Healthy Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

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Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

Hey guys. Remember how I like pretending that baking is easy? Well, I’ve done it again!

I actually wanted to make a gingerbread recipe last year. I even went out and bought a cute set of cookie cutters for the occasion as soon as they appeared in the stores. Let me just preface this by saying, this was at the very end of my pregnancy and pre-baby. Bahahaaa! How I thought that I would have time, energy, or sanity after giving birth to make cookies is beyond me, but I can at least laugh at my extraordinary naiveté.

So, fast-forward to the present moment: my mental wherewithal mostly in tact after the first 12 months of motherhood, and the desire to be involved in some kind of holiday tradition tugging at my heart strings. I was actually so excited to make gingerbread, once and for all, and blog about how easy it was.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will recall a certain Michelin-man-shaped gingerbread puddle that I posted last week. Yea. Like I said, I forgot that baking is not easy when you’re silly enough to invent recipes of which you have zero experience, under crushing time pressure. Okay, well, no big deal. Roll up my sleeves and start again, right? To rectify the poofing, I decided to eliminate the baking soda, baking powder and all liquid. Genius! Instead of a puffed up puddle, the cookies were rock hard and greasy.
Gingerbread: 2, Sarah B: 0.

At this point, in a frustrated frenzy, my husband chimed in for the pep talk. “Hun, you know that this happens every time you bake. It’s science! And you’re bad at science (I’m paraphrasing). Just give it one more try and I bet you’ll nail it, because in the end you always do” (he forgot about the carrot cake debacle, bless his heart). So this morning began in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up, and ready to face this worthy opponent with a veritable village of gingerbread casualties in my wake.
Except this time, I won.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Molasses
Isn’t it ironic that the waste product of manufacturing white sugar, is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic syrup? I’m talking about molasses. That gooey, rich, unmistakably black-brown nectar with a rather divisive flavour.

There are a few varieties of molasses, but to understand how they vary, let’s first look at how molasses is made.

Molasses is created from either sugarcane or sugar beets (but because the molasses made from beets can be quite bitter, sugarcane molasses is the most common variety available for human consumption). These plants are harvested, and then cut, crushed, and mashed so that the juice is extracted. “Fancy Molasses” is the first product to be made, but is in fact the only type of molasses that is not a by-product of sugar processing, but instead a direct product from sugar cane. This type is super sweet and is most commonly enjoyed as the syrup straight on pancakes or waffles, and as an ingredient in baked goods.

Varieties of Molasses
The real deal molasses comes from boiling the juice of sugar cane down to crystallize the sugars, producing a concentrate, the first of which is called First Molasses, First Strike Molasses, Barbados Molasses, Light Molasses, Mild Molasses, or Sweet Molasses. This comes from the first boiling of the sugar. It is light in colour and mild in flavour. Some people also enjoy this type directly on their food, like fancy molasses. It is about 65% sucrose.

Next up is Second Molasses, Second Strike Molasses, Dark Molasses, or Full Molasses. As you may have guessed, this is made from the second boiling of the extracted cane juice, a process that extracts even more sugar, producing a darker, thicker syrup typically used as a cooking ingredient in sauces, marinades and baked beans. It is about 60% sucrose.

Blackstrap molasses is likely the one all you health foodies out there know and love. This type of molasses is made by boiling the cane syrup a third time, which extracts even more sugar and concentrates the flavour. By this point, the sucrose content is so low (about 55%) that the syrup no longer tastes sweet, but slightly bitter. The colour is nearly black, and the consistency is very thick and viscous. Blackstrap molasses is used in baking, sauces, stews and even as a food supplement due to its high nutrient content.

Nutritious and Delicious
Blackstrap molasses is highly concentrated in essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, selenium, manganese, potassium, copper, and zinc. As I mentioned above, this type of molasses is sometimes used as a dietary supplement or tonic. One tablespoon stirred into warm water is a food-based way to boost mineral levels, especially iron, as this small amount contains a whopping 20% of your RDI. You can also enjoy it in foods such as smoothies, tea, warm cereal, or dressings, sauces and stews. Remember to eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C to enhance its absorption. I like to use a little lemon juice.

Blackstrap molasses is one of the few sweeteners that is low on the glycemic scale with an index classification of 55. This means that it metabolizes slowly in a controlled way, demands less insulin production and won’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels. All in all, blackstrap molasses is a fantastic, healthy sweetener to which I enthusiastically give a thumbs up!

