I was at a health food store with a friend the other day, cruising the aisles when he asked: “Hey Sarah, why do beeswax candles cost so much more than regular candles?” Well, I had to admit that he had me stumped there. I had […]
I was at a health food store with a friend the other day, cruising the aisles when he asked: “Hey Sarah, why do beeswax candles cost so much more than regular candles?” Well, I had to admit that he had me stumped there. I had heard that beeswax candles were better to burn than their paraffin counterparts, but I didn’t know why exactly. Oohhh so exciting – I couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of this one! With a little research I found some truly shocking information that was certainly blog-worthy…
Before I explain why beeswax candles are so superior, first let me give you the low-down on the downsides of the alternatives.
Most candles we buy are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product, left over after producing many of the other common petroleum products such as gas, oils, pavement, etc. This material is then bleached with 100% strength bleach creating toxic dioxins, before being refined into ‘solid’ paraffin using various carcinogenic, solidifying chemicals.
Candle companies purchase paraffin wax and then add various other texturizing chemicals, artificial dyes for colour, and synthetic fragrances.
When synthetic fragrances are burned, they produce toxic fluoro-carbons and other polluting by-products. Inhaling these fluoro-carbons damages the receptors in our nasal passages that detect scent, and over an extending period of time diminishes the overall abilities of your olfactory senses by ‘wearing them out’. This is one of the reasons many people seem to require increasingly stronger-smelling candles (or synthetic air fresheners), etc., to experience any enjoyable aromas at all!
Last, but certainly not least, is the indirect cost of burning a fuel like paraffin in your home, which emits black soot that coats your walls, household furnishings and curtains, and least desirably, your lungs and skin. It is a proven fact that paraffin, with its associated synthetic scents and other additives, causes headaches, allergic reactions and difficulties with sinuses and lungs. Anyone with respiratory problems should not burn paraffin candles, nor should those that want to prevent said problems.
I hope this sheds some light (ha!) on the perils of paraffin to your health, home and environment. Now let me introduce you to beeswax and the incredible properties it has to offer.
Burning beeswax candles is better for you and the environment for so many reasons. First, burning beeswax produces negative ions, which benefit us and the air we breathe by attracting pollutants, in much the same way that a magnet attracts iron fillings. Negative ions attach to positively charged ions that hold onto dust, dander, molds and other air borne contaminants. Once attached, the positive ions are weighed down and this drops both the ions and the contaminants to the ground to be swept up or vacuumed away. Bottom line: burning beeswax will actually clean your air.
Beeswax candles are the best choice for the environment since the material used is 100% renewable, and in its native, raw state does not require bleaching or hydrogenation. The production of paraffin (a non-renewable resource), and even soy and palm waxes, involves chemical intervention to modify the raw material into a wax form and then into a candle. This means that beeswax is a better choice for the environment, since its processing is minimal, does not require chemicals, and the end product is completely biodegradable.
You can burn beeswax in an unventilated room without fear of pollution. In fact, many people report that burning a candle in the bedroom for 30 minutes or so before falling asleep produces a more restful sleep. Beeswax is hypo-allergenic, benefits those with environmental allergies, sensitivities, and even asthma. To keep your air as clean as possible, just remember to trim your wicks before each use, and extinguish the candle by submerging the wick in its own wax pool instead of blowing it out, as both these measures prevent smoke.
Lastly, the quality of the golden light given off by beeswax candles is unsurpassed by its paraffin counterparts. Because of the high melting point of the wax, beeswax burns stronger and brighter than paraffin, in addition to emitting the same spectrum of light as the sun — how amazing is that!
The Overall Cost
So to answer my friend’s question: while the initial cost may seem higher than paraffin candles, beeswax burns for much longer – two to five times the burn time of other candles. Beeswax has a much higher melting point than paraffin – in fact, the highest melting point of any wax, so it burns far more slowly. Costing only pennies an hour to burn, beeswax is much more economical than paraffin over time.
You can purchase beeswax candles at farmers markets, health food stores and of course online. The candles in this post are from The Beeswax Co., an American company committed to tradition and quality, they ship internationally, and I highly recommend them.
Wherever you choose to purchase your candles, beware of imitations! Look for 100% pure cappings beeswax, which is the wax that comes from the seal around each cell in the honeycomb. Some companies will cut their beeswax with paraffin, palm or soy waxes and still call them “beeswax” candles, so read the labels. Also, make sure the wick is made of a natural fiber (like cotton or hemp) and that it doesn’t contain a metal wire (which can sometimes contain lead), and that there aren’t any artificial scents or chemical colours added. Pure beeswax should smell like honey, and have a natural, golden hue.
