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My New Roots

My New Roots
Mon, 14 Feb 2022 18:12:26 +0000

Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar

It hasn't happened in so long; when an idea hits like a bolt of lightening, and a recipe is downloaded perfectly into my brain, complete and fully-baked: Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar. I was talking to a dear friend a couple weeks ago, about nothing related to food, and this random idea for vegan caviar popped into my head. Out of nowhere. Understanding how my creative self works, I had to say this idea out loud immediately so I wouldn't forget. No sooner had the words chia and kelp come out of my mouth, then the rest of the recipe tumbles out, one element after the next until it was there: a crispy rice, caviar-studded, spicy, creamy, savoury, stack with carrot-kimchi salad, avocado, and sesame. If you're familiar with "sushi pizza" you'll get where I'm going with this! 

Although the entire dish is absolutely delicious, my favourite part has to be vegan caviar. It's so easy to make and really fun! I knew that it had to have an "ocean-y" flavour, so using a sea veggie made the most sense. Nori is widely available and is a mild seaweed that most people enjoy the taste of, so I went with that. I used a product called nori "krinkles" that are minimally-processed kelp (just dried and toasted), but if you can't find those, use nori flakes, or a couple sheets of sushi nori instead. After soaking for a minute, the nori becomes soft and easy to blend, and with the addition of tamari, a salty, umami-bomb liquid ensues – perfect for soaking the chia in! 

After 15 minutes, the chia absorbs all of that dark, delicious liquid, and swells up to resemble teeny tiny eggs…BOOM! Vegan caviar is born! I added a touch of olive oil to create a slick mouthfeel too – this is optional, but pretty effective. And the "chaviar" continues to absorb the liquid it's in while hanging out in the fridge, so to make it the right consistency, I just drizzle in a little water before serving each time. I'm over the moon about this one, people! 

Sea Vegetables

Sea vegetables, like the nori used in this recipe are abundant, incredibly nutritious, eaten world-wide, and a truly nourishing food. Sea vegetables come in all different colours: red, brown, green, blue, and more and can be grown in the sea or cultivated in tanks. They have a smaller carbon footprint than the veggies we know and love that grow on land and don't rely on the soil which globally needs restoring and rejuvenation!

Kind of like the sprouts of the ocean, packing so many nutrients in a small amount of food — they are actually the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, how rad is that? These rainbow-coloured, unassuming, under-water plants contain protein, various vitamins, important iodine (for thyroid health!), fiber, calcium, iron, and more, often times in much higher concentrations than their land veggie or even animal-food counterparts. Shining stars of the sea, the micronutrient content is just unparalleled especially as our soil nutrients continue to decrease due to degenerative farming practices. Holistic, regenerative agriculture works to combat soil nutrient loss and I highly recommend you seek out your local farmers trying to bring life back to the soil in your area and in the meantime, try incorporating more sea veggies into your daily diet.

Some of the most common sea vegetables:

A great source of calcium (more than other sea veggies) and vitamin A. Sweet and mild, perfect for beginners and because of the fiber, Arame is great for digestion! 

Folate-, manganese-, and iron-rich wakame is a sweet kelp that's often found in salad form!

Handy in a pot of beans to enhance digestibility, and as a flavour and mineral-enhancer in broths, kombu is high in magnesium and potassium.

Likely the most common sea veggie because of the popularity of sushi, you can find nori in krinkles, sheets, or flakes, dried or toasted! This is an easy and accessible way to eat more seaweed!

You've probably seen the brightly-blue-hued smoothies coloured by this algae. Just 1 Tbsp. of spirulina has as much protein as a small handful of almonds and an impressive amount of iron.

A beautiful red seaweed, with ample amounts of magnesium and calcium.

There are countless more but these are the ones most commonly used in my recipes and are generally readily available! There are some concerns for sensitive populations about seaweed's ability to store heavy metals when grown in polluted water. It's important to find brands that are conscious about their sourcing, aren't over-harvesting or are growing responsibly, and make sure you eat in moderation. I do think we all could benefit from diversifying our diets a little more to include these incredible superstars.

Now back to the recipe!

