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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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!

Left Overs… I Love Left Overs!

My dad makes the best mashed potatoes in the whole world.

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Well, actually he makes an amazing Christmas dinner in total – but ever since I was young, the mashed potatoes and dressing have been my favorite.  I can’t for the life of me make mashed potatoes like my dad does, not even a chance.  This is a pretty sad thing for me, as I have a serious love for potatoes.

On the other hand…. very lucky for me, that I got to take all of the left overs!

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While cleaning up the kitchen after our holiday dinner, it came out that I don’t have a microwave in my tiny apartment.  I used to, but when I last moved – I left it. Actually, my old landlord called me to thank me for leaving it, as I hadn’t used it for the year I spent in his building and it had been essentially brand new when I moved in.. He took it. I had intended to leave it for the new tenant, but anyway, besides the point.  I don’t have a microwave. I love left overs.  I choose not to have a microwave for a number of reasons, and find that often when one would sure be handy – creative juices begin to flow.

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Holidays… heck, just plain old days off – call for brunch. Brunch to me just isn’t brunch, without eggs. Now I had been doing the fully vegan thing for a while, with some recent reintroductions – eggs and goat cheese. I feel very strongly in listening to my body, I believe food is medicine… and if my body needs vitamins it can get from eggs – well I would much rather have an egg than pop back a couple of pills. As long as it’s organic, properly treated, and farm fresh.   Omit the egg to keep it vegan, instead topping with fresh greens.

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Potato Latkes & Crisped Sage
makes about five palm sized latkes

2 Cups Cold Mashed Potatoes
1/2 Cup Quinoa Flakes
1 Shallot
2 Cloves of Garlic
Pinch of Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
5 Tbsp Coconut Oil (separated)
10 Fresh Sage Leaves

Preheat the oven to 350. In a fairly large bowl, hand mix all ingredients except the coconut oil (make sure to use cold potatoes!).  The mixture should be thick and stick mostly to itself, not your hands. Roll the mixture into five separate balls, flattening each into a patty. Heat up a pan (ideally cast iron, but not necessary), melt 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and gently place the latkes in. Depending on the size of the pan, mine fit four at a time. Keep in mind, the latkes will need to be flipped, so over crowding is not a good idea. Allow the latkes to develop a crust, then flip. Once both sides have a seared crust put the pan in the oven (if not using a cast iron, transfer gently to an oven safe dish or cookie sheet) and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.  When the latkes come out of the oven, they will be very soft. Allow them to cool slightly, and firm up before plating. In another pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, to test that the oil is hot enough to crisp the sage – dip the tip of one leaf in. If it begins to bubble, it’s ready – add in all 10 leaves. It’s not to deep fry them, just to crisp them so they need only be cooking for about two minutes, maybe three. Remove them with a fork.

*If completing this brunch with an egg, use the same sage-y coconut oil to cook it *

(Medicinal Mushroom) Savoury Breakfast Bowl

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My dad sent me a text this morning to inform me of the snowfall warning scheduled for Calgary tonight, this immediately put me into need-comfort mode. It’s not that I don’t like snow…. I think it’s beautiful! It does however instill the serious need for hibernation.  I tend to run a bit on the cool side, so winter really bites me in the butt sometimes.

Comfort food is something that has dramatically changed for me in the last 10 months or so. Since going primarily vegan the typical oozy, gooey, piping hot cheesy pasta bowls, quiche, and ultra creamy brie pizzas have sorta flown out the window. I have a much stronger grasp on what works for me and my body, and am so happy to say that I am still learning! Every day!
Each day in yoga I am reminded that today is different from yesterday, that tomorrow will be different from… next Tuesday. We are in a constant state of revolution, the beauty of becoming more in tune with our own body is that come tomorrow (shoot, even come three hours from now!) we will require something that is just a bit different from the current moment.  Being your own intuitive chef is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

