Culinary Adventures + Preserved Lemons

You know that saying “When life gives you lemons…” ?

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Months ago, I had a super amazing dinner with Jonathan (my boyfriend),  at a Moroccan restaurant here in the city.  The appetizer we ordered was something similar to a spanakopita, pretty heavily spiced and containing tiny pieces of preserved lemon. It was divine. So amazing, so tasty, just so good.

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The meal reminded me of a Moroccan themed dinner party I was a part of year(s?) ago. One of the recipes a friend of mine was creating for the meal, involved preserved lemons. She had looked up ways to make them, finding that ultimately there was just not enough time. Preserved lemons need to age, to preserve. The longer they are left, the better – with a minimum of two months before cracking the seal for the first time.  We ended up finding a deli style counter in a Mediterranean shop that sold preserved lemons like a typical North American grocer would sell sliced sandwich meat.

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Calgary is home to a plethora of different cultural areas, many many different ethnic grocery stores – resulting in a basic unlimited supply of knowledge surrounding food. The folks working behind the check out counter of the little mom ‘n’ pop shops are so helpful, so willing to give you absolutely every bit of information – whether that be on a specific dish from their country, or about their own personal journey. It’s amazing. If there are small ethnic grocers near you, I strongly urge you to go! The wealth of knowledge is incredible, the people are heart warming – and equally heart warmed by someone of a different culture wanting to learn from them. It’s a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

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Preserved Lemons
two 500mL jars worth

5-7 Lemons
1 Cup High Quality Salt
1 Cup Warm Water
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Cinnamon Sticks
3-4 Star Anise
8 Peppercorns
Sterilized 500mL Glass Jars

Scrub the lemons, you want them nice and clean because you’ll be eating the rind. Slice the lemon into quarters, keeping the fruit in tact – not cutting the full way to the bottom.  The lemon should still be whole, just sliced open into four parts. Fill the middle of the lemon with salt, then pack it into the bottom of one of the jars. Continue with the rest of the lemons. Add four peppercorns, one cinnamon stick, and at least one star anise to each jar. You should have enough to make two jars, depending on your lemons you may have extra. Using the lemon juice first, add half to each jar, then add in the water, topping up the jar to be filled to the shoulder. Add in another few tablespoons of salt, and seal. Leave in a dark, room temperature place for a minimum of two months. Tip each jar upside down and give it a bit of a whirl every few days to ensure the salt dissolves.

*Preserved lemons are great in a pilaf, mixed into quinoa with veggies (especially good with spinach), couscous – and well, basically any grain dish. They pair well with roasted potatoes, once roasted dress with fresh pepper, oregano and thinly sliced preserved lemon.  Goat cheeses, olive spreads, oh man just use your imagination! So many uses! But keep in mind, they are salty!*

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Orange & Lavender Vanilla Bliss

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I saw something while grocery shopping recently that made me so excited. Tiny little loves. Kumquats! Incredibly cute, perfect for a pucker. I decided to buy a handful of them (of course), then when I got them home I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. I mean, curd came to mind – some kind of a vegan curd. Maybe not a vegan curd.  They were too cute and would be way too much work to try to juice or smoothie them. Dehydrate, well maybe – but I figured I should at least try to make something with them before I go sucking the moisture out.

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Eventually, many serious puckers later – I decided to zest the heck out of them, and simply mix them with the abundance of other citrus in my fridge.  Citrus that I had been planning to make a little vegan cake with, a raw cheesecake. Creamsicle style.  No big deal, just a layer of smooth and creamy vanilla topped with a punchy orange lavender layer.  No swirling, no extras, just simple summer-style creamsicle flavor. Not that it’s summer… or even anywhere close – but hey.

The subtle floral aroma coming from the lavender really pulls it all together for me, sort of changes the childhood favorite to a more adult, more classy option.  Not that there is anything wrong with amazing orange creaminess on a stick, but there is just something so so satisfying about slicing into a cheesecake. You know?

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Orange & Lavender Vanilla Cheese Cake

Crust

1.5 Cups Almond Meal
1/4 Cup Macadamia Nuts – Soaked for 30 minutes
3-4 Tbsp Plant Based Milk of Choice
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil – melted
3 Tbsp Lucuma Powder
Pinch of Dried Vanilla Bean Powder
Pinch of Himalayan Salt

In a blender or food processor, pulverize the soaked macadamia nuts, milk and melted coconut oil until it forms a thick cream. Transfer to a bowl and add the almond meal, lucuma,vanilla and salt. Mix until it forms a dough. Line a spring form cake pan with wax paper, then firmly press the crust mixture down into the bottom. Try to make it as even as possible, place in the fridge to set while preparing the rest of the cake.