The first layer of this dish is the rice bottom, and that is what I cooked first (after nailing the chaviar). I tried using a couple of types of brown rice here, but I only found success was the short grain, I'm guessing because it has a more glutinous consistency than long grain and basmati, which tend to be lighter and fluffier. When I tested with the latter, I had to use an egg to bind the ingredients, but desired a vegan final product, so wound up using short grain in the end. You can absolutely use white rice if you like, but keep in mind that brown rice still has the bran intact and therefore more fibre, vitamins, and minerals. 

Since my inspo was sushi pizza, I wanted a super crispy rice base. A quick sear in a hot pan was great, but without deep frying, I couldn't get the satisfying crispiness that I desired. I'll leave it up to you whether or not you take this extra step. I bet an air fryer would work beautifully here! The rice is still good even if it's cold or room temperature, and a lot less fussy. Either way, make sure to cook the rice at least 4-5 hours before serving, so that it has time to cool down, so you can cut it into your desired shape. I used a jar lid for this, but a drinking glass or other circular tool would work perfectly. 

The kimchi-carrot salad was inspired by the spicy salmon that often crowns a sushi pizza – it's savoury and moreish, with a consistency walking the fine line between and al dente and tender. I steamed the carrots to achieve this texture, and you can cook them as little or as much as you like depending on your preference! The end result was so close to raw fish that my husband has a hard time believing it was carrots at all. Smothered in a creamy, brine-y, funky sauce, these humble roots become uniquely surprising and remarkably flavourful.

Don't be intimidated by the multiple components of the Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar – once the rice is cooked and cooled, the rest comes together pretty quickly. You can even watch me make it in a live class on my wellness platform, My New Roots Grow! Perhaps bookmark this dish for a special occasion or celebration, so that you'll set aside the time to make it. When tackling something new and different, I make sure I have ample hours so I don't feel rushed. Cooking under pressure is the worst! Give yourself the gift of slow kitchen creation time. 

Now for some notes on the Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar recipe…

I would encourage you to use short grain brown rice here (as I mentioned above) because it is the most glutinous and sticky, and it holds together well when you're making that little base for the toppings. But! If long grain brown or brown basmati is all you have available, no worries. You may need to skip the cut-out step, and instead make a little pile on your plate. It's all going to same place and tastes great no matter what format it takes! Haha…

If you have the the time for it, soak the rice overnight or for 8-12 hours in plenty of filtered water with a little splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice added. This improves the digestibility of the rice, and cuts back a little on cooking time too. 

The amount of water you'll use to cook the rice in depends on whether or not you've soaked the rice, and the size of the pot, so keep an eye on it, and add water as needed. You want the rice on the wetter side of things, since it's the moisture in it that is going to help hold it together. Mirin, a sweet rice wine, is a tasty addition here, but it can be substituted with rice wine vinegar and a pinch of your sweetener of choice, or omitted altogether.

Print Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar Author Sarah Britton IngredientsUmami Rice Stacks
  • 1 cup / 200g short grain brown rice
  • 2 ¾ cups / 650ml filtered water
  • ¾ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin optional, but delicious
  • ½ cup / 125 ml nori too light to have a gram measure
  • sub with 3 sheets of sushi grade nori
  • ½ cup / 125ml hot water more as needed
  • 1 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seed
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
Kimchi Mayo
  • ¼ cup / 40g kimchi finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha
  • cup / 85ml mayonnaise vegan or egg-based
  • ¼ tsp. ground chili to taste
  • ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
Carrot-Kimchi Salad
  • 3 medium / 300g carrots
  • 2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cold-pressed olive oil
  • ½ Tbsp. finely grated ginger
  • 1 batch kimchi mayo recipe above
For Serving
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2-3 spring onion
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted black sesame seeds
  • Start by soaking the rice (see headnotes). Drain and rinse well, then place in a cooking pot with 2 ½ + cups / 625ml +  water, plus the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook covered for about 35-40 minutes if soaked, 45-60 minutes if cooked from raw. Check the water levels periodically to make sure the pot isn't drying out, and add water to the pot if necessary. When the rice is cooked, remove the lid and let cool for a few minutes. Add the mirin, and fold to combine.
  • Prepare a standard brownie pan (8×8" / 20x20cm) by rubbing it with a little fat to prevent sticking (olive oil, expeller-pressed coconut oil, ghee, or butter). Press the rice firmly into the pan, making it as level and even as possible. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 
  • Make the chaviar by combining the nori with water from a recently-boiled kettle. Let soak for 1-2 minutes, then add the tamari and transfer this mix in a blender (or use an immersion blender). Blend on high until smooth. Transfer mixture to a jar, then stir in the chia seeds. Let the chia absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally. Set aside. 
  • Make the kimchi mayo by stirring the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • Scrub the carrots well, and chop them into your desired size – just make sure that they are relatively similar and bite-sized so that they cook evenly. Place in a steamer basket in a pot with water and set to medium-high heat, cover, and cook for 4-8 minutes once steaming – depending on their size and your preference. While the carrots are steaming, whisk together the tamari, lemon juice, olive oil, and grated ginger in a medium bowl and set aside. The carrots are ready when they are tender. Remove from heat, and immediately add to the bowl with the marinade. Stir well to coat. Let cool.
  • While the carrots are cooling, cut the rice out into your desired shapes. I used a jar lid (see photo) that would create four equal-sized portions, but you can also just cut the rice slab into four squares as well (alternatively, make a bunch of small, bite-sized pieces for appetizers!). 
  • Place the rice bases on your plates. Spread a dollop of the kimchi mayo on top of each base and spread it to the edges. Top with avocado slices, then a few spoonfuls of the chaviar on top. Fold the remaining mayo through the marinated carrots, then spoon those on top of the avocado. Sprinkle with finely sliced spring onions and sesame seeds. Say thank you and enjoy immediately.
NotesServes 4-5

