Raw Cacao-Nut Energy Rolls

There is so much talk these days about the best nutrition plan for achieving optimal physical performance. Recently the Globe and Mail published an article about the McRunner.  So, some dude ran a personal best and finished in the top 30 at the LA Marathon, while sustaining himself only on a diet of processed food from McDonalds.  The thought of this started to make my stomach churn but it did get me to thinking about the so-called “optimal” diet for all athletes at all levels and from all walks of life.

There are all sorts of diet books, performance formulas, gels and protein shakes out there, that it seems that we are playing a game of cat and mouse with our body and our nutrition. We constantly exchange tips, try other others’ winning recipes but ultimately the only thing that matters is what works for you and your body chemistry.

All I can say for myself is that I would much rather toy with natural ingredients and whole foods to come up with something that works for me. That is how these energy rolls came to be. So far I have only tried these pre and post training, but they are tasty, easy to eat and don’t require any prep before I run out the door. I hope you give these a try and if they don’t fit your training ritual then that’s okay too, At least at the end of the day you have a tasty treat to munch on!

Cacao-Nut Energy Roll

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 16-18 dates (depending on size and freshness)
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs
  • ¼ cup raw nut of choice, chopped (I used cashews)
  • 3-4 tbsp raw nut butter of choice (I used cashew butter)
  • Pinch of salt

In a food processor, finely grind the almonds and set aside in a mixing bowl. Combine the dates with 1 tbsp water and process until smooth. If your dates are a dry you may need to add another tablespoon water to help form a paste. Careful not to add too much water or else you will end up with a roll that is too soft to cut into discs.

Using a spatula, add the date paste to the ground almonds in the mixing bowl. Add the cacao powder, nibs and pinch of salt. Stir to blend well and ingredients should combine to form a stiff dough of sorts.

Place the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper and using a pastry roll (or a bottle), flatten out the mixture into a rectangular shape. Spread the nut butter and sprinkle the chopped nuts.

Using the parchment paper, roll over the dough to create a log. Tuck in the ends and press down to remove any potential air bubbles. Freeze for about an hour before slicing into discs about 1.5 cm thick.

I usually make this in large quantities, slice and keep in the freezer, so that I always have some ready to go – they only take a couple minutes to defrost.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you have any homemade training recipes, please share!


A Guest and a Quesadilla

My friend Katherine and I have been meaning to set some time to cook together, and last Saturday we finally got together to do just that. We chopped, cooked and tweeted a wonderful meal of grilled tomatoes stuffed with quinoa risotto and a vegetarian quesadilla. We got great feedback from my truly wonderful Twitter followers, and even a request to share a recipe.  

I very happy to announce that Katherine has gladly agreed to share her quesadilla recipe and is writing the first guest post ever, here at Kristel’s Kitchen! She is incredibly passionate about food and cooking from the heart. She was the inspiration behind my zucchini pasta and such great support during my rawfood detox. She believes in using only the best ingredients, for flavour and for health. Getting back to basics with good quality local food is essential in her life and I am proud to feature her on my blog.

This just goes to show the power that you have as a reader: if there is something you are salivating over, then just ask and you may just get the chance to see that recipe come up on my blog soon after. To see pictures of meals – past, present and future – please go to my Facebook page, and click to like it 😉 ! 



I came upon this dish by mistake one day. I was craving quesadillas but didn’t want to have the heavy, dense, fat-laden, dry-chicken ones you get at most restaurants.  So I thought why not make a healthier version at home.

So I chopped up different veggies and tossed them together, sprinkled some freshly grated cheese, and toasted the quesadilla in a pan. To my surprise, it was delicious. The sweet potato was my signature ingredient, and it took the dish to a whole new level.

There’s no actual recipe that I followed since it could change at any given day; depending on what you have in your fridge.

Here’s a close enough recipe…

Vegetarian Quesadillas for Two

  • 1 sweet potato diced
  • 1 zucchini diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 cup of mushrooms diced
  • 2 sticks of celery diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1/2 tomato diced
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic diced
  • sprinkle of smoked paprika (secret ingredient)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of cheese of choice (sharp cheddar, swiss, gruyere)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 Tortilla wraps (I love the Kamut tortillas; they have a delicious nutty flavor)

Heat a medium skillet until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the onions, mushrooms, carrots, sweet potatoes, and celery. Once browned, add the rest of the ingredients. Cook until tender.

Assemble the tortilla on a baking sheet. Sprinkle some cheese on one side, add cooked mixture, sprinkle more cheese, and cover with second tortilla. You can either grill it on both sides or toast it in a pan.

Slice in 4 pieces. Serve with homemade guacamole, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), and a lime wedge.



