Slow Roasted Bruschetta, Instant Teleportation!

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I teleported myself to Italy this week, as a matter of fact I think I may still be there.  I’m sure somewhere in the distance I can hear the sound of Carlo Buti playing from an old set of speakers. Surely I am seated right now, at this very moment… in some beautiful stone building, gazing out the open window into a courtyard filled with potted plants and herbs, the magical aroma of roasting tomatoes and garlic wafting up and circling me.  While my head spins with the heady scents an elderly couple walks by hand in hand, faintly I can hear two young lovers quarrel somewhere on the next tiny stone street.

Although I have been to Europe, I have never been to Italy.  This though, is how I imagine it.  Big open aches, stone streets that lead one into circle after circle, completely lost but totally at peace. Oh and of course… the smells.

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I’ll get there someday, that I am sure of.   For now however – I will turn my tiny kitchen into the Italy of my dreams. Roasting tomatoes, slowly through out the whole day – with garlic, and whatever herbs…  creating magic, pure magic.

So now that we are all on the same page, how awesome does slow roasted bruschetta sound? Pretty fan-friggin-tastic if you ask me! It’s a bit too cold in my (Calgary) Italy to really be able to enjoy the typical chilled version. Plus, playing on the aromas of roasting.. well, it’s an obvious win to fill the house with such foodie love.  I needed it to be simple, there’s no sense in complicating something that is so full of flavor naturally. Tomatoes, and something a bit different – actually, two things. One, instead of simply rubbing down some (sourdough) bread with raw garlic then toasting it in the oven. I roasted the garlic, a whole head, and spread the gooey amazing delicious cloves all over my toasty slices. Then, instead of the typical basil or oregano, I wanted a bit more punch.  A herb that would withstand a slow roasting. Rosemary. Yep, perrrrfection.

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Slow Roasted Bruschetta

3 Cups of Cherry Tomatoes
3 Sprigs of Rosemary
Good Quality Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Roasted Garlic
Seedy Organic Sourdough
Balsamic Reduction *Optional but super impressive!

Turn the oven to 300, put about half an inch of water in the bottom of a glass ovenproof dish. Arrange the cherry tomatoes so that as few overlap as possible. Sprinkle with salt and as much fresh ground pepper as desired. Take one of the sprigs of rosemary, holding it at the end where there are less leaves – gently pull down towards the top to separate the leaves from the woody stem. Continue with the other two sprigs. Chop the rosemary and sprinkle half over the tomatoes. Roast like this for an hour and a half to two hours. Checking about half way through to see if there needs a top up slightly on the water. After about an hour and a half, turn the oven up to broil and get those now wrinkly little loves a bit hotter, a very slight browning on the top. Watch to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. *Very important that it cools, the tomatoes will likely be still in tact, so biting into one would spray super hot fluid all over the mouth*. Once the tomatoes have cooled, transfer them to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add the remaining rosemary.

Assembly

Slice the sourdough and place under the broiler for a few minutes to toast. Rub with a bit of olive oil on the way out, then spread the roasted garlic all over like butter. Top the garlicky slices with the bruschetta and finish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

*The balsamic really brings the whole thing together with it’s tangy sweetness, it’s super easy to make – simply add some balsamic vinegar to a pot and bring it up to almost a boil. Get the sides bubbling, soon it will turn a bit thick. Take it away from the heat and allow the balsamic syrup to cool. 

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Not Pomme Frites

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Looks good, right? Yep. Who doesn’t like fries?! Seriously!

When I was a  kid my mom used to make home fries, you know – scrub, slice, oil, salt, oven. Really simple, yummy and best of all, home made. Considering I love potatoes so much, it’s surprising that I rarely make anything in “french fry” form. Probably haven’t for years in fact! Today though, today is different.

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Today, while perusing through the market I popped a pair of beautiful roots in my basket, roots that I pretty much never buy. In fact, I could honestly say I only remember ever buying these lovelies once or twice before. For some reason when shopping for winter produce, I am so drawn to beets and carrots, potatoes (of course). Turnips? Parsnips? Nah…   Maybe because when it is cloudy and grey outside there is just nothing inspiring about eating a white vegetable. Something red! Yellow! Orange! Yes please! But white?
Anyway, as I was saying, today is different.  Inspired by all the pub fare going around in celebration of this years winter Olympics, I decided to make a couple of greener, healthier versions of the typical.  Enter, my two cutsie little turnips.

