- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- 3 tbsp coconut yogurt
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Place all ingredients into a blender and whirl away.
Believe it or not, the holidays are almost here! I had this transformation in attitude recently, like three years ago or so, going from being cynical about Christmas, and the such, to craving it. Now I listen to Christmas carols in July, but only for like a day, so that I get a taste of what’s coming without entirely spoiling the surprise factor. Though apparently I’m not the only one restlessly counting down the days until December: Selfridges, a London-based department store has this past year started selling Christmas paraphernalia in… August.
Assuming this overhasty trend will continue, you’re reading this post rather late, should’ve been all over it back in May!
(I’m having second thoughts about my whole metamorphosis toward Christmas, the coffee shop I’m at is playing “Feliz Navidad” for, I think, the third time since I’ve started writing this.)
Tardy or not, your intentions are pure: You are looking for healthy cookies you could guiltlessly stuff Santa with. Rejoice! These gluten-free coconut-flour chocolate chip cookies are they!
Seriously though, how can kids who are at times astonishingly ingenious be so unforgivably gullible, enough so that a whooping 80% of them unquestionably and unconditionally believe the rather patchy Santa myth. (It’s healthy apparently, their innocent belief.) Would it be as harsh as drinking absinthe for breakfast, straight, to ask a rugrat to reconsider their Santa stance in light of, for example, the following sobering calculation:
“There are just over 526,000,000 Christian kids under the age of 14 in the world who celebrate Christmas on December 25th. In other words, Santa has to deliver presents to almost 22 million kids an hour, every hour, on the night before Christmas. That’s about 365,000 kids a minute; about 6,100 a second. Totally doable.”
Don’t. I’m joking.
Irregardless, were Santa real and did factually deliver presents to half-a-billion or so dwellings, these cookies would give him the much-needed kick without raising his risk for diabetes.
Made primarily out of coconut butter — which is stupidly easy to make at home — these guys satisfy the most demanding of chocolate-chip-cookie cravings while curbing unwanted evils, like sugar highs and post-munchie stomach distresses.
Complimenting the coconut butter is coconut flour. Despite the coconut bias, the final treats taste balanced, the tropical nut subtle and not overpowering, letting the chocolate chips shine through. Sweet, but not overbearingly so, and velvety soft (wish they were crunchy!).
They also brown so picturesquely. And since they only need to bake for around 10 minutes, I sat through their entire development, in front of the radiating oven window, my forehead against the oven’s harmlessly cool to the touch door, seeing the tablespoon-size heaps balloon to double their size (wishing you could see such plants action in real time).
These cookies are so much the real deal that they’ll have you think of the original flour-based kinds as being ersatz. Experiment with sizing — and let me know if you come up with a way of making them crunchy!
Recipe has been adapted from Ambitious Kitchen, thank you Monique!
- ¾ cup (175 mL) coconut butter
- ¼ cup (60 mL) honey, organic
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup (60 mL) coconut flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup (75 mL) dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a food processor, or mixer, combine coconut butter, coconut oil, and honey.
- Add eggs, process again.
- Add coconut flour, baking soda, and salt, process again.
- Gently fold in chocolate chips.
- Spoon dough onto cookie sheet (use metal spoon, warm it under running hot water after each scoop).
- Bake for 10 min, or until cookies turn golden brown.
Coconut oil is one of those miraculous products which boycotts streamline-overdependent capitalistic logic. The reason is its astounding versatility, its application recommended for everything from frying your fries to lubricating your intercourse. Talk about an infiltrating product!
On the other hand, lube too has an extensive list of unconventional uses, the weirdest being using it for loosening your locks and doorknobs.
Coconut butter is different than coconut oil. For one, it’s chunkier (so I wouldn’t use or recommend using it as lube, though, then again, maybe the graininess wouldn’t be all that undesirable). In some ways it’s more akin to peanut butter, in consistency and its use, making it an exquisite bread spread.
Add it to smoothies, curries, spread it lusciously atop anything edible, use it as a butter substitute to make banana bread — and definitely to make these gluten-free coconut-flour chocolate chip cookies.
Coconut butter, and likewise coconut oil, is super high in saturated fats (as is breast milk!) — 87g per 100g, or 90%. So it should be used in moderation, for sure, but important to know is that the saturated fat present is not the type which raises cholesterol levels, specifically, of the bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL).
The saturated fat in coconut oil and coconut butter is called lauric acid (which, again, is abundantly prevalent in breast milk!), a medium-chain fatty acid which is easier to digest than long-chain fatty acid (the latter of the two is the type which takes center stage in, for instance, butter).
Lauric acid increases the good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol within your blood — of the two, this is the beneficial kind which helps balance cholesterol levels by removing excess LDL from your body, as well as speeds up metabolism (the basis for the coconuts-help-you-burn-fat-and-lose-weight argument) and positively affects your hormones and blood sugar levels.
One more interesting factoid about the lauric acid within coconut oils and butters, mainly, it has a high melting point (110.8°F / 43.8°C), the pure lauric acid itself does, but effectively, coconuts oil’s melting point is also rather high, around 75.2°F / 24°C — which explains why the oil and butter solidify in room temperature (right, they are ‘frozen’ at room temperature, since they ‘melt’ at 24°C), and super hard when store inside fridges, and, I suppose it follows, they’re indestructible when frozen (perhaps as strong as Thor’s ineradicable and unliftable hammer, hypothesized to be composed of “neutron star matter, the densest material in the universe outside of a black hole, [in which case the tool would] weigh as much as 300 billion elephants”).
Hefty stuff, coconut oils and butters.
Rich in antioxidants, will boost your body’s immunity, and, stupidly easy to make (so very much unlike these Millennium Math Problems, though solving one of these mind-benders will win you a million bucks, which this guy won and rejected, despite having no job, income, and subsisting on his elderly mother’s pension — that’s hard-boiled passion).
All it takes to make coconut butter is (organic) shredded coconut shreds, and a spoonful or so of oily coconut oil. Drop it all into a blender (or food processor — they are not, though this took me some time to admit to myself, the same thing, “they,” so reports Consumer Reports, “excel at different tasks”) and blend the #$&@! out of it. As easy as falling off a log. Don’t get frustrated when the coconut shreds collect around the bowl of the device — especially true when using the blender — and for dear life avoid the vortex of the blade, just pause, spoon the mass off the wall, and resume. And repeat. Eventually the dense paste will cave in on itself and be mutilated by the merciless whirlpool.
I buy my shredded coconuts from Karma Co-Op — but you can find Let’s Do Organic’s at Amazon, here, or, if you live in New York City, and are into co-ops, then consider getting your stuff at Park Slope Food.
What did you use your coconut butter for?
- 4 cups (1L) organic, unsweetened, coconut shreds — this will make around half the amount of coconut butter (2 cups, or 500 mL)
- 2 tbsp organic coconut oil, melted
- Place everything inside blender — or, better yet, food processor — and mix on low speed, or pulse. The mass will stick to the sides and avoid the blade (especially true if you’re using blender). Don’t get discouraged. Pause, scrape sludge off walls, and resume. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The paste will eventually give in to the whirlpool.
- Once the white viscous syrup is in motion, let it orbit around the blade for a few minutes, until it’s smoother — though its final consistency is ultimately your prerogative.
- Enjoy on anything, and store inside lidded jars.
It’s apparently a secret of sorts of experienced bakers, that ideal bananas for baking are extra ripe. Spotty is not enough. Like totally black is the real deal.
So, armed with this knowledge, I shrieked from joy coming across a banana sale at a local grocery store. They looked ugly, like defunct, but you know, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure (like this woman, Teri Horton, who picked up what is supposedly a Jackson Pollock original for $5 at a thrift store — watch the movie! — which would make the piece worth a hefty$50 million).
The decaying treasure I found was going for $1 for five pieces — so I picked up 10 packs, or, in other words, 50 bananas. I attracted some attention, so that this girl in the store, seeing the enthusiasm with which I was stocking up my piles (balancing case upon case — no time for a cart), so she, alarmed by my eagerness, started briskly walking up, but catching glimpse of the decomposing state of the fruits I was hoarding (like a mad squirrel stuffing its face with nuts) abruptly walked away in confusion…
(On a serious note — dreadfully serious actually, like I had trouble sleeping after learning this depressing fact — if you’ve ever wondered why bananas are so much cheaper compared to other fruits, see this amazing banana documentary, titled “Banana Land: Blood, Bullets and Poison.” Watch it for free here, and donate toward helping cover production costs here.)