Vanilla Layer

1/2 Cup Coconut Cream
2 Vanilla Beans
1/4 Cup Plant Based Milk of Choice
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil – Melted
1/3 Cup Raw Honey
2 Cups Cashews – Soaked for at least 4 hours

Using a sharp knife, slice the vanilla beans in half and gently scrape out the seeds. Place both the scraped seeds and the whole bean to a bowl and cover with coconut cream. Allow the coconut cream to infuse for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a high speed blender, blend the soaked cashews with the plant based milk, adding the coconut oil once it has cooled and following with the honey. Remove the whole bean pod from the coconut cream, leaving the seeds, then add the coconut to the cashew mixture. Pour over the prepared crust.

Orange & Lavender Layer

1/2 Tbsp Lavender Flowers – Dried
1/2 Cup Coconut Cream
1 Cup Macadamia Nuts – Soaked for 30 minutes
Zest From 1 Large Orange
1 Cup of Fresh Citrus Juice
(I used a combination of kumquat, blood orange and navel)
2-3 Tbsp Raw Honey

Using a pestle and mortar, crush the dried lavender flowers until they are soft. Place them in a bowl with the coconut cream and set aside. Using a high speed blender, blend the macadamia nuts with the orange juice and the honey. Allow the mixture to come together forming a thick cream, then add the coconut and continue blending. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the zest before pouring over the vanilla layer. Place the cake in the freezer for 3 hours, or over night.  If allowing it to set up over night in the freezer, take it out 2-3 hours before serving.

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Bring on the Sunshine!

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Today marks the last predicted day of our deep freeze (for now..), move over frigid air, get outta here wind chill – sun’s a-comin’ and I can’t wait!  I’m welcoming some not so crazy cold days with a really simple citrus set up. A Sunshine Salad, if you will.  Sweet and tart, with a boosted vitamin C drizzle.  Yum.  Well…. unless you’re my unsuspecting love, biting straight into a drizzle-less lemon. Hehe, oops!

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A few months ago, back in the very early grips of winter – I spent the afternoon foraging for enough wild sage to make a number of smudge bundles. During my foraging journey, I happened across hundreds and hundreds of wild roses. Or well, rose hips. The fruit, rose fruit. I know from my upbringing that the best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost, the zap of ol’ Jack Frost leaves the fruit a touch sweeter. Well, the morning I set out may not have been the first frost, but it was certainly frosty. Perfect.

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Wild roses are one of my favorite plants! They are so beautiful, so fragrant, so lifting, I love them. I love walking through the trees just outside the city and happening upon bush after bush. All blooming and full of life, emitting the softest yet strongest aroma and immediately lifting my spirit. I love this plant. I connect with this plant. The wild rose offers much in the way of healing, may it be a vibrational healing or a physical healing. The hips are antibacterial, antispasmatic, mineral rich, and of course the high vitamin C content is always welcome, especially in the cold and dark months of an Albertan winter. Brrr!

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The hips can be dried and ground into a powder, they can be made into jelly, or one of my favorite uses – they can infuse honey or be used to make a rosehip syrup. Rosehip syrup is one of my favorite ways to gently sweeten my home brew kombucha! Buttt….  that’s a different post. Right now, I am talking about ground rosehips, powdery soft and the slightest tinge of orange. Really beautiful and delicate stuff, of course, coming from such a beautiful plant. (Even kitties love them, notice top right!).

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We all know and associate citrus with vitamin C, right? Yes, great. Okay. Well now, we can associate rosehips with it as well, loads of it. Pair the two together and people I tell you, you will feel like a super star. A super star shot right out out of this universe and into the next! Seriously simple, super yummy, and healthy to boot. Use whatever citrus is around, kumquats, navel, grapefruit,lemon, pomelo. Any! All! Don’t be scared to add the funny face inducing ones like lemons and limes. The tang is refreshing and the detoxing effects are well worth it. Plus, with a pinch of salt in the drizzle that graces the top of this citrus salad, all different types of fruit get sweeter. Really! Don’t love grapefruit? Try dipping it in salt. Just a touch.  Sounds strange, I know, but it’s a tip I picked up from a teaching kitchen and it works like a charm.

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Sunshine Citrus Salad

2 Limes
2 Lemons
1 Large Grapefruit
3 Blood Oranges
3 Navel Oranges
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
2 Tsp Rosehip Powder
Raw Honey
Pinch of Himalayan Salt

Carefully slice each of the citrus fruits at the top and the bottom, this provides a flat working surface. Begin at the top and slowly remove the rinds (rinds which can be kept and dried, chopped up and used for infusions!). Once the rinds have been removed, slice thinly and arrange on a serving plate. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, rosehip powder, honey to taste and the pinch of salt. Pour over top of arranged citrus slices and enjoy!

