Thursday, April 17

Balanced Breakfast Muffins



There is a lot of debate over the issue of eating breakfast. The anti-breakfast side argues that skipping breakfast decreases eating throughout the day, lowers insulin levels, and helps with weight lost. The other side of the argument (the one were are more familiar with) claims that eating breakfast boosts brain power, prevents less snacking during the day, provides you with the nutrition you need after fasting all night, and  reduces risk of heart disease and kick-starts your metabolism. While each side has some valid claims, I must admit that I am a pro-breakfast kind of person. Okay, lets be honest - I love breakfast. Upon waking, I am often starving and there is nothing I look forward to more than some nourishment. Having breakfast helps me wake up, it allows me to focus, and provides me with the energy I need to get on with my morning. And besides, it just tastes so darn good!

I find great satisfaction in the fact that I have turned several of by non-breakfast eating co-workers into active breakfast lovers. In fact, they have become so cute about it, that they often report to me what they ate that morning - and I'm so impressed with their creations, including breakfast pizzas, smoothies, and salads. Even if you happen to be like my co-workers, and are one of those people who don't usually get around to eating breakfast, I advise you to give it a go for a while and see if you notice anything different. Some of my favourite ways to ease into eating breakfast is to start off with a cup of boiling water with lemon juice and a touch of honey followed by some fresh fruit, yogurt, or muesli, about an hour later.


One of my favourite things to have for breakfast is a healthy, hearty, muffin, slathered in almond butter. To me it represents the ultimate breakfast: warm, seedy, fruity, and filling without being heavy. Recently, I have been enjoying these tasty spring inspired muffins. Studded with fruit, veggies, seeds, and natural sweetener, these muffins make a wonderful breakfast. Served with some jam or nut butter and fresh fruit, they make a complete breakfast, most anyone would enjoy.

Here are some of the claims made about breakfast, but like always, you should decide what works best for you.

Pro-Breakfast:

1- You burn more calories. Eating regularly stimulates your metabolism and helps you burn calories - by eating less your body thinks it's starving, and begins to shut down.
2- You will be less likely to have extra weight. Skipping breakfast is linked to gaining extra weight. By skipping meals, you get extra hungry and will over eat at the next meal.
3 - Gives you energy. You will have more energy by eating breakfast. Food is fuel and you can't run a machine on empty.
4 - Better nutrition. Eating breakfast helps you meet nutritional needs, by skipping it you could have a deficit.
5 - Less binging. You will binge less by eating regularly and not getting overly hungry.
6 - More concentration. Helps you concentrate because you aren't preoccupied by being hungry.
7 - Better mood. You will be in a better mood and less irritable if you aren't 'hangry'.

Anti-Breakfast:

1- Argues that breakfast is important for those who are malnourished, but for those who aren't, it's just another meal, no better than any other.
2 - That skipping it does not cause one to eat more. Some people who skip breakfast will eat more, but others will not.
3 - That skipping it causes greater weight loss. By eating first thing, you will want more food throughout the day.
4 - That breakfast doesn't increase your metabolism, only exersize does.



Balanced Breakfast Muffins

Recipe: (Makes 8)

Wet Ingredients:
2 Tbsp Chia Mixed with 6 Tbsp Water
3 Tbsp Oil
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
1/2 Cup Grated Zucchini
1/2 Cup Grated Carrot
1 Banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
4 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Dry Ingredients:
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 Cups Whole Spelt Flour (Oat, or favourite Gluten Free Mix)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg

Add Ins:
1/4 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 Cup Chopped Dates or Raisins

Procedure:
1. Combine the wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry ingredients in another, being sure to mix each well
2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Stir in the dried fruit and seeds, being sure not to over mix.
3. Scoop batter into 8 lined muffin cups and bake in a pre-heated 190 C (375 F) oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly touched. Let sit for a few minutes prior to serving.

xox Sophie
source: guardian, living, post

Saturday, April 12

Wabi-Sabi Bowl with all the Condiments


Years and years ago, I was watching something like the Antiques Road show. I remember an older lady having the most beautiful handmade quilt appraised. The host explained how the Amish women who made the quilt would purposely make a square which didn't fit into the continuity of the piece, because nothing in their eyes could be perfect but their God. While apparently this practice is a mere myth, I have always loved the story. Regardless of ones spiritual belief, I think we can all be reminded that nothing of this world is, or can ever be, perfect. It is so easy to get caught up in striving for the unattainable, that it's hard to see the accomplishments one does make. Sometimes, the end goal is so blinding, that we never see the steps we have taken along the road to get where we are today.