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Comfort food for me, now looks something like this! Quinoa, avocado, shiitakes, and kimchi.  Deeply nourishing, flavorful, and packed with both prebiotics as well as probiotics. Most everyone has heard about probiotics and how important they are (think yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut) but not as many people now how vital it is to also have the prebiotics! Prebiotics are essentially food for the probiotics, they provide sugars for the happy bacteria to eat and grow thus helping us to be happy and to grow!  Enjoying a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) like this fabulously comforting bowl is only one way to get a good dose of bioavailable nutrition; for those of us who enjoy a sweeter breakfast, or perhaps to be used as a dessert option it’s simple to convert from savoury. Bananas are a great source of prebiotics, oats and other porridge grains work as well. Scooping some cultured yogurt and raw honey on top of a blended banana oat pudding/porridge and topped with some extra beneficial bee pollen is sweet perfection in a bowl. Wholesome, real food.

I cooked the quinoa in a decoction of chaga tea, chaga is a tonic medicinal mushroom that is a-maaaaa-zing! Chaga is a rough and tough mushroom growth that essentially scabs over the broken portion of a piece of living wood. Key words there – living wood. It grows to protect the tree, not to help it decompose. Chaga is an immuno-modulating herb that has been used in Canada and Russia for years and years. In fact, I recently heard about a Siberian shaman who was found in the ice from ages ago – who had chaga in his herb belt. Ancestral people knew that it was anti viral, antiseptic, and very tonic; a herb that could be used on a very regular basis and to treat a number of different conditions. Now we also know that chaga has the most amount of antioxidants of anything known! Awesome! Tonic herbs, immno-modulating herbs, this means that instead of boosting the immune system (like echinacea) they balance the body so that it can zen out. They help to put the pieces together, so the body itself can be the boost it needs. Chaga is not an aromatic, so it can be concentrated and decocted multiple times – and by multiple, I basically mean you can brew chaga on the stove sort of witches cauldron style for hours and hours and it will just be more bioavailable and amazing. Unlike something like a peppermint tea, you cook that baby down and eventually you’re just drinking leaves. The minty aromatics fly away. Once you bottle the chaga you’ve made, keep the mushroom, keep on refilling that pot until the brew deposits no more color into the water. I usually get four or five brews out of the same batch, fill mason jars with the beautiful black tea and refrigerate it to be used as a base in soups, smoothies, or to cook grains in.  Cooking grains with chaga tea provides an even more powerful prebiotic base! Perfection!

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Savoury Breakfast Bowl

1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 Cup Chaga Tea
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 Cup Whole (fresh) Shiitake Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Water
Himalayan Salt & Fresh Pepper
Kimchi
Avocado – sliced

Add the quinoa, chaga and coconut oil to a small pot, allow it to boil then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for ten minutes or so before removing from the heat. Get a frying pan out and onto the hot element, adding in the shiitakes, salt and pepper, and then the water. No oil necessary. Pan-steam (I may have made that term up…) the mushrooms, until they are ultra soft and have soaked up most of the water. Assemble in a bowl, starting with the quinoa, the mushrooms, sliced avocado and kimchi last. We want those probiotics to live, covering them in hot quinoa isn’t ideal!

Optional Toppings

Hemp Hearts
Sesame Seeds
Dried Dulse, Wakame, and Sea Lettuce

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Autumn… In Pudding Form

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While looking for the perfect, single sized pumpkin…..  I came across a beautiful, single sized Hubbard squash.  The only thing I knew about Hubbard squash, was that they are starchy something like a potato and require a majorly sharp knife.  Typically the Hubbard squash I have seen are massive, seriously huge – when you see them at the farmers market, sometimes they can be 20lbs.  This little gem was the perfect size, it supplied me with enough of it’s starchy meat for three palm sized tarts and about a cup and a half of extra puree.

