If there is one trick I’ve learned in all of my years cooking, both at home and in restaurants, it is this: caramelized onions can make almost anything taste amazing. They’re the ridiculously simple, yet magical ingredient that turns an ordinary dish into something so rich-tasting and satisfying that people go …oh hi excuse me, this is incredible.
I think the simple reason that caramelized onions taste so good, is because they are a labour of love. Not like an all-day stirring the pot kinda deal, but most definitely a food that you can’t just leave on the stove and dive into an Instagram vortex. No. Caramelized onions take care and attention, at least for the better part of half an hour, and the results are so worth it I bet you’ll catch yourself multi-taking at the stove tonight just to have some on hand to gussy up your omelet this weekend (boss move there, by the way).
The more accurate reason that caramelized onions taste so good however, isn’t technically caramelization – it’s called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a browning reaction similar to caramelization, but with one distinct difference: caramelization is a chemical reaction between reducing sugars, while Maillard is a chemical reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids (proteins). And yes, there is enough protein in an onion to elicit this response – how thrilling for us! Although the Maillard reaction is very complex and complicated, what we do know is that it requires heat to transform and rearrange sugars and amino acids to create new and fantastic flavour molecules in and on your food, making it even more delicious. If you’ve ever eaten a golden slice of toast, enjoyed a rich cup of coffee, or nibbled on a grilled vegetable, you’ve experienced the pure pleasure that all of this this chemical commotion is responsible for. Science!
Harnessing the power of the Maillard reaction can make you a better cook, because things that are browned properly taste more intensely, more complex, and well, better. Without even being aware of it, it’s the reason you’ll reach for the roasted veggies with the crispiest edges, or the reason that you prefer a fried egg over a boiled one (no judgement!). There are a couple ways of making this spectacular series of chemical reactions work for you, and the first is high heat. Maillard will not occur at very low temperatures, especially in situations where the food is not in direct contact with the heat, like it is on a skillet or grill for instance. When you’re roasting veggies, make sure the oven is at least 400°F / 200°C. When you’re making pizza, you can crank it up even higher, to get those beautifully blistered crust edges that make your mouth water.
The second way is to keep the food you’re cooking on the dry side. For instance, have you ever noticed how if you wash mushrooms (which you should actually never do), they’ll never really get brown and crusty? Too much moisture! Instead, brush those fungi gently to remove any dirt or debris, then put them in a screeching hot pan with some ghee and don’t stir them. I talk more about this technique here. This is the same reason you need a large pan for these caramelized onions, since they’ll need the space to allow the water to evaporate around them. If the onions are too close together, they’ll only steam each other. Eew. If you’re oven roasting vegetables for dinner, cut them in the morning and leave them out all day uncovered so that the surface water will evaporate, and the veggies will brown more easily. Yes, this seems like a bit of a hassle, but the culinary nerd in me admits that it’s cool because it works.
So, where does the hummus come into this story? Well, hummus is pretty much a food group in my world. I’ve made so many variations with so many kinds of legumes, spices, alt seed butters, toppings, and stir-ins, that I could hardly believe I had never tried it with the ingredient that could single-handedly save humanity: caramelized onions. I knew that deep richness of the onions would meld perfectly with the creamy dip, and make the flavour even better. I wasn’t wrong! The only thing that I wanted to improve upon, was the protein content – not because I’m obsessed with protein, but simply because I thought it could be higher. To do that I simply swapped out the traditional chickpeas for white lentils, or urad dal. We not only get more protein from this change-up, but almost double the fiber, with less sodium, less fat, and less sugar. Sweet.
This dip is the perfect, rich compliment to all the crisp and light, early summer veggies popping up. I went to my friend’s farm and picked some seriously beautiful radishes and young carrots, which paired so well with the caramelized onion flavour. I also had some Life-Changing Crackers on hand, which always make dipping more delicious. One thing I changed from the first version to the third, was the onions on top. Instead of blending all of them into the dip, I used about a third of them on top, which allows you to scoop a few tender morsels up with each bite. This delivers even more caramelized onion flavour and texture, which, let us be reminded, is the whole point of this exercise.
Even though this hummus keeps well for at least five days in the fridge (you can even freeze it!), it is best eaten freshly made at room temperature, since the flavour is at its peak then.
And because you’re wondering, you can find white or ivory lentils at Indian grocers, Middle Eastern markets, or some natural food stores. They are the skinned and split version of urad dal, which is black, so make sure you buy the huskless version! If you can’t find them at all, simply use chickpeas – it will be just as delicious.
Caramelized Onion and White Lentil Hummus Makes about 2 cups / 500ml
¾ cup raw white lentils (huskless split black mapte beans / urad dal dhuli), soaked if possible
1 small clove garlic
3 Tbsp. tahini
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ tsp. ground cumin
heaping ¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1 batch caramelized onions (from the recipe below)
cold-pressed olive oil, for garnish
1. Start by cooking the lentils. If you’ve soaked them beforehand (even an hour helps!) drain and rinse them very well. If you’re starting from raw, place the lentils in the cooking pot, cover with plenty of water and vigorously swish them around with your hands. When the water becomes murky, drain and repeat until the water is clear, or mostly clear (this can take 3-4 rounds). Place lentils in the cooking pot and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook partially covered for about 20-30 minutes, depending on whether or not you soaked them. The lentils should be cooked until mushy. If the pot becomes dry during cooking, simply add more water. Once cooked, drain the lentils if there is any remaining water. Set aside to cool.
2. In a food processor pulse the garlic until finely minced. Add the tahini, lemon juice, balsamic, salt, cumin and pepper, then blend until combined. Add the cooked lentils and blend on high until smooth. Lastly, add about two-thirds of the caramelized onions, and pulse to incorporate them into the dip. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
3. To serve, spoon the hummus into a serving bowl. Make a small divot in the center of the dip and spoon in the remaining caramelized onions. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with your toppings of choice (I used toasted black sesame and chive flowers for a splash of colour, but this is totally optional). Serve with crispy fresh veggies and crackers or toasted flatbreads. Enjoy.
Caramelized Onions Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. neutral-tasting coconut oil or ghee
1 lb. / 500g yellow onions
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1. Peel the onions and slice them as evenly as possible into half-rounds.
2. Melt coconut oil or ghee over medium heat in the largest skillet you have. Add the onions, then salt, and stir well to coat. Once the onions are coated, turn the heat down to a medium-low, stirring occasionally – more often towards the end – until they’ve fully caramelized, about 25-30 minutes. If the pot becomes too dry during cooking, reduce the heat a tad, or add a teeny bit of water adn stir well. In the end, you’re looking for soft, silky, and golden brown goodness! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to four days, or freeze for 3 months.
If it’s your first time caramelizing onions and you’re feeling intimidated, here is a stellar step-by-step tutorial from Bon Appétit. It varies ever so slightly from my method, but you’ll get the picture!
Big love and happy hummus,
Show me your hummus on Instagram: #mnrcaramelizedonionhummus
Join us along with 15 other women to unwind, reconnect, and find the inspiration to ignite you on your health journey. Our thoughtfully-designed program will awaken and nourish your entire being – body, mind, and spirit! This is a true celebration of life, and we get to do it together in paradise! Come see what all the magic is about.
Sarah B, Mikkala and the Golden Circle Retreats team
Each year, my now friend Sasha Swerdloff of Tending the Table genius organizes a trip for women in the food world (bloggers, cookbook authors, chefs, nutritionists, photographers etc.) to get together, hang out, share delicious food, and get to know each other beyond a screen (…see? Genius!) This year I actually got to attend – ok truth: I shamelessly invited myself because I wanted to meet this talented troupe of ladies IRL. The group decided to gather in Palm Springs, much to my delight as I needed to escape two kinds of hell: overdue home renovations and Ontario in February.
The days were magically sunny, delicious, and life-affirming. We cooked a lot, then let our food get cold taking too many photos of it. We swam, we hiked, we yoga-ed, we laughed, and conspired together. Besides all of the heart-warming togetherness, one of the highlights for me, was visiting a date farm just outside the city limits, to understand where our favourite whole food sweetener comes from (and to gorge ourselves, naturally). I had never seen dates on a tree before, and was moved to learn from the passionate farmer himself just how these sweet miracles grow.
Dates grow on palm trees, and they fastidiously follow the calendar – you can practically set your watch to a date palm’s seasonal cycle. The first day of spring the tree is in full bloom and the hard work begins, as the farmer pollinates each one by hand. The ratio of male to female trees is about 1 to 30, since the male trees are only necessary to produce the pollen, and the female trees are the ones that produce the fruit. Between the first day of spring and the first day of summer, the tree sets up its entire crop for the year. All the work (trimming, feeding, etc.) must take place during this season, since it’s during this period is when the fruit ripens, turning from green, to yellow, to brown. The dates are ready to eat from the first day of autumn, and then the harvest begins. During this season, the fruit is either left on the tree and protected with cloth bags to prevent rain, birds and insects from spoiling the fruit, or picked when ripe. The farmer told us that the best place for the dates is to remain on the tree for freshness, but if the load is too heavy, it will not bloom as well the following year, thus effecting the trees’ output.
After decades of date farming, he was as wide-eyed and passionate about his fruit as an eager young man, which really made us all swoon. It is truly one of my favourite things in this world, to see how and where food is grown, and to meet and connect with the people who lovingly produce it. We all left with full bellies and hearts, and of course, our bags bulging with dates.
Along the dusty, desert road home we saw so many signs for date shakes, since this is the land where this indulgent treat was invented back in the 1930s. None of us caved and bought one, but my mouth was definitely watering, and I was excited to get back and make one for myself. The original recipe is simple, and calls for dates, vanilla ice cream, milk, and sometimes a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. I knew this was the perfect makeover opportunity, and high-vibed my date shake with coconut milk instead of dairy, hemp seeds, and adaptogens.
So why the adaptogens? Well, I felt like the already-pretty-healthy date shake could use a boost, and what better way to make something more supportive than with a dose of stress-reducing, adrenal-loving, hormone-balancing, potions to get you back into balance? Yahs! I had these four choices on hand, but there are a lot of options once you start to dig around the health food store a little. Here is a little about each one and why I chose them.
Ashwaganda: helps the body adapt to stress and bring us back into balance. It encourages deeper sleep, supports the immune system, and energy levels. He Shou Wu: builds the blood, harmonizes adrenal gland function, nourishes hair, skin and nervous system, increases antioxidant activity. Maca: increases stamina, elevates mood, helps to balance hormones in both men and women, supports fertility and healthy libido. Licorice: balances hormones, helps the body adapt to stress, supports the immune response, and aids learning and memory.
