21 Dec
2012

Back in the fall, a friend and I went portaging for 4 days and 3 nights up north in one of Canada’s national parks: Algonquin Provincial Park. For those unfamiliar with portaging (like we were of the act prior to going), the term refers to the practice of traveling from campsite to campsite by canoe in the water, and by foot over land, with your home, food and clothing all on your back. Canoeing was smooth sailing, but portaging a 45-pound canoe over your head with all your belongings strapped to various parts of each of your bodies is much harder than it looks, needless to say. At least we had had years of experience canoeing and just camping out in the dead stark wilderness prior, right Chloe? Not really… Anyways, we decided to wing it, both being pretty practical and low-maintenance, plus we were dying to “connect with the wilderness” (or whatever that means) after both spending 4 months of the summer indoors working full-time office jobs. Office emails to each other are great, but nothing beats the art of silent communication when you are ravenous (nod head, blink twice while stuffing your face with warm carrot sticks), wildlife-spotting (gesture wildly with paddle and almost get thrown out of the rocking canoe), or just plain tired (stare blankly at person + the fifty or more knots you still have to tie to make sure your entire livelihood doesn’t float away or get attacked by bears in the middle of the night). Ah yes, the joys of portaging. At the bottom of it though, is a love for doing-it-yourself and spending a relaxing 4 days in good company and breathtaking scenery. It was an amazing experience and wholly satisfying. Don’t forget your film camera for the ultimate antediluvian experience.

 

So of course, in preparing for this trip, meal-planning was a natural part of the process. A couple of tips to take from here:

One, meal-planning for the general week does not have to be a painful experience. Meal planning reduces food wastage by encouraging meaningful purchases, and can up the nutritional value of your meals by helping you consider loosely what you will be putting into your body for dinners the upcoming week. Always have on hand dried grains, and legumes that you can soak the night before and cook effortlessly in bulk batches, in a rice or pressure cooker that first day; keep condiments and spices well-stocked as the occasion arises; and use the weekly grocery shop for staple base items such as your regular vegetables, fruits, yogurts, fish and so forth and vary the weeks with top-line fresh items that you don’t often buy, i.e. an entire squash, head of cabbage etc.

Two, let it be known that I have a personal vendetta against most breakfast cereals. Highly processed, coated in white sugar or high-fructose corn syrup and synthetic vitamins + minerals, many mass-market cereals are not  the right way to start your day. It has been drilled into our heads that breakfast is an integral part of our morning because it helps balance our blood sugar levels and provides energy to start the day. Most breakfast cereals currently on the market do not contain nearly enough bioavailable dietary fibre to properly balance blood sugar levels, and the inclusion of sugar wreaks only greater havoc on our endocrine and hormone systems. You are much better off skipping the colourful cardboard box and vitamin supplement aisles in the grocery store for the bulk packages of unadorned plain oats. As one of my friends termed it when she switched from one of the popular cereals to steel cut oats: she actually felt full after breakfast and experience any further feelings of light-headedness.

Recipes such as this one for homemade granola are power-packed with important vitamins, minerals and omega-threes from the hemp, flax and chia seed combination, protein and complex carbohydrates, that together provide a steady, slow-release of energy throughout the morning and up until lunch. On the go, or in a bowl of almond milk, both make great breakfast options. Also consider cooking plain oatmeal or buckwheat porridge in the morning and dressing it up with the same ingredients below: fruit, spices, coconut oil, maple syrup and seeds. You can make big batches of the oatmeal for the next 3-4 days, keep it sealed in tupperware in the fridge, and it takes only 5 minutes in the morning to heat up your portion on the stovetop with a little bit of water added to keep it from sticking to the pot.

simple almond granola
makes 5 cups

3 cups rolled oats (not quick-cook)
1 cup almonds (or pecans)
1 cup buckwheat (hulled)
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
5 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp flax seeds (ground)
1 tsp vanilla extract
generous pinch sea salt

optional: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, dried fruit

1. Mix coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, sea salt and hemp, flax and chia seeds in a stand mixer until smooth.
2. In a large oven-proof baking dish, combine the oats, buckwheat and chopped almonds. Spread the wet ingredients evenly over the dry.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and when ready, bake for 30-40 minutes, until the oats and almonds have turned a light golden brown colour. Stir occasionally while the granola is baking to ensure everything is evenly coated.

After it has cooled completely, the granola will keep for up to a week in an airtight container, and also makes great autumn gifts when dressed up in glass containers + ribbon.

Feel free to experiment with flavours by adding in up to 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and/or 1/2 tsp cardamom to the wet ingredients prior to baking. I used all three spices and additionally stirred in 2/3 cup of raisins after baking. If gluten-free is important to you, ensure that the oats you buy are certified GF and you will be good to go.

8 Dec
2012

The star of this salad is the garlic and pepper-infused olive oil. The buttery lima beans, warm earthy quinoa and mild spinach serve only as a backdrop for the dressing; my goal for this post is to communicate the importance of oil in a healthy diet and for this salad especially, a good-quality extra-virgin olive oil will make ALL the difference. Trust me. And go with fresh black pepper and sea salt please – no table salt and powdered packaged pepper. Condiments, like oil, albeit small and often overlooked components of all of our diets are so pervasive in our everyday meals (health… lives!) that it is certainly something that deserves the spotlight at one point in time.

A hallmark of a healthy nutrition transition is the increasing prevalence of salads in your diet. The term salad comes to us from the Ancient Romans and Greeks who referred to assembled dishes of layered ingredients (vegetables being the main component) as salata. Growing up in a European household to Croatian parents, this is something that was very familiar to me; at every dinner my mama served a simple salata next to the main course, whatever it may be. The root of the word is the Latin ‘sal’, which means salt. This is because these dishes were frequently (always) salted and drizzled with some form of oil-based + vinegar dressing. How easy is that? Toss a bunch of vegetables and complimentary ingredients together, dress with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar and you have yourself an incredibly healthy, easy meal that the Romans ate on the daily. Enthusiastically. Salad can get a bad rep when all there is to think of is iceberg lettuce and watery tomatoes… well yeah… iceberg lettuce has a nutritional value of almost zero, and who likes out-of-season tomatoes that spent over 8 days just making their way to you? The best salads are composed of the season’s best offerings and are the simplest. They are not always just vegetables either – the whole spectrum of grains, legumes and vegetables are out there for you to toss together and create delicious and healthy combinations on the daily. I am always keen to experiment and look upon each week as a new 7-day challenge to find a new flavour combination of this incredibly versatile dish to add to the recipe books. Still, simplicity is key, and the farther into a healthy relationship you get with food, the more familiar and natural it becomes to know what works (like all good relationships, let’s be honest). Yes, sometimes I sit down at the dinner table with my big bowl and am unenthused, but the beauty in the salad is that it is without a doubt nourishing and a meal that is on the table, and I am thankful for that regardless of the flavour combination that didn’t turn out to be a hit. Something to remember for the next time.

