Category: Summer

Secret Ingredient Frozen Hot Chocolate

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When I was in high school, the cool thing to do at lunch was eschew the basement cafeteria (obvi), leave the grounds altogether, and go to the local coffee shop. This made us feel like “adults” or something, sitting on plush velvet sofas, gossiping about so-and-so’s new haircut, and whose older brother we’d make out with while sipping a beverage that cost at least an hour’s worth of babysitting. Of course none of us really liked coffee, so we would blow our money on Italian sodas, fruity teas, and smoothies. When the warmer months rolled around, sandwich boards everywhere would announce that our very favourite, coffee-free drink was back in town: the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Now, if you have never lived in North America, the name and entire concept of this beverage I’m sure eludes you. Isn’t it an oxymoron, frozen hot chocolate? Yes, I suppose it is, but then I also suppose that is the point – to confuse you enough that you want to buy one. There is a famous restaurant in New York City that first came up with this drink, and although I’ve never had the original, plenty of franchised cafes have made their own versions of what it essentially, a frothy chocolate milkshake.

In the past few weeks the weather here in Copenhagen has warmed up and I’ve finally been in the mood for cool, blended drinks again. But instead of using frozen bananas and other blood sugar-spiking fruits, I’ve been experimenting more and more with frozen veggies instead. The results are surprisingly delicious and I’m thrilled to have a few new veg-centric smoothies on lock. This is just one of them.

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The surprise ingredient in my frozen hot chocolate is…wait for it…cauliflower. Now this may sound totally weird, but please trust me, it’s delicious. Not even in a compromising way. The first sips are pure chocolate paradise, followed by a slight cruciferous waft, which then disappears again, conveniently, for those of us who perhaps don’t like vegetables at all (I’m looking specifically at my three-year-old son right now). All in all, this is one frosty, chocolate-y miracle of a drink for summer and I’m making it every morning to celebrate liquid vegetables tasting like candy.

Cauliflower Power
Did you know that a cauliflower is actually a little head of thousands of compact flowers? Call me a hippie, but I like the idea of mowing down on a meadow. It makes me smile. Cauliflowers are white because they do not contain any carotene, the pigment found in things like carrots and broccoli, but what it lacks in vitamin A, it makes up for in potassium, folic acid, and vitamin C. And it may surprise you to learn that cauliflower is 25% protein and among the cancer-fighting cruciferous family that includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale.

Since this recipe calls for frozen cauliflower, I know some of you will be wondering if that changes the nutritional content in any way. I’m happy to report that a recent study done on the freezing of cauliflower has shown its nutrients to be fairly stable after one-year freezer storage. Cauliflower in the study was blanched in near-boiling water for three minutes prior to freezing for one year. Numerous phytonutrients were evaluated in the study, including cauliflower’s sulfur-containing compounds. While nutrients levels were typically reduced after this year of freezer storage, loss of nutrients averaged about 15-35%. Although I always recommend eating fresh vegetables, there are some (fun!) applications that benefit from using the freezer. And it’s great to know that it doesn’t pose too much a treat to those precious nutrients. Plus, frozen veggies (and fruits) can be lower cost, especially when the fresh version is out of season. If you’re on a budget, frozen produce is a respectable way to get your plants in!

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The important part of this recipe is that you use frozen cauliflower, either purchased that way, or a head of cauliflower prepared ahead of time – washed, chopped into florets and frozen overnight. Similarly to how a frozen banana behaves in a blender, cauliflower too takes on a creamy-frothy consistency that works extremely well in this context. I also like to freeze the milk into cubes since this helps to keep the drink very cold and light. Dates sweeten the mixture, and you can scale these up or down depending on how hardcore you are. The cacao powder I’ve used is raw, but you can also use regular cocoa powder in a pinch, or if you’re on a budget.

This recipe is a mere 4 ingredients, but if you feel like gettin’ fancy, by all means top that frozen hot chocolate with coconut cream (from a can of coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight) and some cacao nibs. You can also add some ingredients to the blend itself, like a handful of soaked cashews for extra richness, a scoop of protein powder (I like sprouted pea, sprouted brown rice or hemp), vanilla, or even fresh greens (spinach is very good at hiding in this too).
The point of all this is to have fun and enjoy something that tastes like it’s pretty indulgent, but secretly good for you.

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Secret Ingredient Frozen Hot Chocolate
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
2 cups / 250g frozen cauliflower florets
1/3 cup / 100g pitted dates
6 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
approx. 1 ½ cups / 350ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
handful of ice cubes (made from either plant-milk ice or water)

Optional ingredients:
Pinch of vanilla powder
coconut cream (from the top of a can of coconut milk)
cacao nibs
handful soaked cashews
protein powder

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary (mixture should be relatively thick).

2. Top with coconut cream and cacao nibs, if desired. Enjoy immediately.

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Sourdough Salad Pizza

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Along with ice cream, chocolate, and burgers, pizza was definitely on my hit list when I started eating healthier. But like every single one of those foods, I have come up with a way of making them not only not bad for me, but actually good for me. If you live in the “pizza is junk food” world, this is the post for you, as I will single-handedly convince you that this universally loved indulgence can in fact, be nutritious.

