Category: Beverage

Tropical Groove Smoothies

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I just got back from the island of Gili Air, a pinprick of land off the west coast of Lombok. Being so isolated and teeny, you can imagine the food in this particular place wasn’t so high-vibe. Not a raw food, vegan buffet in sight! Gasp! Somehow, I survived, har har, but what truly got me through were the smoothies. Every single restaurant and cafe, no matter how small and unassuming, had a long list of tropical blends to enjoy. I had it made in the shade, just sippin’ on my whizzed up fruits and ice. So simple, refreshing – it reminded me that easy edibles are sometimes the best.

When I got back to civilization here in Bali, I had a serious date with my blender. Nothing fancy, just local, seasonal, simple mixes to beat the heat. I came up with these two beauties, inspired by the foods and flora around me.

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The first smoothie is a Mango Coconut Jamu. Jamu is a traditional Indonesian turmeric tonic that has been made for centuries. With endless variations, some recipes including botanical ingredients such as flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, leaves, and roots, it’s fun to be creative with exotic blends, with a touch sweetener such as honey or palm sugar to mellow out the bitter edge. My version takes advantage of the newly-in-season mango (!!!) and fresh, young coconuts which are literally falling off the trees all around me. If you don’t have access to coconuts, just use canned coconut milk instead for a decadent, tropical treat. And as for the turmeric, use as much as you can handle. The recipe calls for only half a teaspoon of fresh turmeric, but I probably put in twice that amount in my own because I’m wild about that little tuber. Dried and powdered turmeric is fine to use too, just try to find organically grown if possible.

The second smoothie I made just had to be green, because this island is so inspiringly lush and leafy! I have been digging the traditional avocado-based drinks that are actually referred to as “juice” here, even though the avocado has been blended. They are thick, creamy, cold, and not overly sweet. My juice is spiked with a hearty dose of digestive ginger and tangy lime. If you want to get things even greener, toss in a handful of tender greens, such as kale or romaine and get glowing!

Either of these shakes would make a fabulous breakfast, as they are literally a meal-in-a-glass. They also satisfy as an afternoon snack, maybe split between two people.

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How to Drink Smoothies
Is there a big question mark sitting above your head right now? How hard is it to drink a smoothie?! Even though we may think just guzzling down a big glass of food is simple enough, there are in fact some ways we can optimize the digestion of these veritable meals-in-a-glass.

Smoothies are a wonderful way to enjoy a whole host of foods easily, as the masticating has been done for us. But, it is still essential to chew your smoothies! Why? Because digestion begins in the mouth and bathing our liquefied food in saliva is very important for the enzymatic action to take place. Especially for the first few sips, chew the smoothie or swirl it around in your mouth as you would any other food. This also sends a signal to your stomach that something good is on the way down and to prepare for the work ahead. It feels a little funny at first, but your tummy will thank you for giving it some time to put things in order before your smoothie arrives.

It’s also a good idea to avoid consuming really cold smoothies, as freezing drinks actually shut down our digestive system. A cold beverage will sit in your stomach until it reaches core temperature before moving onto into the small intestine, so the colder something is to begin with, the longer it will take to digest.

Once blended, smoothies look quite small, but remember that they are still a lot of food! If you were to sit down and eat an entire coconut, mango, and half a banana, it would take you quite a while. Smoothies are caloric and condensed, so keep that in mind when blending up your meal – a lot turns into a little.

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Living a in a tropical climate and being surrounded by all this incredible fruit has inspired me to do a mini-cleanse of sorts. I’ll be eating raw for the next three days, and even though I am practically doing that anyway, this is a conscious, and very intentional move away from anything resembling the ubiquitous white rice and occasional fried tempeh I’ve been enjoying (soooo good…). I just feel like a little freshening up and finding my balance once again. If you’d like to join me on my veggie and fruit feast, eat raw for the next three days and see how you feel! I’ll be enjoying these smoothies, simple fruit and vegetable salads as well as some of the other recipes from the site (here is a link). With the warmer temperatures and sun shining, it is a perfect time to step away from the stove.

I’ll be Instagramming my food during the raw refresher, so follow along my adventures here.

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Show me your smoothies on Instagram: #tropicalgroovesmoothies 

Blueberry Basil Smoothie + Soy-free Protein Smoothie Boosts

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It’s never officially summer until I arrive in Canada. Before the first embrace at the airport from my parents, before long nights in front of a bonfire, before the St. Lawrence River swallows me whole, I cannot truly feel like it’s time to slow down and embrace the season.