Summer Breeze and Watermelon Gazpacho

Every year my family gets together for a summer weekend party, filled with inside jokes, great food, fun in the sun and sometimes someone gets thrown into the water fully dressed. Lucky me, I come from a family of serious foodies. We all love to cook and experience with new recipes and ingredients. I am inspired by each and every one of them for all the diversity they bring to the table. Sure, sometimes it’s not easy to coordinate when you have about a dozen people contributing snacks, drinks and dishes – in the end it all works out.

The debate is always what to bring. The main is often planned well in advance (and there will be a special blog post dedicated solely to this main), therefore all that is left to do is put together salads, sides, apps, snacks, etc.

For a while I’ve wanted to experiment making a watermelon gazpacho, and now I had the perfect occasion to test out a recipe.

Watermelon Gazpacho

  • 1 red onion, finely diced – about 1 cup
  • 4 celery stalks, diced – about 1 ½ cups
  • 2 cucumbers, diced – about 3 cups
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced – about 6 cups
  • 2 bell peppers, diced – about 1 ½ cups
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2.5 liters of watermelon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp hot smoked paprika
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

So here it goes… this recipe easily feeds 12 to 16 people as an appetizer. Though I have included fixed measurements, what is important to note is the proportions so that you can cut the recipe is half or multiply it depending on how big or small your family is. When shopping for vegetables, go to your local farmers market so that you can get the freshest ingredients, and play around with colours and try using a variety of tomatoes – this really gives the dish a lot of subtle dimension.

In a large bowl, combine the finely diced red onion with the lemon juice and a couple pinches of salt and set aside for about 20 minutes or while you prep the remainder of the vegetables. When prepping the other vegetables, cut them up into a small dice and more or less the same size. Strain the juices, keeping only the onion. Combine all the diced vegetables, crushed garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and spices.

Slowly add the watermelon juice until the mixture is as chunky or soupy as you desire it. To make the watermelon juice, cut up a melon and process the flesh in a blender until liquid. You shouldn’t have any problem blending the fruit. If you do, simply grab a large wooden spoon and smash the watermelon a bit before turning on the blender.

 Once all the ingredients combined, refrigerate and allow the flavours to mingle for at least an hour before serving. You can also make this up to 24 hours before serving. Serve cold and garnish with chives or croutons.

As the evening progresses, wine glasses are filled, dishes are passed around, tasted and recipes discussed.

Finally the night falls, a campfire is lit, the acoustic guitar is played, we all sign along out of tune, and so begins the marshmallow roasting competition…

Training and Avocado Love

I am a very physically active person, always have been and likely always will be. I often say that I run in order to eat anything and everything I want. That is only partially true… I need to run, my hyperactive personality drives me to train and set physical goals for myself. As a side-effect, I can eat anything and everything – but realistically, I don’t. I try to be very conscious of what I am putting into my body.

A lot of my time this summer will be dedicated to training. I am training to run the Half-Marathon in Mont-Tremblant on August 14th, the Canadian Sprint Triathlon (750m swim, 30k bike, 5k run) in Ottawa on September 3rd, and the Montreal Half-Marathon on September 25th.

With this new quest on cutting out processed foods and achieving a 60% raw and vegan diet, it is not always easy to find the right kind of fuel before or after your run. Before I used to rely on bagels and cream cheese before my long runs, and Gatorade during. Honestly not the best choices for me; I did not always feel the greatest during my training sessions and the taste of Gatorate often nauseated me. Now, when you are going au naturel, finding the right sources of energy, sodium, potassium and electrolytes is not easy. I am still trying to figure it out…

While I’m figuring it out, I have managed to do some things right and sneak a few tricks up my sleeve. Two of my favorite things to fuel up and recuperate pre and post training include: coconut water (I have a glass prior, bring it with me during long runs and have a glass after), and this Avocado Chocolate Milkshake that really sets the stage for a swift recovery (and an über tasty treat).

Add drinking lots of water and that’s what I’ve come up with so far. I am hoping to share more about my training foods, fuels and experiments over the next few months. If you have any suggestions for me, I’m all ears!

Avocado Chocolate “Milkshake”

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 dates, pitted
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp honey (or agave, or maple, etc…)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of milk of your choice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • A couple of ice cubes

Scoop of the avocado and discard the pit. Use a milk of your choice: I suggest using a nut milk for a raw and vegan version, but you can also just as easily use regular low-fat milk. Begin by using only a cup of milk and add more while you blend to adjust for desired thickness of the “milkshake” until it reaches that perfect consistency. The salt helps round out and bring out all the flavours, and will help restore sodium and electrolytes for this great post-training treat.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.