Colour & Balance

October 2, 2011

Morning Greens

My little blog has gathered dust. Time to blow it off, give it a light polish and add something fresh. So here it is then, fresh, though a dubious green. This kale shake arrives every morning in varying grades of greens, from the olive-hued one pictured to prettier spring green. Michael blends one together for us each weekday, and everyday he has a different balance of ingredients. What is balanced, I think, is the nutritional value. At the very least, we begin our day properly. And, for the most part, this shake is surprisingly yummy. Everyone that tries it is pleasantly wowed. Maybe their expectations are really low? Sometimes, not often, ingredients are imbalanced and breakfast can taste somewhat grim green. Stick more not less to the recipe below and you, too, will be pleasantly wowed.

Makes 1 tall shake

1 handful of fresh kale leaves

1 handful fresh spinach leaves

1/2 a ripe pear, cored

1/2 a ripe and frozen banana

a scoop of frozen berries

1 scoop of hemp protein powder

about half a cup of water or almond milk

Pack kale and spinach leaves into the bottom of your blender. Add all other ingredients and blend on the fast, faster, fastest setting until smooth and evenly green.

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Hello, Pumpkin

October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Bar

Don’t you just love pumpkin? I think pumpkin pie is my favourite pie. And don’t you find at this time of year, if you’ve made Thanksgiving pie or cheesecake (I noticed pumpkin cheesecake was particularly popular this year) that you have a small quantity of leftover pumpkin puree? I bet a lot of you have some pumpkin puree kicking around in a frozen state. I did, and that’s what inspired me to make these bars.

Makes about 12 – 4″ x 1″ bars

36 dried dates

1/2 cup whole almonds

1/4 cup pecans

1/2 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped

Soak the dates in enough boiling water to cover, set aside. In the bowl of a food processor measure in almonds and pecans and pulse briefly a few times to crunch them up. Drain dates, discard water, and add to the nuts along with pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and sea salt. Run processor off and on until mixture begins to clump. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse once or twice to combine, they add nice texture if you don’t obliterate them into the mixture. Turn into a plastic-lined rectangular tart pan or container and pat neatly down. Sprinkle the chopped pumpkins seeds evenly on top, over wrap with plastic wrap and press seeds gently into the bar. Place in fridge for a few hours to firm up and then portion into bars, wrap individually and store in fridge. They make a fine fall four o’ clock.

Have you ever?

October 25, 2010

Watermelon Red

Have you ever seen an apple this beautiful? It’s kind of like the blood orange of apples. The outside of the apple is nondescript, it’s no crapple, but there’s nothing alluring about it. I would have passed right by it except for the sign on the apple bin declared it a Red Fleshed Apple. Huh? I asked “Is the flesh of this apple red?” I know, right? Sometimes my mouth speaks before consulting my brain, it’s not a good short cut. A quick google shows that there are many types of red fleshed apples, with fitting names such as Hidden Rose and Grenadine. Just lovely, a little shock of colour on a grey and rainy morning.

Smart and Pretty

Mushroom Soup

October 18, 2010

Chunky Soup

‘Tis the season, my friend Holly said, for mushroom soup. She emailed me last week to request a mushroom soup recipe. I am happy to oblige, especially as her request was accompanied by loads of compliments. In case you didn’t know, flattery gets you everywhere with me. I made a mushroom soup last year that I didn’t bother posting because it was merely edible. It was a puréed version without cream and the texture was blah. This year’s is chunky, and some things are better chunky, such as soups and sweaters.

Makes about 3 litres

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium sized onions, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1/3 cup pearl barley

6 cloves of garlic, minced

250 g cremini mushrooms, aka brown mushrooms, chopped

250 g shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped

250 g chanterelle mushrooms, chopped

1 small stem rosemary, or 1 teaspoons dried

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried

1 litre of stock – beef, chicken, vegetable or, in my case, turkey

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and let them sweat it out for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pearl barley, mix it in, and then add the garlic. Stir and allow to cook for a few more minutes and then add the mushrooms, it’s an awful lot of mushrooms, probably as much as 16 cups, but they will cook down. Stir them occasionally and when they have reduced in volume add the rosemary and thyme. Isn’t it lovely how earthy this pot of soup to-be smells? Forest damp and woodsy. Now pour in the stock, obviously the different stocks will give different depths of flavour. If I had had some beef stock on hand, that would have been my first choice. However, given the season, I happened to have turkey stock in my freezer. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender with a slight chew. Stir in the parsley and season with sea salt and pepper. Mushrooms are one of those things that take kindly to salt and pepper, so add, taste, add again. That said, you can always add more salt, or pepper, but you can’t take it out. And there you have it – chunky mushroom soup for dinner and a week of autumn lunches.

Wooden Mushroom

Seeds

September 23, 2010

Sunflower & Seeds

Lately I’ve been thinking more about nutrition. Seeds, in particular. They’re so good for you! There is no excuse for not incorporating seeds into your diet. You can easily add a scoop of ground flax seed into a smoothie. Hemp, as you may have read, is one of the most superior proteins – it’s high quality.  Pumpkin seeds are a favourite of mine, I often have a small handful over my morning cereal as well as a container of them in my purse. Sesame seeds add crunch to almost any meal, including salads, same with sunflower seeds. Below I’ve summarized some of the benefits of each by plagiarizing/paraphrasing from the excellent Thrive Diet. Sometimes when I need to be inspired I will read from this book. My form of a not-so-daily affirmation.

