Mexican Tortilla Bake (Gluten-Free)

Hello!!!! …. it’s me!!!

I am back in Canada and back with my OVEN! WOOO! So of course I rushed into the kitchen to create some new recipes.

Mexican Lasagna

Today’s creation was a Mexican casserole/lasagna type dish. I used Food For Life‘s gluten-free brown rice tortillas to make the layers. It is an easy filling dish to make for a potluck, a one dish dinner, etc…. with only 135 calories per serving!!! There are 2 layers. Layer 1 consists of peppers, tomato, onion, and Enchilada sauce. Layer 2 consists of ground chicken, habanero peppers, beans, corn, cheese, and enchilada sauce. You can easily tweek this recipe to be vegetarian by removing the chicken and swapping for extra veggies, beans/lentils, or cooked quinoa.

Ingredients (serves ~12):
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 lb lean ground chicken
1 pack (6) Food for Life brown rice tortillas
3 large tomatoes
1 Habanero pepper
1 cup corn, frozen
1 cup black beans, rinsed drained
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 package (8oz) Enchilada Sauce (I used Frontera Red Child Enchilada Sauce from Farmboy)
Sprinkle grated cheese on top

Instructions: 

  1. In a large skillet, sauce the peppers and onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  2. In a large casserole dish, spread olive oil on the bottom and then distribute tortillas to cover the bottom of the dish.
  3. Add the sautéed peppers on top of the tortilla layer. Add the chopped tomatoes to this layer. Distribute half of the enchilada sauce evenly on this layer.
  4. Cook the ground chicken on medium-high heat in the skillet with regular mixing. Add 2 tbsp of chili powder and 1 tbsp of cumin.
  5. Add another layer of tortillas on top of the veggie layer.
  6. Add the cooked ground chicken on top of the tortillas. Add 1 chopped habanero pepper, the corn, beans, distribute the rest of the enchilada sauce, and add cheese as desired.
  7. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of chili powder and 1 tbsp cumin evenly about the top.
  8. Bake at 350F for ~20-25 minutes. Put it on broil for the last 5 minutes to brown the cheese on top.
  9. ENJOY!! (nutrition facts below)

Mexican Lasagna 2

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories:135 calories
Fat:5.7g (2.2 saturated)
Protein:9.7g
Carbohydrate:7.6g
Sugar: 1.3g

Eating for your Eyes

Who new that your diet could play such a detrimental role in every aspect of your health? 

With my need for glasses, aging grandparents with vision loss, and a recent sty (ugh!).. the importance of maintaining a healthy vision has become more apparent to me.

Nowadays, our eyes are exposed to so much light which can be damaging to our retina. Through increased computer screen time, cell phone use, television, and just the regular day light…. the light exposure to our eyes is never-ending!

So how can your diet impact your eye vision? 

Two very important nutrients play a role in maintaining a healthy vision. Lutein and Beta-Carotene. If you are not regularly consuming a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables…. you are likely not getting an adequate dose of these nutrients. Beta-carotene, as I have mentioned in many previous posts, converts to Vitamin A within our bodies. Vitamin A is important to maintaining a healthy vision in addition to keeping your skin healthy. Lutein plays a similar role as it works with another antioxidant, zeaxanthin, to prevent damage to our cells and maintain healthy eyes.

What foods should I eat? 

Increase your intake of lutein by consuming dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale and spinach), eggs (FYI brown and white have the same nutritional content), corn, red peppers, and grapes.

Increase your intake of beta-carotene/vitamin A by consuming: yellow and orange fruits/veggies (e.g. sweet potato, cooked carrots, carrot juice, pumpkin, papaya, mango, etc).

Chervil-Carrots

Overall good health and nutrition is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. Don’t wait until your eye sight starts deteriorating to make changes. Get ahead and take preventative measures to prevent any deterioration. Nutrition is the greatest form of preventative medicine.

Try some of my personal recipes high in lutein and vitamin-A content:

Quick & Easy Sweet Potato Fries

Kale & Sweet Potato Chicken Soup

Plain & Simple Popsicles

I discovered the best Popsicles in Vientiane on the weekend. They are handmade here in Laos and only include natural ingredients…..fruit fruit fruit coconut meat and coconut water! 

If you are like me and try to avoid added sugars – you will know that commercially made popsicles are PACKED with refined sugars and many other ingredients. However, on a hot day (it’s 31 degrees here), I always crave something cold and refreshing. At home my go-to popsicles are the “Healthy Choice” brand fudgesicles (found at Costco) or I head to Chil  to get froyo on Richmond St. Downtown London, ON. They make amazing frozen greek yogurt with many options for those who are lactose free (almond milk base, quinoa milk base etc).

Here in Laos, finding popsicles or refreshing frozen yogurt that are natural and don’t contain added sugars is rare…. until NOW!

popsicle

I am so excited. I will definitely be making these at home and you definitely should too.