Now, if your bananas are bright and yellow like the sun, don’t worry, there’s a way to quickly ripen them. Basically, bake them at 300°F for 40 minutes. Easy peasy.
Turns out I’m not the only one who fanatically love’s baking banana bread. Coincidentally this is what ESPN’s host Sage Steele has to say about banana bread’s magical bonding powers: “My kids have told me how much they love it when I make the banana bread for them, and that’s all I needed to hear — even if I’m not there to actually serve it to them. My banana bread is my way of being home in spirit. And I’m finding more and more that the little things I do for my kids end up making ME feel great, too.”
See? Banana bread will make you a more compassionate person. And the recipe here should have you feel even better, because it’s naturally sweetened, and made with whole-wheat flour and oatmeal!
Our sense of smell makes us fall in love, so be strategical with this knowledge! Seduce your crush with the intoxicating smell of baking banana bread. A powerful weapon in the hands of a skilled person.
Full of healthy ingredients, and, what follows, not overwhelmingly sweet. To make purely vegan, avoid the egg — the banana bread will still hold firmly. Alternatively, use a flax egg. For gluten-freeness, use gluten-free flour, geez.
Please note, the recipe has been adapted from Ambitious Kitchen — thank you for the wonderful inspiration!
Dear readers: Any banana documentaries you’d recommend? Though honestly, any darn good documentary is fair game!
- Coconut oil
- 1 cup (250 mL) mashed bananas
- ⅓ cup (70 mL) unsweetened apple butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (250 mL) almond milk, unsweetened
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1.5 cups (355 mL) whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup (250 mL) rolled oats
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (125 mL) raw almonds, chopped
- ½ cup (125 mL) golden-brown flax seeds
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease 9-inch loaf pan with coconut oil.
- In large bowl, combine mashed bananas, apple butter, maple syrup, egg, almond milk, and vanilla, until creamy. In separate medium bowl whisk whole-wheat flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Combine contents of both bowls, mix lightly. Fold in almonds and flax seeds.
- Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 min.
- Remove from oven, let cool, and indulge!
This Sunday I’m super excited to be photographing 2.0 Toronto 2015. In its third year, the event is a holistic fitness experience fusing various movement-related disciplines with nutrition education on health and fitness.
The founder, Julian Ho, is himself a multi-sport athlete, holistic trainer, and fitness coach. Julian graduated from the University of Western Ontario, where he attained a BA in kinesiology, and along the way to where he is today picked up several more certifications. Another of his notable accomplishments is his 1st place finish at the 2012 Sears Great Canadian Ultra Run for Kids Cancer, a 100-kilometer ultra marathon (yes! that’s 100 kilometers…) from Toronto to Collingwood, a superhuman feat which he completed in an impressive time of 10 hours and 45 minutes.
Evidently Julian’s quite a radical and inspirational guy; someone who is genuinely passionate about health and fitness, and, perhaps most importantly, wants to share his knowledge and experience with those who want to push and challenge themselves, both mentally and physically. In his own words: “In my ideal world, exercise would not be a chore. Body image would not be a leading stressor in our lives. Diet and healthy nutrition would not be a struggle.”
The 2.0 Toronto event will be taking place this coming Sunday, September 20, 2015, from 8 am – 12 pm, at 99 Sudbury Street, Toronto. In tune with the mandate of providing a holistic fitness experience, the entire schedule following the reception will be broken up into 15-minute-long segments. Each session will be lead by a Toronto-based fitness professional, starting with an opening keynote speech by Dr. Michelle Crispe (one of Toronto’s top fitness professionals of 14 years), after that, somewhere in the middle — that is 10:25 am sharp — you can take part in an exhilarating hybrid taekwondo session with Quentin Vitko (a certified fitness instructor and Lululemon ambassador who recently travelled to Tanzania, East Africa, where he had the privilege of instructing over 1,000 African children in the basics of taekwondo), and, at 11:25 am, right before the ending keynote speech, Chris Csak will be leading a pilates workout (Chris is a professional personal trainer of 15 years, having had done work for clients as original as The World luxury yacht residence, the only private residential community-at-sea whose inhabitants travel the globe without ever leaving home).
Interspersed with yoga, dance, athletic conditioning, and strength training… needless to say the itinerary is wildly diverse. Delivering a schedule whose variety is uniquely multi-disciplinary as well as practical — a sequence of classes together offering a holistic workout. All of the instructors are top-notch and highly sought after. Also, snacks and fresh juices will be provided by well-known, health-savvy Toronto food retailers: Pre-workout snacks will be supplied by Nomz, recovery fuel by Kupfert and Kim, juices by Village Juicery, and water by Flow Water.
Finally, ticket prices are $50 each, though proceeds will be donated to The Stop Community Food Centre, a non-profit organization providing access to healthy food by confronting the underlying issues leading to poverty and hunger.
2.0 Toronto 2015 is getting me feeling pumped! — I’ll be there, will you?
For more information about the event and to purchase your tickets click here.
Pekoe Kombucha Bar — Canada’s first draft organic kombucha tea bar — is doing an amazing job at delivering a very beneficial though relatively obscure product. Matter of fact, kombucha is so widely unknown that my text document is underlining the word as a spelling mistake…
Though rather new in North America, kombucha has been around for more than 2,000 years. Originating in the ancient Far East, this lightly effervescent drink is referred to by the Chinese as the ‘immortal health elixir’ — hint, hint for those who’ve been on the hunt for the philosopher’s stone.
In essence, kombucha is a fermented tea (in most cases black, though not necessarily) made by adding a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast — popularly known as SCOBY (also used to make water kefir) — to sugared tea, and allowing the mixture to ferment.
Despite his cute-sounding name, SCOBY is somewhat nightmarish-looking, resembling a caramelized blob of snot… — luckily, you’ll only encounter him if you’re going to be attempting making your own homemade kombucha, so kudos to Pekoe for doing the dirty work of harvesting this uncanny creature for us.
After fermenting, kombucha is naturally carbonated and imbued with B vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics. Loaded with these properties, kombucha is recognized for its numerous health- and energy-boosting benefits.
One study in particular, published in February 2014 within the Journal of Medicinal Food, notes: It is shown that KT [kombucha fermented tea] can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity. The recent experimental studies on the consumption of KT suggest that it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders.
Indeed, though North American studies on kombucha’s health benefits are quite sparse (no wonder, an inexpensive and essentially home-makable solution to many of the world maladies is very much not something in the pharmaceutical companies’ best interest), there are numerous Russian and German studies demonstrating that, beside cleansing and detoxifying, kombucha improves digestion, aids cardiovascular health, has anti-inflammatory properties, boosts the immune system, and is cancer preventative. Also super advantageous is kombucha’s antimicrobial activity, which has it effectively inhibit a range of pathogenic bacteria — that is harmful microorganisms that can cause infection.
Gut health is altogether an area which is very overlooked, though scientists are coming to realize its importance. It may sound surprising, but the stomach is arguably your second brain, meaning that what you eat determines such fundamental things as your personality. A mind-boggling study by McMaster University actually demonstrated that a disruption of your gut’s ecosystem may cause anxiety or depression. What the researchers did is swapped gut juices of passive mice with those of exploratory ones, and found that in effect the timid subjects became more active and daring, and vice versa.
So drink your probiotic-rich kombucha. And for Torontonians, Pekoe is offering a vast and exotic array of flavors to choose from, I mean, just check out this list of some of the awesome ingredients that they masterfully combine within their very original recipes: freshly squeezed lemons, pink grapefruit, apple, pear, pineapple, watermelon, beet, cucumber, parsley, turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon! — oh, and did I mention their brews are organic? Our favorite kombucha so far is ‘Lemon Ginger,’ which is very refreshing and spiced with a pinch of cayenne!
New Yorkers must try Beyond Brewing, an artisan kombucha beer joint — visited them, omg delicious, especially their ‘Love Potion,’ a 2.5% alcohol, honey-sweetened, Jun tea-style kombucha, a potion transpiring with (in their own words, though I concur) “floral and bitterwood notes.”