*Some adaptogens during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and while on medication are not recommended, so check with your natural health care provider before trying any of them.
The farm we visited grew seven types of dates, and we loved trying them all. The unanimous favourite was the grower’s very own variety that he created himself, called Black Gold. He also mentioned that this was the best type of date for a date shake, but considering the fact that you maaaaay not get a chance to visit Palm Springs anytime soon, I’ll go ahead and recommend using Medjool dates for the shakes, since they are widely available, and their thin skin blends very easily into a smooth consistency. If you cannot find Medjool, try Deglet Noor instead, or soak your dates in warm water for half an hour before blending.
Dates are a great source of energy, and provide a generous amount of filling dietary fibre with very little fat. Dates are mineral rich, delivering potassium, manganese, magnesium and copper, as well as an assortment of B-vitamins. Seek out dates that are plump and juicy-looking (if you’re buying from a market, ask to try them first), that their skin is intact, and that they are neither glossy or dusty. I store my dates in an airtight glass jar in the fridge to extend their shelf life, and protect their flavour and nutrients. Kept this way, dates will last up to six months. Outside of the fridge at room temperature, dates will last about a month and a half, or you can freeze them for up to a year.
The banana in this blend up is totally optional, and I actually really liked the version without, even though it was less thick and “milkshakey”. If you want to add more dates for sweetness and flavour, live it up. I found that this amount, about 3 Medjool dates, was just perfect for me, even without the banana. The spices are also optional, but help to disguise any strong flavours from the adaptogens, which admittedly can sometimes taste like the inside of a barn, or everyone’s favourite: feet? Mmmmm. Right. Let’s cover that up.
All in all, this is a delicious and filling way to start your morning, or the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. It’s creamy, smooth, sweet and totally balanced. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Adaptogenic Date Shake Serves 1 (makes 2 ½ cups / ml)
¼ cup / 50g pitted Medjool or Deglet Noor Dates
½ – 1 frozen banana (optional)
1 cup / 250ml full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp. hulled hemp seeds
½ Tbsp. licorice root
½ tsp. ashwaganda
½ tsp. maca
¼ tsp. ho shu wu
pinch vanilla powder (or ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract)
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
3-4 ice cubes
1. Brew the licorice tea by combining 1 cup / 250ml boiling water with ½ tablespoon of chopped licorice root. Let steep covered for 15-30 minutes.
2. Place all ingredients in the blender. Measure out ½ cup / 125ml of licorice tea, add it to the blender, and blend on high until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness and spice to your liking. Enjoy immediately.
I just want to give a huge shout out to Sasha and all the women who attended the retreat – it was truly a beautiful experience. And if anyone out there is looking for some inspiration and general awesomeness, follow these wonderful people, below:
Hey ya’ll! One more thing before I go: new Wild Heart High Spirit retreats are being planned! I’ll share more news about the retreats soon, but if you want to be the first to know when tickets are available, go to www.goldencircleretreats.com and join the email list. I’m so excited to welcome another group of women to this magical experience!
So the big move-in happened, but we are far from moved in. I am writing this from my dirty dining room table, watching and listening to a collection of relative strangers drill, saw, spackle, sand, stain, and paint around me, like a tornado of humans in tool belts. Drywall dust dances in the shafts of light pouring into our new space, as I try to ignore the deafening screech from a floor sander behind a paper-thin plastic partition a few feet away from my head. Ahhh…home renovation. I could go on about the frustrations of living in a construction site, how my filth-tolerance has reached unthinkable heights, and how if I hear someone tell me that it should all be complete in “two more weeks” I may collapse, but I know that whenever it is done, it will all be worth it. Really and truly.
I made these Cacao Hemp Crispy Treats a few days before we relocated from our rental to our home, knowing that I would need to have a stockpile of snacks that didn’t require refrigeration, or even cutting, since we would be living without electricity, and I had no idea where to locate a knife in the unpacked boxes stacked high in the basement. Since then, I’ve thanked myself every time I’ve sunken my teeth into each chewy-crunchy-sticky bite, the cacao releasing its relaxation-inducing alkaloids and minerals into my frazzled bloodstream, the hemp seeds delivering their much-needed anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and the nut butter grounding my nerves with all its protein and healthy fat. In these uncertain times, I’ve been certain that a delicious snack was ready to satisfy me at the drop of a hammer.
My original inspiration for these bars came from my fellow Canadian health-food blogger and vegan recipe guru Angela Liddon, of Oh She Glows fame. Her Almond Butter Crisp Rice Treats were a fun Sunday afternoon snack project for my four-year old son and I, and since then I’ve been making many variations of them. My goal was to add more protein, healthy fats and filling fiber to the bars, so I tossed in heaps of hemp and chia seeds until I found the right balance. Losing their chewy-crisp goodness would have been a real shame, since it’s the texture of these treats that is so very crave-able! So I tinkered a few times, and found the exact right amount that maintained the satisfying chew. I also wanted to add chocolate. Because chocolate.
After nailing the additions, I knew that top needed some flair: not just visually, but something to cut the richness a tad. I had some freeze-dried raspberries kicking around my pantry that I had bought on a whim in the US some months back, and immediately knew that they would be the perfect supplement with their vibrant pink hue and bright acidity. Bingo! Freeze-dried fruit (and vegetables) have been popping up all over the place lately, since they taste incredible, have a long shelf life, and are a nutritiously convenient way of getting another serving of produce a day, especially for kids. However, if you can’t find freeze-dried raspberries, or any substitute for that matter, you can easily replace them in this recipe with more traditional dried fruit like goji berries, roughly chopped figs, apricots, or even raisins. You could also top the bars with toasted nuts or seeds, coconut or cacao nibs. Think of these as a blank canvas for your favourite add-on flavours and textures, or keep it as simple as you like. The bars are also delicious as is, and if you’re into a dark and rich flavour above all else, simply leave the toppings off. But do not under any circumstance skip the flaky salt – it is key.
Hemp hemp, hooray! Since being back in the homeland and trying to buy as much locally-produced food as possible, I’ve been loving on hemp seeds lately – even more than usual! Because of their mild, nutty flavor, they blend so effortlessly with just about any food, sweet or savory. And what they lack in flavor, they make up for in protein and healthy fats, specifically those essential Omegas. We’ve all heard about Omega-3s and how important they are for the health of our entire body, helping to prevent cancer asthma, depression, obesity, diabetes and so on. But! There is another star on the block, Omega-6, which seems to be less talked about due to the fact that many of us get enough (or in some cases, too much) of this essential fatty acid.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fasts are essential, meaning that our bodies don’t produce them and we need to obtain them from the foods we eat. Sources of Omega-3 fats include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia, dark leafy greens, some sea vegetables and cold-water fish. Omega-6 sources include soybean, canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, and sesame oils. You can see from this list that most people in the Western world at least, are getting their fair share of Omega-6 fats, and lacking in Omega-3s. In fact, in North America it is estimated that the population consumes 10 to 20 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3, due to the popularity of processed foods. Although the correct ratio of these fats is still a matter of debate, researchers in this field agree that this ratio is far too high. We should be aiming for an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio between 2:1 and 4:1.
So why is the balance so important? Because the ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s helps determine the flexibility of our cell membranes, meaning that ALL communication throughout the body depends on at least in part on this balance being correct. Coronary heart disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, and healthy genetic processes have all been linked to the delicate equilibrium of essential fatty acids.
How can we improve the situation then? Just making simple, small changes to our diets will greatly improve the balance of fats in our bodies. Instead of relying solely on foods high in Omega-6s like peanut butter and foods made with vegetable oils (like corn, sunflower and soybean oil) swap them with foods high in Omega-3s like walnut butter and flaxseed oil, and sprinkle chia seeds on your breakfast bowl or a salad. For omnivores replacing chicken, beef and pork with wild-caught, cold water fish will make a big difference too.
But the most ideal food to choose when trying to achieve that perfect balance of these fats then, is hemp! Hemp’s Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is a healthy 3.75:1. You can find hemp in many forms these days: un-hulled and hulled seeds (also known as hemp hearts), hemp oil, hemp flour, hemp protein powder, hemp milk, and hemp seed butter. Remember that choosing hemp in its most natural form (the un-hulled or hulled hemp seeds) is your best bet to ensure a high-quality, whole food product.
I like to sprinkle hemp seeds on just about everything, from my breakfast porridge to my salads and sandwiches. They add an amazing creaminess to smoothies, raw custards and cheesecakes. You can even make your own milk from hemp and you don’t even need to soak the seeds first! Simply blend 1 part hulled hemp seeds to just under four parts water, with an optional sweetener like maple syrup, dates, or honey, and enjoy. Simple and delicious. You can get the full hemp milk recipe here.
The last thing I want to mention is the crisp brown rice. There are a few types of it on the market, and one reason I’m happy to be back in Canada, is because they have the right kind. By that I mean really crispy rice crisps. For whatever reason, the ones I found in Europe would always get soggy very quickly, whereas the ones here maintain their crunch even after combining them with wet ingredients like maple syrup and brown rice syrup. I’ve also found high-vibe sprouted brown rice crisps over here from a company called One Degree (not sponsored). They work really well too, but cost a fortune. I alternate between those, and the ones I’ve found at my local bulk food store that aren’t sprouted or even organic, but they get the job done when I’m renovating a house and feeling strapped for cash. You may need to experiment with a couple kinds before finding “the one”. In the end, the bars should be relatively crunchy-crisp – not mushy at all (even though they will still be delicious).
If you like Rice Crispy Treats, you’re going to love these bars. They’re the grown-up version of your favourite childhood treat, with a mega boost of nourishing superfoods. It’s an indulgence you can feel good about feeding both you and your family…but I won’t tell anyone if you hide them and eat them all yourself. I’ve definitely never done that before. Nope. Never.
Cacao Hemp Crispy Treats Makes about 16 bars
2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, plus a little more for greasing
2/3 cup / 160ml unsalted nut or seed butter of your choice
2/3 cup / 160ml brown rice syrup
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
heaping ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1/3 cup / 40g raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
4 cups / 200g puffed brown rice crisps
1 cup / 150g hulled hemp seeds
3 Tbsp. chia seeds
a few pinches flaky sea salt (Maldon works perfectly)
3-4 Tbsp. freeze-dried raspberries
1. Rub a little coconut oil in an 7″x11″ (20x30cm) baking pan.
2. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the nut butter, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, vanilla and fine salt, and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Stir in the cacao powder until thoroughly incorporated.
