High-Vibe Condiment Classics

Summer is fast-approaching (at last!) and I don’t know about you, but to me this means grilling, eating outside, and enjoying all of the classic, warm-weather treats. But wait! Did you know that there are all kinds of funky ingredients hiding in the most innocuous […]

The post High-Vibe Condiment Classics appeared first on My New Roots.

Summer is fast-approaching (at last!) and I don’t know about you, but to me this means grilling, eating outside, and enjoying all of the classic, warm-weather treats. But wait! Did you know that there are all kinds of funky ingredients hiding in the most innocuous places, like your ketchup, mustard and relish?! We shouldn’t have to forgo these truly classic condiments just because we’re walking on the whole foods path. No way! So I decided to do a high-vibe makeover all of the condiments that you’d find at a barbecue, picnic, or baseball game: ketchup, mustard, honey mustard, Dijon, relish, mayo and secret sauce, without any refined ingredients, colours, or preservatives. They are entirely vegan (except for the honey mustard), and taste absolutely incredible. 

Making your own condiments from scratch is empowering, and you too will see that by whisking up your very own mustard, or blending your very own ketchup that you are incredibly capable in the kitchen! It’s a serious delight to realize that you’re not only qualified to make things you thought you needed to buy, but that you’re also doing yourself a giant favour in cutting questionable ingredients out of your life.

When I was a kid, I loved hotdogs with mustard and relish (not ketchup, that was for burgers). The vinegary tang of the yellow mustard with the sweetness of pickle relish perfectly offset the salty squishiness of a microwaved wiener. This was a typical Saturday lunch, with doughnuts for dessert, all washed down with a giant glass of milk. I wanted to recreate that nostalgia, minus pretty much everything else. The flavours bring me back to simple times and simple food.

But simple food is not always so simple. Have you read the ingredients on a squeeze bottle of relish lately? It’s a complicated collection of chemicals that I certainly wouldn’t want in my body. High-fructose corn syrup, “natural flavour”, and food colouring are just a few of the ingredients that plague most tasty toppings. Food additives are everywhere, especially in shelf-stable products. If you’re not going to refrigerate something or preserve it properly, it has to have things in it to prevent it from spoiling. It also has to look appealing and taste good, even after months (or years!) on a grocery store shelf. That is why it is so important to read labels and be discerning about what you choose to buy. This is not to say that these additives are inherently harmful, but they are far from natural, and I’m a believer in eating as close to the earth as possible! Luckily my condiments are not only based on whole foods, but they taste amazing and are actually good for you.   

Here is a small list of the food additives to watch out for and avoid, if possible. Remember to check the packages of your other summer favourites, like chips, salad dressings, sparkling beverages, soda and “juice”, ice cream, popsicles, and frozen yogurt. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup Sometimes labeled HFCS, this highly-refined artificial sweetener has become the number one source of calories in North America. It is found in almost all processed foods, since it is cheap to make, shelf-stable, super sweet, and highly addictive. Excessive consumption has been linked to obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Watch out for it in condiments, salad dressing, bread, candy, soda, yogurt, breakfast cereals, even canned vegetables and fruit. 

Natural Flavours This is a sneaky term meant to throw you off. When you see these words on an ingredient list, they refer to a naturally-derived flavouring agent that has to be extracted from plant or animal sources, designed to enhance the taste of food. Conversely, artificial flavours are synthetically created, with their original sources being manmade chemicals. Natural flavours however, are still made in laboratories by food chemists who can add any numbers of chemicals, including preservatives, solvents and other substances, which are defined as “incidental additives”, to what they are creating. Food manufacturers are not required to disclose whether these additives come from natural or synthetic sources, and as long as the original flavouring comes from plant or animal material, they can be classified as natural. The point is, natural flavours don’t appear to be any healthier than artificial flavours, and they can still contain ingredients that may cause reactions in sensitive individuals, especially children. To avoid them, cut back on packaged products and stick to the real-deal whole foods! 

Food Dyes / Colours To make food look bright, fresh, and especially appealing to children, food manufacturers add dyes to obvious things like candy, sports drinks and baked goods, but also not-so-obvious things like condiments (!), pickles, cereals, salad dressing, yogurt, and chocolate milk. Some of these dyes are approved for use in certain countries, while others have banned them, making it challenging for consumers to navigate. The safety of food dyes is controversial, especially in regards to children. Studies have linked them to hyperactivity in sensitive kids, and they may cause allergic reactions in some people. Because most food dyes are found in unhealthy processed foods, it’s easy to avoid them if you’re sticking to a more natural diet. 

Hydrogenated / Partially Hydrogenated Oils You know when the World Health Organization plans on eliminating these fats from the global food supply, they must be pretty problematic. Created by forcing hydrogen gas into vegetable fats under extremely high pressure to turn liquid into solid, hydrogenation creates trans fats, which increases the amount of LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL cholesterol, therefore significantly increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. What’s more is that these fats are pro-inflammatory. Although their use has been banned in several countries, trans fats still lurk in many processed foods.  As long as there is less than .5% per serving, it isn’t required in to be listed in the ingredients or nutritional information. The best way to avoid them is by cutting out processed foods, especially margarine, coffee creamer, chips and crackers, frozen pizza, fast foods, baked goods, and microwave popcorn.  

Health Claims – these are put on the front of the box to lure you in, and can include buzz words like ”natural”, “whole grain”, “low-fat”, “no added sugar”, “organic”, “light”, “low calorie”, “gluten-free”, and “enriched”. Terms like these should be a red flag for you, so read the entire label, including the ingredient list, the serving size, the amount and types of sweetener and fat used. Think critically and be selective – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

The bottom line?! Stick to whole, or minimally-processed foods and ingredients as often as possible. It’s better for you, and your family to make your own from scratch whenever possible. Not to mention, it’s fun to brag to everyone that you’re a condiment master, a yogurt wizard, or a salad dressing whisperer. 

I had so much FUN with these recipes! It was a blast to brainstorm which condiments I would attempt to health-ify, experiment with, and eventually master to make them all easy-to-make and delicious. My condiments won’t last years in the fridge, but all of them passed the two-week mark with flying colours (all of them natural, of course). As long as you’re using clean utensils to scoop out your servings, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping these toppings around for a few weeks – ya know, if you can ration them for that long! 

Yellow Mustard
This was in fact my first attempt at making yellow mustard and it proved to be ridiculously easy! I think I’d built it up in my head to be some complicated project, but wow was I mistaken. Just a few simple ingredients, and a little stovetop whisking will get you the brightest, tangiest, most beautiful ballpark mustard of your dreams! I must warn you, from one condiment-master to another, that the bubbling mixture gets darn hot and tends to splatter when it’s cooking. To avoid scalding yourself, use the pot lid as s shield (insert laughing emoji here). 

Honey Mustard
Depending on how sweet you like your honey mustard, it’s just the above yellow mustard recipe with as much honey stirred in as you like! I added two tablespoons and it was perfect for me, but if you want even more, got for it. I recommend avoiding very runny honey, since this will loosen the mustard. Instead, opt for something on the thicker side to maintain the consistency. If you’re vegan, brown rice or date syrup would be the best choices, since they are more viscous than maple syrup, for example. I love this on sandwiches with lots of fresh veggies and sprouts!

Grainy Dijon Mustard
This style of Dijon is a whole-seed one, which is my favourite because of the great texture and colour variations. It’s spicy and complex, and will only get better with time. Keep in mind that this recipe is in two stages, the first one requiring you to soak your mustard seeds the night before you plan on blending. 

Sweet Pickle Relish
This was the most anticipated condiment to try and make myself, since it’s one of my favourites, but also one of the worst offenders for additives. I successfully recreated that gorgeous tang, and succulent texture of commercial relish that I loved so much as a kid. The taste of this one is off the charts! My recipe uses coconut sugar instead of refined sugar and syrups, so the colour is a little darker and browner than the conventional types, but I don’t think you’ll notice – and you certainly won’t miss the food colouring!