And so I am here. Even in between all the work I have to do, I am finding hours to just be. As I write this, I am looking out on the seaway, easing its way east towards the ocean past all the tiny islands that shelter my earliest childhood memories. Being at the cottage grounds me in ways I can never fully understand or articulate, but it does my body and soul good to be here.

I actually wasn’t really sure what to write about this week, but seeing as I’ve been overdosing on smoothies lately, it seemed only appropriate to post one of my latest blended creations. Plus my belly is steadily swelling I am more occupied than ever with getting enough protein in my diet to fuel this little baby’s growth and development. I’ve come up with a great guide of vegetarian protein boosters for smoothies that don’t include soy. Hooray! Fascinating stuff, I tell ya.

I was busy working on some new recipes with my mother-turned-sous-chef the other day and we so happily stumbled into a galaxy of blueberries just outside the cottage kitchen door. Along with the basil snipped freshly from our own backyard, this amazing smoothie was born. I had never really thought about combining these two flavours before but it is really delicious! Super refreshing and bright.

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Soy-free Protein Boosters for Smoothies

Sprouted Nuts
Soaking or “sprouting” nuts before you eat them not only makes them a lot easier to blend up in a smoothie, but massively increases their digestive qualities and nutrient content. Simply by placing a handful of nuts in water overnight, their complex protein chains are broken down into separate amino acids, making their protein easier to digest and assimilate.

Some of my favorite nuts to add to smoothies are almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and cashews. Make sure you purchase the nuts raw. Discard the soaking water and rinse them very well before consuming.

To learn more about the process and importance of soaking nuts, see my article here.

Dark Leafy Greens
Calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. And if you’re skeptical about their protein content, consider the fact that some of the largest and strongest mammals on earth are vegetarian.

I like to blend kale and spinach into my smoothies when I need a boost of protein, and also vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. I find that these two greens taste the best and break down fairly easily, avoiding any grittiness.

Protein Powder
I don’t always put protein powder in my smoothies, but I like it on occasion if I need a real boost and if my diet has been lacking in protein that particular day. I can often “hide” nearly one third of my daily intake in just one drink, which is convenient and tasty.

There is so much to discuss when it comes to protein powder, since there are some really great choices out there and some serious gobbledygook.

But, how does one pick a high-quality product without a lot of additives, and which source of protein is best? I stick to plant-based protein sources that don’t include any soy, such as hemp seed, pumpkin seed, sprouted gluten-free grain, and pea. These foods are dehydrated and pulverized, and often combined with stevia for sweetness or with a bonus of superfoods, such as spirulina or chlorella. The basic rule is one that applies to anything that comes in package: if you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce the ingredients on the label, don’t buy it – good quality protein powders will have only whole food ingredients! I also make sure that the ingredients are organic and non-GMO.

Here is an extensive and well-researched article on various brands of soy-free vegan protein powders. This girl certainly did her taste-testing…thanks Kathy!

Hemp Hearts
Hemp protein is totally remarkable, as it is complete (meaning it contains all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential ones), something not so easy to find in plant-based protein, making it an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans. The protein in hemp is also highly digestible and easily absorbed by the body. Especially perfect for post-workout recovery, hemp is a good source of branch-chained amino acids, needed for repair and growth of lean body tissue. Two tablespoons of hemp hearts contain approximately seven grams of protein.

Hemp hearts add a creaminess to smoothies, which I love. Make sure to buy the hulled hemp hearts, and not the ones in the shell (see pictured).

Bee Pollen
Most people aren’t aware of just how much protein is in bee pollen, but it is in fact the richest animal source of protein trumping beef, eggs and dairy of equal weight. Bee pollen is 40% protein and contains free amino acids that are easily digested and absorbed by the body. In addition, bee pollen contains enzymes to aid digestion, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and phytonutrtients.

Bee pollen has a floral flavour and is really delicious in fruit-based smoothies. If you are new to using bee pollen, start off with just a little bit and work your way up over the course of a few weeks. It is a very powerful food that your body need time to adjust to.

To learn more about bee pollen, see my article here.

Spirulina and Chlorella
Spirulina and chlorella are both algae, and their protein content cannot be beat! Spirulina contains roughly 60-70% protein by weight, and chlorella hovers around 60%. Although they are not the tastiest of foods, a little goes a long way and they blend beautifully into smoothies. Start small, with half a teaspoon and work your way up to one or two teaspoons (if you can stand the taste).

To learn more about the benefits of chlorella, see my article here.

Nut or Seed Butter
A convenient and delicious way to boost the protein in your smoothies is to add nut and seed butters. Two tablespoons of almond butter contain about 6 grams of protein and tahini is around 5 grams.

