Category: Spring

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

The Spring Abundance Bowl

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Hey guys, it’s spring.

I go for a walk in the forest everyday with my little babe. Even though he’s too young to even know he has feet, I still take time to point out the buds growing on branches, cherry blossoms opening, and explain how the earth is waking up from its wintry slumber. I think that this year, more than ever, I’ve relished the unfolding of this season because I am seeing it for the first time in so many ways. It’s pretty cool stuff.

I’ve been looking forward to this post for a very long time now. Since I wrote about eating simply and not trying to impress everyone all the time, the idea of Abundance Bowls has really got me jazzed. And you too, as I take it. It seems like we are all hungry for realistic eating these days, and to me that means fast, fresh, and flexible. This Abundance Bowl, like the last one I posted, is just that, taking advantage of seasonal produce and the fresh flavours of now. Living in the moment, and eating in the moment go hand in hand after all.

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Pretty Peas
I think peas are a rather underestimated vegetable, considering they are veritable storehouses of essential vitamins and minerals. That’s right. A measly ½-cup serving provides more than 20 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese! True! Peas are a also good source of iron, folate, vitamin B1, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, and copper. You’ll be getting a serious dose of soluble fiber too, which helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.

Peas offer up some heart-healthy vegetarian protein, providing a whopping 9 grams per cup. They are not a complete protein however, so make sure to combine them with a whole grain, like quinoa as I’ve done here, to ensure you are getting the complete essential amino acid profile.

If I can find fresh peas in their pods, I like to shell them and eat them raw. If you prefer to steam them, do so right in the pot of quinoa. Simply place them on top of the quinoa about 3-4 minutes before it’s finished steaming, cover again with the lid until they are tender. So easy! If you can only find frozen peas, place them in the pot of quinoa about halfway through cooking the quinoa so that they thaw and cook – this shouldn’t take more than 8-10 minutes. Frozen peas contain about 10-15% fewer vitamins than their fresh counterparts, which isn’t too bad for such a convenient food! If frozen peas are all that is available to you, use them anyway – they are still super good for you.

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If the last Abundance Bowl proved anything to me, it’s that you people really love sauce. For reals. Well, here’s a simple one I’ve been digging lately: a garlicky-dilly-creamy yogurt sauce that compliments peas and asparagus like nobody’s business. I’ve also been drizzling it over crisp greens, sprouts, various grains and open-faced sandwiches. If you’re not into dairy yogurt, soak some cashews and blend them up instead, the results will still be delectable.

The other accoutrement in this sublime springtime bowl of mine, is Quick Pickled Radishes. I think it’s essential to have an acidic hit in all recipes, whether it’s a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a handful of brine-y capers, so these zesty pink medallions definitely fit the bill. I love the spiciness of radishes, but find that they can be slightly overwhelming raw. When pickled, they still have bite, but it’s more vinegar-y than earthy. These are delicious on sandwiches with creamy avocado, with eggs in the morning, tucked into tacos and folded into salads. I like to pile them up on the side of whatever I’m eating and ceremoniously add them to each bite. The very easy recipe below makes more than you’ll need for four servings of The Spring Abundance Bowl, so enjoy discovering the yumminess they bring to all sorts of meals.

And if you don’t have a particular ingredient on hand, or if you’re just not into one of them, improvise! Think of the recipe here as a guideline and put your own spin on it.

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I hope you’re all enjoying the warmer weather, longer days and brighter light as much as I am. Gosh, it’s good to see green all around again, in the forest, in the field and on the table. Let’s celebrate the abundance of spring and be grateful for everything that lies ahead! We made it! Wahoooooo!

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Show me your bowls on Instagram: #springabundancebowl

Sweet Pea & Pearl Onion Pesto Smothered Zucchini Noodles

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I have such a special treat for you today. Since I am in the final stretch of writing my manuscript (!!!), I’ve asked Julie from the Alkaline Sisters to take over this week. She’s created a gorgeous spring recipe for all of you who really need a bite of brightness (I figure that is anyone who has survived the polar vortex, am I right?). I’ve been a fan of Julie’s site for a long time now, but we met in person for the first time last summer and the serendipitous sparks flew! We’ve been online pals ever since. She is an expert on achieving alkalinity, and I’ve asked her to give us the low-down on this very topic. After curing her own health issues with an alkaline diet, she is sharing her inspiring journey and culinary creations on her beautiful blog. She also has a book in the works and I know it is going to be absolutely amazing! Can’t wait.

I will be back very soon, but in the meantime let’s all sit back and learn something from this very wise woman. Thank you Julie, for sharing your knowledge with us! What a blessing.

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I’m so pleased that I could support Sarah by sharing a recipe with you today as she nears completion of her book.  I can only imagine the juggling that is happening as she cares for her wee babe in between wielding her heavy camera and cooking up some tasty business to style and photograph, not to mention the writing required to explain the recipe.  Lord knows I understand the process since I just recently handed my cook book manuscript in to my publisher, phew!

