Early Summer Abundance Bowl

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Early Summer Abundance Bowl

Keep it simple. Use what you have. Make it work.

I’ve been staring at these three ideas for the past few hours. In between breastfeeding my baby, laundry, trying to make food for myself, emails, brushing my teeth and changing a couple diapers, I’ve been back and forth to my computer unsuccessfully getting any further with this post.

Then I read it again and realized that the advice that I was trying to give all of you out there was precisely what I needed to hear myself.

My days are so different than they used to be. Instead of being able to play in the kitchen from dawn until way past dusk, I’m playing with my sweet baby. Instead of making food for all of you to recreate I’m making food for us. Unremarkable, perhaps, but there is a turning inwards, a quiet and simplicity that I’m cultivating, or at least trying to. It isn’t glamorous and most of it isn’t worth blogging, but it’s real life. And I am very grateful for it.

Early Summer Abundance Bowl

Needless to say, meals have been simple and Abundance Bowls have been abundant. I’ve been cooking grains and beans in bulk to use for later, then tossing whatever fresh veggies I have on hand into the mix. If I can bend time and squeak out five or ten minutes worth of creativity, a sauce happens, or maybe a quick pickled condiment. All of a sudden, a pretty boss bowl of tasty, healthy food sits before me and I feel like the luckiest person in the world, living in true abundance. That is what the Abundance Bowl is all about. Keeping it simple. Using what you have. Making it work. And I guess feeling that kind of overwhelming gratitude doesn’t hurt either.

Early Summer Abundance Bowl

Here we are in the first breaths of true summer. My little family and I are back in Canada for the next little while and it feels amazing to be home. The sun is bright and the river is crisp, gardens everywhere are bursting with fresh food. The Early Summer Abundance bowl celebrates all of it, along with the feeling of luckiness that always pervades my thinking this time of year, as we begin to reap the benefits of the season.

I chose freekeh in this edition, a roasted, immature wheat that tastes deep and rich and is the perfect counterpoint to sweet, young beetroots, earthy radishes and vibrant sprouts. The grain is harvested while still young and soft, then roasted or sun-dried. The health bonus of harvesting immature wheat is that it retains more of its nutrients and proteins than its fully-grown counterparts. It even claims to have fewer carbohydrates than regular wheat because it’s young. It surprisingly has more dietary fiber content than brown rice, plus more calcium, iron, and potassium content.

You can find freekeh at Middle Eastern grocery stores and increasingly at natural and gourmet food shops. Sometimes it is referred to and sold as “Green Wheat”. If you have never tried freekeh before, get ready to freak out. It’s seriously amazing stuff! It cooks up like any other grain, keeps very well in the fridge and can be enjoyed hot or cold. I love it in salads, especially with lots of garlic, olive oil and lemon to balance the smoky flavour.

As I was after a sort of Middle Eastern flavour profile, I chose to make a harissa-spiked chutney with spring onion and dates, which is altogether scrumptious. Leftovers of this are excellent smeared on toast with poached eggs for breakfast, accompanying roast veggies or in an avocado sandwich. The colour isn’t very sexy, but the flavour is oh-my-goodness delicious. And to really take this Abundance Bowl to the next level, I may have put a little seared halloumi cheese in there. Maybe. Oh I totally did.

Early Summer Abundance Bowl

 

As for those of you asking about the Potluck Picnic in Toronto, I have made the difficult decision to skip it this year. There are so many things going on in my life (all positive!) but in the name of keeping things simple and quiet, I am honoring the commitment I made to myself to focus my energy on my family at this time. I so much appreciate your enthusiasm, and also your understanding. And of course I look forward to resuming the event next summer!

Show me your Abundance Bowls on Instagram: #earlysummerabundancebowl

Strawberries and Danish Summer Cream

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Danish Summer Cream

To say that Danish people have a strong food culture would be selling it short. Very short. After living in Denmark for nearly six years now, I have had the privilege of witnessing and taking part in many of their passionate and long-established table traditions, celebrating the seasons through what they eat and vice versa. They are proud, and borderline obsessive about certain aspects of their food, and it is this fervour, this dedication, even if it is often for pork products, that I so strongly resonate with and connect to.