Tomato Ketchup
This ketchup was an old blog post that I revisited and revised. I used to make this recipe in the oven, but my new method eliminates the need to crank up the heat when it’s probably the last thing you want to do. Instead, the whole thing is made on the stove, then blitzed up in the blender. It’s deeply spiced and complex, so much more interesting than store-bought ketchup. The first time I made the new version, I used a good portion of it for a soup base, then added more to a dip – both were delicious, so if you have leftovers, put it to use in an unexpected place. It’s tasty with everything! 

Aquafaba Mayonnaise
This was the most exciting discovery to make: vegan mayo using aquafaba! Aqua faba translates to “bean water” and it’s the cooking liquid from chickpeas. Although any can of chickpeas will have this, I make my own, since there are no additives or chemicals that have leached from the can itself. If you cook your own chickpeas from dried, you have aquafaba. Although I wouldn’t normally consume large amounts of aquafaba, in this case it’s used in such a small amount that I think it’s fine. Plus, did I mention it makes vegan mayo?! The results are so unbelievably shocking and delightful that I’m a convert, even though I eat eggs!

I highly suggest using the most neutral-tasting olive oil you can find for this recipe. Since it makes up the majority of the flavour of the mayonnaise, a strong-tasting olive oil will overpower the delicate nature of this condiment. I used the one from Pineapple Collaborative, which works perfectly. I also tried avocado oil, grapeseed, and sunflower, but didn’t like the results as much as mild olive oil. It’s up to you! You can really use whatever you have on hand, just keep in mind that it will really dictate the taste of the final result. 

Smoky Secret Sauce
This is the creamy, tangy, and perfectly seasoned sauce that most famously adorns the Big Mac burger from McDonalds. What’s best about my version is that it has zero secrets…nothing weird to hide here! I had the most fun with this recipe, since it required a number of the condiments that I’d already made as ingredients. I did deviate a tad from the original and added smoked paprika, since I love the added dimension of smoke flavour to anything that’s going on grilled food, but I’ve also found this to be a stellar salad dressing, especially for chop-style salads that have chunky, less delicate ingredients. I hope you find some fun things to slather it on this summer. It’s lip-smakingly tasty! 

As a bonus, I’ve included this stellar recipe for carrot hot dogs – since you’ll need a high-vibe wiener to put your condiments on! Hahaaa! I realize that carrot hot dogs are pretty 2018, but I’d never tried them before and it was a very amusing undertaking. I looked at a number of recipes online and my version is a mash-up of the ones that sounded the most delicious. My method is also much easier and faster than other versions I’ve seen, since it’s just a braise on the stove and a quick grill (no marinating, steaming, roasting, etc). 

The important thing to keep in mind for this recipe, is that the amount of time you braise the carrots for,I’m  will be dictated by the girth of the carrots. Mine were more sausage-sized (approx 1.5” or 3.5-3.75 cm) than a typical hot dog wiener, and a 20-minute simmer was the perfect amount. If your carrots are smaller, I’d go down to 15 minutes. Insert a sharp knife to check on the doneness after 10 minutes or so, and take them out when they are tender, but way before they get mushy. Remember that you’re also going to be grilling them for 10 minutes so they will cook even more, and you don’t want them too soft. The final result should be tender all the way through, but shouldn’t fall apart in your mouth.

I wish you all an incredible summer ahead! I recognize that this season is going to look very different from years past, but as long as we’re all healthy and the sun is shining, we’ve got it pretty good. Stay safe out there, and keep fuelling your body with the whole foods it needs to thrive and feel alive! 

All love and happy condiment-making,
Sarah B

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The Spring Supper Salad

Greetings, friends! For fun I am resurrecting one of the blog posts I wrote back in 2010 – a warm butter bean salad bowl, garlic-roasted carrots and wild rice. Why I am re-publishing a decade-old recipe? Well, for one I thought that there are a […]

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Greetings, friends! For fun I am resurrecting one of the blog posts I wrote back in 2010 – a warm butter bean salad bowl, garlic-roasted carrots and wild rice. Why I am re-publishing a decade-old recipe? Well, for one I thought that there are a bunch of new followers around here who have never even seen this delight (hello, by the way)! Second, most of you who have been here since the beginning may have forgotten about it. Third, it’s the ideal pantry staple recipe. And lastly, because it’s very, very delicious. Creamy butter beans, golden garlic-y carrots coins, chewy wild rice, crisp and bright pickled onions, silky kale, and refreshing dill, all coming together with a lick-your-lips mustardy dressing that is divine on just about everything – this salad and beyond.

I’ve also re-named it the Spring Supper Salad because it’s the perfect seasonal transition meal (yea baby, it’s definitely a meal) incorporating both winter and spring produce and flavours, as we make our way into the light of the upswing! Hooray!

This recipe brings back so many memories for me. It was around this time that I had been working in restaurants in Copenhagen for about 3 years. I loved my job, and could hardly believe that someone actually paid me to spend all day in a hot, cramped kitchen, cooking a dozen new dishes every day without a menu or recipes – definitely still in the honeymoon phase. I felt confident in the food I was making, applying my deep understanding of nutrition to recipe development, and I used every day to push myself creatively, keenly aware of how fast I was learning and growing. I was certainly in the vortex, and it was a very exciting time of my life. 

I started my shift around 8 am, and the majority of my dishes needed to be ready at 12 noon when we opened the doors for lunch. This is a relatively short window of time to pump out 200 servings of anything, but after some years, I developed short cuts that would deliver a lot of flavour in a hurry. One of these short cuts, was garlic oil – the first thing I would make after tying my apron strings, that would act as a marinade, a roasting medium, and a base for soups, stews, dressings and sauces for the entire day. In fact, I don’t think that there were many dishes coming off of my station that didn’t have garlic in them back then (such an easy way to make things taste good!). This oil sat on my bench and it got tossed into all the things, and all the people kept coming back for more. 

One thing I loved using the garlic oil on, was winter veggies. I could toss them in said liquid gold, crank up the oven, and in half an hour, I’d have a blistered, glistening pile of roasted rainbow roots to serve, only needing a squeeze of lemon juice and a smattering of fresh herbs to make it presentable. Who wouldn’t want to dive into that?! Plus, it was cheap. Like most restaurants, we were always looking at the bottom line and how we could make even the most humble foods taste exquisite. Garlic oil was the ticket. 

At the restaurant, my signature move was combining veggies, grains, and beans in exciting ways (which was very novel at the time!) so this dish emerged from a commercial oven’s worth of garlic-roasted carrots needing a home. With some tender and creamy butter beans coming off the stove, and some day-old, steamed wild rice calling out to me from the fridge, this combination came together very organically, taking the varied textures, colours, and flavours into consideration. 

The secret to this dish is the consistency of the garlic in the oil. Different from mincing garlic and adding it to oil, here you must must must grate it or blend it up together so it becomes almost paste-like. This way, the garlic goes everywhere the oil does, and evenly caramelizes into the most divine, delectable gold, that’s mellow and sweet and roast-y. You will not hate it.

Stop! Fiber time.

Fiber is probably the least sexy and alluring of all the nutrients we hear about. It’s all about Protein! Fat! And if you hear about carbohydrates, it’s probably something ignorant and unfair (I really hate jerks picking on macronutrients, back off!). Fiber seems pretty boring and something only your grandmother cares about, so why do you need to?  

One reason that plant-rich diets are so health-sustaining, is not only due to their high fiber content, but their potential for fiber diversity. In the past, fiber has been broken down into two main categories: soluble and insoluble. What’s new and exciting in this field of research, is that we can see that fiber can be broken down into several more categories (viscous, non-viscous, non-starch polysaccharides, resistant starches etc.) each one bringing forth the potential for diversified food sources for our gut bacteria. In short, the greater the diversity of plants we eat, the greater the diversity of our microbiome. 

Why does this matter? Because our gut is the foundation for our overall health. If we’ve got a wide range of troops on the front lines of our immune system, the better our chances are for not just surviving, but thriving. The fiber we eat also feeds our good bacteria, and specific types of fiber feed specific types of bacteria. Enjoy eating the widest variety of plants you can, to ensure that you’re supporting the widest variety of good guys in your digestive system. They will repay you in spades I’m tellin’ ya! 