Hi friends. It feels good to be back in this blog space. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been focusing my attention on my latest project, My New Roots Grow – an online universe of wellness education – which will launch soon. Grow […]
Hi friends. It feels good to be back in this blog space. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been focusing my attention on my latest project, My New Roots Grow – an online universe of wellness education – which will launch soon. Grow is the most energy-intensive and large-scale project since my cookbooks, and once again it feels like birthing something major. The blog has been on the back burner giving more space for Grow to, well, grow, but I thought I’d pop in with this stellar holiday dessert because ’tis the season!
I actually developed this recipe last winter, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. I thought about keeping it exclusively on Grow (since that is where a lot of my recipe content will live from now on!), but because it is so special and delicious, I felt that it should just be out in the world. Inspired by the Spiced Chocolate Torte that I make on the retreats in Mexico (remember places?!), I wanted to make a festive holiday version with white chocolate and peppermint. The crust is dark chocolate and pecan, so rich and delicious with just the right amount of salt. The interior is velvety smooth and beguilingly creamy, made with cashews, coconut oil, and white chocolate. I love the kiss of peppermint in the filling, which is definitely present but not overwhelming. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were eating dessert and brushing your teeth at the same time!
Some notes on the recipe… If you’re using peppermint essential oil to flavour the filling, I find it helpful to measure it out on a spoon first, just in case the bottle is in a giving mood – one too many drops of this stuff will ruin a good torte with too much minty-ness! I like to use about 6 or 7 drops total, but if it comes out too fast, I have no way of controlling the amount. If you’re using peppermint extract, start at a quarter of a teaspoon and work your way up to the flavour that suits you.
If you eat a vegan diet, you can use maple syrup instead of honey in the filling, but the colour is going to be more brown / beige than creamy. Also, make sure to find dairy-free white chocolate, since the vast majority of commercially-made white chocolate contains milk solids. And then, if you do find vegan white chocolate, read the ingredient list to make sure that is doesn’t contain any hydrogenated oils or weird emulsifiers (or just pick your battles!).
The torte decorating is entirely up to you, although pomegranate seeds create a striking display of holiday cheer! Other options include fresh mint leaves, cacao nibs, or shaved dark chocolate. You could even include them all, if you’re feeling extra festive.
Store the torte in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it, then bring it out about 15-20 minutes before serving so that it’s not rock hard. It’s easier to slice and eat when it’s warmed up a tad. Use a smooth, very sharp chef’s knife, and run it under hot water before cutting into the torte to make it glide.
If you’re not in the mood to make a crust, you can turn this dessert into freezer fudge by preparing only the filling. Pour the filling into an 8-inch / 20 cm square pan lined with plastic wrap; top with ½ cup / 65g toasted pecans, cacao nibs, or chocolate shards, and freeze until solid (about 2 hours). Slice into squares and enjoy straight from the freezer!
White Chocolate Peppermint Torte Serves 10-14
For the crust: 1 cup / 100g pecans ¼ cup / 60ml coconut oil, preferably flavour-neutral 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup ¼ tsp. fine-grain sea salt 1 ½ cups / 150g rolled oats, divided, gluten-free if necessary 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
For the filling: 1 ½ cups / 200g cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours ¾ cup / 175 ml creamed honey (sub with maple syrup, but be warned the colour of the filling will be brown) ½ cup / 125 ml coconut oil 75g / 2.6 oz. white chocolate, melted (dairy-free / vegan if desired) 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract ½ tsp. fine-grain sea salt a few drops peppermint essential oil or extract, to taste
pomegranate, mint, cacao nibs, shaved dark chocolate, for garnish, optional
Directions: 1. Make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) spring form pan or pie dish with coconut oil.
2. In a food processor, blend ½ cup (50g) of the rolled oats on high until you have a rough flour, place a small bowl and set aside. Without cleaning the machine, process the pecans into a fine crumb with the texture of sand. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, salt, oat flour and cacao powder, and process again until the dough comes together. Finally, add the remaining 1 cup of rolled oats and pulse until the oats are chopped, but still have some texture to them. The dough should stick together slightly when pressed between your fingers. If it doesn’t, try adding a bit more maple syrup or processing a bit longer.