Back to Toronto, you can visit Pekoe’s kombucha tea bar at their home base, which is conveniently situated within Yoga Tree’s flagship locations (a superb yoga studio — with a very inspirational origin story of an entrepreneurial couple who quit their day jobs in pursuit of a vision to create a community embracing all the various yoga traditions — with five locations across the Toronto area). Meaning that you can drink your kombucha and chant your namastes at one place!
However, until the end of August, you can get you Pekoe kombucha fix at the Front Street Foods market, a summertime culinary event at Union Station. Pekoe is there, along with 27 other vendors, together showcasing some of the city’s finest in terms of edibles and drinkables.
Aside from visiting Front Street Foods market, be sure to follow Pekoe on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! And do the same Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram obsessiveness for Yoga Tree! Right, and then share some Facebook and Twitter love with Kombucha Beyond Brewing!
Till next time!
Turns out I’m not the only one who doesn’t feel like eating as much in the summer as I do during wintertime. Eating habits change, and much of the influence has to do with the weather. Those living in beautiful Montana, as I did for a short while, will surely attest this — summertime heat waves not only change eating patterns but induce you into this dreamy state of lethargy, wherein you feel completely unproductive and totally don’t care about it.
However pleasant the feeling, you probably wouldn’t want to spend your entire summer doing absolutely nothing. The pineapple raspberry banana smoothie is a remedy of sorts for exactly this heat-related dilemma.
Back to my idyllic Montana years, living in the southwestern city of Bozeman (on that note, if you’re thinking of moving there, on account of this funny though acerbic article, you should seriously reconsider it), my solution to the summertime lack of appetite was eating loads of fruit- and vegetable-infused smoothies and salads. Very hydrating, thirst-quenching, and — in contrast to a hot soup of chicken broth — appealing during summer’s merciless heat.
By the way, has anyone else noticed that summers have been becoming bewilderingly hotter?! I mean, on some days I bet some of us would consider wearing nothing — unless you’re Karl Lagerfeld…
Back to the life-saving smoothie, let’s break down what makes it so great and summer-suitable.
Its appropriateness is a no-brainer, summer is the season of fruit and vegetable abundance. So, for anybody attracted by the eat-what’s-in-season lifestyle, smoothies are a great and easy way of enjoying summer for what it has to offer. And I mean smoothies needn’t be exclusively consumed as desserts (quick spelling tip: “desserts” — unlike the single s-ed and sandy ‘deserts’ — have two s’s because you always want more of them), besides treats, they can be eaten as breakfasts, lunches, or even dinners. Admittedly, the dinner-kinds need be slightly more protein-loaded, and likely more vegetable-rich — but still, the point is that smoothies are very versatile and can even be made to serve as meals.
The first ingredient in our smoothie creation is pineapple. Though these tropical guys don’t grow all year round (at least not where I’m at these days, that is Toronto), they’re still readily available. March to July is their prime time. Being very vitamin C-rich, pineapples are vital for the proper functioning of your immune system. It’s “a pineapple a day keeps the doctor away,” right?
Next up, raspberries. In season in Ontario June through to August. These cuties are loaded with quercetin and kaempferol, effectively making these little berries anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardio-protective, as well as anti-cancerous and anti-allergic!
Bananas — whose fact of us eating them Ali G infamously used as proof of our evolution from monkeys — are rich in magnesium (making them an excellent period food – besides leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, dried fruit, and dark chocolate), which is a mineral that helps keep blood-pressure levels in check, and whose deficiency is linked to insulin resistance, heart diseases, and osteoporosis (bone fragility). And did you know bananas’ peels are not only edible, but actually contain even higher levels of magnesium than bananas themselves? The easiest way to consume peels is to cut them up, freeze ’em, and drop into you smoothies!
Adding hemp hearts — yes! marijuana’s (nonactive) relative — to your smoothie will protein-boost it, like complete-protein-boost it. As well as charge it with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, the latter of which helps reduce inflammation, making these seeds sought after by sports people (so, like, totally not me). Hemp hearts’ lavish fiber and omega-3 fatty acid composure also makes the seeds a very viable substitute for meat-abstainers. These little, yellowish, grain-like kernels can be bought at your local health store, or on Amazon here.
Now that you got your “thick, smooth drink of fresh fruit pureed with milk, yogurt, or ice cream” (that’s smoothies’ official New Oxford American Dictionary’s definition for you, very aptly said indeed), sweeten it with honey! Make it the dark, raw, organic kind, and get it at your local farmers’ market — in my case, that’ll be St. Lawrence Farmers’ Market —, or better yet, go hunt it down, shirtless, in the wild forests of Montana. (Alternatively use maple syrup, which’ll de facto make it vegan.)
From my experience, adding lemon to a water base will give the smoothie a natural tangy taste, allowing all of the flavors to come out — feel free to substitute with yogurt and let me know how delicious it turns out!
Stay cool, stay in school, and drink your smoothies (to keep the doctors away)!
- 1.5 cup (350 mL) cut pineapple
- 1 cup (250 mL) frozen rasperries
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup (250 mL) water
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tbsp hemp hearts
- 2 tsp honey
- Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Garnish with frozen raspberries. This recipe will yield two servings.
You most likely don’t immediately associate zucchinis with desserts. I sure didn’t. And even if, least likely with a chocolaty kind, like brownies. The idea almost sounds oxymoronic! Zucchini bread, sure, viable, but zucchini brownies, less so, I think, like watermelon soup — which funnily enough exists!
On the note of soups, the oddest one I’ve to date come across must be deer placenta soup… how do you come up with that?!
Thinking about it again, zucchini brownies sound very normal. And truth be told, they are extraordinarily delicious. Shredded zucchinis, when mixed with chocolate and baked in the oven, become just the perfect texture, making your brownie creations soft- and light-feeling. Notably, these edible chocolate cushions aren’t just soft to the touch (which wouldn’t be fun for long! — though, playing with our food is perhaps something we should be doing more of), these treats are equally gentle on your stomach. It’s like quinoa pasta (which I’ve only tried eating for the first time ever last week) — you’re eating real spaghetti, but walk away from your meal without feeling drained because you just consumed a kilo of white flour. Same with these innocent little brownies — you get your sweet-tooth kick without your sugar levels exploding!
So, bottom line, zucchini brownies feel and taste like real brownies, without anything ostensibly zucchini-like about them, save for the health benefits!
(To really beat the point home, I’d be willing to bet hard-earned money that a blindfold test, where someone eats both zucchini brownies and brownie brownies, would prove the zucchinis totally undetectable.)
Back to feeling good about binging on zucchini brownies, part of what makes them so non-taxing on your health and the way you feel is that this recipe — kudos to Ambitious Kitchen for coming up with it — is that these treats are made without flour or butter! Typical store-bought versions contain unapologetic amounts of bleached flour, refined sugar and salt, GMO dairy, soybeans, and cornstarch. The effect of avoiding all of these nocuous ingredients classifies these goodies as totally gluten-free — potentially vegan-free too if you take it up a notch and use vegan chocolate chips!
Although remaining stealthily undercover, flavor-wise, the zucchini’s many nutritional health benefits are definitely worth blowing the whistle about.
These green cucumber-looking, irregularly-shaped, smooth-skinned cylinders (they’re available in yellow too) are part of the summer squash family. They’re very low in calories, being high in water and fiber content, and are good sources of potassium (heart-friendly, blood-pressure reducing electrolyte), as well as are rich in carotenes (especially the golden-colored variety of these cucumber-looking, irregularly-shaped, smooth-skinned cylinders), an antioxidant helping fight free radicals that accelerate aging and related diseases. Add to the list their ability to control cholesterol levels, high content of vitamin C, and bone-strengthening minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, and it turns out that thanks to the virtues of this otherwise imperceptible green fellow (unless you prefer the blonde type) you’re about to treat yourself to the world’s healthiest brownies.
Leaving off, some food for thought, did you know that the British terms for zucchinis is ‘courgette’?
- ¾ cup (175 mL) oats
- ½ cup (125 mL) all-natural unsalted peanut butter
- ½ cup (125 mL) unsweetened natural apple sauce
- ¼ cup (60 mL) maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ cup (125 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1.5 cups (355 mL) shredded zucchini
- ½ cup (125 mL) dark chocolate chips, divided into two portions
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Spray 8’’ x 8’’ square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Pulverize oats in blender or food processor.
- In a large bowl, mix peanut butter, apple sauce, maple syrup, and vanilla, until smooth.
- Mix in zucchini, cocoa powder, ground oats, baking soda, and salt.