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Organic, soft on the inside crispy crunchy on the outside. The perfect french fry, sans potato. Now, I know there are so many different ways to make a fry crispy in the oven. Some people use powdered plant starch, some use flours, butter and a really hot cast iron – I mean there are so many different ways and to me that really factors in to whether or not the end result is “healthy”.  The option I thought best for my frite treat, is quinoa. Raw and/or sprouted, I tried grinding it by hand in my pestle and mortar and ended up with quinoa everywhere. I don’t recommend that for anyone else. Second attempt, I busted out my handy dandy spice grinder and voila. Perfect bits of quinoa, some powdery and fine and some the same texture as course pepper. The best combination for coating fries!

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Turnip Frites

2 Small(ish) Turnips
2 Tbsp Tri Coloured Quinoa
1 Tbsp Avocado Oil
Squeeze of Fresh Lemon
Pinch of Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400, wash the turnips and ready a bowl for mixing. Slice the turnips into whatever size desired, mine were about as long and wide as my ring finger. Add them to the bowl and coat with avocado oil. Using a clean pepper mill or spice grinder, grind about half of the quinoa over the oil coated turnip slices. Sprinkle with salt and a healthy amount of black pepper. Mix well. Continue grinding the quinoa over top until the strips are completely covered, then finish with the lemon juice.  Place on a baking sheet (lined or very lightly oiled) and bake for about 30-40 minutes. The turnip should be soft and still slightly crisp on the inside, with the quinoa coating nice and crunchy on the outside. Serve with homemade ketchup, sambal or whatever condiments you enjoy!

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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Simple Restorative Eats

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For the last week I have been doing a fairly intensive cleanse, new year, new start. Right?  Cleansing is a very personal thing, some people like it and do it – some people don’t.  A girlfriend at work and myself have been successfully cleansing and fasting for a number of days now… by that I mean it feels like ten. Ridding our bodies of the old and helping to boost rejuvenation.   The cleansing battle has been a bit up and down for me, considering I have a slight food obsession and this particular program includes a five days of no solids. How does a food blogger… quit food? Quit juicing.  Quit…. it all.  It’s been an adventure, lets say that.  

Before beginning the cleanse I spent a lot of time brainstorming how to properly use up the remaining items in my fridge and how to break the fast in a way that would be satiating as well as gentle. The recommended options stated in the cleanse are an apple for breakfast, a salad for lunch and if that goes well – another salad at dinner.    Well that’s all good, fine, quite tolerable.  However, for someone like me who eats an abundance of fermented foods, I have noticed a dramatic change in my inner self with not having any added happy friendly bacteria.

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So I have decided to rebel.  I am not going to break the fast with salads, an apple – sure, a green juice instead of a salad and a niiiccee warm bowl of miso soup.  I don’t love soy, honestly I don’t even like soy. I generally try to avoid it, with the occasional exception of some tempeh and a tub of miso paste that calls the top shelf of my refrigerator home.  There are so many debates about soy, so many.  For a very informative and objective look at some of the debates head on over to the Holy Kale, take a read. Decide for yourself if you want to use it and include it.   Like I said, I have a whole shwack load of friendly ferments in my daily life – so miso works for me on occasion.   Occasions… such as this, where I would really like to gently reintroduce semi solids and send my digestive system back into orbit with some fermenty friends.  The thing to remember when making miso, is that in order to get the full benefit of those bacteria it needs to be warm not hot. Scalding those little loves will do no good, so be careful when mixing it up!

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Can’t have miso soup… without just a few little steamed gyoza. Right? So easy once you get the hang of it, knowing that after a bowl of miso I would be dying for at least a couple… I made a batch of 20 and froze them. I have a previous post about making gyoza so I won’t delve deeply into my love for little steamed pockets. Maybe the fact that I am doing a second dumpling ish post says enough! These ones are just mushroom, no tempeh or kale. 

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I chose to steam the gyoza, limit the frying and why bother with the baking.  Simple is best, plus I love cooking with water and steam.  This cleanse taught me an incredible amount of just how gentle the system is, while being so strong and resilient at the same time. It’s amazing! Truly a wonder.  My own body has gone on a round about ride up and down between feeling good and feeling like crap, I will be happy to have some real food again. That’s for sure.  Steam, because it’s simple and it’s healthy. No added oils or splatter burns.  Just some quick cooking love.