3. Crumble roughly half of the dough evenly over the base of the pan. Starting from the middle, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom, moving outward and upward along the side of the pie dish. The harder you press the crumbs into the dish, the better the crust will hold together. Taking a small section at a time, use the remaining crust to go up the sides, all around the form until complete. Poke a few fork holes into the bottom of the crust to let the steam escape.
4. Bake the crust, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until fragrant and slightly darker around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
5. Make the filling: Drain and rinse the cashews. In a high-speed blender, combine the soaked cashews, honey, oil, melted chocolate, vanilla, salt, and peppermint, then blend on high until the filling is completely smooth. It can take a few minutes of blending to get it smooth, depending on your blender. If the blender needs more liquid to get it going, add a tablespoon (15 mL) of plant-based milk (or a bit more) to help it along.
6. Pour the filling into the prepared crust, smoothing out the top evenly. Place the torte on an even surface in the freezer, uncovered. Freeze for a couple of hours, and then cover the dish with foil and freeze overnight, or for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours, until the torte sets.
7. Remove the torte from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes before slicing. It is meant to be served cold. Garnish with mint leaves, pomegranate seeds, cacao nibs, melted or shaved chocolate, if desired.
I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re celebrating this month, you are safe, healthy, and grateful. This year has thrown us all for the biggest loop of our lives, and finding the small joys and tiny triumphs (like getting out for some fresh air, putting dinner on the table) is enough to make me feel proud, anyway. The holidays will undoubtedly look different this year, but I know that I am just thankful to have a roof over my head and a torte to share with the ones I love. I hope the same for you, dear friend.
In light and love, best wishes for the season ahead.
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 […]
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).
Yellow Mustard Makes 1¼ cups / 300ml
Ingredients: 1 cup / 250ml cold water 3/4 cup dry mustard powder 3/4 tsp. fine sea salt 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 1/8 tsp. ground paprika 1/2 cup / 125ml apple cider vinegar
Directions: 1. In a small saucepan, whisk together water, dry mustard, salt, turmeric, garlic, and paprika until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low to low heat, stirring often, until it bubbles down to a thick paste, 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Whisk the apple cider vinegar into the mustard mixture and continue to cook until it’s thickened to the desired consistency – this can take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on how thick you like it.
3. Let the mustard cool to room temperature. Transfer the mustard to an airtight glass jar or container, and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
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!
1. Combine the mustard and the honey. Taste and add more honey if desired. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
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.
Grainy Dijon Mustard Makes 1 cup / 250ml
Ingredients: 1/4 cup / 40g yellow mustard seeds 1/4 cup / 40g black mustard seeds 1/2 Tbsp. ground mustard 1/3 cup / 75ml white wine vinegar 1/3 cup / 75ml apple cider vinegar 2 tsp. maple syrup ½ tsp. sea salt
Directions: 1. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight (for 12-24 hours) to allow the mustard seeds to soften and absorb the flavours.
2. Place mixture in blender and mix on high for a minute or two, until the seeds have broken and the mustard thickens.
3. Transfer contents to a clean jar and enjoy! Dijon will keep for about one month in the refrigerator.
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!
Sweet Pickle Relish Makes 2 cups / 500ml
Ingredients: 2 cups / 340g finely diced cucumber 1/2 cup / 85g finely diced yellow onion 1 tsp. salt, divided 1/2 cup / 125ml apple cider vinegar 1/4 cup / 40g coconut sugar 1/4 tsp. garlic powder 1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds 1 tsp. dried dill 1/4 tsp. turmeric 1/4 red bell pepper, finely diced 1 tsp. arrowroot, dissolved in 2 tsp. water
Directions: 1. Toss the cucumber and onion with 3/4 teaspoon of salt in a sieve set over a bowl, and let drain for about 3 hours. Next, press the ingredients against side of sieve to release as much liquid as possible, then discard liquid from bowl.
2. Bring the vinegar, coconut sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then simmer until reduced to about a 1/2 cup / 125ml (just eyeball it), about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mustard, dill, and turmeric, stir until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the drained cucumber and onion mixture, plus diced red bell pepper, and simmer, stirring for about 2 minutes. Make the arrowroot slurry, then whisk it into the relish. Simmer, stirring, 2-3 minutes until noticeably thickened. Turn off the heat and transfer relish to a glass jar or storage container and leave uncovered until it cools to room temperature, then put in the fridge. The relish will keep for up to a month in the fridge.
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!
