Archive for September, 2014

September 9, 2014

Blissful Beet and Kale Salad

Drive through shopping around the bay style!

How much do I love beets?! They rival spinach in my life for the position of vegetable that just makes me happy to think about and look at. Not only are these brightly coloured vegetables known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties, their natural sweetness make them a Fall must-have for soups, juices and salads.

I spent a few August weeks this Summer living in a camper trailer “around the bay” and found myself stopping at roadside veggie stands at every opportunity for bags of beets (and turnip greens but that will have to be another post). For the most part I would simply bake these in the oven and eat as they were, in their naturally perfect sweetness. It was fast food heaven for veggie nerds. Now that I am home with a lot more counter and oven space I have been playing with beet salads and this kale and apple combination has become my new favourite.

If you juice, I also recommend that you try a beet/apple/carrot combination in your juicer. I am excited just writing this line. You will be addicted! It’s unBEETable! But back to the Blissful Beet and Kale Salad!

 

Blissful Beet and Kale Salad ready to serve!

 

Blissful Beet Salad Ingredients

  • 8-10 beets
  • 2 apples
  • 2 large leaves of kale
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese

Instructions

Step 1: Clean beets and cut the stems off. Bake in oven unpeeled at 400 degrees for about an hour or until a fork can easily be pushed to the center. Let cool overnight. *These are easily peeled and tasty as is. You can also simply slice and serve warm with a sprinkle of goat cheese and your favourite herbs.

Step 2: Remove the big stem from each leaf of kale and chop the remaining leaves into tiny strips. Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt and massage the oil into the leaves until all the leaves are completely covered in oil. *This massaged kale is a fabulous base for a salad. The leaves become softer and yummier. You can simply add your favourite nuts, veggies, raisins, etc. to this and you have a yummy kale salad!

Step 3: Slice apples, chop into pieces and put to one side. Peel the beets, and chop into cubes. Mince the rosemary and mix into the vinegar, olive oil, Dijon and spices. Squeeze the lemon into this mixture.

Step 4: Mix it all together. Serve immediately or let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the flavours be absorbed. Sprinkle with goat cheese just before serving.

This makes 8 or 10 side servings of salad but it sits well in the refrigerator and is a lovely add on to meals so I like to make this much. Don’t sprinkle the cheese until ready to serve though since it absorbs all the redness from the beets and doesn’t look as yummy as it could.

Enjoy!

 

 

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September 4, 2014

The Yogic Art of Single-tasking (or of Living like Zorba the Greek)

Zorba (1)My favourite part of Nikos Kazantzakis’s Zorba the Greek is when Zorba explains how he lives his life, repeatedly asking himself, “What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?” and repeatedly responding to himself to do that (and only that) well. He is possibly the most passionately non-multi-tasking character in all of literature. He was a man who understood that the potential for bliss existed in every second and every action, no matter how big or small.

As Fall moves in and schedules get busier, handling more than one task at the same time, or multi-tasking would seem to be a desirable skill to develop. Some say multi-tasking means simultaneously doing many things poorly, while others appear to be very skilled at juggling many tasks at once.

A yogic assessment of multi-tasking would be that it results in nothing being “experienced”. Thich Nhat Han famously said that when we do the dishes we should only do the dishes.  Another Zen saying is “when you make tea, you should only make tea”. The Japanese know all about how much beauty exists in the making a cup of tea. Many Japanese women, to this day, study the art of tea ceremony for decades of their lives, perfecting the beauty of making and serving a cup of tea. The message here is much more than simply not texting or talking on the phone while making tea but to be physically and mentally present for the stirring of the tea, feeling the temperature of the water through the cup, aware of the smells, hearing the sound of the bamboo rustling in the wind as the cup is passed. The tea itself is almost superfluous.

To be fully present, in addition to being aware of the actions involved in the making of tea, one must also appreciate and be grateful for every moment of this process. If we are unable to enjoy making the tea we will be equally incapable of enjoying the tea itself. Most of our lives are made up of decidedly non-exciting activities, of going to work, doing our jobs, picking people up, dropping people off, preparing to go on trips, etc. Reaching the pinnacle of a long awaited event often leaves us feeling disappointed. This is precisely because we never develop the skills of appreciating and “being” in the now. The value that our society places on multi-tasking makes it even harder for us to develop this skill.

In support of the value of single tasking, Eyal Ophir, the primary researcher on the ground breaking Stanford Multitasking study says that humans don’t really multi-task anyhow. Our brains allow us to switch tasks very quickly and so we think we are multi-tasking (i.e.paying attention to two things at once). His study also showed that people who are heavy multi-taskers are actually less skilled at focusing on tasks than those less inclined to multi-tasking. In effect, he found that multi-taskers are actually worse at multitasking, and less skilled at tuning out distractions.

