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Adaptogenic Date Shake

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Each year, my now friend Sasha Swerdloff of Tending the Table genius organizes a trip for women in the food world (bloggers, cookbook authors, chefs, nutritionists, photographers etc.) to get together, hang out, share delicious food, and get to know each other beyond a screen (…see? Genius!) This year I actually got to attend – ok truth: I shamelessly invited myself because I wanted to meet this talented troupe of ladies IRL. The group decided to gather in Palm Springs, much to my delight as I needed to escape two kinds of hell: overdue home renovations and Ontario in February.

The days were magically sunny, delicious, and life-affirming. We cooked a lot, then let our food get cold taking too many photos of it. We swam, we hiked, we yoga-ed, we laughed, and conspired together. Besides all of the heart-warming togetherness, one of the highlights for me, was visiting a date farm just outside the city limits, to understand where our favourite whole food sweetener comes from (and to gorge ourselves, naturally). I had never seen dates on a tree before, and was moved to learn from the passionate farmer himself just how these sweet miracles grow.

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Dates grow on palm trees, and they fastidiously follow the calendar – you can practically set your watch to a date palm’s seasonal cycle. The first day of spring the tree is in full bloom and the hard work begins, as the farmer pollinates each one by hand. The ratio of male to female trees is about 1 to 30, since the male trees are only necessary to produce the pollen, and the female trees are the ones that produce the fruit. Between the first day of spring and the first day of summer, the tree sets up its entire crop for the year. All the work (trimming, feeding, etc.) must take place during this season, since it’s during this period is when the fruit ripens, turning from green, to yellow, to brown. The dates are ready to eat from the first day of autumn, and then the harvest begins. During this season, the fruit is either left on the tree and protected with cloth bags to prevent rain, birds and insects from spoiling the fruit, or picked when ripe. The farmer told us that the best place for the dates is to remain on the tree for freshness, but if the load is too heavy, it will not bloom as well the following year, thus effecting the trees’ output.

After decades of date farming, he was as wide-eyed and passionate about his fruit as an eager young man, which really made us all swoon. It is truly one of my favourite things in this world, to see how and where food is grown, and to meet and connect with the people who lovingly produce it. We all left with full bellies and hearts, and of course, our bags bulging with dates.   

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Along the dusty, desert road home we saw so many signs for date shakes, since this is the land where this indulgent treat was invented back in the 1930s. None of us caved and bought one, but my mouth was definitely watering, and I was excited to get back and make one for myself. The original recipe is simple, and calls for dates, vanilla ice cream, milk, and sometimes a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. I knew this was the perfect makeover opportunity, and high-vibed my date shake with coconut milk instead of dairy, hemp seeds, and adaptogens.

So why the adaptogens? Well, I felt like the already-pretty-healthy date shake could use a boost, and what better way to make something more supportive than with a dose of stress-reducing, adrenal-loving, hormone-balancing, potions to get you back into balance? Yahs! I had these four choices on hand, but there are a lot of options once you start to dig around the health food store a little. Here is a little about each one and why I chose them.

Ashwaganda: helps the body adapt to stress and bring us back into balance. It encourages deeper sleep, supports the immune system, and energy levels.
He Shou Wu: builds the blood, harmonizes adrenal gland function, nourishes hair, skin and nervous system, increases antioxidant activity.
Maca: increases stamina, elevates mood, helps to balance hormones in both men and women, supports fertility and healthy libido.
Licorice: balances hormones, helps the body adapt to stress, supports the immune response, and aids learning and memory.

*Some adaptogens during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and while on medication are not recommended, so check with your natural health care provider before trying any of them.

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The farm we visited grew seven types of dates, and we loved trying them all. The unanimous favourite was the grower’s very own variety that he created himself, called Black Gold. He also mentioned that this was the best type of date for a date shake, but considering the fact that you maaaaay not get a chance to visit Palm Springs anytime soon, I’ll go ahead and recommend using Medjool dates for the shakes, since they are widely available, and their thin skin blends very easily into a smooth consistency. If you cannot find Medjool, try Deglet Noor instead, or soak your dates in warm water for half an hour before blending.

Dates are a great source of energy, and provide a generous amount of filling dietary fibre with very little fat. Dates are mineral rich, delivering potassium, manganese, magnesium and copper, as well as an assortment of B-vitamins. Seek out dates that are plump and juicy-looking (if you’re buying from a market, ask to try them first), that their skin is intact, and that they are neither glossy or dusty. I store my dates in an airtight glass jar in the fridge to extend their shelf life, and protect their flavour and nutrients. Kept this way, dates will last up to six months. Outside of the fridge at room temperature, dates will last about a month and a half, or you can freeze them for up to a year.

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The banana in this blend up is totally optional, and I actually really liked the version without, even though it was less thick and “milkshakey”. If you want to add more dates for sweetness and flavour, live it up. I found that this amount, about 3 Medjool dates, was just perfect for me, even without the banana. The spices are also optional, but help to disguise any strong flavours from the adaptogens, which admittedly can sometimes taste like the inside of a barn, or everyone’s favourite: feet? Mmmmm. Right. Let’s cover that up.