Buying and Storing
When purchasing molasses, read the label to ensure that what you are buying is 100% pure molasses (some companies will cut blackstrap molasses with corn syrup to make it sweeter) and that it is “unsulfured”. Sulfur dioxide can be added to all grades of molasses to help preserve it, as it prevents the growth of bacteria and mould. From a health perspective, sulfur can cause reactions in sensitive people (you can read more about that here). Sulfur dioxide also has a very bitter flavour, and can drastically alter the flavour of the dish you are making. Look for organic molasses whenever possible too.

Store unopened molasses in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Opened containers must be stored in the fridge and will last for up to six months.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

So this gingerbread, this is really it. It’s deeply spiced, perfectly balanced in sweet and salt, and super addictive. I love the special flavour and richness that molasses brings to the cookies as well. It’s a must-have component of this recipe for sure, and should not be substituted with other sweeteners due to its properties in the baking itself. The cookies are totally vegan (!!!), made with whole spelt flour and natural sweeteners. But the coolest part of this recipe? If you like a chewy cookies, bake them for 7 minutes, and if you like a crispier version, bake it for 10. Science! I tried two versions with this batch of cookies, and although I prefer the chewy ones, my husband really likes the crunch of the longer-baked variety.

I am really, really proud of my gingerbread, especially after persevering through three rounds of total uncertainty and insanity. Although the first two recipes, according to some were “just fine”, I couldn’t post a recipe here on My New Roots that is just fine. Never! I want everything I put out into the world to be my best, and this, I am so pleased to say, (finally) qualifies. Whew.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots
As I was very anxiously waiting for this last trial to bake, I whipped up a Cashew-Cacao Butter Icing to decorate the little guys with (I got it on the first try too!). As I was making it however, I used honey to sweeten it, and then promptly delivered myself a swift forehead slap realizing that the rest of the cookie recipe was vegan! Argh. So, if you don’t want to use honey to sweeten this icing, I am confident that maple syrup or coconut nectar would work in its place. I haven’t tried making this recipe in a regular blender, only a Vitamix, so I know that the icing consistency may be a little grainy if you don’t use a high-powered machine.

Healthy Holiday Gingerbread // My New Roots

For those of you living in Copenhagen, I’ve only found one shop that carries molasses and it’s the Super Brugsen on Nørrebrogade. I know at least one of you is going to ask!

And finally, I want to say a HUGE Happy Holidays to everyone out there. I hope that your days are filled with wonder and delight, family and friends, and above all, delicious food. I can’t help myself – it’s what I live for!

All love and sparkling winter holidays,
Sarah B.

Show me your gingerbread on Instagram: #MNRgingerbread

From my Cookbook: Raw Vegan Eggnog

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Raw Vegan Eggnog // My New Roots
 
I always know that Christmas is right around the corner when eggnog suddenly appears in my parents’ fridge. My father just loves the stuff and he’ll guzzle through umpteen vintage-deckled cartons over the course of the holidays, especially if guests pop by.

Me? I’m not so much into it. Although I can totally dig on the warming spicy scent that wafts from the punch bowl, knowing what it’s made of, kind of makes my tummy flip. Once I realized that it was the sweetness and smell of freshly grated nutmeg that was charming me, I set out to make a raw vegan version that would satisfy even my dad’s discriminating eggnog palate (well, in theory anyway). It’s super rich, so thick and creamy – an amazing breakfast in fact – but decadent enough for dessert. The secret is in the sesame seeds: an unusual addition to a blended drink, but give them a try! They add tons of protein, fiber, healthy fats, calcium and help make this smoothie a veritable meal.

I am also excited to post this recipe because it is the first one I am sharing from the cookbook! It’s a simple one, but a sure favourite. Plus, it seems like the time of year when many of you will be dusting off your reindeer-shaped eggnog cups, so I thought it appropriate to swoop in and present you with a possible alternative.
eggnog5
 
Smooth Move, Sesame Seeds
If you’ve been reading My New Roots for a while, you are already well aware of my sesame seed obsession. I love their versatility, nutty flavour, nourishing minerals and healthy fats. I love how inexpensive and readily available they are, and how long they stay fresh (storing them in the fridge is always best!). I buy them in bulk and use them for so many things, from dressing up salads to throwing them in my smoothies. That’s right! You can drink sesame seeds. For real.

I first discovered this upon running out of protein powder, and searching the cupboards for an alternative, my curiosity fell upon the holy seed. I soaked them overnight, and the next morning whirred them up with some fruit and greens to reveal a most satisfying meal-in-a-glass. Since then, I haven’t looked back! Now I often add sesame seeds to my smoothies, and even blended soups, as I find they add incredible body and richness to just about anything. If you are the kind of person that loves drinking smoothies, but finds that you are hungry an hour later (me), sesame seeds will really help with the stick-to-your-ribs satiety factor.

