Cacao Hemp Crispy Treats

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So the big move-in happened, but we are far from moved in. I am writing this from my dirty dining room table, watching and listening to a collection of relative strangers drill, saw, spackle, sand, stain, and paint around me, like a tornado of humans in tool belts. Drywall dust dances in the shafts of light pouring into our new space, as I try to ignore the deafening screech from a floor sander behind a paper-thin plastic partition a few feet away from my head. Ahhh…home renovation. I could go on about the frustrations of living in a construction site, how my filth-tolerance has reached unthinkable heights, and how if I hear someone tell me that it should all be complete in “two more weeks” I may collapse, but I know that whenever it is done, it will all be worth it. Really and truly.

I made these Cacao Hemp Crispy Treats a few days before we relocated from our rental to our home, knowing that I would need to have a stockpile of snacks that didn’t require refrigeration, or even cutting, since we would be living without electricity, and I had no idea where to locate a knife in the unpacked boxes stacked high in the basement. Since then, I’ve thanked myself every time I’ve sunken my teeth into each chewy-crunchy-sticky bite, the cacao releasing its relaxation-inducing alkaloids and minerals into my frazzled bloodstream, the hemp seeds delivering their much-needed anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and the nut butter grounding my nerves with all its protein and healthy fat. In these uncertain times, I’ve been certain that a delicious snack was ready to satisfy me at the drop of a hammer.

My original inspiration for these bars came from my fellow Canadian health-food blogger and vegan recipe guru Angela Liddon, of Oh She Glows fame. Her Almond Butter Crisp Rice Treats were a fun Sunday afternoon snack project for my four-year old son and I, and since then I’ve been making many variations of them. My goal was to add more protein, healthy fats and filling fiber to the bars, so I tossed in heaps of hemp and chia seeds until I found the right balance. Losing their chewy-crisp goodness would have been a real shame, since it’s the texture of these treats that is so very crave-able! So I tinkered a few times, and found the exact right amount that maintained the satisfying chew. I also wanted to add chocolate. Because chocolate.

After nailing the additions, I knew that top needed some flair: not just visually, but something to cut the richness a tad. I had some freeze-dried raspberries kicking around my pantry that I had bought on a whim in the US some months back, and immediately knew that they would be the perfect supplement with their vibrant pink hue and bright acidity. Bingo! Freeze-dried fruit (and vegetables) have been popping up all over the place lately, since they taste incredible, have a long shelf life, and are a nutritiously convenient way of getting another serving of produce a day, especially for kids. However, if you can’t find freeze-dried raspberries, or any substitute for that matter, you can easily replace them in this recipe with more traditional dried fruit like goji berries, roughly chopped figs, apricots, or even raisins. You could also top the bars with toasted nuts or seeds, coconut or cacao nibs. Think of these as a blank canvas for your favourite add-on flavours and textures, or keep it as simple as you like. The bars are also delicious as is, and if you’re into a dark and rich flavour above all else, simply leave the toppings off. But do not under any circumstance skip the flaky salt – it is key. 

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Hemp hemp, hooray!
Since being back in the homeland and trying to buy as much locally-produced food as possible, I’ve been loving on hemp seeds lately – even more than usual! Because of their mild, nutty flavor, they blend so effortlessly with just about any food, sweet or savory. And what they lack in flavor, they make up for in protein and healthy fats, specifically those essential Omegas. We’ve all heard about Omega-3s and how important they are for the health of our entire body, helping to prevent cancer asthma, depression, obesity, diabetes and so on. But! There is another star on the block, Omega-6, which seems to be less talked about due to the fact that many of us get enough (or in some cases, too much) of this essential fatty acid.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fasts are essential, meaning that our bodies don’t produce them and we need to obtain them from the foods we eat. Sources of Omega-3 fats include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia, dark leafy greens, some sea vegetables and cold-water fish. Omega-6 sources include soybean, canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, and sesame oils. You can see from this list that most people in the Western world at least, are getting their fair share of Omega-6 fats, and lacking in Omega-3s. In fact, in North America it is estimated that the population consumes 10 to 20 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3, due to the popularity of processed foods. Although the correct ratio of these fats is still a matter of debate, researchers in this field agree that this ratio is far too high. We should be aiming for an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio between 2:1 and 4:1.

