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Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba

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Danes are not big pumpkin eaters. Carrots, sure. Cabbage, indeed. Potatoes, definitely. But even though they seem to have caught on to the Halloween jack-o-lantern carving thing, actually consuming pumpkins is not high on their list. Just last week I was at the grocery store and saw a display of huge spaghetti squash on clearance, being promoted as “autumn decorations”.  Pfff, what?! I scooped up as many as I could (I mean, they were less than two bucks a pop) and I excitedly starting telling the cashier about the wild and crazy deal in the produce aisle, all the amazing things you could do with this gourd, and how it turns into freakin’ noodles. She raised an eyebrow, but was largely unimpressed. Maintaining conviction, I awkwardly carried my bushel of spaghetti squash to my bike, but not before telling two random customers on the way out as well. Just trying to spread the word, people!

So aside from decorative (and reminder: totally edible) spaghetti squash, there is really only one proper pumpkin here in Denmark, and that is the Hokkaido. These spherical, bright orange beauties are available at most grocery stores, and for good reason: they are a very delicious and super versatile variety. They are yummy roasted, stuffed, baked, blended into dips, or in soups and stews. I dig them because you can eat the skin, which gives a serious boost of carotenes and fibre. Hokkaido pumpkins can also be called “Kuri” squash, and similar varieties include red Kabocha, Hubbard and Ambercup. As a PSA to Denmark, I would love to suggest growing these or other varieties of pumpkin since every single type has something special to offer, besides a being a decoration that is.

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Anyway, on to the recipe!

As soon as the one-and-only pumpkin hit the stores a couple weeks back, I made this soup. Craving something creamy and soothing to combat autumn drizzle, I blended the steamed pumpkin with ginger and miso for the most luscious of broths, made even more satisfying with the addition of soba noodles. A few nights later I made it again and added even more goodies: spring onion, seaweed, toasted sesame and sautéed shiitake mushrooms. So. Good. I am obsessed with the combination of the sweet pumpkin and savoury miso, especially with the spicy warmth of the ginger to bring it all together. I also love the consistency of the soup, which is thinner than most of the purées I make. It’s really more broth-like, and coats the soba in the perfect way. Unbelievably comforting on a chilly fall night, this dish will be on heavy rotation here this season, and I hope in your home as well.

Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba comes together in under 30 minutes, so it’s the perfect weeknight dinner. Plus, it is made mostly with pantry staples, so all you need to pick up at the store is a pumpkin! If you want to make this meal even faster, you can skip the toppings altogether, as the soup on its own is totally delicious, and can be made in under 20 minutes. It also freezes well, so make a double batch and store half in the freezer for your next there-is-nothing-to-eat emergency. You can thank me later.

Miso delicious!
Most people are familiar with miso from Japanese restaurants where miso soup is served, but beyond that I think Westerners greatly under utilize this miraculous umami gift from the gods! It is a consistent condiment in my kitchen repertoire and most times when I use it in something I’ve served to guests, they often ask why the dish tastes so special. The answer is miso.

Miso is a Japanese word meaning “fermented beans”. Traditionally, miso is made from soybeans and is found in the form of a thick paste. The process of making miso involves soaking cooking, and mashing soybeans, then finally inoculating the mix with koji (a specific mold spore) and salt. This mixture is transferred to a crock or barrel where it is left to ferment for months or years.

Miso comes in various colours, depending on whether or not other legumes or grains were used in the fermentation process, and the length of fermentation. White, yellow, red, brown and dark brown miso are some of the shades you’ll see in the store. In general, lighter miso tends to be sweeter and milder, while darker miso leans towards the saltier and pungent. I generally keep two kinds in my fridge, since they taste so incredibly different. This recipe calls for light miso, and I really stress using this variety since a dark miso would be far too rich and overwhelming. I prefer to use dark miso in things like gravies and sauces. Either way though, miso is an explosive umami bomb that will add tons of complex, satisfying flavour to many of your favourite foods. Because of this “six taste”, miso gives plant-based foods that umph that it can be lacking.

When buying miso, look for an organic or non-GMO product that is raw / unpasteurized. Unpasteurized miso will always come in the form of a paste, whereas the “instant miso soup” that you can find on the dry goods shelf is likely pasteurized and therefore not as health-promoting. If your miso comes packaged in plastic, transfer it to an airtight clean glass jar or ceramic crock when you get home, and store it in the fridge for up to a year.