It may surprise to find out that sesame seeds are an excellent source of essential minerals. Calcium for the prevention of osteoporosis and migraines, magnesium for supporting our vascular system, zinc for bone health, selenium for antioxidant protection, and copper for reducing inflammation are just a handful of the incredibly important roles these minerals play for us. The biggest surprise of all? By weight, sesame seeds have a higher iron content than liver!

Raw Vegan Eggnog // My New Roots
 
If you have a high-powered blender the sesame seeds will blend up very quickly. If you have a regular blender, remember that it make take a little longer to achieve a perfectly smooth consistency. Just keep the motor running and be patient.

The level of spiciness in this drink, I leave up to you. I like mine super nutmeg-y, but that’s not everyone’s taste, so start with just a little, blend, and add more if you’d like. The same goes for the figs: I usually make my milkshake with just one, but others might enjoy it a little sweeter. If you find that your figs are very dry, soak them the night before beside the sesame seeds, and use the soak water in the eggnog. The turmeric is really just to add a slightly creamy yellow, so it’s optional.

Raw Vegan Eggnog // My New Roots
 


If you are looking for Christmas gifts this year, don’t forget that a pre-ordered My New Roots cookbook is probably on everyone’s list, amiright? Not only that, but it comes with the added bonus of arriving in spring, when most people have long forgotten about the holidays and are in serious need of presents! Wow, didn’t I time that perfectly? I am always thinking ahead here, friends. You can preorder the My New Roots cookbook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Indigo.

In all seriousness, I have been so overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support from all of you about the book. I know that you are just as excited as I am to hold this collection of from-the-heart recipes in your hands. Only a few more months to go now!

And most thrilling of all, is that my cookbook is going to be published translated into Danish and Dutch! The UK and Australia are publishing it too. Here are the release dates:

US: March 31, 2015
Canada: March 31, 2015
UK: April 9, 2015
Australia: April 9, 2015
Netherlands: June, 2015
Denmark: pending

In the meantime, have a look at the gorgeous quotes below from my friends and peers who have been fortunate enough to have a sneak peak of the book. Thank you to all of them for being so incredibly generous and encouraging with their words.

My New Roots - Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season

My New Roots is beautiful proof that eating with nutrition in mind need not be a compromise. This is an unabashedly enthusiastic riff on the food-as-medicine approach to cooking and eating. Sarah’s playful and encouraging voice is infectious; you get the sense that she is waiting on the other side of each recipe to give you a high five.”
—Heidi Swanson, author of Super Natural Every Day

My New Roots is filled with good ideas for fresh new ways of using plant foods. Sarah Britton shows that truly alive ingredients can result in more interesting and better-tasting recipes and are always worth seeking out.”
—Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Literacy and The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

“Sarah is a veggie-lovin’ culinary goddess! Her unique and seasonal plant-based creations will inspire you to fall head over heels in love with vegetables. There are so many beautiful recipes I can’t wait to make!”
—Angela Liddon, author of The Oh She Glows Cookbook

“I have been waiting for this book since I first started reading Sarah’s blog years ago. She has a gift for writing truly wonderful recipes, vibrant with produce, and has the knowledge to explain why these plant-based foods are good for us. Her sweet spirit shines through every page. So thrilled to have this keeper in my kitchen!”
—Sara Forte, author of The Sprouted Kitchen

“Sarah’s creativity always inspires. With its vibrant recipes, evocative visuals, witty combinations, and approachable ways to live better, this book is a must for anyone interested in optimal, delicious health.”
—Laura Wright, thefirstmess.com

“Sarah always treads the beautiful line between making whole foods practical and also appealing, leading the way in this new real food movement.”
—Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar

“Being healthy and happy is so easy when you’re cooking with Sarah. Her gentle approach, love and passion for whole foods, and flair for pairing mind-blowing flavors create fabulous and fresh food that looks stunning and is bursting with personality and life-affirming goodness. With unbelievable tastes and textures, My New Roots takes you on an exquisite journey that seduces you with every lift of the fork, leaving you voracious for vegetables.”
—Tess Masters, author of The Blender Girl

“It’s a rare book that delivers inspiration through its every page, yet each one of Sarah’s recipes sings with flavor and originality. The entire collection is a seductive introduction to a more wholesome way of eating and an irresistible call to the kitchen.”
—Clotilde Dusoulier, author of The French Market Cookbook and Edible French

 

Sweet Potato Skillet Hash

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hash
 
Rituals. With the holidays coming up, I can’t help but think about them, the role they play in all of our lives, and how grateful I am for them.