All that being said, this is why this salad is so fulfilling and delicious, on its own, or as a side dish – there are 3 ingredients that make up the salad (lima beans, quinoa, spinach), 1 fresh herb (basil), and a classic 30-minute infused olive oil (pepper, olive oil, garlic). Add a pinch of sea salt to finish it off and you’ll be doing as the Romans do in no time!

Once upon a time, being refined was a compliment – it meant that you had the academic language down pat, your hobbies consisted of intellectual pursuits, and you knew fashion (and could afford it). Nowadays, mention refinement to any person around you concerned with their general health and their reaction will be akin to, “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT HORRID THING ON MY PLATE (IN MY FACE CREAM)!?” Refinement has popularly come to stand for cheap manufacturing processes that strip foods of their nutrients, but rarely does it extend to the face of olive oil. If you follow foodie + trade news, you will likely be familiar with a 2007 article written in the New Yorker by Tom Mueller, titled “Slippery Business“. It publicly acknowledges the adulteration of the global olive oil supply from Europe with the addition of cheaper vegetable oils. While this issue has been widely highlighted in the past and measures have been taken to curb this behaviour by suppliers, there is another form of refinement that still goes on regularly and yet flies frequently under our radar. That is refined olive oil, better known as “olive oil” or “light olive oil” on your grocery shelf. Olive oil is refined through chemical, solvent and heat manufacturing processes that alter the state of the nutrients and ultimately result in a poorer-quality end product that is tasteless, odourless and colourless. You may ask why a manufacturer would choose to refine olive oil in the first place, and the answer to this question is unfortunately equally applicable to many other processed and refined food products: North America has for years been a dumping ground for rancid, rotten-smelling olives, and refining their oil removes the taste and odour that would otherwise alert consumers of this fact. For this reason and for reasons of health, choosing a good-quality olive oil is imperative, even more so if it is a regular part of your meal preparation.

For those who have grown up on refined olive oil, the taste of real extra-virgin olive oil will be a shock. Confident, grassy and smooth, unadulterated olive oil is a joy to cook with (you don’t need much!) and still loaded with its original heart-healthy omega fats, polyphenols and tocopherols intact. A diet high in refined food products can lead to cardiovascular, digestive and insulin-related issues, so to ward off stomach ulcers and give your heart all the nutrients it deserves, choosing oils that are unrefined and fresh can make a big difference considering that most people use oil to cook with every day. Here is what to look for when in the grocery store:

  1. Dark colour + cloudy liquid: Choose a dark green and slightly cloudy (never perfectly clear) olive oil. This is not to be confused with sediment settling at the bottom of the bottle. Musty sediment may be an actual sign of fermentation and poor storage conditions!
  2. Extra-virgin: Look for ‘extra-virgin’, which refers to olive oil made solely from olives and entirely by mechanical means (no high heats, chemicals or solvents). A true ‘extra-virgin’ will be fresh and not rancid. To take it one step further, virtually every oil on the market can be adulterated with other cheap vegetable oils – except extra-virgin by virtue of its definition – and depending on the country’s regulations, as long as the secondary oil is in a minute percentage, it doesn’t need to be labelled in the list of ingredients. If avoiding this is important to you, always go extra-virgin.
  3. Cold- or Expeller-pressed: ‘Cold-pressed’ or ‘expeller-pressed’ olive oil is a method of oil extraction which uses no heat and/or solely mechanical machines that press the olives and extract the oil. Most extra-virgin olive oils are produced in this manner, but all olive oils regardless can feature this claim if produced in this manner.
  4. Avoid ‘Light’ or ‘Extra-light’: Same amount of fat and calories as the real stuff, without the flavour and all of the nutrients. You are paying exorbitant amounts for low-grade olive oil that is lightly flavoured with the real extra-virgin. Enough said.
  5. Country of origin: I just want to point out that “Product of Italy” may look fancy on the label but it will never guarantee you a good-quality product. Always look at the back of the label in the fine print to see where your olive oil really is coming from. The other points I’ve listed will be better indications of quality than the country of origin listed on the front of the label – nowadays, can just be mainly marketing jargon, provided there is a disclaimer elsewhere on the product.
  6. Shelf-life: Any olive oil that claims it can last past a year of the sell-by date is refined. Good-quality olive oil has a real shelf-life of between 6-12 months, and should be stored tightly capped, away from heat, direct sunlight and moisture. A cool, dark pantry is the perfect home for your new, real olive oil. Dark glass bottles can also be helpful in this regard.

the minimalist
serves 1

dressing
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, good quality
1 large clove garlic, finely diced
1/2 a small lemon
sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, fresh + cracked

salad
1 cup red or white quinoa
1 cup dried white lima beans, soaked in water at least 5 hours
1 large handful baby spinach leaves, fresh
4-5 basil leaves, fresh

1. Cook the lima beans in 3 cups water, partially uncovered, over medium heat, or in a pressure cooker, for approximately 45 minutes. The cooked beans will be incredibly soft and may fall apart from the skin at the touch. Depending on your altitude above sea level, you may need to cook the beans for longer. If you must use canned beans, drain and rinse them first.
2. In a small jar or bowl combine the olive oil, diced garlic, sea salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper, more or less to your taste of how strong of a final result you would like. Allow this to sit ahead of time or while you cook and prepare the quinoa and rest of the salad.
3. Cook the quinoa next in 2 cups of water, using a pressure cooker, or by bringing an uncovered pot to boil over the stove, reducing the heat to low and simmering covered for 15 minutes. Quinoa is cooked with each grain is translucent and the white germ is visible.
4. Coarsely chop the washed spinach and basil leaves and combine in your serving bowl while the quinoa is cooking. Once all the cooking is finished, add in the warm beans and quinoa. Drizzle with the olive oil infusion, squeeze 2-3 circles above your salad of the lemon and season with the sea salt. Now toss everything gently to combine. Lima beans, aptly named butter beans for their creamy consistency, fall apart easily and will make your salad messier, which will not affect the taste but will affect the appearance if you plan to serve it.