I often blend nut or seed butter with water to start off my smoothie, which makes a “cheater’s nut milk”, then add the other ingredients.

Rolled Oats
Oats are a surprising source of protein – a half a cup containing around six grams. If you are using rolled oats in a smoothie, make sure to soak them first to increase their digestibility. Soaking also helps the oats blend up into a creamy textured delight. I love the thickness that comes from adding soaked oats to a smoothie – it’s a real meal in a glass!

For best results, use whole grain rolled oats instead of instant.

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I am very excited to announce that, after much inquiry, I am holding the second annual My New Roots Potluck Picnic in the Park! After such a successful event last summer and meeting SO many amazing people (not to mention the incredible food!) I just had to throw another one.

Come join us in Toronto at Trinity Bellwoods Park – we’ll be located at the north-west corner of the park at Dundas and Shaw corner. Come for 6:00pm and bring your yummiest vegan dish to impress – bonus for gluten-free recipes too! No, you certainly do not have to make a recipe from My New Roots, as we all want to taste something new and exciting (but if you have an absolute favourite, I won’t complain either). Please feel free to bring friends as well, or show up solo and make some new ones in three or four minutes. We’re all coming out for healthy, tasty food so you’ll be in good company!

I hope that you’re as excited as I am! Looking forward to seeing you all there.

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The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

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It took me a long time to settle on the title for this post. Why? Because it’s quite a statement to suggest that a humble loaf of bread will change your life.
I am willing to be so bold.

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When I began eating healthier, bread was definitely on my hit list. Not because bread is inherently “bad” (in my books nothing is that black and white), but that I knew when I was basing three meals a day around a loaf of crusty, white French loaf, something had to give. I realized that if I replaced a few slices of bread a day, I could make room for things like greens, fresh fruits, legumes, and that I would be getting more nutrients from the same amount of calories. Light bulb moment.

Now, that isn’t to say that my love affair with bread ended there. Oh no. When I moved to Denmark four years ago I fell head-over-heels for bread all over again, except this time, it wasn’t light and fluffy – it was kind of like the weather – dark, deep, and intense. The Danes are excellent bread makers, especially when it comes to sourdoughs and of course, rye. Bread here is hearty, filling, and a single slice is almost like a meal in itself. I love going to the bakery on Saturday morning and getting a loaf of rye that has naturally risen for days, been baked for 24 hours, and looks and feels like a brick.

People often ask me why I don’t bake my own bread, and the answer is simple: the Danes just do it better. And I like the ritual of walking down the canal to the bakery (rye bread is one of the few things I actually purchase “ready-made”). This way I appreciate bread on a whole other level and it becomes special. I savour every slice instead of making it every meal.

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It wasn’t until I went for lunch at a friend’s place a couple weeks ago that my life changed. When I walked into her apartment I could smell it. Something malty and definitely baked, toasty, nutty…when I rounded the corner to her kitchen, there it was. A very beautiful loaf of bread, pretty as a picture, studded with sunflower seeds, chia and almonds, golden around the corners and begging me to slice into it.
She served it with a number of spreads; pesto, lentil hummus, some veggie pate. It magically seemed to compliment everything I slathered across its speckled flesh. Moist, dense, chewy. Hints of sea salt here and there, nestled between the oats, around the corner from a golden flax seed. So beautiful and more than tasty, this was a revelation. “Please tell me this is good for me!” I begged her.
She smiled.

Friendly Fiber: Psyllium Seed Husks
You’re probably asking yourself how the heck this bread holds itself together without any flour. Nice observation, and the answer is psyllium seed husks.

Psyllium seed husks are one of nature’s most absorbent fibers, able to suck up over ten times their weight in water. For this reason, you’ll often find psyllium in over-the-counter laxatives, stool-bulking agents and colon cleansing kits; basically anything having to do with poo. I just came back from running a detox course in Lisbon where I got all the participants in-the-know about this amazing little supplement that also helps to reduce cholesterol levels, aid digestion and weight loss, and alleviate diarrhea and constipation.

Psyllium seed husks contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber dissolves in water and soothes the digestive tract with its mucilaginous properties, while the insoluble fiber acts like a broom to sweep the colon free of toxins. Taken during a detox, juice cleanse, or fast, psyllium can greatly improve the body’s ability to eliminate impurities. But the good news is, you can take it anytime – many people find that a daily dose of a teaspoon or two in a glass of water really helps them get their bowels moving, (or slow them down if necessary).*

But what does this have to do with bread? Well, the idea here is to use psyllium to bind all these lovely ingredients together without resorting to flour. There have been some low-carb bread recipes floating around the ‘net as of late that take advantage of psyllium and I think it’s a great idea. Eat delicious bread, have good poops. I’m in!