- Gently fold in half of your chocolate chips.
- Pour batter onto baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over top.
- Bake for 25-30 min.
- Cool brownies completely on wire rack, then cut into cute squares, and eat!
Summer is around the corner and so it’s high time we summerize our cuisine. Summer dishes tend to be lighter, juicier, and more vibrant-looking. Winters, on the other hand, have us crave hot and cozy comfort foods, which effectively has us eat more and unsurprisingly may not be the healthiest of trends!
Thereby, to help you with spring-cleaning your wintery diet, I’d love to share with you my tomato shallot basil salad recipe. As per my ongoing effort of offering recipes which are diehard easy to make, this one is truly foolproof.
Simple, though not simple-minded! This lighthearted mix is super zesty. That’s both flavor- and nutrition-wise. Each of its main ingredients — ingeniously encoded within the recipe’s super-original name, recall: tomato basil shallot salad recipe — is delicious and unique on its own, and each is notable for its health-boosting properties.
Tomatoes, as is widely and commonly known, are healthy. Only sad thing about them is their limited availability during the off-season. Though in many ways greenhouse technology is offering viable solutions for making this great vegetable (or is it a fruit?) accessible all year round!
Assuming that the greenhouse company delivering your fruits and vegetable is conscientious, there are many benefits to greenhouse-grown produce. Mucci Farms, for instance, is a Canada-based greenhouse which offers all year round growing, is completely non-GMO, utilizes biologically controlled pest solutions (mustering ‘good bugs’ to help eliminate ‘bad bugs’), uses biomass energy (a renewable energy source that is virtually carbon-neutral and inexhaustible, converting waste products into energy while capturing the CO2 for plant food), and, last but not least, is big on recycling.
In terms of health benefits, shallots are perhaps a little less known for their goodness. Although they are the onions’ close relatives (belonging to the same genus, Allium, whose family also includes garlic), shallots are overall substantially more nutritious than onions.
For one, shallots, pound-for-pound, have more antioxidants, minerals, electrolytes, and vitamins than onions. Additionally, chopping up shallots releases allicin (which is what makes garlic the smelly superfood it is), a compound found to help reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ as well as decrease blood pressure, thereby assisting your blood’s circulation while promoting your heart’s health. Finally, these miniature onions come equipped with antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antimutagenic, and antidiabetic properties.
Concluding the tomato shallot basil salad is, evidently, basil. This real cherry on top is a vitamin K and A explosion. Together, these two vitamins will boost your vision, reduce blood clotting, and strengthen your bones.
Once you’ve got all of these wholesome ingredients with each other, lusciously lubricate them with olive oil, adding salt and pepper for flavor breadth.
This resultantly colorful salad mix, besides being very photogenic, is great as an accompanying side to your dinners, as a bruschetta topping, as well as goes down quite nicely munched alone — though watch the shallots’ garlic-like potency! (And, more importantly, smell! which is quite pungent indeed, something my beau has had me realize, as he’s recently into making sliced tomatoes sandwiches topped, copiously, with chopped shallots each and every breakfast for the past week — all’s good, though admittedly no amount of teeth-brushing afterward does anything much in terms of alleviating the shallots’ permeating presence…)
- 4 cups (1L) cherry tomatoes
- 1 shallot
- 8 large basil leaves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Cut tomatoes into quarters.
- Chop shallot and basil leaves.
- Place everything inside a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.
- Add salt and pepper, and gently mix all ingredients.
Homemade egg noodles are one of those ostensibly easy recipes to make — arguably, easier than buying a pack… considering actual time spent involved in the ordeal of purchasing them.
The argument goes for so many things we naturally think of as being exclusively purchasable. Take wine for instance. Making homemade wine is astonishingly simple (I could not say the same for making homemade beer — though I suspect someone can prove me dead wrong — as it involves, unlike wine, the rather cumbersome process of boiling), yet until I actually tried making a batch myself I never considered that there’s any other way to get wine than to buy it.
And not only is making things yourself surprisingly more straightforward than you might have expected, it’s also notably and almost always less impactful on the pocket (though this may not necessarily be the case if your homemade extravaganza is made with Wagyu stake, foie gras, and truffle). Take my example of making wine, a bottle of the Concord grape wine which would have store-bought likely been priced above $10, ended up costing me an all-inclusive price of just under $3!
Besides being cheaper (careful with this, frugality should be assumed in moderation, super-saving is an addiction!), opting for the homemade approach can also be significantly more healthy. After all, being the head chef in charge, you have total control over the quality of the ingredients going inside.
That’s why in making homemade egg noodles, a recipe inspired by one featured on The Hidden Pantry, I wholeheartedly encourage you to seek out good quality ingredients — fresh and organic, meaning that regardless of being plant- or animal-derived, ones which lived purposeful lives.
Since, as is implied by the name, the main ingredient of the homemade egg noodles’ recipe is eggs, consider getting a hold of a free-range dozen. (If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between free-range and free-run eggs, as I sure have — and during occasional moments of blankness still do — check out my earlier post about what makes chickens, and thereby their eggs, happy!) I’m crazy-lucky to be living cycling distance away from Toronto’s longest-running farmers’ market at St. Lawrence, which I visit religiously every Saturday (that’s the day this exciting event takes place, every week, 5 am – 3 pm, right across from the main, open-all-week-long South Market).
At the farmers’ market, I always buy my eggs from the extraordinarily friendly people at the Sunrise Egg Farm stand (who, interesting fact, have a thousand chickens on their family-owned farm, and, funny story, from whom I once got the most pitifully abyssal stare I’ve ever received from egg vendors — that is after trying to make small talk about a chicken documentary I saw, telling them (asking in a way if this really can happen) that in one part of this movie the chicken-lady resuscitated (CPR-mouth-to-mouth style) Valerie, one of her chickens, back to life after the poor bird strayed from her sisters and had frozen unconscious). Indeed, these chicken owners are patient and exceedingly friendly, and I bet in terms of chickens, they’ve seen and heard it all.
The other essential ingredient going into the homemade egg noodles is flour, no interesting facts or funny stories with this one, only that if you live in Toronto, you can buy very-quality produce at Karma Co-Op, and alternatively, if you live in NYC, and are into co-ops, then consider getting your stuff at Park Slope Food.
Challenge conventional thinking and go homemade!
Have an effortlessly simple recipe you love making in your kitchen? Please share!
- 2 whole eggs
- 4-5 egg yolks
- 2-3 cups (500-750 mL) white flour
- Place flour inside medium-sized bowl, creating a well-shaped hole in the center.
- Mix yolks and eggs in a cup — beat with fork.
- Pour into flour and stir to achieve make dough consistency.
- Knead until smooth.
- Divide into two equally portioned balls, though repeat directions below for each ball.
- Flour work surface and rolling pin.
- Roll the dough out to desired thickness.
- Leave dough to dry for about three hours, turning it over every half hour.
- Once dry, stack two flattened circles on top of each other.
- Roll the stacked dough tightly together, like you would a carpet.
- Slice as thinly or thickly as you like.
- If you don’t need the noodles right away, store them inside your freezer inside a plastic bag.
- Cooking Directions:
- Boil water.
- Noodles pick up the flavor of what they’re cooked in, so either season your water or consider boiling them in broth.
- Drop in noodles.
- Stir occasionally on medium heat.
- Cook for 8-9 min.
Quail eggs are adorably tiny, which makes them a perfect choice for making Easter themed decorations. If you’re the dextrous kind and into arts and crafts, and are up for making an egg-shaped zoo filled with koalas, rabbits, chickens, pigs, lions, bears, deer, and dogs then this tutorial video is a must-watch!
However, if you’re like me and are of the opinion that after all what makes quail eggs so exotic-looking is the surreal design of their shells, you might be disappointed that making the zoo animals involves trashing the eggs’ most iconic feature. Alternatively then, and with the creative spotlight dead center focusing on the dinosaur-like shells themselves, consider making your own quail-egg-decorated easter tree!
Regardless of which project you’ll venture to tackle, you’ll likely end up eating quail eggs. Which health-wise is great! Because although quail eggs (their insides that is) look and taste relatively similar to chicken eggs, they in fact contain a little more protein, are high in HDL (good, blood-balancing) cholesterol, are richer in phosphorus and calcium, have three times the amount of vitamin B, five times as much iron and potassium, and their ovomucoid protein helps protect against allergies.
