Category: Snack

Genius Chickpea Tofu

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As someone who eats a predominantly plant-based diet, you can imagine that I’ve enjoyed a long history of consuming soy-based foods. When I became a vegetarian at 16 and vegan thereafter, there wasn’t the variety of plant-based protein foods readily available as there are these days, nor was I educated about alternatives to meat back then. Soy became my answer and my replacement for everything from dairy to eggs to chicken nuggets (eew). Before I knew it, I was eating some form of soy up to three or four times a day, when things started to get weird. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that my PMS and menstrual issues became incredibly, ahem, challenging. I didn’t even like being around me. Period.
Ha.

Once I started studying holistic nutrition, I began to think that perhaps my issues lay in the hands of the health food industry’s little darling. Yes, soy. Seeing as I was really grooving on being a human guinea pig while studying, I decided to give up the soy for other foods, such as hemp, chia, nuts, seeds, leafy green, other legumes just to see what would happen. Call it a coincidence, but after a couple months, my symptoms started to clear up and I returned to my regular, only slightly neurotic self, every 28 days. Did I miss tofu? Actually, yes. And I still do from time to time, which is why I’m pretty darn excited to share this recipe with you today. A recipe for tofu, made from chickpeas.

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But first, let’s discuss soy. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and inquiries from many of you regarding this topic, because soy and soy foods are drowning in controversy these days. What is all the fuss about? Well, there are two schools of thought: one being that soy is a highly valuable source of plant-based protein because it is complete (meaning that it contains all essential amino acids). The other school of thought is that soy is “bad”, or even harmful for you if it is not fermented.

This brings up a good point, and it’s great to hear that more people are turning toward fermented foods, especially legumes and grains. But the idea that unfermented soy is downright dangerous to eat is blowing things a little out of proportion if you ask me. If we are going down that road, then we also have to say that all legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are harmful if not fermented. The process of fermentation neutralizes some of the naturally occurring phytic acid (a compound that binds to minerals in the digestive tract making them difficult to absorb), while breaking down some the hard-to-digest proteins. Soy actually contains less phytic acid than some of its vegetable counterparts, like flax, sesame, Brazil nuts, and pinto beans. This is why soaking legumes, grains, nuts and seeds before eating them is important for better digestion, nutrient assimilation, and therefore overall health. That is a statement I can get behind.

Fermented soy foods include tempeh, miso, and naturally brewed soy sauces, like tamari. I for one have been eating fermented soy foods exclusively for the past few years just because I feel better eating that way. I also choose non-GMO and organic soy because I support those agricultural practices.

In conclusion, I will say that eating any food in balance is okay, as long as it is minimally processed. That definitely excludes tofu chicken nuggets, soy cheese, soy eggs, and even most soymilk (always check the ingredient list – some brands are good and some contain a laundry list of un-pronounceables). My rule of thumb with any food, is that if you can’t make it at home, don’t eat it. Although tofu and tempeh are bit of an ordeal to make yourself, I’ve done it and it is possible. Tofu chicken nuggets? Good luck with that one.

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Okay, onto the Chickpea Tofu! Although this stuff is pretty genius, I am not the genius who came up with it. It’s a traditional food originally from Burma, and often referred to as Burmese tofu or Shan tofu (here’s the original recipe I followed). It is easy to make with just a few basic ingredients and is a tasty, soy-free alternative to regular tofu that I think will be on the regular rotation in my kitchen.

I think the really surprising thing about Chickpea Tofu is its texture. It is lusciously creamy and silky, not unlike silken tofu in fact. It is delicate yet firm, and kind of melts in your mouth. I’ve found it works really well fresh in salads (a traditional way of serving it), and in soups. This way you can really enjoy its unique consistency. I liked the it in a simple miso-ginger broth with a few rice noodles swirling around too. I’ve even seen recipes online for “egg salad” sandwiches and coconut curries. Yum!