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Although I have a burning love for shiitakes on a regular day, I chose to use only these little delights for my come back soup.  Shiitakes support healthy stomach function, are incredibly restorative and are great immune regulators.  Medicinal mushrooms, gotta love ’em! They also look beautiful and ever so traditional in a simple miso broth.  Floating perfectly in place of small pressed tofu cubes!

Shiitake Miso
(makes two bowls)

2.5 Cups of Water
1 Handful of Shiitake Mushrooms
2 Green Onions
1 Tsp Tamari
1.5-2 Tbsp Shiro Miso Paste
Sea Veg & Pea Shoots 

In a medium sized pot, boil the water and the mushrooms. Cook at medium heat for about 5-8 minutes with the lid on. Slice and add the green onion continuing to cook for a minute or so before turning the burner off and adding the tamari. Remove the pot from the stove completely, then scoop out about 2/3 of the mushroom water (liquid only) leaving the lid off and allowing it to cool down slightly, putting it in a soup bowl. Stir the miso paste in the 2/3 of mushroom water until it’s fully dissolved. Once the pot is no longer steaming visibly, add the miso water into the pot and give it a good stir.  Top with nori or other sea veg and some fresh pea shoots.

Mushroom Gyoza 
(makes about twenty)

1/3 Cup Water
2 Cups of Oyster Mushrooms
1 Cup of Shiitake Mushrooms
0.5-2 Tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
1 Green Onion
1 Tbsp Tamari
Splash of Rice Vinegar
Salt & Pepper 
Wonton Wraps

In a large pan or wok, cook the mushrooms in the water until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid has disappeared. Allow the mixture to cool, and then blend in a food processor until it forms a paste like texture. Add the ginger – to taste, sliced green onion, tamari, rice vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend it again to make sure it’s fully mixed. Scoop out half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of filling into the middle of a wrapper, wet the edges and fold! Easy peasy, I promise, once you do a couple you’ll fly through it.  For a more detailed explanation of wrappers and folding check out my previous gyoza post.

Dipping Sauce

2 Parts Rice Vinegar
1 Part Sesame Oil
As many heaps of chili flakes as desired

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Romance in a Bowl!

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Years ago in a dark little kitchen shop, I picked up an old book filled with Persian recipes.  I remember exactly where I was standing in the shop, I remember being surrounded with various ingredients – spices, pulses, pots and pans. I remember this captivating photo of a jewelled rice, steaming and vibrant, it basically jumped off the page at me. I can’t say what the book was called, who wrote it, or even what the cover looked like; only that in some far away land there was a dish so beautiful and with the most perfect name. Jewel rice.

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The picture had nuts, seeds, fruits and rinds; truly I could almost taste it just by absorbing every inch of the photo. The dish, I have recreated in my own kitchen and with my own photos, building it more from what my mind thought it would taste like as opposed to what the recipe actually called for. To be honest, other than what I could pick out from the picture I am not even sure what that particular recipe included.

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My version uses Israeli couscous, which was introduced to me quite a few years ago and has been really the only wheat based pasta in my cupboard for years. I love how quick it cooks, how easy it is to use, and that like rice – it will take on whatever you use it with.  Ever since looking through that old book, I certainly romance Persian food in my mind. Mixing in a common love of aromatics and color. Cutting open a pomegranate to reveal the beautiful shining rubies that lay within it’s hard exterior, the soft buttery taste of a raw pistachio, the familiar sweetness of dried fruit and a subtle whiff of orange blossom and roses.  Doesn’t that sound amazing? Uh, yes! Romance in a bowl. Especially for this time of year! I know for me personally, winter requires as much color as possible – wherever it may come from!

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Jewelled Israeli Couscous

1 Cup Israeli Couscous
2 Cups of Water
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
2 Tsp Orange Blossom Water
Pinch of Saffron Threads
5-6 Green Cardamom Pods – cracked
1/2-1 Tsp True Cinnamon
1/2-1 Tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 Cup Dried Black Currants
1/3 Cup Raisins
1 Cup Raw Pistachios – shelled
1 Pomegranate
Zest from One Orange
1/3 Cup Raw Slivered Almonds
2 Tbsp Raw Hemp Hearts
Dried Rose
Himalayan Salt to Taste

In a medium pot bring the water to a boil, adding the couscous, coconut oil, true cinnamon, cumin and cardamom pods. Crush the saffron threads between your fingers before adding to the pot, season with a touch of salt. Turn the heat down, letting the couscous roll and expand with the water. Just before all the water has been absorbed, about 8-10 minutes, add the orange blossom water. Once the couscous has soaked up all of the water, remove the cardamom pods then add in the currants, raisins, and pistachios – cover and remove from the heat. To seed the pomegranate, cut it in quarters, by hand break each quarter in half. The seeds will pop out easily although it does take some love. Add the seeds from the pomegranate, the slivered almonds, orange zest and season again with salt, mix everything together. Top with the delicate little hemp hearts and dried rose just before serving!