Quail eggs might be smaller in size though visibly they are, in certain aspects, five times more impactful than the much more ubiquitous chicken eggs. Their high iron and potassium level is especially advantageous. Notably, proper levels of iron in your body help you stay attentive and high-spirited, as iron within your red blood cells is responsible for delivering oxygen to organs like your brain. On the other hand, potassium is very important in terms of maintaining the working of your heart; responsible for the intercommunication between cells in your body, potassium effectively enables contraction and relaxation, thus low levels of this mineral can cause irregular heartbeat as well as muscle cramping and weakness.
Given such quantifiable evidence about quail eggs’ many health-related benefits it’s unsurprising to learn that these Lilliputian powerhouses have been prevalent within ancient Chinese and Egyptian medicine practices. Used for millennia as a curative food, they have at times been prescribed for treating maladies like asthma, hay fever, as well as various skin disorders. In modern days, quail eggs are a common ingredient among certain facial and hair products — their nutrient-rich yolk, when combined with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, is able to give your face a natural brightening uplift!
As to their flavor profile, they are noticeably creamier than chicken eggs — in coffee terms, think cortado. No wonder that in many parts of the world they are considered a delicacy. In places like Colombia and Venezuela hard-boiled quail eggs commonly appear on tops of hod dogs or are nested within hamburgers. They are also popular denizens of Japanese bento lunch boxes. However, their favor really is region specific, in Vietnam for instance, you can buy a bag of boiled quail eggs at street stalls for pennies on the dollar — as cheap as chips, these guys are marketed as an inexpensive beer snack.
Have you ever tried quail eggs before?
Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading through the latest issue of Lodestars Anthology — an independently published magazine-meets-journal, printed biannually, with each volume taking an in depth look at a different country. Notably, the periodical’s name, ‘lodestar’ — consisting of the Old English noun ‘lode,’ which back in its day denoted ‘way’ or ‘course’ — refers to the star, especially Polaris, used to guide the course of a ship, though figuratively can also be used to refer to something or someone acting as a model or source of inspiration.
The focus of the number I got to sit down with was Scotland. And knowing nothing about it, I must admit that I walked away informed and inspired. Although, as I found out, Scotland is relatively small — land- and population-wise, in terms of the latter inhabited by merely 5.5 million people — the magazine managed to cover a breadth of topics and territories, painting an expansive picture of a deftly variegated land.
Helping you navigate this Scottish journey is a, very useful, illustrated map of the country, conveniently situated very near the magazine’s beginning, on which are marked the destinations the texts deeper within will be heading. Original illustrations are in fact prevalent throughout the anthology, offering diversity to the photo-exclusive magazine scene — though of course, picture-perfect photography remains at the heart of the project.
Its engaging copy — keenly informative though itself captivated by the folklore of the land it is exploring — is skillfully interspersed with meditative poetry. And though the aftereffect is undoubtedly edifying, this comes through not without its lighthearted dose of factlets — for instance, did you know that the bicycle was (most likely) invented by Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick MacMillan?
These bits of easily palatable pop-facts do not lessen the historical wealth and accuracy of the research driving much of the texts. Given Scotland being the focus, the penchant for history — and recurring praise of Scotch whisky! — is perhaps inevitable. As such, the perspective offered is wide and illuminating, framing Scotland’s quintessence through depictions of dilapidating medieval castles to newly emerging festivals.
Further enriching the narrative are insightfully vivid personal encounters with Scotland’s culinary scene — filled with surprises like hot marmalade pudding with Drambuie (a sweet, golden-colored, 40% ABV liqueur made from Scotch whisky, honey, herbs, and spices) custard served at The Three Chimneys restaurant on the Isle of Skye, or a Brooklyn-inspired goat cheese and apple double cheeseburger at the BlackHorn hamburger go-to in Saint Andrews — complimented with first-hand advice of where to spend your post-feast night.
Add to the growing list of pleasures within an interview — you guessed it, about the art of distilling world-class Scotch whisky — some more original artwork — specifically paintings, drawings, as well as photos of ceramics and tweed fabric — and a few introspective essays, and you have before you a collection capturing Scotland’s radiantly gray uniqueness while offering insider’s advice about where to eat, sleep, and, perhaps most importantly, get lost — not to mention, you’ll also leave knowing the name of the castle in which the film crew of the not-so-historically-accurate Braveheart hosted its 1993 after-party (hint hint: Stirling Castle).
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You should’ve seen the perplexed face of the girl cashing me out at Fiesta Farms when I was buying all the crazy-looking mushrooms you see pictured. I’ve never ever bought so many distinct kinds at once, she’s never rung in all of the store’s available varieties at once — it was a first for us both. I guess me being the last customer that night and asking her “Before you do anything, PLEASE be super careful, I need these for a photo” didn’t exactly help deflate the oddity of the situation.
Naively, I at first thought that I indeed bought a lot of mushrooms, like an encyclopedic amount, alas!, turns out not even close, as in fact there are over 140,000 species of these fungi. Realistically, each individual mushroom is a universe of its own, so with the photo picturing (not) so many of them expect shroom posts springing up here and there — I’m tempted to say, like mushrooms after a rain storm.
Unsurprisingly, with such variety of looks, comes diversity of characteristics. Just check out this TED video by Paul Stamets, a mycologist (a scientist studying fungi, aka mushrooms), in which he speculates six ways in which shrooms can help save the world, from being used to produced antibiotics to sustainable bioethanol fuel known as econol.
Idiosyncrasies aside, a commonality among mushrooms is that their fleshy bodies, like humans’, make vitamin D by intaking sunlight. Interestingly, of fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are the only entities containing this mood-increasing-bone-strengthening-immune-boosting vitamin. Being in season all year round, mushrooms are a brilliant solution to sunlessness — though, in a perfectly idealistic world, packing your bags — actually forget that, this is an Edenic scenario I’m painting, you won’t need clothes — and moving to a tropical island is a far more effective solution to solving any sort of vitamin D related insufficiencies.
Indeed, when it comes to sunlight their hunger for it is insatiable, so much so that they continue to absorb it and turn it into vitamin D even after being picked. As discovered by Paul Stamets, flipping your shiitakes upside-down — so that their gills are exposed to sunlight — for a few hours will effectively raise their vitamin D levels from 110 IU to a whooping 46,000 IU per 100 grams. Considering that the FDA’s recommended daily dose is 400 IU, a bite of your sunlight-imploding shiitakes should be more than enough to supplement your vitamin D levels.
Adding to shroom’ magic, of the nine mushroom-related research abstracts from The FASEB Journal presented at the 2013 Experimental Biology conference perhaps most interesting was research showing that (1) replacing red meat with white button mushrooms effectively assists weight loss and (2) enhancing meals with shiitake mushrooms has beneficial effects on immune system functioning — actually, if you’re a mouse, then (3) one study found that mushrooms enhance your adaptive immunity response to salmonella.
Finally, besides being bloated with the sun vitamin, helping with weight management, and boosting your immune system mushrooms are low in calories, are fat- and cholesterol-free, have little to no sodium, though are rich in minerals — like copper (which has anti-inflammatory properties as well as is essential for normal growth), chromium (helpful in controlling blood sugar levels — thereby beneficial for those with Type 2 diabetes — and curbing high cholesterol levels), selenium (known for its antioxidant properties and reducing the chances of prostate cancer), phosphorus (whose range of benefits is exponentially wide, from being crucial in bone development, to keeping your digestion in balance, through to stabilizing your hormones, and not to mention optimizing your energy extraction), potassium (which helps protect and maintain your brain, heart, and muscles) — as well as vitamins —like vitamin B (important for everything from blood health to mental performance), B12 (the only non-animal source of this nervous-system-centric vitamin), folate (which keeps check of your immune system functioning), and pantothenic acid (a co-enzyme helping control the biochemical reactions of enzymes).
Visibly, it’s hard to capture the magic of mushrooms in a single sentence.
Concentrating mainly of health related attributes, I said nothing about how tasty they are to eat and versatile in ways you can prepare them. So, how do you take your shrooms? I would love to hear some of your favorite recipes!
For the longest time, the high price tag of slow masticating electric juicers has been keeping me from purchasing one — until I heard of the Z Star manual juicer!
