Category: Recipe

Inspirational Sunflower Seed Risotto

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Inspiration is a perplexing creature. As someone who relies on a constant stream of ideas to do what I do, having an endless supply is rather essential.

Of all the questions I am asked, the most common of them all is where my inspiration comes from.

The funny thing about this is, I can’t really give a straight answer because I get ideas from everywhere. Literally. Yes of course there are the obvious places like cookbooks, the farmer’s market, my vegetable garden, but I’ve had ideas strike me like lightening while listening to music, smelling a certain scent wafting on the breeze, the colours in a particular vintage dress. My main motivation for writing a cookbook actually came from a postcard I found randomly, which pictured a faceless girl picking wildflowers. Nothing to do with food. At this point I’ve learned that the most important thing for me is to put myself in the way of beauty as often as possible, keep an open mind, and not do discount any sources or ideas as weird, because the best things most often come out of the seemingly strange.

I will say that one thing that consistently brings me a lot of inspiration, is just talking to other people who really love food. Sometimes getting out of my head and into someone else’s, or at least hearing about their experience with a particular dish or special ingredient can help jumpstart a flood of ideas. For instance, the last time I was in Amsterdam teaching cooking classes, one of the attendees came up to me at the end of the day and told me about a very exciting meal she had eaten in Copenhagen, of all places. It was a risotto made out of sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds! At first this sounded totally bizarre, but then again, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this seriously inspiring idea ever since. I knew that sunflower seeds were about the same size and shape as grains of rice. They were nearly the same colour. But how would they taste? How would they become creamy? What is it like to boil them?

When I googled it, all the recipes called for a pressure cooker, which makes sense for those that aren’t familiar with the awesome power and health benefits of soaking. I knew that that spending the day in a warm bath would make the sunflower seeds totally relaxed and willing to tenderize in a sultry spa of caramelized alliums for dinner that evening. Also, I don’t own a pressure cooker.

So setting out to make this, I anticipated a week’s worth of trial-and-errors, a pile of dirty dishes and a lot of semi-edible sunflower seeds. But I treated the seeds very much like I would treat rice in a risotto and after one (one!) attempt, it was pretty darn near perfect. And pretty darn inspiring.

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To say that this recipe is totally surprising is an understatement. The sunflower seeds are tender and chewy, with just the slightest bit of tooth still left – not unlike the real deal. It’s remarkably simple to make with just a few common ingredients, truly delicious and deeply satisfying. You can make it suit any season as the seeds create a foundation to build upon no matter what time of year you’re enjoying. Since we are finally getting some lovely fresh spring produce here in Denmark, I chose to go that route. I found some beautiful young rainbow carrots, peas in their pods, white and green asparagus and some super fresh watercress. This would be equally lovely with sautéed mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, pumpkin or squash.

I am sure you’re wondering how the seeds get creamy from cooking, and the truth is they don’t – you’ll need to help them out a little. When cooking a rice-based risotto, starch emerges from the grains as they cook, and magically melds with the broth to create a velvety texture. To mimic this I simply blended some of the soaked seeds with equal parts water and added it back into the mix at the end of cooking, the results astounding. This makes the risotto rich and creamy without any starches or carbohydrates.

But what shocks me most of all is how darn flavourful the dish is with such minimal ingredients. The caramelized onions and garlic are really all you need (in this dish, as well as life, I wager) although herbs would be a welcome addition; dried ones during cooking or fresh ones stirred in at the end. My version uses watercress as a finishing touch and is totally lovely with its peppery bite, but I will leave the brilliant blank canvas for you project your own inspiration on to.

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Everyone Loves the Sunflowers
Easy-to-find, inexpensive, and nutrient-rich, sunflower seeds are one of my favourite additions to a number of dishes that I make, from breakfast to dinner and snacks in between. They are delicious toasted or soaked, blended up into seed butter or even milk!

Sunflower seeds are one of nature’s highest sources of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E is important for overall health, as it functions as a free-radical neutralizer and prevents damage to fat-containing structures and molecules, such as brain cells, cholesterol, and cell membranes. When the fats in cell membranes become damaged, the function of the cell itself can be compromised. This is why researchers have studied whether diets low in Vitamin E are associated with many diseases associated with aging.

Sunflower seeds are so high in vitamin E, that just one serving of this risotto contains over 100% of your daily recommended intake!

Because sunflower seeds have such a high (and healthy!) fat content, it is best to store them in a tightly sealed glass container in the refrigerator. Keeping them cool will help preserve their delicate, nourishing oils, which can then in turn nourish you! They will also last much longer stored this way. If you purchase shelled sunflower seeds in bulk make sure to sniff the bin first: it should smell fresh and nutty, without any traces of sourness, which can indicate that the fats have become rancid. And always have a good look at the seeds to ensure that they are not discoloured or damaged.

