I’m not one to count nutrients, calories, fat grams etc. I’ve talked about this on here before. I cook and eat based on the season, the colours, the market and where my body/mood is at. It’s a very simple and totally gratifying way to live. Having said that, I just finished a juice fast/feast and I’m starting to look at things a bit differently. Rather, I’m feeling things differently.
I did the juice feast because a) I am adventurous and love challenging myself and b) I totally needed a little recharge/refocus kind of thing in terms of eating. I wouldn’t call it a cleanse but more of a body and mind reset. It makes you look at your eating habits differently and helps you get in tune with your bodily needs a bit. I’m only speaking from personal experience here. I’m sure this kind of thing is so incredibly varied from person to person.
Anyway, I feel good. Like crazy good. I have tons of energy right from the moment I wake up in the morning, amazing stuff. I’ve been slowly working the solid (mostly raw) food back into my routine. A huge role in that whole transition period? Smoothies. Protein shakes. Energy shakes. Whatever you wanna call them, they’re awesome in this kind of situation. There’s a lot of high quality, plant-based protein mixes out there and I have my own personal favourites (Vega, Amazing Meal and Manitoba Harvest are all great). After a run or in the middle of a busy service when you can’t actually stop and eat, it’s a pretty satisfying substitute.
Taking a look at some of the ingredients, I knew I could make a homespun version on the cheap that might just taste a little better. Sometimes the plant-based protein mixes are decidedly… green tasting. So just for the fun of it, I give you a whole food-based, vegan, homemade protein mix that tastes pretty awesome. It’s got hemp, ground almonds, sesame seeds, chia, raw cacao, cinnamon, vanilla powder; all kinds of good things. And! According to my not exactly scientific, but still totally decent calculations, there’s 2.8 grams of protein in one measly tablespoon of the stuff. Not shabby at all if you end up using 3-4 spoonfuls per smoothie like me (up to 10 grams of protein!). Or if you use a dab of natural peanut butter and some almond milk in your little drink concoction, that number’s going even higher. Shall we get pumped? I think so.
tasty, whole & vegan protein mix
note: Just use the cinnamon and vanilla powder in appropriate amounts. Like if you do 1/4 cup measurements of everything, use a tbsp of each or so.
1 part raw sesame seeds
1 part raw, hulled hemp seeds
1 part chlorella powder (or spirulina if it’s easier to find)
1 part ground chia seeds
1 part raw, ground almonds
1 part raw cacao powder (or regular cocoa, although the nutritional/mineral content will be quite different)
an appropriate amount of ground cinnamon (optional)
ditto for vanilla powder (optional)
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and place into a container. Store in the fridge.
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So how did you fare over the holidays? Oh me? Pretty great. There was plenty of food, amazing people, kisses, hugs, cookies and unexpected (but still wonderful) gifts around every corner. Celebrating anything with those you love is definitely the best thing. Like ever. I never make new year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve decided that it’s important to infuse that celebratory feeling into my routine a little bit more. If it means cozying up to a book when I have a million other things to do, I am going to fully enjoy that luxury. Or maybe after the work week’s done and I wanna get myself some really fancy lady-level bath salts? No question. It’s happening.
More importantly, I want to put in the effort to make more meals like this. I wouldn’t say that it files neatly away under the quick and easy column. It takes some time and consideration. Even if you buy sheets of pasta (rather than making them), it’s going to be a little time consuming making the filling, making the pesto and crimping the little raviolis shut just so. But it’s worth it! All of your hard work resulting in a delicious, wholesome, totally handmade meal with someone you like. I’m pretty convinced that there’s nothing better in life.
Santa brought me the pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer this year (lucky girl, I know) so I tried a spelt and chia seed combo for the dough. The ground chia works as a binder and contributes perfectly to the confetti-like flecked appearance of the sheeted whole grain pasta. The sweet potato and pine nut filling is similar in texture to ricotta- whipped and airy with light, acidic notes of lemon. The kale pesto compliments the sweetness nicely with its heavy, cruciferous flavour. A little sprinkling of buttery toasted pine nuts and you’re poised to have the most celebratory feeling dinner of recent times, guaranteed.
spelt and chia seed ravioli with sweet potato filling and kale pesto
serves: makes 25-30 ravioli (like 4 servings-ish)
special equipment: a food processor
notes: This recipe uses a whole cup of pine nuts. I know they can be expensive, so feel free to swap in the nuts/seeds of your choosing (walnuts would be delicious). Most grocery stores carry decent quality fresh lasagna sheets in the refrigerated section if you don’t have a pasta roller at home (or don’t feel like making an extra hour of work for yourself).