Tomato Ketchup Makes 2 cups / 500ml
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (expeller-pressed, flavour neutral) 3 star whole anise (make sure they are whole to remove easily!) 3 bay leaves 1 tsp. ground coriander pinch of chili flakes 1 large onion, chopped 3/4 tsp. sea salt 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 3 cloves garlic, minced 2.2 lbs. / 1 kg tomatoes 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
Directions: 1. Melt the coconut oil in a medium stockpot, then add the star anise, bay leaves, coriander, and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant about 2 minutes, then add the onions, salt and pepper, and cook until slightly browned, about 10 mins. Next add the add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add balsamic vinegar, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes and their juices, then bring to a simmer.
2. Cook on low heat for about 60 mins or until reduced and starting to caramelize on the bottom of the pot.
3. Turn off heat and remove bay and anise, add maple syrup. Let cool slightly and transfer to a blender, blend until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
4. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight glass container and store in the fridge. Keeps for about one month.
AquafabaMayonnaise 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.
Aquafaba Mayonnaise Makes about 1 cup / 250ml
Ingredients: 3 Tbsp. aquafaba 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard 1/4 tsp. fine salt 1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar 3/4 cup / 175ml mild olive oil (or other light-tasting oil)
Directions: 1. Place the aquafaba in the bottom of a wide-mouth jar. Add the mustard, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, and the olive oil. Allow a minute for the oil to separate into a distinct layer.
2. Insert an immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the jar. (Note: this will not work with an upright blender) Start the blending process on medium speed and do not lift the blender until the mixture has thickened and turned white at the bottom of the jar. Only then, slowly move the blender up, waiting for the oil to incorporate as you go, until you get the texture of mayonnaise. Use immediately; refrigerate leftovers in a tightly sealed jar for up to 1 month. The mayonnaise will thicken slightly once cooled in the fridge.
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!
Directions: 1. Fold all ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. Enjoy immediately, and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
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.
Carrot Hot Dogs Serves 8
Ingredients: 8 large hot dog-sized carrots 8 hot dog buns 1/4 cup / 60ml tamari 1/4 cup / 60ml apple cider vinegar 1 cup / 250ml vegetable broth or 1 tsp. vegetable bullion powder + 1 cup water 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup 2 Tbsp. coconut oil (preferably expeller-pressed, flavour neutral) 1 Tbsp. liquid smoke 2 tsp. yellow mustard 1 tsp. garlic powder 1 tsp. paprika 1/2 tsp. onion powder 1/2 tsp. ground black pepperWash and peel carrots. Round the edges of the carrot to look more like wieners, if desired.
Direcitons: 1. Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a large stockpot with a lid. Add the peeled carrots and bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook with the lid on for about 20 minutes (less if your carrots are on the thin side, see headnote). Remove from heat and turn on the grill.
2. Grill the carrots over medium-high, turning every couple of minutes, basting them with the remaining braising liquid if desired. Cook until slightly charred and fragrant, 10 minutes total. Grill or toast the buns. Place a carrot on each bun and enjoy with all of the condiments!
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!
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 […]
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.
Butter Bean, Wild Rice, and Garlic-Roasted Carrot Salad Serves 6-8
Ingredients: 1/2 cup wild rice 1 cup dried butter beans 4-5 medium carrots 4 cloves garlic 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 bunch fresh dill sea salt freshly ground black pepper a handful of quick-pickled red onion (recipe follows) 1 batch massaged kale (recipe follows)
Dressing: 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard 1 Tbsp. maple syrup 2 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil pinch of sea salt
Directions: 1. Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse well and cover with fresh water. Add a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until beans are soft – about 45 minutes. 2. While the beans are cooking, rinse the wild rice well, drain, and put in a pot. Cover rice with 1.5 cups fresh water, add a couple pinches of sea salt, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cook until rice is chewy-tender – about 45 minutes. You will know the rice is done when the grains open up to reveal their purple-gray inner portion. 3. Preheat the oven to 400F. While the rice is cooking, wash the carrots and slice them on the diagonal into ‘coins’, place on a baking sheet. Grate the garlic with a microplane and combine it with the oil. Pour over carrots and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven and roast, turning them a few times over the course of 15-20 minutes. The carrots should be cooked but not mushy – al dente! 4. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients together, shake well. 5. Now all the elements come together: Drain and rinse beans in cool water to stop the cooking process. Pour dressing over warm beans and toss. Let sit for 5 minutes or so. Drain the rice if any water remains, cool slightly. Mix with beans. Toss in the carrots, scraping the pan to add garlic oil to the remainder of the ingredients. Throw in the massaged kale, as many pickled onions as you fancy, and an explosion of dill. Cracked black pepper too, if it’s calling to you. 6. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Quick-Pickled Red Onion Ingredients: ¾ cup / 175ml raw apple cider vinegar ½ cup / 125ml water 2 tsp. fine sea salt 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Directions: 1. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and maple syrup in a large jar. Stir to dissolve the salt and syrup. Add the onions to the jar and put them in the fridge. Enjoy after at least 30 minutes, keeps for up to two weeks.
