I’m going to be straight with you guys: I made up a big batch of this raw and luscious raspberry chia pudding so that I could eat it for breakfast. It’s perfectly sweet, pretty pink, warm with vanilla, mega-rich with almonds and coconut oil… and crazy good for you. Its cool luxury feels a bit wrong at 8 am, but it is the most right thing ever. Yum.
I’ve been over the moon for chia seeds for a while. For such a small, unassuming little thing, there’s a ton of power bundled up within. Lots of hydration potential (it can absorb up to 9 times its weight in water!), more Omega-3s than flax seeds (without the strong taste), tons of fiber, complete protein (4 grams per ounce), and antioxidants to boot (a gazillion year shelf-life, seriously). They shine in plenty of applications (in a glass of water with lemon or lime, on top of salads, stirred into yogurt, mixed with granola, sprinkled in a smoothie, as a binding agent for egg-free baking etc) and they add so much.
The hydration/satisfaction aspect is what gets me the most. If I remember to work them into my breakfast, my tendency for mid-morning and late afternoon snacking vanishes without a thought because they ramp up the satiety factor with all of that gelling/water absorption action. It’s a handy little dietary addition in the warm months when staying hydrated is more urgent. My skin leans toward dryness all year, but it’s noticeably more supple and just generally super lovely feeling if I’m making the effort to eat a good spoonful of these seeds a day. Actually. One tiny change = huge effect in the long view. Just amazing, that’s all I can say.
This lovely and nourishing pudding is my latest contribution for the Toronto Vegetarian Association‘s monthly newsletter, so you’re welcome to check it on their website if you like (or sign up for the fantastic eLifelines newsletter if you live around the GTA and want to be in the know). It’s so fun to see the little seeds soak up what is essentially a sweetened raspberry almond milk made super luxe with coconut oil and vanilla. They’re like super orbs of pink richness all lined up in a pretty glass. Did I mention it’s an amazing post-workout food? If you like to nerd out on nutrition facts like me, you can peep the accompanying write-up here. It’s officially the summer of chia seed power, friends.
raw raspberry and vanilla chia seed pudding
lightly adapted from Coconut & Quinoa
serves: makes 5-6 cups (a whole lot)
notes: As stated above, I love eating this for breakfast with lots of fresh fruit. Stir a handful of oats in there and you’ve got yourself a fairly hearty morning meal. Also, this pudding evokes that slippery tapioca-ish quality that is either love or hate. Just keep that in mind :)
1 cup raw almonds, soaked at least 5 hours
4 cups filtered water
2 cups fresh raspberries (or thawed, frozen ones)
½ cup raw agave nectar, maple syrup, raw honey etc.
2 tbsp soft extra virgin coconut oil
1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
½ cup chia seeds (white or black)
Combine the soaked almonds, 4 cups of water, raspberries, agave nectar, coconut oil, vanilla extract and salt in a blender pitcher. Blend mixture on medium-high speed for 1 minute, until liquified.
Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve (or nut milk bag if you have one) into a medium-large bowl. At this point you will have a sweet, rich, raspberry flavoured almond milk essentially.
Place the chia seeds into another large bowl. Pour the raspberry almond milk on top slowly. Whisk vigorously to combine and prevent clumping of the chia seeds.
Allow the mixture to sit for a good hour so that the chia seeds can do their thing and thicken up the mixture to a pudding consistency. I find the taste and texture is truly bang-on after an overnight soak in the fridge. Whisk it up here and there to further prevent clumping of the seeds.
Serve pudding with fresh raspberries, shredded coconut, chopped almonds, cacao nibs or anything else you like on top. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge.
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Our tomato plants are getting bigger. We’re enjoying that iconic taste of summer more often now with a bit of salt, on sandwiches, salads, in any old place they fit. The glut of them is coming on, I can sense it.
They started as images and descriptions in a seed catalogue that we would flip through on grey winter days, something to look forward to, images of sunshine and ripeness. The seeds arrived, they were planted in March under a careful lighting rig. Little sprouts shooting up beside popsicle sticks bearing their names. They got bigger. The pots would be taken outside for a day of sunshine and lovingly brought into the garage for the still cool early spring nights. Regular mildness found these plants in the ground quickly. Watering, staking, weeding, care, diligence and waiting. Now baskets of little blushing tomatoes sit on the counter every day.
This image of slow and careful gardening is sunny and idyllic, I know. The purpose and message of this post is a touch more harsh though, it is less about the recipe and the life story and more about awareness and action.
