Category: Autumn

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

Fantastic Falafel Waffles

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Falafels. These definitely sit at the top of my list for most attempts at a healthy makeover and at the bottom of the list of success. How to get them crisp without deep frying? How to get them to hold together without eggs? What is the right balance of herbs and spices? Why are they so darn delicious at a restaurant and so darn underwhelming at home?!

First, it involves NOT cooking your chickpeas. Nope. Not even for a second. Of course I know that this is the traditional way to do it,  but I was skeptical for some reason. Skeptical that I wouldn’t turn into a giant, human gas factory. Any of you have had the misfortune of eating poorly cooked legumes will understand what I’m talking about. It’s pretty uncomfortable. And not just for you. BUT! Miracle of miracles, this did not happen, and on top of a happy tummy, my falafels came out crisp, deliciously spiced, and they didn’t fall apart at all.

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The chickpeas must start out raw and they must be soaked for 24 hours. Make sure to add an acidic medium to the water ( I use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar), give them a good rinse after draining, and you should be okay. I used chickpea flour as a binder, instead of all-purpose flour (duh) and this worked great to hold it all those tasty ingredients together. If you can’t find chickpea flour, try another gluten-free flour, which I’m pretty certain will work just as well. Fresh herbs are also a must for flavour – I chose both flat-leaf parsley and cilantro – so that the “dough” will look rather verdant once blended up.

The second trick is contact with high heat. Deep frying gives us the most crisp and delicious falafels, but it also gives us a whole host of un-want-ables, like oxidized fats and free radicals. Boo. You can cook falafels in the oven, but the dough is never going to get super crisp because the heat is surrounding the falafel instead of connecting directly with it. Again, boo. Enter: the waffle iron. A waffle iron uses high heat that can come into direct contact with the dough, and with minimal fat. Plus it’s fun to say. Falafel Waffle. Obviously, this was meant to be.

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Chickpea Party Tricks
We all know that chickpeas are fiber all-stars, providing 50% of your RDI in just one cup, (whoa!) but they have another party trick up their sleeve that I bet you didn’t know about. Two-thirds of the fiber in chickpeas is insoluble, meaning that it doesn’t break down during digestion, but instead moves through our digestive tract unchanged until it hits the large intestine. The fun starts here, where friendly bacteria (think probiotics!) go to town on said insoluble fiber and actually break it down to create short-chain fatty acids, including acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. These short-chain fatty acids can then be absorbed by the cells that line the wall of our large intestine and used for energy! How rad is that?! Butyric acid is in fact the preferred source of energy for the cells lining our colon, and with this bonus fuel comes greater potential for optimally active and healthy cells. This translates into a reduced risk of colon problems including colon cancer. So friends, invite chickpeas to your next dinner party – they’ll feed you and your colon cells. Can your pot roast do that?

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I cooked several (ahem) of these waffles over the course of my day, you know, for research purposes.  The ones I made first were the lightest and the crispiest. I still liked the ones that I cooked later on, but I found their consistency was a little dense and chewy, so I recommend using up the dough right away instead of making it ahead of time.

I made a couple little extras to accompany the Falafel Waffles, but these are merely (really delicious) suggestions. The Bright Cabbage Slaw take about 2 minutes to whip up, and lends a welcome, acidic top note to the dish as a whole. Try the Harissa Tahini Sauce as well – it’s savoury, creamy, and a little bit spicy. I was inspired by the one Jessie made over at Faring Well – thanks for the spark! Serve the falafels with whatever else you have on hand; avocado is really tasty, sprouts, fresh chilies, pickles, roasted veggies etc. You can also toss a falafel waffle into a pita or wrap if you want to take it to go, or serve them on top of a bed of whole grains for an even more substantial meal.

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Show me your falafels on Instagram! #MNRfalafelwaffles

Beet, Raspberry and Vanilla Smoothie Bowl

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Hey buddy, how’s your blood doing these days? Is it healthy and flowing? Full of oxygen and freshly-made red blood cells? Have you ever even thought about this?! The answer is, not likely. And that is nothing to be ashamed about. We are never really taught to think about our blood, how to nourish and take care of it, how to tell if something is missing.

When I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) I learned about “blood building”, a term to describe nourishing the body with the nutrients required for ample and healthy blood. For some reason, I took a particular interest in this field, and have been a passionate blood builder of my own ever since. If this sounds dorky (it is) and a little confusing, think of your blood almost like a muscle. We are more familiar with the idea of muscle building, in that our muscles require specific macro and micro nutrients to grow and thrive. Same as blood. Pretty simple, except you can’t do it at the gym – you gotta get in the kitchen. 

The role of blood in our body is to transport nutrients, oxygen, immune cells, and hormones, along with removing toxins and waste, and disperse heat. The components that make up our blood are used and disposed of extremely quickly, so there is a high cell turnover, which also means high nutritional requirements.

Iron, folic acid, vitamin B-12, and protein are the major building blocks of blood. All of these things work synergistically to make your blood as potent and healthy as possible. Besides folic acid, you can see from the list that most of these nutrients are found abundantly in animal foods, but not so abundantly in the wonderful plant kingdom. So how do vegetarians build blood anyway?

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First and foremost eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and superfoods is a good place to start. Hey wait! That sounds like a balanced diet. So if you’re already there, great. If you’re just starting out, your blood is about to get real strong.

More specifically, the best blood building foods are the darkest of dark leafy greens and their powders, such as spinach, kale, beet greens, wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina and chlorella, and deeply pigmented red foods such as beets, cherries, raspberries, goji berries, raisins, kidney beans, adzuki beans, and blackstrap molasses. I also find that drinking a cup of nettle tea every day, which contains high amounts of iron, is really effective in helping to tone the blood.

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This smoothie bowl is a one tasty blood builder. It’s got a solid dose of greens (think iron, folic acid, and protein) from the spinach and wheatgrass, with beet, raspberry and prunes (lots of deep, dark, iron-rich goody goodies!) plus lemon for a vitamin C boost – since we can’t absorb iron from plants unless we have a little help from vitamin C. 

Although you may think that putting raw beetroot in a smoothie is a little odd, I was shocked at how utterly DELICIOUS the combination was with the raspberry. It’s altogether earthy, sweet and tart, with a divine vanilla kiss that makes me swoon. Plus can we talk about the colour?! I can practically feel it feeding my blood with all of those juicy pigments and nutrients. Gosh. Isn’t life grand?

Smoothie bowls are a divine invention because you can eat them with a spoon, and you can top the heck out of them for a real meal situation. Although I’m sure it’s just a psychological thing, I sometimes feel a bit under-fed after a smoothie in a glass. Plus I like chewing a lot, and chewing a beverage can sometimes be boring without some chunks involved. Don’t you agree? I’ve topped mine here with raspberries, pomegranate, sea buckthorn, bee pollen and almond butter, but get creative with this on your own! I’ve listed some other topping ideas in the recipe. And I will also say that taking just one extra minute to decorate your bowl delivers major self-love points and satisfies the creative genius in us all. There are no wrong answers or unattractive smoothie bowls! Go wild, you strong-blooded creature, you!

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I hope you guys are fired up to build your blood now. Happily, it involves eating and not donning spandex and running on a treadmill. Although, that is important too. The running part. The spandex I’ll pass on, thank you.

Cheers to your blood,
Sarah B.

Show me your smoothies on Instagram! #MNRbeetsmoothie