Massaged Kale Ingredients: 3 cups / 90g shredded curly or dino kale Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil 2 pinches of fine sea salt, plus more as needed
Directions: 1. In a large bowl, combine the shredded kale, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Using your hands, rub and squeeze the kale together as if you are giving it a massage, until the kale leaves are dark green and tender, about 2 minutes. Enjoy immediately in the salad, or store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
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
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 […]
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!
Fig and Hazelnut Granola Candy Bars
Ingredients: 1 ½ cups / 150g rolled oats 1 cup / 135g raw hazelnuts (plus two more cups if making your own hazelnut butter, see headnote) 2 Tbsp. coconut oil (I recommend flavour-neutral) 1/3 cup / 80ml thick honey (creamed or white) 1/3 cup / 80ml tahini 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1/3 cup / 60g chopped un-sulfured dried figs 1 cup / 20g puffed brown rice cereal ¼ tsp. flaky sea salt, plus more for garnish
1 cup / 250ml hazelnut butter 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup ½ tsp. fine sea salt
200g dark chocolate (80% or higher), have more on-hand for drizzle and just in case!
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F / 170°C. Place the oats and hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, trying to keep them as separate as possible, and bake stirring once or twice, until the oats are golden and smell toasty, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and roughly chop the hazelnuts.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over low heat. Add the honey, tahini, and vanilla; whisk thoroughly until fully combined.
3. Roughly chop the dried figs and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine the cooled oats and chopped hazelnuts with the figs, puffed cereal, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir quickly to mix.
5. Line an 8×8” brownie pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Spoon the mixture in and using slightly damp hands, press it firmly into the pan, especially around the edges and corners.
6. Combine the hazelnut butter with the ½ teaspoon fine salt and maple syrup – it should transform from runny, into a more solid paste. Spread over the top of the granola bars. Set in the freezer to firm up for at least 4 hours.
7. When the bars are ready to coat in chocolate, remove them from the freezer and cut the base into 12 even pieces.
8. Set a double boiler up on the stove, over a low simmer. Chop the chocolate into chunks. Melt in a double-boiler over medium heat. Dip each piece in melted chocolate, then place on a piece of parchment to cool and set. Drizzle remaining chocolate over the top, then sprinkle with a little more flaky salt. Once cool, enjoy! Store bars in the fridge for up to one month, or the freezer for 6 months.
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
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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!
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 […]
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
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.
Bell Pepper Bisque with Giant Croutons Makes 8 cups / 2 litres / Serves 4
Ingredients: 2 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee, divided 2 medium yellow onions, diced ½ tsp. fine sea salt 3 large garlic cloves, minced 2 tsp. ground cumin 2 tsp. ground coriander ½ – 1 tsp. hot smoked paprika (depending on how spicy you like it) 4 large red bell peppers (stems, seeds, and ribs removed) 5 – 7 cups / 1 ¼ – 1 ¾ liters vegetable broth 1 14.5-oz. / 400ml can whole tomatoes ½ cup / 45g sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped ½ cup / 100g dried red lentils, soaked for 1 – 8 hours, if possible 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Directions: 1. If you have time, soak the lentils in water overnight, or for up to 8 hours. Drain and rinse very well. If you’re starting from dried, that is okay too, just give them a very good wash and drain before using.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C. Prepare the peppers by cutting each of them in half, scooping out the seeds, and rubbing with a little coconut oil. Place peppers cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes until the skins are totally wrinkled and charred in places.
3. In a large stockpot, melt the remaining coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to slightly caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add a little broth to the pot if the mixture becomes dry.
4. Add the whole tomatoes and their juices along with the sun-dried tomatoes, lentils, and the rest of the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and break up the whole tomatoes with your spoon. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking to prevent sticking.
