Category: Lunch

Deluxe Butternut Macaroni ‘n’ Tease

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I’m over winter, but winter definitely isn’t over. Although I really can’t complain about the balmy temps here in Denmark, it’s dark and damp and I would probably pay a lot of money to see the sun right about now. And my heart does go out to all my family and friends freezing their tooshies off stateside. Yikes! I’m here to help. Or at least, this recipe is here to help.

Like most kids, I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese growing up, the kind that came in a blue box with the magical, neon orange flavour powder. Sometimes my mom would toss in a few slices of bell peppers and cocktail wieners and my brother and I felt like kings. Kings! Those were the days. In fear of falling short of that level of awesomeness, I haven’t actually attempted to make mac ‘n’ cheese on my own past the days of high school. Until recently this winter, a gnawing hunger for warmth, comfort and nostalgia took hold and just wouldn’t let go. If you’re anything like me (a human) you’ll love tucking into this tasty meal every week until spring hits.

So, what makes this mac ‘n’ tease a tease? It’s vegan! Not one speck of cheese or milk or butter or cream in sight. Nope. Instead the delectable sauce is a winning combination of roasted butternut squash and garlic, creamy butter beans, and cheesy nutritional yeast. Although not exactly like the cheese sauce of yore, it is still completely smooth and creamy, rich, unctuous, and deeply satisfying when combined with fat noodles and the most amazing non-breadcrumb-topping made out of sunflower seeds. That’s right.

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

Nutritional Yeast: A Cheesy Tease
Although the name is slightly unappealing, nutritional yeast is a delicious and versatile seasoning to have in your pantry. Made from a single-celled organism called, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, the yeast is grown on cane or beet molasses, fermented, then deactivated with heat to stop the growing process. The yeast is sold both as flakes and powder (use half the amount of powder if a recipe calls for flakes). The natural colour of nutritional yeast is vibrantly golden. The flavour is often described as cheesy, which makes it a perfect substitute for dairy products in dressing and sauces. I sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn, salads, sandwiches, soups, blend a little into hummus and other savory dips. Because of its high nutritional content, many people treat nutritional yeast as a food supplement.

First and foremost, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B-vitamins, and in many cases B-12 (though not all brands, read the label to make sure). Our bodies need B-vitamins to convert food into energy, keep stress at bay, alleviate insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, PMS, and mood swings (so, kind of important). Nutritional yeast also contains high amounts of protein with 4 grams per tablespoon, and contains 18 amino acids. It is a good source of dietary fiber, folic acid, selenium, and zinc. It is gluten-free and vegan.

In North America nutritional yeast is available at natural grocers and bulk food stores. In the UK, it is sold under the brand name Engevita; in Australia, it is called savory yeast flakes; in Scandinavia it is sold as yeast flakes or B-yeast / B-gær (due to the high B-vitamin content). Among cool kids, nutritional yeast is referred to simply as nooch. Drop that bomb at your next vegan potluck for major street cred. It should also be noted that nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, dry active yeast or baking yeast. Do not use these as a substitute for nutritional yeast in any recipe. It will be gross.

If you suffer from Candida or suspect that you have yeast issues, not to worry. Nutritional yeast is totally safe and will not infect you or exacerbate yeast conditions. It should be avoided however by those that are allergic to yeast and yeast products, like bread products, grapes and beer.

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

The shape of pasta you use for this really matters. I chose a large, deeply ridged, tubular pasta that said “macaroni” on the package, but it’s much closer to rigatoni if you ask me. Rigatoni, penne, classic macaroni, ziti, or even conchiglie (shells) would work here, as the ultimate goal is to get as much sauce in and around each noodle as humanly possible. In fact, I guarantee when you make the sauce you’ll be questioning my recipe amounts – there is a lot of it, people. But once you pour it over the cooked pasta and start stirring, it magically disappears into the nooks and crannies only reappear later in your mouth, like a rich and savoury flavour explosion from heaven. Tubes work best for obvious reasons, but I’ll let you decide how you want your sauce delivered. And I hope that it goes without saying that you should make an effort to find the most high-vibe pasta you can. There are so many on the market these days, even at regular grocery stores, so no excuses! No white pasta!

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

And yes, there is topping. In keeping with the gluten-free theme I went with a Sunflower Crumble Topping that I am quite chuffed about. It’s savoury, crunchy, and totally takes this meal to the next level – better than breadcrumbs I tell ya! And it’s delicious not only on mac ‘n’ cheese, but garnishing avocado toast, grain salads, and roast veggies. You may have a little extra of the topping, but my casserole dish is relatively deep and narrow compared to most, and I wanted to make sure you had plenty to cover the top of yours. If you want to save time and skip steps, the pasta and sauce alone is super delish all on its own. But. The topping.

After cooking up this meal, I looked around the kitchen at the dish carnage and shrugged my shoulders. You know why? So worth it. Yes, you will use pretty much every cooking element and piece of equipment you own, but make it a Sunday project, invite some buds over and have them clean up. You did cook them a totally awesome meal after all, it’s the least they can do. 

Deluxe Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese // My New Roots

A Winter Weekend Cleanse

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Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Happy 2015, dear friends!