2 tbsp ground chia seeds
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp water, divided
1 cup white spelt flour
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet potato, roasted or steamed until very soft
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic, smashed
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch of kale (about 4 stalks), leaves removed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Make the dough: combine the ground chia seeds with 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water. Give it a stir and set aside until it forms a thick gel. Place the flours, sea salt, remaining tbsp of water, olive oil and chia gel into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until lightly combined (about 30 seconds). Switch to the dough hook on your mixer and knead on medium speed for 2 minutes (or knead by hand for about 5-7 minutes). Dough should be smooth and feel a bit sticky, but doesn’t leave residue on your fingers when you pinch it. Cover and set aside.
Make the filling: scoop sweet potato flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Add the pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse 10 times to break up the nuts. Scrape down the sides and turn it onto low for about 30 seconds until smooth and homogenous. Cover and set aside.
Make the pesto: place the kale leaves, pine nuts, garlic and 2 tbsp of the olive oil into the food processor. Pulse 10-15 times to break up the nuts and chop the greens a bit. Scrape down the sides. Put the food processor on high and drizzle the remaining oil into the feed tube until a smooth paste is achieved. Season to taste and set aside.
Sheet the pasta: cut the dough into 4 pieces. Take one of them and flatten it out, brushing some flour on both sides as you press into it. Feed it through the pasta roller at the “1” setting. Fold the sheet of dough in half and feed through again. Repeat this step 2 more times or until the sheet of dough is uniform width. Adjust the roller to setting 2. Feed lightly floured dough into the roller. Feed through at this setting 2-3 times. Flour the dough lightly again. Adjust the rollers to the “3” setting and feed the sheet of dough through twice. It should be fairly translucent, but not so thin that it would break if stretched too much. The sheets should be about 2 feet long. Repeat with remaining dough. Allow dough to dry for 15 minutes or so before filling and cooking.
Make ravioli: cut pasta sheets into 2 inch squares. Place a little bowl of water near your working area. Place a scant tablespoon of sweet potato in the middle of the square. Dampen two sides of the pasta square with your finger and fold the opposite side of the square over, pushing down on the seams to form a seal. Push down on edges with a fork to strengthen the seal. Repeat until dough/filling is used up. Lightly dust the shaped ravioli with flour, place in a dish and cover loosely with a tea towel until ready to cook.
Cook/plate ravioli: boil a large pot of water with a solid glug of olive oil in it. Place about 10 raviolis in the water at a time. When they all start bobbing at the surface (about 2-3 minutes), remove from the water with a slotted spoon. To serve: place a good schmear of kale pesto on your serving plate, place raviolis on top, put a few dabs more of pesto on top and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.
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Aside from the odd book or kitchen do-dad here and there, I am a homemade gifts kinda girl to the hilt. I have everything I need in life, but some lovely homemade granola? Or preserves and rustic pickles from your garden perhaps? A pair of chunky-knit mittens with a home-screened tea towel? All of those kinds of things warm my heart and make me feel pretty alright with the world. You know what else does? A big, hot cup of dreamy spicy chai on cold and bright winter mornings in Ontario.
So in the spirit of the season and wanting to share those warm and lovely feelings with some friends, I made up a batch of really simple chai concentrate. The flavour is leaps and bounds away in deliciousness from the stuff you can buy at coffee shops (which costs more money than anyone should ever have to pay for tea, sugar and spices). Plus! You can mix it with whiskey if you fancy a spicy little hot toddy on a brisk evening. How many coffee shops can do that?
I will definitely recommend that you use some loose leaf tea from a local purveyor of fine quality for this. The taste will always be better because there’s a greater quantity of actual whole leaves (not dusty, icky leftovers) and the freshness can’t be beat. I love to use assam tea here. It’s a variety of black tea from India that has a typically rich and malty flavour profile that stands up to the spices and tangy citrus flavours quite well. A particularly good varietiy from my favourite teashop ever can be ordered here.
Happy sipping and warmest holiday wishes,
spicy chai concentrate with an orange twist
serves: makes about 2 litres or 16 one cup servings once mixed
notes: Try to remove most of the white pith from the orange peel to avoid bitterness. Also, this isn’t limited to beverages! A little dab with some steel cut oatmeal would be delicious.
9 cups filtered water
1 orange, peel removed in large strips (save the fruit for a snack)
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
4 cinnamon sticks (the big ones)
3 star anise
5 whole cloves
10 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
a few twists of black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp black loose leaf tea (try rooibos for a caffeine-free version)
2/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add orange peel strips, ginger, spices and tea leaves. Steep this mixture for 10 to 15 minutes depending on how strong you want it.
Strain the steeped tea into a large bowl or pitcher. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Allow the concentrate to cool completely before pouring into clean mason jars/other container of your choosing.