I am all for pumpkin pie, all for it.  I love the warm spices, the creamy filling, the whipped (vegan) cream on top – give me the works and I will be a happy girl. I had the privilege of eating a freshly baked sugar-pumpkin pie earlier in October, there was, I think six of us…  sitting on the couch waiting for it to cook.  We couldn’t even wait for it to cool down enough to slice, all six pieces were inhaled.   Essentially ever since, I have been dreaming of it – hence my search for the perfect single sized pumpkin.

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I’m not ashamed to say, the Hubbard did not do it for me in tart form. It was good – but it wasn’t pumpkin. It wasn’t creamy and smooth, the starchiness of the Hubbard flesh was just that. Starchy. The left over puree, however, became the perfect autumn topping to the chia pudding I made for breakfast! Mmmm-mm.  Warm spices, creamy chia, let me tell you – the squash was an excellent addition. It cut the creaminess of the pudding, added some sweetness (I never sweeten my chia pudding, I rely on fruit to do that for me!).   Rich in vitamins A & C, beta-carotene and fiber, adding a gorgeous winter squash to the diet is a great way to eat seasonally, locally, and if it’s something unusual – why not? I didn’t know much about this gem of a squash but am so happy that I took the opportunity to buy one.

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I ate the first one out of a martini glass, tricking myself into thinking I was sneakily eating a rich and indulgent dessert parfait. The second one (yes, I had two) was layered into a hand-sized mason jar and taken on the road!  It could certainly be enjoyed as a dessert parfait, or a breakfast to-go.  I love whole, real foods for their versatility; eating things that are pure any time of day. Chocolate avocado mousse, banana ice cream, or a seriously amazing parfait – these are not limited to special occasions or after dinner treats anymore!

Spiced Maple Hubbard & Chia Parfait
Serves Two

1 Cup Rice Milk (or other non dairy milk)
1/3 Cup Chia Seeds
1-1.5 Cups of Cooked Hubbard Squash
Juice From One Orange
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
Fresh Ground Nutmeg, Ginger, Clove, Allspice – to taste
1/3 Cup Coconut Cream
3-4 Tbsp Dark Maple Syrup

Optional Toppings

Bee Pollen
Nuts
Seeds
More Spices
Drizzled Maple Syrup

One night ahead, preheat the oven to 350. Add about one inch of water to an oven proof dish, slice the Hubbard squash in half and roast cut down for about thirty minutes (or until the skin is easily pierced with a fork). Once the squash is soft, allow it to cool, then chop and skin it. In a food processor or blender, add the squash, orange juice, spices, coconut cream and maple syrup. Blitz until it is smooth. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate. Next, in a jar or some container with a lid mix the rice milk and chia seeds. Give it either a shake or a stir, then let it form in the fridge for an hour or so. Just before bed, give it another shake/stir, and let it set in the fridge over night.
Scoop out half of the chia pudding into a bowl/jar/martini glass. Spoon the prepared squash puree, and top with slivered almonds, bee pollen & a quick swirl of maple syrup!

Birthday Cake Adventures

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The cake pictured above is something I am pretty proud of.

I knew that I wanted to make a birthday cake for myself this year, and I knew that I wanted it to involve beets.  That was it, really. I had been flip flopping back and forth about when I wanted to make it, how I wanted to make it, essentially every variable was considered.  I had pegged from the beginning that it likely wouldn’t work. Baking is just not my thing.  I arranged all ingredients, everything was prepared – and then I gave up, left my house even.  Fearing that it would be a failure, I decided to save it for the next day. Determined to make it work I brushed up on baking 101, refreshing myself on essentials like when to use baking soda versus when to use baking powder. Compared dense flours, grain flours, coconut flour, nut flour, you name it. To sum it up – it took me a grand total of two tries, four days, and two very pink stained hands before I could finally say I had done it. Happy birthday, to me!

