What better way to nourish your kids and harness their endless energy than getting them into the kitchen with you making energy balls! As most parents know, the time between 3 and 6pm can often be chaotic, as kids are worn out and overstimulated from school, but dinner still needs to get made, homework done and often there is some other activity that needs to be attended to, like gymnastics or soccer. Not to mention they are hungry after school and they need to eat something that will give them some immediate fuel but also not fill them up too much before dinner.

Well on a day that doesn't involve chauffeuring them around and the spring rain is falling and preventing you from getting outside, find a kitchen activity to create and harness energy in one fell swoop! This recipe is so straightforward that the kids can do it without much adult supervision as there is no use of the oven or any sharp utensils. Plus it has chocolate in it so you know they're going to buy in to helping! It's also incredibly adaptable to what you have on hand in your pantry (or if your family has an allergy to contend with).

Getting kids cooking is so key to helping them develop a connection to their food and gain essential skills to carry them through life. And you can start at any age!

Check out these videos to see my 2 year old helping make muffins and frittata:

She was cracking eggs, stirring, pouring and tearing leaves at age 2. Now that she's 8 years old, she uses a knife safely, flips pancakes like a pro, presses her own tortillas and even makes a couple signature dishes...deviled eggs and kale chips! And I've let her take over my Tofu 101 recipe (see my earlier post) as she is mostly vegetarian and sometimes needs her own protein source for a family meal. She literally takes work off my plate! Maybe she'll even do a guest blog one day...

And a quick aside--this contest is just getting underway for this year! We've had so much fun doing it as a family and even won the popular vote in 2014! I highly recommend entering a video or at least supporting with your votes!

Anyway, back to the ball of son Max! He's a little harder to wrangle in the kitchen but he can focus in when he wants to. And does he ever need these kinds of snacks in the freezer. He's just like his dad...wakes up hungry and doesn't stop eating until his head hits the pillow! Nuts and seeds are absolutely essential for us to have on hand for their nutrient density, portability and because they can fill you up fast.

We pack a lot of protein into these by using hemp hearts but if those aren't on hand, any other nut or seed will do. You just might need to pulse them a bit first to make sure they aren't too chunky. The sweetness of these energy balls come from nutritious, high-fibre and mineral-rich dates. Nature's candy! Pitted, soaked and pureed dates can be the sweet base for so many recipes in place of refined sugar and then you can feel so good about eating a sweet treat. These are not only great for kids--they are a good post-workout snack or mid-afternoon pick-me-up.


Makes 24 balls


1 cup pitted dates

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup hemp hearts

1 cup coconut

1 cup natural peanut butter

1/2 cup chocolate chips


Place dates in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over top, covering by an inch. Place a lid over and let soak 15 minutes or longer. Drain but reserve 1/2 cup liquid.

In a food processor, puree dates until smooth, adding liquid as necessary to form a paste. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until a thick, sticky dough is formed. You may need to add the rest of the date liquid.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then scoop approximately 1.5 tablespoons of dough for each ball. You can roll them by hand into balls or leave them more roughly shaped from the scoop.

Place in freezer for minimum 2 hours. Defrost slightly before eating. They should be stored in the freezer and can keep for up to 3 months.

Nutrients (per ball): 210 Calories; 14 g Fat; 18 g Carbs; 4.5 g Fibre; 10 g Sugar; 8 g Protein.





Soy good or soy bad?

Edamame with fleur de sel

Edamame with fleur de sel

There is a lot of confusion out there about soy and whether it is good or bad for you. Does it cause cancer? Does it increase estrogen, which may be boosting female traits in men? Or is it a healthy food that has been part of the human diet, especially in Asia, for centuries?

Well the answer is definitely the latter! Whole and fermented soy foods like edamame, tofu, tempeh and miso are absolutely healthy foods that you can include in your diet regularly. Soy protein has been studied for its cholesterol-lowering properties. Not to mention it's a great plant-source of protein that can replace protein from red meat (which, in excess,  is known to be carcinogenic and increases heart disease risk).