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Where do you get your inspiration from? How does it come to you? What have you been inspired by lately? Tell me! Especially if it’s about food…

Wishing you an inspired day! Love always,
Sarah B

Revolutionary Pancakes

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Revolutionary Pancakes // My New Roots

When I was pregnant, you wouldn’t believe how many people told me how much fun it would be cooking for a little person someday. Although this seemed like an obvious thing, I kind of shrugged it off, thinking that it wouldn’t be that awesome. I think part of me feared the pressure, or the possibility of cooking becoming more of a chore than a pleasure.

Although I’ve had my fair share of noggin scratchin’, I have to say that cooking is now more than a pleasure. It’s moved into a greater creative place, I feel freer, and I’ve discovered so many cool things through the challenges.

Take this recipe for example. Seeing as happy accidents seem to be at the core of what I do, it’s no surprise that the recipe for Revolutionary Pancakes evolved from something other than what it was originally intended for. In July of last year I blogged about Raspberry Ripple Buckwheat Porridge. Around this time, I was beginning to give my little babe whole grains, but because we chose to let him feed himself, it was hard to actually get enough in him – the floor had all it could handle, thank you. One day after blending the porridge up, I looked at the still-hot skillet on the stove from my husband’s eggs, and mused about pouring my own breakfast into the pan. So I did. And it made a pancake. A pretty perfect, tasty, sprouted pancake that my baby could actually pick up and eat himself without supplying the hardwood with yet another coat of whole grain goodness. For the win.

This got me pretty excited. Not only did I have a new and very popular meal for my wee one, but a new a very popular meal for myself. I’ve been experimenting a lot for the last 9 months with this one and I’m thrilled to say we have a rather fool-proof recipe on our hands, dear friends. Pancakes for everyone!

And what is so revolutionary about them? These pancakes contain two ingredients. They are flour-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan.  They use soaked whole buckwheat and any other grain you have in your pantry; brown rice, quinoa, millet and amaranth are my favourites. Add-ins are welcome and sneaking some fruits, veg or superfoods into these is totally possible. Lastly, and my favourite aspect, is that you don’t even get a bowl or spoon dirty in the process since you can soak the grains right in your blender, then pour the batter straight into the pan.

Revolutionary Pancakes // My New Roots

Flour Power?
I am trying my best to live a flour-free life. Why? Because even if I buy “whole grain” flour at the store, I don’t really know how whole grain it actually is, how long it’s been since it was processed, and just how that went.

If you consider foods’ three mortal enemies: heat, light and oxygen, flour seems like it may be on the losing end of this battle. Grinding grain inevitably exposes its insides to the three foes, so keeping grains whole right up until you’re going to consume them is no doubt the best practice to avoid losing vitamins, minerals, and gaining serious un-desirables, such as oxidized fats.

To remedy all of this, we can grind our own grain and use them right away. Soaking the whole grains first, then using them in a recipe such as this one, is the easiest method for most of us. We can also make our own flour, either in a dedicated grain mill (which can be expensive) or with something as simple as a coffee grinder. I also really love buying rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant) and grinding them in my food processor to make flour. This is a really easy and inexpensive way to ensure I’m getting a whole product, ground fresh and full of nutrients.

If you are going to buy flour, make sure it has an expiry date (as all food should go bad at some point, eh?) and surprise! Keep it in the fridge. That’s right, all sealed up tight in a cool, dark place. If you are someone who does a lot of baking and goes through flour very quickly, no need to worry about this too much, but if you’re a sporadic baker like me, keep the enemies at bay.


Revolutionary Pancakes // My New Roots

I must be upfront and inform you that these are not like the familiar, light-n-fluffy American-style pancakes, or whisper-thin European crêpes. Because they are not made with white flour, or flour at all for that matter, they are substantial in taste and texture. On the grounds of their potential density, I like to make mine on the thin side, and relatively small. You can thin the batter out quite a lot if you do like crêpes, but they will inevitably be chewier – a quality I quite like.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic pancake eater because they are the prefect blank canvas for all manner of healthy, tasty toppings. I like to crown these particular ones with homemade nut butter, fresh seasonal fruit, hemp seeds, coconut, and of course maple syrup, honey, or jam.

As a bonus, I’ve included a quick recipe for luscious Ginger-Vanilla Cashew Cream. Since I posted a picture of it on Instagram, it would be almost cruel not to provide you with the ingredients and method, however simple it all is to make. What’s groovy about pairing this with the pancakes is that you’re already soaking grains for breakfast, so giving the nuts a bath before bed seems like no extra effort at all.

