Chickpea & Sweet Potato Noodle Soup

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It’s pretty clear how I’m handling winter this year: lots of big, bold, spicy food. Chili, saffron, ginger, and paprika are on heavy rotation these days, and I’m surviving cold days with hot meals infused with far-away flavours.

The inspiration for this dish came from harira, a spicy Moroccan and Algerian soup that is traditionally eaten during Ramadan. I made it a lot when I first went vegetarian, about 16 years ago, but after adding several more recipes to my repertoire, kind of forgot about it. In the interest of internally thawing out my bod, I thought I would dust off this old favourite and give it a couple updates.

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You’ll often see a lot of harira recipes calling for rice or pasta, but I wanted to go the grain-free route on this one, so I pulled out my trusty spiralizer and make noodles out of sweet potatoes! As much as I love “raw noodles” like spiralized zucchini and beet and carrot, let’s face it: beyond their appearance, they aren’t fooling anyone into believing they are pasta. But something really amazing happens when you cook vegetable noodles just a little bit – they actually become rather tender, yielding, and able to absorb other flavours. Sweet potato noodles are definitely a favourite of mine, especially in cooked dishes like this one. They add great texture, and of course, noodle-free oodles of nutrients (try saying that five times).

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You don’t have to soak the lentils for this dish, but it will cook faster it you do, plus the lentils themselves will be far more digestible. And of course you can use canned chickpeas instead of cooking them from dried, but because you won’t be blending them up (into hummus, for instance) I promise it’s worth the effort for not-totally-mushy results. If you’ve never tried cooking your own chickpeas from scratch, maybe now is the time to take the plunge! You’ll never go back, I promise. 

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In other news, I’ve added two new recipes to the My New Roots App! If you’re craving a little more in the way of raw, juicy sunshine, here are two brand-new and exclusive smoothie bowls for your pleasure: the Zippy Zucchini Smoothie Bowl and the Plum Dandy Smoothie Bowl. If you have the app already simply update it, and if you don’t, you can download it here.

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And this week I’m in Sri Lanka, all thanks to Cinnamon Hotels for kidnapping me from the icy cold and transporting to me to a tropical paradise full of exotic fruits, cerulean 29° ocean water, and annoyingly perfect palm-tree-sunset-white-sand-beach situations. If you don’t want to be jealous, you should probably avoid my Instagram, okay?

Stay cozy out there!
xo, Sarah B

Harissa Carrots and Fennel with Lentils

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My trip to Seattle to work on the Cody nutrition video series proved to be a pretty ragin’ food fest. The pre- and post-production days, along with nights off gave me some time to explore the city, meet the amazing locals, and sample, er, quite a bit of fantastic food. You know, for research purposes.

When I travel, I put wish-list restaurants in two groups: the vegetarian restaurant, and the non-vegetarian restaurant that has enough veg-friendly options to be worth the visit. As much as I find a lot of inspiration at both of these types of establishments, they can also have their drawbacks. First, the vegetarian restaurant, bless them, can tend towards the dated, you know what I mean? Overly-sauced, overly-cheesed, overly seitan-ed out places that offer satisfying, but not very health conscious dishes reminiscent of 1997. Yea. The second place is great if you want to eat out with meat-loving friends (and thank goodness most American restaurants recognize that vegetarians don’t always travel in packs!). The issue is that these places don’t recognize that we also need substance. There are plenty of creative veggie-centric plates, but nothing that is going to really fill me up! When I was in Seattle, I rarely saw a single bean, lentil or a cube of tempeh on a menu. If I was lucky enough to see a whole grain, it was a sprinkle on top like a garnish. I feel like I’m always compromising somehow, which sounds ridiculously gripe-y, but maybe this is my PSA to say that both types of restaurants are so close to getting it so right that it is worth putting it out there in hopes that someone hears my cry.

One of my most favourite dishes at a hip and trendy non-vegetarian spot was a roasted carrot, fennel, harissa and yogurt combination, that was as strong in its presentation as it was in flavour. The plate was literally piled with roasted carrots and fennel – a stellar sight for ravenous eyes – bathed in the silkiest scarlet sauce, all nestled in a generous swathe of thick yogurt. It was kind of thing I could barely wait to dig into (I had to share with the rest of my table…rough!), and sad to see the server remove the licked-clean plate. BUT! Where was the rest of it? I realize that this was intended to be a side dish, but there were literally no other options on the menu unless I was to join my table mates and dig into a roast chicken.