 

14 Nov
2012

I’ve been heading to the farmer’s market at the local market square as often as I can lately; stalls shut down near the end of November, as snow hits the small city where I am studying, freezing over the lake and covering the cobblestone roads with thick blankets of white snow. It also means that bike travel becomes a bit more haphazard, but who isn’t usually up for a challenge? It’s relaxing to embrace the winter weather when it comes, and find laughter in bundling up, or snuggling under quilts and covers to brace the -20°C weather outside that would normally completely numb you in minutes. It’s also nice to recognize this as a comforting rhythm with the seasons. Dependent on the tools we’ve made to thrive, and so we should be proud and thoughtful with them also. Anyways, as much as I like to philosophize about human nature over a warm cup of tea, I also appreciate having some substantial apple crumble (this has to be one of THE most classic autumn desserts ever) with that. Sometimes liquids just don’t cut it, folks.

Here is my take on a classic dessert, just how I like it: rich, thick and flavourful; the crumble is soft and abundant and the apples are spiced and add a touch of sweetness. The result is anything but dry, cloyingly sweet, or unsatisfying. Apples are currently (still) in season and the beauty about this dessert is that the ingredients and measurements are all generally noncommittal and variable to suit your taste. Don’t have spelt flour? Use oat flour. If you like a sweeter dessert, use available sweet varieties such as Jona Gold or Golden Delicious or adjust the measure of maple syrup, and use more coconut oil in place of goat’s milk yogurt for a crispier crumble topping. The interchangeability of the spices are laid out clearly to allow you to work with what you have on hand. I love almonds, so I frequently toast a large handful, chopped and throw it in as well… or just drizzle the baked crumble with raw almond butter. Ah, the great power that comes from baking with loose guidelines. And the great responsibility to finish the dessert… yep not a bad deal, at all.

rich apple crumble
serves 6

filling
4 medium apples, peeled, cored + diced into 1 cm cubes (I used a mixture of sweet + tart apples)
2 tbsp maple syrup*
1 tbsp bourbon vanilla extract
squeeze fresh lemon juice

crumble
3 cups sprouted spelt flour (or other flour of choice, such as oat)
1/3 cup coconut oil, cold
1/2 cup goat’s milk yogurt, plain
1/3 cup maple syrup*
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves or ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom (optional because hard to find sometimes!)
pinch of sea salt

*Can be replaced with equal amounts un-pasteurized honey

1. Prepare the filling, ahead of time if you wish: combine the apple pieces with all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Flavours take time to develop together, so for the richest fruit taste, allow the apples to release some of their juices by letting the mixture sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature.
2. Prepare the crumble: Mix the yogurt and maple syrup in a large bowl and then sift in all of the dry ingredients. Using a fork, stir the mixture and add in the cold coconut oil, “cutting” the crumble as you go to create a thick crumble texture. The pieces will hold together well and will feel moist but not wet. Depending on the type of flour you are using, you may need to add more coconut oil or flour.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a pie pan or baking tray with a little bit of coconut oil, layer in the apples first and top with the crumble. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the apples are soft and easily pierced by a fork. Serve warm plain, with toasted almonds, honey-sweetened yogurt, or with coconut ice cream. Tastes even better the next day.

30 Oct
2012

I have finally returned to the world of the living! This is a common affliction that affects just about every student around major-research-paper-exam-time, and symptoms include sore eyes, sharpie-stained fingers (yes, I like to colour-code my notes) – and if you happen to be studying food law + policy like me – speaking in uncontrollable legal prose. After two weeks of quick salads I took the time to make myself a bowl of this:

 

…And it was wonderful! So here I am finally writing a post to go with it. I had, during brief moments of coming up for air, contemplated posting another recipe last week, but since I couldn’t bring myself to “Publish Draft” a recipe reading like something that came out of the Constitution Act of 1867 (way to go Canada!), I held off for a little while longer. Food law is a fascinating subject, spanning the international trade and standards of all food that makes it into your home, and the regulations behind it that protect public health. Topics such as GMOs, labelling and risk analysis put into context all sorts of cases of food security issues, foodborne illnesses, and how it is possible for companies to claim that their products “make you slimmer” or “healthier,” in contrast to what those claims really mean.

The idea for this dish came from a craving for avocados and the current season for kale – meaning both the farmer’s market and my fridge were full of it. Kale is a wonderful vegetable that is versatile, forgiving and remarkably healthy. You can sauté it, cook it, bake it or eat it raw in salads, and with every way it turns out delicious. It also keeps well in the fridge, unbound, for up to a week, so it’s a great seasonal food to have on hand. Recouping salad ingredients like avocados, kale and tomatoes, this dish blends the smoky flavour of chipotle peppers with sweet balsamic vinegar and sautéed tomatoes, and with salty kale and fresh basil. The avocado acts as a base, lending a very creamy consistency to the dressing, and the kale is a tough leaf that holds up well all the smoky flavour and creaminess. While I had a grand ol’ time slicing the kale leaves into long “fettucini” strips, the effect is all the same if you just tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces after separating the stems. The only difference is that I now get to call this recipe “fettucini” and you get to be confused for 10 seconds on what kale pasta could possibly be. Mystery solved!

Alright, so on to the fun part.

While writing to you, I figured you’d have a couple of questions for me regarding this bowl of deliciousness. I thought I’d go ahead and just answer them now…

Q: Are you really trying to pass this salad off as a bowl of fettucini?
A: Yes.

Q: What are you trying to say is wrong with salad?
A: Nothing (salad inspires all sorts of hurrahs in my body) – but after a week of eating salads, either you get creative or the thought of salad makes you deranged. I prefer to use cooking as a therapeutic solution to both.

Q: How is kale supposed to fill me up like a bowl of pasta does? Can food writers be sued for being misleading?
A: The avocado accomplishes that – for the record, when I made I made this recipe for the first time, I had halved the dose, ended up scraping the bowl clean it was so delicious and promptly went to make Part 2. After that, I had to scrape myself off my chair. Mildly kidding – it was very filling, but none of that heavy feeling of too many carbs. As for being sued, the type of legal study I am going through was more about food systems infrastructure and about how people with beards have to wear beard nets in all Canadian fish processing plants… did you know those existed? I didn’t.