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With all the rave about pumpkin cakes, and carrot cakes – I wanted one of my favorite root vegetables to take the spotlight. Beets.  I love them. Must be the Ukrainian in me!  They are so vibrant and beautiful, for myself – a huge fan of eating a range of natural colors – it was a no brainer.  Beets, it had to be beets. I considered blending them, allowing them to lend a bit more color to my cake batter; in the end however, I simply grated them.

Another ingredient I used for this cake has had a bit of buzz around it in the last while, Irish moss. Irish moss is a sea vegetable that has been used in a number of different cultures for many many years. I myself have been looking for it in Calgary for quite some time, stumbling across it accidentally after taking part in a honey lecture. I took the time to speak to some people in the holistic community here in the city – it seems that Irish moss is getting a bad name in the same way that other foods in our world are, it’s all about refining and processing. Carrageenan is a refined and broken down part of Irish moss which can be used as a thickener or stabilizer. Most people who are familiar with this refined additive have opted to omit it from their diets as it is known to cause inflammation. That is why I wanted to get some face to face information about it, from people who were familiar with the actual plant. It was broken down for me like this:  Irish moss in it’s natural form is incredibly good for the skin, it contains trace minerals and since it is mucilaginous it is very soothing for the digestive system as well as grabbing onto toxins and heavy metals as it passes through our system (think chia). Carrageenan is a highly processed version of Irish moss, heated to extreme temperatures and essentially void of anything earth related, being more comparable to a chemical byproduct. So to compare it something more widely understood, sucking on raw sugar cane versus gulping back half a cup of white sugar …  well really there is no comparison, and I suppose that’s my point.  From the information I have gathered, in moderation using something natural like whole Irish moss is not going to have a negative impact on our health. If the use of Irish moss is still something that is unappealing, something like arrowroot powder or agar agar could be substituted.

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Chocolate Beet Birthday Cake

2 Cups of Fine Milled Flour (Spelt is my choice here)
1 Cup Oat Flour
1 Cup Cacao Powder
2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Black Lava Salt
1.5 Cups Hemp Milk (or other non dairy milk)
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
1 Cup of Honey
1 Tsp Chocolate Extract
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
2.5 Cups Shredded Beet
1/3 Cup Cacao Butter – Melted & cooled
1.5 Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Filling

1 Cup Macadamia Nuts – Soaked for 2 hours
2 Tbsp Lucuma Powder
1/2 Cup Water
Pinch of True Cinnamon
Vanilla Bean – Scraped
2 Tbsp Honey
1/3 Cup Irish Moss Gel

Frosting

2 Cans of Coconut Cream – Chilled
Powdered Sugar (organic cane or coconut)

Two days ahead, soak the Irish moss in water, it can be left out over night on the counter. One day ahead prepare the coconut frosting, this will give it a chance to firm up. In a medium sized bowl or using a stand mixer, empty the coconut cream (note – coconut cream. Not coconut milk. If using coconut milk, only use the fat solids that are on the top – save the water for smoothies. You may need a few more cans) and the powdered sugar together, whip until it’s fluffy and sweetened to your liking, store in the fridge.
To make the Irish moss into a gel, rinse it once it has soaked, make sure there are no loose fibers or sands remaining in it. Mix it with some fresh water in a blender, and whirl away until it heats up with the motor and turns into a thick gel.
To make the filling, blend the soaked macadamia nuts, lucluma, water, cinnamon, vanilla and honey in a high powered blender. Once it is creamy, add the Irish moss and pop it in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350, prepare two same sized cake pans by lining the bottom with wax paper and rubbing coconut oil up the sides. Mix the flours, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl – set aside.  Melt the cacao butter over low heat, keep it in the pot but away from heat once it has fully melted. In another good sized bowl, add hemp milk, apple sauce, honey, vanilla and chocolate extracts, beets, and apple cider vinegar. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, begin mixing the two together right away as the baking soda will start to work quickly. Add the cacao butter in right before the mixture is fully blended. Pour evenly into the prepared cake pans, turning the oven down to 300 and putting those babies in! Bake them for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool completely.  Once they have cooled, place one cake on a cake stand and slather the top with the macadamia filling. It should have firmed enough over night that you can place the second cake on top without it oozing out. Once the second cake is in place, remove the coconut whip from the fridge and frost starting with the top, working down the base.  Keep in the fridge, taking it out one hour before serving.  *I garnished mine with raw, dried coconut strips and fresh flowers, but that’s optional!*