The downside of Chickpea Tofu is that it doesn’t do all the things that tofu can do. It doesn’t fry very well (deep fried however, I’m sure would be ah-mazing), nor can you really bake it to crisp up as I had hoped. But, I am pretty new at this game and looking forward to trying out more recipes with it. If anyone out there really knows how else to work with Chickpea Tofu, please clue me in down below in the comments section! I am so curious to learn more.

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Some thoughts on the recipe…
You can purchase chickpea flour at most health food stores, but it is also available (and tends to be much cheaper) at ethnic grocery stores. Chickpea four is also called garbanzo bean flour, gram flour, and cici flour. It also falls under the name besan, an Indian flour made from both chickpeas and yellow split peas. This will work just fine for the recipe.

I think making a half batch of this would be a good idea. This made so much tofu that I had to freeze the majority of it, and I have no idea what it will be like after thawing.

I used turmeric in my recipe, which is a traditional ingredient for colour. This is optional but gives the tofu a lovely golden hue. I also added garlic powder – a decidedly untraditional ingredient but I am really happy that I did because it gave the tofu a mellow garlicky flavour, which I love. This is also optional.


The salad in the top photo was a very quick dish I threw together to enjoy the tofu with, and it turned out so well I thought I should share it with you. I took the dressing from this recipe and combined it with shredded purple cabbage, spring onion, and plenty of cilantro. Later in the evening for dinner, I tossed the leftovers together with brown rice pad thai noodles, and it went over very well with the husband. He said it tasted better than junk food, which, coming from him, is the biggest compliment ever.

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In other news, I am thrilled to mention that I’ve been nominated again this year for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards! Super cool. And congrats to the other nominees in my category of “Special Diets” – what an honor to be in your company! If you’ve been enjoying My New Roots in the past year, show some love and vote for me (scroll down to the bottom of the page to the last category). Thank you a ton for your support. I’m still wild about writing this blog and it feels good knowing you’re wild about reading it.

Hugs and Chickpea Tofu,
Sarah B.

Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

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Having a baby really puts your priorities under a microscope, because the little time that they are actually asleep during the day is your opportunity to get important things accomplished. Things like bathing, eating, laundry, doing your taxes, calling you mom. Funny then, that lately my priorities don’t include any of those activities. Instead it seems that the most critical thing to do as soon as my son shuts his eyes, is making chocolate granola. And yes, I really need a shower.

This trend began a couple weeks ago, nearly at the completion of my cookbook manuscript, the most overwhelming deadline of all time looming over me, that I got the most intense craving, not only for carb-y chocolate yum yums, but just to do something other than work and change diapers. When I finally put my finger on what it was I wanted, I whipped up a batch of chocolate granola so fast I even had time to sit and enjoy it before I heard the little waking whimpers of my babe. It was awesome. Needless to say, that huge jar of chunky, chocolate-y, uber-satisfying granola was sooooo gone almost as fast as I had made it.

Obviously this granola recipe is really, really yummy. Dangerously so. In fact it is so good, I’ll admit to pulling a slightly crazy/selfish move and telling my husband that it was “burnt granola” so he wouldn’t eat any of it. When asked why I was shoving scorched cereal into my mouth I sheepishly told him that I “didn’t want to waste any food”. Shameful! And since he’s reading this, now he knows I’m crazy.

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This granola is the kind of thing that you can eat right out of the jar by the handful, and it’s saved me on all the afternoons when I needed something filling and indulgent-tasting when my energy was waning. Although you can eat this stuff for breakfast, it’s a little on the rich side for my taste so early in the morning. I like to think of it more as snacking granola. I’ll leave the application up to you.

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Your Buddy Buckwheat
One of my latest obsessions, besides this granola, is buckwheat. Although the name suggests otherwise, buckwheat is actually not related to wheat, nor is it even a true grain. Buckwheat is the fruit seed of a plant similar to rhubarb and sorrel and a super substitute for people with wheat or gluten sensitivities.