Q: Where the heck is the recipe?
A: Patience! Can’t let you go without a brief blurb on the benefits of poseur-fettucini first.

Kale! A member of the cruciferous family of vegetables (also includes broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower + bok choy), kale is a powerhouse vegetable that is an exceptional source of chlorophyll, calcium, iron and vitamin A. Countless research studies have found a link between the regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables and a reduction in the risk of cancer, thanks to detoxifying enzymes and properties that can inhibit tumour growth. Eat up!

Avocados are fruits, and many people know them for their famous appearances in guacamole and notably, their high content of fat. In fact, over 80% of its caloric content is from fat. Just to be clear here, fat is never the enemy as a whole – it simply depends on what types of fats you are choosing – and the avocado is composed of easily digestible fats, primarily monosaturated oils, that help beautify the skin and lubricate your lungs and intenstines. I will choose to focus on fats in a different post, but oils and fats are essential to the proper functioning of your hormone system, and you can do great damage to your health by avoiding them or eating too little, and of course, eating too much. You can read more here on the importance of fats, in the meanwhile. Avocados are also a great source of protein and copper, which is quite different from most other fruits!

Chipotle peppers are essentially smoked or dried jalapeño peppers. Nothing else to it. The smoked chipotle pepper is said to have originated in the area surrounding Mexico, as the act of smoking helped preserve the volatile jalapeño pepper’s heat and flavour.

raw kale fettucini with sweet tomato + chipotle-avocado dressing
Serves 1

8 large leaves fresh kale (I used green kale, but there are many varieties to choose from)
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 small cloves garlic, finely diced
1 avocado, peeled + pitted
1 large chipotle pepper, dried*
1/4 cup water
4 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp oregano
sea salt + pepper
handful cherry or grape tomatoes for garnish, sliced in half

1. Soak the dried chipotle pepper in the water for at least 2 hours. *If you are using fresh or preserved peppers, skip this step and simply drain its liquid. After soaking, cut the pepper open lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds for a sweet flavour and keep some (or all) for a lot of spicy heat, if so inclined. Do not discard the water.
2. Cut the kale leaves along either side of their stems. Further cut the leaves, lengthwise, into long strips and place into a small bowl with a generous sprinkling of sea salt. Toss and let sit while you prepare the dressing. Munch on the stems while waiting for the dressing to come together.
3. To prepare the dressing, heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the olive oil and garlic until fragrant and softened, approx. 3 minutes. Add in the chopped tomatoes, oregano, pepper, balsamic vinegar, soaking water of the chipotle pepper + the pepper itself, finely diced. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have lost their shape, approx. 10 minutes.
4. Mash the avocado in a small bowl and add in the tomato dressing and basil leaves. Stir to combine. Toss gently with the kale leaves and garnish with sliced cherry tomatoes and toasted seeds, if you wish. Ready to serve!

fact source: Healing with Whole Foods, by: Paul Pitchford, North Atlantic Books 2002.

13 Oct
2012

You know how every autumn, the weather has a period in which it hovers between summer and winter, when it is neither too cold nor too hot, the leaves haven’t even fully changed yet? The calendar tells you autumn has arrived but in your gut you have a feeling summer is still lingering around somewhere, keeping the cool rain at bay and the wind that has only just started to whistle. I am walking around in rain boots, ready for the changing seasons and at the same time enjoying stomping around in come what may, dressed in warm and cozy autumn clothing.

These kinds of transitions mark a shift inward to the focus of fall and winter, where stability becomes more apparent and we fall into deeper habits that hint at relaxation and balance. This is also the perfect time to start shifting our diet from lightness to foods with more density and attuning our health and digestion to heartier meals ahead. The onset of fall is also a good time to remember all the good food and accessibility we are lucky to have – many diets around the world are changing too, but the patterns are not always so healthy and plentiful as the opportunities we are accustomed to. Coined the “nutrition transition”, developing countries such as India, Brazil and China are undergoing change in the diet’s of their urban populations and converging towards the diets of developed countries. These kinds of changes can have major impacts on health and economists and scientists alike point out that what is characteristic of the nutrition transition is a decline in dietary diversity, an increase in intakes of fat, sugar, salt and animal foods and an increase in the consumption of processed foods. The irony here is hard to miss… following the example of industrialized countries means that there is a loss in dietary fibre, healthy carbohydrates and antioxidants in daily nourishment.

This simple and easy recipe is a tribute to the changing seasons and to the abundance and diversity of food we have available to us. Roasting root vegetables, softening autumn apples, and adding a kick of the cleansing properties of ginger, cinnamon and garlic all come together, perfectly balanced. This dense chilled soup is also plentiful in vegetable and fruit fibre, natural carbohydrates and antioxidants. If beets make you think of lace doilies and bland flavour, this is a soup that will change your mind. Anything but tasteless, apples, beets and ginger actually make a delicious flavour combination that doesn’t go unnoticed by dedicated juicers. Having come across this trio precisely as a juice at an organic café in Toronto, anyone with a powerful blender will find this soup to taste wholly fresh in the same way and with all of the dietary fibre still intact.

Sometimes making the choice to prepare our own meals gets lost as the variety of packaged foods face us at the store, but as we move into a period of balancing ourselves, this is a perfect time to engage in the relaxing habit of spending a bit of time preparing and being creative with meals that will nourish us and the planet.

 

With some non-committal roasting, 15-minutes of sautéing, and then 2 minutes in a blender, making this soup couldn’t be easier and it keeps well in the refrigerator for days on top of that.

Apples and their juices are cleansing and help digestion along. Malic acid, tartaric acid and pectin help remove cholesterol, lower blood pressure and balance emotions associated with a poor diet.
Beets are also full of fibre, as apples are, and contain high amount of folic acid – a B vitamin that is necessary to a healthy blood system. Beets are also naturally sweet and can be prepared in a variety of ways to please all taste buds.
Ginger is a prized root in Asian cuisine for a reason. Cleansing, rich in vitamins and minerals and definite anti-inflammatory effects. The fresh ginger you buy at the store may have a thick or thin skin, depending on whether it was harvested when it was mature or young and depending on your variety, it may be yellow, white or red in colour. Most ginger is a pale yellow colour and all varieties are extremely aromatic.

chilled beet, ginger + autumn apple soup
serves 4

3 large beets
2 large sweet apples (red gala, fuji, golden delicious etc.), peeled + cored
1 large garlic clove, finely diced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely diced
1 1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
olive oil
thyme + fresh lemon juice for garnish

1. Wash and place the whole beets onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400°F for 45 mins-1 hour until a knife pierces the flesh of the beet easily. Remove and let cool until comfortable to handle. Remove skins and chop.
2.  Create an “applesauce” in a loosely-covered saucepan by simmering 1 cup water, the apples, garlic, ginger and cinnamon over medium-low stovetop heat until soft and fragrant. Approximately 15 minutes.
3.  Purée the apple mixture, chopped beets, remaining 1/3 cup water and sea salt in a blender or food processor. Chill in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes) until ready to serve. Garnish with thyme and a squeeze of fresh lemon to taste

source: Staying Healthy With the Seasons, Haas (M.D.), California 1981; The Atlas of Food, Millstone + Lang, London 2008.