5. The peppers should be done by now, so take them out of the oven, transfer all of them to a bowl with a lid or plate over the opening, making sure there are no gaps (this technique steams the peppers so that the skins will just slip right off, without using plastic wrap). Once cool enough to handle, remove the skins from the peppers, and place the peeled peppers in a blender.
6. Remove the soup from the heat and take off the lid to let cool just for a minute. Transfer to the blender, and blend on high until completely smooth. Add balsamic vinegar, and broth or water to thin, until your desired consistency is reached. Season to taste. Transfer back to the pot and keep warm.
7. Make the croutons (recipe below).
8. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with fresh herbs, edible flowers, a drizzle of good olive oil, and of course place one giant crouton in the middle of each bowl. Enjoy!
Giant Croutons Make as many as you want!
Ingredients: 1 loaf of good bread (wholegrain sourdough is preferred) 2 Tbsp. expeller-pressed coconut oil (the unscented kind – very important!) or ghee, divided 1 clove of garlic, finely minced flaky salt, to taste
Directions: 1. Cut the bread into 2 ½” (6cm) slices – mine weighed 1.25 oz / 35g per piece. Cut off the edges and make a cube (save the off-cuts for snacks).
2. Spread a little coconut oil on each side.
3. Heat remaining coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes, just until the garlic is starting to turn golden.
4. Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the bread cube. Rub each side in the oil to coat with some of the garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let cook on each of the six sides for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately.
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
Big thanks to my friends at Foragers Farms for letting me crash the greenhouse at the crack of dawn to get these pics.
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 […]
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.
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!
Strawberry Rhubarb Hemp Breakfast Bites Makes 12
Ingredients: 1 ½ cups / 215g hemp seeds ¼ cup / 35g arrowroot ¼ tsp. flaky salt, plus more for garnish, if desired 1 tsp. baking powder 1 egg (or 1 ripe banana, mashed) ¼ cup / 60ml pure maple syrup 2 tsp. vanilla extract (or ½ tsp. vanilla powder) ½ cup / 85g chopped strawberries ½ cup / 60g chopped rhubarb (2-3 slim stalks) expeller-pressed coconut oil for greasing (or use muffin liners
1. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin with coconut oil. Preheat oven to 350°F /
2. Wash the strawberries and rhubarb well.
Slice the rhubarb into small discs, and cut the strawberries into small chunks.
Reserve 3 strawberries for topping the breakfast bites, if desired (remove
greens, then slice them top to bottom). Set fruit aside.
3. In a food processor, blend hemp seeds
until they’re a fine powder (don’t go too far or you’ll end up with hemp seed
butter!). Add the arrowroot, salt and baking powder and pulse a few times to
4. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg or
banana, maple syrup, and vanilla extract together. Add the hemp seed flour
blend, and stir to combine. Fold in the rhubarb and strawberries.
5. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the batter into each prepared muffin tin. If desired, place a slice of strawberry on top of each bite. Set in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool
7. Enjoy! Store leftovers in an airtight
container in the fridge for five days.
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/
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. […]
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.
Legendary Layer Bean Dip Serves 8-10
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (or ghee) 1 medium yellow onion, diced ½ tsp. fine sea salt 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tsp. ground cumin 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (substitute with regular oregano) ½ tsp. ground sweet paprika 3 cups / 500g cooked pinto beans (about 2 cans) ½ can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (use more or less to suit your taste) water as needed
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and dried 1 pint / 280g cherry tomatoes, divided 1 green onion, sliced (white and green part) 1 small jar (15.5 oz. / 415ml) store bought salsa, mild medium or hot, depending on your tastes
1 cup / 145g hulled hemp seeds 1 medium red bell pepper, seeds removed and roughly chopped ½ tsp. fine sea salt 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast 2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste ½ clove garlic 1 small piece fresh turmeric, chopped (substitute with ½ tsp. dried) ground cayenne, to taste 3 Tbsp. water, if needed
Directions: 1. Melt oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, salt, and stir to combine. Cook until lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes), then add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes until fragrant. Stir in cumin, oregano and paprika, cook for 2 minutes, then add the beans and chipotles in adobo (use as much or as little as you like). Cover and cook on low heat while you make the queso. If the pot becomes dry, add a little water and stir.
2. To make the queso, put all ingredients, except water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. If needed, add water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. If you want a thick cream, use less water, for a thinner sauce, use more. (You will not achieve a perfectly smooth sauce with a food processor, but it is still delicious!).
3. Slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters. Add half of them to the salsa and stir to combine. Save the other half for later.
4. Smash the beans with a bean masher, potato masher, immersion blender, or put them into your high-speed blender (remove the queso first, but don’t worry about cleaning it). The goal is to get the beans creamy, but not perfectly smooth. Add water if necessary, and season to taste.
5. Pick out a few stems of the most attractive cilantro, brush them with a little olive oil and stick them to the inside wall of the bowl (this step is optional). Chop the remaining cilantro and set aside.
6. Combine the remaining cherry tomatoes and combine them with the sliced spring onion. Sprinkle with a little salt, and fold to combine.
7. To assemble the dip, Spread the bean layer in the bottom first, followed by the salsa and finally the hemp queso. Top with the chopped cilantro, and finally the fresh tomato mix. Serve with whatever you like to dip! Party on!
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!
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 […]
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Bali Butter Makes 3 cups / 750ml
Ingredients: 3 cups / 375g raw cashews 3 cups / 240g unsweetened desiccated coconut ¾ tsp. large flake sea salt (I used Maldon) ¼ cup / 23g raw cacao powder 3 Tbsp. coconut sugar 3 Tbsp. cacao nibs seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 325°F / 160°C. Spread cashews out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Toast for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them so that they don’t burn! Remove from oven and let cool.
2. While the cashews are in the oven, toast the coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until slightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may want to work in batches.
3. Place the coconut in a food processor. Blend on high, scraping down the sides every so often, until the coconut is creamy and smooth (this make take up to 10 minutes, depending on the strength of your food processor – be patient!).
4. Add the cashews to the food processor and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high. Taste and adjust saltiness / sweetness / chocolate levels to suit your taste.
5. Store Bali Butter in an airtight glass container at room temperature (out of the fridge) for one month.
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, […]
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.
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.
King Oyster Mushroom “Scallops” in a Warm Pesto Pool Serves 4
1 lb. / 500g king oyster mushrooms (choose ones with fat stems)
a generous amount of ghee (or expeller-pressed coconut oil)
fine + flaky salt
1 jar brined capers (about 1/3 cup / 55g)
a handful of toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped, for garnish
1 batch Parsley-Spinach Pesto (recipe follows)
cold-pressed olive oil, for garnish
a few leaves of parsley, for garnish
1. Remove any dirt or debris from the mushrooms with your hands, or small soft brush. (do not use water!). Slice the stems into enough rounds so that each person has 5 or 6. Keep the caps for another dish.
2. Drain the capers and pat them dry with a clean tea towel or paper towel. Heat about a tablespoon of ghee (or coconut oil) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and fry until split and crisp – about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add more ghee (or coconut oil) to the same skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sliced mushroom stems, a sprinkle of flaky salt, and cook on one side until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Then flip and cook on the other side until golden. Work in batches or use separate skillets – if you crowd the mushrooms they will steam each other and get soggy. That is not what we’re after!
4. While you’re cooking the mushrooms, place the pesto in a small saucepan, add a touch of water to thin, if desired, and warm over low-medium heat. Do not boil!
5. To serve, place about ¼ cup / 60ml of the warm pesto in the bottom of a dish, spreading it out to make an indent in the center. Place 5 or 6 mushroom stems in the pesto, then top with the fried capers and toasted hazelnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Parsley-Spinach Pesto Makes about 2¼ cups
1 cup / 150g hazelnuts
1 fat clove garlic
2 cups / 35g flat-leaf parsley, lightly packed (tender stems only)
2 cups / 65g baby spinach, lightly packed
zest of 1 organic lemon
⅓ cup/ 80ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
¼ cup / 60ml cold-pressed olive oil
½ cup / 35g nutritional yeast
½ tsp. fine sea salt
½ cup / 125ml water, more if needed
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on baking sheet. Toast in oven for 12-15 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Remove and set aside. Once cool, remove skins by rubbing the hazelnuts together in your hands. Set aside.
2. Remove any tough stems from the parsley. Roughly chop the leaves and tender stems (this prevents the parsley from bruising in the food processor).
3. Place garlic in the food processor and pulse to mince. Add the hazelnuts, parsley, spinach, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt. Pulse for 30 seconds, then add the water and pulse again until it’s thick, but spreadable. Remove lid and scrape. Repeat until reaches desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky, but it’s up to you!). Store leftovers in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to one week.
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.