Buckwheat has a high protein content, and contains all essential amino acids, making it an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians. It is high in magnesium, a mineral with a pleasant muscle-relaxing effect. Side-note for the ladies: eating magnesium-rich foods before your period will help ease cramping, headaches and back pain.

Buckwheat is a wonderful food for improving cardiovascular health. Buckwheat contains rutin, a flavanoid that helps to maintain blood flow, keeps platelets from clotting, and strengthens capillaries. Buckwheat also reduces serum cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.

If you’ve ever tasted buckwheat honey or anything containing buckwheat flour, you’ll know that it has a strong, assertive flavour. Although it’s delicious as a porridge, or replacement for grain in a salad, stir-fry or stew situation, I would call it an “acquired taste”. In this granola however, it just becomes crispy, crunchy and adds a great texture

You can find whole buckwheat, often referred to as buckwheat “groats” at natural food shops and good grocery stores. Its natural colour is verging on pale green and has a distinctive, pyramid shape. The dark brown variety of buckwheat is called kasha, which has been toasted. Although delicious, for this recipe you are looking for the raw version of buckwheat so that you can toast it yourself.

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Although you could pretty much use any grain you like in this recipe, I chose oats and buckwheat for a tasty, textured balance of gluten-free goodness. And I can say with total confidence (as I admit to “testing” this recipe more than once) that any nut would be delish – hazelnuts and walnuts were my favourites, but almonds, cashews, pecans or Brazil nuts would also be great.

To serve, get creative. I really dug this granola with sliced bananas and homemade almond milk (which turns into chocolate milk!!!), but it would be delicious with yogurt, kefir, or sprinkled on top of cooked cereal, such as oatmeal. And as previously suggested, delish right out of the jar by the paw full.

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Whether you choose to eat this granola for breakfast or an afternoon snack doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you make chocolate granola a real priority in your life. Laundry can wait, emails can wait, and your hair looks just fine a little on the greasy side.

Valentine Rawlos

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For a girl who is decidedly not into Valentine’s Day, I bet you’re already confused. Well, me too. Let’s blame my overflowing sentimentality these days – I’ve realized motherhood can do a real number on your sappy side – but one of the few times I’ve been out of the house alone in the last few months I found a heart-shaped chocolate mold at the dollar store and didn’t even think twice about it. Nope.

I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Rolos. No wait, rawlos. A major childhood throwback made over into the healthiest chocolates I could possibly invent. I had done the nut buttercup thing, but hadn’t tackled caramel before, so this seemed as good a time as any. Coincidentally, it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Not that I care.

If you haven’t ventured into raw chocolate making before, you are going to want to marry me (I’m taken). It’s so easy and so versatile, plus actually healthy. Healing fats, nutritious sweeteners and antioxidant-rich cacao are all that these little chocolate-caramel bombs are made of. No schwaggy unpronounceables. No weird waxes or emulsifiers or artificial flavours and colours. If you really care about your valentine, this year make them something that will love them as much as you do!

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Like I said, I was aiming for a Rolo thing and I am very happy with the results. The chocolate of course, is out of this world. Dark and rich and so intense. The caramel inside was the question mark, but it turned out perfectly: creamy and sweet and just runny enough. I added some salt to the caramel to make these a little more to my taste, but you can leave it out if you like. I almost feel embarrassed calling this a recipe because it really is that simple, but you’re into that eh?

If you can’t get your hands on cacao butter, just use coconut oil in its place. They won’t have the exact same melt-in-your-mouth quality, but it will certainly work in a pinch. And please make sure that your coconut oil is flavour-neutral (i.e. that is does not taste like coconut), otherwise you’re going to end up with some very tropical-tasting candies, my friend.

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Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or not this year,  I hope you give yourself the chance to make these treats for yourself or someone you love.

Chocolatey hugs,
Sarah B