I often have to remind myself that imperfection, whether it be about my life, my body, or me as a person, is something to I need to embrace. Imperfection is what life is about; it is what makes each of us different, interesting, and beautiful. The scar on my right cheek, the wrinkles when I smile, the way my pants fit (or don't for that matter) are not things to get overly worked up about. While there is often space were we can improve upon and things to learn, there is also no need to beat up oneself  regarding things they cannot change.


This brings me to dinner and wabi sabi. The term wabi sabi represents a complex Japanese world view and aesthetic, but it is often simplified in the west to mean the beauty in imperfection and impermanence. Imperfection and impermanence just happen to be two words which perfectly describe life and everything in it, including dinner in my home.When it comes to cooking, I am not the kind of person to really follow a recipe. Instead, I like to think of myself as the queen of substitutions. Rarely do I ever have all the ingredients I need to make a  near-perfect meal. Ninety-nine percent of the time I am short a desired ingredient that would bring the meal to the next level. Often it's the case of last time I made this I used yam, this time I will use broccoli. Sometimes this substitution works better than others.

The wabi sabi bowl is perfect because it is meant to be imperfect, it strives for imperfection, and that is why it is so delicious. With a simple formula and a tasty sauce, you can let your imagination go wild. It is a wonderful dish to use up left overs, or those veggies which are going bad at the back of the fridge. No rules, no problems, no pressure. One part grains, one part cooked veggies, two parts raw veggies, and one part protein, plus some garnish, and you're set. I took inspiration for my bowl from a roll of sushi and use avocado, cucumber, edamame, and yams, but just about anything will be delicious.

Grains (Pick 1): Rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, rice noodles.

Protein (Pick 1): Beans of any kind, tempeh, organic tofu, ethically caught fish, eggs, nuts, seeds.

Raw Veggies (Pick 2 or 3): Grated carrot, grated beet root, leafy greens, radish, cucumber, avocado, kimchi/sauerkraut, young asparagus, fresh peas, daikon, sprouts.

Cooked Veggies (Pick 1): Mushrooms, yam/sweet potato, carrot, beet, turnip, squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, kale,egg plant, broccoli, cauliflower.


Wabi Sabi Bowl

Recipe: (Serves 2)

1/2 Cup (Uncooked) Brown Rice
1 Medium Yam
1 Cup Frozen Edamame 
1/2 Sheet Nori, cut into small strips
1/2 Avocado, sliced  
1/3 English Cucumber, cut into half moons
1 Green Onion, slivered

Pickled Ginger (Recipe Below)
Gomasio (Recipe Below)
Tamari Ginger Sauce (Recipe Below)

Procedure:

1. Begin by preparing the rice. Combine the 1/2 up of brown rice with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then with the lid on, turn down to a very low simmer. Cook for about 30- 40 minutes, or until tender.
2. Cut the yam in 1/2 (or in quarters if it is very large), and then into 1/2 cm slices. Toss with 1 tsp oil and roast at 220 C (425 F)  tossing half way though, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.This is perfect time to get the sauce and ginger prepared.
3. Once the rice and yams are cooked, you can bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the edamame. They only need a couple of minutes to warm up.
4. Once everything is prepared, arrange equally in two bowls and serve with ginger, gomasio, and sauce.

Tamari Ginger Sauce

1/2 Cup Tamari
2 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Grated Ginger
2 Cloves Garlic, grated
1 tsp Maple Syrup, Agave, or 2 tsp coconut sugar
1 tsp Sesame Oil

Procedure:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisking thoroughly. Store left overs in the refrigerator.

**If you prefer a thicker sauce, place all ingredients in a small pot, along with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tsp. tapioca starch with 2 tsp water, and add to the sauce pot.  Let simmer for roughly 20 minutes (long enough for the extra water to boil away), stiring occationally. 


Quick Pickled Ginger

4 oz. Piece of Ginger (a thumb sized piece)
2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Honey or Agave
Big Pinch Sea Salt

Procedure:

Peel the ginger and slice as thinly as possible. Sprinkle the ginger with sea salt and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, squeeze the ginger, removing the extra moisture. Combine the vinegar, honey, and ginger and let marinade for at least 30 minutes.


Gomasio

Gomasio is a Japanese condiment similar to adding salt and pepper to a meal. Use to sprinkle on rice, and raw or cooked vegetables. 