3 Oct
2012

I like problems to always have solutions. It’s that feeling of closure and evenhandedness that come with tackling your newest obstacle, being the creative and driving force behind change or putting something to rest that needed to lay down a long time ago that is so gratifying. It’s inspiring and challenging to ask those questions that went unasked, manoeuvring the unknowns that come with it, and appreciating the self-growth that come with allowing yourself to explore new situations. We were created to interact, and sometimes we try and avoid the less challenging aspects of this, when we should remember that one of the most liberating things is to let go of our preoccupations and accept even the less comfortable aspect of life.

Because we are challenged by life in all ways, large and small, one almost fluttered past me the other day, as I was comfortably engaged in a relaxing, well-worn routine. Which one of us hasn’t shucked corn and deftly peeled back the leaves and silk, discarding it to the side? I am certainly guilty of it, essentially my entire life. As I was feeling in a particularly creative mood that day and food waste has always been an integral issue for me to which I am always looking for solutions (How can I put to use every…last…bit!?), it struck me that perhaps those soft, fluid strands enveloping the cob – corn silk – were something that could be used and not wasted. Well what a great question that was! A little research later and I had discovered that my long-term habit of corn shucking had been throwing away one of the most nutritious parts of the corn. Corn silks are the stigmas of the female flowers of the corn plant and a wonderful fiber that act as a diuretic, improving the kidney function, lowering blood sugar and toning the bladder. Also known as zea mays, corn silk is a natural herbal remedy, traditionally brewed as a tea, that has been around for a very long time.

Another solution to an often overlooked ‘problem’ that only humbles me to realize how many opportunities there are out there to continue to learn from the little things in life. And I was happily munching on these little guys in no time, after a quick and neat presentation had them incorporated over this colourful raw and crunchy big bowl of deliciousness below. This is one of my favourite salads, full of fresh flavour, enzymes and necessary vitamins. The toasted hazelnuts, fresh sprigs of rosemary, raw, sweet corn and crisp vegetables, marry this incredibly fresh and healthy salad and make it a filling lunch or side at dinner. It won’t take you longer than 15 minutes to make either.

 

crisp corn silk salad with rosemary + hazelnuts
serves 1 as a main dish or 2 side dishes

1 ear of corn, husk + silk still intact
1 1/2 cups raw red cabbage, chopped
3/4 cup raw cauliflower, finely chopped
3/4 cup raw broccoli, finely chopped
1/3 cup raw hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
scant 1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Toast the hazelnuts in an oven or toaster oven at 300°F for 10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.
2. Carefully peel back the husk of the corn, gathering the corn silk and gently pulling it away from the bottom of the cob. Chop the bunch in half and set aside. Pull apart the rosemary leaves from the stem.
3. Stand the bare ear of corn on its bottom and use a long knife to slice the corn off the cob, working from top to bottom, and rotating the cob until you’ve reached every side. Combine the loose corn, rosemary, hazelnuts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and red onion in a bowl.
4. Dress the salad with the salt, pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Toss to combine and serve!

28 Sep
2012

Can’t say I came up with that name but it’s definitely a fun thing to yell at your oven while haphazardly trying to pull out a steaming hot batch of bread. Rye Nielles once were a staple of baking with rye flour in the Middle Ages. Back when rye was a not-so-forgotten cereal grain, people benefitted from the unusual benefits that this winter crop offers, especially in sourdough (fermented) form. Nowadays, sourdough breads are frequently out of the question for most commercial markets (it’s a lengthier process than using yeast to get bread to rise), but you can still find artisan rye loafs occasionally in the freshly-baked sections of stores. Sourdough rye, is highly prized for preventing and treating diseases such as fatty plaque in the blood vessels or calcium deposits in the smaller arteries. This makes 100% rye bread (also known as “black bread”) a great choice for combatting high blood pressure and improving your nervous system function in general.

Commercially, what is widely sold today has an unfortunate resumé of chemically bleached wheat flour, more chemical anti-moisture agents, and most of the protective, nutrient-rich bran and wheat germ removed… yum. This means it can stand on a shelf for much longer and has a blander taste that produces softer and spongier baked goods. But, this long-time preference for white, white and refined bread has nutritional consequences: calories and glycemic index go up, whereas all nutrients go down. While the causes are diverse, before heavily processed flour and foods were introduced to North American populations in 1905, heart diseases were rare. By the early 1920s, it was an epidemic, and around the 1940s flour processors were required by law to start “enriching” (bring back to normal levels) their flour with synthetic vitamins. Enriched white flour has more than thirty known nutrients removed and four synthetically added back in. Whole wheat flour products are certainly a better choice product, and the best on the market are wholegrain mixed or wheat-free sourdough breads, freshly baked. Any bread that goes stale can always be toasted or thrown into soups for great waste-free suggestions.