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Gratitude With a Side of Apple Pie

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This weekend was filled with food, family, and thoughts of gratitude. This weekend, was Canadian Thanksgiving. A celebration of harvest, of foods, and of the fall. Joining and breaking bread with family members, neighbors, and the like; truly appreciating the bounty of the summer.

Stopping to think about what Thanksgiving is, about what the day means now as opposed to what it meant traditionally is a thought I find very interesting.  I can appreciate that we still gather with loved ones, but I wonder if people really stop to give thanks. I wonder if half of the population even knows exactly what they would give thanks for, if asked to name a few.  I have a white board beside my bathroom mirror that reads “Today I am grateful for…”, I try to use my time in the shower to list all of the things I can think of. The typical things come to mind, my family and friends – all of those I love and hold dear. The opportunities that I have, for a great job and workplace, for a home.   One thing that I tend to forget, funnily enough, is food. I can’t say I remember lending thought into being thankful for having a fridge full of food. High quality, organic, healthy food at that.  I’m ashamed to say that it has not been something I think about. Isn’t that ironic? I regularly honor the planet, Mother Earth, thanking her for the gifts that she bestows upon me and my loved ones – however once those treasures have been plucked from her, my thoughts are focused primarily on what to do with them.  I think that that is the most important thing for us to do, to find where the disconnect is. Figuring out where I/we have lost sight of food as a life-sustaining gift, not just viewing it as a creative one. Reconnecting with local growers and producers, shortening the distance therefore nipping that disconnect.  I am so grateful to have the creative ability to use food as an art, as a medicine, but on a more primal level – I am so grateful to simply have enough. To be able to feed myself, and my visitors.  I will certainly remember to recite this gratitude more often. I don’t want to let these things depart from my mind, I am fortunate to have a table full of food when people all over the planet do not.  I don’t mean to be offensive to anyone, I just want it to be known that I am thankful.  Known to myself, and to those who care to listen. Maybe if all of those who are fortunate enough to have a table full of food tonight stop and think about that meal – about where it came from, what went into it.. both effort and ingredients….   I always loop myself back to mindfulness.  It’s all just so important.

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My dad enjoys spending time outside, he takes very good care of his green space and has a great assortment of trees and plants. One of his trees, an apple tree, produced a whole shwack-load of very handsome looking apples. A variety of green and red, tart and delicious. Given a good sized bag of them a few weeks ago, I have been eating them in the form of spicy apple jam.  Today however, after spending so much time thinking about being thankful, about closing the disconnect between plant and plate, and after hearing about a pie craving from my darling boyfriend – I really had no other choice but to put the remainder of my dad’s apples to good use. Unfortunately for le boyfriend, he is away in another city for work.. and a hardy, healthy apple pie makes a wonderful breakfast pour moi =)

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Rustic Chai Spiced Apple Pie

Crust

2 Cups Gluten Free Flour (spelt or whole wheat would work as well)
2 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil – room temperature
5-7 Tbsp Ice Cold Water

Heat oven to 325. In medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon and coconut oil with a pastry blender. Add one tablespoon of water at a time while cutting the mixture, until the dough is crumbly. Empty the bowl into a glass pie plate, pressing the crust along the edges and evenly spreading it over the base. No rolling necessary. Prick with a fork across the base, bake for 15 minutes then set aside.