It is certainly true that not all tomatoes arrive to the table by the same chain of transit. Shocking abuses of human rights and repeat incidents of outright slavery are prevalent in the supply chain of American supermarket tomatoes (and many other crops to be sure). “The sweat shops of the soil” is a comparison that has been made since the 1960’s. Men, women and children who harvest crops for the best-fed nation on earth earn barely enough to feed themselves and are forced to work, in some cases against their will. From seed to plate, over several years, these conditions endure in order to supply major supermarkets.
This CBS special titled “Harvest of Shame,” a revisitation of a revolutionary documentary from 1960, is particularly illuminating in terms of the struggle of migrant workers in the United States. When Nicole of The Giving Table/Eat This Poem contacted me about offering a post to raise awareness on the plight of agricultural workers in America, I couldn’t refuse the opportunity. There are so many positive and simple courses of action to follow this up with.
I always say this with food and purchases in general, but in terms of whatever ideology you want to see prevail, you must vote with your dollars. That is a course of action that is tangible and real, your purchase is your voice. A farmer’s market or CSA (or garden-grown) tomato should be your first choice, if accessible. It is a direct link to a responsible grower in your community. There are no questions or mystery in terms of that product’s fairness. If you can, choose these options above all for your tomato purchases.
Are major supermarkets your only source for fresh produce? Are you unsure on the source of their tomatoes? There’s a simple way to find out. Ask them. Don’t get the answer you want? Ask the CEO of that supermarket chain to join the Fair Food Program by clicking here (it’s so easy). Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have already done this (buy your tomatoes there if there’s one in your area). By asking them to agree to a 1.5 cents increase per pound for fair tomatoes, you can support the abolishment of slavery, child labor and sexual harassment on Florida’s tomato farms. For more information on how you can get involved, check this page from the International Justice Mission’s Recipe For Change Summer 2012 campaign. Pressure from consumers, their dollars and cents, can sway this in a positive direction. The call to action here is so simple for a result that could be truly great.
There’s plenty of bloggers joining in the fight. For a thorough list and more fantastic tomato recipes, check The Giving Table’s page.
grilled vegetables with roasted tomato & chili vinaigrette
dressing adapted from The Candle Cafe Cookbook by Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza
serves: makes 3ish cups of dressing
notes: I add chilies and smoked paprika here to make it lively, but feel free to go in whatever direction you like. Maybe extra garlic or different herbs? Up to you. Also, chopping up all of the grilled vegetables and mixing them up with the dressing, herbs and pine nuts makes a fantastic chopped salad.
1.5 cups grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small chili, seeded and halved (I used a cherry hot pepper)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
handful of basil leaves
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
vegetables (what I used):
3 stalks of kale
1 bunch green onions
2 bell peppers, stems and seeds removed
1 zucchini, cut into wedges
2 ears of corn, husks removed
1 skewer full of grape tomatoes
grapeseed oil for drizzling
salt and pepper
2 sprigs of basil, leaves finely sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted if you like
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
On a large baking sheet, combine the halved tomatoes, chili and garlic cloves. Drizzle 2 tbsp of the oil on top and sprinkle with chopped thyme, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Toss everything together until vegetables all have a thin coating of oil.
Roast until vegetables are tender and slightly darkened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Place cooled roasted vegetables in the pitcher of a blender. To this, add the red wine vinegar and a bit more salt and pepper. Blend on medium-high speed until liquified. With the motor on low, remove the little top opening on the blender lid and slowly drizzle in the oil as the blender continues to mix. Once you’ve added all the oil and you have a smooth homogenous mixture, turn the motor off and remove the pitcher from the base. Taste the vinaigrette for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.
Preheat your grill to high. Drizzle the vegetables with the grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss them around to make sure most surfaces are coated in the oil.
Place vegetables on the grill, starting with the peppers, zucchini and corn cobs. Grill until char marks appear and the vegetables become slightly tender. In the last minute of grilling these vegetables, place the kale, green onions and tomato skewer on the grill, flipping often to promote quick and even browning. Remove when kale is slightly wilted and charred. The skin on the tomatoes should blister and peel back.
To serve: place grilled vegetables on a serving dish. Drizzle with the roasted tomato vinaigrette and top with the basil and pine nuts.
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I spent last weekend in Boston + area for a wedding in Mark’s family (and some general exploring). We were driving into a completely charming small town for the ceremony and I caught myself settling into a familiar thought process. Whenever we travel, on day trips, weekends, whatever, I always slip into the “I could definitely live here” mode. Everywhere we go, it just happens. I get all the little ducks in a row in my mind and imagine the possible benefits and drawbacks. I could probably get a job, it’s near the coast-this is important for like, swimming and stuff, I would need to obtain citizenship somehow…eeenh I’m sure that’s super easy, they have a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods IN THE SAME PLAZA!?!! etc.