My eureka moment occurred while staring at my manual coffee grinder — I thought to myself: Since there’s such a thing as a manual coffee grinder, are there not manual juicers? Long story short, they do indeed exist! And are by definition — at least compared to the Breville-type 13,000-rotation-per-minute workhorses — slow. Which is in fact super important, and what makes quality electric juicers pricey, because the relative slowness of the machine allows for a low-temperature extraction, effectively preserving all of the healthy enzymes and vitamins which are otherwise killed by the inevitable heat created when a food’s body comes in contact with a ultrasonically fast rotor.
Many manual juicers however are intended for wheatgrass only. The amazing thing about the Z Star juicer is that not only can it process virtually all fruits and vegetables (I’ve tried everything from blueberries to beets — but I mean, peppers to potatoes should be no problem, I just wouldn’t drink that) the juicer lets you homogenize nut butter, frozen fruit sorbet, and salsa. Not to mention that there’s a special nozzle end-piece for squeezing out pasta-shaped dough!
Wonders, I know.
And spinning the crank isn’t hard, nor does it take long. Part of the reason is the juicer’s thoughtful built, most of which is designed out of BPA-free plastic (funny thing, in the beginning I thought that’s bad, believing that, you know, quality’s all about things being casted out of impenetrable heavy-duty metal, but turns out not at all, quite the opposite, those metal bulletproof tanks are quite heavy and can become impossible to turn). Needless to say the d-u-r-a-b-l-e plastic makes it light, compact, and easy to clean. One of its main features is its specially designed auger (the rotating blade that squeezes the living juice out of the things that get caught in its blades), which, due to it being extra-long, helps extract a very high yield of juice. This auger sits tightly within a two-stage perforated metal screen (the part which holds back the flesh and lets out the juices). Both the auger and the screen live securely within the plastic housing, whose two parts join together like a Russian matryoshka doll, forming a nested whole which then connects to the main metal body. Then on goes the funnel plate piece at the top, nozzle at the front, and crank (also made of quality metal — durable but not heavy) handle at the back. The assembled unit is attachable via a rubber-padded clamp, so that whatever you mount the juicer to stays scratch-free and pretty. Finally, place the juice collection cup underneath and near the middle of the juicer, an empty bowl (only thing not included) for collecting the pulpy fiber in front of the nozzle, and use the produce pusher to — as the name implies — push stuff down the throat of the funnel.
Once you’ve juiced, disassemble the unit — all the parts can be washed (in the sink, not the dishwasher) except for the main metal body, crank, and clamp. A cleaning toothbrush-like brush is included for cleaning the metal screen, so it’s easy enough, although if you’re having trouble getting the fruit and vegetable flesh out of the tiny holes try soaking the screen in water before scrubbing it.
A piece of juicing advice: alternate between densities of the stuff you’re pressing. So if for example you’re juicing something soft, like apples, pushing a carrot through time to time will help the pulp come out and keep the juices flowing.
Although I stand by saying that cranking it is easy enough, if you’re a do-it-all-at-once sort of gal or guy and are determined to prep a year’s worth of carrot juice within a single evening (a Guinness World food record kind of a feat), perhaps consider getting the Solostar motor attachment.
Now that you’ve got your juicer, try our irresistibly delicious green juice recipe!
The topic of green juices seems to be a somewhat polarized subject. The two extreme points of view oscillate between claims that such juices heal Parkinson’s to assertions that their detoxifying potentials are outright harmful. Added also to the general consensus is that these juices are, to put it lightly, not very tasty.
A solution to the last issue is easy enough — stop making crummy tasting juices and try the delicious recipe below!
Let the haters hate, but I have to admit that the (very palatable) green drinks I’ve been prepping have been making me feel vigorous and energetic — like in a palpably measurable way, especially when I have them on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, at least 20 min before having breakfast.
Ideological miraculousness aside, juices really do seem to offer life-enhancing powers. After all, these vibrantly colored concoctions (as long as they are squeezed using masticating, aka slow, juicers) are fused with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes — all of which you’ll be able to absorb, since juices are liquids, faster and more efficiently.
But as with all things, balance is key. So however luring the idea might be of jettisoning your next meal for a cup of unpasteurized green juice — which I for sure was tempted to do, after seeing the massive amount of vegetables squeezed into a single glass — it’s best to use juices as enhancements rather than full out substitutes. Although juices require little digestion, research demonstrates that your gut’s health is linked to its interaction with chewable foods, needing fiber in order to maintain its health.
In terms of gear, I highly recommend the Z-Star Z-710 manual juicer. It costs a fraction of the price of an electric juicer and is de facto masticating, that is slow — which is what makes expensive juicers expensive in the first place — I mean, unless you’re superhumanly strong and able to turn the manual crank 12,500 times per minute… blueberries maybe, but carrots would be hard.
You know you’re a juicaholic once you’ve managed to amass a kilo of leftover pulp. Which is awesome because this fiber-rich goo is surprisingly useful! For starters, freeze it. Adding more to the pile every time you juice. The most anticlimactic thing you can do once you’ve collected a decent amount is use it as compost. On the upside, your plants will love you. However, for the intrepids out there, use your leftover veggie flesh to make broth, add it to smoothies as a protein booster, to soups as a thickener, or dehydrate your stash to make crackers!
Leave a comment and share what sort of culinary wonders you have been able to make out of your leftover pulp.
- half bunch celery
- 3 cups (750 mL) spinach
- ½ english cucumber
- 1 lemon
- 1 apple
- ½ cup (125 mL) cilantro
- 1 inch piece ginger
- Wash all ingredients thoroughly.
- Process them through the juicer.
- Drink — the sooner the better!
Valentine’s Day is all about pink! And red, of course. I suppose purple is also a legit Valentine’s color. Crimson maybe too. Anything in the reddish zone really… although reddish-yellow, like peachy, is pushing it…
With the color of love in mind, celebrate the holiday with this very Valentine’s Day fitting — at least color-wise — recipe (an adaptation from one I came across in Alive Magazine): Gluten- and sugar-free beet pancakes varnished in a ruby (another color!) cherry sauce.
The pancakes’ gluten-freeness is largely due to the use of quinoa flour. Which is cheap and foolproof to make — in fact, it’s identical to making your own oat flour: get the grain, and blend it!
Besides being very healthy (after all, these pancakes are made from beets, and we know nothing beats beets), these guys look and taste delightful! Quinoa flour makes them pillow-light, the pureed beets and bananas give them a Latkes-like texture, while the cherry-cocoa syrup is, well, a real cherry on top.
Although conventionally a breakfast-ish sort of a food, I actually had these velvety treats for dinner (like beer for breakfast I guess, fine as long as you don’t pair it with cereal) — so indulge!
Is there a Valentine’s Day-coloured recipe you’d recommend I’d try?
- 3 (250g) medium beets, peeled, and chopped
- 1 banana
- 1 cup (250 mL) gluten-free quinoa flour
- 3 free range eggs
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ - ¾ cup (60-120 mL) water
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups (500mL) frozen pitted cherries
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1½ tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (60mL) thyme tea, steeped, and strained
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- Place beets in steamer basket and steam until tender. Cool.
- Purée beets with banana.
- Combine the beet and banana purée with flour.
- Whip eggs with baking powder until stiff. Fold into batter.
- Add water to achieve desired consistency.
- Heat skillet over medium heat. Add coconut oil and let it melt.
- Pour 2-4 tbsp of batter onto skillet per pancake. Cook for 2 min. Flip, and cook additional 2 min. (If not cooked through, increase cooking time.)
- Transfer cooked pancakes onto a baking sheet and place in a preheated oven to 200°F (93°C) to keep warm.
- In a medium saucepan bring cherries, maple syrup, lemon zest, cinnamon, cocoa, and thyme tea to a simmer.
- After 10 min, purée cherries.
- Mix dissolved cornstarch and vanilla extract into cherry mixture.
- Simmer until slightly thickened (about 2 min).
- Cover pancakes with cherry sauce and enjoy!
Oat flour is tremendously healthy and astonishingly easy to make. In fact, the three-step recipe below is more like a one-stepper: Get oats and blend them!
In the world of flours, oat flour is among the choicest. Besides being significantly more nutritious, it’s also characteristically sweet, light, and moist. As such, its delicate sweetness makes oat flour excellent for baking things like breads and cookies, its weightlessness makes it a great candidate for thickening soups and sauces, while its moisture just makes things outright better.