Revolutionary Pancakes // My New Roots

 

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One more exciting thing to mention is The Guardian’s magazine, Observer Food Monthly has published a story about the wave of healthy eating washing over the globe and the women who are at the forefront of this movement. The cover features The Hemsley Sisters, Ella Woodward, Anna Jones, and yours truly (a very dolled-up version, I might add). Read the article and get one of the spring recipes from my cookbook, here.

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Ramen Revisited + How to make Dashi

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Amen Ramen // My New Roots

My parents made my lunch every day that I was in school from the time I was barely old enough to hold a brown paper bag, right up until my last days of high school. It was always exactly the same format, with slight variations: sandwich, juice box, granola bar, piece of fruit. Pretty standard fare for most of my peer group if I remember correctly, and I never complained about it. That is until the day I peered over my bologna-on-a-bun to see Alexis at the popular kids’ table in the junior high cafeteria slurping over what looked like a rather foreign and intriguing styrofoam cup of something hot and tasty.

“Oh, that’s Mr. Noodles”, my best friend Julie said, and went on to explain that all you had to do was pour boiling water into the cup and wait a few minutes before eating the noodle soup-like meal. I looked down at my cold, relatively flavourless, pedestrian food and felt left out. Not only was I totally un-cool, but suddenly my lunch was too. Could life get any worse?!

I ran home and told my mom about the cup noodles and begged her to buy some at the store, promising her that this could not only save her time, but most importantly, my lunchroom reputation. “Don’t you want me to be popular?!”, I wailed. Convinced this was my ticket to the promised land of spin-the-bottle and weekend shopping mall hang-outs, I persuaded her to invest the fifty cents on a couple trials and see what all the fuss was about. When she came home I had the kettle boiled and ready to get down to business.

Folding back the paper lid, I spotted a magical little package of flavoured powder inside, which I read was meant to be emptied into the cup before adding the water. A couple shriveled, token peas fell out amongst the dust and my mom looked pleased to see green. The boiling water was added, I closed the lid again and waited – the longest four minutes of my life thus far. But oh, what ceremony! What rapture! The timer on my ironman wristwatch beeped, I stirred the cup, and dug in.

It was salty. Very salty. That’s about all I can recall. The noodles, semi-cooked and crispy in parts were underwhelming and bland, while the broth, if I can all it that, was shockingly saline. But none of that mattered. I would have eaten cow dung if it meant sitting next to Alexis. I finally had the answer to the question of cafeteria coolness.

Amen Ramen // My New Roots

Needless to say, eating ramen did not initiate me into the popular crowd, nor did it inspire a great love of this ubiquitous, cheap eat canonized by hung-over college kids everywhere. Until very recently this had been my only experience with ramen. But when yet another ramen recipe request landed in my inbox, I knew it was time to revisit this famous dish.

It needs to be said that instant ramen is a far cry from its traditional roots of noodles in broth, which when prepared properly with care and intention, can be utterly delicious. I suppose it’s like most things that go from revered, regional dish to the freezer section of the gas station’s grocery aisle, or worse. Shouldn’t these things receive a different name or label in respect to the original recipe? It’s somewhat maddening, but I surrender to the fact that there is only so much I can change in this world.

Amen Ramen // My New Roots

The backbone of all ramen is the broth, or dashi. Dashi is a clear stock that is traditionally made using kombu, Japanese sea kelp, and katsoubushi or bonito, dried fish. Other dashi bases can include shiitake mushrooms, and because my recipes are plant based, I’ll be showing you how to make this variety and the kombu one today. Once you have this base, you can spike your dashi with shallots, garlic, ginger, miso, etc. but today we’re keeping things simple and I leave the fun and improvisation to your ramen-hungry minds.

Toppings vary widely, but vegetarian ingredients can include noodles (obviously), mushrooms, strips of nori or other tasty sea veggies, greens, spring onions, shredded cabbage, kimchi, garlic, and the ever-so-popular soft-boiled egg. If you are vegan, simply leave this ingredient out – it’s the only animal product in the recipe and still delicious without it. The one thing I love about ramen is its versatility and infinitely customizable combinations to suit every season, taste, and budget.

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On Salt, Sodium and Finding a Balance
The big bad deal with packaged ramen and its accompanying powdered broth or “flavour packet” is the incredibly high sodium content, some brands containing an entire day’s worth in just one serving! On the flip side, making your own dashi allows you to control the sodium level and provide you with balanced saltiness for overall wellbeing.