The foods with the highest amounts of fiber are beans and lentils, vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts and seeds (remember that there is no fiber in animal-based foods). Different proportions of soluble, insoluble fiber, as well as viscous / non-viscous fiber, and fermentable fiber can be found in all of these food groups, it is highly recommended that you eat from each of them. And instead of focusing on grams (the minimum daily recommended intake is a measly 25g, not that we’re talking about that…), we need to focus on diversity. Enjoy as many plant-based foods as you can, and experience the terrain of your body slowly begin to change. Everything comes back to the gut, and not just what you are eating, but what your gut-bacteria are eating too.

With this dish, you’ll be feeding those good guys with fiber from six different plants! Talk about a solid mix. Beans, whole grains, 3 different veggies, plus herbs, add up to serious fiber diversity. Good, good, good fiberations! 😉

The fun thing about revisiting this recipe, was seeing if there was anything I would change this time around. I have learned so much and grown incredibly as a cook in the past ten years, so I was surprised that I didn’t have many tweaks to make. The only two things I felt this salad needed was a dark leafy green and a pickle – classic Sarah B moves at this point! Since we still don’t have any spring greens happening yet, I decided kale was the winner, and obviously it needed to be massaged! I turned the red onions in the original recipe into a quick pickle, as this is another indispensable kitchen technique that I’ve learned since posting the first time around.

This salad-meal has everything you need and crave from a single bowl: it’s super flavourful and filling, with all of the textures in the mix to satisfy your noshing desires. The elements can all be made separately, even on separate days, if it seems like too many things to cook at once for a single dish. If you go the rollover route, boil the beans and rice a day or so before (and make extra while you’re at it, because meal prep is for winners), and pickle the onions up to a week ahead. The kale can be prepped / massaged a day or so in advance, but the carrots should be roasted right before serving. 

If you don’t have butter beans, any white bean would work (navy, cannellini, Great Northern, or baby lima beans are some varieties) and if you want to switch up the grain, any kind of rice would work – even millet or quinoa would be delicious! Instead of carrots, use any root veg you have kicking around your crisper: beets, sweet potato, turnip, or winter squash would taste great in the garlic oil. And if dill isn’t the herb of your dreams, try substituting it with flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil, or tarragon. 

I really hope you enjoy this delicious and satisfying meal soon. These days are asking so much of us, and I continue to come back to the kitchen for grounding, clarity, and connection. There are no answers, just presence. And in that presence I find myself over a cutting board, being grateful for just what is front of me, slicing a carrot, then another, saying thank you for simple things.

Love to you all. Stay well and safe out there.
xo, Sarah B

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Granola Candy Bars

When I was a kid, I always wanted to go to other peoples’ houses for playdates. Not because I didn’t like my own home. Because of the snacks. 

 Although my childhood diet included a fair amount of donuts and microwaved hot dogs, my mother had very distinct […]

The post Granola Candy Bars appeared first on My New Roots.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to go to other peoples’ houses for playdates. Not because I didn’t like my own home. Because of the snacks. 



Although my childhood diet included a fair amount of donuts and microwaved hot dogs, my mother had very distinct ideas of what was okay to eat on the regular, and what was not. Honey Nut Cheerios, okay. Lucky Charms, not okay. Granola bars, sure. Granola bars covered in chocolate, nope. My friend’s pantries were stocked with these things, also known as Kudos, which are somehow legally sanctioned to be labelled granola bars and marketed as a healthy snack, but definitely wouldn’t pass my mom’s test by a long shot.

So, I had to get creative to have access to said saccharine granola bar slathered with oozy, sweetened peanut butter, covered in a thick coating of milk chocolate. My teeth hurt just thinking about them now, but holy heck were they transcendent to my seven-year-old self. I would put up with all kinds of games I didn’t want to play, cartoons I didn’t want to watch, even annoying little sisters, just to have access to the cupboard of Kudos bars after school.

My version of this recipe came from a craving, as they often do. Maybe I was longing for a little nostalgia, or a connection to a simpler time when my only goal for the day was ingesting as much sugar as possible without my parents knowing. Good times, haha! Anyway, I have successfully re-created Kudos bars, with massively improved ingredients and adult upgrades. My version is naturally sweetened (duh), uses dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, and I swapped out the peanut butter for hazelnut butter, because it is just way more delicious! I added figs to the granola bars, since they pair so well hazelnuts. And last but not least, I included a healthy amount of salt for balance. Under-salted desserts make me want to light my hair on fire.

Altogether, these Granola Candy Bars are serious craving-crushers. Crunchy, crispy, creamy, oozy, sweet and salty, totally rich and mouth-wateringly delicious. I’m almost through my second batch and already planning my next one. I feel like a stockpile of these in the fridge would get me through just about anything, even 

the fifth, mind-numbing round of Candyland with my son, who bless his heart, just wants to eat sugar as badly as I did. Candyland is as close as he gets. 

 

Chocolate and Energy

For those of you following along on Instagram you know that each month in 2020 has a theme, and March is Energy. I thought it would be appropriate to talk about chocolate and how it affects us on an energetic level. A lot of people think that chocolate contains caffeine, and it does have a little bit, but caffeine is not in fact the most stimulating compound that cacao contains. It’s something else called theobromine. 



Theobromine is an alkaloid that gives chocolate its distinctive bitterness. The darker the chocolate, the more bitter, and the more theobromine it contains. Theobromine and caffeine are almost identical at a molecular level, which makes them behave in similar, energizing ways. The difference is that theobromine has one less methyl group (one carbon with three hydrogen attached), which makes it a less powerful stimulant, since it does not cross the blood-brain barrier as easily as caffeine does. Translation: theobromine offers a more relaxed, longer-lasting energy than caffeine, instead of the classic spike-and-crash. Both compounds act on our central nervous system, but only caffeine can make us feel anxious and jittery. Bonus: theobromine is also non-addictive (although I cannot help you if you get addicted to these Granola Candy Bars 😉


A 1½ ounce / 43g serving of dark chocolate (70% cacao solids) will give you about 115mg of theobromine and 20mg of caffeine. By comparison, an 8 ounce / 250ml cup of coffee contains about 95mg of caffeine and no theobromine. The maximum recommended daily intake for caffeine is around 400mg, while theobromine (thankfully) is higher at around 1000mg a day. 

We need to keep in mind however, that most chocolate contains sugar or other sweeteners and additives that are very stimulating. It is no wonder then, that for sensitive individuals, the theobromine in cacao combined with sugar and a little caffeine can give us a serious blast of energy and make chocolate feel like more than a cup of coffee! Be mindful of your chocolate intake during the later hours of the day, especially if you struggle to fall or stay asleep at night. 


 

Let’s get to the recipe! I use honey to sweeten the granola bars, and to help bind all the ingredients together, but a good, vegan alternative could be date paste. Just make sure it has a high viscosity (like, real sticky). 

This recipe is gluten-free, just make sure you buy gluten-free oats if you are sensitive.

 Hazelnuts may be hard to find and depending on where you are, can be expensive. If you’re looking for an alternative, almonds or cashews would be the best! The almonds may need more time in the oven, up to 25 minutes, but keep a good eye on them, as they can burn quickly. 



Of course you don’t have to make your own hazelnut butter for this recipe, but I highly highly recommend that you do. It’s really easy and a step that will fit into making the granola bars anyway. Just add 2 extra cups / 270g of hazelnuts to the baking sheets and roast as you would with the other ingredients. Blend hazelnuts in a food processor, scraping down the sides every so often, and eventually, you’ll have hazelnut butter. It can take up to ten minutes, so be patient. Add a splash of olive oil to get it going, if absolutely necessary. This will make about 1 cup / 250ml, which is exactly what you need for the recipe. You’re welcome! 






 

 

I know that this recipe will land with the child inside you, who is just trying to convince her parents that the chocolate-covered granola bars are healthy. Because at least now, well, they actually are.