Being back home in Copenhagen in the thick of winter, I felt the urge to bring a little light and spice to the table. Fondly recalling the jolt to my taste buds that carrot dish conferred, I decided to make my own version that included a simple upgrade with lentils that any vegetarian would be happy to call dinner. Or anyone for that matter.

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Harissa is a north African chili pepper paste traditionally added to meat and fish stews, and to spice up couscous, but I think it’s delish with all the things, especially winter veg that could use a major flavour injection. If you have not made your own harissa before, it’s a relatively quick and painless process that can give your food a serious wake-up. It is bright, bold, spicy, smoky and just plain yummmm. It keeps well in the fridge and a delightful thing to have on hand when you’re not really sure what to do with that pumpkin (slather it in harissa and roast it!) or that tempeh (marinate it in harissa and fry it!) or that kale (dress it in harissa and stuff your face!). If you can’t wait another second to make this dish, you can also buy pre-made harissa paste at ethnic grocers and gourmet markets. It’s sold in small tins, tubes, or jars – just look for versions without any preservatives or unpronounce-ables (but it goes without saying that the homemade kind is best, obvi).

You can really use any kind of chili to make harissa, and I suggest a variety to achieve a deep and complex flavour. Some of the ones I chose (based solely on the fact that I already had them in my pantry) were smoked whole ñoras peppers, guajillo, and bird’s eye for some serious heat. Chipotle would be very tasty (it’s a good idea to have at least one smoked pepper variety), or de arbol, jalepeno, ancho…you get the idea. You can also make harissa with crushed chili flakes if that is all you have, just make sure that you balance it out with perhaps more tomato paste and roasted bell peppers. I believe that you should be able to eat a small spoonful of pure harissa without blowing your head off. You’re after something spicy, but also rich and savoury, so strike that balance as you’re choosing the ingredients.

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It’s Getting Hot in Here
Chili peppers are a fantastic food to add to your diet, especially in the colder months, as they actually heat us from the inside out! Chilies contain an active substance called capsaicin that significantly increase thermogenesis (a.k.a. heat production), in our bodies. This is precisely why eating spicy food makes us turn read. break a sweat, and can even aid weight loss, as thermogenesis literally burns calories! These burned calories translate into warmth in the cells and therefore heat in the body. This is the exact same process that takes place in hibernating animals to stay warm.

Other foods that have this thermogenic effect are horseradish, mustard, cinnamon, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, ginseng, and turmeric.

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I love this kind of dish from a construction standpoint. The first bites deliver the big bold flavours of the roasted veg dripping in smoky sauce alone, and then as you begin to go further and dig around, everything kind of melds together, creating mouthfuls with a little bit of this, a little bit of that. The lentils start hanging out with the lemon-spiked yogurt giving the smooth consistency some tooth and texture, which the veggies then become coated in. The harissa drippings work their way into all the nooks and crannies, and the mint pokes you every so often with a “hello, my name is FRESH!” It hits all the texture notes, the flavour notes, and you’re left feeling, well, really satisfied. Not to mention, full.

This dish is totally vegan aside from the yogurt, which could even be replaced with a cashew yogurt, like the one in my cookbook, or another plant-based one. You can even leave it out all together if you like, but it’s a great team player with the other elements. The lentils could easily be replaced by the beans of your choice, and the veg you can change up according to what you have available. You can even make the harissa dressing for any manner of green salad and serve it over raw things too. This dish would also be really tasty with some toasted nuts or seeds sprinkled on top.

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Note: If you are in Copenhagen and looking for high-quality organic spices for this recipe or any others, check out ASA spice shop in Torvehallerne! They are simply. the. best.

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Oh yea, Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone’s 2016 has started off on the right foot.

Here are a couple things I’ve been up to:
Cody app and I have collaborated to create an online video series with 21 episodes geared towards anyone who wants to learn how to cook healthy, plant-based meals! I have been wanting to put together an educational + cooking video program for so long now, and I am very proud of how this has turned out. I hope you check it out.