Good things come to those who wait though – choosing to work with a sourdough starter over instant yeast takes a couple of days of prep time as you essentially (very lovingly, of course) start active bacterial culture life out of nothing other than flour and water. For my first starter, this means that it tragically passed away after three days, but for my second, after placing it in a warm location, covered (and not next to any drafty windows) and feeding it a sufficient amount of fresh rye, I had a bubbling mixture after 2 days and a very sticky dough after three. Adding in orange zest and raw pumpkin seeds and garnishing before being baked, what you end up with are dense, lightly citrusy and totally filling rye buns – not unlike the texture of bagels – that are healthy, just the right size and require no kneading, no special ingredients or equipment, or any type of special technique. Bonus: because we love organic and preservative-free bread that doesn’t go stale within hours, the taste of these rye buns only gets better after several days!

orange citrus + pumpkin seed rye buns
makes 8

3 cups whole-milled dark rye flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup rye sourdough starter*
3 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds, chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp unpasteurized/raw honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
rind of one organic orange
handful of seeds for garnish

1. *Start your rye sourdough starter: combine well 1/4 cup of rye flour with 1/2 cup of lukewarm water in a glass jar, cup or bowl. Cover with a cotton cloth or loose lid and let sit in a warm place for 3 days, away from drafts. Every 24 hours, scoop out some of the mixture, and add in a bit more flour and warm water. This may be sooner – as soon as it smells pleasantly sour and is bubbly – you have succeeded. Alternately, you can purchase sourdough starters from most healthy grocery stores, if growing colonies of life-forms from scratch isn’t your thing.
2. Including the rye starter, mix all ingredients together, except for the seeds and stir until well blended and smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 2 hours undisturbed.
3. Flour your working surface, unwrap, and flatten and fold over the dough twice. Return to the bowl and cover.
4. Preheat the oven to 325°F and slide in the baking sheet, while the oven warms. Working quickly, roll out the dough into a layer of medium-thickness. Using an upside-down cup, cut out buns; roll together the scraps and repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. Sprinkle with seeds and gently press them into the surface.
5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, cover with parchment paper, and arrange the buns to fit. Bake for 10-20 minutes until golden brown. These will keep for up to a week in a tightly sealed jar – refrigeration doesn’t hurt.

Make great vegetarian burger buns, english muffin substitutes, and go very well with poached eggs, salty, creamy-fresh cheeses and sweet fruit + maple syrup compotes.

source: ISBN-13 9781556434716, 9780865477384, 9780405080562

19 Sep
2012

Peaches are everywhere! But not for much longer in Ontario. This is the last month this tender and juicy fruit will be gracing our trees so at the peak of September I wanted to post this recipe to encourage you all to use them while you still can. Delicious in oat cobblers, morning breakfasts, and just plain fresh on their own, this is a dinner recipe to inspire you to see the savoury side of peaches and widen their breadth of use.

The portobello mushrooms are first marinated in olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar and grilled until tender and concentrated in flavour. The peaches are reduced and glazed in maple syrup and these warm compotes are layered on fresh salty goat cheese and savoury thyme sprigs that complement the sweet-and-salty flavour of this dish and hearty rye bread. I chose to complement these burgers by adding a side serving of totally simple baked sweet potato wedges and instead of the old and unhealthy commercial ketchup combination, I’ve whipped together a tasty oil-free vegetable mayonnaise that is quick and delicious cold.

Mushrooms decrease both fat and cholesterol in the blood and help discharge the excess residues of accumulated animal protein. They are a good source of interferon, a protein that appears to induce an immune response against cancer and viral diseases, especially stomach and cervix.

Peaches are the perfect summer fruit: cooling and astringent it tends to limit perspiration and builds body fluids, two important elements for the heat of summers. Peaches are high in Niacin, Vitamin A and in Vitamin C complex. Peaches are also one of the highest pesticide-load carrying fruits, if you don’t buy organic. As a category, peaches are treated with the highest number of pesticides than any other fruit, adding up to 57 different chemical combinations. And this isn’t analyzing just a select number of suppliers – in fact, over 4 out of every 5 conventional peaches that you purchase will register multiple pesticides.

Besides the indisputable environmental benefits of organic farming over the application of pesticides to our depleting soil levels, which is an essential element to growing and sustaining any sort of food supply, pesticides are cumulative and will concentrate in organs and your tissue, which is especially problematic for children, who are smaller and weaker than the adults who are usually the ones feeding them. Many of the pesticides sold on our markets are able to pass regulation due to the definition of “negligible risk” instated in the legislation. “Negligible risk” in this context is calculated on annual unit consumption basis. Whereas regulators may determine that the pesticides in peaches only pose a negligible risk if you eat 20 per year, what happens if you stumble across a bounty of peaches one summer and eat one each day for half the summer, thus consuming 60 peaches in a year? Because regulators cannot accurately describe each and every one of our eating habits, in eating non-organic produce that normally has high levels of pesticide residue, year after year, the loads accumulated in your body can become serious and may cause cancer, cell mutations, reproductive issues and the growth of tumors. Pesticides, in mass amounts, have wiped out thousands of people and maimed over 200,000 in just one example of an industrial pesticide-manufacturing accident in the world. Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) cites that surviving species of insects are developing major resistances to insecticides, which has become an additional serious health problem. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), insecticide use is up over ten times since World War II and yet crop loss due to insect damage has doubled from 7% to 14%. For a country that produces a large portion of the world’s food supply, 14% in crop loss is a major fear as a food security crisis looms in the near future.

Fortunately, most farmers in the world (who also happen to be located in mainly non-developed countries) by virtue of sheer numbers, are organic farmers, and countries such as Indonesia and Sweden have moved towards banning and reducing pesticide use since 1989 respectively. For those of us in developed countries, and thus in privileged positions spending less than 10% of our incomes on food compared to approximately 75% for the poor, we should be leading the world example by supporting organic farming and research dedicated to improving the technology behind it.

grilled portobello, peach + thyme goat cheese burgers on rye
makes 4 burgers

rye flour buns
See orange citrus + pumpkin seed rye buns for the recipe that I used.
The dense, dark German rye bread from your supermarket would also work well here.
If using large loaves, cut the slices into squares or halves to serve as buns that are easy to handle.

grilled add-ins
4 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 tsp olive oil
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt + pepper

2 peaches, pitted + diced
4 tbsp water
2 tsp maple or agave syrup
2 tsp chia seeds

8 cherry tomatoes, halved
soft, unripened goat cheese for spreading
sprigs of thyme

1. In two approximately 10 inch x 10 inch squares of aluminum-foil, divide equally the peaches, water, maple syrup and chia seed, and place in the centre of each square. Fold up the foil corners and pinch together to resemble loosely-sealed pyramids. The chia seed will help turn the juices the peaches release into a more jam-like consistency.
2. Turn on your grill to medium heat. Place the marinading peaches on the grill, away from direct flame, while it heats.
3. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt + pepper in a small bowl. Coat sparingly the areas of the grill you will be using with this mixture. Brush onto both sides of the mushroom.
4. Grill the mushrooms for 4 minutes on each side. Remove both the peaches and the mushrooms.