All love and happy treat-making,
Sarah B

Show me your treats on Instagram: #mnrgranolacandybars

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

Okay, one more thing before I go, just because I’m pretty stoked about it…I have a show! It’s called The Substitute Baker, and it’s going to be on Food Network Canada’s digital platform. The series premiers March 25th on Facebook Watch, so you can see it no matter where in the world you are! I’ll be dropping more details about it on Instagram and Facebook, so please stay tuned there. Thank you to everyone who has sent a supportive comment or email – it means so much to me, and this opportunity was possible because of YOU. So thank you! 

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Bell Pepper Bisque with Giant Croutons

Hey friends! I’m coming in hot, to drop this stellar soup recipe on you, while the weather is still fine and early fall produce is at its peak. The bell peppers in my region are bountiful and beautiful, and because I am the biggest sucker […]

The post Bell Pepper Bisque with Giant Croutons appeared first on My New Roots.

Hey friends! I’m coming in hot, to drop this stellar soup recipe on you, while the weather is still fine and early fall produce is at its peak. The bell peppers in my region are bountiful and beautiful, and because I am the biggest sucker for roasted pepper anything, I came up with this dish to celebrate a seasonal favourite.

But first, can we take a moment and please talk about how I just invented giant croutons? I think it might be my personal opportunity to break the internet. How is this not a thing yet?! Sure, I guess you could look at the cheese toast on French onion soup and say that is a giant crouton, but in my opinion, it’s merely an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich. Pfff. Not even close to this. My crouton is a cube of sourdough (important shape-distinction), kissed with garlicky oil and seared to toasty, golden perfection. The outsides are caramelized and crisp, while the center is fluffy, creamy and studded with nooks and crannies for the soup to slide in to. Guh. Too good to be true! Honestly guys, I’m pretty proud of this.

But I also need you to know that this soup is darn good too, even without the crouton. The recipe is loosely based on the North African Sun-dried Tomato Soup in my second cookbook, except I left out many of the warming spices, which felt prematurely winter-y. It’s still t-shirt weather here, so the ginger and cinnamon had to go. Plus, I doubled the pepper count, added a teeny splash of balsamic (to round out the flavor), and made it bisque-y without the cream. Guess what I used?! Lentils!! Mic drop. But instead of bulking it up and putting the soup on legume-overload, I was conservative in my approach and just used half a cup. This made the soup rich and creamy without the cream, but in a very hush, hush way, so that you literally have no idea that they’re there. But their presence can be felt, because this soup is the real meal deal, not just a bowl of blended up veggies that will leave you hungry again in 20 minutes. With the bonus lentils, you’re getting way more protein and fiber that you’d normally expect from a pepper soup, and they will fill you up, and keep you energized for hours. This suddenly feels very infomercial-y. Did I mention there is a giant crouton?

Moving on! Let’s talk about peppers because they are in the nightshade family and that is a hot topic, if I ever heard one.

Nightshade vegetables are a part of the Solanaceae family, and include tomatoes, peppers (and chilies), eggplant / aubergine, and all potatoes except for sweet potatoes and yams. Originally cultivated in South America, nightshade vegetables were brought to Europe and Asia by Spanish explorers. Their name supposedly comes from the fact that they grow at night (as opposed to mushrooms, which grow in the shade).

You may have heard rumors that Nightshade vegetables are toxic, that they can cause inflammation or that they’re linked to autoimmune disorders. While it is true that edible nightshades contain high levels of glycoalkaloids, specifically solanine, which at very high levels is toxic, it only seems to trigger reactions in individuals who are sensitive to it. Those with pre-existing inflammatory conditions may experience worsening of their symptoms when they consume these foods, but an elimination diet would be the only way to determine if nightshades are in fact, causing the issues. For people who do not suffer from chronic inflammatory ailments, enjoying ratatouille, a pizza, or a baked potato is likely just fine, and certainly not going to cause you to get these conditions.

As far as autoimmunity is concerned, alkaloids from edible nightshades have been shown to irritate the gut, since solanine is effectively natural insecticide produced by this plant family. Gut irritation can contribute to intestinal permeability, which can set off an autoimmune reaction when proteins that should remain in the digestive tract leak into the bloodstream. The level of irritation depends on the amount consumed, and how sensitive the individual is. The highest amounts of solanine are found in green potatoes, and sprouted potatoes, but we should avoid eating those anyway.  

Let’s review: if you have an autoimmune disorder, leaky gut, or you exhibit symptoms of discomfort (digestive or otherwise) after consuming nightshades, try eliminating them from your diet for at least 6 weeks and see if you notice a difference. Then, re-introduce them one at a time and be aware of how you feel within a 24-hour period after eating them.

If you don’t have these issues, don’t worry about it! There is absolutely no reason to limit your intake of these highly nutritious vegetables if they seem to do your body good. Bell peppers contain an astounding amount of vitamin C, high levels of A, and B6, with very good levels of folate, fiber, and vitamin E. They also provide flavonoids, and carotenoids. Remember to buy bell peppers that have fully ripened – anything other than the greens ones, which are typically unripe red, orange, yellow, or purple peppers. Their nutrient profile will be at its peak, and the natural sugars will be fully developed, easing their digestion.

Let’s get to the recipe!

If you’re really pressed for time, skip roasting the peppers in the oven, and just dice them up, and add them to the pot along with the garlic in step 3. The overall flavour will be less rich, but still incredibly delicious. When I’m in a crunch, I’ll pull this move and have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. If you want to change things up, try orange or yellow peppers instead of the red ones.

As far as sun-dried tomatoes go, I like organic, dried ones, instead of the oil-packed ones, but either would work here. With the canned tomatoes, go for whole, since they tend to be of higher quality than the diced ones.

Let’s talk bread. If you have access to a bakery where they make the real thing (sourdough), please use that. If you don’t, find an unsliced loaf at your supermarket; bonus points if it’s made with wholegrain flour, organic, yeast-free, or all of the above. The bread should be cut into cubes with the serving bowl size in mind (you’ll want to see some of the soup around it), but if you have a huge bowl, go crazy and make that crouton as gargantuan as you want! And don’t throw the offcuts away – I put them in the toaster and slathered them with hummus for my son. He was stoked about the oddly-shaped chunks.  

I hope that wherever you are on this earth, you’re enjoying the seasons shifting and embracing the changes that come with that. When I started writing this post, it was a very hot day, and now, just 48 hours later, I can feel a significant shift in temperature and weather. Here we go, fall! I’m happy you’re here.

Big thanks to my friends at Foragers Farms for letting me crash the greenhouse at the crack of dawn to get these pics.

Love to all, happy fall!
Sarah B

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Strawberry Rhubarb Hemp Breakfast Bites

This post is a long time coming! And I’m so excited to finally be sharing my bedroom with you all. We’ve now been in our home for a year and a bit, and although it’s (still!) not complete, we’re enjoying working on the finishing details […]

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This post is a long time coming! And I’m so excited to finally be sharing my bedroom with you all.

We’ve now been in our home for a year and a bit, and although it’s (still!) not complete, we’re enjoying working on the finishing details here and there. Honestly, I don’t think we will ever be “done”, and that is okay. This entire experience has made me way more patient, realistic, and I’ve learned to set my expectations super low on every project so that instead of being disappointed, I’m often positively surprised!

We moved with just boxes, zero furniture, and essentially had to start over in that department. That meant a new bed, a new mattress and all new linens, since we decided to make the jump from a queen size mattress to a king (literally one of the best life decisions, ever). My husband and I are both DIY-ers, and serious thrift store shoppers, and we knew that we wanted to build a bed ourselves, then find the rest of bedroom furniture second-hand. The one place where we knew we wanted to really take our time considering was a mattress and the bedding.

If you read this blog, you probably care about your health to some degree. Like me, you may prioritize buying organic produce, splurge on environmentally-conscious clothing, and look to sustainable skincare and beauty products. But have you ever thought about your bedroom environment? We spend a third of our life in bed (at least we should), so it’s just as important to consider the things that we interact with in our homes, not just what goes in and on our bodies. In fact, the greatest exposure to chemicals you can have in a day, could be while you’re sleeping.