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Carrot Pappardelle with a Middle Eastern Twist!

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Growing up, I absolutely loved pasta. I loved it! Spaghetti drenched in tomato sauce and covered with melty cheese was one of my favorite meals before school in the morning. When asked what my favorite food was as a kid, my answer would always be pasta. That love transferred over when I started working in restaurants, ordering pastas for my lunch and dinner break.

These days, I still love pasta – but I’m more likely to be found curling up with a bowl of the veggie variety. Not quite as steamy hot and pillowy soft, but it sure doesn’t leave you feeling heavy and bogged down inside!

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Nope, in fact veggie pasta leaves you feeling satisfied! Perfectly satiated, and with none of that so-full-your-back-hurts kind of finish (thank goodness). The bonus, is that you get all the vitamins and minerals from the raw vegetable and don’t need to worry about your digestive system being confused by the wheat! No sticky gluten, no preservatives or additives, just real goodness.   I have tried a number of different vegetable options for making pasta, I enjoy zucchini for thin noodles; celeriac for thicker noodles, and carrots work so incredibly well for a wide pappardelle type noodle! So easy, so fresh.

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When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand carrots.  I was good with things like broccoli, but for some reason I just could not get down with carrots. I had it in my head that I didn’t like them, so I would over-chew them. Weird, right? Yeah, it gets better.  I would over-chew them to the point they would swell, picture it.  Okay, maybe they didn’t swell for real, but that’s exactly what it felt like when I tried to swallow the then massive amount of pulp in my mouth. For years and years I would refuse eating carrots, telling whoever was trying to feed them to me that they would swell in my mouth and cause me to choke.  Now that I am an adult and able to find interesting ways to eat these tapered orange roots, I enjoy them thoroughly! No more insane pulpy mouth swelling for me!

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Two power houses that make this carrot pap so filling and energy lifting are sprouted chickpeas & lentils. Sprouts are a fun and suuuper simple way to add the life force into any dish. A true enhancement to a raw bowl, a cooked bowl, or gosh just to grab a handful!

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Finally! The secret is in the sauce. Really. It’s sweet, tangy, earthy and has a distinct herby finish. Packed full of anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-everything, digest stimulating, taste bud tingling…   get it? It’s packed full of awesome. Really!  Za’atar is a grouping of different herbs and sesame seeds very commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. The biggest flavors in a typical za’atar mix are sumac, thyme, and roasty toasty sesame seeds; other lovely additions may be oregano, basil, citrus peels and sometimes (as seen above) chunky sea salt. The combination is heavenly, both on the nose and the tongue.

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Carrot Pappardelle 

5-6 Carrots
1-1.5 Cups Cherry Tomatoes
Handful of Fresh Basil
1/3 Cup Lentil & Chickpea Sprouts
1 Tbsp Sunflower Seed Butter
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Maple Butter (or 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup)
1 Tbsp Warm Water
1 Clove of Garlic
1 Inch Knob of Ginger
1 Turmeric Finger
1 Tsp Za’atar Blend

Using a veggie peeler make thin slices of carrot, trying to keep each strip in a long ribbon. Put in a bowl and set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix together the sunflower seed butter, apple cider vinegar, maple butter and water. Stir until combined and smooth. Using a zester or a fine grater, grate the garlic, the ginger and the turmeric over the sauce bowl, stir in the za’atar and mix well. Pour the sauce mixture over the carrots, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl. Allow the mixture to sit for at least an hour, the flavors will be better the longer they mingle. Shred the basil with a sharp knife or by hand and garnish the top of the dish. Add the chickpea & lentil sprouts before serving.

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It’s a Celebration!

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It’s been a long time coming…. this celebration.

I had been planning to write a food blog for a while, didn’t really know how… figured it would be super complicated…  I’m not at all tech savvy, so basically I put it off because I was afraid of it. I had been creating recipes, taking pictures, saving files – you name it. I was doing it. Then, in an emotional tantrum I accidentally deleted everything I had been saving up. Absolutely all of it. From that day, it took me another four months to even consider starting up this blog. I suppose, maybe I had taken it as a sign from the universe that I just wasn’t ready to write (yes, sometimes I am unreasonably emotional).