3. Add the puffed brown rice, hemp seeds, chia, and stir quickly to combine, then pour the mixture into your baking pan and press firmly (using the back of a large spoon or spatula rubbed with a little coconut oil really helps). Once smooth and even, generously sprinkle the top with the freeze-dried raspberries and flaky salt. Place in the fridge or freezer to firm up, then slice into bars or squares and enjoy. Store the bars in a tightly sealed container in the fridge or freezer.
Show my your bars on Instagram: #cacaohempcrispytreats
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Hey Toronto! I’ve just launched my first collaborative project since moving back to Canada, with my friends at ELXR Juice Lab: the Activated Power Bowl! This delicious breakfast (or snack!) is made lovingly with activated grains, superfood stir-ins, and tasty toppings. There are three mouthwatering varieties to choose from, or you can build your own bowl. I am so thrilled to offer my fellow Torontonians a vegan, gluten-free, whole food breakfast with activated grains – this is truly the first of its kind! The Activated Power Bowl is available at all four ELXR locations across the city, so if you’re in town go pick one up and enjoy. We had a very successful launch over the weekend – huge thanks to everyone who came out to taste and support!
Necessity is the mother of invention, and when you’re missing all of your kitchen equipment, you get creative. We’ve been living out a single suitcase for some months now, and although I have found a couple of major necessities in the mountain of unpacked moving boxes, I haven’t been able to locate my silicon loaf pan. As someone who makes the Life Changing Loaf of Bread on the reg, it’s been a challenge living without, but a stellar opportunity to come up with bread alternatives that don’t involve a lot of ingredients or special equipment. As I was chopping up some sweet potato for a soup a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me: what if I cut the sweet potato the other way and turned it into a slice of bread?! It was just crazy enough to work. And it did.
Ever since then, I’ve been roasting sweet potato slices once a week, keeping them in my fridge and having a sandwich-like-thing when the mood strikes. It’s delicious! Not to mention wildly satisfying and so easy to make. I’ve experimented with different herbs and spices on the sweet potatoes, using special salts, and even drizzling with flavoured oils once they’re out of the oven. So far, I’m digging smoked salt and garlic powder, but the cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom combo was a close second at breakfast, smeared with chunky hazelnut butter.
The spread I’ve come up with as a pairing to this sandwich sitch, is a horseradish and beetroot “schmear”. Partly because I like saying the word schmear, but mostly because it’s incredible in combination with the sweet potatoes. It’s earthy, spicy, and complex – a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the spuds. I also like the texture difference: the sweet potatoes are so smooth and creamy, while the beet schmear is chunky and toothsome. If you’ve never had fresh horseradish before, be prepared to be blown away! This stuff is so, so special and delicious, I have no idea why it’s such an under-utilized root veggie.
A part of the Brassicaceae family, horseradish shares ties with mustard, broccoli, cabbage, and wasabi. In fact, most commercially-available wasabi is made of horseradish (along with mustard, starch, and green food dye) since wasabi is challenging to grow and therefore much more expensive. But that familiar and addictive rush of sinus-clearing pleasure-pain? That’s the action of isothiocyanate, the compound found in wasabi, horseradish, and strong mustard that gives off heat when crushed, grated, or chewed. This stuff tends to mellow out once it hits the air, which is why horseradish snobs (they exist!) insist on grating it fresh. In the case of my schmear here, it will still taste delish a day or two after you’ve made it, but you may want to grate a little fresh over the top for a boost. It’s the best way to clear out those nasal cavities this side of a neti pot!
Horseradish has been used as powerful winter medicine for hundreds of years. Widely recognized for its expectorant capabilities, it is incredibly effective at removing mucus, and aiding with bronchial and lung disorders. Horseradish is a good source of vitamin C and zinc, two key players in immune system support, so consuming it in the colder months will help ward off the seasonal bugs flying around. For sore throats and coughs, combine one tablespoon of freshly grated horseradish with one teaspoon of raw honey, and one teaspoon of ground clove to some warm water. Sip the brew slowly, or use it as a gargle.
This is more of a concept than a recipe, and a chance to try out sweet potatoes in a new way. Cut them as thick or as thin as you like. Mine are around 1cm, but that is just my personal preference. Remember that the slices will definitely shrink a bit during cooking, so slice them a tad thicker than you would want the finished roasted slice to be. You can even make shapes with a cookie cutter – great for kids lunches! Let your imagine run with this one, and keep me posted on which spreads and seasonings you’re vibing on.
Sweet Potato Sandwiches Makes 6-8 sandwiches
2-3 fat, stubby sweet potatoes (organic if possible)
coconut oil for rubbing (optional)
salt and pepper + other spices or herbs
1 batch Horseradish Beet Schmear (recipe below)
sliced fresh veggies: bell peppers, cucumber, avocado, sprouts, grated carrot etc.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C.
2. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes well, then slice lengthwise into 1 cm-thick slabs (approximately .4 inches). Place on a baking sheet and rub with coconut oil if using, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, plus any other spices or herbs you’d like.
3. Place in the oven and bake until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and use immediately or store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
4. To assemble, spread one slice of sweet potato with the Horseradish Beet Schmear. Top with your favourite sliced veggies, sprouts, salt and pepper and another slice of sweet potato. You can also add mustard, vegan mayo, or any other condiment that you like. Enjoy!
Horseradish Beet Schmear Makes 2 cups / 500ml
1 lb. / 500g beets (about 4-5 small)
coconut oil for rubbing
3 Tbsp. freshly grated horseradish, or more to taste
3 Tbsp. tahini
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
½ tsp. fine sea salt, to taste
¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C. Rub beets with a little coconut oil, set on a baking try, and place in the oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes until you can easily pierce the beets with a sharp knife tip.
2. Remove baking tray and let cool until you can handle them. Slide off the skins, or use a vegetable peeler. Roughly chop the beets and set aside.
3. In a food processor, pulse garlic until minced. Add horseradish, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, then blend on high to combine. Add the chopped beets and pulse to chop. Blend as much or as little as you like – I like my spread a bit chunky. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Some may like more horseradish – go for it! Remember that the bite will mellow out when it’s mixed with everything in the sandwich.
4. Use immediately, and store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to five days.
Although the past few months of life limbo have been pretty frustrating, there are so many exciting things on the horizon that I cannot wait to share with you! First, my family and I are getting closer and closer to our new move-in date (you can watch house renovation updates on my Instagram Stories). Second, I’m heading to Palm Springs for an EPIC bloggers’ retreat organized by my friend Sasha Swerdloff at the end of this month. And I’m finishing up details on a sweet collaboration with one of my favourite juice bars in Toronto, that we will launch with a free public event! Stay tuned for more details on all the things.
Happy 2018 dear friends! I hope that you all had a restful and relaxing holiday, and that you’re ready to take on the new year.
As most of you know, the past few months have been all-over-the-place (literally) for my family and I, so I’ve been giving myself plenty of freedom when it comes to what I’m eating and how often I’m exercising. With my regular routines out the window, I’ve felt an immense sense of liberation – it’s great to let go once in a while! – but now it’s gotten to the point where my body is really craving some stability and grounding, especially after the holidays. Sometimes I like to go drastic and embark on a 10-day juice fast or something like it, but my body and my mind aren’t feeling a hard-core anything at the moment, so I’m turning to kichadi to gently ease my way back into eating with more balance.
Kichadi, sometimes called and spelled khichdi, kitchari, kitcheree or khichri, is the famous one-pot wonder Indian dish that combines rice and lentils or quick-cooking pulses, such as mung beans. Its best known in Ayurvedic tradition as a cleansing and complete protein meal, very easy to digest, and a cinch to make! It is delicious, super comfort food, and even if you’re not down with eating the exact same thing for every meal for several days in a row, you’ll be thrilled to learn it’s also the perfect thing to tuck into on a cold winter night.
Because of its simplicity and ease, many people find that doing a kichadi cleanse is very pleasant and far less of an ordeal than a juice fast for example. Taking three to seven days to eat this dish exclusively is said to purify the digestive organs while cleansing the body of toxins. I like to do this in the colder months when the weather is unfriendly and I need some reassuring, grounding, warm food – and juicing sounds about as fun as a hole in the head. It’s also a wonderful way to glide yourself into the process of detoxing if you’ve never tried it before. Since it doesn’t involve abstaining from food, most first-timers find it totally do-able, and dare I say it, enjoyable! I’ve just completed three days of eating kichadi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’m feeling sooo much more balanced, clear-headed, and energized – the ways I would like to feel at the beginning of a brand new year! I hope that this simple and realistic reset is up your alley, and that you give it a go.
First things first, you’re going to need to do a bit of planning for the kichadi cleanse. Set a realistic goal for yourself – ideally you’ll be eating this dish for at least three days, up to seven, but if one is all you can handle, that is okay too. Since you’re eating throughout this practice, going about your regular life is usually fine, but if you want to go the extra mile and give yourself a real treat, do the kichadi cleanse over a long weekend or break from work so that you can focus on some other cleanse-enriching experiences, such as a massage, a sauna visit, daytime napping, reading an actual book, and maybe even going offline completely. Gasp! I started my cleanse period on a Monday and carried out my normal routine with work and family life, and just made sure to give myself lots of juicy personal time in the evenings (essential oil bath, yin yoga sesh, early lights out etc.). Aside from a cleanse-classic mood swing on the last day, no one around me even noticed what I was doing. Since they were too busy eating pizza.
Before you begin you’ll want to start by cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat, dairy, processed foods, and anything else you know is throwing you off balance. If you abstain from these things for at least a couple of days before you begin, your experience will be much smoother, as your body won’t be cleansing and going through serious withdrawal at the same time. You can also add bad habits to your hit list, and reduce or eliminate the daily practices that aren’t making your life extra groovy.
Whatever day you are starting the kichadi on, soak the rice and pulses together the night before. This step is important for improving the digestive qualities of kichadi, but if you are really pressed for time or you forgot, get them in water as soon as you can. Remember that even soaking for an hour is better than nothing! Cook the kichadi daily if possible, since the fresher the food is, the more energy, or “prana” it contains. My recipe makes about six servings for my appetite (eight for people who eat less) and I can easily stretch one batch over two days if no one else in my family wants it. Regardless, you’ll have to make at least two batches if you’re going for three days, and I would not recommend keeping kichadi around for longer than that. Freezing is an option, but freeze it in the portion size you’d want to eat so that you’re not heating more than you need at one sitting.
Daily routine The night before: soak the rice and pulses together in plenty of filtered water overnight.
Morning: upon rising, drink a large glass of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice, followed by another glass of pure water. Make your first batch of kichadi, and enjoy it for breakfast. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Midday: Drink a couple large glasses of water at least 30 minutes before eating. Heat your desired amount of kichadi and enjoy it for lunch.