I am so grateful to all of you that participated in naming the Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar. I was HOWLING with laughter reading your proposals on Instagram! Wow, ya'll are creative! I'd be remiss to not share some of my favourites: "The Inspired Layered Spire", "Mountain of Love", "Dynamite Discs", "Avo-Kimchi Pow Pow", "Shizza Shazam", "The Candlestick.", "Hokey No-Poke", "Mt. Abundance", "Mystic Pizazz", and "Rainbow Tower of 1000 Saveurs". LOL! Love you guys so much.

Big thanks my brain for channeling this stellar dish, so that I could share with you! I hope you love it as much as I do. Such a vibrant and delicious way to celebrate life! Sending you love on this day and every day.

xo, Sarah B

The post Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Thu, 18 Nov 2021 16:03:24 +0000

North Indian-Inspired Butter Chickpeas

Most lovers of North Indian cuisine widely available in North America are familiar with Butter Chicken – the iconic dish that has captured the hearts and bellies of people the world over. In fact butter chicken is likely the most popular and recognizable Indian dish in our neck of the woods, and without a doubt my own personal gateway to the unique flavours of Indian cuisine. This dish was the inspiration for these North Indian-Inspired Butter Chickpeas!

When I was 13 or 14, my best friend's mother, Annie (who I've mentioned before in my sushi post – a woman who truly opened my eyes to the world of food beyond hot dogs and hamburgers!), took the three of us to The Host, a famous, Toronto institution that has been running successfully for 24 years. I can still remember the feeling of walking into the space, the air absolutely swollen with mouthwatering scents I had never experienced before. We sat down at the table, covered in a crisp white tablecloth, and a basket of seed-flecked, paper-thin crackers was dropped off along with the menus. "Papadam" Annie said. I took one bite and the entire thing shattered into my hands, which made us all laugh, and the taste was delicious, even if completely unfamiliar. I had just tried my first cumin seed!

This primed my palette for what was to come, and Annie confidently ordered for the table. There were things I recognized, like rice, and flatbread (naan), but most of the dishes were alluringly mysterious, arriving in copper bowls, with colourful sauces and chutneys. Once she explained to put some rice on my plate as a bed for the curries, she handed me a bowl whose scent made my mouth water instantly. "Butter chicken" she told me. Well, I knew both of those ingredients very well, but not looking like this! "Is it spicy?" I asked. "Not spicy hot", she replied. "There are plenty of spices in there, but I'd describe it flavourful". I had trusted this woman to guide me through Japanese, Korean, Ethiopian, Greek, Macedonian, and Moroccan restaurant experiences so far, so I took a heaping spoonful of the butter chicken and spread it over the rice.