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So finally, I did it.  I told myself that I would not register a domain until I had had the blog for a full year, and had made more than five or six posts.  It’s not that I typically give up on projects, it’s just this one had given me some grief and I was starting it up in a personally vulnerable time.  In reality, it ended up being the outlet that I needed to get myself up and at ‘er and I have since clearly made more than five or six posts.   In fact, in this first year (and a bit) I have filled a bound journal with double sided pages of hand written recipes, some successes and some flops.  I have begun a photography certification course, originally starting because I wanted to learn how to photograph food of course; a certification that has now blossomed into a whole secondary passion. Another wonderful creative outlet that makes me so happy, and is so rewarding.

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Starting this blog has made me realize so many things about myself. It has been freeing personally, and has helped me grow exponentially. Having a creative outlet is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, seriously. The first year anniversary of my blog was in September, this celebration as I said – has been a long time coming.  Finally this morning I have made good on that promise and have purchased my domain. Woo! Hooray! Yippeee! http://www.sproutinganoldsoul.com exists! In celebration, I paired together ingredients from some of my older dessert recipes (Avo Cacao Pudding & Banana Chocolate Tarts) and created a *nut free* raw chocolate mousse cake.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Crust

1 Cup Dried Black Mission Figs
3/4 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
3 Tbsp Cacao Nibs
Pinch of Himalayan Salt
6 Tbsp Water

Mousse

3 Ripe Avocados
1 Ripe Banana
2 Heaping Tbsp Raw Honey
1/2 Cup Cacao Powder

Plating

1/3 Cup Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Splash of Water
Cacao Powder for Dusting

Soak the figs in warm water until they are squishy. Add the figs, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, and salt to a food processor – start with two tablespoons of water. Give the crust a whirl. Continue adding one tablespoon of water at a time while the food processor is running until the crust forms a thick paste. Six teaspoons may not be required depending on the moisture in the figs, but six was how many it took for me. Start with less, you don’t want the crust to be too squishy! Line a small-medium spring-form cake pan with wax paper. Push the figgy crust into the pan or shape into small tart shells by hand, then place it in the freezer to set.

To make the mousse, simply add all ingredients into a fresh food processor and whirl until there are no chunks of avocado or banana and a thick mousse has formed. Gently scoop it into the crust, cover, and let it set up in the freezer overnight or for at least six hours. This will ensure the mousse will be able to slice.

Depending on the temperature indoors, remove the cake from the fridge 1 to 2 hours before serving. Blend the raspberries with a touch of water and spread on a plate to be used as a garnish under the cake, or use as a drizzle over top. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the extra cacao powder and slice it into pieces.

Voila!

Balsamic Beads & Alien Veggies

Romanesco…

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Roma-whaa?  Romanesco.  Rad, eh?  I’m a sucker for treasures of the produce section.. Seriously.

A few years ago I saw a whole pile of these alien looking broccoli-cauliflower-whatever-the-heck’s, just tucked casually between the sprouts and the beans. No biggie, just a friggin’ UFO hybrid.  I didn’t buy one, I just tucked my basket in a little closer and scooted my butt on by never to see one again.  Until this week. There was one left, I went for it.

So what the bleep is it!? It’s a relative of cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, a dense spirally flower.  Tastes more like cauliflower, than broccoli, and breaks apart like it too.  It works well sauteed, steamed, and of course – raw.

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I love and absolutely can’t get over these beautiful tasty spirals. So stunning to look at, shocking even. I sent a photo of my first romanesco experience to le boyfriend and he gave me the “…” type response.  Something along the lines of “What the……” – Perfect. It’s perfect! We had the exact same response, years apart. What better way to get creative with food, than to add in something that is so unusual?!

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Let’s add to the unusual.  Balsamic beads. Pearls. Balls.  Whatever you want to call them. It’s called molecular gastronomy. Science+Food. I had the absolute pleasure of assisting Chef Pierre Lamielle in a molecular gastronomy class a few weeks back, a class I had been suuuper pumped about.  I put my name into the bid for which classes I would get to volunteer for, choosing 18 total. The only one I really, really had to make sure I somehow got to – was the molecular class. Ding ding! What fun it was! He talked a bit about the different components used in molecular gastronomy, different ingredients to make foams and spheres.  He mentioned his favorite to work with is agar, which was thrilling for me – as I am familiar with agar agar and being that it is a seaweed product, am happy to use it in my own kitchen.

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Molecular kits can be purchased online, and sometimes in specialty kitchen stores; agar agar can be found powdered or flaked in some health food stores and in most Asian markets. So if making “caviar” out of vinegar, fruit juices or whatever liquid you fancy is the goal – simple agar powder is the way to go. Since the molecular class, I have been using Chef Pierre Lamielle’s instructions for making balsamic “caviar” but have altered the measurements a tad seeing as I do not own a molecular kit.