When I started looking into buying a mattress, I found the options were totally overwhelming. And with so many retailers moving to online platforms and selling directly to consumers, prices have been slashed considerably, and the deals are tempting. Mattresses are one of those things that seem pretty innocuous, and maybe even a place to save a few bucks. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that the thing you spend so much time on, is not the thing you should spending less money on, as you’ll be paying for cheaper materials with your health. Modern, conventional mattresses are made with a laundry list of harmful substances that can be affecting you and your family.

One of the most offensive ingredients found in conventional mattresses is memory foam made from polyurethane; a highly flammable, petroleum-based material. Polyurethane foam emits Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Un-ironically referred to as “solid gasoline”, polyurethane foam is typically wrapped in or treated with fire retardant chemicals to meet the Federal and State flammability standards in the US, otherwise it would be totally unsafe.

Which brings me to the second thing to watch out for in mattresses, and that is chemical fire-retardants (CFRs). These are compounds added to the materials in a mattress to protect you, and they are an inexpensive way to meet safety standards. The issue is that CFRs do not fully bind to materials, and are released into the air through the mattress, then build up in the body causing some people lifelong health issues.  

Formaldehyde, antimony, boric acid, and halogenated flame retardants are some of the most damaging CFRs found in modern mattresses, and the frustrating thing is that companies are not required to disclose which ones they are using. Unless a mattress company is explicitly eliminating these chemicals from their production and using a natural material alternative, they are likely using one of the harmful chemicals listed above.

I looked at a number of organic / natural mattress companies in my research, and the one that stood out to me was Naturepedic. They are made with certified organic cotton, wool, and latex. For heavy-duty support without any health or allergy concerns, Naturepedic only uses the highest quality innersprings available made from recycled steel.. , and steel, with Naturepedic ensured  the purity of every material used, along with fair labour practices.

I reached out to Naturepedic, to see if they would be open to me trying a mattress out and blogging about it. They agreed, and sent me their EOS  (Ergonomic Organic Sleep) mattress that allows for fully customized layers for finding the exact right amount of firmness (you can even choose different support styles from your sleep partner, or swap out the layers down the line in case your preferences change). I’d never heard of anything like that before, and though it was so brilliant! I went to the showroom in Toronto to try out the mattress in person, which was very helpful, but you can also just order online if you know what kind of consistency you like. The mattress components were delivered to my door, and it was easy to assemble, as everything gets zipped into a giant, certified organic cotton casing.

After spending the last twelve months on this bed, I can confirm that it’s been the best year of sleep in my entire life (even post-child, haha!). Besides the fact that I love going to bed knowing that I am breathing completely clean air, and that the materials that went into the mattress were made with a deep commitment to protecting the environment, it’s simply the most supportive and comfortable mattress I’ve ever tried. Period. I cannot recommend this mattress enough!

The other thing to consider when outfitting your bedroom is the bedding itself. Because we come into direct, skin-to-product contact with these textiles, it’s essential to choose something non-toxic. Most bedding on the market is made with cotton, one of the most chemical-laden crops grown. According to Pesticide Action Network North America, “Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop and epitomizes the worst effects of chemically dependent agriculture. Each year cotton producers around the world use nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides — more than 10 per cent of the world’s pesticides and nearly 25 per cent of the world’s insecticides.”

If you’re going to sleep in cotton, choose organic whenever you can. Linen is a great alternative material because it is a much lower impact material on the environment, and requires very little intervention to be grown.

Coyuchi is a brand recommended to me by my dear friend Elenore, who has the highest standards I know of 😉 Coyuchi’s textile line is not only 100% organic, but also consciously processed, meaning that they use low-impact dyes for colour that is kind to the planet and our sensitive skin.

Coyuchi offered to send me some bedding to try out and I was instantly obsessed. Their textiles are beyond delicious, super soft, and incredibly comfortable. For a duvet cover, I chose the Crystal Cove pattern in white. I loved this choice since it’s reversible – a textured weave that looks cozy in the winter, and a crinkled cotton underside, which I like to face up in the summer. I also love their Topanga Matelasse blanket, shown here in warm stripe, which is also reversible (super convenient if you want to change up the look of your bedding with a quick flip!). For winter, their Cloud Brushed flannel sheets are super luxurious, and especially enjoyable it’s very hard to find organic flannel! Words cannot describe the feeling of slipping into these on a chilly night. The giant back pillows in the bed are also from Coyuchi, and are perfect if you have an open-frame bed without a headboard. I like to sit up and read in bed, and these pillows are firm enough to act as a headboard itself.

When you’re shopping for any kind of textile (bedding, furniture, or clothing), the most important mark to look for is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification. GOTS is recognized as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well. Unlike most textile and mattress companies, both Coyuchi and Naturepedic are GOTS certified and adhere to their strict standards for agriculture and labour.

Okay, let’s get to the recipe! I experimented with these breakfast bites for a long time. At first, I was blending up cashews to make flour, but that got expensive, and ultimately I wanted the recipe to be allergen-free (so the nuts had to go!). As an alternative, I opted for hemp seeds, which worked beautifully. It’s easy to make your own hemp “flour” in a food processor in a few seconds. I’ve been using it baked goods lately and love how moist and tender the results are!

I used strawberries and rhubarb for these nuggets of joy, but since we’re moving into stone fruit season, I’ll soon be switching it up and using peaches, plums, pluots, apricots, and cherries in their place. Any fruit will work as long as it’s not super moist (like melons). Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries would be lovely here too. Simply use 1 cup of chopped fresh fruit in any combination that tickles your fancy. To change up the flavour even more, add orange zest, warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom, or even some cacao powder for a chocolate version. Yum!

I really wanted to make a successful vegan version of these, so I tried using banana in place of the egg. The results were decent, but a little too moist. If I made these again, I would use the banana plus a tablespoon of ground flax seeds. If any of you do that, please let me know in the comments!


Aside from getting the chemicals out of your space, here are five other ways to improve the health of your bedroom, and your sleep!

Add plants – having a couple of living things in your sleeping space keeps the air clean and fresh. Snake plants, areca palms, aloe vera and orchids are especially helpful, since they absorb CO2 at night, even when they are not photosynthesizing. 

Consider airflow – keeping a window cracked at night is a good way to get some fresh air while you sleep. If it’s noisy outside, keep your window open during the day to ensure full air exchange, and close it right before bed. It’s very important to keep the air in your space fresh and moving.

Salt rock lamps – these are said to purify the air by omitting negative ions. I cannot confirm this in any way, but I can confirm that the light they give off is incredibly soothing and helps me wind down at the end of the day. Overhead lighting is very stimulating (and let’s be honest, not overly sexy).

Keep the devices out – don’t work in bed, and avoid using your phone before snoozing. Blue light from screens inhibits our body’s ability to make melatonin, our sleep-wake hormone. If you choose to keep your phone in your room overnight, set it to airplane mode while you sleep so you’re not exposing yourself to radiation from EMFs (Electromagnetic Field). 

Beeswax candles – yes, it’s cozy to burn candles before bed, but paraffin candles pollute the air, full stop. Soy is a better alternative, but beeswax is my favourite since it actually helps purify the air by omitting negative ions, and removing dust and dander.

Show me your Hemp Breakfast Bites on Instagram: #mnrbreakfastbites

Special thanks to my dear friend Sara for taking these photos of me (and putting up with my awkwardness for at least two hours!). http://matandsara.com/

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Legendary Layer Bean Dip – Vegan, Grain-free

    Dips are my favourite food group. Yes, food group. If I ever got a tattoo, it would probably say something like: “pass the hummus”. I was recently hosting a party-for-no-reason, and like most of my get togethers they involve a lot of food. […]

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Dips are my favourite food group. Yes, food group. If I ever got a tattoo, it would probably say something like: “pass the hummus”.

I was recently hosting a party-for-no-reason, and like most of my get togethers they involve a lot of food. But I didn’t feel like making a fallback dip, like tzatziki, or baba ganoush. No. I felt like leveling up and creating something I hadn’t tried to before. Something with BIG DIP ENERGY – a chunky, spicy, creamy, and above all impressive layer dip. I’d cooked pinto beans the night before, had a little tin of chipotle chilies kicking around the pantry, and I knew that if I cut a couple corners, this thing would come together so I’d still have time to tizz myself up before the guests arrived.

