Summer finally came to Denmark and I am one happy, happy person. Life just seems easier when the sun is shining and I don’t need to wear a snowsuit. In August.
I am also in the groove of cooking less, eating more simple, raw foods and whizzing stuff up in a blender. Tess Masters’s book, The Blender Girl Smoothies could not have come out at a better time considering I’m making smoothies ‘round the clock and looking for some new inspiration. With over 100 gluten-free, vegan recipes her book is kind of like the bible of blended drinks. What I appreciate is that you can look up recipes according to what effects you are after (to detoxify, alkalize, boost immunity, reduce inflammation etc.) and the chapters are divided into types of recipes (clean and green, light and fruity, dessert…). There are tips and tricks, a thorough pantry section and a good resource list for those of us who are new to this blending world.
Because I’m such a wild cat, I chose to make two recipes from the book and combine them. Oh yea. The Blueberry Breakfast Tart and Mystical Mango both sounded like heaven-in-a-glass to me and the combo, I must say, is over the top. I know it may seem a tad excessive to make two smoothies, but if you’re serving these at a brunch or something, it’s really fun (and beautiful!) to see them swirled together in a glass.
The blueberry one is really what it claims to be: liquid breakfast. With cashews, oats and maple syrup (which I didn’t use actually) it will wake you up and fuel you through a long morning of summer-ness. The mango smoothie is bright and tropical tasting – I loved the lime, orange and cardamom flavours in there! Whooo-hooo!
All I can say is, way to go, Tess! Whether or not you’re a smoothie pro or just getting started, this is the book to get your fruit-sticky hands on.
Blueberry Breakfast Tart This tastes like a Pop-Tart, and is great for digestive health. Oats are a wonderful source of fiber, to combat carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract. And both oats and blueberries become gelatinous in the colon, helping to expel toxins and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
2 1/4 cups (540ml) unsweetened almond milk, hemp milk, or rice milk (strained if homemade)
1/3 cup (45g) raw unsalted cashews, soaked
1/3 cup (30g) rolled oats, soaked
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups (320g) frozen blueberries
Throw the milk, cashews, and oats into your blender and blast on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and blast again on high for about 20 seconds, until smooth. Tweak the maple syrup to taste.
With a creamy texture and exquisite flavour, this immunity blend is fabulous for collagen formation and glowing skin, hair, and nails. Mango’s enzymes and vitamins A, C, and E cleanse the liver and aid digestion, and its potassium and fiber help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. This one will make your heart happy.
1 1/2 cups (360ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup (120ml) water, plus more as needed
1/2 medium avocado, pitted and peeled
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups (320g) frozen mango
1/2 cup (62g) ice cubes
Throw all of the ingredients into your blender and blast on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Add more water as needed to blend.
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.
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.
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.
Celebration Sunflower Seed Risotto Serves 4
2 ½ cups / 350 g shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
2 medium onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
a generous pinch of sea salt
2-3 cups / 500 – 750ml vegetable broth
Spring vegetables for four people + cooking times:
8 spears white asparagus – 10 min
140 g. / 8 young carrots – 4 min
16 spears green asparagus – 3 min
1 cup / 150g shelled green peas – 2 min
handful per person watercress – stirred in right before serving
1. Soak sunflower seeds overnight or all day in pure water with 2 tablespoons of sea salt.
2. Drain and rinse sunflower seeds. Remove about 1 cup / 135g of the soaked seeds and place in a blender with 1 cup / 250ml water. Blend on high until completely smooth. Set aside.
3. Melt coconut oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and sea salt, stir to coat and cook over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add sunflower seeds and about 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your seeds, adding more broth as needed. When cooked the seeds should be al dente: tender with only the slightest crunch still left in them. If there seems to be a lot of liquid left in the pot, let it simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes to evaporate the excess. Add the sunflower cream from the blender and stir to combine, and heat gently. Season to taste. Remove from heat and fold in a few generous handfuls of watercress.
4. Blanch the vegetables in the same pot of salted water for approximately the time indicated, testing as you go. Do not overcook!
