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Building Smoothies for Health and Nutrition - A tutorial

I can't think of a better way to start your day, or to enjoy a break be it elevenses or lunch time than in the indulgence of a nutritionally sound and delicious smoothie.  They are a fabulous way to get in some of your five a day, and I'll be honest here . . .  I really enjoy them.  They are a lot healthier than a frozen mocha, and . . . lets face it, perfectly portable if need be. Vitamin packed, smooth and delicious you feel like you are indulging in a milkshake, but in reality, you are packing a lot of nutritional punch into a most enjoyable drink! No empty calories here! 

You can make a smoothie with just about anything fresh (or frozen) in your kitchen that is edible. I like the addition of something frozen myself, because I love the texture that frozen fruit lends to the end result. True indulgence.  That's why I keep bananas sliced and frozen in the freezer for just this purpose.

To make a good smoothie, you will want a combination of fresh and frozen edibles.  Some great combinations are frozen banana and fresh tropical fruits, such as mango and pineapple.  But there is really no end to the combinations you can come up with.  Some of my favourite smoothies are made using fresh berries and frozen bananas.  

You will want something creamy to add.  Coconut milk goes great in tropical drinks, but I have also used yogurt drinks, or even regular milk.  Soy milk works well, almond milk, etc. Fruit juice also works well, but I love the creaminess of the other alternatives.  Be sure to add whatever liquid you are choosing to your blender first.  After that you can add any solids.  I roughly fill my smoothie maker about 1/2 full of the liquid I am using, and then add fruits and solids to fill no more than 2/3 of my container.

I also like to add a dollop of fresh yogurt when I can, and a bit of honey adds a lovely sweetness which is natural.  Its not totally necessary however to add anything sweet.  Its all a matter of taste. Some great natural sweeteners are date syrup (great with bananas and peanut butter), maple syrup, Agave syrup, etc. As a diabetic I tend to leave out sweeteners unless the fruit I am using is really sour. 

Another great thing which is really nutritious to add to your smoothies are some nuts and seeds.  They are filled with power and protein, which are really great additions to a healthy diet.  


This is what I use.  I buy it at Costco.  Its packed with delicious nutrition and is great sprinkled on your breakfast oats, and yogurt also, so it is multi-purpose.  You can also keep it in the freezer so that it keeps fresh longer.  Just a spoonful makes a great addition to any smoothie.  

Nut butters are also great additions and can help boost your protein intake.  It is important for diabetics to add protein whenever they can as doing so helps your body to process complex carbs in a healthier way. 

Any addition of protein also helps you to feel fuller longer, an added bonus!

Just pop what you want into your blender and blitz away to your desired consistency  (1) liquid (2) any solids (3) sweetener if desired (4) seeds or nuts (optional)  Myself, I prefer a smoother consistency as I have diverticulitis and whole seeds can really create problems with my digestion.  You can also add frozen ice cubes if you don't have any frozen fruit.  Or (and this is one of my favourite things to do) ahead of time you can freeze cubes of almond milk or coconut milk, etc. and just use a couple of them with your fresh fruit and some fruit juice.  Delicious! 

Some great combinations:

Mango & Banana - 1/2 mango peeled and cubed, 1/2 banana sliced, 240ml orange juice (1 cup), 1 TBS of plain yogurt, 2 ice cubes and a bit of sweetener if you desire. 

Kale & Avocado - 1/2 Avocado, peeled, stoned and roughly chopped, generous handful each of baby spinach and cleaned and chopped kale, 50g (2 ounces) pineapple chunks, 4 inch piece of cucumber roughly chopped, 240ml (1 cup) coconut water. 

Banana & Forrest Fruits - 1 small banana sliced, 1 small pot of Forrest fruits yogurt (low fat and sugar), a couple TBS of frozen forest fruits, 240ml (1 cup) apple juice.