It was love at first bite. The combinations of flavours, commingling in a sauce that was beguilingly rich and creamy, with huge chunks of perfectly tender chicken throughout was absolutely divine. It was tomato-y, but not overpoweringly so, and deeply aromatic with spices that I had certainly never tasted before. I savoured every bite of that butter chicken, along with chana masala, palak paneer, aloo gobi, and dal makhni. We ate naan, and samosa, and pakora and bhaji. It was a veritable feast that began my love affair with Indian food. Little did I know every corner of the continent, every family, every household brings a diversity and a uniqueness to what we generally label Indian food — there's so much to explore!

Butter chicken was invented in the 1950s, by a man named Kundan Lal Gurjal, who operated a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Delhi, the capital territory of India. Kundan had settled here in this Northern region of the country and started his business after escaping from political upheaval in another region of India. Moti Mahal was a success, and it served several delicious tandoori dishes, that came from their tandoor oven – a circular clay oven central to Punjabi cuisine.

As the story goes, Kundan didn't want his leftover tandoori chicken to go to waste, but he also didn't want it to dry out, so he mixed leftover marinade juices with tomato and butter, added the chicken to it, and let it all stew – butter chicken was born! Although necessity was the mother of this invention, he likely had no idea that he had created an internationally-loved delicacy that would stand the test of time.

I started eating a vegetarian diet when I was 16, and butter chicken was one of the foods I missed the most. I've cooked a lot of Indian-inspired food at home over the years, but I'd never taken a crack at a plant-based butter chicken until my mom served me a version with chickpeas…brilliant! It was a serious why-didn't-I-think-of-that moment.

One of the things that makes butter chicken so good, is that the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices before cooking. This step accomplishes two things: one, it tenderizes the meat, and second, it seasons it. Because I was aiming for a weeknight dinner, I decided to skip this step with the chickpeas and just make sure that they were properly cooked and well seasoned before adding to the sauce. I also smashed about half of the legumes. This helped to increase their surface area, break up their tough skins, and allow the flavourful sauce to penetrate to the inner, absorbent centers. I also appreciated having the texture variation in the dish, making it more similar to the OG version.

Chickpea Party Tricks

We all know that chickpeas are fiber all-stars, providing 50% of your RDI in just one cup, (whoa!) but they have another party trick up their sleeve that I bet you didn't know about. Two-thirds of the fiber in chickpeas is insoluble, meaning that it doesn't break down during digestion, but instead moves through our digestive tract unchanged until it hits the large intestine. The fun starts here, where friendly bacteria (think probiotics!) go to town on said insoluble fiber and actually break it down to create short-chain fatty acids, including acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. These short-chain fatty acids can then be absorbed by the cells that line the wall of our large intestine and used for energy! How rad is that?! Butyric acid is in fact the preferred source of energy for the cells lining our colon, and with this bonus fuel comes greater potential for optimally active and healthy cells. This translates into a reduced risk of colon problems including colon cancer. So friends, invite chickpeas to your next dinner party – they'll feed you and your colon cells. Can your pot roast do that?

Now let's get cooking! For this dish I highly recommend cooking your own chickpeas from dried (I mean, have I ever NOT recommended that?! haha). For one, if you make the entire batch, you're looking at around 4 cans of chickpeas, which is a lot of waste produced. Second, if you cook the legumes yourself, you can control the amount of salt that you use, as high sodium levels are a concern for some people. Third, they taste way better. Trust me. And fourth, it costs a lot less – I likely don't have to elaborate on that for you 😉 If you're not sure how to cook beans from scratch, the full instructions are in this post, and a full video tutorial is up on my membership site, My New Roots Grow. If you're especially interested in this dish, I'd love to invite you to the live, online cooking demo on Saturday, December 18th. Part of the Winter Radiance Retreat alongside Mikkala Marilyn Kissi, this recorded, one-day virtual retreat has so many wonderful seasonal goodies planned for you. Check it out and sign up here!

The ingredient list for this recipe may look long, but half of them are spices, and the remaining ones are primarily pantry staples, making this the perfect thing to cook up when you don't have a ton of fresh produce around (I'm looking at you, late fall, winter, and early spring!). Cilantro is optional, but such a delicious addition if it's available to you. And I like to serve the dish with rice or naan, or both. A simple kachumber salad, made with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lemon juice is a great accompaniment to butter chickpeas when those ingredients are in season. Pro tip: measure out two or more portions in separate containers of the spice mix when you're making it the first time so the next time all you have to do is grab the blend instead of all your individual spice jars!