Health-wise, oats perform wonders. First off, they are gluten-free! Importantly though, it is not uncommon for oats to be cross contaminated with wheat — so if you are, medically speaking, gluten intolerant, please seek out the ‘certified gluten-free’ label. Next, oats’ rich fiber content helps take the edge off dangerously high cholesterol levels. Thirdly, being an abundant source of magnesium, oats naturally balance glucose levels and therefore substantially reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. And finally, a recent article published in The Journal of Nutrition reported that antioxidant compounds found within oats decrease the possible onset of coronary heart disease.
All this goodness, you might think, must come with a price tag. However, although oat flour — as well as other exotic-typed flours like almond and rice-derived ones — is comparatively pricey, the recipe below helps to bring down its cost to a fraction. Individual calculations will surely vary depending on your region, but if, for example, you happen to live in NYC and are into co-ops then buying your organic rolled oats at Park Slope Food will bring down (more like collapse) your cost per pound from $3.72 to $1.12! — talk about cheap!
Where do you buy your (organic) rolled oats? What’s your costs per pound?
- 1 cup (250ml) rolled oats
- Place oats inside blender or food processor.
- Pulse-grind oats until they are as fluffy as powder.
- Store inside air-tight container.
Shuko is an incredibly gifted and versatile baker — ex-fashion buyer — exclusively supplying Boxcar Social with her deliciously irresistible and out-of-the-box baked inventions. Just check out the photos of her very own Beet Kale Chocolate cake — eye candy that tastes as good as it looks, trust me (I ate the entire thing…)! Before coming to Toronto, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu, a renowned Parisian culinary arts school in Tokyo. I sat down with her at Boxcar to talk about gluten-free baking, travel, and — which wasn’t originally on the interview menu — Krystian’s (that is her boyfriend) wild forest-green fleece pants.
Yes! Before coming over to Toronto seven years ago I was a fashion buyer in Japan, which was tons of fun. Got to travel to quite a bit of places around the world picking up clothes. So I kind of completely changed my focus. It was fun, but overtime the pressure became unbearable, not an easy job, very stressful… At one point my mom actually told me that my work might be starting to get the worst of me and that I should probably change my job, connect back with my roots.
So that was the turning point?
It was. Shortly after I applied to Le Cordon Bleu in Tokyo, an intense culinary school with a strong emphasis on French-styled cuisine. There I learned how to prepare French pastries, an approach which involves a lot of butter — which was great because I love sweets! Krystian and I eat them whenever we can… all sorts of new things we’ve never tried before, actually. In fact, experiencing new flavors is our reason for traveling, which we try to do as often as possible. Each time we go to new places we’ve never been before it’s to explore their culture from a culinary point of view.
Any countries that really hit the spot?
Loved Turkey, we tried an exotic chicken pudding dessert — so original! India, which is mostly vegetarian, although the north and south regions have different cuisines. Japan, their cuisine is so intelligent and detail oriented.
As are the goodies you bake for Boxcar! The muffins, cookies, and cakes you provide the cafe with are your own recipes?
Yes! It’s all my own stuff. That’s why I’m so excited about my work for Boxcar, they leave everything up to me so I can play around with recipes!
Notably, most of it is gluten-free, how did this come about?
One of my close friends adopted a gluten-free diet and so whenever she was over I wanted to bake something for her but needed to keep in mind that she couldn’t eat wheat-based treats.
Also, hard not to admit that of recently gluten-free and vegan foods have become trendy. Virtually every independent cafe offers gluten-free baked goods. So wanting to be on top of this emerging trend definitely played a role in deciding the direction for my own work.
But fashion aside, I do genuinely enjoy eating vegan and gluten-free creations.
But not exclusively?
I try not to restrict myself in any way — Krystian and I love to sample and enjoy life as much as we can!
Obvious to you perhaps, but can you give us a simple description of what is gluten and why sometimes we try to avoid it?
Gluten is wheat-derived and is what gives dough its stickiness, helping things come together. So naturally, without this adhesive things can become tricky. The deal with gluten intolerance is actually a little unclear to me — but my basic understanding is that for some people consuming gluten doesn’t always agree with their bodies, causing bloating and gastric discomforts.
Gluten-free baking is known for being difficult…
For sure, and I love the challenge of it. Each recipe requires a unique approach. There’s a certain chemistry to the process, requiring you to experiment, to rework that recipe to make it work. Things don’t come out perfect the first few times. Usually ideas in their first state come out either too dense or the flavors are off. So I’m always experimenting, fine-tuning, that’s how I spend most of my days.
Do you ever follow recipes?
No. Never. I do everything by ear. It’s quite funny actually, if you ever ask me how I made some specific thing, I have a general idea, but since I don’t write anything down, I usually have some trouble providing exact directions. The upside of course is that the process is a lot more spontaneous and creative — things never come out the same way twice.
I must have come up with hundreds of original recipes by now. Often enough Krystian asks me to remake something he really liked — ‘I’ll try’ is what I tell him!
Impressive! Can you shed some light on the creative process?
I try things, think about the flavors, and then delve right into experimenting.
For example, years ago at my first Polish Christmas, after trying a bunch of stuff for the first time I was later able to recreate most of the main dishes — I managed to make Pierogi, Bigos, and Krokiety from scratch!
Wow! Have you ever tried something that you later attempted to convert into a gluten-free version?
Yes, cinnamon buns. Took a few tries. Since I try avoiding using sugar — I use dates or maple syrup instead — I wasn’t at first finding the cinnamon buns sweet enough.
Anything you weren’t able to convert?
Not really. Although cookies were quite challenging. They kept coming out too dry.
In general, how long from conception to finalization?
Depends — but 10 days was the longest it took me to nail an idea down.
Most exotic thing you’ve made?
Cauliflower cheesecake! Which Krystian claims was the best cheesecake he’s ever had. (Something he always says of anything new I make.) But I think it’s a tie for him with my Sake Kasu cheesecake.
I’d sure love to try it! Any gluten-free baking tips?
For the first 15min bake at a slightly higher temperature, 325F, after that drop it down, this helps the top to rise nicely.
What else… using a little apple cider adds back moisture.
Also, for baking I use a mixture of buckwheat and rice flour, organic (when possible), so I’d recommend that.
… all of which can be bought at?
Any inspirational gluten-free literature?
Lots of stuff in Japanese! In terms of something in English: The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook.
And Instagram gives me lots of inspiration for sure. Also, Green Kitchen Stories is a stunning blog with lots of delicious-looking recipes.
Can you recommend a Toronto gluten-free bakery?
Almond Butterfly, they have lots of gluten-free stuff, visit it pretty frequently.
Last thing: Krystian, I absolutely love what you’re wearing! — don’t think I’ve ever seen such a unique pair of green pants. Where did you get them?
Hiroshi Awai, a Japanese designer based in Toronto — CREEP is the name of his brand.
Savoy cabbage is one of the world’s healthiest and versatile foods.
As far as legend goes, the savoy cabbage presumably sprang from the fallen tears of Lycurgus, a Thracian king — ruling the land whose modern site is a composite of Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey — who, deceived by the wine god Dionysus, mistook his son for a grapevine and cut him up into pieces. The moral? Killing and crying over your kid might miraculously bring forth a new vegetable type…
Savoy cabbage is a winter vegetable that is in season and can be found at your local farmers market all year round, with the momentary exception of May. I picked up the beauty photographed above at St. Lawrence Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday from 5am – 3pm, right across the main, open-all-week-long South Market.
Upon first encounter, savoy cabbage has a strikingly unique appearance — closely resembling kale, its relative — which I’ve heard some people call alien-like. Sure. But if savoy looks out of this world, what then would you say of seeing a Xoloitzcuintli?
Savoy’s wrinkled and crinkled leaves showcase a wide range of contrasting shades of green. And despite their rough appearance, the leaves of the savoy cabbage are in fact super tender. So much so that they can be eaten raw — not exactly something you could say of all cabbages, most of which are notoriously rubber-like.
Their — perhaps not immediately conspicuous — chewable nature, and, it must be added, characteristic sweetness, makes them perfect for salads, wraps, cabbage rolls, homemade sauerkraut… essentially savoy is an ideal alternative to any cabbage-dependent recipe.
Just keep in mind that since savoy is from the get-go softer from its green and red cabbage runners-up, there’s no need to overcook it.