Evening: Drink a couple large glasses of water at least 30 minutes before eating. Heat your desired amount of kichadi and enjoy it for dinner.
Night time: Drink a cup of herbal detox tea if desired, enjoy something that nourishes you (bath, meditation, stretching) and go to bed early.
Repeat for three to seven days.
Kichadi Reset tips 1. Eat when you’re hungry.This may seem like an obvious one, but many people eat according to the clock, instead of listening to their bodies. Take these days to really tune in and see when your body actually desires food, and how much you need to eat to feel satisfied. When you feel real hunger, your body is giving you the signal that it is actually ready to receive.
2. Cook mindfully. Remember that cooking is something to be grateful for. If you normally approach cooking from a “let’s get this over with” standpoint, use this opportunity to make your meal prep a ceremony, and see it as a gift to yourself. Take your time washing and cutting vegetables, delight in the sound of the spices popping, the scent that wafts up while you’re peeling ginger. The attention and intention you put into your food will come back to you, and nourish you in ways that you never thought possible.
3. Keep things interesting, by adding a squeeze of lime instead of lemon to your kichadi. You can use parsley instead of cilantro, and adjust the spices to suit your personal taste. If you really need some variety, top the kichadi with some of your favourite sprouts, grated raw carrot, or fold in some spinach while it’s still hot.
4. Cravings are normal,especially when you’re knowingly depriving yourself! If you feel a craving coming on, first identify what the craving is. Be curious…maybe it has nothing to do with the food, but more your emotional or mental state. If you really can’t shake the feeling, drink water first, then try a piece of fruit, or some raw veggie sticks.
5.Drink a lot of water.The body functions optimally when properly hydrated. It is especially important when we’re resetting, since we’re letting go of things that need to be flushed out. Water is essential to this process, but it will also prevent cravings, combat fatigue and brain fog, and keep the bowels moving. Remember to drink water away from mealtimes for optimal digestion (30 minutes before eating, 2-3 hours after unless you’re very thirsty). Other beverages, even if they are “mostly water” like coffee and tea, are not water. Only water is water.
After the cleanse Although it is extremely tempting to celebrate and indulge after denying oneself certain things, this is not the best time to do so. Even though this cleanse keeps your digestive system humming along, your body is still in a sensitive place. Introduce new foods slowly, and keep combinations small and uncomplicated (i.e. don’t have a meal with 20 different foods together). Limit meat, dairy, sugar, and processed foods for as long as possible. That congratulatory slice of cake should wait until you’re pretty much back to “normal”, or maybe even find an alternative ; )
Simple and Cleansing Kichadi Serves 6-8
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
½ Tbsp. cumin seeds
½ Tbsp. mustard seeds
½ Tbsp. coriander seeds
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 Tbsp. minced ginger (to taste)
1 large tomato, chopped (optional)
2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 small / 250g sweet potato (or other seasonal root veggie), chopped
1 cup / 200g brown rice
½ cup / 110g mung beans or brown lentils
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 cup / 140g green peas, frozen or fresh
4 cups / 1L water (or more, as needed)
a couple handfuls finely chopped cilantro
lemon to garnish
1. If possible, soak the rice and pulses together overnight, or for 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse very well.
2. Melt the oil in a large stockpot. Add the cumin and mustard seed and fry just until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the remaining spices, stir and then add the tomato and ginger (if you’re opting out of the tomato, simply use a few splashes of water). Fry for a couple minutes until fragrant.
3. Add the onion, carrots, sweet potato, brown rice, mung beans, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, until the rice and beans are soft. About five minutes before serving, add the peas whether fresh or frozen, and cook until they are warm. Add more water for a stew-y consistency, or if the pot becomes dry while cooking.
4. Serve kichadi hot, garnished with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Give thanks and enjoy.
I hope that many of you try the kichadi cleanse out, and rejoice in the fact that there is no need to do something radical and overly deprivational during the winter. This is a time for closing in, for being quiet and gentle, and nourishing oneself in a tender way. And remember, you can enjoy this delicious kichadi even for a day, and any season of the year when you need to find your equilibrium once again. It’s a tasty way to come back to center, every time, anytime.
In health, vibrancy, and abundance for the year ahead,
So we moved. Across the ocean. It’s been a wild ride so far with plenty of excitement and relief coupled with awkward transitioning, and astronomical culture shock (small town Ontario is preeeeeetty different from Copenhagen). We’re also renovating a very old home by Canadian standards, and the hidden surprises lurking under every lifted floorboard are creating a project slightly larger and lengthier than predicted. But wouldn’t it all be so boring and predictable without those fun discoveries?! Right! Who needs a kitchen anyway? Oh wait.
Amongst the self-inflicted chaotic state of affairs, I’ve actually found some peace in the simple living we’ve got going on. Since we don’t really have any friends in our little village yet, there’s been plenty of time to actually take care of myself and our family. Afternoons are spent building toy train sets, cooking big batch meals, and making snacks for the days ahead. I’ve started taking aerial yoga and NIA, going for nature walks every day, and having candlelit baths on the regular. Funny what removing one’s social life will make room for!
An important part of my self-care routine these past weeks is my simple ritual of making golden milk. Warm, comforting, and satisfying, this drink has everything needed to combat winter blues and mover’s remorse (I kid, I kid). Usually I make golden milk on the fly, one cup at a time, but recently I realized how handy it would be to just make a huge batch and have it ready to spoon into some hot milk when the mood strikes. Genius.
For those of you that aren’t yet familiar with this wonder drink, I’m excited for the vibrant, spicy world that is about to open up to you. Golden milk, or haldi ka doodh, actually dates back thousands of years in Ayurvedic tradition where it has been used to aid digestion and respiration, prevent colds and flu, decongest the liver, ease sprained muscles and joint pain, purify the blood, clear the skin, and aid sleep. The main ingredient in golden milk responsible for all of this awesomeness is the curcumin in turmeric, a compound that is responsible for its vibrant hue. Curcumin has been widely studied for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, but it is also supports detoxification, helps balance blood sugar, and lowers the overall risk of cancer.
How do we get the most out of this powerful phytonutrient? Simply by combining it with black pepper and fat – two important ingredients in golden milk! A compound in black pepper called piperine actually helps the body absorb curcumin, and shows to increase the bioavailability of it by up to 2,000 percent. And the good news is, you only need a very small amount to reap the synergistic benefits. Then melt a little coconut oil in, and the curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system. That’s a cooperative one-two punch of absorption and deliciousness.
Once mixed, your Big Batch Golden Milk spice blend will last for up to six months. Keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct light – a closed cupboard is perfect. Do not store it right next to the stove or on top of the fridge, where the warm environment will speed spoilage. We wanna keep our medicine fresh!
The Big Batch Golden Milk recipe below makes about 120 servings, so there is plenty to divvy out to your most beloved, and even save some for yourself. Make sure to include the directions so that your lucky recipients can make golden milk themselves. I’ve divided them below so that you can print out just the single serving instructions for your friends and family. I’ve also included a recipe if you want to sample just one cup for yourself before committing to an entire jar.
My version of golden milk has a few more spices than some blends that I’ve tried, but this unique combination just tastes that much better. If you’re on a tight budget, or you simply cannot find some of the spices listed, leave them out. The main ingredients you need are the turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. The others are there for added health benefits and of course flavour, but the recipe will still be delicious without them.
The milk for this recipe is totally flexible. Coconut is classic, but almond, cashew, or hemp are tasty options. You can also do half milk, half water if you like. It will be less creamy, but it’s great if you’re trying to make your milk stretch a little farther!
The most important thing to remember when making golden milk is to not overheat the spices, as they will become bitter-tasting and therefore not all that enjoyable. If you choose to use milk in your recipe, warm it gently on the stove, then remove from heat and gently whisk in the golden milk spice blend. If you’re going with water, do NOT pour boiling water over the spice blend, but instead pour the recently-boiled water into a cup, let it cool for 30 seconds or so, then whisk in the golden milk spice blend. I also advise you not to add the honey or coconut oil until the spices have been stirred into the liquid you’re using, as they’ll incorporate easier if the spices have dissolved.
If you want to use a vegan sweetener, maple syrup is my favourite choice, but brown rice syrup, coconut palm sugar, and stevia are also good options. I also love adding a sprinkling of vanilla powder right at the end for some extra va-va-voom.
I recommend enjoying your golden milk first thing in the morning (right after your lemon water, of course!), or right before bed. If it’s a particularly cold day outside, this intelligent spice combo will warm your cells up from the inside out. Or, if you’re looking for a luxurious way to unwind down after a long day, I find that golden milk is also a very effective sleep tonic. Whatever the time you choose to enjoy this drink, you will absolutely love its warm, and satisfying vibes. Make it a ritual yourself: spoon lovingly, stir consciously and sip gratefully.
One more thing I should mention, is that the Big Batch Golden Milk spice blend is not only delicious as a drink, but that it can also be incorporated into a number of your favourite recipes. Toss a teaspoon into a smoothie, stir some into your morning porridge or pancake batter, fold it into a basic cookie dough or cake batter, and even try it in curries, soups and stews. The flavour is warming and pungent, so use it anywhere you’d like a burst of sunshiny spice that is as good as gold.
Big Batch Golden Milk Spice Blend Makes approx. 120 servings
1 ½ cup / 200g ground turmeric
2/3 cup / 70g ground ginger
1/3 cup / 35g ground cinnamon
2 ½ Tbsp. / 20g ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. / 20g ground cardamom
scant 3 Tbsp. / 20g ground cloves
2 ½ Tbsp. / 20g ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp. 20g ground star anise
¼ cup 20g ground coriander
1. Combine all spices in a large bowl. Stir well, then transfer to a large jar or several smaller ones, and seal with an airtight lid. Keeps for up to 6 months.
Golden Milk Ingredients:
½ Tbsp. golden milk spice blend
1 cup milk of your choice (coconut milk is classic, but I also like cashew milk or hemp milk)
½ – 1 tsp. virgin coconut oil
½ – 1 tsp. sweetener of choice (I like raw honey)
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until just before it simmers. Whisk in golden milk spice blend until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil and sweetener, if desired. Enjoy!
If you want to make just one batch of my golden milk, here’s the single-serve recipe.