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Tomato & Romanesco Salad with Balsamic Beads

1 Handful of Yellow Grape Tomatoes
1 Handful of Red Grape Tomatoes
1 Small Head of Romanesco
2-3 Tbsp Chia Oil (flax oil, or good quality oil of choice)
1 Tbsp Fresh Chive – sliced thin
1/4 Cup Shredded Basil
6-7 Chunks of Chevre (omit for vegan option)
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1-1.5 Tsp Agar Powder
3 Cups Cheap Olive Oil
Syringe

Slice the tomatoes in half, and pull apart the romanesco – leaving it chunky. Toss the tomatoes, romanesco, chia oil, sliced chives and shredded basil in a large glass bowl. Sprinkle with salt and as much fresh pepper as desired. Toss the salad, then add the chunks of chevre. Allow this to sit out while making the balsamic beads. Fill a large pint glass or jar with the olive oil and pop it in the freezer to chill for about 30-45 minutes. The key is cheap oil, which is usually heat pressed and therefore won’t solidify as quickly in cold temperatures. In a small pot combine the agar and the balsamic vinegar, bring it to a simmer – stirring to dissolve the powder. Once dissolved, transfer to a bowl or cup and set aside. Take the chilled olive oil from the freezer, pull the balsamic liquid up into a syringe and drip it one drop at a time into the oil. The beads will fall to the bottom of the jar, forming as they chill. Stir gently to unstick if necessary. Drain the oil from the glass into another container and sprinkle as many of the balsamic beads as desired over the salad.

Voila!

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Sprouts & Shoots!

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My totally head over heels love affair.

It’s such a simple thing.. sprouting..  germinating a seed.  Cracking open a life force that has been otherwise locked away for safe keeping. Something so simple, and it’s completely rewarding. Sprouts are full of many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and… well, basically – life!  Introducing fresh sprouts into your diet will change every cell in your body.  Seriously!  Adding a handful of sprouts (even just a very small handful) to your lunch or mid-morning snack will energize you in ways you never would have thought. You don’t need to have a green thumb, you don’t need to have a garden, a yard or even a pot with soil.  All you need is a glass jar, some cheesecloth and a couple of days!

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Sprout is the name for the primary stage of plant, where the seed breaks open and life (typically in the form of a tail) begins. Sprouted beans, legumes, grains and seeds are eaten in their entirety.

More and more, people are looking to plants and ancient ways of cultivation to feed their hungry bellies, minds, and souls.  Not only does eating sprouted grain help heal digestive issues, it helps fight obesity and many other ailments that we are facing.  Sprouted grains are much gentler on the body as their enzymes have been released in the soaking process, thrusting each individual grain into a whirlwind of plant-birth. Enzymes help break down (essentially predigest) the protective barriers within the grain/seed as a means to let the life force of the plant out, to let it begin the growth process. This is extremely beneficial to our bodies, because without the release of those enzymes we cannot fully digest all the nutrients the grain has to offer.   With our bodies being more able to break down what we are ingesting, we limit the need for excess fillers in our foods, we cut back on inappropriate food related cravings and in turn enter a realm of more optimal health.

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Shoot or Microgreen is the name for the next step in the plants development. This is the stage where the “tail” from stage one, after growing a set of tiny leaves will begin to travel upward reaching anywhere from an inch to about four inches before harvested. This is also the stage where the seed will begin to take root.

Shoots/Microgreens are becoming more and more popular not only in health food stores, but in regular supermarkets as well. Pea shoots, alfalfa, and broccoli shoots are the most common in Calgary.  Sunflower shoots are becoming more readily available, as well as kits to produce your own microgreens out of herb seeds. Microgreens are a very easy and refreshing way to introduce a little bit more chlorophyll into your diet, especially if you don’t like dark leafy greens.  Seeing as they, too, are full of life (in the case of my kitchen – grow on the windowsill for whenever I care to snip off a handful) the amount of energy boosting awesomeness you can achieve with even using them as just a finisher to your salads – it’s amazing.  Sprouting and growing little pots of microgreens are a great way to supply yourself with phenomenal, sustainable, and incredibly fresh veg year round.  The amount of nutrients you receive directly by snipping some fresh sunflower shoots doesn’t even compare to what you buy in the stores during winter.  Think of how far your produce has to travel in order to make it to your table, especially for those living in cold wintery climates like Calgary. Adding fresh greens from your own kitchen will keep you feeling lively all year.