So what about these phytoestrogens we hear so much about? Yes, they are present in soy. But they're also present in numerous plant foods (e.g. flax) and we know that eating mostly plants is always better for us. The only time these plant-estrogens are problematic is if you have estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. Otherwise, they likely have a protective effect as they can bind to estrogen receptors in our body and displace the actual hormone.

Phytoestrogens vary by soy food. They become much more concentrated in a processed soy product called soy protein isolate. This is found in soy-based protein powders as well as some of the vegetarian 'deli meats'. These are not products to consume regularly as they are ultra processed, but they may fit in as a treat now and again (e.g. veggie dogs on the campfire).

The other concern with soy is the abundance of soybean oil in our processed foods and the amount of soy fed to our farmed animals. Soybean oil is high in omega 6 which may contribute to increased inflammation in our bodies. To limit it, eat more fresh foods cooked at home, instead of eating out or relying on ultra processed packaged foods. Finally there is concern about soy and GMO. It is true that most of the soy grown in North America is genetically modified. If this is a concern, simply buy organic edamame, which prohibits genetic modification. Most edamame I see in the stores is labeled GMO-free.

Hopefully that's cleared up some of the confusion and left you with the message that eating whole and fermented soy regularly is good for you. Check out my earlier blog post on Baked Tofu for a delicious protein source to add to any salad, stir fry or simply to snack on. Stay tuned for a post on tempeh! Miso can be consumed in soup of course, but also makes an earthy addition to sauces or dressings. But what I'm showing today is how easy it is to add edamame into your life, not just when you're out for sushi.

Edamame (or whole soy beans) is available in the freezer section of your local grocery store. It can come pre-shelled and be used like any other bean--add to soups, rice bowls, salads, pasta. What I love though is buying them in the pods. They make a quick and satisfying snack but can also be a fun appetizer or a part of a dinner.

We like to do 'market dinners', something my husband grew up enjoying after Saturday morning visits to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto with his family. They'd buy cheese, bread, veggies, nuts, maybe a pate and put out a spread for dinner where everyone can try a bit of what's new and a lot of what they like. We've continued this tradition with our family, whether we can visit a Farmer's market or just pretending we did. The staples are definitely the artisan bread and cheeses but I also like to have a lot of veggie dishes, like roasted or sauteed mushrooms (think garlic & white wine!), kale chips, sliced summer tomatoes with basil, buffalo cauliflower (like wings, but healthy!). It's also nice to have one or two hot dishes (not to mention some plant protein) to accompany the cold or room temperature ones. This is where edamame comes in...



1 package edamame

Coarse salt (or fleur de sel)


Follow the instructions on the package, which should say something like "add edamame to a pot of boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes". Drain then sprinkle lightly with salt. Enjoy! Oh and for those of you who are new to edamame, you suck the beans out of the pods and discard the shells.

Could that be any easier?

Nutrition Facts for 150 g (1/2 package): Cals 92; Fat 3 g (Sat fat 0.3 g); Carb 7 g; Fibre 3 g; Sugar 1 g; Protein 8 g; Vit C 13%. Sodium will depend on how much salt you add.

By Nicole Fetterly, RD (aka the Bean Queen)

Savoury Pancakes! And they happen to be gluten-free...

Korean-style pancakes have been a meal staple in our house for years because they are so adaptable to whatever is on hand in the pantry or fridge and are especially great for using up leftover grains like cooked rice or quinoa. They are fun and impressive to make for guests but also simple enough to do for everyday.

The base is a batter of flour, water, egg and salt. Which flours you use is really up to you! Rice flour is common but if you only have wheat flour on hand, that works too. Recently, we've started adding chickpea or garbanzo bean flour to boost the protein and fibre content. The point being that these pancakes don't need the gluten content of wheat flour to have the texture you need so it's easy to make them gluten-free if you so desire (or require!).

