Category: Picnic

Caramelized Onion White Lentil Hummus

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If there is one trick I’ve learned in all of my years cooking, both at home and in restaurants, it is this: caramelized onions can make almost anything taste amazing. They’re the ridiculously simple, yet magical ingredient that turns an ordinary dish into something so rich-tasting and satisfying that people go …oh hi excuse me, this is incredible.

I think the simple reason that caramelized onions taste so good, is because they are a labour of love. Not like an all-day stirring the pot kinda deal, but most definitely a food that you can’t just leave on the stove and dive into an Instagram vortex. No. Caramelized onions take care and attention, at least for the better part of half an hour, and the results are so worth it I bet you’ll catch yourself multi-tasking at the stove tonight just to have some on hand to gussy up your omelet this weekend (boss move there, by the way).

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The more accurate reason that caramelized onions taste so good however, isn’t technically caramelization – it’s called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a browning reaction similar to caramelization, but with one distinct difference: caramelization is a chemical reaction between reducing sugars, while Maillard is a chemical reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids (proteins). And yes, there is enough protein in an onion to elicit this response – how thrilling for us! Although the Maillard reaction is very complex and complicated, what we do know is that it requires heat to transform and rearrange sugars and amino acids to create new and fantastic flavour molecules in and on your food, making it even more delicious. If you’ve ever eaten a golden slice of toast, enjoyed a rich cup of coffee, or nibbled on a grilled vegetable, you’ve experienced the pure pleasure that all of this this chemical commotion is responsible for. Science!

Harnessing the power of the Maillard reaction can make you a better cook, because things that are browned properly taste more intensely, more complex, and well, better. Without even being aware of it, it’s the reason you’ll reach for the roasted veggies with the crispiest edges, or the reason that you prefer a fried egg over a boiled one (no judgement!). There are a couple ways of making this spectacular series of chemical reactions work for you, and the first is high heat. Maillard will not occur at very low temperatures, especially in situations where the food is not in direct contact with the heat, like it is on a skillet or grill for instance. When you’re roasting veggies, make sure the oven is at least 400°F / 200°C. When you’re making pizza, you can crank it up even higher, to get those beautifully blistered crust edges that make your mouth water.

The second way is to keep the food you’re cooking on the dry side. For instance, have you ever noticed how if you wash mushrooms (which you should actually never do), they’ll never really get brown and crusty? Too much moisture! Instead, brush those fungi gently to remove any dirt or debris, then put them in a screeching hot pan with some ghee and don’t stir them. I talk more about this technique here. This is the same reason you need a large pan for these caramelized onions, since they’ll need the space to allow the water to evaporate around them. If the onions are too close together, they’ll only steam each other. Eew. If you’re oven roasting vegetables for dinner, cut them in the morning and leave them out all day uncovered so that the surface water will evaporate, and the veggies will brown more easily. Yes, this seems like a bit of a hassle, but the culinary nerd in me admits that it’s cool because it works.

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So, where does the hummus come into this story? Well, hummus is pretty much a food group in my world. I’ve made so many variations with so many kinds of legumes, spices, alt seed butters, toppings, and stir-ins, that I could hardly believe I had never tried it with the ingredient that could single-handedly save humanity: caramelized onions. I knew that deep richness of the onions would meld perfectly with the creamy dip, and make the flavour even better. I wasn’t wrong! The only thing that I wanted to improve upon, was the protein content – not because I’m obsessed with protein, but simply because I thought it could be higher. To do that I simply swapped out the traditional chickpeas for white lentils, or urad dal. We not only get more protein from this change-up, but almost double the fiber, with less sodium, less fat, and less sugar. Sweet.

This dip is the perfect, rich compliment to all the crisp and light, early summer veggies popping up. I went to my friend’s farm and picked some seriously beautiful radishes and young carrots, which paired so well with the caramelized onion flavour. I also had some Life-Changing Crackers on hand, which always make dipping more delicious. One thing I changed from the first version to the third, was the onions on top. Instead of blending all of them into the dip, I used about a third of them on top, which allows you to scoop a few tender morsels up with each bite. This delivers even more caramelized onion flavour and texture, which, let us be reminded, is the whole point of this exercise.

Even though this hummus keeps well for at least five days in the fridge (you can even freeze it!), it is best eaten freshly made at room temperature, since the flavour is at its peak then.

And because you’re wondering, you can find white or ivory lentils at Indian grocers, Middle Eastern markets, or some natural food stores. They are the skinned and split version of urad dal, which is black, so make sure you buy the huskless version! If you can’t find them at all, simply use chickpeas – it will be just as delicious.

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If it’s your first time caramelizing onions and you’re feeling intimidated, here is a stellar step-by-step tutorial from Bon Appétit. It varies ever so slightly from my method, but you’ll get the picture!

Big love and happy hummus,
Sarah B.

Show me your hummus on Instagram: #mnrcaramelizedonionhummus

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Hello dear friends!

There are only a few spots left for our January 2019 Wild Heart High Spirit retreat and we’d love to see you in Bali! 

Join us along with 15 other women to unwind, reconnect, and find the inspiration to ignite you on your health journey. Our thoughtfully-designed program will awaken and nourish your entire being – body, mind, and spirit! This is a true celebration of life, and we get to do it together in paradise! Come see what all the magic is about. 

Much love,
Sarah B, Mikkala and the Golden Circle Retreats team

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