The flavour that I chose was coconut water + chunks of coconut meat. However, they had many other flavours – coconut water +mango, kiwi + strawberry, mango +coconut chunks, any fruit you can think of. These will be simple to make at home. If you have a plastic Popsicle mold (find at Walmart… grocery stores.. anywhere)… you are set!

MAKE YOUR OWN – you will need: 

  • Popsicle mold (find at large department store with kitchenware)
  • Frozen or fresh fruit of choice, chopped (I choose frozen mango chunks, coconut chunks, frozen raspberries)
  • Coconut water (Choose an all-natural brand of coconut water. Avoid one’s with added flavourings or sugars. If you can get your hands on a real coconut for coconut water…. even better!!!)

*Add the fruit of choice into each popsicle mold. Pour in the coconut water to fill. Freeze 🙂

Especially in the heat of the summer or after a sweaty workout – coconut water is a great natural way to replace lost electrolytes (potassium & sodium). And really…what better way to hydrate and replenish than with a nice refreshing popsicle? 🙂

Happy Tuesday from Laos!

Until next time.

xo

B

 

Food Spotlight on SALMON! What are the benefits?

salmon cover photo

Salmon is one of my FAVOURITE foods. I absolutely love grilled salmon for dinner… and what’s not to love? It is delicious and a great source of many nutrients. Salmon is especially abundant in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin D.

In one fillet(~100g) you will get:

  • ~17-20 grams of protein
  • ~13 grams of fat (only 3g of this coming from saturated fat)
  • ~ 320 IU of vitamin D
  • ~200 calories

Salmon is always noticed for its good quality fat content. It contains very little saturated (bad) fats and lots of the GOOD unsaturated fat. It is a substantial source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, DHA, and EPA.

ALA cannot be made in our body’s therefore, it must be consumed in our diet. However, DHA and EPA can be made in very small amounts.

Omega-3 fats are very important to brain, eye, and nerve development and health. 

The healthy fat content also may help reduce your risk of heart disease.

The government currently recommends you to consume fish at least 2 servings a week for the nutritional benefits. I definitely exceed the 2 servings (tuna and salmon are my go-to picks)!

The one caution I want to bring to your attention – if you are pregnant or are feeding fish to your child, you must be extra cautious of fish due to mercury content. Mercury effects the developing brain (small children or the developing neonate in pregnant women). Children that are 1-4 years old should only consume ~75g per month (states Dietitians of Canada) and pregnant mothers should consume no more than 150g per month. The general population is able to consume 150g per week.

This is an example of a healthy balanced dinner — one of my favs! Salmon (protein + fat), pan seared in olive oil (fats), and loads of vegetables/lentils (carbs). YUM!

Cooking tip: I usually keep it simple and cook my salmon brushed with olive oil, pepper + salt. Sometimes I enjoy to make a honey-glazed version by brushing natural honey on top or maple-glazed using maple syrup. All options are delicious and avoid the use of high sodium dressings/flavoured spice mixes 🙂

salmon

The Sweet Potato vs. The White Potato

potatoes

Po-tay-toe po-tah-toe… right? ………………

Nope! There is definitely a difference amongst the  various potatoes in the potato family. So which type of potato do I choose to consume more of? Today it’s a face-off between the sweet potato and the white (russet potato).

The SWEET potato is my go to.

 So why?… what really is the difference? Here’s the Nutritional breakdown for you: 

The Sweet Potato (medium size) The White (Russet) Potato (medium size)
112 calories 170 calories
Fiber: ~4 g Fiber: ~2 g
Fat: 0 g Fat: 0g
Protein: 2 g Protein: 3 g
Carbohydrate: ~26 g  (Starch: ~16 g) Carbohydrate: ~38 g  (Starch: ~33 g)
Sugars: 5 g Sugars: 1 g
  • 10 times the amount of Vitamin A
  • Higher Vitamin C content
  • Higher carotenoid content (maintain a healthy vision)

So, as you can see. Both potatoes still a great source of natural healthy carbohydrates. However, if you are looking for the most nutritional benefit and nutrient value…. pick the sweet potato!

The sweet potato contains more fiber for less calories and carbohydrates. It’s a substantial source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, carotenoids, and fiber. You will BEYOND exceed your daily need for Vitamin A with one sweet potato.  It may contain a tiny bit more sugar… but remember this is functional sugar…you need this for fuel. Your body will utilize this form of glucose as energy. Additionally, the sweet potato has a lower glycemic index than the russet potato. Therefore, it will have a less dramatic effect on your blood glucose levels and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.

Sweet potatoes also have more fiber than white potatoes. Insoluble fibre (as I spoke about in my previous blog post) is found in the skin of the potatoes and soluble fibre is in the potatoe itself. You should eat both for the most nutritional benefit. Fibre is a positive contributor to heart health… fiber causes foods to be digested and absorbed much slower. Therefore, causing a much less drastic insulin response (in comparison to a refined low-fiber carbohydrate product.. like bread!). It will help to regulate cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose.