Creamy Mango & Coconut - 4 TBS coconut milk yogurt, 1 small banana (sliced), 240ml (1 cup) coconut milk, 120g (4 1/2 ounces) frozen mango chunks, 1 TBS ground flax seed, sunflower and pumpkin seed.

Super Berry - 1 small pot of sugar free/fat free strawberry yogurt, 240ml milk (1 cup),  120g (4 1/2 ounces) frozen berries, 1 TBS porridge oats, 2 tsp honey 

Peanut Butter and Banana - 1 small banana, peeled and sliced, 240ml (1 cup) unsweetened almond milk, 2 ice cubes, 1 heaped TBS sugar free peanut butter, 2 tsp honey (you can also add 1 tsp cocoa powder if you like the flavour of chocolate and peanut butter together)

Think Ahead

Its always a great idea if you are going to make smoothie making a part of your regular routine to keep some fruit in the freezer.  Not only do they keep for longer, but they retain all of their nutritional value and flavour, and add an instant chill factor to your smoothie, without any need to add ice.  When I find berries on offer, I buy extra and freeze.  Just spread them out in an even layer on a baking sheet, pop into the freezer and once frozen, pour into a heavy duty zip lock freezer bag.  Pop back into the freezer.  Easy to take out when and as needed.  You can do the same with bananas.  Peel, slice and freeze on a baking sheet lined with baking paper until solid, and then pop them into freezer bags ready to go when you are. Fruits that don't usually freeze well, like strawberries and melon, are okay to freeze if you're using them in a smoothie.  You can also now buy frozen smoothie packs in most grocery shops, which give you a nice mix of fruit and are not all that expensive, especially when good fresh fruit is out of season.  

When you're at work 

You might think its impossible to enjoy a delicious and fresh smoothie when you are at work, but I have found a really neat little portable blender that not only light weight, but small and very easy to carry.  You can take it with you on your daily commute, or keep it at the office, ready to use.  One of the neatest things about it is that you can charge it easily from your computer or your phone!

This Portable Blender and Juicer is convenient and easy to use,  and does a great job of blending your smoothies to deliciousness!   I've been using it with great success for several weeks now and I have to say I just love it.  It comes in three colours and is made from premium grade durable plastic, with a 304 stainless steel blade, and also has a massive 550ml (19 ounce) capacity. I just love the convenience of being able to use it right at my desk!

So now you really have no excuse not to eat a bit healthier, either at home or at work!  I might not always have time to sit and eat something healthy, but I always have time to sip away at a deliciously nutritional drink while I am working.  Hopefully in the long run it will go a long ways towards making my waistline a tad bit smaller. Watch this space!! 

Marie Rayner
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A Simple Cottage Pie

I grew up in a home where dishes like this were not really served very often.  My mother would make Pate Chinoise for my father from time to time, which we had to eat as well. Pate Chinois is a French Canadian version of Cottage pie, using minced beef, mashed potatoes and corn or peas.  My mom always used peas, and tinned ones.  She also used cheap ground beef, which I did not like at all. It was full of bits of gristle.  It was never my favourite meal, but my father love LOVED it! Perhaps I was just too picky.

People often confuse the two, Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie.  Traditionally both were dishes invented to use up the leftover gravy and veg from the Sunday dinner.  With beef being used in the Cottage Pie and Lamb in the Shepherds Pie.

Most people just use the names interchangeably for the both.  I can be a bit pedantic however . . .  it is one of my weaknesses . . .  for Shepherds Pie I use lamb and for Cottage Pie I use beef.  It can be leftover or fresh ground, though.  I am not quite that picky!

Basically both are casseroles with meat and a flavourful gravy on the bottom, a layer of vegetables and a lovely thatch of mashed potato on top! 

These types of meals are my Todd's favourites.  In fact today he had two helpings.  He normally doesn't exceed his one serving of anything, but he was really enjoying this.

I have a secret ingredient for the potato thatch.  I always add a tiny bit of cheese, which really helps it to brown to a nice golden brown and adds just a touch of flavour.  Sometimes  I will add a bit of horseradish to either the gravy or mash for a Cottage pie, because it goes so well with beef. 