When I first met my husband, it drove me kinda nuts how stubborn he was with his traditional Danish meals: “no, this has to go with that. And you need to eat this on top of this in this special way, then cut it like this and put it on this special plate”. Open-faced sandwiches are actually served on their own teeny wooden boards, and have very specific and time-tested combinations of foods that are not to be contested or fooled around with. No. But many meals are like this. The first day of advent, you eat yellow split pea soup. At Easter you have lamb. And as the weather warms up (if it ever does) you have koldskål. Say what? Directly translated, “cold bowl”.

Koldskål, is a beguiling combination of creamy buttermilk, egg yolk, lemon, vanilla and sugar. I know it may sound a little strange, but trust me, it’s heaven. It is often served with Danish strawberries (which, sorry Ontario, are the best strawberries in the world) and always with kammerjunkere: very crispy little biscuits flavoured with cardamom and lemon. Think of them as Danish biscotti. And they only go with koldskål. That’s a rule.

Danish Summer Cream

I tried the real koldskål last summer when I was pregnant and feeling very strong urges to eat dairy products. I have to say, as much as I wanted to be against it, the stuff was insanely delicious. Addictive even. And the mere act of slicing up a bowl of freshly-picked berries, then pouring silky white cream across their blood-red facets struck a deep, primordial pleasure chord. In that moment, a voice called out from inside me and cooed in all of its ancient wisdom, that this was going to taste really, really good.

Needless to say, it did and I was hooked. What is not to love about ripe fruit, tangy, cold creaminess and crunchy crumbled cookies? Right. Moving on. Since that fateful day, I’ve discovered that koldskål is very easy to make and can be tweaked a little to be much healthier than the traditional version (which is why I am calling it something totally different). My twist uses sheep yogurt instead of buttermilk, leaves out the eggs and sweetens with maple syrup. The biscuits are gluten-free and vegan and sweetened with coconut sugar. All things considered, this would make a rather respectable breakfast, albeit with a rather hefty dose of strawberries, as I tend to make it.

Danish Summer Cream

Now, if I am all for tradition, why I am messing with a perfect thing? Switching out the buttermilk for goat or sheep yogurt? Well, you know my M.O. is to make things both tasty and healthy. In this case, it’s a small change in flavour for a big change in nutrition.

For one, goat and sheep milk are easier to digest than cow milk due to the fact that the protein molecules found goat and sheep milk are smaller and in fact more similar to the protein found in human milk. In addition, the fat molecules in goat and sheep milk have thinner, more fragile membranes – half the size of those in cow milk. This leads to an average curd tension that is literally 1⁄2 that of cow milk (36 grams for goat milk and 70 grams for cow milk). Curds from milk form in the digestive tract or during cheese or yogurt making (anywhere that the milk is subjected to acid). Having less curd tension means that the milk is less “tough”, and easier to digest. Dr. Bernard Jensen (my personal hero) showed that goat milk will digest in a baby’s stomach in 20 minutes, whereas pasteurized cow milk takes 8 hours. The difference is in the structure of the milk.

Goat and sheep milk boast twice the healthful medium chain fatty acids than that of cow milk, such as capric and caprylic acids. These fatty acids are highly antimicrobial. Capric and caprylic acids are used today in dietary supplements to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and other yeast species. They also boost the immune system and enhance energy. 

Danish Summer Cream

To serve koldskål in our house, we slice up a large amount of berries and divide them among the bowls. Then each person pours their own cream (obviously, because this is the most fun part) and crumbles the biscuits over top, or leaves them whole according to their liking. The cream must be very cold. The strawberries must be very ripe – none of those ones picked before they are ready and that are still white in the center – no! The red juice must run into the cream as you eat it, swirling about and staining the whole concoction a delicate, blushing pink by the end. Guh. I also like to sprinkle fresh elderflower over the top for fun, since I love eating flowers too. This is totally unnecessary, and completely divine.

Danish Summer Cream

 

If I have learned anything during my time here in Denmark, it’s that traditions exist for a reason. That certain foods taste best with other certain foods and that is just the way it is, no reason trying to fight it. In this case, strawberries and cream and cookies are best enjoyed together, and I am certainly willing to uphold this tradition for the good of us all.