My childhood memories of layer dip involve many cans and jars of processed food being dumped into a large bowl, but the current-reality-holistic-nutritionist version definitely involves making every single one of those things from scratch. Mama don’t have time for that! So I simplified things by cutting out the guacamole (don’t yell at me like that – add it if you want to!), and using jarred salsa. Everything else was homemade, but came together quickly and easily.

 

   

First, I sautéed the pre-cooked pinto beans with onions, garlic, spices, and the chipotle peppers. While that was on the stove, I whipped up the hemp seed “queso” (no soaking required!). And the salsa got an upgrade with some fresh, chopped cherry tomatoes. This is such an easy hack btw, since it makes the salsa taste more alive and juicy, while giving it a lot more texture, which I personally dig. All it takes after that is mushing the beans up a bit in the pan, which you can do with a bean masher, or an immersion blender, if you don’t want to haul out yet another large piece of equipment. Then layer away! All in all, this took me about 20 minutes, start to finish, and the party people hung around this bowl like it was the last dip on planet earth.

The delicious, creamy “cheese” sauce is a riff off my cashew queso, but in the interest of keeping this allergen-free, I used hemp seeds instead. I love this change-up, since it’s less expensive, and contains way more omega-3 fats and protein. You can dial up the heat here if you like, but because both the salsa and the bean layer have quite a kick to them, I kept the queso pretty mild. Did I mention that this is delicious on its own next to a platter of veggie sticks?! Or chips. Let’s be honest. 

   
   

Pinto Bean Dreams

Just look at those beautiful beans! Don’t they look gorgeous in all of their tone-on-tone mottled-ness? “Pinto” actually means “painted” in Spanish, and when you take a close look at pinto beans you can clearly see how they’ve earned their moniker. Their speckles fade when cooking, and turn a lovely pale pink colour. They also gain a super creamy interior that is perfect in soups and stews, but also dips.

Pintos, like all beans, are a mixture of protein and complex carbohydrates, making them incredibly filling, but won’t spike blood sugar levels. Pinto beans are low in calories and fat, but contain the highest amount of fiber out of all the legumes (wow!). Key nutrients in pinto beans include potassium to maintain normal blood pressure, calcium for supporting muscle and nerve function, iron to enhance oxygen transport, and zinc for skin health. 

Like all beans, pintos can cause an increase in intestinal gas (burps! farts! abdominal discomfort!), due to the oligosaccharides in the beans fermenting in the lower intestine. Because these starchy molecules live in the skin of the beans, a simple soak in water overnight usually does the trick. The soaking process will help leach out many of these fermenting properties, which is why it is so important to discard the soaking water and then boil them in fresh water. Adding a strip of kombu seaweed to the pot will further help to reduce the gas-producing potential of pinto beans (and all legumes), acting like a sponge to absorb those raffinose sugar toot culprits. Try these two tricks to reduce your toilet tunes, and stay social! 

   

   

I used a clear glass bowl to serve the dip in so that they layers are visible, and it was not until after pouring in two layers did I have the idea to put cilantro stems up on the sides of it. Doh! But knowing it would be #worthit, I painstakingly scooped out the beans and salsa trying to keep everything separate, cleaned the bowl, and started over. I lightly brushed the tiniest amount of olive oil on the leaves to act as glue, then pressed them to the walls of bowl. This is completely unnecessary, but it makes the dip look less monotone and more enticing in my opinion – green always does it! This step takes an extra two minutes and adds a decorative touch, but it’s your call. Maybe you need those two minutes to tizz yourself up? 

If you want to change up the recipe, try using black beans or kidney beans in place of the pintos. If you want to add another layer to this already boss situation, go on and add the guac! I was just trying to keep things a little easier for ya’ll.  And if you’d like to make your own salsa, I have a stellar raw recipe right here.

Lastly, I want to add that my bowl for this was roughly 1½ quarts / litres capacity, and everything it fit perfectly. I would only suggest sizing up if you don’t have this exact container size.

   

Hope you’re all doing well out there. If you are experiencing any semblance of Spring weather where you are, please send some my way. K thanks. Happy dipping!

xo, Sarah B

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Bali Butter

I miss Bali. Or maybe I just miss the warmth, the sun, the vibrancy, the life bursting forth from every nook and cranny. I miss living outside, I miss my eyes being assaulted by colours, and layers upon layers of wild sounds, but hey, it’s […]

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I miss Bali. Or maybe I just miss the warmth, the sun, the vibrancy, the life bursting forth from every nook and cranny. I miss living outside, I miss my eyes being assaulted by colours, and layers upon layers of wild sounds, but hey, it’s March in Ontario and this is a familiar feeling. Are you feeling it too?

A couple weeks ago when I was in the depths of yet another snowstorm, feeling like spring may never come, I came up with this recipe to remedy my winter woes. It’s called Bali Butter – and it’s the most delicious thing to cross my lips since I could see grass outside my window. A rich combination of cashews, coconut, and cacao, blended together with coconut sugar and salt, it’s like the nut butter of DREAMS in all of its salty-sweet-crunchy-chocolatey glory. And I am really excited to share this one with you, wherever you and no matter what season you’re experiencing.


What does one do with Bali Butter, you ask? Let me tell you, it goes on all. the. things. Pancakes, waffles, smoothie bowls, toast, rice cakes, ice cream, fruit salad, porridge, yogurt, and fingers! You can stuff dates with Bali Butter, stick them in the fridge and have something delicious on hand to satisfy those salty-sweet-fat cravings too. Slice a banana lengthwise, slather Bali Butter in the middle and sandwich it together again. I even like it with carrot sticks. No joke.

I chose to use coconut sugar in my Bali Butter because it’s one of the main sweeteners used on the island and you can easily find it everywhere. Some of you may be curious about using liquid sweetener as an alternative, but the problem with using something like maple syrup or honey, is that it causes the nut butter to seize up. Fat is hydrophobic (translation: it’s “afraid” of water) and will stiffen when it comes into contact with anything that contains it. Using a solid sweetener, like coconut sugar, avoids this problem and keeps the finished product relaxed and runny. If you don’t want to use coconut sugar and you don’t mind a less-spreadable version of Bali Butter, sweeten it with whatever you have on hand.



I think I’ve talked about all of these ingredients respectively, but for the heck of it, let’s recap why they’re awesome!

Coconut – I chose to use coconut flesh instead of just coconut oil in this recipe, and that is because there is a big difference between the nutrition in coconut oil and coconut flesh. Desiccated (dried) coconut is a whole food, so with it you’re getting the dietary fiber and protein that you won’t find in the oil alone. Although coconut products have risen in popularity, especially in the world of “health food”, it’s important to remember that coconut fat is mostly saturated, and should be consumed in moderation.

Cashews – Contrary to popular belief, cashews have a lower fat content than most nuts. And 66% of their fats are heart-healthy, monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil. Cashews are an excellent source of copper, and a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. They also contain good amounts of fiber, so that they keep you feeling full for longer. 

Cacao – One of the best sources of magnesium found in nature, in addition to containing high amounts calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulfur, and potassium, cacao is a nutritional powerhouse. It also contains many chemical compounds that enhance physical and mental well-being, including alkaloids, proteins, magnesium, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic acid, lipase, lysine, and some neurotransmitters such as dopamine and anandamide – which explains why eating chocolate makes you feel so darn good! 

Coconut sugar – Sometimes called coconut palm sugar, this incredibly delicious sweetener is high in minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It is happily low glycemic, ranking 35 on the GI scale, compared to agave at 42, honey at 55, cane sugar at 68. This is due to coconut sugar’s composition of long-chain saccharides, which are absorbed by the body at a slower rate than something like refined white sugar. Coconut sugar also contains amino acids, which are thought to slow down the rate at which the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, acting as a “buffer” of sorts. 

 

 


Some notes on the recipe. It’s very important that you make coconut butter to start, as it creates the liquid base to help the get the cashews going in the food processor. Once you’ve made the coconut-cashew butter, feel free to stop there (it tastes incredible on its own), or go all the way as I have and add the cacao, coconut sugar and salt.