An Asian Market Adventure… Turns into Herby Salad Rolls

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Salad rolls are one of those go-to items for me, I love that they’re so versatile! Throwing in rainbow colored veggies and making an assortment of different sauces, it’s just plain fun.  They are healthy, relatively quick (once you get the hang of wrapping them up), and they don’t leave you feeling heavy or full. All of those things combined – for me anyway – make the perfect lunch… especially for days when a bowl of salad just isn’t what I’m searching for.

These were born after a trip to one of the Asian markets here in the city; a trip which was very successful considering I was looking for some fairly specific things.  Thai basil, a herb that surprises me each and every time I go in search of it. I always expect it to be easy to find, tucked in with the other herbs in the greens section. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoy going on a mad hunt all over town for single ingredients, fortunately I also feel very comfortable in ethnic markets and will often take the time to walk through every single isle. Asian markets hold a special place in my heart as Asia is where the bulk of my travel experience has been; walking in and submersing myself is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

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This trip to the market was not one of my typical, long, exploration types; this one had a bit more of a time line. To be able to spend the day with my man, making gyoza and bowls of green Thai curry meant we had to be in and out quickly.  We headed straight for the herbs and mushrooms, then right on outta there.  Lucky for me, we over did it on the herbage and after all was said and done there was plenty of the fresh green aromatic beauties left over. Alone with my herbs, my kitchen turned into a salad roll factory.

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The one thing we impulsively purchased while at the Asian market, was a package of fresh green pepper berries (peppercorns). I had never until that day seen them fresh! Well, not here anyway. In China I had seen them, tasted them, but never here. I was so excited! I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but was so super excited to have found the fresh little pungent berries that the very second we entered my house.. I popped one into Jonny’s mouth and forced him to chew it.

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Once my salad roll making factory had begun to close shop, all herbs used and my fingers smelling absolutely divine from all of their fresh green herby oils. It occurred to me I hadn’t made a sauce.  I know typically when you order salad rolls in a restaurant you get peanut sauce, often times with sriracha and crushed peanuts.  Well I don’t usually have peanut butter, plenty of other butters, but that one I tend to omit (why have peanut butter when you could have cashew? Hazelnut? Almond?). Peanut butter is just not a favorite of mine. I did have, however, plenty sunflower seed butter and my fresh sambal. Perrrrrfect! Top it off with some fresh crushed green pepper berries, and voila!

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Herby Salad Rolls
(Makes quite a few)

1 Package of Rice Paper Sheets
1 Small Package of Rice Noodles
1 Small Zucchini
1 Avocado
3 Cups of Thai Basil
2 Cups of Mint
1 Bunch of Cilantro
Green Onion
Handful of Enoki Mushrooms
Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce

Cook rice noodles as per package directions, julienne zucchini, slice the avocado and green onion. Rip individual leaves or groups of leaves from the Thai basil and the mint. Separate the cilantro, and enoki into small bunches and set out pieces of lettuce. Having everything set up and in reach is key! Fill a medium sized bowl with warm water, circling the first rice paper wrap into the water. Once the rice paper is wet and pliable, lay it flat on a cutting board or work surface. Begin stacking the filling ingredients on top of the rice paper, play around with it – depending on the size of your rice paper you might find it easiest to fill right in the middle – I personally find it easiest to fill the bottom third, leaving about two a finger width space at the bottom.  Fold the bottom up, over top of the fillings, then the two sides before turning the roll onto itself and sealing up the top… and repeat!  Don’t be discouraged, it can take a couple tries!

Spicy & Creamy Sunflower Seed Dipping Sauce

2-3 Tbsp Sunflower Seed Butter
1/4 Cup Warm Water
Sambal or Sriracha*
Green Pepper Berries*

Combine the sunflower seed butter with the warm water, stirring until it is your desired consistency. Whirl in some hot sauce of your choice, giving it a good kick of heat and finish it off with some hand crushed green pepper berries for a nice pungent finish.