And what about the butter?! Well, there isn't any classic dairy butter here (although there is no shame in adding it!), instead I used cashew butter to achieve that crave-able creaminess. Some recipes for butter chicken call for whole cashews, which may in fact be easier for some of you to find than cashew butter. If that is the case, sub the cashew butter with whole, raw cashews that have been soaked for 4-8 hours, and add them to the pot with the tomatoes and coconut milk in step 3. If you'd like to know more about soaking and activating nuts, check out my article here. Get a load of that 2008 photography!

Print North Indian-Inspired Butter Chickpeas  Author Sarah Britton Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil preferably expeller-pressed or ghee
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch cayenne to taste
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 oz. / 796ml whole or diced tomatoes 1 large can
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup / 250ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml cashew butter
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 cups / 900g cooked chickpeas from 2 cups dried / approx. 4 cans
  • cilantro for garnish if desired
  • rice and / or naan for serving if desired
  • In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, garam masala, smoked paprika, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir well to mix with the oil, and stir frequently so it doesn't scorch.  
  • Add the onion and salt, stir well to coat, let cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions have softened slightly. Add the garlic, stir well,  and cook for 2-3 more minutes. 
  • Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and coconut milk, stirring well to incorporate. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. 
  • While the sauce is simmering, take about half of the chickpeas and smash them flat with the bottom of a drinking glass. This step is optional, but it changes the shape and texture of the chickpeas (see headnote).
  • Transfer the sauce to a blender, add the cashew butter and lemon juice, then blend on high until completely smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (if you'd like it spicier for example, add more cayenne). 
  • Add all of the chickpeas to the sauce and fold to combine. Bring a very light simmer, and let cook for 5 minutes to bring everything together, or up to an hour to let the flavours really develop, making sure to stir every so often so the bottom doesn't scorch. 
  • Serve the butter chickpeas over rice with lots of fresh cilantro, and naan if desired. Say thank you and enjoy!
NotesServes 8-10

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do, and find the same satisfying coziness with each bite you enjoy. As we head into the darker, colder months of the year, I know I'll be turning to these butter chickpeas to keep me warm and grounded, while picturing us at our stoves, connected in spirit over steaming pots and nourishing bowls. All love from me to you, Sarah B

The post North Indian-Inspired Butter Chickpeas appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Tue, 05 Oct 2021 17:26:47 +0000

Wild Rice and Butternut Blessings

Hello friend. It's been a while. I sincerely hope that these words find you getting by as best you can in this strange world we find ourselves in. Staying centered and grounded these days is no small feat, and I'm grateful to find myself here again, with the energy and space to share.

This post is actually two years in the making. The experience I'm about to tell you about deserves thought, healing, and humility, and though I made a delicious recipe, I needed ample time to learn from, and honour the situation. Almost like with rich decadent food, your body and mind needs time to digest emotion and experience, and over the past 20 months of intense turmoil, discovering and uncovering, and worldly change, there is no better occasion or cultural climate than this moment to share one of my life's most potent experiences. I hope you'll join me on the entirety of this journey and take the time to read and digest it for yourself too.

I welcome conscious comments and will receive your words gracefully and with humility in regards to my personal history and ask kindly that the inevitable missteps, mistakes, and / or insensitivities in my story shared below are highlighted with respect and with the intention of learning, inspiring community and healing, and are supportive of a better and more just future.

The People

I'll begin by introducing the people of the story that span many generations, many places of origin, and many cultures:

The Anishinaabeg – an Indigenous community made up of the Ojibwa, Odawa, Potawatami, Chippewa, Mississauga, Algonquin, and Delaware peoples who stewarded the Great Lakes Basin before and through the late 1600s.

A man named James Whetung of the Black Duck clan, Anishinaabe who has called this land home for his lifetime and the many generations before him.

My European ancestors who arrived in this same area ("Upper Canada" then, and what is now known as Southern Ontario) in the early-to-mid 1800s.

A young man named Mossom Boyd, my great-, great-, great-grandfather, who landed in 1833. He purchased 100 acres of land and cleared it himself in the hopes of building a prosperous life. After farming for a few years, he wasn't making the income he'd hoped for, and sought work at a local sawmill, eventually taking it over, on the site which is now Bobcaygeon, Ontario.