When heating with non alcoholic liquids, use concentrate in a 1:1 ratio (ie with hot milk, cider, other juice etc). Using booze? Totally your call!
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Cauliflower is one of those more economically efficient and deeply satisfying cold weather vegetables, in the league of root veggies, onions and alliums, various other crucifers and tubers. Cellar vegetables. Stick to your ribs fare. I find, like most other winter veggies, the method of preparation is really important when you want to make it appealing. I could eat cauliflower roasted at a high temperature every day in the cold months with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Seriously. It gets all toasty, a bit crunchy and it develops some lovely colouring, ranging from pale golden brown to almost black little flecks on the edges. It’s beautiful and crazy affordable.
I do enjoy some of the more gourmet items here and there, maybe when I’m out or I’ve received a nice gift from a friend or something. A dab of truffle oil is sometimes appropriate, high quality vanilla extract is a generous gift to be sure or some rare heirloom vegetable variety at the farmer’s market is usually too cool to pass up. But all things considered, I mostly love turning a humble and unassuming vegetable into something delicious and hearty. I appreciate accessible food and what it means to others to try and make the most of it. The best way to eat and live well is to cook and share that wealth with everyone you know.
So I’ve taken a basic roasting method and classed it up a teeny bit with some add ins that you combine the beautifully browned cauliflower with: sweet chopped dates, briny green olives, a sour squeeze of lemon, earthy thyme and crunchy little sesame seeds. I was trying to evoke a bit of a za’atar flavour, thinking it would be a good match for the robust cauliflower. The sesame seeds hug the cauliflower as it roasts and a nice dusting of parsley flecks makes it colourful. I’m so grateful to still have parsley in the garden, a vibrant, nutritious and green patch sticking out of the mud and browned leaves. Great proof that with a little mindful tending and effort comes deeply nourishing results.
sesame and lemon roasted cauliflower with dates & olives
notes: Feel free to squeeze the lemon on top after, but I kind of like the slightly more caramelized flavour it develops throughout the roasting.
1 small to medium head of cauliflower, cored and cut into medium-sized florets
2 tbsp raw sesame seeds
1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed and chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tbsp grape seed oil
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
3-4 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the cauliflower florets in a medium sized bowl with the sesame seeds, thyme, grape seed oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Dump the bowl onto a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to scrape out all of the little sesame seeds.
Roast cauliflower for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and tender. Stir mixture a couple times throughout the roasting to avoid burnt sesame seeds.
Once removed from the oven, toss hot cauliflower with chopped dates, olives and parsley. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.
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There’s something about pomegranates and their tiny fuschia, jewel-like seeds that is so undeniably festive. They shine and sparkle so beautifully wherever they land. There is also something so inherently frustrating about their construction, webs of honeycomb-ish pithy rind gripping onto those gorgeous seeds for dear life, spattering hot pink juice everywhere when you try to extract them. In recent years I’ve figured out how to go about deseeding those iconic pink fruits without making a giant mess. Just a little plunge in some water, a cut here and there and voila! Instant glamour on everything: salads, granola, yogurt and more importantly, roasted brussels sprouts. Oh yes.
The tart juiciness of the pomegranate seeds is a nice match for the strong, cabbage-y flavour of the roasted brussels sprouts. Add some toasted hazelnuts, lime zest and juice to the mix and you’ve got yourself a lovely and incredibly easy holiday side dish. Although I’d say it’s perfectly appropriate to enjoy throughout all of the cooler months.
We never really grew up eating much of these cruciferous veggies. Any exposure I’ve had to them up until recently was in a rather blah and mushy steamed/boiled format. The first time I tried them roasted I was totally sold. Nice little salty crust on the outside contrasts the slightly tender leaves within just right. Aside from this method, it’s the only way I can really, sincerely enjoy them. I’ve specified a 1/4 cup of the pomegranate seeds. Now I know you’ll never find such a fruit that contains that amount, but here’s some lovely ideas from around the internets to use up those extras:
Pomegranate, Kale & Pearl Onion Orzo from Happyolks
Chick Pea and Lentil Curry with Pomegranate from Cook Republic
Poppy Seed Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates from My New Roots
festive brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and pomegranate
notes: Wanna know the best way to de-seed a pomegranate? Look right here.
1 lb (454g) brussels sprouts, outer leaves trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (or arils, if you will)
zest and juice of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the halved brussels sprouts in the oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Place on a lined sheet pan or oven-safe baking dish and roast for 20 minutes, tossing at the 10 minute point.
While brussels sprouts are roasting, place hazelnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the same oven for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub the skins off of the hazelnuts, chop them roughly and set aside.
Remove brussels sprouts from the oven and toss with the chopped hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, lime zest and juice. Serve immediately.
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