*Optional, add in as much or as little as you’d like!

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.

Makin’ Muhammara!

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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being taken to a Middle Eastern restaurant down the street from my house.  After a bit of a back and forth between whether or not to go with a “red pepper, pomegranate juice & walnut dip”.. .  I convinced my darling date we should try it out.  I tell you, it was lovely. Eating with him is always a wonderful experience, it’s so obvious when he is truly enjoying something.  He is expressive with pointing, mumbling, and a whole lot of “Oh my.. this is so good! (enter pointing).. so good.. (add in a head shake).. Man!”.  After his first few finger-points at the plate, I knew it was a good choice!

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Not only is it super simple to make, it tastes amazing right away, or the allowance of melding flavors provides an amazing taste experience if you leave it over night..  similarly in most ways to hummus.  The star of the show however, is not a garbanzo bean – it’s a walnut!   I have a very healthy relationship with hummus… that relationship will be changing drastically with the introduction of Muhammara.

Whether you want to roast the peppers on a flame or grill, or buy them roasted in a jar – it doesn’t matter.  As long as the charred skin has been removed, they work beautifully either way!  Pomegranate molasses is commonly sold in Middle Eastern supermarkets and specialty shops, if you can’t find it regular pomegranate juice is fine.. just add a touch more lemon juice.

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Muhammara

1.5-2 Cups of Raw Walnuts
5-6 Roasted Red Peppers (skin removed)
Juice of half a Lemon
1/4 Cup Water
4 Cloves of Garlic
3-4 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses
Marash Chili or Dried Spicy Chili Flakes

Make sure the red peppers are at room temperature if you’ve roasted them yourself, then in a high powered blender or food processor combine all ingredients except the marash and/or chili flakes.  Taste the muhammara, if it is a bit sweet add some more lemon or pomegranate molasses.  Either scoop it out and eat it right away, or pop it in the fridge and it’ll keep for a few days. Sprinkle with marash or chili flakes before serving.   This beautiful dip goes very well with flat breads, pitas and nigella naan!

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Nigella Naan

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Hoping some day to master the art of making naan….  with the handicap of not owning a tandoor oven.  My cast iron will have to do!  Feeling particularly creative yesterday after waking up from a long migraine induced nap, I gave it a go.  Cast iron style.. naan, specked with nigella.

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I heard once that the prophet Muhammad thought nigella seeds could cure everything but death..  so obviously when I saw a box the other day, I bought them.  I remember distinctively the first time I ever came across nigella seeds, I popped a few in my mouth and was tasting something similar to onion for hours. These little babies can pack a serious punch! Being pungent, nigella helps aid in digestion and reduces inflammation; it is very common in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking and can spice up basically anything.  Vegetables, meats, breads, you name it! These small mat black seeds could be easily mistaken for black sesame, but are most frequently misnamed as black onion seed.  I love them, I thoroughly enjoy any spice that can be mixed well with a multitude of dishes. Dry frying (like with any spice) brings out the delicious aroma and strengthens the flavor, but that is an optional step.

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Baking bread is not exactly my forte, but these little naans are quite easy.  With general knowledge of how to make dough, the addition of some Indian flavor and some non dairy yogurt..  they worked out very well!

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Nigella Naan

1 1/2 Tsp Active Dry Yeast
3/4 Cup Warm Water
1 Tsp Honey
2 Cups Gluten Free Flour Blend
1 Tsp Baking Powder
4 Tbsp Coconut Yogurt
4Tbsp Melted Coconut Oil
3 Tsp Nigella Seeds
Pinch of Himalayan Salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl, leave to stand for about 5-7 minutes. Whisk in half of the flour and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes.  Add in the remaining flour, baking powder, yogurt, nigella, and salt, bringing it all together into a soft dough. Add in the melted coconut oil, kneading for about 5 minutes. The dough should be nice and soft. Leave it in the oil bowl, covered in a warm place for about an hour to an hour and a half.  It should rise, but it won’t be huge. Once the dough has risen, knock it out on a lightly floured surface, being sure to expel the air pockets. Form 6-8 equal sized balls and roll out into the shape of your choice. Typically they are long oval, or nice and round.  Cook in a hot cast iron pan for about a minute on each size, letting the first flip happen once the uncooked side has puffed up a bit.

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