There has been an increasing amount of chatter recently with the sprout/microgreen trend on the rise – a reminder to people everywhere that raw vegetation, just like meat, can carry harmful bacteria.  Using organic (and non GMO) seeds, always making sure your jars or sprouting equipment is sterilized, washing your hands before ever touching your seeds or equipment, and properly rinsing your seeds is very important.  Make sure the seeds you buy are for sprouting and food type production – seeds that are purchased or used for animals may have been treated differently during process.  For example – it’s probably best to not get really excited after learning about phytonutrients and chlorophyll and begin sprouting the sunflower seeds from your bird feeder. Seed that has been in contact (in some cases even if it’s been intended for animals) are more likely to be compromised.  Be sure to throw away any sprouts that smell off, or begin to change color. They sprout so quickly and cost so little, it’s always best to start over than to end up with a belly ache.

Below is a list of my favorite easily sproutable grains, seeds, beans and legumes. I can tell you in my experience, clover, alfalfa, and lentil seem to be some of the quickest I have sprouted. For shoots, filling a small pot or trough with organic soil or a softened coconut-husk puck and sprinkling the seeds on top – misting a few times a day with water and keeping them in a sunny (but not direct sun, that will burn your little plant babies) location will get them germinating in a matter of days.

  • Alfalfa
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Chia
  • Clover
  • Fenugreek
  • Garbanzo
  • Garlic Chive
  • Kale
  • Lentil
  • Mustard
  • Pea
  • Quinoa
  • Sunflower

Basic Sprouting – Jar Method

  1. Ensure all equipment (hands included) have been thoroughly washed
  2. Discard any seeds that have been broken or are discolored
  3. Soak seeds in a glass jar of cool water (from anywhere between 6-12 hours depending on the seed)
  4. Cover the opening of the jar with a sprouting bag, or cheesecloth and fasten so nothing can escape besides water
  5. Drain all the water out of the jar, leaving it on an angle so excess humidity has a direct escape route
  6. Rinse and drain the sprouts up to three times daily, always with cool water and storing in a cool place – away from sunlight (typically small seeds and legumes such as clover, alfalfa, broccoli, kale and green lentils will sprout within a day or two)
  7. Once the seeds have sprouted, allow indirect sunlight for a day or so – this will allow the formation of chlorophyll
  8. Once they have fully sprouted and produced tiny green leaves (don’t expect legumes or beans to leaf, only tail), rinse them in a large bowl of cool water and keep in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Best to keep them in a container that allows for a bit of airflow, excess humidity can harm your precious baby sprouts.

Flowers, Bees, Workouts and Love.

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Goooooooood Morning!

Rising with the sun is just one of those perfect things. It’s something so simple, and yet we very infrequently have the time or the willingness to do it. I am completely guilty of this.  When the winter begins winding down and spring sets in, I am up and ready to go at 5am as the sun starts peeking through my windows….but now, now that it’s summer that is coming to a close, I am in no way ready get up early.  Each day getting shorter and shorter, I find that it’s so difficult to fully wake. Today was different, today I was up with the sun (which was a bit of a sleep in, considering the season change). Today I greeted the morning with a juicy Canadian pear, and a real butt kicking spin class..  butt kicking, quad kicking, arm and chest kicking.  Man, I really got my sweat on!

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Wandering around the neighborhood afterwards,  I really started to warm up to the fast approaching fall. The sight and smell of yellowing leaves, plants and flowers in various stages of blossom and rest, the crispness in the air…  Fall used to be one of my favorite seasons. This beautiful Saturday morning really reminded me of that.

Post workout recovery is something that I have recently vowed to get better at, in particular – refueling with the right ingredients and pushing myself to deepen my stretching. I know that both of these are super important,  however I am known to forget to do one, or sometimes even both.  Today I got after it, I cooled off – walked the streets engaging and really noticing my muscles and how they were operating; and I had a SUPERpower packed breakfast smoothie to reinforce and nourish my whole body, mind and spirit.

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A few nights ago I attended a lecture on bees and bee products. The healing medicines that come from a hive, and I’m not just talking honey here.  Bee pollen is one of my favorite treasures from the hive, from the bees, from the plants of this earth.  We all know the importance of reducing completely eliminating GMO products from our kitchens, we know that altering plant DNA and tarnishing our natural fields have negatively influenced bees,  but how many people have thought about those two things together at once?  GMO plants…  produce GMO pollen, GMO honey, and all kinds of alterations that impact my beloved honeybee. An article I read a while back in VegNews magazine about bees and GMO plants really shook me to my core. “Poland recently banned a genetically engineered crop in an effort to save the country’s native honeybee population. Monsanto Mon810, a strain of GE corn that self-produces the popular insecticide neonicotinoid, can no longer be grown in the country after research found that it triggers Colony Collapse Disorder – a worldwide plague that has caused honeybees to die en masse since 2006.” Disgusting, no? This is what plants are doing to the bees, what the heck do we think they’re going to do to us? Before I get off on too much of a tangent….  In my opinion, and this was reinforced and agreed upon by everyone at the lecture I attended – buying non GMO bee products is incredibly important. Buying honey that comes from wildflowers, buying honey that is local, buying honey that is cruelty free. All so important. It can only improve our health (and the health of the plant).