This tendency points to a few things. I’m generally comfortable wherever I go, slipping into adaptation mode. I don’t seem to get the itch to go back home ever. I do love my town and my family and everyone here, certainly. But I would be perfectly happy to set up a cozy nest and start something new just about anywhere, for however long. Call it unsettled, call it adventurous or irresponsible; doesn’t matter. I used to think it was too late to entertain this sort of mindset, but lately I just want to drop everything and go everywhere all at the same time. And it feels possible. So possible.
I do love Niagara in the summer. The air is temperate, the local abundance is ripe, plenty of exciting goings-on, the frequency of cold wine and beers outdoors is envigorating, smiling faces everywhere… but I’ve been imagining even greater things. Travel, projects, adventures, getting it done! It feels good.
What feels equally good? A cozy, luxurious and healthy breakfast at home with all of my favourite things. Grainy, seedy sourdough bread soaked in a fresh blueberry and almond batter that’s spiked with orange juice and warm vanilla. Oh and maple syrup, juicy peaches and tart yogurt all on top. Whoa. It’s enough to make me want to stay at home forever (and ever).
blueberry + almond buttered french toast with peaches
special equipment: a blender/food processor
notes: Have everything ready before you make the batter to dip the bread in. If you let the blueberry mixture sit, it begins to separate a bit. Be ready to dip right after you blend!
1 cup almond milk (not sweetened)
1/4 cup almond butter
1 tsp flax seeds
juice from half an orange (or a couple tablespoons)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries (or thawed frozen ones)
12 thick slices of good, grainy bread (preferably a day old)
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
evaporated cane juice (natural sugar) for sprinkling
3 ripe peaches, sliced
yogurt of your favourite persuasion (coconut milk, soy, goat milk, cow etc)
Start preheating a large nonstick skillet (or cast iron) to medium.
Combine all batter ingredients in a blender pitcher. Blend on medium-high speed until completely liquified, about 1 minute. Pour batter into a medium-sized, shallow dish.
Place coconut oil into the heated pan and swirl it around to melt. If the pan seems to hot, keep it off the heat for a minute or two while you soak the bread. Start to soak slices of bread in blueberry batter. Scrape off excess and place in the pan with the melted coconut oil. Sprinkle a little evaporated cane juice on top of the bread in the pan (the non-cooked side) to promote caramelization when you flip. Cook until slightly browned, about a 1.5 minutes, and flip over. Cook for another minute and remove from the pan.
Wipe the pan out with a bit of paper towel and repeat cooking process with remaining bread and batter.
Serve warm with maple syrup, peaches, blueberries, yogurt and nuts.
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These healthy tacos with fresh sweet corn, juicy peaches and basil are a culmination of many thoughts of dreamy summer meals simmering away over time. My love of juicy fruit in savory dishes is pretty obvious at this point and tacos are the perfect outdoor-dwelling-with-a-cool-drink-in-the-other-hand-kinda food (my heart is devoted to those foods). They also came about because of two pretty specific reasons: the first was a nugget of professional kitchen guidance and the second was spite (not joking).
On the first one–that kitchen wisdom. It started with me completely over-thinking something and ended with the simplest, most calm and matter-of-fact answer (i.e. it mirrored my entire adult life). We had a daily feature at the restaurant that included succotash as a component of the plate. So I ask one of our chefs, perfect sentence structure intact obviously, “What like, definitively makes a succotash like… a succotash? You know?” I followed this with a flippy, fingers stretched, rotating hand gesture that, ahem, very clearly emphasized my query. The answer: “Just whatever vegetables we’re trying to use up. All together.” Sure, you can get technical, but that little shred of simplicity was all I needed to get the wheels turning.
The second inspiration for this truly came out of spite. I saw something bothersome on twitter (getting bothered by a taco-centric tweet; guh I know). A guy was talking about a “right” taco, that there was a proper route to follow in regard to this particular food. Any other way was laughable and misinformed. This implied one obvious, egotistical and riduculous thing to me: everyone was wrong about food except him. Sorry dude, a taco is never wrong. You can quote me on that. There is no right way with food. It is nourishing and individual and different and cultural and socio-economical. It is everything and it belongs to all of us in every way imaginable.