As Boyd continued to work the land, benefitting from the abundant natural resources, he experienced great success with his lumbering enterprise. He later went on to cut forests in great swathes across Ontario, then moved out west to Vancouver Island with his son, Martin Mossom Boyd, who eventually took over the business. Needless to say, the family's enterprise had an indelible impact on the Canadian landscape and the Indigenous peoples.

Me, a white, privileged woman who benefits from this history in seen and unseen ways with a mission to inspire health to the people of this world through conscious choices. Here's one of my many stories…

My Family

I spent my summers in the Kawartha Lakes, just 12 kilometers upstream from the reserve where James lived and lives. My grandparents lived on the canal at the mouth of Pigeon lake, on the Trent-Severn Waterway. My grandfather owned a substantial portion of the land there (how we understand "owned" in our modern world), and a 1085-acre island just off the shoreline.

I was a very lucky kid to have so much wild land to explore, play with, and learn from. To say I feel connected to nature, to the earth and water, to the elements there, would be an understatement. That forest and lake are inside of me, just as much as I am inside of it – I knew every rock, nook, cranny, and crevice. I knew the plants, the poison ivy, the lichen, the cedar; the shallow soil, dry and bare rocks, the limestone; I can evoke the alchemical aroma of it all in an instant. My hideaways along the shoreline in giant rock fractures were coated in moss and gnarled cedar roots, and there I would live in worlds of my imagination, connected to nature's creations and its magnetic energy. The sensation of being there, on every level, is burned into my being. It is cellular memory.

Mossom Boyd 1814-1883 / My father and I canoeing on Pigeon Lake / Fishing on Pigeon Lake, 1990

There is a museum in town, named after my great-great-great grandfather Mossom, honouring his vision and entrepreneurial genius (as our culture recognizes). This history was one to celebrate, an empire that spanned the country, a legacy to be proud of. We would visit the museum almost every summer when I was growing up, so that I could better understand where I came from.

These truths coexisted within me — nature and empire. As I began to see the complexities of this place that is deeply a part of me, I sought out a way to understand the same land, water, air, forest through the eyes, hands, and hearts of the people with a completely different history to the shared nature and to the empire of my lineage.

The Whetungs

James' family has been living with the land known as the Michi Saagig Anishinaabeg territory for approximately 4,000 years, dated by wild rice fossils found by geologists. This being the same land, that Mossom Boyd purchased 3,780 years later.

When I drove up to Curve Lake First Nations to experience a wild rice (known as manoomin) harvest two years ago, I met James Whetung and his family. The man whose name I had heard before, but was admittedly afraid to come face to face with, as I had some idea of how my lineage had impacted his. At least I thought I knew.

When the group of us had all arrived and settled, James introduced himself, and told his story – the side that I had never heard before. "They cut all the trees, floated them down river using the highways of my people. They needed clearer waterways, so they dredged the lakes and removed the rice beds that had provided our food. The First Nations peoples were forcefully moved to reserves, and confined there, needing written permission to leave, and only in order to work for local farmers at slave wages. You had to be Christian to live on the reserve, and Natives were not allowed to practice their own spirituality or pass it on to subsequent generations. The people were starving."

Listening to James, and hearing first-hand what his ancestors had gone through because of my ancestors, was heartbreaking, and it filled me with bitter shame and confusion. What was once a celebrated history of my family, became tainted and disgraceful. When he was finished, I raised my hand to speak, compelled to admit that I came from the family he was talking about. The lineage and industry that changed the landscape of his ancestors' home. That I was deeply remorseful. He responded graciously by inviting me to canoe out with him to harvest manoomin.

He said that those on the reserves eventually were able to take the remaining rice seeds and plant them. By 1920, the yields were up but only until the 1950's when destructive colonial farming practices began using chemicals (many of which still are in use today), which created chemical run-off causing imbalances in the lakes, soil, air, and water, further affecting the aquatic grasses; the nutritious, traditional food source.

Wild Rice on Pigeon Lake

Canadian cottage culture took off in the area around this time as well, motor boat traffic increased destroying the rice beds, and leaked oil and gas into the water. Septic beds were added for sewage treatment, but none were regulated and leaching into lakes was a regular occurrence. In the years between 1950 and 1980, the Trent Severn Waterway underwent a weed eradication program using agent orange (a highly toxic herbicide) to "make swimming more enjoyable for the cottagers."