To really beat the point home regarding savoy’s relative superiority, I should mention that this extraterrestrial-looking earthling is low in calories, is cholesterol- and fat-free, high in vitamin C (37%), K (66%), and antioxidants (thereby cancer preventative), as well as is a solid source of dietary fiber and protein.
Do you find savoy’s ruggedness sexy? Share your culinary adventures with this unearthly creature!
For basically the price of a latte you can watch one of the most beautiful and informative films about coffee, suitably titled “A Film About Coffee.” Just a heads up, the movie will fundamentally change your perspective about this ubiquitous little bean.
A certain bottom line of the film’s message is that there is a world of a difference between what is termed ‘specialty’ coffee and 99% of the other ‘non specialty’ (or perhaps more accurately, ‘non coffee’) stuff. Characterizing the minority approach is a sense of artistry and reverence, while, as is perhaps sadly expected, the mass of what is produced — of what actually drives the (coffee) economy — is tasteless and unsustainable.
Happily, things are changing. Conscientious initiatives like ‘direct trade’ are reshaping the coffee economy, allowing independent coffee roasters around the world to create individual, as in direct, relationships with the actual farmers producing the crop. Bypassing the corporate middleman has the immense upside of sourcing the highest imaginable beans at prices which are not merely fair, but dignifying — allowing the people harvesting this super-in-demand crop to be payed amounts significantly above shameful industry standards.
A movie above all that is hopeful and impactful — had me research which of my regular coffee shops offer direct trade coffee. And I was so excited to find out that Boxcar Social, my favorite coffee hangout in Toronto proudly and exclusively serves conscientiously crafted coffee. If you’re in Toronto, check them out!
On that note, my most liked coffee is George Howell’s Ethiopia Borboya. It has notes of sweet lemon, black tea, and lavender — beyond amazing. Any coffee hotspots or specialty blends you’d recommend? Please share!
Without further ado, I invite (urge) you to watch “A Film About Coffee” here. Be sure to use the unique promo code WILDTHYME at checkout to receive 15% off!
If I had to give up my daily latte or cup of fermented beet juice, guess which I’d let go of? OK — neither.
Still, my addictions aside, fermented beet juice is immensely healthier! (On the note of beets, check out the original post here.)
Actually, in researching for this article I was overwhelmed by the amount of benefits offered by fermented foods in general. The one fact that struck me most is that fermented foods help produce acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter! — the ‘thing’ that carries information across our brains), effectively assisting in balancing out our digestive juice levels.
And the domino effect of introducing friendly bacteria into our gut quickly affects so many areas of our health, from alleviating all sorts of upset stomach issues to boosting our resilience against sicknesses by strengthening our immune system.
Besides acting as detoxifiers of unwanted-nasty-cancer-causing-stuff in our bodies, since fermented foods are in essence pre digested (and so easier on the pancreas — the sugar stabilizing organ), they are unquestionably beneficial for people with diabetes, as well as are an awesomely delicious alternative for those among us who are lactose intolerant.
This is quickly becoming an encyclopedic loadful of information, and honestly merely the tip of the iceberg.
Still, keeping at least some of it in mind, let me turn to mentioning how to actually make fermented beet juice, and next how to use it to make borscht.
Being of Polish descent, I have been irreversibly indoctrinated with the idea of borscht being a prerequisite to any authentic Christmas dinner. This year was no exception, and, as per tradition, accompanying the crimson soup was another 11 dishes (to make up the mandatory 12)… overkill? Yes! But otherwise, so goes the unwritten custom, no presents…
I discovered the recipe I’ll be sharing with you here inside of a Polish cookbook (like extremo Slavic — written by a nun… with the first recipe inside guaranteeing a heart attack: pâté de foie gras-topped schnitzel… ?!), which was given to me by my grandmother last holiday season.
Borscht can be prepared to be eaten either hot or cold, both forms however require cooking (aka pasteurizing), which deprives the fermented juice of its amazing nutritional benefits.
While most recipes call for a piece of rye bread as the fermentation catalyst, my little homey-home is, all year round, too warm, causing the concoction to ferment so quickly that it molds — meaning that y’all have to do some experimentation yourselves to figure out what kind of starter does the trick without turning your beets’ fermentational magic into a bowl of fungus.
The container for your little beets’ metamorphosis can be anything from a generic jar to a lushly decorated antique clay pot… so there’s options.
Once the transformation takes place, and, after straining the beets, you are left with a deep, ruby wonder-syrup, you can go ahead and use it as a base for your borscht. By all means, this raw substance can be consumed as is — realistically any modification to it at this point will be depriving rather than enriching it.
Nonetheless, borscht is our post’s destination, so to keep on track we can feel free to add chicken or vegetable stock to our fermented beet juice miracle. Finally, to reduce waste, try using up (at least some of) the strained beets inside a delicious salad!
While the recipe below is quick, straightforward, and awesome, there is a longer-established and labour-intensive recipe that I’ll be sharing soon — so stay tuned!
- 2¼ lb (1 kg) red beets
- 2 liters warm water
- 2 pieces rye bread
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 grains allspice
- Wash and cut beets into slices.
- Place beets inside jar or clay pot; add rest of ingredients and pour over with water.
- Submerge rye bread.
- Cover with cheese cloth or tea towel.
- Let sit in warm room for 4-5 days.
- Strain. Drink as is. To make borscht, add chicken or vegetable stock. Season to taste. Don’t be afraid of being liberal with spices!
Winter came extra early this year, bummer, especially that there is still one more official month of fall left. My antidote for the too early passed autumn is baking with apples. The aura of flavor and scent of fall-imbued dishes actually takes one, I believe, physically to the time and place of fall.
Pinch of Yum’s recipe for apple cinnamon muffins does just that sort of wild time traveling magic. These guys are made using brown sugar, which in fact is not a whole lot better from white sugar — white being 99.9 percent pure sucrose; brown 97 — so instead I wholeheartedly recommend using the immensely more healthy unpasteurized buckwheat honey to sweeten them up — just know, you’ll need to bake the muffins a touch longer, at a temperature 25 degrees F lower.
The number of health benefits offered by raw apples (not muffins exactly) is super high, they, for example, whiten your teeth, help avoid Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, as well as many types of cancers, they reduce cholesterol levels, benefit the health of your heart, your bowels, liver, all the while regulating your weight and boosting your immune system. In other words, they’re phenomenal!
Reincarnate a tangible essence of fall with muffins made from the raw apples you didn’t eat! Did you try the recipe? What do you think? Send me photos and tell me about it!
- 1½ cups (375 ml) finely chopped apples (with peels!)
- ⅓ cup (75 ml) coconut oil
- 1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk (or milk + 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice)
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) white vinegar
- ⅓ cup (75 ml) buckwheat honey
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup (250 ml) all purpose flour
- 1½ (375 ml) cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- Liquify coconut oil by heating. Bring buttermilk to room temperature, for buttermilk substitute add vinegar or lemon juice to milk, let sit for 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 F (163 C). In a large bowl, whisk the coconut oil, buttermilk, buckwheat honey, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and allspice. Stir until lightly combined. Fold in the apples. Fill the mixture into a greased muffin tin of desired shape and size.
- Depending on their size, bake muffins for around 15 minutes. The muffins should be golden brown with springy, memory foam-like tops.
Random maybe, but beets are great for periods. Beets are a great source of iron, minerals, and nourish the female blood during all stages of the menstrual cycle — a natural way to help your body balance the reproductive system.
Another neat fact about beets is that they remain flavorful even when the root grows to be large. They are convenient in terms of preparation, as they can be boiled, baked, pickled, and of course eaten raw.
The most common variety of beets are deep red, but white and yellow varieties are also available and popular. Their scientific binomial name is Beta vulgaris and they are available from January through Apriland again start appearing in July through December.
Beets are a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium. They are also high in folate and have many antioxidants. Additionally, the leaves contain a high amount of vitamin C and can be cooked independently of their more popularly used roots.
They are also very beneficial to your digestive system, helping maintain its long term health and proper functioning.
Curious to find out more about beets? Check out Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetable Literacy — a freshly encyclopedic and inspirational title, filled with must-try recipes.
And, speaking of recipes my favourite beet recipe to date is Sprouted Kitchen’s smoky beet burger. Being a Polish girl, I immediately associate beets with borscht, so for this delicious soup I recommend trying this beet and black lentil borscht recipe by My New Roots.
How do you prep your beats?