Unpasteurized miso is full of live cultures and for that reason it should never be boiled. If you read this recipe through, you’ll see that I only add the miso at the end when the soup is in the blender. This is to ensure that we preserve all of those delicate nutrients and precious enzymes that would be destroyed with high heat. If you are going to reheat this soup, make sure to do so gently and stir constantly to avoid scorching.

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Some notes on the recipe ingredients: if you absolutely cannot find light miso, a simple vegetable stock or bullion can be used in its place. But it’s worth tracking down.

Soba noodles can be found at Asian supermarkets, health food stores, and gourmet foods shops. Make sure to look for noodles that are 100% buckwheat flour, as many brands of soba will add wheat flour to act as a binder, and keep in mind that these will not be gluten-free. Some people also find the taste of pure soba noodles off-putting since buckwheat can taste very strong, but I love it! Finicky kids (and adults) may prefer the milder-flavour of brown rice noodles, or even whole grain pasta.

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This soup is wildly tasty and saisfying, and will probably make you look forward to cooler temperatures and nights spent in. I hope you all are having a lovely fall so far. Sending big love and cozy moments to you all,
Sarah B.

Show me your soups on Instagram: #MNRpumpkinmisobroth

Maple Cinnamon Grain-Free Granola

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Grain-Free Granola by My New Roots

Cruising the health food store a few months back, I happened upon a bag of locally made, grain-free granola that really spoke to me. Something about its un-designed packaging, its minimalistic ingredients and flagrant chunks flirting with me through the cellophane window, begged me to take it home. The $15 price tag begged me to leave it on the shelf. So I went and perused the tea section, while spiritually distracted by the promise of crunchy sunflower seed clusters and juicy raisins. I went back. I picked up the bag and walked swiftly to the cash register so that I wouldn’t change my mind on the way there. I bought it, ran home, tore open that bag and sat gorging myself on handful after handful of total luxury granola bliss. I did again the next week. And the following week too. It took about five rounds of $15 granola before I realized, firstly, how insane it was that I, Sarah Britton, would spend such a preposterous amount of money on something like breakfast cereal, and second, that I wouldn’t just figure out how to make it myself.

Grain-Free Granola by My New Roots

Grain-free granola is nothing new, but nothing I’d ever tried making before since I love grains so very much. But as I tend to enjoy grain-centric breakfasts, pouring a bunch of mostly-oat granola on top of mostly-oat porridge seemed like oat overkill, ya know? It didn’t take long to perfect this recipe and secure its place as a rotating staple in my household. I eat it on all kinds of things besides porridge too. It’s great on top of chia pudding, smoothie bowls, chopped fruit, coconut yogurt, waffles and pancakes, and ice cream (the healthy kind, of course). And like all other granolas, this stuff is pretty addictive. I’m warning you.

Grain-Free Granola by My New Roots

This recipe is excitingly versatile, so don’t get too caught up on the ingredients themselves – instead think of them as inspiration. If you’re allergic to nuts, or you simply want to cut down on the cost of this recipe, simply swap out the nuts for more seeds. You can also replace the coconut if you’re so inclined, use another spice instead of cinnamon, honey instead of maple syrup…you get the idea. Just make sure that whatever you choose to alter is substituted with the same amount of something else. If you dig dried fruit, chop up a bunch and add it to the mix after it’s cooled down. Apricots, figs, mulberries, and raisins are some of my favourites with this mix.   

Grain-Free Granola by My New Roots

 

This recipe was included in my online video series, Healthy Kickstart, that I produced with my friends over at Cody! If you’d like to see me making this recipe in the flesh, and the many other breakfast delights (such as the Grab-and-Go Carrot Bread below), click here. I had such a blast with this series, as I feel passionate about helping you to create mornings that are as delicious, vibrant and easy as possible! I hope you all enjoy.

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Deep gratitude for all of your ongoing support of My New Roots!

In light,
Sarah B

Show me your Maple Cinnamon Grain-free Granola on Instagram: #MNRgrainfreegranola

Brew your own Kombucha!

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This post has literally been years in the making. After countless requests for a kombucha brewing method and recipe, I finally feel confident enough to write about such a HUGE topic. Considering the fact that there are entire books about this one subject, I’ll start off by saying that I do not consider myself a kombucha-brewing expert. Although I’ve brewed hundreds of liters of the stuff by now, I am still learning and just happy to share my processes and experiences with you so far. Everyone has a slightly different way of brewing and this is mine – it works perfectly for me and I hope for you too!