I like to leave my Bali Butter out of the fridge, since it remains liquid and spreadable at room temperature. If you refrigerate it, Bali Butter with harden completely. You can roll it into balls and make yourself some pretty delicious little energy bites when it’s in this state, but it’s impossible to drizzle when chilled.  

If you’re into smooth nut butters, simply leave the cacao nibs out of the equation. They aren’t necessary for any other purpose than crunch, which I personally feel is essential, but I won’t judge anyone for skipping them. Even though you’re obviously crazy 😉


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Mushroom “Scallops” in a Warm Pesto Pool

  When we committed to going to the ocean, I immediately felt the thrilling sensation that washes over me when I stand at the intersection of land meeting water. I smelled brine and dampness. I saw certain patterns and colours; light sand against dark water, […]

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When we committed to going to the ocean, I immediately felt the thrilling sensation that washes over me when I stand at the intersection of land meeting water. I smelled brine and dampness. I saw certain patterns and colours; light sand against dark water, wet stones, seaweed, driftwood, and feathers.

This was the second recipe I created for the dreamy on-location photoshoot with Christiann Koepke back in October (you can see the first one here). The inspiration for this dish came first in fact, fast and furiously. Just thinking about the seaside brought this recipe to me in a wave of total inspiration. I wanted the ingredients to reflect the elements in this environment, and for the final result to be a visual meeting of land and sea.

Now I’m not super into “fake meat”, but there is something undeniably satisfying about tricking someone into thinking a vegetable is flesh. Tee hee. Plus, Rene Redzepi does it all the time, so maybe it puts me in the cool cooking club too? Yes? Anyway, I knew something on the plate had to look like seafood, and I had my sights set on scallops. In my first cookbook, I made “scallops” out of leeks, and wanted to try something different, so going through the rolodex of tube-shaped white veggies in my mind, I fell upon king oyster mushroom stems. Naturally. Browned in ghee and well-seasoned, I knew that these morsels would look exactly like mollusks, and taste deceptively meaty.

A pool of herbaceous, vibrant green pesto, would be the land, and the perfect resting place for my mushroom medallions. I combined flat-leaf parsley and spinach to create a bright yet balanced sauce that complimented – rather than overwhelmed – the rest of the dish. But with all this creaminess, I knew that I also needed to include something for textural contrast, so toasted hazelnuts became the beach stones, along with fried capers, which added a bite of seaside brine.

This dish is surprisingly easy to make, and it is the prefect main to serve for family and friends that you want to spoil a little. It looks impressive, but it’s a cinch to get on the table without gluing you to the stove. The pesto can be made a week in advance (although the fresher, the better), so that the only thing you need to do before serving is cook the mushroom and capers, and warm the pesto a little. I love cooking the capers and mushrooms in ghee (recipe here) because it’s just so darn delicious, but the pesto is vegan and if you want the entire meal to be so, simply swap out the ghee for expeller-pressed coconut oil, which is refined for high heat cooking and has no tropical aroma.


Beta-glucan Goodness

Edible mushrooms are both medical and nutritional dynamos. Collectively, they not only provide us with plant-based protein, vitamin D, and a whole host of minerals, but most excitingly a group of polysaccharides called beta-glucans. These complex, hemicellulose sugar molecules enhance the functioning of the immune system by activating immune cell response and stimulating the production of white blood cells. These compounds also effectively mobilize immune stem cells in your bone marrow, and exhibit anti-tumor properties, so they’re often used supplementally in cancer treatment protocols.

Beta-glucans help to lower cholesterol, as this type of fiber forms a viscous gel during digestion, which grabs a hold of excess dietary cholesterol, prevents absorption by moving it through your digestive tract, and eliminates it. Through your poop! This same gel also slows down your digestion, which in turn stabilizes blood sugar, and minimizes the release of insulin.

King oyster mushrooms are of course a good source of beta-glucans, but you can get them in other places too: barley, oats, sorghum, mushrooms like shiitake, reishi and maitake, as well as seaweed, algae, and dates.

 

I wouldn’t put king oyster mushrooms in the “specialty” category of fungi, but I also know that they’re not available at every grocery store, so if you can’t find them, substitute with any other kind of mushroom you like and forgo the whole “scallop” charade. The dish will still turn out delicious, I promise.

If you want to change up the herb in the pesto, try basil instead of flat-leaf parsley. Cilantro could also be delicious, but potentially overwhelming, so use more spinach in that case. And instead of hazelnuts in the pesto and garnish, try almonds, pecans or walnuts. Yummm.

I like to serve this with a big hunk of crusty bread on the side to mop up any leftover pesto in the bowl. It also helps to have some good olive oil and flaky salt around for this situation, just sayin’. If you’d prefer the grain route, steamed brown rice, quinoa, or millet could be a decent accompaniment too. And if you want to go completely grain-free, roasted sweet potato, winter squash, or pumpkin would be totally lovely.


We’re home from Bali now, settling back into life in the cold Canadian winter. It feels good to be here, especially after a satisfying few weeks in the sunshine, hosting two glorious retreats. Now it’s time to ground and focus on the year ahead. I’m very excited for 2019 – so many exciting things to share with you, just on the horizon.

I hope you’re all well out there, and enjoying a vibrant start to the new year. Sending love and gratitude out to you all, always.

xo, Sarah B

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The Epic Travel Salad

  When I saw the number, I couldn’t believe it: 29 hours. It was undoubtedly going to be one of the longest travel days of my life. I’ve been to Bali twice before, but always from Copenhagen, which is about half the distance from Toronto. […]

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When I saw the number, I couldn’t believe it: 29 hours. It was undoubtedly going to be one of the longest travel days of my life. I’ve been to Bali twice before, but always from Copenhagen, which is about half the distance from Toronto. I almost gave it a second thought since spending that amount of time sitting upright just felt like it might end me, but the retreats were booked, and there was no backing out!

I knew what would get me through, and that was food. Lots and lots of delicious, nourishing, consciously-created food. I always always make a point of preparing meals for traveling, since eating mini, microwaved mystery munch seriously kills my vibe. Plus, the amount of calories in one of those airplane trays is barely enough to get me through one romcom and you know that I’m watching at least five in a row.

When you’re about to face any length of time on an airplane, there are a few things to take into consideration. First, fill your snack pack with foods that are hydrating: cucumbers, romaine, bell peppers, carrots, apples, oranges, celery, berries, grapes, and melon. Depending on where you’re traveling to, it can help to have the fruits and veggies already prepared or sliced, since some countries won’t let you bring in whole fruits and veg, but they will let you bring them in if they look ready to eat. It sounds nonsensical, but it works!

I love having huge vegetable salads with lentils and / or whole grains to keep me full too, since I have a tendency to stress-eat when I’m in transit and will totally mow down a bag of chips if they’re put in front of me (okay, sometimes I also eat those chips, and that is okay too, but I notice that it always prolongs my jetlag). For other filling munchies, I like my almond flour cookies, nuts like pistachios or walnuts, and granola – especially crossing so many timezones, which requires breakfast-y things. Veggie sticks are also nice, light fare that keep my crunch cravings under control.

 

 

As you can see from the photo, I bring my food in reusable containers, use washable wooden cutlery and a straw, all of which are convenient to have once I’m at my destination to use for my own cooking and storage. I also always have my 800-ml water bottle with me when I travel. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, but it begs repeating: jetlag is exacerbated by dehydration, and drinking about half a liter (16 oz.) per hour of flight will make such an immense difference, you may never experience jetlag again. I used to suffer terribly from exhaustion for days post-travel (which really ruined my trip when it was a short one), and now it’s no big deal. I arrive, wait until a mildly appropriate time to go to bed, and wake up feeling about as normal as one could hope to. Yes, you’ll have to make friends with the flight attendants, since they are the keepers of the water, but go visit them at the back of the plane every so often for a refill, treat them like humans, and you’d be amazed at how accommodating and helpful they are. Make sure you fill your bottle before landing as well, since you never know how long it will take for you to get through customs, baggage claim and the taxi line. It always pays to have hydration close at hand.