1 Cup Raw Un-hulled Sesame Seeds
1/4 Cup Dulse, chopped finely (Nori will also work)
Pinch Cayenne Pepper

Procedure:

1. Begin by toasting the sesame seeds in a heavy pan, stiring regualrly until they begin to brown and become fragrent.
2. Add the dulse or nori to the sesame seeds and toast for another minute or so.
3. Take the mixtire off the heat and let cool slightly. Add the mixture to food processor and grind the sesame seeds until about half the seeds are ground finely, but some whole seeds still remain. Store in an airtight container.

xox Sophie 

Friday, April 4

Spaghetti & Veggie Balls


When it comes to making dinner around our house, I am more often then not, the one who receives the pleasure of not having to prepare it. I wouldn't go as far as saying he likes to, but seventy five percent of the time, Adam ends up fixing elaborate dinners for the two of us (this is an even more impressive feat since he spends eight hours a day slaving oven a gas range preparing food for people he never even sees). I guess when it all comes down to it, I'm just a bit lazy. Well, a little lazy and a lot of 'I have other things to do'. As of late, I would much rather spend my evenings reading, writing, crafting, and puttering outside, than making dinner for the family. But to remain somewhat fair, I do cook dinner for us a couple times a week. Recently I was on this kick of making deluxe salad plates with crackers, hummus, beans, roasted veggies, you name it, all topped off with a super tasty dressing. They were the most wonderful things to whip up as they only took a few minutes to put together and tasted great. But, one can only feed their boyfriend so many salads before he starts to look a little less than impressed with his dinner plate. So last week I decided to switch it up and make something fancy - like spaghetti!

While traditional spaghetti and meat balls aren't the most healthy option, this version is full of good-for-you veggies. Instead of relying on a heavy flour based pasta it uses lighter zucchini noodles, a rich sun-dried tomato sauce, and "meat" balls made out of sunflower seeds and chopped full of veggies. Oh, and did I mention it's entirely raw, vegan, and gluten free?. While you may look at this recipe and think that's a lot to do, believe when I say that although it looks like a lot, it's mainly just a little planing ahead. The time spent in the kitchen is really very minimal, with as much chopping involved as the salad making. Everything is made in the blender which makes for an easy clean up, and the use of the dehydrator means that you prepare the day before and spend the evening working on other, much more important, tasks.


Raw Veggie Balls

Recipe: (Makes approximately 25)

1 1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds (soaked for 8 hours or overnight)
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Stock Celery, Chopped
1 Carrot, Chopped
1/3 Cup Chopped Red Pepper
1/3 Cup Chopped Zucchini
1/3 Cup Chopped Onion
2 to 3 Cloves Garlic
1/4 Cup Packed Parsley
1/4 Cup Packed Basil
1 Tbsp Ground Flax
1 tsp Mixed Italian Spices
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika

Spaghetti (recipe below)
Sun-dried Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
Parmesan (recipe below)


Procedure:
1. Begin by soaking the sunflower seeds for at least 8 hours or overnight. Before using them drain and rinse well under fresh water.
2. Combine the soaked sunflower seeds in a food processor or high speed blender with the rest of the ingredients and puree until the mixture is fine, but you can still see small bits of the veggies. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
3. With damp hands, form the dough into balls approximately the size of a Tbsp. If the dough begins to stick to your hands at anytime, just rinse them under water and start again.
4. Dehydrate at 40 C (105 F) for around 12 hours, or until the balls have a crisp exterior, but are still soft in the middle. Alternatively, you can dry them with the oven set to it's lowest setting and the oven door slightly ajar. This will take far less time, but they will technically be "cooked".
5. Serve with Spaghetti, Sun-dried Tomato Sauce, Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
6. Extra veggie balls should be stored in the refrigerator. They are great added to salads, etc.

Spaghetti

Recipe: (Serves 4, easily halved)

2 Medium Zucchini 
1 Small Celeriac

Procedure:
1. Using a mandolin and a knife, or a grater like this, cut the zucchini into noodles.
2. Peel the celeriac and slice very thinly into strips, then into matchsticks.
3. Toss to combine. Use fairly immediate as the zucchini will get watery if left too long.



Sun-dried Tomato Sauce 

Recipe: (Serves 4)

1/2 Cup Dried Sun-dried Tomatoes, soaked for at least 1 hour
1 Cup Chopped Fresh Tomato
1 Cup Chopped Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Chopped Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp Parsley
1 Tbsp Raisins
1/2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
4 Tbsp Water, or as needed

Procedure:
1. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in enough warm water to cover. Let sit for at least one hour before draining (important note: keep the soaking liquid for later)
2. Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, with the fresh tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic, herbs and spices in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is smooth.
3. Add the reserved soaking liquid 1 Tbsp at a time until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Parmesan Cheese

Recipe:

1/2 Brazil Nuts
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
Procedure:
1. Puree in a blender until the nuts are finely ground, but not yet a paste. Store leftovers in a airtight container.


xox Sophie