Show me your Strawberries and Dansih Summer Cream on Instagram: #danishsummercream

Danish Summer Cream

Raw Bounty Bars

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Oh how times change.
If you were to hand me a Bounty Bar 20 years ago, I would have looked at you like you had gone coconuts (ahem, sorry). I thought Bounty Bars were totally sick-a-tating because coconut was a vegetable in my mind, and therefore decidedly not edible even when smothered in chocolate.

I don’t know when I came to my senses, discovered that coconut was in fact a not vegetable, and also totally delicious. These days, I’ll go so far to say that I don’t know what my life would be like without dear coconut around, as I likely employ one or more of its products on a daily basis. You can imagine then, that being in Bali was quite a gas for me, as it’s dripping with coconuts, quite literally. I loved being able to get fresh coconut water every morning; mammoth orbs heavy with well over a liter of liquid gold, for under a dollar. Freshly shredded coconut at the market, coconut palm sugar by the bagful, young coconut flesh blended in smoothies… it was the business!

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Big Tree Farms -  a place where they make incredible coconut  products among other things, such as raw cacao and sea salt. As I’ve been using their delicious coconut palm sugar for a while now, it was pretty amazing to see where the magic happens and meet the sweet people behind the sweetness. I was also introduced to a new product: coconut nectar! A gorgeous, full-flavoured syrup that looks a lot like honey, but with a citric, smoky flavour that surprised and delighted me.

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Coconut Nectar of the Gods
Coconut nectar, and the coconut palm sugar that is made from it, have been produced and enjoyed for over 6,000 years. In fact, the first documented sweeteners ever used are that from coconut palms (Coco Nucifera).

Coconut nectar is made by harvesting the sap from the coconut palm blossom, which is collected twice daily by the farmers at Big Tree. They climb up each trunk in the morning, remove the vessel full of sap, slice the very tip off of each flower bundle and place an empty vessel underneath it to collect sap until the evening when they will repeat the process. The sap is then boiled down to remove all the water it naturally contains, leaving a thick, caramel-like syrup, which can then be cooled and bottled.  To make coconut sugar, that same syrup is cooled and then rubbed, creating granules of the delectable coconut sugar that I love so much. You can watch a very cool video about the whole tree to table process, here.

Coconut nectar is high in minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It is happily low glycemic, ranking 35 on the GI scale, compared to agave at 42, honey at 55, cane sugar at 68. This is due to coconut sugar’s composition of long-chain saccharides, which are absorbed by the body at a slower rate than something like refined white sugar. Coconut sugar also contains amino acids, which are thought to slow down the rate at which the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, acting as a “buffer” of sorts. You can read more about Big Tree Farms Coconut Nectar and Palm Sugar nutrition here.

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After visiting Big Tree, I was feeling creative and hungry for chocolate. I decided to get my Willy Wonka on and recreate a favourite treat to pay homage to my coconut adventures, and also because, let’s face it, Bounty Bars are delicious. This is my (nearly) raw version of the classic candy, a very easy and scrumptious translation using simple ingredients. They are totally rich and coconut-y, just like the “real” thing, but way better because they taste real – not like science. The chocolate is smooth, rich and decadent, and the filling is extra coconut-y due to the virgin coconut oil I use. If you have a good-quality virgin coconut oil, I suggest employing it here, as you want to emphasize the coconut flavour. This is one of the few times I use virgin coconut oil, as I usually don’t want everything tasting of the tropics, but in this case I definitely do. If you don’t have any, regular coconut oil is fine.

And if you don’t have any coconut nectar not to worry – substitute it with honey or maple syrup and the results should be almost the same. These should be stored in the freezer, especially in the height of summer when the chocolate can melt in the heat. Plus, biting into one of these is quite refreshing when the 4 o’clock summer sun hits and you need something sweet to rouse you from your nap.

These are also really fun to make – who doesn’t love a good candy project? Get your kids involved, get your friends into it, and create some candy bars that you actually won’t want to share with anyone who has helped you. You’ve been warned.

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Show me your bars on Instagram: #rawbountybars