I like to make a pattern in the potatoes with a fork. Today it was a basket weave. Not hard to do at all.  You don't have to do that, but do try to rough them up a tiny bit so that you can get some crispy golden edges! 

I also use frozen petit pois . . .  not tinned or leftover cooked.  And I don't thaw them out before putting it together.  I just layer them on frozen.  The heat from the filling and the mash will cook them perfectly.  (I have a real dislike of over-cooked peas.  I can't help it.)

The gravy is also very simple to make. Of course if you happen to have leftover gravy from the Sunday lunch that would also work, but it is very simple to make your own from scratch. 

I start by sweating a mirepoix of fresh vegetables  in some butter  . . .  carrot, swede, onions and celery . . .  aromatics and real flavour boosters!  Especially when you have sweated them in a bit of butter.

A good beef stock made from a quality beef stock cube or gel pack.  I like the Knorr ones.  Some Tomato puree (tomato paste in the US), or yes even ketchup will work.  If you are using ketchup leave out the HP Sauce.  Just use a splash or Worcestershire.

I use herbs as well . . .  to be specific, Summer Savoury . . .  its an Eastern Canada thing. You can use Marjoram or thyme . . . 

Today I made a delicious coleslaw to go along with it.  Salad is nice also.  Todd likes a slice of bread and butter with his.  You could serve any vegetable on the side.  Green beans and carrots are nice.  I like salad.

Its a great way of  stretching out leftovers.  I do like a thick gravy with mine.  I don't like it too soupy, but if you do, then you could certainly add more gravy, or make your gravy thinner, but do bear in mind that the potatoes will absorb some of the gravy, so you want your gravy to be a bit on the thick side and your potatoes as well.  You don't want a soupy thatch!

Yield: 4

A Simple Cottage Pie

prep time: 20 minscook time: 45 minstotal time: 65 mins
Simple, delicious, and a family pleasing comfort food.


400g leftover roast beef, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
1 TBS butter
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
1/2 carrot, peeled and grated
a cube of swede (rutabaga) peeled and grated
1 TBS tomato puree
1 TBS plain flour
1/2 TBS brown sauce (HP sauce)
400ml well flavoured beef stock (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp summer savoury
salt and black pepper to taste
100g frozen peas (1 cup)

For the potato thatch:
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
warm milk
a knob of butter
salt and pepper
2 TBS grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar) 
melted butter to brush (optional


Put the potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water and
bring to the boil.  Boil for 10 to 15 minutes until soft.  Drain well
and then return the potatoes to the pan. Shake the pan over the residual
 heat of the burner to dry them out a bit and then mash the potatoes
well until smooth with some warm milk, and a knob of butter. Season to
taste with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese. Set aside and keep
Melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the
onion, celery, carrot and sweet.  Cook, stirring frequently over medium
low heat until softened and the onion is translucent.  Stir in the
flour.  Slowly stir in the beef stock and bring to the boil. Cook,
stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens.  Stir in the
tomato puree, brown sauce, and summer savoury.  Season to taste with
salt and black pepper and then stir in the chopped beef.  Pour this into
 the bottom of a buttered 1 litre (1 quart) shallow baking dish. 
Sprinkle the frozen peas over top.  Spread the mashed potatoes on top to
 cover.  Rough up the potato a bit with a fork.  Brush with melted

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas
mark 6.  Bake the casserole in the heated oven for 45 minutes until the
potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Let stand 15
minutes prior to serving.  Serve hot with your favourite sides.
Note - sometimes I add a bit of creamed horseradish either to the gravy or the mash. It all depends on how I am feeling!
Created using The Recipes Generator

A Simple Cottage Pie

We are really going to enjoy the leftovers today for our tea!  Dishes like this have a habit of tasting even  better the next day!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Sweet Apple & Apricot Pork Chops

I had two thick old fashioned pork chops in the freezer that had Todd's name on them. He so loves a nice pork chop every now and then. He gets tired of chicken, chicken, chicken. Me, I could eat chicken every day and never tire of it, but he does like some red meat once in a while.