Sodium is not only important to us, our survival depends on it. Its role in the human body is to work in conjunction with potassium to maintain cellular fluid levels, acid/alkaline balance, and keep the nerves and muscles functioning properly. Sodium plays a role in hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, and is used during the transport of amino acids from the gut to the blood.

Because sodium is needed to maintain blood fluid volume, excessive sodium can result in increased blood volume and elevated blood pressure, especially if the kidneys are compromised in any way and unable to clear it efficiently. Hypertension and premenstrual problems are more frequent in people who have a high salt intake, especially when there is a relatively low level of potassium in the diet to counteract it. Virtually all whole unprocessed plant foods contain more potassium than sodium. Grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, offer ten to several hundred times more potassium, and yet the average American is said to be deficient in potassium. Although there is no standard ratio of sodium to potassium to recommend, eating a balanced, whole foods diet (surprise!) is the best way to achieve equilibrium.

So how much sodium should be eating in a day? First it needs to be established that sodium and salt are two different things. The salt we consume is in fact a combination of two ions, sodium and chloride, in percentages of roughly 40% and 60%. Most nutrition experts agree that sodium intake on a daily basis should not exceed 2 grams per day. This amount is equal to 5 grams of salt, or 1 teaspoon. Yup. That’s it. Put into those terms, it’s easy to see how one could overdo it…by lunch hour.

To avoid excess sodium intake, limit processed foods. As I mentioned above, a little recon revealed that some instant ramen brands cover the daily sodium base in just one serving. Yikes! Sodium lurks in some very unexpected places, so be savvy and read labels. To be extra cautious avoid high-salt foods such as commercially-prepared pickles, olives, and saurkraut, canned and instant soups, processed cheese, condiments like ketchup, barbeque sauce, gravy, alfredo sauce, salad dressings, mayonnaise, soy sauce, snacks foods like chips, salted peanuts and pretzels, crackers, and boxed breakfast cereal. Remember, cooking for yourself is the only way to know exactly what you are getting in your food.

Amen Ramen // My New Roots

There are a few things that need to be mentioned about this recipe.

First, you need to start the process the night before (or the morning of) by simply soaking the dashi ingredients in water and set in the fridge. This is how you make the broth. You can hurry the process by cooking the ingredients in hot water if you’re in a rush, but the results are better if you follow this slower method (plus, your fridge does all the work). I will also say that traditional dashi is delicate and mild-flavoured, unlike the instant dashi that is saltier and stronger due to the addition of artificial, chemical flavour enhancers. When you try the dashi for the first time, try not to compare it to the ramen broth you’ve had in the past – this is the real deal. Appreciate its clean, pure taste and it subtlety, and add tamari or miso only as needed to enhance the natural flavour.

Second, you can make and enjoy the dashi bases separately if you like, or combine the two for a more complex flavour. I really like the combination of the kombu and shiitake dashi together. They both contain good amounts of umami, so united they deliver a deep, multifaceted taste experience without the meat.

Third, get organic ingredients if you can. Sea vegetables and mushrooms are both like little sponges in their respective environments so finding the cleanest and highest quality you can is a good idea.

Finally, purchase the most high-vibe ramen noodles you can find. The other reason I was inspired to write this recipe and post was because of all the incredibly awesome ramen I’ve seen at the health food store. Made with whole grains, some of them even gluten-free, I couldn’t say no! Now, you could make your own noodles if you like (this is an art I greatly admire) but in the interest of saving a smidgen of time, buy yourself some noodles and get to the ramen even faster.

 

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

Hey everyone! Mybook comes out today!!! I am so ridiculously excited to see this day arrive and the book arrive in your homes and kitchens. The reviews have been so positive so far and for that, I thank you. Please note that although most stores in North America that are carrying the book should have it in stock today, some may take a few days to longer. If you want to purchase the book online, there are many retailers listed here.

I would like to take this time to acknowledge the couple of misprints in the book. During the editing process the following mistakes were made: on page 21, the ghee recipe is labeled vegan. On page 241-242 buckwheat and spelt switched places so that buckwheat is in the gluten-containing section of the grains chapter, while spelt is in the gluten-free section.

In other news, my Vancouver tour dates and events have been confirmed! Here is where and when you can find me in Van city (this will be my first time there, can you believe it?!). Click the links for more details and ticket information.

April 15: Burdock and Co. Collaborative Dinner + Book Signing
April 16: Whole Foods Cambie Cooking Demo + Book Signing
April 17: Interview + Afternoon Tea with CBC’s Sheryl MacKay
Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks Dinner Event + Book Signing

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Also, check out my most recent interview over at the gorgeous site, The Coveteur.