Assemble each burger: On a rye bun, spread some goat cheese and add a sprig of thyme. On this, place the mushroom, cap-down, and fill with 4 cherry tomato halves, and a generous spoonful of marinaded peaches. Top with the second rye bun and serve with a helping of baked sweet potato wedges and miso mayo (recipes below).

baked sweet potato wedges
5 sweet potatoes, peel left on, halved by width + then cut into 1 inch wedges
light olive oil
coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread evenly across a baking sheet the sweet potato wedges, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
2. Bake for 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and a golden brown. Serve warm.

vegan miso mayo dip
6 oz firm silken tofu*
1 clove garlic, inner germ removed
2 tsp white miso paste*
a bit of yellow onion
1/2 tsp nutmeg
black pepper

1. Throw all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and process on high speed until smooth and combined. Serve dolloped onto the side of the plate or in tiny jars.
*Look for non-GM (genetically-modified) soybeans as an ingredient!

source: Huffington Post; Halving Global Poverty, London School of Economics; ISBN-13 9781556434716, 9780895295583; 78th Annual Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs Conference: The Global Politics of Food.

12 Sep
2012

The exact origins of falafel are not quite clear, but nowadays it is clear that it has (unfortunately) become a greasy favourite in the Western diet. The original recipe consisting of soaked chickpeas, fresh herbs and crisp vegetables has of late turned into fried junk food. In theory, falafel is a great alternative for vegetarians who are looking for a wholesome dinner feature or quick lunch and for those who want a healthier alternative to packaged deli meats. In practice, this is the falafel that will do that trick. It is healthy, fresh and spicy tasting and absolutely delicious with the vegan tzatziki below. I further experimented with a veggie wrap made from zucchini so for those with a bit of extra time on their hands, making a couple of these zucchini wraps and storing them in the fridge for the week ahead makes for really nutritious and eco-friendly lunch ideas.

Why looking for packaged meat alternatives should go beyond “natural”
Widely known is the original controversy over packaged meats: their questionable ingredients and harmful preservative content (i.e. nitrates). Nowadays, consumers have to be more educated than ever before in what they’re putting in their bodies and where it is coming from because food marketers are only getting smarter and the labelling language more confusing. Claims such as “lean” and “natural” are all food marketing jargon for partial-truths that appeal to what consumers are demanding. And that is less preservatives and more wholesome products. But are we always getting that? As I took several trips to supermarkets, set out to find organic meats, it was clear that stores offered few, if any, kinds and what was available instead were meats labelled as “natural”.

North American labelling laws dictate that the term “natural” only be applied to foods that are not submitted to processes that have not significantly altered their original physical, chemical or biological state. This area is not heavily regulated and leaves a lot of leg-room for companies, who, logically trying to reduce their costs, use terms such as “natural ingredients” or “natural preservatives” to refer to only specific components of the overall product and therefore give you an improved impression of the food itself. After working in the food marketing industry and as seen in past case studies in the meat industry, “natural preservatives” doesn’t necessarily mean healthier or safer than conventional; for many companies natural preservatives such as lemon juice and celery extract are really just plays on nomenclature, using very exact methods of extraction in the lab to deliver citric acid from lemons and chemically-identical nitrates to non-natural versions, respectfully. Consumers then come to the verdict that they are getting the benefits of vitamins, minerals and general health from lemons and celery, but really you are not.

So is the solution organic packaged meats then? Possibly, but that’s likely something more for the future. They are terribly difficult to find in supermarkets and with such a small percentage of consumers purchasing organic meat, it is not a logical production choice for most companies. I have listened to the regulatory department head of a major meat producer during a recent environmental discussion go into the challenges of organic meat: Besides forbidding the use of antibiotics, hormones and feeding animal by-products to other animals (yes, this does regularly happen!), Organic regulation forbids the use non-organic feed to the animals being raised for consumption. In Canada, organic feed is expensive and the only cost-economical option is to source organic feed from China… but that raises a whole number of other issues on sustainability!

For vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, until those economics change due to your dissatisfaction, the best solution here is to opt away and spend some time preparing (/creating!) your own meals to benefit in health from a more wholesome diet.

Falafel could definitely use a make-over where the practice of soaking seeds and legumes and not frying in rancid (over-heated and oxidized) oil returns. When made properly, falafel makes a great addition to a variety of dishes – not just wraps – and keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. An excellent dish to make ahead of time. Some other great ideas are: sprinkling the mix into rice curries, on a bed of salad with a tzatziki dressing or into scrambled eggs for a nutritious morning meal or lunch.

This vegan tzatziki and zucchini wrap are both fresh-tasting and light, cooling additions to any meal. For time-savers, substitute with sprouted grain tortillas and goat/sheep’s milk yogurt with chopped mint + a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

spicy fresh falafel in zucchini picnic wraps + minty vegan tzatziki
makes 2 falafel wraps + 1.5 cups tzatziki

spicy fresh falafel
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked overnight
3/4 cup sunflower seeds, soaked overnight
1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight + cooked
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
pinch sea salt + black pepper

1. Drain the chickpeas, sunflower seed and sun-dried tomatoes of the water.
2. In a blender or food processor, at a low-medium setting, blend together all three along with the lemon juice, cumin, oregano, nutritional yeast, olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt + pepper until the mixture is well incorporated but still coarse in chunks.
3. Add the cilantro and pulse to combine. Do not purée.
4. Preheat the oven to 215°F. Using your hands, shape the mixture into falafel and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45min -1 hour until a light golden brown and dry to the touch.

zucchini wrap
3 cups zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup flax seed, ground
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

1. In a blender or food processor, mix all ingredients at a high speed until thoroughly combined and smooth.
2. Preheat the oven to 215°F. Pour the wrap mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and using a spatula, smooth into a 1/4 inch circle. Bake for 2 hours.
3. When baked, flip upside-down and slowly peel the parchment paper away from the wrap. Store on a covered plate in the fridge, separated by pieces of parchment paper if making for later.

minty vegan tzatziki
6 oz firm silken tofu
1/2 small cucumber, seeds scraped out
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp fresh mint leaves
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
generous pinch sea salt + black pepper

1. Crush the garlic and remove the inner vein (germ). Peel the cucumber and scrape away the inner seeds.
2. In a blender or food processor, blend at a high speed all ingredients until combined.

