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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A Book Tour and a Full Heart

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Hi. It’s been a while.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Angela over at Oh She Glows made my scrumptious Banoffee Pie! A combination of banana, toffee, and coconut cream. Get the recipe here.

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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A stunning dinner at Burdock & Co. in Vancouver. The meal was all spring recipes from the cookbook.

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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!

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Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks hosted a My New Roots dinner right in the bookstore! A night to remember for sure.

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I did three televised cooking demos in Canada. Thanks to Global and CTV for their support!

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Book signing at the always inspiring Moon Juice in Los Angeles. I was high on green nut milk and all the love!

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Getting a tad silly with Jo and my Piña Colada Passionfruit Popsicles at Delish.com. I’ll post the video once it’s live. It’s a real hoot!

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Food52 invited me for lunch! I cooked my Ghee-Poached Radishes on Dandelion Greens with Smoked Sea Salt for lunch. 

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The Q&A and book signing at NeueHouse in NYC. Thanks to my gorgeous friend Pippa of Sous Style for the incredible night!

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Lastly, an interview at my all-time favourite station Heritage Radio Network in Bushwick, Brooklyn. And quite possibly the coolest recording studio of all time. I’ll post the podcast once it’s online!

 

So, I’m back in my kitchen now. A new blog post (a very rad one) is on the way and I know you’re going to love it. Stay tuned dear friends.

xo, Sarah B