In the end, everything is great in moderation. Both types of potatoes are an unrefined, natural, and whole food source of carbohydrates, protein, and fibre. They will be used as immediate source of energy in our body (as a carbohydrate). However, if you want to vamp up the nutritional benefit… the sweet potato is definitely a fair winner. GO FOR COLOUR. When it comes to picking fruits and vegetables, it is always the best to pick the ones with lots of colour (Green, orange, red, etc.). The colourful variations will provide the most antioxidants and nutrient content to your diet.

Try my sweet potato fry recipe and get a carotenoid boost: Click HERE 

spiced sweet potato fries

Enjoy

xoxox B

 

Food fact of the day: CORN (my favourite)

It may not be summer back home in Canada… but I’m sure we can all recall one of the best local foods of summer. Ontario corn… mmmm

Corn appears to always be in season here in Laos. White corn and yellow corn. You can buy corn around the corner at the local market or buy it freshly grilled from your neighbour on the street (MY FAV).

corn on the cob

Corn is part of the vegetable family, as I’m sure you already know. However, corn has appeared to have gotten a bad rep over the past few years. I believe this is because many people began to follow the (uneducated) trend toward low-carb diets and corn has a high starch (carbohydrate) content.

SO why should you forget about your “carb-phobia” and enjoy a nice corn on the cob?

Carbohydrates are important to optimal brain function and providing our body with energy…especially healthy carbohydrates coming from natural whole foods (like corn!). I have come across a few myths about corn… “corn is high in sugar” is one of them. One corn on the cob has ~90-100 calories. This is comparable to a banana at ~105 calories.

One banana has approximately 27 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of sugar.

One cob of corn has 18 grams of carbohydrates, 5g of sugar, and also a very significant amount of potassium.

So why does the beloved banana get all the attention? The cob is lower in carbs and sugars! The high potassium content also makes it a great post-workout snack (like the banana) to replenish those lost electrolytes (see previous blog post for more information).

Corn is a great natural source of carbohydrates, potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, and of course… insoluble fibre. 

Vitamin C: This vitamin is always in the spotlight. As you know, it is important for our immune system to function healthily. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy teeth, bones, skin, and tissues. Vitamin C also helps you increase your absorption of iron from foods. (Some high iron foods: steak, oats, lentils, spinach, beans animal products, etc).

Insoluble Fibre: I know you’ve all talked about how you’ve noticed (eek!) how your body does not fully digest or break down corn kernels. Well… that is because of its high insoluble fibre content. This is not a bad thing. Insoluble fibre stimulates our digestive system, helps maintain a healthy functioning gut….and obviously helps to promote bowel regularity 😉 Fibre helps prevent constipation and promotes regularity by adding “bulk”.

Moral of the corn story – don’t be afraid of foods that are in the natural and fresh product category. If it’s not in a package and can be eaten right from the garden…. it definitely has a nutritional benefit for your body.

So on that happy note… I’m off to grab a corn on the cob on the street!

Happy Tuesday Followers 🙂

xox

B

Bananas for BANANAS!

bananas

Bananas are an awesome grab-n-go snack, electrolyte replacement after a sweaty workout, a great flavour ingredient to make muffins or banana bread ….etc!

As I am sure you have already heard, bananas are very well known for their large potassium content. One medium sized banana contains 422 mg of potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte that is crucial to our hearts functioning. Potassium helps maintain cardiac stabilization. This electrolyte is also lost in sweat… that is why it is a great idea to have a banana after a sweaty workout to replenish what you have lost.

Bananas also contain a small amount of soluble fibre. Soluble fibres plays an important role in digestive health. One medium sized banana contains 0.7 g soluble fibre. Although this may not be huge… every bit counts! Soluble fibre can help lower blood cholesterol levels, manage diarrhea, create a healthier colon by increasing the amount of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract.

One banana also has 0.46 mg of Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is needed to make and use protein and glycogen within our bodies. Therefore, B6 is very important if you an active individual. Your muscle synthesis, muscle development, and energy to perform activities will be impaired if you are not consuming enough Vitamin B6 in your diet! (Other food sources of vitamin B6: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tuna, salmon, pistachios, etc). Vitamin B6 is a large contributor to the formulation of Hemoglobin, which carries red blood cells throughout your body.
For more information on Vitamin B6 visit Dietitians of Canada: CLICK HERE

Below are some of my Banana Recipes: 
Chocolate Banana Chia Muffins
Wholesome Banana Bread (Dairy-Free)
Banana Mango Matcha Smoothie

Fortunately, I have no problems getting bananas in Laos. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. As you can see from the photo in my blog post. Bananas line the streets everywhere. The small miniature bananas are more popular here. They are slow-grilled on the side of the street for you to purchase. It is my new fav snack! The slow grilling of the bananas makes them warm and almost dough-like. You must try grilling the mini bananas on your bbq at home. On low, rotate the bananas, until they are browning… then enjoy 🙂

grilled banana

Until next time.

xoxo

B