So why is the balance so important? Because the ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s helps determine the flexibility of our cell membranes, meaning that ALL communication throughout the body depends on at least in part on this balance being correct. Coronary heart disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, and healthy genetic processes have all been linked to the delicate equilibrium of essential fatty acids.

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How can we improve the situation then? Just making simple, small changes to our diets will greatly improve the balance of fats in our bodies. Instead of relying solely on foods high in Omega-6s like peanut butter and foods made with vegetable oils (like corn, sunflower and soybean oil) swap them with foods high in Omega-3s like walnut butter and flaxseed oil, and sprinkle chia seeds on your breakfast bowl or a salad. For omnivores replacing chicken, beef and pork with wild-caught, cold water fish will make a big difference too.

But the most ideal food to choose when trying to achieve that perfect balance of these fats then, is hemp! Hemp’s Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is a healthy 3.75:1. You can find hemp in many forms these days: un-hulled and hulled seeds (also known as hemp hearts), hemp oil, hemp flour, hemp protein powder, hemp milk, and hemp seed butter. Remember that choosing hemp in its most natural form (the un-hulled or hulled hemp seeds) is your best bet to ensure a high-quality, whole food product.

I like to sprinkle hemp seeds on just about everything, from my breakfast porridge to my salads and sandwiches. They add an amazing creaminess to smoothies, raw custards and cheesecakes. You can even make your own milk from hemp and you don’t even need to soak the seeds first! Simply blend 1 part hulled hemp seeds to just under four parts water, with an optional sweetener like maple syrup, dates, or honey, and enjoy. Simple and delicious. You can get the full hemp milk recipe here.

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The last thing I want to mention is the crisp brown rice. There are a few types of it on the market, and one reason I’m happy to be back in Canada, is because they have the right kind. By that I mean really crispy rice crisps. For whatever reason, the ones I found in Europe would always get soggy very quickly, whereas the ones here maintain their crunch even after combining them with wet ingredients like maple syrup and brown rice syrup. I’ve also found high-vibe sprouted brown rice crisps over here from a company called One Degree (not sponsored). They work really well too, but cost a fortune. I alternate between those, and the ones I’ve found at my local bulk food store that aren’t sprouted or even organic, but they get the job done when I’m renovating a house and feeling strapped for cash. You may need to experiment with a couple kinds before finding “the one”. In the end, the bars should be relatively crunchy-crisp – not mushy at all (even though they will still be delicious).

If you like Rice Crispy Treats, you’re going to love these bars. They’re the grown-up version of your favourite childhood treat, with a mega boost of nourishing superfoods. It’s an indulgence you can feel good about feeding both you and your family…but I won’t tell anyone if you hide them and eat them all yourself. I’ve definitely never done that before. Nope. Never.

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Show my your bars on Instagram: #cacaohempcrispytreats

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Hey Toronto! I’ve just launched my first collaborative project since moving back to Canada, with my friends at ELXR Juice Lab: the Activated Power Bowl! This delicious breakfast (or snack!) is made lovingly with activated grains, superfood stir-ins, and tasty toppings. There are three mouthwatering varieties to choose from, or you can build your own bowl. I am so thrilled to offer my fellow Torontonians a vegan, gluten-free, whole food breakfast with activated grains – this is truly the first of its kind! The Activated Power Bowl is available at all four ELXR locations across the city, so if you’re in town go pick one up and enjoy. We had a very successful launch over the weekend – huge thanks to everyone who came out to taste and support!