When we had lunch last summer we realized that we were both working with the same publisher, what are the chances of that?  We’ve both been feverishly working away on our cook books but I certainly didn’t give birth to a newborn baby as I worked thru the chapters of my book!  I swear Sarah has somehow acquired super powers as she’s hardly missed a beat here on the blog!  She’s managed to continually inspire you and I with a fabulous new recipe pretty much every week since she started the book, save for popping out a beautiful baby boy!  That’s more than I can attribute to since I took a bit of a hiatus from my blog to work on my book while caring for my family of 4, trying to stay sane and enjoy the journey.

So here I am, happily giving her a bit of relief so she can wrap up the final details of her book. Now she can focus, take good care of her precious family, knowing that you are inspired for yet another week. So lets do this:)

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With Spring making it’s way here I can’t wait to begin tasting the seasonal flavours that I have missed since last year.  Sweet green peas always make me think of brighter sunnier days and the bursting greens of budding trees.  I may be jumping the gun on the spring pea season here, just a little, hehe but you’ll be glad I did if you are a fan of sweet peas!  I’m cheating with frozen peas so please forgive me for my enthusiasm with the lead up to my favourite time of year.  Because my horoscope is Aries, I come by it honestly:)

This tasty dish is a little bit raw and a little bit cooked, keeping as many nutrients in tact as possible. It’s kind of a nice combo for this in between time of year. And guess what? It’s alkalizing too….well of course!   This Alkaline Sister here is happy to inspire you with a recipe that will help you balance your alkalinity.  (If you are keen for a wee bit more information about the alkaline lifestyle read on below the recipe.) This is a quick and easy recipe to pull together, even for lunch.

The pea pesto is made with a generous portion of peas that are action packed with phytonutrients that provide us with key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Peas also contain an impressive amount of health promoting omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA as well as omega-6 fats called linolenic acids.  One cup has about 30 milligrams of omega-3 and 130 milligrams of omega-6.  As for protein and fibre, green peas pack about 8-10 grams per cup.  These two macronutrients keep your blood sugar levels well regulated since they support the break down of the natural sugars and carbohydrates as they pass through your digestive track.

Once thought of as being a starchy vegetable peas are proving to be much more than that. They are effective in lowering our risk of chronic health issues related to inflammation.  And studies show that inflammation is at the root of most health issues, so eat your peas!  While you’re at it, eat your zucchini and some onions too!  All of these alkalizing vegetables in this recipe provide the body with beneficial cancer-preventive nutrients.  You can’t go wrong here so give this recipe a whirl and see how you like it.

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Thank you kindly Sarah, for trusting me to share a nourishing alkaline recipe with your treasured readers that you take such good care of.  It’s been an honour and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my alkaline message with your loyal followers.

Here’s an extra special mini lesson on alkalinity and how it can be of benefit to your healthy lifestyle:

The most alkaline foods are green and of high water content as in cucumber, celery, broccoli, and greens like kale, chard, romaine etc. Lemons & limes are also highly alkaline once metabolized even though they are acidic outside the body before you ingest them.  This chart shows the degree of alkalinity of many foods to give you a better idea.  On this chart you’ll also notice the list of foods that are acidic and their scores that you can pay attention to with regard to the ratio that you include in your daily meals. Pretty much any food that is a concentrated food with low water content, is highly processed or contains sugar–including fruit, is acidic to the body and should be consumed in approximately a 20-30% daily proportion.  If you are seriously ill this ratio will be more like 0-5%.  Please remember to always consult a medical professional when considering a drastic lifestyle change.

Choosing alkaline foods in a 70 to 80% ratio with the balance of acidic foods allows you to still enjoy some of the wholesome foods you are accustomed to. A visual measurement for each meal or over the period of the day is all that is necessary to maintain a balanced intake of alkaline foods.  No weighing or counting of calories is necessary. And guess what?  By following a highly alkaline lifestyle you’ll discover that a bonus side effect is weight loss or a return to your natural body weight.

You may already be very conscientious with your healthy lifestyle but with a bit of tweaking in the alkaline department you might find you have even more energy, fewer colds and any nagging symptoms slowly dissipate.

To increase your alkaline foods intake it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…a,b,c…
1. add a green smoothie to your morning or a green juice

2. add a big salad to your lunch or make it your lunch

3. add a salad and steamed veggies to your dinner

And we all know that we need to….
a. drink more water— 3-4 litres of filtered, hopefully alkaline water each day- to flush acids and hydrate the body

b. exercise to flush your lymph, blood and tissues of acidic matter

c. stay on top of your stress levels and find ways to deal with negative thoughts- meditation, yoga etc. (stress causes acids to form within the body)

By slowly adapting your lifestyle and following these basics along with doing a seasonal detox you will keep disease at bay and the cold and flu bugs will leave you for good!

Six years ago, with a dramatic shift to this alkaline lifestyle, I resolved the excruciating pain that I was experiencing from a seriously herniated disc that stopped me in my tracks from living my life. This lifestyle shift resulted in a welcome side effect of easily and quickly dropping 40lbs of post baby excess weight that I was struggling with.

Our modern diet is often overly acidic even if we consider it to be healthy thus many of us suffer from a myriad of illnesses that are directly related to an overly acidic body.  But the good news is….. that you can turn your health around by flooding the body with alkalinity.

A green smoothie cheers to your good, alkaline health :)
Julie the Alkaline Sister