Every month (or as often as our schedules allow) my little family and two others get together for brunch. It’s pretty much like a scene from Thirty Something (remember that show?!), babies crawling around under the table, toddlers walking into walls and disintegrating into fits of hysteria, but somewhere in between diaper changes and breastfeeding, the grown-ups feast. We always do this potluck style, that way the couple who is hosting doesn’t have to sacrifice their entire week planning and cooking for Sunday, because that is laughably unrealistic. And even though we never talk about what we’ll be bringing, the spread is always totally rad and over-the-top. And just what the adults need.

The first time we got together, I made this dish. It was about this time of year, and I felt like something savoury, spicy and just plain yum. Sweet potatoes, believe it or not, are kind of a special thing in Denmark (especially organic ones!) so upon finding a few at my local health food store I knew that they were destined for Jacob and Mille’s skillet with some eggs, and chilies and herbs. The dish was a hit, and so it has become kind of expected that aside from the other amazing things that turn up, that I bring the ingredients for this too, nearly every time. It’s a good “social” meal to make because most of the cooking time is largely unattended, allowing one to indulge in too many of Silla’s raw cake bites before even sitting down. It’s also fun to have this piping hot centerpiece on the table and let everyone just dive right in.

Sweet Potato Skillet Hash // My New Roots
 
The dish opens with caramelized onions, so right off the bat, you know it’s gonna be good. Lots of cumin and coriander take things to best-buddy spice town, with chili flakes giving some heat and a good dose of sea salt to help those onions melt down. Honestly, you could just turn off the stove after the onions are caramelized and eat these on toast with poached eggs, they are that good. But wait! Sweet potatoes join the party, and cilantro and whatever else you think you’d like to nosh on. It’s great with avocado, lime, some sprouted corn tortillas, hot sauce…you see where I’m going with this.

Although it’s a fabulous thing to serve at a brunch, this hash also makes a pretty delicious weeknight dinner. If you want to make a vegan version, simply leave out the eggs – it’s wonderful this way too. I’ve seen other kinds of sweet potato hash, but for some reason the recipes always suggests roasting or boiling the sweet potatoes first, then putting them in the skillet and then cooking more? Too much work, I say! This recipe is all on the stove, one pan, no fuss, just tasties.

Sweet Potato Skillet Hash // My New Roots
 
Lessons in Lecithin
Have you heard of lecithin before? My guess it, probably not.

Well, I bet if you were to go into your fridge or pantry right now, you could find at least one packaged food that contains this stuff, especially if you’ve got some ice cream lurking around, yoghurt, cheese, margarine, even bread or granola bars.

But what the heck is this stuff? Lecithin is a nutrient produced by the liver, and is found in both whole and processed foods. Its function in the body is to emulsify fats, and enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamin A. The big reason for consuming lecithin however is the fact that nearly 1/3 of your brain is made of the stuff. Did you get that?! 30% of your brain’s dry matter is lecithin. Seriously. You can imagine then, that lecithin is rather vital to proper brain function, increasing mental activity and enhancing memory. Lecithin also exhibits a calming effect and can be helpful in reducing hyperactivity. What’s more, lecithin protect against gallstone formation, high blood pressure, and cholesterol excesses.

Whole food sources of lecithin include egg yolks, rice bran and soybeans. Processed foods often contain soy lecithin (does that ring a bell?) to ensure that the fats and water-based substances do not separate, and to make the food creamier.  It is added to baked goods to prevent the dough from sticking and to improve its ability to rise. Because soy is a very inexpensive and widely cultivated crop, it makes sense to use its byproduct in food processing (soy lecithin comes from the production of soy oil).

The lecithin found in eggs is of high quality and should be eaten with enthusiasm, not fear! Does this mean that egg white omelets are a thing of the past? In my opinion, yes. So much of the good stuff is contained in that gorgeous yolk, but here’s the kicker: you have to keep those bad boys runny. Lecithin is a very delicate nutrient and is destroyed with heat. You know that when the yolks are hard, as in very cooked scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs, you’ve gone too far and the lecithin is no longer viable. Poaching, soft boiling, and steaming are therefore your best choices for preserving the many health benefits of that precious lecithin.

Sweet Potato Skillet Hash // My New Roots
 

What rituals mean a lot to you? What ceremonial events see you through the year? With American Thanksgiving in just a couple days, I’d hope that many of you will be gathered around a table celebrating your own special times with people who you care about. As a Canadian living in Denmark, I’ll be celebrating the glorious in the every day, and looking forward to the next brunch.

Happy holidays. All love and light,
Sarah B