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Sweet Potato Sandwiches

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Sweet potato sandwich - My New Roots

Necessity is the mother of invention, and when you’re missing all of your kitchen equipment, you get creative. We’ve been living out of a single suitcase for some months now, and although I have found a couple of major necessities in the mountain of unpacked moving boxes, I haven’t been able to locate my silicon loaf pan. As someone who makes the Life Changing Loaf of Bread on the reg, it’s been a challenge living without, but a stellar opportunity to come up with bread alternatives that don’t involve a lot of ingredients or special equipment. As I was chopping up some sweet potato for a soup a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me: what if I cut the sweet potato the other way and turned it into a slice of bread?! It was just crazy enough to work. And it did.

Ever since then, I’ve been roasting sweet potato slices once a week, keeping them in my fridge and having a sandwich-like-thing when the mood strikes. It’s delicious! Not to mention wildly satisfying and so easy to make. I’ve experimented with different herbs and spices on the sweet potatoes, using special salts, and even drizzling with flavoured oils once they’re out of the oven. So far, I’m digging smoked salt and garlic powder, but the cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom combo was a close second at breakfast, smeared with chunky hazelnut butter.   

The spread I’ve come up with as a pairing to this sandwich sitch, is a horseradish and beetroot “schmear”. Partly because I like saying the word schmear, but mostly because it’s incredible in combination with the sweet potatoes. It’s earthy, spicy, and complex – a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the spuds. I also like the texture difference: the sweet potatoes are so smooth and creamy, while the beet schmear is chunky and toothsome. If you’ve never had fresh horseradish before, be prepared to be blown away! This stuff is so, so special and delicious, I have no idea why it’s such an under-utilized root veggie.

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A part of the Brassicaceae family, horseradish shares ties with mustard, broccoli, cabbage, and wasabi. In fact, most commercially-available wasabi is made of horseradish (along with mustard, starch, and green food dye) since wasabi is challenging to grow and therefore much more expensive. But that familiar and addictive rush of sinus-clearing pleasure-pain? That’s the action of isothiocyanate, the compound found in wasabi, horseradish, and strong mustard that gives off heat when crushed, grated, or chewed. This stuff tends to mellow out once it hits the air, which is why horseradish snobs (they exist!) insist on grating it fresh. In the case of my schmear here, it will still taste delish a day or two after you’ve made it, but you may want to grate a little fresh over the top for a boost. It’s the best way to clear out those nasal cavities this side of a neti pot!

Horseradish has been used as powerful winter medicine for hundreds of years. Widely recognized for its expectorant capabilities, it is incredibly effective at removing mucus, and aiding with bronchial and lung disorders. Horseradish is a good source of vitamin C and zinc, two key players in immune system support, so consuming it in the colder months will help ward off the seasonal bugs flying around. For sore throats and coughs, combine one tablespoon of freshly grated horseradish with one teaspoon of raw honey, and one teaspoon of ground clove to some warm water. Sip the brew slowly, or use it as a gargle.

Sweet potato sandwich - My New Roots

This is more of a concept than a recipe, and a chance to try out sweet potatoes in a new way. Cut them as thick or as thin as you like. Mine are around 1cm, but that is just my personal preference. Remember that the slices will definitely shrink a bit during cooking, so slice them a tad thicker than you would want the finished roasted slice to be. You can even make shapes with a cookie cutter – great for kids lunches! Let your imagine run with this one, and keep me posted on which spreads and seasonings you’re vibing on.

Sweet potato sandwich - My New Roots

Although the past few months of life limbo have been pretty frustrating, there are so many exciting things on the horizon that I cannot wait to share with you! First, my family and I are getting closer and closer to our new move-in date (you can watch house renovation updates on my Instagram Stories). Second, I’m heading to Palm Springs for an EPIC bloggers’ retreat organized by my friend Sasha Swerdloff at the end of this month. And I’m finishing up details on a sweet collaboration with one of my favourite juice bars in Toronto, that we will launch with a free public event! Stay tuned for more details on all the things.