5. To serve, place about a quarter of the risotto on each plate, then top with the vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. Top with extra watercress and enjoy warm.
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…
I guess I should have expected that touring with my cookbook would be more than just totally life-affirming and amazing – turns out it’s quite a time-intensive thing, and in between gigs I find it difficult to much other than feed myself and rest! But I am not complaining, just explaining my absence. I could actually fill this entire post with my overflowing gratitude for everything that’s happened in the past few weeks. But I think some pictures would help tell the story – I once heard that each one is worth a thousand words.
I will take a brief moment however to say thank you. Everyone who has been a part of and engaged in this tour in some way has really put it all in perspective for me. It’s so strange how most of what I do is completely solitary, and even when I put a post out into the world, I cannot see who is reading, where, or that they actually cook the recipes. In a way, I like it this way – less pressure and responsibility for little ol’ me, because if I were to actually comprehend the scope of this I may feel slightly overwhelmed. But this project, my cookbook, finally being out in the physical world and me along with it, has shown me that My New Roots is so much bigger than I could have imagined. Meeting so many of you at book signings, lectures, cooking demos, and connecting through conversation across a dinner table, hearing your stories, how this little blog has touched you or changed your life in some way, feels like a miracle to me. And I am so, so humbled. I’ve received boundless inspiration through these connections, and proof that this isn’t just some teeny project anymore, but a veritable force. Much like literal roots this has grown silently under the surface, going deep and lateral and gaining enough life force before breaking through to where it receives the light it needs to thrive. That is what this tour is: a surfacing and a confirmation that we are building a powerful community of healthy people. I feel like every drop of energy I’ve put into My New Roots from the first day has just hit me like a spectacular tsunami of love.
A question I was asked a lot on tour was about the food blogging community, and whether or not I think it is competitive. Without hesitating, I always said “heck no!”, because my experience is quite the opposite. Among my peers I feel nothing but support, camaraderie, and celebration for one another’s achievements. When I asked fellow bloggers to review the cookbook, of course they said yes, because that is how we roll. I am honoured to post their gorgeous photos below, and share their perspectives on my recipes. So if you haven’t received a copy of the book yet, you can try out a number of the dishes from their posts! Thank you to everyone who participated. You are such an inspiring and talented bunch of people, and I am proud to share the blogosphere with you.
Laura at The First Mess took a stab at making my raw vegan version of the Ben & Jerry’s classic and well-loved Chunky Monkey, and definitely one-upped me by adding a swirl of date syrup for a ripple effect. Nice one, Laura. You rock. Get the recipe here.
Sara of Sprouted Kitchen tested and wrote about one of my favourite recipes in the book, Sunflower Sesame Seed Brittle, and one that I made many times on tour for readers to taste! You can read her post here.
Emma from My Darling Lemon Thyme made my scrumptious Roasted Pumpkin on Black Rice with Tangerine Tahini Sauce. This sauce is boss, ya’ll. Pour it on everything! Check out the post and recipe here.
Angela over at Oh She Glows made my scrumptious Banoffee Pie! A combination of banana, toffee, and coconut cream. Get the recipe here.
Anya from Golubka wrote a great post about the Ghee-Poached Radishes on Dandelion with Smoked Sea Salt. This is a super simple and favourite recipe from the book. Get it here!
Lane of Green Spirit Adventures made my Oyster Mushroom Bisque. Check out the recipe here.
If you’re making recipes from the book and want to tag them, here’s what I’m using: #MNRcookbook
And now for just a few highlights from the events in North America. Thank you again to everyone who helped put these together, and to all of you who came out to give me a high-five. It meant so much to me.
The first event was dinner at the gorgeous The Old Third winery in Prince Edward County. We held the celebration in a century-old barn and I cooked with one of my long-time idols and inspirations, chef Jamie Kennedy. Check out this link for their site’s blog post and event video.
A stunning dinner at Burdock & Co. in Vancouver. The meal was all spring recipes from the cookbook.
My interview and audio-only cooking demo – an interesting experience! – with the incomparable Sheryl MacKay of CBC radio. Hear the program here, and skip to 35:45 to catch my segment. Enjoy!