I wasn’t sure about doing a detox post this year simply because it seemed predictable, but over the past couple weeks, my body told my brain to stop thinking so much and just do what I feel. Smart body.

There are many reasons people feel the need to press the reset button this time of year. Overindulgence, chronic stress, feelings of fatigue or sluggishness are the usual suspects, but there are also positive grounds for clearing out the cobwebs such as wanting to gain more energy and increase vitality, achieve higher levels of clarity, and realign with our internal guidance systems. I know the telltale signs for myself, and they usually involve a slight disinterest in eating (sounds crazy, I know), along with the desire to examine my food-body-mind relationship. Since I am often cooking everyday for a living, I can sometimes lose sight of the total magic that food is. If I slice open a head of red cabbage and fail to swoon, or that pomegranate doesn’t bring me to my knees in awe, I know it’s time to take a break, simplify, and make space for those feelings again.

But how can we make this really easy? I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from my past cleanses and detox programs for Oprah magazine and Whole Living magazine, (all of which are still online here, here and here), but one thing that people mention is how much food there is! Taking that into consideration, I thought I would design a super-simple plan this year with only two recipes and you can make the decision how long you want to go for.

One smoothie. One soup. Both are alkalizing, filling yet detoxifying, mega green but super tasty. In fact, I’ll wager that you’ll love both of these recipes so much that you’ll be enjoying them long after the cleanse is over! The Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie is luscious, sweet-and-spicy with cooling mint and creamy avocado. The Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup is like eating a crazy-delicious hug.

Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Detoxifying Habits

It’s true that certain foods and herbs can aid in the detoxification process, but what else can we do to boost our cleansing process on a daily basis?

Exercise: Moving our bodies is essential for balance and overall health because it creates the conditions to breathe deeply, stretch, circulate the blood and lymph, and sweat. The more we move, the more efficient our body becomes at circulating and flushing out toxins. Gentle, low-intensity exercise such as yoga, stretching, or walking is best during a juice fast or reduced-calorie diet (such as this weekend cleanse), while high-impact exercise is recommended at least 3 times a week once you are back to eating a regular, healthy diet.

Dry skin brushing: Dry skin brushing helps stimulate your lymphatic system, which is responsible for ridding the body of toxins. Skin brushing improves the surface circulation on the skin and keeps the pores of the skin open, encouraging your body’s discharge of metabolic wastes, and resulting in an improved ability to combat bacteria, plus helping your skin to look and feel healthier and more resilient! Skin brushing also strengthens the immune system and helps aid the digestion system, both of which are greatly involved in the detoxification process.

Take a sauna: Although it is a major eliminative organ, most people’s skin is very inactive. Sweat is a most important elimination route for toxins. Repeated use of the sauna can help slowly restore skin elimination. Viruses, toxin-burdened cells, and tumours are weaker than normal cells and tolerate heat poorly. The heating of the tissues, which takes place in a sauna helps the body heal from infections and disease more quickly. I make it a habit to go to the sauna once a week for a deep, cleansing sweat. It feels amazing and does a body good!

Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Below is a sample plan for the Winter Weekend Cleanse. You can do the program for just one day, but I would recommend at least two to really feel the benefits. You can also go longer if you like, and include one or more of the recipes from my previous programs to compliment the new one, just so those taste buds of yours stay excited! Drink as much water as you feel like / need, but consume at least 1½ liters throughout the day. Always begin the day with warm water with lemon, as this will assist in flushing your digestive system, preparing your tummy for food by increasing stomach acid, and alkalizing your entire system. Herbal teas are acceptable, but choose ones that are particularly detoxifying. Burdock, cleavers, chickweed, yarrow, nettle and plantain are some of my favourites. I also have a wonderful Detox Tea Blend recipe here.

You can eat your smoothie for breakfast and afternoon snack, but it also fills in for a lunch if that is all you feel like. You can make up the entire batch for a day (the recipe makes about 3 cups / 700ml) if you know you’ll be on the go and sip on it when you need a pick-me-up. Or you can divide the ingredients in half and make it fresh if you’ll be near a blender.

Since we are in the colder months of the year here, I’d encourage you not to use frozen fruit, as it’s important to keep warm when the weather is not! I like to enjoy this smoothie at room temperature, and I promise it’s just as delicious as its cold counterpart.

The soup can be eaten for lunch and dinner or as a snack too. I really like it blended, but feel free to keep it chunky too!

Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Winter Weekend Cleanse Plan

Upon rising: warm water with lemon

Breakfast: Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie

Throughout the day: water! Aim for 1½ – 2½ liters a day (about 6-10 cups), depending on your activity level

Lunch: Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup

Snack: Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie

Dinner: Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup

Repeat on the following day, for as many days as you like.

Things to Avoid: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, computer time, television, stressful situations.

Things to Embrace: sleep and rest, time outdoors, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, sauna, dry skin brushing.

 

I hope you all find your own reasons for trying out this simple cleanse, and that it proves to be as helpful as it is delicious! Remember to take things slow, set realistic goals for yourself and be celebrate each small victory! I truly wish you all the best for 2015 – this year is going to be the cleanest, greenest yet.

Love and light,
Sarah B

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Check out my interview with the gorgeous McKel over at Nutrition Stripped!

Sweet Potato Skillet Hash

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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