Filling

3 Tart Apples
3 Whole Cloves
2 Allspice Berries
5-6 Green Cardamom Pods
1 Tsp Grains of Paradise
1 Vanilla Bean
2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Tsp Orange Blossom Water
2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp of Water
1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar

Topping

2 Cups Slivered Almonds
3 Tbsp Honey

Peel, core and slice the apples, popping them in a medium sized bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the clove, allspice, cardamom seeds, and grains of paradise. Scrape out the vanilla bean, and add it with the freshly ground spices to the apples. Stir to coat. Next add in the cinnamon and ginger, followed by the orange blossom water. Once again, stir to coat. Add in the lemon juice, water and coconut sugar, lifting with a spatula the spiced liquid in the bottom of the bowl over top of each apple slice.
Arrange spiced apple slices in prepared pie crust, overlapping as necessary. Spoon the liquid from the bottom of the apple bowl over apples, giving a final coat to the top layer. Bake, still at 325, for about 25-30 minutes. While the pie is cooking, in a small bowl combine the slivered almonds with the honey, ensure each almond is covered. Once the apples are soft, sprinkle the top evenly with almond mixture and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.  Allow to cool before slicing – and enjoy!

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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!

I like it… Hot! Hot! Hot!

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Needing a spicy butt kicking?  This is your condiment. Right here.

I may have been experiencing some mild congestion as I washed and stemmed these steaming hot little loves.  Let me tell you…  it didn’t last long. Moments, maybe.  The second that those precious, spicy, tear inducing oils burst out of their shell – holy smokes!

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I remember as a kid, one of the scariest condiments that lived in the fridge was sambal oelek.  Fiery and hot, not exactly my favorite. As I got older, I began to love spice, even extreme spice.  You know, the kind that sears your mouth and makes every cell in your body awake, attentive, and uncomfortable. My first real experience with that kind of heat was in Thailand; a glass noodle salad that became my staple lunch was so incredibly hot that I would literally need to get up and walk around in between bites.  I loved it!  I can’t say I go out of my way to experience that kind of tongue sizzle on a regular basis here at home, but boy did I enjoy it at the time.

A typical sambal is made of chilies, garlic, ginger, fish sauce or shrimp paste, and some type of vinegar.  Generally all warming herbs.  Ginger to make you sweat and get your fires burning inside, chilies to ignite your mouth, vinegar to light up all the flavors and spike your taste buds. A sauce to truly warm you on all levels.  I had an abundance of Birds Eye chilies, along with some of this years fresh garlic – seeing as my spice cupboard is already essentially overflowing, and I have a jar full of dried Birds Eye’s already… a sambal was the next logical use.

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My version….  A spicy, pungent, multi-use condiment free of fish sauce or shrimp paste, made by hand using a pestle and mortar. Five simple ingredients, ultra warming, naturally preserving, and seriously butt kicking.  Versatility wise, you can pretty much use whatever type of chilies you have access to, even use a couple of different types!  Sauces, especially simple ones like this are so easy to switch up depending on what you have on hand.

 

Super Spicy Sambal

1 Cup Whole Birds Eye Chilies
1 Head of Garlic
1 Stalk of Lemongrass
3 Tbsp Quality Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Raw Ume Plum Vinegar (Rice vinegar works super well too!)

Peel the garlic, keeping the cloves whole. Bruise and coarsely chop the lemongrass. Using a pestle and mortar to pulverize, begin with the chilies, about half a cup. Twist, mash, and crush the chilies; burst them open. Once they begin to develop a pulp, add in the other half cup, continuing to grind. Once all chilies have been pressed open, add in the garlic and lemongrass, pressing and popping open each clove. Sprinkle with salt, and allow the mixture to sit for about 15-20 minutes. The salt will help release the juices from the herbs.  Begin once again twisting and mashing the mixture, squeezing out more and more liquid. Once the sauce is as uniform, or as chunky as you wish it to be – I wanted mine to be a bit chunky because I love biting into spicy, vinegary garlic – pour the vinegar in and give it a couple more good squeezes. Transfer to a sterilized glass jar, leaving room at the top. Refrigerate, and enjoy on basically anything!

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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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