Assembly: On a wrap, place an assortment of your favourite crisp vegetables (I used red onion, bell peppers and lettuce), top with 2-3 falafel and then drizzle tzatziki on top. Carefully fold in the right- and left-hand side edges and then, beginning with the edge closest to you, roll away, keeping everything well tucked in. Wrap in brown paper or foil and you’re all set to go!

source: ISBN-13 978-0865477384

4 Sep
2012

I frequently get a lot of questions about why I choose to eat the way I do and whether or not I feel deprived because I choose to not include wheat, sugar or cow’s milk as part of what I eat. The short answer to that is no, because I know it is making a positive difference in more ways than one, but if there was anything that popped into mind as being something that I really enjoyed in the past and have now crossed off my list it would be Fine Cooking’s Banana-Toffee Tart. However, like I said, I see no reason to feel deprived when you’re doing good for your health so I adapted the recipe to be cow’s milk-, sugar- and wheat-free – and better yet – with one small tweak, it is dairy-free and vegan too. :) The result was a healthy summer dessert (yep, those words go together) that was creamy, cool, fresh and minimalistic all at once. And I love bananas – this dessert really allowed their sweet nature to shine through amidst the rich caramel, cool whipped coconut cream and touch of coffee flavour.

Bananas are perfect for summer, when the days are hot and we are out and about, being more active than usual. Their cooling nature and higher natural sugar content provide energy and soothe feelings of thirst and dryness. Bananas are also high in potassium, a mineral that is extremely important for a healthy nervous system and the transfer of nutrients through cell membranes (where your body needs vitamins and minerals to use them).

The saying, “You are what you eat”, can come down to, “You are what your cells can assimilate”, and when we refer to optimal health, we are referring, in a large part, to the health of these millions of tiny building blocks that make up every physical structure of our body. If your body is lacking in whole foods (nutrients) and/or the minerals and enzymes needed to make these nutrients useful, then the health of your cells will undoubtedly suffer.

Brown rice syrup, a much healthier alternative to white sugar, is the fermented product of brown rice and is one of the most nearly whole-food sweeteners. Due to being composed of 50% maltose (one of the least-sweet natural sugars), it is one-third as sweet as white sugar (sucrose: the most sweet) and is low glycemic, meaning it takes longer to digest and doesn’t lead to spikes in blood sugar – we commonly refer to this as a “sugar rush” – when used as a replacement. Brown rice syrup looks something like more opaque corn syrup and tastes pleasantly neutral, with a malty aftertaste.

Most people are aware that white sugar is one of the worst foods one can eat and the replacements in grocery stores nowadays are vast and varied. Many sweeteners are promoted with claims for their health benefits (i.e. so-called ‘natural’ sweeteners such as brown sugar, corn syrup or turbinado sugar) or zero calories (i.e. aspartame and other artificial sweeteners), but the former is honestly just as nearly refined and concentrated as white sugar, leading to similar effects, and the former is highly processed and linked to nervous system disruptions and a whole host of other health issues. The average North American consumes approximately 150 pounds of sugar each year! It is an addictive substance and highly detrimental to your health and there are many unfair-trade issues associated with it too, for the labourers working on these plantations. It is no small feat cutting sugar out of your diet, so natural sugar sources can come to anyone’s rescue.

In my opinion, any food that is highly processed, chemically manufactured and taken out of its whole-food environment of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and fibers is unhealthy and should be your last choice when choosing food of any kind. They will all be limited in (non-synethic) nutritional content. Finally, any sweetener in excess will weaken your body’s balance and will deplete it of minerals. Naturally processed sweeteners are healthier alternatives and brown rice syrup happens to be one that is also another good source of potassium.

banana coffee-seed caramel pie
serves 8-10

sprouted spelt pie crust
1 1/2 cups sprouted spelt flour
1/2 cup very cold coconut oil
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 tbsp chia seeds soaked in 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp sea salt, fine

1. In a stand mixer, with the paddle option attached, whip the flour and salt at a medium-high speed for 1 minute to incorporate air among the grains for a flakier crust. Alternately, sift the flour and salt by hand into a food processor.
2.  Add the coconut oil and chia seeds and mix at a low speed, or with a pastry knife/fork by hand, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Do not over process.
3. Slowly drizzle in the brown rice syrup until the dough just comes together. (At this point you may need a little more water or flour depending on your result. The dough should be firm without cracks).
4. Line a 9-inch pie pan with aluminum foil and press the dough thinly into shape. Leave/flute the edges as you would like and pierce the dough with a fork in several areas to help release steam during baking. Cover with more foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
5. Line the foil cover with pie weights (I just used a few pebbles from my garden) and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Remove the foil cover and bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown and the bottom looks dry but not cracked.

caramel
1 400 ml can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup brown rice syrup + 3 tbsp
1/4 tsp sea salt, fine

1. Warm the coconut milk and 1/4 cup brown rice syrup over med-low heat and cook uncovered for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent a film from forming on the top. After 1 hour be wary that the mixture will start to turn a golden brown colour and after this point it can quickly curdle, separating the coconut fat from the water. At this point it would then be unusable.
2. Take off the heat when golden brown and the liquid has thickened to the consistency of a syrup. Let cool and stir in the 3 tbsp of brown rice syrup and sea salt.

bananas + whipped cream
3 large fair-trade bananas, cut in half length-wise
1 400 ml can full-fat coconut milk, stored in the fridge overnight, water drained away next day
4 tbsp 2% goat milk (optional – otherwise, retain 2 tbsp coconut water)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp espresso powder + more for garnish

1. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the white cream into a bowl. Drain away the coconut water, unless you are not using the goat’s milk. (I used goat’s milk to help neutralize the coco-nutty taste of this whipped cream and create a tangier flavour). Add in the vanilla and 1/4 tsp espresso powder.
2. Beat at a high speed for at least 1 minute and then start pouring in the goat milk/coconut water slowly. Beat until a knife cut through the whipped cream remains distinct. Put in fridge.
3. Pour the cooled caramel into the cooled crust and arrange the bananas in a circular fashion. You may need to break some pieces to make it all fit. Top with the whipped cream and sprinkle with a bit more coffee.

This dessert is perfect for eating right away, and you bet I served it to table as quickly as I could. On the other hand, it firms up significantly in the fridge after an hour if you want a very structured dessert. The pie will keep, covered, up to 5 days in the fridge, though I can guarantee it won’t last that long.

source: ISBN-13 9781556434303; ISBN-13 9781583332368