In the end however, whether or not multi-taskers are getting more done is not really what needs contemplation. The spiritual value of learning to single-task is less about getting through a to-do list more efficiently, or even doing one thing really well, but about reclaiming the loss of the daily bliss of existence. Joseph Campbell writes that our lives should be devoted to following our bliss, yet we rush through life vaguely aware that we are missing something, searching for big fixes, and missing all the bliss that there is to be found in between.

This year I tried to spend my summer repeating Zorba’s insightful  words with my own name and walking into activities with a little more of his single-minded blissfulness. I am still in the process of developing this skill of single-tasking but every single moment of reclaimed bliss is a priceless gift. Here is the excerpt from Zorba the Greek for you to enjoy:

IMG_6770“A fresh road, and fresh plans!” he cried. “I’ve stopped thinking all the time of what’s going to happen tomorrow. What’s happening today, this minute, that’s what I care about.

I say: ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m sleeping.’ ‘Well, sleep well.’ ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m working.’ ‘Well, work well.’ ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m kissing a woman.’ ‘Well, kiss her well, Zorba! And forget all the rest while you’re doing it; there’s nothing else on earth, only you and her! Get on with it!’”

This Fall, instead of multi-tasking through the change of seasons, begin living each moment in awe and joy. Breath deeply and send happy thoughts to fellow commuters at stop lights, brush your teeth joyously, and change your garbage bag with glee. In essence, do everything well. It’s how Zorba would have done it.

September 1, 2014

Light on Sprouting

IMG_6285I have been joyfully sprouting ever since I stumbled into a workshop at the Farmer’s market a few years ago and realized how EASY it is to make my own sprouts. Sprouts are probably the earth’s most concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins and amino acids.  Their nutritional powerhouse status, their incredible variety of tastes and textures, their versatility of usages and ease of growing are just a few of the reasons why you might want to consider making them a staple in your kitchen. In fact, chances are you already have a wide variety of beans, nuts and seeds sitting in your cupboard that you could throw into a bottle for your first trial batch. Read on for the basics of sprouting and find out how you can make fresh sprouted food for your table all year long!

Why Are Sprouts so Incredibly Good for Us? 

Nuts, seeds, beans and grains contain naturally occurring inhibitors to early germination. This makes them difficult to be broken down by our digestive systems in their dormant form. The sprouting process replicates germination which acts like a switch, activating and multiplying many times the nutrient content of the seed or bean while simultaneously neutralizing the inhibitors which make them hard for us to digest. Through this process, the content and absorbability of the protein, calcium, potassium, iron and many other vitamins are also increased, sometimes many times over. In essence we are able to access the living potential energy of the sprout.

Lots of Other Great Reasons to Sprout

In addition to the nutritional content of sprouts there are so many other reasons to get sprouting. One of the big ones for me, living on an island with a short growing season, is that sprouts can be a freshly grown food available even in the middle of winter. What could be fresher than sprouts harvested year-round in your own kitchen (Not to mention more sustainable for those of you looking to reduce your carbon footprint).  Add to this the reduced cost of having home-grown nutrition available so cheaply in the middle of the winter.

Sprouts also mean fresh green nutrition with little or no spoilage. Dry seeds, beans and nuts can be kept in your cupboard for long periods of time and just taken out to sprout as you need them. Compare that to the week or so you get from produce kept in your refrigerator, assuming it is not already wilted by the time it gets to the grocery store.

Sprouting is a great way to teach your kids about nutrition. They love to watch the seeds sprout and to keep track of which ones open first. It is a conversation starter on nutrition that never seems to get old. My heart swells with pride whenever I hear my boys explaining germination to anyone asking why I have bottles of sprouts lining my kitchen window (there is a bit of a pat on the back for myself in there too, lol). Kids aside, I find it exciting and satisfying to watch nature unfold in front of my eyes in just a few days. It’s like fast(ish) food for natural food junkies!

And finally, sprouts can be made from a wide variety of beans, nuts, seeds, etc. This means that not only will you be eating a variety of sprouts that are not available at our local grocery stores but you are adding an incredibly diverse mixture of nutrients to your diet.

How to Do It 

The great thing about sprouting is that while you have a wide variety of beans and nuts to choose from the actual method of soaking and sprouting them is the same for all.