It starts with the crust.

The pizza you’ll get at your local restaurant, in the freezer section of your grocery store, or out of the backseat of a teenage kid’s delivery car, is typically made with white flour. It also likely contains commercial yeast, the magical ingredient that makes dough rise quickly and predictably. There are of course other ways of making dough or crust, but these ingredients and methods can be more expensive and take more time. Most places stick to the quick and cheap, which almost always compromises our health. How do we make a healthier crust? The answer is fermentation!

Sourdough: what’s the big deal?
Sourdough is essentially fermented flour. And if you’re familiar with fermented foods, you’ll know that they are easier to digest, and contain far more nutrients than the original ingredients themselves. Sourdough bread is made by combining flour and water together with the natural yeasts that live on everything – our hands, our food, swirling around in the air – and after letting it hang out for a few days, you’ll have what’s called a “starter”.  This starter is added to a basic combination of more flour, water and salt, essentially inoculating it with all of the good bacteria and friendly yeasts. These organisms create lactic acid, which neutralize phytates, making nutrients more easily absorbed by the body. Lactic acid slows down the entrance of glucose into the blood stream, preventing the infamous glycemic index roller coaster. But my favourite of all, is that lactic acid helps break down the complex structure of gluten, making it far easier to digest. That means that people who have a sensitivity to gluten (except celiacs) can potentially eat sourdough bread without digestive upset, as the protein has been changed into a simpler arrangement that is easier to break down in the body.

Three cheers for that, eh?

Down below I’ve included the recipe for both sourdough starter and making pizza from that starter. I think sourdough pizza is a great place to begin because it is far easier to pull off than bread, in my experience. No matter if your dough gets a solid rise or not, you’ll still end up with a gloriously crisp, chewy crust that will your body will also thank you for.

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Toppings: not just a pretty face
The toppings on a pizza will make or break the overall flavour, but also the potential health benefits. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that gobs of cheese and pepperoni are not the most health-supportive choices. So, see topping your pie as an opportunity to get creative, while sneaking in all of those veggies!

The best advice I can give you on this front, is to remember to prepare the toppings – meaning that they should be in the state that you’d enjoy eating them before putting them on the pizza. Since this style of pizza is cooked very quickly, things like garlic, onions, mushrooms, and greens are not going to change all that much in the oven. If you wouldn’t mow down on a bunch of raw Swiss chard, take those leaves on a tour of a hot skillet first. Mushrooms should be marinated or cooked beforehand (unless you like them raw), and onions, in my opinion should be caramelized. Things like olives, zucchini, tomatoes, capers, and bell peppers can be added raw since they are delicious eaten that way.

Sauce is optional, especially if you’re going to use juicy toppings, but if you are using it, keep it sparse and don’t let it sit on the dough too long, otherwise it will get soggy and sad. Pesto is a great alternative to traditional sauce, as is tapenade, roast veggie puree, romesco, chimichurri, and harissa.

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And while we’re on the subject of health, did you know that pizza is THE perfect vehicle for salad? I discovered this a couple years ago when trying to make my healthy pizza even healthier. Instead of putting salad on the side, I thought, why not pile it on top? This delivers a fantastic textural contrast, while delivering that much-needed hit of freshness and bright acidity to cut the richness of the pizza. How is this not a thing?  I posted a shot on Instagram some time ago and it received a lot of positive feedback, so it seems like many of you are down with the salad pizza idea. It’s two of the world’s best foods combined, and that equals true tummy happiness.

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Every summer I go to my friends’ cottage, just down the river from my own in the Thousand Islands. They are enthusiastic foodies and love to cook and eat good food as much as I do. They are also passionate about a plant-based diet, fermentation, pickling, and sourdough – all things healthy and delicious! Needless to say, this weekend has become the culinary highlight of my summer.

The only difference between this year and previous ones, is that this time I was able to talk myself into snapping a few pics during this process and waiting to eat! Not an easy feat for me, you must know, but well worth it if it inspires any of you to try this recipe.

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Creating the sourdough starter
Although it may seem daunting, creating a sourdough starter, culture, or “mother” is far easier than you may think, and only requires three simple ingredients: water, flour, and a little patience. A starter takes about five days to develop, but perhaps more or less depending on temperature, humidity, and the type of flour you’re using. Nevertheless, it’s NOT complicated, and a very gratifying way to connect more to your food.