Bee pollen increases strength, and energy – both important after a workout. It helps to rebuild muscle and tissue, it’s a great source of a plethora of vitamins, and is super high in protein.  I had a heaping tablespoon this morning! Nothing like tasting the pure love of a flower, delicately gathered by a tiny, fuzzy, striped angel.  Have I mentioned… I love bees? Love them. Love them love them love them.

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Recovery smoothies that you can buy in stores tend to taste a bit off to me. I don’t like the taste of strong protein powders, and I very much try to avoid any packs with added sugars, or even other added beneficial nutrients.  I like just plain, raw hemp powder. High protein, nothing extra.  That way….   I can make it into something so super delicious all you can do is drink it down and giggle with delight. Yep, giggle – that’s exactly what I did this morning.  My recovery smoothie this morning was reminiscent of a almond butter cookie.. with chocolate.. and espresso.  Umm… YUM! I had the pleasure of drinking a chocolate mylk elixir at the Light Cellar, I have been thinking about it ever since… so I made my own version of it, recovery style.

SUPERpower Recovery Smoothie

1 Tbsp Maca Powder
2 Scoops of Raw Hemp Protein Powder
1 Tsp Dried Reishi Mushroom Powder
1 Tsp Dried Chaga Mushroom Powder
8-10 Cacao Whole Beans
1 Vanilla Bean – Scraped
1.5 Bananas
1/2 Cup Young Coconut Meat
2 Tbsp Raw Almond Butter
1 8oz Glass of Purified Water

Layer everything in a blender, start with adding about half a cup of water – just to allow the blades to get working and grind up the cacao immediately. Adding in a full glass of water right at the beginning will just make the cacao whirl and float! Once the mixture is smooth, add in the rest of the water and enjoy!

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Raw Rainbow Wraps

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One of my favorite things to eat as I entered my twenties was a really garlicky, spicy falafel wrap.   The combination of flavors, the balance of nutritionally dense vegetables – both fresh and fermented, and the crisp crunch with every bite.  I loved it. I still do, although I definitely have it a lot less frequently these days.  One of my favorite parts of a perfectly wrapped falafel is the pickled purple cabbage and turnip. The purple, it really adds something for me.  There aren’t many places that add such a strong purple punch to their foods, especially places that are typically more “main stream”… not around here, anyway.

I figured this weekend, that I could create a raw version… one that is packed with nutrition, fermented awesomeness, protein and the added element of healthy living food.  I wanted it to have a somewhat Asian flavor,  reminiscent of a traditional lettuce wrap, with that strong punchy purple.

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The only real problem, was that I had a very limited window of time available in which to create said wrap.  Driving home from hiking in Canmore, I weighed my options… Either make a real falafel, or improvise with something a bit quicker.  Something a bit quicker won the debate.  Something a bit quicker… turned out so totally awesome.

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The fillings for my beautiful, punchy purple wraps have a few key, but very simple ingredients that showcase each flavor component without overpowering one another. A delicious mix of spiced walnuts, fresh cherry tomato and avocado salsa, sprouted green lentils and sprouted chickpeas, golden beet noodles, and a simply divine vegan sauce.   Using fresh citrus juice and zest in the salsa, perfectly sweet honey, warm sesame and spices with the walnuts, and super alkaline umeboshi paste in the finishing sauce….  all adds well complimented flavors and super nutritional powers to the whole meal.

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Sprouting the lentils and chickpeas will take two days, so make them ahead if you don’t typically have sprouted beans & legumes handy.

Sprouting is so incredibly easy, and the health benefits attached to eating whole, living, enzyme rich legumes and beans is just amazing.  To sprout lentils & chickpeas, simply rinse and soak them overnight in filtered water. Rinse again in the morning, then drain. Place them in a sprouting tray, or a jar with cheesecloth fastened over top of the opening. Allow them to sit in a dark place like a cupboard, for the day, rinsing again before bed… Be careful not to break off any of the sprout tails that have formed. Follow the same steps the next day, once there are centimeter length sprout tails popping out of each chickpea and lentil, you’re good to go!