If you have the privilege to consume it regularly, food is completely right in any context. Whether made on a 6 burner Viking stove or stirred together with boiling water in a coffee pot because that’s what is available, it’s your context and it is right. We can decide to make it simple or complex. We make it because we love the process or we make it to get by and move on to the next thing. What’s important is that we do actually make it, that we ask questions of the food and its source, that we serve it to the people we love, that we sit around the communal table and talk and nourish ourselves in every way. That is truly everything.
So with that I give you a not-by-the-book taco with some improper succotash stuffed inside. Oh and some lentils, avocado and a tangle of lime and basil slaw on top. It is different, it is improper in a sense, but they are so delicious it’s unbelievable and the sheer sight of them made me so happy. Whatever they say, that’s the final word.
One more exciting thing: Spirituality & Health magazine has launched a Good Food Blog on their website. I’m so thrilled to be contributing along with some other amazing bloggers. So in honor of all that, they’re letting me give away 2 subscriptions to their inspiring magazine! You can enter the giveaway on my facebook page. You have until Monday July 16th to get your entry in. Good luck lovelies :)
peachy sweet corn tacos with lentils + basil slaw
serves: makes about 10-12 tacos
notes: The succotash makes an awesome side dish all on its own. I would add some chopped basil to it to finish if you’re going to go that route.
1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded
1 big sprig of basil, leaves removed and sliced
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup french lentils, rinsed
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 shallot, small dice
1 small red pepper, small dice
1/2 tsp chili powder (ancho or chipotle are amazing)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 ears of corn, kernels removed
2 ripe peaches, pitted and diced
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
10-12 corn tortillas, warmed
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
Cook the lentils: place the rinsed lentils in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender but still have some bite. Set aside.
Make the slaw: combine the shredded cabbage, basil, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in the fridge.
Make the succotash: Heat the grapeseed oil in a medium-large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and red pepper. Saute mixture until soft and slightly translucent. Add the chili powder and cumin. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the corn kernels and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper at this point. Cook, stirring frequently until corn is crisp-tender and slightly more golden, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the diced peaches, cooked lentils and lime juice. Check for seasoning and keep warm.
To assemble: Place 1/4 cup or so of succotash in each tortilla, top with avocado slices and a good tongs-full of slaw. Eat immediately.
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My heart seems to belong to coffee. It hasn’t always been quite like this. My days used to start so early with a big, cozy mug of tea, some reading, a little industriousness, but mostly quiet puttering about before I made my day. Summer busyness is bringing some later nights, which means slightly later mornings (with plenty of puttering about still, thank goodness). As soon as I snap out of my mid-morning haze, I start craving the dark, roasty, slightly acidic tang of strong coffee. There’s a lot of power in that first sip.
I’ve noticed that a few recent posts have been rather long and wordy. Thanks for sticking with me, but this one’s going to cut to the chase. Less reading means more time to get the aromatic grinds steeping away. This is pretty important. From my own experience, fussing about or hesitating are not particularly ideal reactions when dealing with the caffeine habit. Let it lure you in and go to work.
I tried this cold-brewing method straight out of Bon Appetit’s July issue and it’s fantastic. As long as you plan ahead and source some good coffee, you’re in for a treat. The beverage is a whole different animal when given this treatment. Still dark and powerful, but smoother, more filled-out and chocolaty tasting. It’s also the easiest way to make iced coffee that I’ve encountered with perfect consistency every time. How refreshing, right?
cold brewed coffee concentrate
with guidance from Bon Appetit, July 2012 issue and The New York Times
you will need: coffee filters, a fine sieve, 2 medium-large pitchers
serves: Makes around 5 cups of concentrate
notes: Show a barista a bit of love. Buy your beans and have them ground at a local coffee shop. You won’t regret it.
2 1/3 cups coarsely ground coffee (like for a French press)
7 1/2 cups cold water
Place ground coffee into a large pitcher. Slowly pour the 7 1/2 cups of water on top. Lightly stir them together to ensure that all coffee is moistened. Cover the top of the pitcher with a cheesecloth or sheets of paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Let the coffee steep overnight (or up to 15 hours).
After you’ve steeped the coffee, strain the mixture into another large pitcher with a fine sieve. Discard the grinds and rinse out the sieve. Rinse the original steeping pitcher out. Place a coffee filter into the fine sieve. Strain the mixture one more time into the original pitcher with the coffee filter lined sieve. All done!
To serve: Place ice cubes into a glass. Fill halfway with the cold brew coffee concentrate. Top up the remaining half with cold water or milk of your choice (or a combination). I use almond milk with a swizzle of maple syrup to sweeten it up. Enjoy!
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