All in all, this is a delicious and filling way to start your morning, or the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. It’s creamy, smooth, sweet and totally balanced. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!   

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I just want to give a huge shout out to Sasha and all the women who attended the retreat – it was truly a beautiful experience. And if anyone out there is looking for some inspiration and general awesomeness, follow these wonderful people, below:

Sasha Swerdloff – Tending the Table
Renne Byrd – Will Frolic for Food
Lily Diamond – Kale and Caramel
Kimberly Hasselbrink – Kimberly Hasselbrink
Shelley Westerhausen – Vegetarian Ventures
Lindsay Kluge – Ginger Botanicals
Trisha Hughes – Go Eat Your Beets
Carly Diaz – Carly Diaz
Eva Kosmes Flores – Adventures in Cooking
Sophie MacKenzie – Wholehearted Eats

Hope you’re all enjoying the first breaths of Springtime. Sending love, gratitude, and sunshine,
Sarah B.

Show me your shakes on Instagram: #mnrdateshake

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Hey ya’ll! One more thing before I go: new Wild Heart High Spirit retreats are being planned! I’ll share more news about the retreats soon, but if you want to be the first to know when tickets are available, go to www.goldencircleretreats.com and join the email list. I’m so excited to welcome another group of women to this magical experience!

Farewell to Copenhagen Carrot Cake

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Boil the kettle and make a cup of tea folks, this is going to be a big one!

First of all, I have to begin this post by saying THANK YOU. My New Roots is officially 10 years old and I couldn’t have done it without your support, enthusiasm, and full-on LOVE for this little blog. And especially after the last couple of posts when I really opened up about my recent struggles, I felt so supported, and saw that so many of you did as well. It reminded me of the strong community that this has become, and the power of people when they come together with a common goal of true wellness.

If you had told me an entire decade ago that my deeply passionate, unabashedly nerdy, and nearly ignored internet musings would end up turning into a full-on career, brand, cookbooks, online classes, app, poster shop and retreat company I never, ever would have believed you. But reading my first post again, it’s just as relevant today as ever, eerily almost as if I had written it last week. I guess I had a strong vision in mind and just kept trucking, kept trusting, that it would resonate with someone. But here we are, a third of my life later, and it’s not just someone, but so many of you. And all of my dreams continue to be born and manifest because of you. That offhanded suggestion from an old boyfriend who thought I could use an outlet for all that “health talk” I kept spewing, was really onto something. Thanks, dude.

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Secondly…and this is really big news…I am moving back to Canada! Yes, after nine years of delicious life in Copenhagen, my old roots are pulling me home and I am so very ready. This whole thing has been in the works for a few months now, but I didn’t really feel like putting it out there until it was real. Well lemme tell ya, when putting my family’s life in 50 boxes and shoving them into a shipping container, shiz got real, real fast. What a crazy feeling it is, and totally overwhelming with all the emotions that relocating your entire life is. So, if things have been (and continue to be) quiet around here, it’s because I’ve been sorting through all the details that an international move entails. I send my gratitude for your patience.

The next chapter of my life will be completely different from the last, that is for sure. To change things up dramatically, my family and I will be living out of the city in fact, near-ish to Toronto, where I am originally from. I knew that I would end up living in the country at some point, but not so soon! It was more a “when I retire” kind of thing. But funny what happens when you have kids and they need s-p-a-c-e, your priorities seem to shift to accommodate the little ones. Plus, I feel the need to be on the ground again (I’ve been living in a fourth-floor apartment for nine years now!), so we bought a house to get closer to earth in every sense, plant a garden, lay in the grass – our own grass – and enjoy the quiet and safety of a little community. I’m really excited for everything that is to come, and feeling so grateful for the divine unfolding.

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But will I miss Copenhagen? Obvi. This city, and my home here, is where I have spent my entire adult life. The walls of my beloved kitchen that my husband and I built ourselves, have held space for two cookbooks, online classes, countless dinner parties, bleary-eyed breakfasts, and even the birth of our son for crying out loud! And although My New Roots began in Toronto, it flourished here and truly became something on Danish ground. The Scandinavian culture has had a profound influence on me, my aesthetic, and how I see the world now. Having Europe at my doorstep with all its history, architecture, fine arts, culture, and attitude has been an enormous privilege and deeply inspiring. And can we talk about the light? Oh the light! How my camera and I will miss the very special way the sun slants here. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Anyway, I promise to keep you all posted as we leave one fabulous country for the next. I won’t have a working kitchen for some months, but I’ll stay as active as I can on Instagram so you can keep up with my kitchen renovations…I know you’ll want to see all that house porn. Tee hee.