Making kombucha, like any “kitchen project” seems pretty daunting until you actually do it. Once you take the first step and brew your own batch, you won’t believe how simple and easy it is to make your own kombucha and be able to drink it every day of your life! You’ll also wonder why you waited so long to start. With just a 20-minute time investment every 7-10 days you’ll have access to the most delicious, high-vibe kombucha you’ve ever tasted at a faction of the cost of buying from the store. Plus, if you make it yourself, it will be 100% raw and full of those precious, digestion-supporting enzymes that our diets are typically lacking, whereas commercial kombucha has often been pasteurized – a process that destroys enzymes. You can ferment it to suit your taste, make it as fizzy as you desire, and even add flavourings. How rad is that?

What is Kombucha?
Although kombucha is experiencing a major surge in popularity, it has actually been around for thousands of years. It is essentially sweetened tea, fermented with the help of a SCOBY, transformed into a fizzy, effervescent drink. SCOBY is an acronym, which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s an odd-looking thing – often compared to an organ, a slippery mushroom, or a rubbery pancake – but it’s the essential ingredient in making the miracle beverage that is kombucha. Its flavours can range from pleasantly vinegar-y to champagne-like, with sweetness varying according to the original brew and second fermentations.

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Where can I get a SCOBY?
Since the SCOBY duplicates every time you make kombucha, there are plenty out there in the world for free! I recommend asking at your local health food store – in my experience it seems like the place to either purchase one, or connect with someone who brews and enjoys spreading the kombucha gospel and giving their extra SCOBYs away. Alternatively, try your local Craigstlist to find a culture. You can even buy them online. Here is a worldwide source: www.kombu.de

What about sugar?
Yes, you need sugar to brew kombucha but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be consuming it – it’s only food for the SCOBY! What starts off as very sweet tea completely transforms through the fermentation process, and that SCOBY turns all of that food into a delightful mixture of beneficial organic acids, B-vitamins, and enzymes. If it’s something you are concerned about, just let your kombucha ferment for the full 10 days, or longer. The longer the tea ferments the less sugar it contains. Usually by day 10 there isn’t a trace left – but your tea will be rather acidic-tasting just so you know!

There are a few types of sugar you can use for feeding the SCOBY, but cane sugar is the most recommended by seasoned brewers. I use the least processed form of cane sugar I can find – organic evaporated cane juice – but even the most sugar-avoiding, health-conscious people I know brew with refined white sugar. Remember: the sugar feeds the SCOBY, not you!

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What about caffeine?
The caffeine range in kombucha is extremely broad, and is mostly dependent on the type of tea used to brew it. Black tea contains substantially more caffeine than green tea for instance, and since I am sensitive to caffeine, I always brew with green tea. In general, brewed kombucha will contain approximately 1/3 of the caffeine of the original tea. If black tea contains 30-80mg of caffeine per cup, the same sized up of kombucha would contain 10-25mg. Green tea kombucha may have just 2-3mg per cup. Whatever you do, do NOT use decaffeinated tea to brew kombucha. Instead, blend the black tea with green tea or simply use green tea alone.

What about alcohol?
Fermenting anything sweet with yeasts is going to produce booze, that is just nature! With kombucha you’re looking at an average of 0.5 – 1% alcohol by volume. With home-brewing, there is always a risk of more alcohol forming since it is in an uncontrolled environment, so keep that in mind if that is a concern for you or someone you are serving it to.

What are the health benefits of Kombucha?
First, kombucha is a probiotic drink, so it is an excellent beverage for improving digestion, and supporting healthy bacteria in the gut. Its high enzyme content also promotes healthy digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Lab tests show that kombucha has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and the ability to improve liver function and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Many people report success in relieving their symptoms of arthritis, allergies, chronic fatigue, hypertension, metabolic disorders, and digestive issues.

What I think is very exciting and promising about kombucha however, are the acids formed during fermentation. These acids have incredible detoxifying and antioxidant capabilities. Glucuronic acid, for example, is the body’s most important detoxifier and made by the oxidation of glucose. Glucuronic acid binds to toxins in the liver and flushes them out through the kidneys. It also works in conjunction with gluconic acid, which binds with heavy metals and ushers them out of our systems. Acetic acid inhibits the action of harmful bacteria. Usnic acid protects against viruses through its antibiotic properties. Malic acid helps detoxify the liver. Butyric acid is produced by the beneficial yeasts in kombucha and protects cellular membranes and combines with gluconic acid to strengthen the walls of the gut to combat harmful yeasts such as candida albicans.