Love you guys. Now go have a sandwich,
Sarah B

 

Kichadi: The Realistic Reset

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Happy 2018 dear friends! I hope that you all had a restful and relaxing holiday, and that you’re ready to take on the new year.

As most of you know, the past few months have been all-over-the-place (literally) for my family and I, so I’ve been giving myself plenty of freedom when it comes to what I’m eating and how often I’m exercising. With my regular routines out the window, I’ve felt an immense sense of liberation – it’s great to let go once in a while! – but now it’s gotten to the point where my body is really craving some stability and grounding, especially after the holidays. Sometimes I like to go drastic and embark on a 10-day juice fast or something like it, but my body and my mind aren’t feeling a hard-core anything at the moment, so I’m turning to kichadi to gently ease my way back into eating with more balance.

Kichadi, sometimes called and spelled khichdi, kitchari, kitcheree or khichri, is the famous one-pot wonder Indian dish that combines rice and lentils or quick-cooking pulses or legumes, such as mung beans. Its best known in Ayurvedic tradition as a cleansing and complete protein meal, very easy to digest, and a cinch to make! It is delicious, super comfort food, and even if you’re not down with eating the exact same thing for every meal for several days in a row, you’ll be thrilled to learn it’s also the perfect thing to tuck into on a cold winter night.

Because of its simplicity and ease, many people find that doing a kichadi “mono-diet” is very pleasant and far less of an ordeal than a juice fast for example (although I need to be clear that a juice fast is far deeper and more effective). Taking three to seven days to eat this dish exclusively gives the digestive organs a serious break since kichadi is very easy to break down and assimilate. And because digestion is at the core of human health, putting a practice in place that supports this essential process makes room for the miracle of self-healing: something the body is constantly striving for, but often distracted from by poor dietary and lifestyle choices. When we forgo processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and common allergens for a few days, we give our bodies the space it needs to do what it naturally does anyway: clean itself up!

I like to eat a kichadi diet in the colder months when the weather is unfriendly and I need some reassuring, grounding, warm food – and juicing sounds about as fun as a hole in the head. It’s also a wonderful way to glide yourself into the process of cleansing if you’ve never tried it before. Since it doesn’t involve abstaining from food, most first-timers find it totally do-able, and dare I say it, enjoyable! I’ve just completed three days of eating kichadi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’m feeling sooo much more balanced, clear-headed, and energized – the ways I would like to feel at the beginning of a brand new year! I hope that this simple and realistic reset is up your alley, and that you give it a go.

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First things first, you’re going to need to do a bit of planning for the kichadi diet. Set a realistic goal for yourself – ideally you’ll be eating this dish for at least three days, up to seven, but if one is all you can handle, that is okay too. Since you’re eating throughout this practice, going about your regular life is usually fine, but if you want to go the extra mile and give yourself a real treat, do the kichadi diet over a long weekend or break from work so that you can focus on some other cleanse-enriching experiences, such as a massage, a sauna visit, daytime napping, reading an actual book, and maybe even going offline completely. Gasp! I started my kichadi diet on a Monday and carried out my normal routine with work and family life, and just made sure to give myself lots of juicy personal time in the evenings (essential oil bath, yin yoga sesh, early lights out etc.). Aside from a cleanse-classic mood swing on the last day, no one around me even noticed what I was doing. Since they were too busy eating pizza.   

Before you begin you’ll want to start by cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat, dairy, processed foods, and anything else you know is throwing you off balance. If you abstain from these things for at least a couple of days before you begin, your experience will be much smoother, as you won’t be distracted by gnarly withdrawal symptoms while you’re trying to chill. You can also add any bad habits you have to your hit list, and reduce or eliminate the daily practices that aren’t making your life extra groovy.