Avoid the plane food if you can, since it is overly salted and often has added sugar. Our taste buds are actually less receptive at high altitudes, due to low air pressure, low humidity, and high levels of white noise. Yup – that is an actual thing. The way our brains interpret flavour signals is impaired, therefore, things taste different, so airlines pump up the levels of salt and sugar in their food to make them taste the way they would at ground level. If you ate that travel-sized “chicken or pasta” at your dining room table you’d be surprised at how exaggerated the flavours were.

 

 
Why is this the most epic travel salad? Because it’s got All. The. Things. Rich, hearty beets, protein-rich and satiating lentils, so it’s filling, but it’s not going to leave you feeling stuffed. And because of that whole flavours-being-less-powerful-at-high-altitudes thing, I endeavoured to add as many potent tastes as possible. Lemon, pomegranate, parsley, cumin seeds, and olives are like flavour fireworks that you can safely ignite at 30,000 feet. There is a Middle Eastern vibe going on for sure, and the multitude of textures tick every single box. You don’t want your mouth getting bored while you’re hurtling through the sky, and this combination will ensure that each bite is a surprise party.

Olives that come without their pits are often mushy and less flavourful, so I always opt to remove them myself, or leave them in until I eat them. The problem with leaving the pits in the olives in this situation, is finding a place to put them on your teeny table real estate (the airsick bag is a great option, just sayin’…and yes, I’ve really thought of everything). If you do want to remove them beforehand, it’s easiest to do so by smashing the olive with the flat side of a knife blade, then simply pulling the pit out. You can roughly chop the olives from there.

If you don’t have any black lentils, Du Puy or French lentils work just as well, with green and brown lentils as a passable fallback. I don’t dig these types of lentils in salads since they tend to be water-y and dilute the flavour of the dressing, but if it keeps you from making a special trip to the store, by all means just use them.

And normally I wouldn’t include alliums in a plane salad since your neighbours might give you the stink eye when you pop open your lunch box, but I’ve tempered their potency by pickling them ever-so-slightly. This is done in the same container that you’re going to put your salad in, preceded by mixing up the dressing right in there too. Easy peasy!

I guess I should mention that this salad is not just delicious on a plane – it’s also fabulous enjoyed at ground level. Perfect for road trips, picnics, school or office lunches, just make sure you make it the day before so that all the ingredients are cool. If you travel with this salad on the warm side, it could spoil in transit.

 

 
Maybe it’s a bit strange to have a travel salad as the first post of the year, but I’m a bit tired of the whole “new year, new you” rant. People expect me to talk about cleansing or detoxing in January, and although I’m all for reflecting and re-evaluating one’s lifestyle choices, I’m a bit bored of the narrative saying that the first day of the new year is the time to atone for all our dietary sins. Why do we need a specific day to act as a reason to start treat ourselves well?

If there a New Year’s resolution to pull out of this post, it should be to resolve to make yourself delicious food when you go anywhere. Avoid the overpriced convenience food, no matter how healthy it is, since nothing sold in a package will ever compare to the freshness, or high-vibrational energy of food you’ve lovingly prepared for yourself. Case closed!

If you’d like more travel food recipes, tips, and inspiration, check out my two previous articles here and here.

 

The Wild Heart High Spirit Retreats are starting tomorrow, and I cannot wait to embrace each of the women who have traveled from every corner of the earth to join us here in Bali. We are going to eat the most delicious food, practice yoga, dance, laugh, learn, and celebrate the joy of being alive together! We have one space left for the second week, so if you’re interested in joining us in tropical paradise, please visit our site for more information.

Peace and blessings for an abundant, healthy, vibrant year ahead. Thank you for being here. I love you.

xo, Sarah B

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Healthyish Salted Caramel Turtles

  Everyone has strong food memories around holidays or special occasions in their life. I can completely recall the distinct taste of boxed cake from my childhood birthdays. Summer vacations were steeped in melting grape juice popsicles made by my grandmother. And one of my […]

The post Healthyish Salted Caramel Turtles appeared first on My New Roots.

 

Everyone has strong food memories around holidays or special occasions in their life. I can completely recall the distinct taste of boxed cake from my childhood birthdays. Summer vacations were steeped in melting grape juice popsicles made by my grandmother. And one of my favourite treats during Christmas, was undoubtedly Turtle chocolates. The iconic striped box was always within arms reach during the holidays, so as soon as the tree went up, it was like a Pavlovian response…the Turtle cravings began! If you live outside of North America, you may not be familiar with these pecan-chocolate-caramels (and for this, I feel very sad for you), but today, rejoice! I’m posting my own version, which is a healthier spin on this classic candy that you can whip up yourself with just six simple ingredients.

The original Turtle candies are relatively basic: pecans, caramel, and chocolate, but seemingly so much more than the sum of these parts. There is a magical synergy in this trinity, each ingredient complimenting and highlighting the others in perfect union. There isn’t much to improve upon, so my mission was clearly to health-ify the caramel and find some high-quality chocolate to steer us all away from refined sugar, modified milk ingredients, and emulsifiers. Blech.

I started off on my journey by looking online and found that healthyish Turtle recipes exist, but they all use dates and I didn’t want that to be the predominant flavour. Plus, I knew that the caramel needed some serious creaminess, so I started by blending up cashew butter with vanilla as the base, then added brown rice syrup to achieve that distinctive gooey-ness that makes Turtles so crave-able. The results were sooooo right on the money, confirmed by several of my closest, discerning friends, lined up to taste test.

 

 

Pecans are one of my favourite nuts because they are tender-crisp and so naturally sweet. I love them in baked goods like pecan pie, on top of waffles or pancakes, or in candies like these babies!

Pecans are native to North America, and grow in tough, wood-like shells on large, sprawling trees, some of which can live up to 200 years. The name pecan is a Native American word used to describe nuts that require a stone to crack – but you can easily open them by crushing two of their hard shells together.

Along with macadamias, pecans contain the lowest amount of protein (5-10%) and the highest amount of fat (80-95%) of all the nuts. The fat that they do contain however, is mostly monounsaturated, with some polyunsaturated fat as well. Pecans are high in minerals, like manganese, copper, and zinc. They also contain a good amount of fiber and protein.

There are a wide variety of pecans, but if you live outside North America, you may only have access to one type. That’s okay! The thing to look for is shelled pecans that are uniform in size and colour. Check the date on the package or bulk bin, and smell the nuts beforehand if you’re able to – they should be sweet, and well, nutty. If you’re shopping in bulk, visit a shop that has a high turnover to ensure that the nuts are fresh. Once you get them home, store shelled pecans in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months (although try to eat them sooner) and in the freezer for up to a year. Pecans are highly susceptible to absorbing other smells, so keep them locked up tight in glass to prevent them from tasting like garlic, onions, or last night’s casserole.

 

 

I had hesitations about using brown rice syrup in this recipe, since I know it’s one of those harder-to-find ingredients, but it’s just SO perfect in this context that I had to! If you cannot find brown rice syrup, try whipped or creamed honey in its place. I recognize that this isn’t an alternative for vegans, but I think it is the only sweetener that would work due to how thick and viscous it is. If the caramel is too runny, if will be impossible to work with. Trust.

It’s best to store your Turtles in the freezer, and take them out about 10-15 minutes before serving. They’re also fine at room temperature, but will keep better cold. I actually dig them a little on the frozen side – the caramel is extra thick and chewy at subzero temperatures!

 

 



This will be my last post before the New Year, my friends! I’m off to Bali in a mere 10 days (!!!) and words cannot describe how excited I am for the Wild Heart High Spirit Retreat, and meeting women from all across the world. If you’d like to know more about my retreats, visit the Golden Circle Retreats website. We’re planning another round for 2019, so sign up to mailing our list to be the first notified when we announce the dates.

We are also taking orders for the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread Subscription Box! What better way to start off the new year than with a delicious monthly gift of health to yourself? If you want to learn more, or place your order, visit the shop page here.

All love from Canada, and happiest of holidays to you and yours!

xo, Sarah B

The post Healthyish Salted Caramel Turtles appeared first on My New Roots.