All the other additions to the batter are yours to choose, whether you like your protein from tofu cubes, shrimp or perhaps some shredded leftover meat. The veggies are also adaptable--grated carrot and chopped green onion are classic, but grated zucchini, quartered mushrooms, bell pepper, finely chopped broccoli or shredded cabbage are all delicious! Just be careful not to add much more than the quantities listed below or you may end up without enough batter to hold it all together. Be aware though that once all the ingredients are added, it's not going to look like a breakfast pancake will be much more chunky! Once it starts cooking, the batter will do it's job of holding it all together.

The dipping sauce is pretty essential to make alongside! Good veggies to balance the meal are something like a coleslaw or kale salad...perhaps with a soy-based dressing and toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4


  • 1 egg
  • 1+1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups flour (brown rice, garbanzo, sorghum to be GF and/or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (or quinoa)
  • 1 package (340g) firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or 1/2 lb peeled shrimp)
  • 2 large carrots, grated (or zucchini, mushrooms, cabbage, etc.)
  • 1 bunch green onions, both green and white parts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive or coconut oil

Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce (choose gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pinch chili flakes


1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the egg mixture. Whisk slowly until well combined and smooth.

3. Add the cooked rice, tofu, carrots and green onions and stir well.

4. Heat a large, well-seasoned skillet over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of the oil. Pour 1 generous cup of the batter in the middle of the pan then spread with a spoon.

5. Turn the heat to medium low and cook pancake for 5 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Flip with a spatula and cook on the other side for 5 more minutes.

6. Remove from pan and keep in a warm oven while you continue to cook the rest in the same manner, adding another tbsp of oil if necessary.

7. Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together. Serve alongside the pancakes, cut into triangles.

Short on veggies in your day? Dip 'em!



Many people struggle to eat enough veggies every day. In fact, a new report shows that only 44% of British Columbians meet even the minimum requirement, and for some age groups, this number is declining, despite most of us knowing how essential they are!

One way to make veggies enticing and addictive is to pair them with a dip. But many dips can be unhealthy, filled with less healthy fats and other not-so-great ingredients like excess salt, sugar and preservatives.

Dips can add to the healthiness of the veggies if they are made with wholesome ingredients that your body needs (think legume-based like hummus and avocado-filled like guacamole). This one has a basis of pumpkin seeds, which are full of heart healthy unsaturated fats, protein, iron and even a special phytonutrient called lignans (especially great for prostates and preventing prostate cancer). It's also packed with fresh cilantro, lemon and lime juice--flavour boosters you can use every day that only add goodness to your foods.

Best of all, you can make it less than 5 minutes (including clean-up!).


Serves 6


1 cup (250 mL) unsalted pumpkin seeds, preferably raw

1 bunch cilantro

Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime

1/3-1/2 cup (125 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, to taste

1/2-1 tsp (3-5 mL) salt, to taste


1. Grind seeds in food processor until fine, then add remaining ingredients and purée for 3 or 4 minutes until well combined.

2. Allow flavours to develop by refrigerating for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

3. Serve with veggies like cucumber, carrot, jicama and pepper sticks, snap peas, blanched broccoli spears or green beans. A few organic corn chips might go nicely too!

Each serving contains: 408 calories; 13 g protein; 39 g total fat (6 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 8 g total carbohydrates (1 g sugars, 3 g fibre); 410 mg sodium

By Nicole Fetterly, RD

Direct from my own archives at Alive Magazine



TOFU 101

Tofu is one of those classic vegetarian foods that meat-eaters love to hate on. And I can't blame them, if they've only had lousy tofu. If cooked tofu tastes similar to it's raw state with maybe only a coating of sauce or a deep-fried crust on the outside and no inner flavour permeation, then tofu is not my favourite.

But, it has so much possibility for deliciousness. Tofu is literally a sponge for juicy flavours, if you just give it some time. And this versatile recipe for baked tofu produces a consistently delicious result and is dead simple--in fact, it's a signature dish of my 8 year old daughter! It only takes 5 minutes to put together but needs 45-60 minutes in the oven to soak up the yummy flavour.