Here’s what you need:
4oz. / 115ml filtered water (un-chlorinated)
4oz. / 115g flour (choose whichever kind of grain-based flour you’d like – 100% rye and spelt are great choices)
a medium-sized glass container

Method:
1. Stir the flour and water together for about 30 seconds until it is a consistent batter. Cover the container with a tea towel, secure with a rubber band and set in a warm place.
2. After 24 hours, feed the starter with the same amount of flour and water. Stir to combine.
3. After another 24 hours, repeat with the feeding. By this time, you should see bubbles forming and smell something slightly sour. This is a good sign, and means that the wild yeasts are active. If there are no bubbles or sour aroma, keep feeding the starter and looking for signs of life.
4. After 24 hours, repeat with the feeding. By this time, you should see many bubbles of varying sizes and the aroma should be pleasantly strong.
5. Around day five, the starter should have doubled in size from day four, and is ready to use. If the starter has not risen, continue with the feeding program until it has. This process can take a few extra days if you’re in a colder environment. Don’t give up!

Storing your Sourdough Starter
If you would like to use the starter daily, then I recommend feeding it daily. Keep it at room temperature on your counter top so that you’ll remember to do so, and remove half of the starter each time so that there is always room for the fresh flour and water. If you would however like to store your sourdough for occasional use, keep it in the fridge where the fermentation process will slow down and will only require a feeding once a week.

To use again, simply remove the starter from the fridge about 12 hours prior to baking. Feed the starter to “wake it up” from hibernation. After about 12 hours from the last feeding, and once the starter is bubbly and smelling sour, it’s ready to go again!

Resources and Troubleshooting
There are so many resources for sourdough making out there, I’ll leave you with a few that I really like in case you run into any issues.
Cultures for Health
Nourished Kitchen
The Kitchn

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I hope that this post puts you in touch with your inner baker, and that you commit to starting your sourdough culture TODAY. Through this miraculous process, you’ll be joining centuries of tradition, ritual, and connection. Not to mention that your pizza will suddenly be good for you. And that is the most important thing of all, amiright?

Happy fermenting, friends!
xo, Sarah B

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Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille – And my second Cookbook!

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Ratatouille is one of those dishes that always sounds really good in theory: peak-season vegetables stewed together in a rich, tomato sauce with herbs and olive oil. How could this be anything but delicious? But whenever I’ve ordered it at a restaurant, my high hopes have been dashed with a pile of mushy vegetables that isn’t really a soup, or a stew or even a main dish.

After a farmer’s market blow out last week, I was preparing a bunch of veggies for the grill: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and considering a tomato-basil salad for the side. As the veggies were grilling it dawned on me that I had everything I needed to make ratatouille. My first instinct was to run and grab the veg off the barbeque, but I stopped myself realizing the great potential of adding the grilled goodies to the tomato base instead of the traditional method of cooking everything together. Would this simple change-up make the difference and prevent mushy-ness? It was just crazy enough to work.

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I got to caramelizing onions on the stove to create the base, then added garlic, tomatoes, lemon slices and balsamic. So far, so good. The veggies were beautifully charred and grill-marked when I went to check on them, so I pulled them off, gave them a rough chop and added them to the simmering tomato mixture. So far, so really good.

As I was contemplating how to make this a more substantial meal, I remembered that I had cooked lentils in the fridge. If you recall my slightly gripe-y post about restaurants halfway catering to vegetarians with dishes that were delicious but not all that “complete”, you’ll see how traditional ratatouille definitely falls into this category. The quickest fix and simplest solution is adding lentils, in those cases and this one. So without hesitation the pulses took the plunge and not only added protein and fiber, but gorgeous texture and colour as well. For the win!

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The final result is something I am pretty stoked about and definitely making again. It’s a rich-tasting, chunky, hearty summer-in-a-bowl. My ratatouille may not have much in common with the classic version beyond its base ingredients, but I think that it’s far more filling and delicious. The grilled veggies prevent the mushiness from taking hold, as they miraculously hold their shape and tenderness while adding a bonus flavour layer of smokiness. If you don’t have lentils, chickpeas or white beans would make fabulous stand-ins. You can also leave the legumes out altogether, but they definitely turn this light side dish into a more complete meal.

To take my Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille over the top, serve it with plenty of olive oil drizzled over the top and a solid hunk of bread or toast on the side. This dish keeps well for up to four days in the fridge, or I imagine in the freezer for a few months. I’ve already made another batch for a future dinner – I can hardly wait for the next time I’m too tired to cook.

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The next thing I’m going to tell you has been the second most difficult secret I’ve ever kept…I’ve written another cookbook!!! It’s called Naturally Nourished: Healthy, Delicious Meals made with Everyday Ingredients, and it will be available for purchase February 14, 2017.

This book was a major departure from the first cookbook, and a true response to the feedback I’ve received from you. Some readers found the ingredient lists from the first book too daunting, expensive, or unfamiliar, so the recipes from this next one can all be found at a discount grocery store! I wanted to remind everyone (including myself) that we all have access to fresh, healthy food in our supermarket, and that by preparing it consciously with simple techniques, we can make incredibly tasty meals every day on any budget. I absolutely loved creating this book as it pushed myself to the creative limits. I am so proud of the recipes and I know you’re going to love them as much as I do!

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I’ll keep you all updated as far as pre-orders go and my book tour. Thank you all again for inspiring me to write this book!

All love,
Sarah B

Show me your Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille on Instagram: #MNRratatouille