onions are translucent.
Add chicken and stir. Add chopped peppers, tomatoes,
salt, pepper and paprika. Stir. Add ½ cup water. Stir.
Cook 45 minutes on low heat. Place on bed of rice, dress
with parsley.

chicken-paprikash

Dr. Joe’s Cabbage Noodles

FLAX FORTIFIED CABBAGE NOODLES

2 Cups shredded green cabbage
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1.5 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

DIRECTIONS:

Saute the cabbage in 1 tablespoon of oil with occasional
stirring for 15 minutes. Stir in the flax seed. Set Aside.
In a separate pan, sauté the onions and garlic in 1
tablespoon of oil, add salt, pepper and paprika. Cook until
onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage and flax mixture and stir.
Separately cook two cups of noodles.
Stir the cabbage mix into the noodles.

Green Cabbage with Bowl of Spinach