Psyllium is available at health food stores and most pharmacies. It comes in two forms, the raw husks themselves, and powdered, which are just the husks that have been pulverized. It is easier to take the powdered form as it dissolves easier in water, but that is not important in the case of this bread – either type work just fine. 

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Now, allow me to explain the title. I know you’re just burning for me to back this up with a few good reasons, so here we go.

First of all, when I make bread, there are bowls, spoons, measuring cups and flour everywhere. There is always a mess to clean up, and my biggest pet peeve is trying to get the very last bit of dough unstuck from the mixing bowl. Serenity now.
The only thing this bread leaves you with is a used spoon and a measuring cup. Everything that you mix, you do so right in the loaf pan. Genius.

Secondly, bread almost always requires some kneading, then some waiting, and then perhaps more kneading. Maybe more waiting? I’m confused already.
This bread, on the other hand, is kind of brainless. Dump all the ingredients into the loaf pan, stir, and let it sit for a couple hours. Or overnight. Or all day. Or however long or short you find convenient. Whatevs. You rule the bread, not the other way around.

Third. Bread recipes are specific. Use this kind of flour, and that kind of yeast…
What if I told you that if you don’t have hazelnut, you could use almonds? If you don’t like oats, you could use rolled spelt. Out of maple syrup? Use honey! See where I am going with this? The only thing I will emphasize is to replace the ingredients in the same proportion and with a similar ingredient for the best results. The rest if your call.

Fourth, breads require a rising agent, whether that is a sourdough starter (this takes days to make) or commercial yeast (which should really be avoided if possible). This bread doesn’t. Great.

Fifth reason, your typical loaf of bread is not really that healthy. It uses flour, which has often been stripped of much of its fiber, bran, essential fats, and unless milled mere hours before baking has lost most of its nutrients through oxidation. It is high in carbohydrates (often refined ones at that) and low in protein and healthy fats. It is high in gluten, something many of us are trying to eat less of. And sometimes bread has kooky ingredients like corn syrup and food colouring. Seriously. Read those labels.

The Life-Changing Loaf uses whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It is high in protein. It is incredibly high in fiber. It is gluten-free and vegan. Everything gets soaked for optimal nutrition and digestion. I will go so far as to say that this bread is good for you.

Sixth, this bread makes the best toast. Ever.

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I realize that few pleasures in life will ever be able to compete with tearing open a fresh baguette, or slicing into a thick-crusted country levain, and I am not suggesting that those pleasures be forgotten. On the contrary, let’s let those things be what they are and enjoy them from time to time. And for now, and hopefully the better part of your bread-munching days, I offer my latest and greatest pleasure to you; a loaf with no down-side, a bread with personality, a triumphant flag raised high exclaiming that deliciousness and health are not exclusive.

This bread changed my life. Will it change yours too?

Q & A:
To answer the number of questions about substitutions coming into the comments section, I will answer some here. Please be advised that I cannot guarantee any results beyond the recipe above. To help out, if you do make a successful substitution, let me know in the comments! Thanks!

1. There is no substitute for the psyllium husks. Whenever I write an entire article about a specific ingredient, it is because THAT is the point of the recipe, as it highlights one way you can use it. For those of you who can’t find psyllium, buy it online. It’s cheap.
2. For nut substitutions, the bulk of this bread is nuts and seeds so you’ll have to skip the recipe. If it is JUST a nut allergy and seeds are okay, replace the nuts with seeds.
3. You can use ground flax seeds instead of whole, but you’re going to need a lot more water as the ground flax seed is highly absorbent.
4. Substituting the oats with quinoa flakes may work, but again, they absorb a lot more water than oats do. Add more water accordingly.
5. Oats are inherently gluten-free, but if you have a sensitivity to gluten, make sure to purchase certified gluten-free oats.
6. For sugar-free or low-sugar diets, use a pinch stevia to replace the maple syrup.
7. A flexible, silicon loaf pan is best because you can test to see if the dough is holding together, and it’s easy to remove the loaf from the pan, BUT, a regular pan should be fine.
8. This bread is not raw. I haven’t tried drying it out. If you want to make it raw I suggest *trying* to slice it before you bake it and dehydrating the slices individually.

 

* if you are interested in taking a dietary psyllium supplement, please read the instructions carefully. Do not give psyllium to young children, as it can be a choking hazard.