Flaxseeds have the highest level of Omega-3 in the plant kingdom. We hear a lot about Omega-3’s, an essential fatty acid. Essential because the body cannot produce it. Omega-3 is important for metabolizing fat and ” … a daily dose of about 1 tablespoon of ground whole flaxseed will allow the body to more efficiently burn fat as fuel.”  That is appealing, no? Flaxseeds are high in potassium, have both soluble and insoluble fibre, contain anti-inflammatory properties, are a complete protein with all essential amino acids and is easily absorbed and utilized. Why is it spelled flaxseed and not flax seed?

Hemp Seeds are a complete protein and contain all 10 essential amino acids. Hemp is a high-quality protein and a good replacement for other proteins. It is instrumental in muscle and tissue regeneration and metabolizing fat. As a raw food, hemp has high levels of vitamins, minerals, fats, antioxidants, fibre and chlorophyll.

Pumpkin Seeds are particularly high in iron. If you don’t eat red meat, pumpkin seeds are ideal to incorporate into your diet. High impact activities such as running can dramatically reduce iron levels. I heart pumpkin seeds!

Sesame Seeds are an easily absorbed source of calcium. Who knew? Think of a meal, any meal, and you can probably add them. Seriously. Try it.

Sunflower Seeds are about 22% protein. Not half bad for a little seed. Sunflower seeds are rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. How can they not be an excellent seed when they come from such a sunshiny flower?

Avocado Green

June 17, 2010

Half a 'cado

Avocados smack of the 1970’s to me. It seems that in the 70’s there was a lot of avocado around. Avocado appliances. Avocado pits sprouting in glass jars with murky water. Avocado shag. I think we’ve all heard of how healthy avocados are, how they’re packed with healthy fat. Here’s a simple recipe for guacamole, multiply it as you see fit. You can never have too much guacamole, right Julie? The guacamole in the photo below was made by Julie. I think she used 16 avocados.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3 ripe avocados, halved and pitted – I find it best to buy avocados bullet hard and ripen them at home for a couple of days, it works beautifully

1 tablespoon of minced red onion

juice of 1 lime

small handful of chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons of salsa, optional

a pinch or three of sea salt

Mash all ingredients together with a fork or a potato masher. Taste. Adjust seasoning and taste again. Sometimes I add a pinch of cumin, sometimes I don’t.

Guac.

Salmon Salsa

June 14, 2010

Fish Dish

I think you might really like this dish of fish. Why wouldn’t you? You can scoop it up with those gluten-free crackers from the other day, wrap it in crisp leaves of iceberg or eat it straight out of the bowl. The cilantro and mango make it super fresh tasting and if you use wild pacific salmon, it’s a very good choice. It’s healthy. The method is four words long. This recipe is easy and flexible, feel free to up the heat by adding more jalepeno, or leave it out all together. Same with the fruit, you don’t have to use mango. Try pineapple or blueberries or strawberries. This is one of those recipes that’s more of an idea, you can take it and run with it. It’s not like a baking recipe where you should proceed with caution and knowledge, there is not much to muck up. But do keep the cilantro in it, don’t go swapping that out for something as pedestrian as parsley, flat leaf or other. Fresh cilantro has its own fragrant specialness. A particular green liveliness that makes me close my eyes and breathe in a little deeper. I’m serious when I tell you that cilantro is one of those things, a simple thing, that makes me feel content.

Makes about 4 cups

1 pound fresh salmon, seasoned and roasted to a medium rare to medium doneness, cooled and flaked

1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

3 green onions, minced

3 radishes, chopped (I put these in my first batch of salmon salsa)

1 jalepeno, seeded and minced

1 lime, zest and juice

2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon sesame oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients together. The end.

Salmonscape

Contentment is...

Unbran Muffin

June 7, 2010

Picture of Health

Do not be put off when I tell you that this might be the healthiest thing I’ve ever made, salad aside. It’s a powerhouse of a muffin and it even tastes good. I really like a good bran muffin, that was the inspiration. But, of course, they’re full of gluten and oil and sugar. This one is gluten-free and doesn’t contain much oil or sugar. And there’s no bran, because bran is from wheat. Obviously. It’s a no branner.

Makes 15 – I admit, it’s a bit inconvenient that it doesn’t make a tidy dozen

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup brown rice four

1/4 cup ground flax

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup large flake, old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup dried apricots, diced

12 dates

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup hot water

6 large eggs

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons agave

Preheat oven to 375° and line 15 muffin tins with paper cups. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together almond flour, brown rice flour, ground flax, baking soda and salt. Stir in coconut, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal and apricots and set aside. Place dates in the bowl of a food processor and process with the coconut oil and hot water. Mixture will emulsify and become smooth. With the motor running, add eggs one at a time, and then add molasses and agave. Pour this date and egg mixture over top of the dry and stir until well-combined. Drop the unbran batter into the lined muffin tin by heaping 1/4 cupfuls, fill them right up almost to the top, they should mound slightly. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, tops will spring lightly back when gently pressed.

A Week or Two

June 3, 2010

Strawberry Blossom

This rain seems endless, though it looks as though today might be beautiful. We are a week or two away from the blissful arrival of berry season. This rain is good, it’s drenching everything with droplets of emerald. I ran through Stanley Park – was it yesterday morning? – with the Parkside Runners. It was raining and misting and puddle-riddled. It was also lush and fresh and so, so green! And while we were running I thought of the pots of strawberry blossoms that I saw at the market last weekend. It won’t be long now, and that’s kind of thrilling.

Sunflower Sprouts

May 27, 2010

Super Sprouts

I often buy sunflower sprouts at the market, and I’m thinking about growing them myself in a jar or shallow tray of soil. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and pack a surprising dose of protein. In fact, 3 ounces of sunflower seeds contain about 20 grams of protein, almost the same as chicken. Isn’t that interesting? They taste rich, crisp and nutty. I’m going to pick up some raw sunflower seeds this weekend and sprout them. I’ll keep you posted.