When I buy chops I like to get the old fashioned ones, loin chops with the rib bone attached, almost like a spare rib . . .  but with plenty of meat. 

This is what they will look like with a rib bone, some fatty meat and a nice medallion of loin attached, with a bordering of lovely white fat at the outer edge.  I always clip this edge at even intervals prior to cooking as it helps them to lay nice and flat without curling up as they cook.

I like a bit of fat on and in my chops.  We have been taught that this is a bad thing, and whilst I would agree that too much fat is not good, a little bit of it is what helps to keep meat tender and flavourful.  It's not safe to eat pork rare so in this case some fat is necessary or you end up with dry chops.

I have a cookbook called "How to feed your whole family a healthy, balanced diet with very little money and hardly any time, even if you have a tiny kitchen, only three saucepans (One with an ill-fitting lid) and no fancy gadgets, unless you count the garlic crusher," by Gill Holcombe.  (Now that's quite the name for a cookery book don't you think!)

Its filled with lots of lovely little recipes and there was one in it for cooking pork fillet with apple and apricots.  I thought this recipe would adapt itself very well to cooking pork chops and so that's what I did.  With fabulous results I might add.

I also cut it down to serve two people as I only had two chops.  I used an eating apple that I had in the refrigerator and instead of chopping the fruit fine, I left it in larger bits, slicing the apple and cutting the apricots in half. 

You might be tempted to think that there are no apricots in this as they are rather brown looking, but that is because they are organic and sulphur free.  Hungry Jack soft dried apricots.  So they are more like what a naturally dried apricot would be without preservatives.

The red onion was one from the bounty of a friend's garden. There is such a remarkable difference from fresh veg and those you get in the shops.  Its amazing really.  Just goes to show you how long the food we buy has been sitting around.  I will be sorry when I have used them all up!

The chops are seasoned and simply browned on top of the stove with the onion and then you throw on the dried fruits.  I used a skillet which is comfortable in the oven.

A simple sauce is made using a bit of butter, some sage, flour golden syrup and vegetable stock.  This gets poured over top of the browned chops.

After that I covered the whole thing tightly with a bit of aluminium foil as I don't have an oven proof lid.  (I used my cast iron skillet, which did a beautiful job.)

Once in the oven (moderate) this gets roasted for about an hour until the chops are meltingly tender and the sauce forms a delicious fruity gravy to spoon over top! 

Yield: 2

Sweet Apple & Apricot Pork Chops

prep time: 15 minscook time: 1 hourtotal time: 1 hours and 15 mins
A delicious oven bake for two, with tender juicy chops and a fabulously fruit sauce. All you need on the side is perhaps some potato or rice and a tasty vegetable. You will need an oven-proof skillet.


2 thick bone in pork chops, fat trimmed and fatty edge
snipped at 1/2 inch intervals
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small apple, peeled, cored and sliced
5 or 6 dried apricots, cut in half
salt, pepper, sage, garlic powder, onion powder to taste
1 TBS oil

For the sauce:
240ml hot vegetable stock (1 cup)
1 tsp butter, melted
1 tsp plain flour
1 tsp dried sage
2 tsp golden syrup


Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

 the chops all over with salt, pepper, sage garlic powder and onion
powder to taste. (You can also add a bit of cayenne if you like)  Heat
the oil in a heavy oven proof skillet, large enough to hold both chops,
over medium heat.  Add the chops along with the onion, and brown the
chops on both sides.  Toss in the apple and apricots. Remove from the
heat.  Whisk together the melted butter and flour.  Whisk in the dried
sage, golden syrup and hot vegetable stock. Pour over the chops in the
skillet.  Cover tightly with foil, or an ovenproof lid.

 into the preheated oven and roast for about 1 hour, until the chops are
 meltingly tender. Serve with your favourite vegetables and rice or
potatoes. Delicious!