  1. Put your seeds/beans in a mason jar (just a thin layer on the bottom to start until you get a feel for how much they will expand upon sprouting).
  2. Use the round rim of the jar screwed on over a square of mesh (I have also heard of people using cheese cloth rather than mesh).
  3. Fill the jar with enough water to cover the seeds and let them soak overnight (some people add a little salt to this mixture. I have never done this so don’t know the result).
  4. The next morning invert the bottle to drain the water off and then rinse the seeds a couple of times. Shake a little to ensure most of the water gets out.
  5. Empty the water out completely and let the remaining seeds and beans sit in a window sill. They should be moist.
  6. Every morning and evening rinse the seeds with fresh water to keep them damp and mould free (I do this every time I think about it throughout the day).
  7. Watch nature explode in all her glory. When your beans have sprouted, rinse with fresh water and use/serve immediately. This usually takes 2-4 days depending on the seed/bean type.

How to Use Sprouts 

Sprouts can be added to stir fries, sandwiches, salads, wraps, smoothies, juices, soups, or eaten on their own as snacks.

Where to buy your ingredients and materials 

Mason Jars are sold in many places. I bought mine at Canadian Tire but I have also seen them at supermarkets. The mesh I use is just a regular screen mesh and since I have a dad who has things like that lying around in his shed I have yet to purchase it myself. I assume however that you could get it at any hardware store. It just has to be a breathable mesh. I have also seen handy lids made specifically for sprouting at both Food For Thought (now in a bigger and more beautiful location at 84 Gower Street) and at the Real Food Market (now conveniently relocated to my East End neighbourhood on 36 Pearson Street, yay!)

You might want to choose organic seeds and beans for your sprouting adventures. You will get so many sprouts from such a small amount of seeds/beans that it totally makes the investment worthwhile. Organic seeds also mean that you will be getting the sprouting benefit of many, many times the nutrition of the original seed and be confident that there isn’t anything else in there but goodness. Many store bought “raw” nuts and seeds have been pasteurized and irradiated. That means that they will activate (be more nutritious and easier to digest) with soaking but they will not sprout.

Sprouting Caution 

Sprouts can be contaminated with bacteria, like E.coli, which can lead to a growth of food-borne illness (like any living food that is moist at all, such as spinach and other produce that you buy at supermarkets, etc.). Buy your seeds/beans from a quality supplier, wash your hands before handling the materials, rinse your sprouts frequently and eat them soon after they are sprouted. I would also store sprouts in the refrigerator. I read somewhere that some food organizations recommend that you eat them cooked. I certainly eat mine raw, however, I wrote this bit so that you could make your own informed decision. Myself, my family (and many sprout lovers I know) eat raw homemade sprouts  without problem.

What to Sprout? 

Now that you are armed with all the information that you need to get sprouting, here are a list of some of the common beans/seeds that can be used. There are many other options beyond this very short list. Once you get your first basic sprouting under your belt go to one of the many websites that list type of sprout-able seeds, beans, and grains.  Some sites even list the nutrition content of each type.

Some Common Sprout-able Beans and Seeds

Adzuki Beans (4 days), Amaranth (1-3 days), Barley (2 days), Black Beans (3 days), Chickpeas (2-3 days), Lentils (2-3 days), Mung Beans (4 days), Sesame Seeds, Broccoli seeds, Alfalfa seeds (3 days-ish). Experiment as you go. Each type of seed/bean has a slightly different flavour. Some are sweeter than others for example, and while I have yet to try them out, I am told that mustard seeds are slightly “spicy”.

Happy Sprouting Yogis!

September 1, 2014

Chia, Hemp & Banana Mini Muffins

Fall schedules almost always mean more packed lunches and meals-on-the-go. With my two boys now in full days at school, packing two snacks and a lunch that is healthy and tasty has me racing for new recipes to fill their lunch boxes. This is a somewhat tweaked recipe from runningtothekitchen.com that includes one of my new favourite ingredients, chia seeds! These are so easy to make and my kids love them. I mixed chocolate chips and freshly picked blueberries for my first batch but you can add your favourite berries or nuts and tailor this nutrition powerhouse muffin to suit your family’s tastes.

Ingredients:
¾ cup almond meal
2 tbsp coconut flourIMG_6747
1 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk (or other milk)
½ tsp vanilla extract (or rum…but that wouldn’t be very yogic, lol)
½ tbsp honey (optional, especially if you are using chocolate chips)
¼ cup of berries, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. (optional)

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini-muffin pan. Mix all the dry ingredients (almond meal, coconut flour, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon, salt and baking soda) in a large bowl. 

Whisk together the remaining wet ingredients (except for any optional ingredients, such as nuts, berries, chips if using) in a large bowl. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and then add your optional ingredients ensuring they are evenly distributed in the batter. You will get 10 or so mini muffins.

Spoon batter into your mini-muffin pan and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!