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Okay, now for the main event. I MADE A CARROT CAKE. Successfully. It is delicious. I feel like I have finally achieved one of my biggest culinary goals ever, and it’s so appropriate that we celebrate ten years of this blog with a recipe that has challenged me for nearly as long. If you remember back to when I used to post giant layer cakes for my birthday, I ran into trouble in 2013, when I attempted three different versions, which all failed, and ended up making nut butter sandwiches instead. Since then, the headcount has continued to rise, yet some ridiculously stubborn part of me won’t give up.

In the past I’ve almost always used spelt flour for baking, and if any of you have tried one of my famous layer cakes, you’ll know this has worked well. I was after the same crumb that you can achieve with wholegrain spelt, but wanted the cake to be gluten-free, so I started by using an all-purpose gluten-free flour. It was a total disaster. The cake turned out gummy and inedible, and the frosting, which I tried to make with cooked quinoa (don’t ask) was just weird. The next route I tried was with almond flour, since I’ve been eating a more low-grain diet for the past few months and I wanted the cake to reflect that. Before testing it out, I assumed that almond flour would make things really dense and heavy, but lo and behold it creates a crumb that is so fluffy, and really gives this feeling of deep satisfaction. I’m obsessed. The only thing that I don’t like about almond flour is the high price, and the fact that almonds are a very water-intensive crop to grow. But, this is a cake after all, therefore a special treat, therefore not something you have all the time.

The initial carrot cake experiments with almond flour were good, but borderline too rich. Plus, since I’d ditched the quinoa frosting idea and knew I’d be taking the cashew road, I felt like a nut frosting on top of a nut cake was just, well, too nutty. To reconcile my relationship with coconut flour, I cut the dry ingredients with a tad to see what would happen. Not only was the cake just as good, but the texture was better and I liked the flavor the coconut flour provided. We are friends again.

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The Cashew Coconut frosting for this cake is what Canadians would affectionately call a “twofer”. Bahahaha! (I really do amuse myself). For everyone else out there, in long form, this refers to a “two-for-one” deal. You can make this recipe once, but have the frosting come out two ways depending on its temperature. Pretty groovy, eh? If you use the frosting right after making it, it will be loose and glossy, almost glaze-like. If you prefer a traditional-style frosting that is thicker and stiffer, all you need to do is put the mixture in the fridge overnight to achieve this consistency. I chose to go with the room temperature version since I hadn’t really worked with it like that before. It provided a more even layer, but it’s also a little harder to control. Either way it’s delicious, so don’t worry about making the wrong choice…there isn’t one! The flavour is major: I’m talking soooo cream cheese-like that even I was confused.

If you’re not feeling the chunky carrot cake vibes, please look away now, because the cake of my dreams is loaded with pineapple, walnuts, and bursting with warm spice and citrus zest. I went to town! Instead of using questionably-edible canned pineapple, I used the dried, unsweetened version from the health food store. This stuff ain’t cheap, but again, cake splurge. If you can’t find pineapple like this, dates, raisins, dried figs or apricots would also be good, but I’d skip the soaking step. Instead of walnuts you could use pecans, macadamias, or even pumpkin seeds.

Altogether this carrot cake is moist, decadent, and satisfying with so many layers of flavour and texture that just won’t quit. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade, and this cake is an expression of that. It’s something to be proud of, and something to share. Thanks for sticking by me while I worked out the kinks…now it’s time to celebrate all the things!

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Who knows what the future holds – the world seems so crazy these days – but I do know that I still have steam in me to keep going with this heart project, if you’re all still up for reading and cooking from it. Words cannot describe my gratitude for you, allowing me to pursue my biggest dreams and expose my shadowy bits as well. I hope you know how much I love you. I truly do. Here’s to another ten years…

xo, Sarah B

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Okay friends, there are still a couple spaces left for the next Wild Heart High Spirit retreat in Portugal! It’s this November 5-11, hosted at the ridiculously beautiful Sublime Comporta hotel (guys, I’ve been there and this place is NEXT LEVEL). I will be teaching cooking classes outside in the organic garden (pictured above!) and giving nutrition seminars daily, with yoga and movement classes twice a day with my dear friend and deeply talented friend, Mikkala Marilyn Kissi of Living Yolates. The kitchen is exclusively making My New Roots recipes for the week, so we can all enjoy these meals without having to lift a finger. Enjoy your private pool, open spa, horseback riding on the beach, bonfire nights and dancing under the stars. Come and get inspired to live your best life! We’ll show you how. Click here for more info, and see you in magical Portugal!

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.

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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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You guys!!! I am so pumped to finally announce my upcoming wellness retreats this fall. We are going to two spectacular European locations: Ibiza, Spain and Comporta, Portugal. Both simple and luxurious, we have found the perfect settings to unwind, and press the reset button. Our Wild Heart High Spirit program combines inspiring cooking classes and nutrition workshops (lead by yours truly) with delicious movement classes, yoga, pilates and dance by Living Yolates that will both strengthen your body and open your heart. These seven days will nurture you on all levels of your being, help you realign with your internal guidance system, and ignite you on your journey towards greater health! Join us for this incredibly special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with Golden Circle Retreats.