Whatever day you are starting the kichadi on, soak the rice and pulses / legumes together the night before. This step is important for improving the digestive qualities of kichadi, but if you are really pressed for time or you forgot, get them in water as soon as you can. Remember that even soaking for an hour is better than nothing! Cook the kichadi daily if possible, since the fresher the food is, the more energy, or “prana” it contains. My recipe makes about six servings for my appetite (eight for people who eat less) and I can easily stretch one batch over two days if no one else in my family wants it. Regardless, you’ll have to make at least two batches if you’re going for three days, and I would not recommend keeping kichadi around for longer than that. Freezing is an option, but freeze it in the portion size you’d want to eat so that you’re not heating more than you need at one sitting.

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Daily routine
The night before: soak the rice and pulses together in plenty of filtered water overnight.

Morning: upon rising, drink a large glass of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice, followed by another glass of pure water. Make your first batch of kichadi, and enjoy it for breakfast. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Midday: Drink a couple large glasses of water at least 30 minutes before eating. Heat your desired amount of kichadi and enjoy it for lunch.

Evening: Drink a couple large glasses of water at least 30 minutes before eating. Heat your desired amount of kichadi and enjoy it for dinner.

Night time: Drink a cup of herbal detox tea if desired, enjoy something that nourishes you (bath, meditation, stretching) and go to bed early.

Repeat for three to seven days.

Kichadi Reset tips
1. Eat when you’re hungry. This may seem like an obvious one, but many people eat according to the clock, instead of listening to their bodies. Take these days to really tune in and see when your body actually desires food, and how much you need to eat to feel satisfied. When you feel real hunger, your body is giving you the signal that it is actually ready to receive.

2. Cook mindfully. Remember that cooking is something to be grateful for. If you normally approach cooking from a “let’s get this over with” standpoint, use this opportunity to make your meal prep a ceremony, and see it as a gift to yourself. Take your time washing and cutting vegetables, delight in the sound of the spices popping, the scent that wafts up while you’re peeling ginger. The attention and intention you put into your food will come back to you, and nourish you in ways that you never thought possible.

3. Keep things interesting, by adding a squeeze of lime instead of lemon to your kichadi. You can use parsley instead of cilantro, and adjust the spices to suit your personal taste. If you really need some variety, top the kichadi with some of your favourite sprouts, grated raw carrot, or fold in some spinach while it’s still hot.

4. Cravings are normal, especially when you’re knowingly depriving yourself! If you feel a craving coming on, first identify what the craving is. Be curious…maybe it has nothing to do with the food, but more your emotional or mental state. If you really can’t shake the feeling, drink water first, then try a piece of fruit, or some raw veggie sticks.

5. Drink a lot of water. The body functions optimally when properly hydrated. It is especially important when we’re resetting, since we’re letting go of things that need to be flushed out. Water is essential to this process, but it will also prevent cravings, combat fatigue and brain fog, and keep the bowels moving. Remember to drink water away from mealtimes for optimal digestion (30 minutes before eating, 2-3 hours after unless you’re very thirsty). Other beverages, even if they are “mostly water” like coffee and tea, are not water. Only water is water.

After the Kichadi diet
Although it is extremely tempting to celebrate and indulge after denying oneself certain things, this is not the best time to do so. Even though this process keeps your digestive system humming along, your body is still in a sensitive place. Introduce new foods slowly, and keep combinations small and uncomplicated (i.e. don’t have a meal with 20 different foods together). Limit meat, dairy, sugar, and processed foods for as long as possible. That congratulatory slice of cake should wait until you’re pretty much back to “normal”, or maybe even find an alternative ; )

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I hope that many of you try the kichadi diet out, and rejoice in the fact that there is no need to do something radical and overly deprivational during the winter. This is a time for closing in, for being quiet and gentle, and nourishing oneself in a tender way. And remember, you can enjoy this delicious kichadi even for a day, and any season of the year when you need to find your equilibrium once again. It’s a tasty way to come back to center, every time, anytime.

In health, vibrancy, and abundance for the year ahead,
Sarah B.

Show me your kichadi on Instagram: #mnrkichadi