Of all the healthy habits I’ve adopted in my life, I’d say that drinking kombucha has actually made a difference in how I feel. Every time I take a sip it feels like every cell of my body is screaming YAAAAAHHHHHSSSSSS! Really and truly. To me, it is life elixir, and a fabulous drink to add to your healthy lifestyle. But I will also say that kombucha is not a panacea. The hype around this beverage has reached astronomical heights and I believe it’s important to consume kombucha without the expectation that it’s going to change your life. What works for me, may work for you and it may not. At the end of the day, kombucha is purely delicious and I think it’s best to enjoy it for that reason alone.

Can I drink too much kombucha?
Kombucha, like anything, should be enjoyed responsibly. Just as you wouldn’t eat a pound of chia seeds in a sitting, nor should you drown yourself in kombucha (although it would be a delicious way to go). If you have never had kombucha before, start out with about half a cup (125ml) and work your way up over the course of a few weeks or months. I probably drink around 1-2 cups a day (250 – 500ml) but my body is used to it and I too eased into this amount. Remember: food is medicine! You never know how your body will react, so it’s best to take things slow with such powerful potions.

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Second fermentation – flavouring your brew and making your kombucha fizzy
Although kombucha straight after the first fermentation is delish, I love to flavour it and make it really fizzy through a second fermentation. This involves adding a sweet substance, like fresh fruit or juice (I use unfiltered apple juice), to the bottles of brewed kombucha and letting it sit, sealed at room temperature for another couple of days instead of refrigerating it right away. This extra dose of sugar will feed the kombucha further and produce gas, which builds up inside the sealed bottle. This step is optional, but will make your kombucha really special and sparkly!

It’s essential that you use flip-top bottles with good seals for this step, since you want the gas to build inside the bottles at this stage. But because the pressure can be quite strong, I always recommend “burping” your bottles once a day until they have reached the amount of fizz you’re after. Simply flip the top on the bottles and you should hear the gas escaping, which is just enough to take the pressure off – there will still be plenty of sparkle in the kombucha. If you fail to burp your bottles, you may end up with an explosion on your hands! Needless to say this is quite dangerous, so set a timer for once  day if you’re a forgetful person.

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Taking a break from fermenting
There will come a time when you’ll have to pause your kombucha brewing cycle – perhaps if you’re traveling for a period of time, or simply feel like stopping – in which case, you need to know how to take a break.

Remove the SCOBY from the jar, separate the mother and the baby and put them into the same or separate glass jars (separate if you’re giving one away) with enough brewed kombucha to cover it, and seal with a plastic lid (remember that kombucha can not come into contact with metal, so stay on the safe side and use plastic). Keep this in the fridge where the temperature will slow down fermentation, and it will keep for many months. When you want to brew your new batch, remove the SCOBY from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before adding it to the sweetened and cooled tea, along with kombucha from your last batch, the SCOBY and the liquid it was stored in.

If you can time it properly, it’s a nice to be able to bottle your last batch right before you leave so that you can put your SCOBY away at the end of a cycle. I time it so that my second fermentation ends on my travel day so that I can store my bottles in the fridge while I’m gone. If it doesn’t exactly line up, you can do this by increasing the first or second fermentations by a few days. Remember that if you bottle early, it will be sweeter, and if you leave it longer it will be more acidic. Some people will leave their kombucha brewing for up to a month and that may suit you, but I personally wouldn’t leave mine for more than 2 weeks. If you are flexible on the taste and don’t mind these flavour variations, it will be a lot easier to time your break.

Whatever you do, don’t start a brew right before you leave for more than a couple weeks (unless you like very vinegar-y kombucha), and definitely don’t leave your second fermentation bottles out at room temperature! You’ll come home to an epic mess or worse.

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I know that this seems like a lot of information, but I wanted this post to be thorough so that you could have all the information you need to start brewing! If you have another variation on brewing, or tips and tricks that you think others would find helpful, please let me know in the comments! And because I know you’re going to have a lot of questions, I’ll try to check in on this post more often to answer them.

Here are some great online resources for those who want more information on brewing kombucha:

Remember that it may take a few batches (and a few SCOBYs) to get your kombucha just the way you like it, but it’s a really fun, empowering and delicious project that will make you feel like you can do anything in the kitchen! Did I mention you’ll get to drink kombucha every day for the rest of your life? Yes, there’s that too.

All love and happy brewing,
Sarah B.

Show me your kombucha on Instagram: #MNRkombucha

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More news!

The My New Roots recipe app now has an updated iPad design and it synchronizes your favorites, shopping list and recipe notes between your iPhone and iPad. In other words: make your shopping list on the iPad, and you’ll have it right on the phone when you’re in the store. Neat!

If you already have the app, just update it. If not, click here to go to the App Store.

Healthy Vegetarian Recipe app by My New Roots