Single-serving Golden Milk Ingredients:
1 ½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. cinnamon
pinch black pepper
pinch star anise
I wish you all a super sweet holiday with tons of delicious food shared amongst family and friends, and that your 2018 is bursting with health and happiness. Much love to all out there, from my chilly, but cozy, little corner of the world to yours.
xo, Sarah B
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In wrapping up 2017, I cannot help but look on the Wild Heart High Spirit retreats with deep gratitude and pure joy. I had a strong vision for the endeavor from the beginning: gather women in a beautiful and serene space, teach them how to reconnect to their bodies through food and movement. But I never imagined just how deep these lessons would go, how profound the changes would be, and how much fun we would have! After three this year, I can confidently say these experiences are incredibly special, and I feel very lucky to work with such a talented partner to create them. Thank you to all of the women who have traveled from all corners of the earth to join us. We love you!
Here are some highlights from our trips to Bali, Ibiza, and Portugal. Click on the images below to see photos from each of our magical locations.
Boil the kettle and make a cup of tea folks, this is going to be a long one!
First of all, I have to begin this post by saying THANK YOU. My New Roots is officially 10 years old and I couldn’t have done it without your support, enthusiasm, and full-on LOVE for this little blog. And especially after the last couple of posts when I really opened up about my recent struggles, I felt so supported, and saw that so many of you did as well. It reminded me of the strong community that this has become, and the power of people when they come together with a common goal of true wellness.
If you had told me an entire decade ago that my deeply passionate, unabashedly nerdy, and nearly ignored internet musings would end up turning into a full-on career, brand, cookbooks, online classes, app, poster shop and retreat company I never, ever would have believed you. But reading my first post again, it’s just as relevant today as ever, eerily almost as if I had written it last week. I guess I had a strong vision in mind and just kept trucking, kept trusting, that it would resonate with someone. But here we are, a third of my life later, and it’s not just someone, but so many of you. And all of my dreams continue to be born and manifest because of you. That offhanded suggestion from an old boyfriend who thought I could use an outlet for all that “health talk” I kept spewing, was really onto something. Thanks, dude.
Secondly…and this is really big news…I am moving back to Canada! Yes, after nine years of delicious life in Copenhagen, my old roots are pulling me home and I am so very ready. This whole thing has been in the works for a few months now, but I didn’t really feel like putting it out there until it was real. Well lemme tell ya, when putting my family’s life in 50 boxes and shoving them into a shipping container, shiz got real, real fast. What a crazy feeling it is, and totally overwhelming with all the emotions that relocating your entire life is. So, if things have been (and continue to be) quiet around here, it’s because I’ve been sorting through all the details that an international move entails. I send my gratitude for your patience.
The next chapter of my life will be completely different from the last, that is for sure. To change things up dramatically, my family and I will be living out of the city in fact, near-ish to Toronto, where I am originally from. I knew that I would end up living in the country at some point, but not so soon! It was more a “when I retire” kind of thing. But funny what happens when you have kids and they need s-p-a-c-e, your priorities seem to shift to accommodate the little ones. Plus, I feel the need to be on the ground again (I’ve been living in a fourth-floor apartment for nine years now!), so we bought a house to get closer to earth in every sense, plant a garden, lay in the grass – our own grass – and enjoy the quiet and safety of a little community. I’m really excited for everything that is to come, and feeling so grateful for the divine unfolding.
But will I miss Copenhagen? Obvi. This city, and my home here, is where I have spent my entire adult life. The walls of my beloved kitchen that my husband and I built ourselves, have held space for two cookbooks, online classes, countless dinner parties, bleary-eyed breakfasts, and even the birth of our son for crying out loud! And although My New Roots began in Toronto, it flourished here and truly became something on Danish ground. The Scandinavian culture has had a profound influence on me, my aesthetic, and how I see the world now. Having Europe at my doorstep with all its history, architecture, fine arts, culture, and attitude has been an enormous privilege and deeply inspiring. And can we talk about the light? Oh the light! How my camera and I will miss the very special way the sun slants here. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Anyway, I promise to keep you all posted as we leave one fabulous country for the next. I won’t have a working kitchen for some months, but I’ll stay as active as I can on Instagram so you can keep up with my kitchen renovations…I know you’ll want to see all that house porn. Tee hee.
Okay, now for the main event. I MADE A CARROT CAKE. Successfully. It is delicious. I feel like I have finally achieved one of my biggest culinary goals ever, and it’s so appropriate that we celebrate ten years of this blog with a recipe that has challenged me for nearly as long. If you remember back to when I used to post giantlayer cakes for my birthday, I ran into trouble in 2013, when I attempted three different versions, which all failed, and ended up making nut butter sandwiches instead. Since then, the headcount has continued to rise, yet some ridiculously stubborn part of me won’t give up.
In the past I’ve almost always used spelt flour for baking, and if any of you have tried one of my famous layer cakes, you’ll know this has worked well. I was after the same crumb that you can achieve with wholegrain spelt, but wanted the cake to be gluten-free, so I started by using an all-purpose gluten-free flour. It was a total disaster. The cake turned out gummy and inedible, and the frosting, which I tried to make with cooked quinoa (don’t ask) was also just weird. The next route I tried was with almond flour, since I’ve been eating a more low-grain diet for the past few months and I wanted the cake to reflect that. Almond flour is an ingredient that I’ve been working with more and more, and really digging it. Before testing it out, I assumed that almond flour would make things really dense and heavy, but lo and behold it creates a crumb that is so fluffy, and really gives this feeling of deep satisfaction. I’m obsessed. The only thing that I don’t like about almond flour is the high price, and the fact that almonds are a very water-intensive crop to grow. But, this is a cake after all, therefore a special treat, therefore not something you have all the time.
The initial carrot cake experiments with almond flour were good, but borderline too rich. Plus, since I’d ditched the quinoa frosting idea and knew I’d be taking the cashew road, I felt like a nut frosting on top of a nut cake was just, well, too nutty. To reconcile my relationship with coconut flour, I cut the dry ingredients with a tad to see what would happen. Not only was the cake just as good, but the texture was better and I liked the flavor the coconut flour provided. We are friends again.
The Cashew Coconut frosting for this cake is what Canadians would affectionately call a “twofer”. Bahahaha! (I really do amuse myself). For everyone else out there, in long form, this refers to a “two-for-one” deal. You can make this recipe once, but have the frosting come out two ways depending on its temperature. Pretty groovy, eh? If you use the frosting right after making it, it will be loose and glossy, almost glaze-like. If you prefer a traditional-style frosting that is thicker and stiffer, all you need to do is put the mixture in the fridge overnight to achieve this consistency. I chose to go with the room temperature version since I hadn’t really worked with it like that before. It provided a more even layer, but it’s also a little harder to control. Either way it’s delicious, so don’t worry about making the wrong choice…there isn’t one! The flavour is major: I’m talking soooo cream cheese-like that even I was confused.
If you’re not feeling the chunky carrot cake vibes, please look away now, because the cake of my dreams is loaded with pineapple, walnuts, and bursting with warm spice and citrus zest. I went to town! Instead of using questionably-edible canned pineapple, I used the dried, unsweetened version from the health food store. This stuff ain’t cheap, but again, cake splurge. If you can’t find pineapple like this, dates, raisins, dried figs or apricots would also be good, but I’d skip the soaking step. Instead of walnuts you could use pecans, macadamias, or even pumpkin seeds.
Altogether this carrot cake is moist, decadent, and satisfying with so many layers of flavour and texture that just won’t quit. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade, and this cake is an expression of that. It’s something to be proud of, and something to share. Thanks for sticking by me while I worked out the kinks…now it’s time to celebrate!
Copenhagen Carrot Cake Serves 10-12
2/3 cup / 60g dried, unsweetened pineapple, plus more for garnish if desired
1 ½ cups / 200g lightly packed grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1 cup / 100g walnuts, plus more for garnish if desired
3 cups / 300g almond flour (not almond meal)
2/3 cup / 100g coconut flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup / 250ml eggs, at room temperature (about 4-5 large eggs)
½ cup / 125ml odourless coconut oil, melted
1 cup / 250ml pure maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon (try to find organic, if possible)
Cashew Coconut Frosting:
1 ½ cups / 200g raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup / 175ml coconut cream from the top of a can of coconut milk
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1. Pour just-boiled water over the dried pineapple (do not soak the pineapple you’re using for garnish). Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Lightly grease two 7” / 18cm spring form cake pans with coconut oil.
2. Wash carrots well and grate them on a box grater. Set aside. Roughly chop the walnuts.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, salt cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg.
4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
5. Drain the soaked pineapple and squeeze with your hands to remove excess liquid. Roughly chop.
6. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Zest the orange and lemon into the bowl. Add the carrots, soaked pineapple, and chopped walnuts and fold to incorporate.
7. Spoon roughly half of the batter into one of the prepared cake pans, then add the remaining batter to the second one. Place in the oven in the middle rack and set the timer for 40 minutes. Cakes are ready when they are golden brown and pass the toothpick test (bake for longer if necessary, up to one hour – cover cake with aluminum foil if you need to bake for longer so that the top doesn’t burn). Remove cakes from the oven and let cool completely.
8. While the cakes are baking, make the frosting. Drain and rinse the cashews. Add them to a high-speed blender along with the other ingredients (you can use a normal blender or food processor, but the frosting won’t be as smooth). If the frosting is too thick, add more coconut cream or a teeny bit of water and blend again. Chill in the fridge (frosting can be made one day ahead if you want it to be thicker).
9. To frost and decorate, spread a generous amount of frosting over one half of the cake. Carefully lay the second half on top, and spread remaining frosting over the top and on the sides. Decorate with remaining dried pineapple and walnuts, if desired. Serve and enjoy! Cake will keep for 5 days, covered in the fridge.
Who knows what the future holds – the world seems so crazy these days – but I do know that I still have steam in me to keep going with this heart project, if you’re all still up for reading and cooking from it. Words cannot describe my gratitude for you, allowing me to pursue my biggest dreams and expose my shadowy bits as well. I hope you know how much I love you. I truly do. Here’s to another ten years…
xo, Sarah B
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Okay friends, there are still a couple spaces left for the next Wild Heart High Spirit retreat in Portugal! It’s this November 5-11, hosted at the ridiculously beautiful Sublime Comporta hotel (guys, I’ve been there and this place is NEXT LEVEL). I will be teaching cooking classes outside in the organic garden (pictured above!) and giving nutrition seminars daily, with yoga and movement classes twice a day with my dear friend and deeply talented friend, Mikkala Marilyn Kissi of Living Yolates. The kitchen is exclusively making My New Roots recipes for the week, so we can all enjoy these meals without having to lift a finger. Enjoy your private pool, open spa, horseback riding on the beach, bonfire nights and dancing under the stars. Come and get inspired to live your best life! We’ll show you how. Click here for more info, and see you in magical Portugal!