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We’ve added four brand-new and exclusive recipes to the My New Roots app. These recipes are specifically for cleansing and detoxification, so if you’re January hasn’t been as “clean” as you would have liked, maybe this will give you some inspiration! Update your app or download it now and get this recipe for Nori wraps with Cleansing Broccoli Pesto along with three other delicious and detoxifying delights (use the filter button to select “Super Clean 2016″) Check out the recipes here.

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And I was invited to speak on Jessica Murnane’s podcast, The Things that Freaked my Week. It was fun. Listen here.

BIG love and best wishes for your year ahead.
xo, Sarah B

Show me your harissa on Instagram: #MNRharissa

Gingersnap Eggnog Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Dear friends, I’ve been hit with the Christmas spirit! Perhaps a little slow on the uptake, this recipe was the absolute magic that knocked me sideways, and it’s better late than never. Especially in this case. To keep this level of deliciousness to myself would be decidedly Scrooge-like indeed.

Two treats come to my mind when I think about Christmas: gingersnaps and eggnog. I thought about just posting a raw vegan egg nog ice cream or just gingersnap cookies, but then I realized that combining these two things would be utterly insane in the best way possible. So I did just that, and the first bite I took actually caused me to laugh out loud. These ice cream sandwiches are so delectable that I beg you to make them.

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This ice cream is everything. It’s super rich, creamy, decadent with plenty of warming nutmeg spiciness to conjure up egg nog memories without any egg to speak of. Or cream. Or milk. It’s vegan and raw believe it or not, but you tastebuds won’t know that – they will only thank the dear heavens for being born in a body that gets to eat this gorgeous stuff.

The Gingersnap cookies are also vegan, gluten-free, and delicious on their own, or embracing a giant scoop of egg nog ice cream (obviously). They cleverly employ rolled oats that are turned into flour right in your food processor, creating a satisfyingly-textured treat that I’m sure you will make over and over again. The brown rice syrup is worth finding if you’re into a super crisp cookie, where the barley malt syrup can be used in its place but the results will be chewier. 

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Because the flavours in this recipe rely heavily on spices, I thought the following reminder would be helpful. Most people assume that spices are just inanimate powders that they can keep forever, but they are actually very delicate creatures that change both flavour-wise and nutritionally over time. Buying spices whole will ensure that they will keep their taste and nutritional potency for up to twelve months, while ground spices will last for only six months. If you’re like my mom and have had the same dusty jar of chile powder kicking around since 1992, do yourself a favour and discard it, buy some fresh, and enjoy. Life is too short for stale spices! 

There are times when ground spices are appropriate, especially for convenience sake. Cinnamon, ginger, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, cumin and cardamom are the ones I usually have ground since I go through quite a lot of each of these over the course of half a year. Spices that I always keep whole include nutmeg, clove, allspice, coriander, fenugreek, star anise and peppercorns. 

Although it is commonplace for people to store spices next to the stove for easy access, this is not the best place. Spices should be kept away from heat and light and be tightly sealed in a glass or ceramic container. Metal canisters may contain compounds that can interfere with the spices chemically, while plastic containers encourage condensation, which leads to spoilage. Keep spices in a cool, dark place, and put a date label on the jar to remind yourself when to toss any remaining product after it has expired.

The Eggnog Ice Cream recipe calls for nutmeg, which I will implore you to grate fresh, because it is a revelation! Ground nutmeg loses its flavour very quickly that the results of this recipe will be completely different. If pre-ground nutmeg is all you have then you may need to increase the amounts I’ve called for. And in that case, ask for a couple whole nutmegs for Christmas. 

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I wish all of you out there a delicious, magical, safe, healthy, and abundant holiday. And I want to thank each and every one of you for your love and support this year in making my dreams a reality. From the blog, to my cookbook and the My New Roots app, your ongoing enthusiasm for what I’m doing really motivates me to keep going. Big love to you all.

Peace, blessings, and happy holidays!
Sarah B.

Show me your ice cream sandwiches on Instagram: #MNRicecreamsandwiches