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Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

1 Cup Raw Soaked Walnuts
3 Tbsp Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese Seven Spice)
2 Tbsp Raw Honey

Smash, crush, or pulse the walnuts until most of them have been broken at least once. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Tomato Avocado Salsa

1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes
1 Avocado
2 Green Onions
1/2 Lime
Szechuan Pepper*

*If you do not have Szechuan peppercorns, sub black pepper and a touch more lime.

Chop the green onion, cut each cherry tomato in half, cube up the avocado and mix all three ingredients into a small bowl. Zest the lime, then squeeze out the juice, adding both to the bowl. Add fresh ground Szechuan pepper to taste and set aside.

Creamy Umeboshi Sauce

2-3 Tbsp Sunflower Seed Butter
1/3 Cup Warm Water
1/2 Tsp Umeboshi Paste

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl, adding water a touch at at time until the sauce is liquid enough to pour off of a spoon.

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Raw Rainbow Wraps

1 Head of Organic Purple Cabbage
1 Golden Beet
Tomato & Avocado Salsa
Sweet & Spicy Walnuts
Creamy Umeboshi Sauce
Fresh Basil

To assemble – cut the head of cabbage in half, this makes for smaller wraps that are more manageable.  Using a spiralizer or a hand peeler, twirl the beet into thin noodle like strips.  Prepare the Tomato Avocado Salsa, the Sweet & Spicy Walnuts, and the Umeboshi Sauce. Layer the beet noodles, then the other assorted toppings, finishing with the Umeboshi sauce and some fresh basil.  Fold up the bowl like cabbage head and sink your teeth right in!

Yum!  Enjoy!

A Raw Chocolate Adventure!

You’d think I have a sweet tooth…. Wouldn’t you?

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Having a growing fascination of cacao, the logical next step in my kitchen was to make chocolate.   Not melt already pressed chocolate chips, or squares…  actually make it.   I searched all over the city for a metate, I mean….  might as well go all out right? A metate is essentially a pestle and mortar that is a flat. It’s been used traditionally for milling grain, and more importantly by the Mayans – for making chocolate.  Grinding the raw cacao on a metate until it turns to a shining smooth liquid…  perfection. Of course I need one.   Unfortunately, my search yielded no such luck…  this left me with two choices: pestle and mortar or my antique spice grinder (enter my determination to not go the easiest route and use cacao powder…).  I tried both.  I do not recommend a spice or coffee grinder, there is just way too much fat in the cacao, it really gummed up inside.  Pestle and mortar… worked a whole heck of a lot better.. I have the blistered hand to prove it!

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I wanted to make my chocolate with a mix of raw cacao butter, and raw coconut butter… I’m on a bit of a coconut butter kick. I find it so sinful, it’s so tropical and amazing..  and with added health benefits. I just love it. Why wouldn’t I add it? A touch of flare to my little raw chocolate making madness.

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The raw chocolate movement is becoming so widespread, people wanting to know about the cacao plant itself, about the legends that surround chocolate, not just picking up a “candy” bar in the convenient store based on it’s wrapper. It’s amazing, I love it.  I feel that the shift in the global mind of the world towards being familiar with your food, the ingredients and energy that go into it… it’s perfect. It’s about time. If we are becoming more interested in adding raw, creative foods into our diets – why not start with something as delicious, nutrient dense and famed… as chocolate!? Just reading about how it was used as an ancient currency is enough to suck me into researching for hours.  I am fully able to have my very own ancient adventure… just by biting into one of these babies.

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Raw & Dark – Crunchy Chocolate Bites

3/4 Cup Raw Cacao Butter
3 Tbsp Raw Coconut Butter
1 Cup Raw Cacao Powder
3 Tbsp Raw Honey (agave, stevia, maple syrup for fully vegan options)
2-4 Tbsp Raw Cacao Nibs

Optional Super Awesome Toppings:
Cassia/Cinnamon
Marash Chili
Bee Pollen
Tiny Roses or Lavender Flowers
Maca Powder
Spirulina Powder
Goji Berries

Heat up a pot of water on the stove, remove it from the heat once it’s starting to steam. Place a glass bowl over top of the pot, allowing the bowl to heat up as well.  Gently melt the cacao butter and the coconut butter in the warmed bowl. Be patient, this can take some time depending on how large your bowl is. Both coconut and cacao butters/oils melt easily with little heat.  Once it has fully melted, add the cacao powder and the raw honey, stirring and incorporating as you add. Toss in the cacao nibs and give one final fold. Pour the liquid chocolate into cups or trays,  sprinkle with optional toppings if you so desire. Place in the fridge or freezer to set.  Store in the fridge.

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*Note – if cacao butter is not something you’re able to find, using coconut oil is another great option.  Coconut oil melts much faster than cacao butter does, so be absolutely sure to keep the chocolate refrigerated.

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