I have to start by saying how incredibly moved I was by the comments on the last post, and the emails I received from you guys – a deep, heartfelt thank you. I knew that opening myself up would spark a lot of conversation, but I never imagined the impact it would have, not only in regards to the incredible outpouring of support, but for sharing your own stories and struggles. Time and time again I am reminded of the power in vulnerability and open communication. I feel truly blessed to have a community of conscious and loving readers, and that we can all share our journey with one another. That is what makes us stronger, and certainly healthier human beings in every sense of the word.
Before I dig deeper into what I’ve been doing to eat for balancing my hormones, I’d like to just follow-up with the topic of orthorexia. Many of you expressed surprise at my struggles, thinking that because I do what I do, I must have had it all together. The truth is I thought that I did have it all together for a very long time, and creating My New Roots has been the most powerful catalyst in my healing. For the last decade, I’ve felt very grounded in my choices and excited to celebrate them with you. But like I mentioned in the last post, the experience of changing my diet has brought back many of the challenges, dark thoughts and feelings that I had convinced myself were gone forever. Putting new restrictions on myself made me to put food into “good” and “bad” categories. This probably doesn’t sound so terrible, but like I said before, this is a slippery slope into full-blown disordered eating for me. I see now that there is an incredibly fine line between caring about what I eat and caring too much. I believe that my relationship to food is something that I may have to keep in check for the rest of my life, or at least as long as I choose to use it as a tool to become a healthier person (so, like, forever).
In the last four months of tuning into what I need right now, and eating more consciously, I’ve really experienced a positive difference in how I feel, which is the biggest reward anyone could ask for! But I’ve also had bad days where I wasn’t prepared, and suddenly being at a wedding or a birthday party, or out for dinner with friends without much to eat in the “good” category, wasn’t so rad. My blood sugar would crash, I’d feel desperate, totally out of control and the voices would come back. What I’ve learned from these experiences is that I need to be as prepared as possible in these situations, but if I can’t, I simply have to let go. I cannot control everything and I cannot always be prepared, but that in order to move forward, I have to maintain flexibility, and stop being so darn hard on myself! I firmly believe that there is more strength in being fluid and forgiving, than rigid and judgmental. I am just a person, after all.
Since many of you were curious about the connection between food and hormone balance, I’d like to discuss it in more detail, and share what I’ve been doing to keep these miraculous chemicals in check, and keep them working for me, not against me!
Upping my fat and protein intake – but especially fat Fats are an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, and they are especially important for hormone balance. Fats actually create the structural components of hormones, and cholesterol specifically is responsible for our reproductive hormones; estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The type of fat you choose however, is critical to achieving a positive effect, as the ones you consume become the building blocks for your hormones. Saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and ghee, and monounsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, eggs, and avocados are excellent choices and should be consumed responsibly every day. Cut back on or eliminate corn, canola, sunflower, safflower and soybean oils, and replace them with the aforementioned instead.
I’ve also increased my protein intake, and consciously replacing more high-carbohydrate foods with more protein-rich foods such as tempeh, hemp, sprouts, activated nuts, eggs, and quality protein powder has really made a difference in stabilizing my energy levels and appetite. Getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet is totally possible, but I find that if I’m not really paying attention, I can dip below the ideal 45 grams a day. Loosely (not obsessively) keeping track of my daily intake of protein has helped me feel my best.
Keeping my blood sugar stable It may seem totally unrelated, but blood sugar and hormones are in fact inextricably linked. One of the main functions of the endocrine system (the system that creates and transports hormones in your body) is delivering glucose to your brain, muscles, and heart. So if anything in that process isn’t working properly, than mismanaged blood sugar is the inevitable result. But what’s worse is that it creates a cascade effect whereby none of the other parts of your endocrine system will work either. Sheesh!
Walking the line between high and low blood sugar is something that I’ve really been focusing on lately, and it’s working well, but it is an ongoing process that takes some getting used to. Including more fat and protein in my diet has been a game-changer for me, since those macronutrients digest slower than carbohydrates – even the complex ones from things like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and chickpeas.
I try to eat a large and protein-rich breakfast within an hour of waking up (after the lemon water, of course!). Lunch is where I get the majority of my calories since that is when I need the most energy. I like eating roasted vegetables, avocado, eggs, and sprouted pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat. I snack in between meals when I’m hungry, but instead of reaching for a slice of rye bread or a rice cake, I’ll have veggies with a high-fat dip, or a handful of my Maple Cinnamon Grain-free Granola. Dinner is mostly grain-free these days and I stick to salads, soups and stews. I go to bed no longer than four hours after dinner so that I’m not hungry right before I hit the pillow. Then I like to have a break of about 14 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day, as my digestion does well on the rhythm of intermittent fasting.
Eating more vegetables (and less bread a.k.a. DUH) I almost always had a couple slices of rye bread at lunch. Not that there is anything “wrong” with doing so, but I’ll admit to feeling pretty foggy-headed afterwards. And because it filled me up so much, I had less room for veggies. Now I’m prepping raw and cooked vegetables ahead of time and keeping them on hand specifically for my big lunches. Some favourites to roast in the oven are cauliflower, sweet potato, pumpkin, red onion, zucchini, tomatoes, and broccoli. I’ve also started cutting up a big plate of veggie sticks in the early afternoon, before I even get hungry, so that it is there and waiting for me – no excuses. Right before diving in I douse it in freshly squeezed lemon juice, Maldon salt and Aleppo pepper. It’s honestly delicious.
I don’t have to tell you that vegetables are full of filling fiber, replenishing phytonutrients, and yes, protein. Especially dem green ones. Eat more plants.
Habits + meal prep I think this was the other big hurdle for me when it came to changing things up with my eating habits. I knew that if I was going to start eating food differently, I’d have to start preparing food differently too – and a lot more often. I already spend a lot of time in the kitchen (obvi) and I love it, but I am also a person who likes to spend her non-work hours away from the cutting board. Eating this way admittedly does take more time, and makes it more challenging to eat out, or just grab something on the go. Coming to terms with this was challenging, but I’ve realized that I have to dedicate more time to my diet if I want to be successful. No matter how you slice it, meal preparation is a very big part of sticking to your goals, whatever they may be. Of course there are times when it’s just not possible to do, and divergent days are fine, but the majority of your food you’re should fall into the category that helps you feel your best, however you define that.
Instead of prepping one day a week, which I know a lot of people like to do, I actually prefer to pepper it throughout the week in a way that is a little more fluid for me. If the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread is in the oven for instance, I’ll chop up a bunch of veggies, and put them in too. If I’m washing greens for a salad, I’ll do all of them so that they’re ready to chuck into a smoothie on a whim. Lee from America’s Fat Balls have also been a super snack these days. And like I mentioned before, having fresh veggies washed and sliced up for afternoon cravings is very helpful. I can prepare two or three day’s worth at a time and keep them in the fridge.
Mindset Instead of looking at food in terms of “good” and “bad” which I think is a dangerously judgemental way to categorize what we’re eating, I like to say “yes” to certain things, and the others fall into the “not-right-now” basket. For instance, I love brown rice to the ends of the earth and back, but I’m not eating it right now since it doesn’t make me feel all that great. And just because I’m not eating brown rice these days doesn’t mean I’ll never eat it again! This leaves room for flexibility and creates a far more sustainable way to look at one’s diet. Isn’t it relieving to know that if you are out for dinner and there’s only rice for example, that you could potentially eat it and not beat yourself up? Ahhhh…did you feel that?! What a relief, eh? Tomorrow you’ll get back on the horse, no big deal at all. Making changes should be fun, and keep those labels for tin cans! You’re a fluid being, ever-changing, so make space for that in your meal planning too.
Self-care routine, stress-reduction, exercise, and sleep I used to see self-care as something that only “people with time” have. Well, after totally hitting the wall a while ago, I realized that it just has to be a priority, respected as a part of a holistic approach to health, and something to actually schedule in the calendar. Staying active, sleeping, and treating myself to some yummy stress-reducing activities like spending time in nature, bodywork, and cooking (go figure) keeps me feeling happy and relaxed. Squelching stress doesn’t happen by accident: it is truly a daily practice and something to be mindful of. Listen to yourself. How can this moment be juicier and more relaxing? It’s fun to love yourself!
Keeping stress levels low means that your body will be relaxed and not producing hormones that should only be reserved for emergency situations. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Every time we experience a stressful situation we secrete this hormone into the blood stream so that our bodies can deal with the stressor at hand. Although cortisol is our friend in acute situations, our systems aren’t designed to be pumping it out ‘round the clock as we juggle and struggle with backlogged emails, fussy kids, and traffic jams. This is why chronic stress is so detrimental to our bodies: prolonged, elevated cortisol levels wreak all kinds of wrong inside of us, raising our blood pressure, causing unwanted weight gain, exhaustion, anxiety, impaired brain function, and weakening the immune response. All the more reason to take self-care seriously, and do the things you love more often. It’s actually healthy.
Sleeping 7-9 hours a night is another non-negotiable. Getting enough sleep helps us to control our cortisol production, balance our blood sugar, and put us back in line with our natural circadian rhythm. Turning screens off an hour before bedtime will help signal to your body that it is in fact, night time. Create a relaxed, cozy environment and spend the last hour before bed reading, stretching, or meditating. I still struggle with this one, as I love looking at Instagram right before turning out the light, but I’m becoming more mindful and doing my best.
Required Reading There are a few really amazing books out there that I recommend every woman reads, whether or not you’re seeking advice on a particular health issue. Understanding our bodies and cycles is the first step in helping ourselves become healthier, stronger, more connected women. Woman Code by Alisa Vitti has been hugely educational and supportive for me. Her book is a guide to figuring out what the heck is going on inside you, and how to correct it through diet and lifestyle. I appreciate her easy-to-understand language and humour in this book, because let’s face it: nothing is very funny when you’re hormones are raging! The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health by Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur has been and continues to be another excellent resource for me. This book is more of an all-round toolkit for lifelong health and healing, than specifically about hormone balance. I love the holistic approach to all conditions, and inspiring programs to get us back in touch with our natural cycles in connection to the earth. The third book I recommend is Hormone Balance by Carolyn Dean. Dean is a naturopathic doctor that utilizes both traditional and alternative solutions to help readers rebalance their hormone levels. Her writing is engaging and inspiring, and this book is full of ways for women to achieve greater overall health.
Oh man, I haven’t even talked about the tacos yet!