Created using The Recipes Generator 

All in all this was fabulously delicious.  I serve it with some potatoes and green beans and Todd thought he had died and gone to heaven!  Bon Appetit! 

Marie Rayner
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Quick Cinnamon Apple Nachos

I've been racking my brains to come up with something tasty for the upcoming holidays of Halloween and yes, Thanksgiving (American). It hasn't been really easy having had a ticky tummy for the past couple of days.  I haven't really felt like much in the way of food, eating or recipes!

I've been eating applesauce, bananas and dry toast.  I am feeling a bit better today, thankfully.  I am not sure if your kids were like mine, but getting them to eat anything prior to Trick-Or-Treating was nigh onto impossible. They were very eager to get out there with the other kids in the neighbourhood.  

Jon carving his pumpkin . . . 

I had made Apple Pie Tacos for our RS activity last week.  It was a presentation on flat breads. I had a bag of lightly salted tortilla crisps leftover and I thought to myself, lets try to do something with those. 

Jakey carving his pumpkin ...

Because of my illness I had lots of applesauce in the house as well, so the wheels started turning and I thought Cinnamon Apple Nachos.  But they had to be quick and easy, and something children would like to eat.

Josh working hard on his pumpkin  . . . I am betting his tongue is out. Its a family trait. We all stick out tongues out when we are concentrating.

I shook the bag of tortilla crisps together with some melted butter and cinnamon sugar, spread them on a baking tray and baked them in a moderate oven until they were crispy toasty and nice and cinnamony . . .

While they were baking I stirred together some applesauce and a bit of cinnamon to give me some cinnamon applesauce. You could leave the cinnamon out if you wanted to. 

You can use chunky applesauce or smooth applesauce.  I used the smooth as that is what I had, and you want to use unsweetened.  There is enough sugar in the crisps. 

I put that into a bowl for dipping and topped it with some sour cream, which I then drizzled with some salted caramel sauce. (Optional, but very nice.)

Popped the bowl onto a plate and surrounded it with the cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps.  Presto chango, a really delicious snack that the kids will love that won't take a lot of time.  Guaranteed to please!

Yield: Serves 4 - 6

Quick Cinnamon Apple Nachos

prep time: 8 minscook time: 12 minstotal time: 20 mins
These are delicious, quick and easy.  Its a sweet and salty thing. What more could you want?


180g bag of lightly salted tortilla crisps (6.5 ounces)
4 TBS melted butter
4 TBS sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the dip:
1 (280g jar) of smooth or chunky unsweetened apple sauce (about 10 ounces, or 1 1/4 cups)
pinch cinnamon
4 TBS sour cream
salted caramel to drizzle (optional)


Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Line a baking tray
with some aluminium foil and spritz lightly with low fat cooking spray.

Open the bag of tortilla crisps and
drizzle with the melted butter, give them a good shake to mix the butter
 well in.  Mix together the sugar and ground cinnamon.  Pour into the
bag and give them another good shake to coat all.  Pour them out onto
the baking tray in a single layer.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until
golden and smelling nice and cinnamony.  Take out of the oven and let
cool while you set up the dip.

Put the
applesauce into a bowl and stir in a bit of cinnamon to taste.  Top with
 dollops of the sour cream and drizzle with the salted caramel.  Place
in the middle of a platter and surround with the cinnamon sugar tortilla
 crisps for dipping.
Created using The Recipes Generator

I'm an adult and not feeling too good and I thought these were really tasty.  Its times like this what I wish I had family closer around to enjoy these things I come up with.  I love my grandchildren, and it would be so nice to be able to spoil them year round! 

Jakey in the hay bales.  He really looks like his mum here.  I know I am a bit biased but I just think I have the bestest, smartest, most handsomest grandchildren ever!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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