We use it in all sorts of ways, primarily variations on a buddha bowl with rice, quinoa or buckwheat, an assortment of cooked and raw veggies and drizzled in some sort of sauce (think peanut or miso tahini). But it's also a great protein (and plant-based calcium source) to include on a salad--vegan caesar maybe? And once cooled a bit, it can be used as a snack or appetizer and dipped in a barbecue or peanut sauce. You can choose your citrus and herbs according to what you're using it for.

For a family of four who also need lunches for the next day, I usually double this recipe, but still cram it in the same size pan. Leftovers will keep for 3 days.

Tofu 101:

Serves 4


  • 1 350g package firm tofu (medium or extra firm will give a slightly different texture)
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, rosemary or cilantro, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/3 c. water


1. Preheat oven to 375F. 

2. In a 9x13 pan, combine all ingredients except tofu. 

3. Slice tofu in 4 filet pieces, meaning in half lengthwise and then half each of those pieces lengthwise again (or whichever shape you prefer--1 inch cubes, finger-size sticks, etc.)

4. Place in pan and cover with marinade. 

5. Bake for 1 hour flipping pieces halfway through. 

Nutrition Facts (per serving):   190 Calories;  14g Protein; 4.5g Carbohydrate; 2g Fibre; 14g Fat;  582mg Calcium; 2.5mg Iron; 51mg Magnesium; 167mg Phosphorous; 217mg Potassium; 145mg Sodium; 1.4mg Zinc

Baked Tofu, Quinoa & Green Beans

Baked Tofu, Quinoa & Green Beans

TOFU 101

TOFU 101

--Nicole Fetterly, RD

Bean Queen

Lovely Legumes! Yellow split peas, French black & red lentils, mung & black beans...

Lovely Legumes! Yellow split peas, French black & red lentils, mung & black beans...

I am a huge advocate for a more sustainable food system and an improved diet for my community. One of the platforms I promote most fervently is the need for more legumes in our diets. I've been trying to nickname myself the Bean Queen--I haven't quite got it to catch on yet.

Beans, peas and lentils are the most sustainable and affordable protein on our planet but in North America, compared to most other places in the world, these superfoods are almost completely absent from the average diet. They come in so many colours and shapes and absorb flavour so well. 2016 was named the Year of the Pulse by the United Nations in an effort to give more recognition to this food group and to encourage their consumption over red meat--one of the largest contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming. You may have a hard time driving or flying less, taking shorter showers and hanging your clothes rather than using the dryer, but everyone can eat at least one meatless meal each week.

You may have heard of Meatless Monday--well every week you can tune in for inspiration on cooking an amazing meatless meal for any day of the week (and learn the embarrassing bean-related nicknames I have for my husband!).

Not only are legumes incredibly affordable, but they are packed with protein, fibre, B vitamins and key minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium, which are deficient in many people's diets. In fact one serving of this recipes has 15 grams of fibre--about half of your daily need--and 20% of the iron you need each day.

Eating legumes should be joyful, instead of feeling like you're missing out. Like this recipe, adapted from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (this book is the best all-purpose recipe reference book around!) His Braised Lentils are so simple to prepare and taste absolutely delicious. They are a weekly staple in my house and the kids just gobble them up for dinner and take leftovers in a thermos for lunch the next day. I often double the recipe because they freeze nicely too.

I love using a French lentil because they retain their shape and don't turn to mush (which you would want for a dish like Dal but not in this meal). Lentils also don't have to be soaked like a larger bean so you can make them when you're a little more crunched for time. Serve this comforting dish over quinoa or brown rice with a side of sauteed greens.

Braised Lentils
Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup French lentils
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Put the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. A minute later, add the onion, celery and carrot then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the bay leaf, wine, stock, lentils and salt and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Add pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy. Taste, adjust the seasoning and remove the bay leaf.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

--by Nicole Fetterly, RD and Bean Queen