So. I got the idea for these this past summer when I was chopping up tempeh to replace ground beef with in a tomato sauce for pasta. It turned out so meaty, satisfying, and delish that I thought I could perhaps take that same idea, spice it up a little differently, and serve them in a taco. Woot! I knew that grilled veggies and red cabbage would help cut the richness, but that I would also need a boss sauce to put them over the top. During one of my retreats I made a raw queso in our cooking class and everyone went wild for it. It seemed like a natural fit! Topped with some lime, avo, pickled red onions, and cilantro these were the best tacos I’ve ever had. Ever.
And I’ve had a lot of tacos.
I know some of you are going to ask about the corn tortillas and probably remind me that corn is a “grain”. Yes, I am aware of that, and I’ll remind you that I am not grain-free, just cutting way back. I stick mostly to pseudo-grains and make sure they are soaked prior to cooking, and enjoy a treat like this once in a while. I only purchase tortillas made with sprouted corn, or from corn that has been nixtalmized (that topic is a whole other blog post!). I buy my corn tortillas from Hija de Sanchez here in Copenhagen. Their tortillas are made fresh daily using nixtamalized corn imported from Mexico, so they taste unbelievably good. Of course taco fillings are important to a good taco, but the tortilla quality should not be overlooked! It makes the dish. Go find the good ones.
Tempeh Tacos with Raw Cashew Queso Serves 3-4
Tempeh Taco “Meat”
250g / 8.8oz organic, non-GMO tempeh
1 medium red onion
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ – 1 tsp. chipotle or smoked hot paprika, to taste
2 Tbsp. tamari
2-5 Tbsp. water, as needed
1 medium zucchini
1 medium red onion
1 red bell pepper
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
a couple pinches of cayenne, if desired
12 small corn tortillas (try to find organic, non-GMO if possible)
1 batch Raw Cashew Queso, recipe below
1 ripe avocado
1 small bunch cilantro
pickled red onion or thinly sliced red onion
shredded red cabbage tossed with a little salt and lime juice
limes for serving
Cooking and assembly:
1. Start by making the Raw Cashew Queso (see recipe below).
2. Heat your grill or barbecue to medium-high. If not using a grill, simply cook everything in a skillet on the stove.
3. Finely chop or crumble tempeh into whatever size appeals to you (mine were rather small to mimic ground beef). Set aside. Mince red onion and garlic. Set aside.
4. Soak wooden skewers in water while you prepare the vegetables, or longer if you remember. If using metal skewers, skip this step.
5. Wash and cut the zucchini and onion into rings, the peppers into chunks. Place in a large bowl and toss with the salt and spices.
6. Skewer the vegetables so that their largest surface will lay flat on the grill (see photo). Alternate veggies until you’ve used them all. Place on the grill and cook until stating to char on the underside, anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on your cooking method. Flip and cook on the other side.
7. While the vegetables are grilling, cook the tempeh. Heat your cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt. Cook until starting to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add crumbled tempeh, cumin, chipotle, and stir well to incorporate. Pour in the tamari, followed by a couple tablespoons of water. Stir well and add water as needed – you’re after a moist mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Cook for a total of 10 minutes. The mixture should be golden brown, hot and delicious!
8. Warm the tortilla shells on the grill or in a pan over medium-high heat.
9. Spoon the desired amount of tempeh into each tortilla shell. Followed by the roasted veggies, avocado, cabbage, cilantro and pour on the Raw Cashew Queso. Enjoy!
Raw Cashew Queso Makes about 2 cups / 500ml
Ingredients: 1 cup / 150g cashews, soaked for 4-8 hours or overnight
1 red bell pepper
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
½ clove garlic
1 small piece fresh turmeric
ground cayenne, to taste
½ cup / 125ml water
1. Drain and rinse the cashews.
2. Put all ingredients, except water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend, adding 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!).
“It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.”
– Margaret Mead
Yup. Pretty much.
This entire shift began when I had a particularly gnarly couple of months with manic mood swings that rivaled my adolescence, acne flare-ups, bloating, low energy, night sweats, and all-round malaise. Knowing what I know, I looked at my diet first to see what could be adjusted. Everything was organic, whole, plant-based and totally “healthy” by most peoples’ standards. But it just wasn’t working anymore. I knew something had to give.
Delving in deeper, a typical day for me was a whole-grain porridge in the morning, topped with all kinds of seasonal fruit, homemade granola etc. Lunch was a couple slices of organic sourdough rye bread from the local bakery, with homemade hummus, avocado, sprouts etc. Dinner was often a mixed bowl, the base of which was brown rice, quinoa, millet or buckwheat covered in a rainbow of vegetables, homemade pickles, superfood-loaded sauce, and fresh herbs. I wasn’t eating sugar, drinking coffee, I was keeping up with my exercise and sleeping well. So what was the problem? In this case, I had a feeling it was a big ol’ grain overload.
The idea of cutting back on my morning oats, bread, and grain bowls was literally devastating to me. I cried. On multiple occasions, just talking about giving up muffins made me weep, and I felt like there was just no way I could make even more changes, or think about my diet even more than I already did.
I have had two serious experiences with orthorexia in my life. For those of you who don’t know what orthorexia is, it is defined as an obsession with healthy eating. It is considered an eating disorder, and one that is becoming more prevalent in Western culture as healthy eating becomes increasingly “trendy”. The first bout happened the year I moved out of the house to study at university. While many of my friends were bingeing on junk food and beer, I swung in the opposite direction entirely and took advantage of the incredible meal program that was offered at school, and fueled myself with enormous salads, delicious sandwiches and wraps, veggie-heavy soups and stews, and protein-rich smoothies. I also signed up for the free fitness classes at the university gym, got hooked on kickboxing, step aerobics, boot camp drills, and the weight literally fell off me. I lost about 25 pounds that year, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was in control of the way I looked. The sudden attention from guys – which I had never had before – further stoked the fires for my desire to be even thinner, even though my initial motivation to eat this way stemmed from a desire to be healthy. As my attitude towards food morphed from friend to enemy, I flirted with a full-on eating disorder at this point, playing games with myself to see how long I could go without eating, how many exercise classes I could fit in between classes and study groups, how long I could make my bean salad from lunch last (too long!). Eventually my energy levels dropped to the point where I had a very hard time getting out of bed in the morning and I couldn’t concentrate well in school. I realized that I had taken things too far and started eating in a more balanced way again. I put the experience behind me without giving it too much thought.
The second time this resurfaced was, ironically, while studying holistic nutrition. While I was learning all about foods and how my body worked, I became almost afraid to eat, toxifying my body, or “poisoning” it with sugar, gluten, dairy and the rest. I became obsessed with detoxing and subsisted only on “clean foods”; mostly vegetables. I was stressed, my hair started falling out, my acne came back and my energy hit an all-time low. Despite my obvious physical misery, I somehow felt validated since I wasn’t putting anything “bad” in my body. Eating as healthy as possible became obsessive for me and my classmates, and we’d all proudly bring our lunches to school, subtly scrutinizing each other’s Tupperware contents. Again, food had lost its pleasure, its joy, and had become something that I saw as more of an enemy than a friend. And that really scared me.
After graduating, I finally got a grip, and once again slowly re-established a healthy relationship to what I was eating. It is for these reasons that food is such a tender subject for me, and changing my diet dangerous territory. I spent so many years struggling to achieve a positive connection with food, and when I finally got there and it felt like such a relief. The prospect of having to go “back to that place” of thinking about food more than I already did felt unsafe for me, and slipping back into an obsessive place felt like an inevitability. Meanwhile, the negative self-talk voices were loud and overpowering, telling me how I was fat, flabby, weak, old – things that I KNEW weren’t true. But that’s the sad thing about internal monologues, they don’t need to make sense to play like broken records in our minds all day every day. It’s enough to drive a person insane. The cruel voices coupled with my extreme fear of reverting back to my old thought patterns and eating habits absolutely terrified me. I felt like I had hit a wall of hopelessness. And I wanted to do to feel better was to eat a piece of eff-ing bread.
The reason I suspected the grain thing was because of the unique relationship that blood sugar has to our hormones. If we’re consuming carbohydrates at a slower rate than our bodies are utilizing them for energy, that extra glucose gets stored in the fat cells of the liver, which decreases its ability to breakdown excess estrogen, and allowing it to hang around in our systems longer than it should. This excess circulating estrogen causes a whole host of symptoms, including, you guessed it: mood swings, bloating, sluggish metabolism, tender breasts, fatigue, foggy thinking, PMS, and many more less-than-desirable issues. Now, these things can be exacerbated by stress (shocker), inadequate fat and protein intake, and environmental factors, all of which I was likely suffering from.
I set out by making a plan, since I know how hard it is to make positive changes without preparation. Instead of focusing on the all the things I wanted to reduce or eliminate, I focused on the foods I could have, foods higher in fat and protein, since I knew that those things would naturally elbow out the things I would normally fall back on (I’m looking at you, banana bread). I made a list that I could refer to when I was grocery shopping for ingredients. I cooked and froze things. I stocked the fridge and pantry. I was ready.
Within the first few days I already noticed a difference: my energy was incredibly stable, my emotions were in check, the bloating in my stomach dissipated, and I just felt good. As the days rolled on my compulsive urges to down half a dozen muffins subsided, and it was like I could clearly see that what I had actually been battling was blood sugar issues – not just “too many” grains or carbohydrates. It became clear that I had been taking my bod on a wild rollercoaster of high and low blood sugar for years, which had in turn been tossing my hormones around like a pair of sneakers in a washing machine. Stabilizing blood sugar is the first step in managing your endocrine’s system ability to do its job properly. I realized that if I was going to eat grains (or any carbohydrate-heavy food), I had to eat them in smaller amounts, balance them out thoughtfully with enough fat and protein, and make sure that I was actually using that energy instead of letting it sit around in my body. So far, things have been going incredibly well, and I am so darn proud of myself for not only identifying the issue, but actually doing something about it.
We are fluid beings with needs that evolve and change over time. Our diets need to reflect that, which is why it’s imperative to listen to our bodies and be advocates for our own health. No one knows your body better than you, and once you quiet all the noise out there telling you “how” to eat in black-and-white terms, you’ll be able to hear yourself, without judgement, and choose the way of eating that is just right for you, right now. It may be different tomorrow, and that is okay too. In sharing this all with you, I am trying to set an example, because you too have this intuition that is telling you just what you need to eat and do right now. It’s actually fun to be connected to yourself, your unique rhythms and needs. Learning about how you operate and designing a plan that caters to your exceptional self means that you can celebrate, instead of berate your body the whole month through, and experience pleasure in every stage of our cycle. I promise.
This is undoubtedly a huge topic, and one that I plan on chipping away at over the next few blog posts. Some things I want to reiterate here are, that I do not believe that grains or carbohydrates are bad. No natural food group should be vilified, just as no macronutrient should be either. If you’re thinking about giving up carbs, I’d advise you not to. Glucose, the sugar found in carbohydrates is your brain’s primary fuel source, and when consumed responsibly, carbs will help you on your wellness journey, not hinder you. I still stand behind each and every one of the recipes that I have created for this blog, the app, and both of my cookbooks, and I believe that they are appropriate for many people to enjoy. However at this stage of my life, some of the recipes do not serve my needs any longer, and I’ve had to make small changes to them, or put them on the shelf for another time. I’m okay with that.
Whew! Now for some notes on the recipe.
The base recipe for my Cinnamon Toast Crunch-inspired cereal is grain-free, but it does rely on almond flour, which can be expensive. If you can tolerate pseudo-grains, feel free to top up the base with buckwheat flour. This will bulk up the cereal considerably so you’ll have more for less money.
This cereal is r-i-c-h. You really only need a small amount to fuel you in the morning – not like the bottomless bowls of that we’re used to consuming in the morning without every really feeling satisfied, ya know what I mean? And paired with a luscious liquid like my Super Creamy Hemp Milk with keep you full for even longer, help stabilize your blood sugar, not to mention flood your bod with the delicate nutrients and powerful enzymes that store-bought, plant-based milk is missing. This recipe is dead simple and pretty much like cream – I shouldn’t even call it milk, since it’s so rich and thick. And since we’re thinking outside the cereal box here, don’t stop at breakfast…this milk is amazing in coffee and tea, in raw treats and baked goods, soup, smoothies, ice cream and popsicles. You’re gonna love it!
I made the cereal the first time with just almond flour and a full half-cup of applesauce. It was definitely delicious, but I loved it just as much when I cut this amount in half. If you don’t want all the sweetness, use just ¼ cup / 60ml of applesauce instead of the full amount. If you’re using buckwheat flour, you will need the full amount of the applesauce’s moisture to bind it all together. I haven’t tried a version without the coconut sugar, so if you’re not into that stuff feel free to play with the recipe on your own.
Grain-free / Gluten-free Cinnamon Crunch Cereal Makes 5-7 servings
½ cup ground flax seeds / 50g
1 ½ cups / 150g blanched almond flour
1½ Tbsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ cup / 35g coconut sugar
¼ cup / 60ml – ½ cup / 125ml applesauce (½ cup / 125ml if using buckwheat flour)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
optional: ½ cup / 85g buckwheat flour
1. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
2. Combine the ground flax seeds, almond flour, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Then add the desired amount of applesauce and coconut oil, and stir to fully incorporate (you made need to use your hands if it gets too dry). Gather dough into a rough ball.
3. Place dough ball on a sheet of baking paper with another sheet on top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough as evenly as possible, about 20mm thickness (not quite paper thin). If you’re using buckwheat flour, you’ll need to separate the dough into two batches to achieve this. Remove top sheet of baking paper, and using a paring knife, score the dough into small squares of your desired size (mine were about 1.5cm / .5” square).
4. Place in the oven to bake for about 20-25 minutes until turning golden around the edges, then turn the oven off and let the cereal sit in there until cool (this will help dry it out and make them extra crisp).
5. Once the cereal is completely cool, break up the pieces into squares and place in an airtight glass container. Store for up to one month at room temperature.
Super Creamy Hemp Milk Makes 1 liter / 1 quart
scant 4 cups / 1 liter water
¾ cup hulled hemp seeds / hemp hearts
Totally optional add-ins:
sweetener (stevia, dates, honey, maple syrup…)
raw cacao powder
1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend on high until smooth (this make take a couple minutes).
2. Pour directly into a sterilized bottle and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Initially, I was really afraid to come about any of this stuff – the changes my diet is undergoing, the orthorexia, the internal voices! But I know in my gut that if I’m going through it, someone else out there is too. And the reason I wanted to start My New Roots in the first place was to create a safe space for everyone to share and support each other on our health journeys, so I have to be as transparent and honest as I feel I can be to set that example. I want to say a huge heartfelt thank-you to all of you who have stood by me all of these years and continue to do so. It feels pretty amazing to have you, and to be getting better all together.
It’s pretty redundant to say that I love cooking. So much. But even though I find myself enamoured with some small detail of every meal that I make, this chickpea pasta was next-level emotional. In fact, was one of the few recipes I’ve made in my entire life that turned me into a wide-eyed child again, and reaffirmed my deep, unrelenting passion for creating food. Kneading the dough, rolling the pasta through this perfectly designed machine, seeing it transform before me, mysteriously almost nothing into so very much. I’m not ashamed to say it nearly brought me to tears. There is something about cooking – and cooking something so ancient – that delivers a feeling of satisfaction that can hardly be described. It’s entirely transcendental. And the best part? You get to eat it.
It all started when one of my dear friends suggested making pasta out of chickpea flour and that she had seen a vegan version using ground flax seeds. I found the recipe and followed it, but it didn’t work, I tried again, and after another pretty epic fail where I felt totally out of my depth, I decided to go the classic egg route. Not only was it better, it was absolutely, unbelievably delicious. In fact, I could hardly trust that what I was eating was made from chickpea flour, since it tasted so much like the beloved white pasta of my past. How is this not a thing?! It’s so easy and infinitely healthier, why isn’t everyone and their uncle Bob making pasta with chickpea flour?
I made this pasta three time in a week and found the prefect al dente cook time, all kinds of things to dress it with (olive oil, Pecorino, black pepper – guh.), and that I could freeze it to come back later and pop a nest into boiling water for almost-instant dinner that even my three-year-old loves. Rejoice!
The only potential issue with using chickpea pasta like this is that since the chickpea flour is made from ground raw chickpeas, and some people who are sensitive to legumes may find this difficult to digest (i.e. lots of farts). I don’t know how to overcome this issue since sprouting the chickpeas, then dehydrating them, then grinding them seems like a whole lotta rigmarole, so I’m using chickpea flour and calling this an indulgence, like socca. If you know you have legume issues, I suggest purchasing sprouted chickpea flour, which is a little more challenging to find, but you can certainly buy it online.
Now that I understand the correct moisture levels and consistency, I’m going to go back and try the vegan version again, perhaps using something other than flax this time. If any of you have had success, please let me know!
Do you need a pasta machine for this recipe? Kind of. Unless you are very skilled at rolling out pasta by hand, I recommend picking one up (there’s always one at the second-hand store). Pasta machines are simple to use, and make this process very fast, fun, and satisfying. The one I have is pictured below (it’s Atlas brand #notsponsored), and it creates flat sheets that are perfect for lasagna or ravioli, or you can run the thin sheets through the spaghetti or tagliatelle roller, like I have done for this recipe.
And there’s another recipe in this recipe, and that is for the delightful Basil-Pea Pesto. Herb-y, nutty, and bright, it’s a cinch to whip up and keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge, so you can make it ahead or use the potential leftovers for many delish things (it’s a great dip or sandwich spread). Use frozen peas if that’s all you have – no stress! And I like to use even more peas and basil to finish this dish off, so that it is even more satisfying with all the bright flavours and textures. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.
Chickpea Pasta with Basil-Pea Pesto Serves 4-6
1 batch chickpea pasta (recipe follows)
1 batch Basil-Pea Pesto (recipe follows)
2½ cups / 350g shelled green peas (fresh or frozen)
a small handful of basil leaves
Olive oil to garnish
flaky sea salt and black pepper
2 – 2 ½ cups / 250 – 310g chickpea flour
3 large eggs, organic and free-range if possible
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1. Measure out 2 cups / 250g of chickpea flour and place in a mound on clean work surface. Make a large well in the center of the mound and crack three eggs into it, along with the salt and olive oil. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until you have a smooth dough (if the mixture is dry, add a tablespoon of water to moisten it. If the dough is wet, add the remaining flour, one tablespoon at a time until it less sticky). Knead the dough for about five minutes, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least half an hour.
2. Unwrap the dough and divide it into quarters, then again for that you have about eight equal portions. Work with one portion at a time, and cover the rest. Flour your work surface and work the dough into a square-ish shape, about the width of the pasta maker (the pasta will become much longer, not wider, so it’s best to take full advantage of the width). Flour the dough again and run it through the thickest setting on the machine (usually #1). Change settings to the slightly thinner setting (usually #2) and run it through the machine. If your pasta sticks at all, dust both sides with more flour. Repeat until the pasta is your desired thickness, then feed it through the cutter of your choice. I went to #6 before cutting it into tagliatelle.
3. As soon as the pasta comes through the cutter, toss it generously with flour and spread it out on clean work surface to dry, or use a pasta drying wrack if you have one.
4. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Add the amount of pasta you’re using to the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes (don’t overcook! This pasta will disintegrate quickly if boiled for too long). The pasta should float to the top of the pot when it’s ready and be al dente. Drain and plate quickly.
5. You can finish this pasta two ways: one, place the pasta back into the pot and fold in the peas, basil, desired amount of pesto, and a glug of olive oil, the divide among the plates. Alternatively, divide the pasta among the plates, dollop with the pesto, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with pine nuts and basil. Grind fresh pepper over the top and serve immediately.
1 clove garlic
½ cup / 55g pine nuts
zest of 1 lemon
3-4 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil (as needed)
½ tsp. fine sea salt
2 cups loosely packed / 35g fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 140g shelled green peas (fresh or frozen)
1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add peas and turn off the heat. If using fresh peas, let them sit for about 2-3 minutes until bright green. If using frozen, let them sit for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Place peeled garlic in a food processor and pulse to mince. Add the toasted pine nuts (reserve a few for garnish), olive oil, salt, basil, and one cup / 140g of peas and blend on high to mix. Add more olive oil if you like a looser pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
I’m currently on holidays in Canada and I’m going to keep this post short and sweet so that I can get back to all of my funky food projects, reading on the dock, and naps. So many naps. I hope you’re all having a glorious summer so far!
Show my your pasta on Instagram: #mnrchickpeapasta
Dear friends! I am getting SO excited about hosting my next wellness retreat in Ibiza, Spain, September 5-10 and September 17-23. And I’ve decided to offer the same program twice so that more of you can join in. This is going to be an intimate group of 12 women only, housed in a stunning, 400 year-old finca in the hills surrounded by fig trees, wild herbs and carob. Come join me for seven days of total inspiration and rejuvenation – delicious and healthy meals, cooking and nutrition workshops, yoga, pilates, dance, and meditation that will balance your body and mind, and empower you to move forward on a path to greater wellness. I can’t wait to see you there!