Shortly after, James started planting seeds to feed his family and community despite the many cultural and environmental concerns out of his control. Wild rice as a traditional food source is highly nutritious and is known to help prevent diabetes — a huge problem within Indigenous peoples due to a forced disconnection from their traditional practices and nourishment sources.

James started sowing seeds on Pigeon lake, where his grandfather had seeded and harvested for many generations. He was healing his people, and as demand increased, he started to invent technologies to make his work easier and faster. The increased production meant that he could not only feed his community, but start selling his wild rice at local farmers' markets.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the wild rice increase in Pigeon and surrounding lakes. Since 2007, a group of cottagers have been fighting against Whetung's seeding of wild rice, claiming that the shoreline is their property and that the rice beds impede recreational boating. They've gone so far as to form a protest group, called Save Pigeon Lake, which asks James to harvest without the use of a motorboat (he did this to increase efficiency) and to stop seeding the rice.

Canada and Curve Lake First Nation are both signatories to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This Declaration states that "Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities" (Article 20). And further, that "Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of the sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora…" (Article 31). The rice beds run along the TSW in the tri-lakes area, which includes Buckhorn, Chemong and Pigeon lakes. Despite the concerns of waterfront property owners, Whetung says the land falls under Treaty 20 and is therefore not under the jurisdiction of the TSW, which is operated by Parks Canada.

About James

"I'm going to keep doing what I am doing. Why would I stop? Our people have starved for thousands of years. This is food; this is a livelihood," says Whetung. And personally, as an advocate for healthy food access for all, for a thriving world, and supported communities, I whole-heartedly agree.

For more about James and his community's work, please visit the Black Duck Wild Rice website. I am deeply grateful for James' time, energy, heart, perseverance, and spirit. This is a forever healing journey and one I intend to continue with the peoples intrinsically linked to my own family's history here in Canada.

Wild Rice Harvesting and Preparation

Let's talk about this beautiful offering, manoomin, or wild rice. Having always been drawn to this remarkable plant, I knew that when I moved back to Ontario, Canada, I had to learn more about it firsthand, and perhaps even how to harvest and process it. That is what led me to James and Black Duck Wild Rice. Every year around the September full moon, the manoomin harvest takes place, and he and his community welcome those who want to join and learn.


James taught us the traditional way, in canoes, all by hand. With two people per boat, one navigates and steers, while the other uses two long, thin sticks (bawa'iganaakoog); one to bend the rice into the canoe and the other to beat the grasses until the rice seeds fall into the hull of the canoe. Once you get the hang of it, it's rhythmic and meditative, but still a physical and time-consuming ritual that requires community. As with most traditional food cultivation practices it's a closed loop cycle, for whatever rice that doesn't fall into the canoe to be processed falls into the water, planting next year's crop at the same time!


Once on shore, the canoes are emptied by hand onto large sheets which are transferred to a cool dark place so the rice can cure. Two or three times a day for a week or so, the rice is turned and aerated, left to dry.

Toasting / Parching

The rice was traditionally toasted in a cast-iron cauldron over an open fire. James showed me how to use an old canoe paddle to turn the rice constantly so as not to scorch it — its texture and scent slowly transformed. This takes about an hour of constant stirring with a keen eye on the fire so it remains at the perfect temperature for toasting. If you stop for even a second, the rice will burn. James could tell from the smell, and how the rice felt between his fingers when it was ready the mark of a true artisan, energetically connected to his craft. Nowadays, James uses a machine that he designed and built himself, that stirs the rice automatically over open flames and gets the rice toasty faster and with less manual labour. Toasting the rice increases the flavour, and helps preserve it. If properly toasted and dry, wild rice can last in storage for five years or more (a necessity to help balance the yearly ebbs and flows of the harvest).

Dancing / Jigging

This was my favourite part of the process because it involved several people working together, and having the pleasure and honour of wearing beautiful, specially-designed moccasins just for this process. The toasted rice is put into another large cauldron (or sometimes a hole in the ground lined with leather cloth or a tarp) while three people sit around it, with our feet in the center. Once we had our soft shoes laced all the way up, we vigorously twisted and swooshed our feet around on the rice to loosen some of the chaff from the rice kernels — this was extremely hard work! We rotated through the group as people got tired, and eventually we were ready for the last step.


The danced rice is then turned out onto a large fabric sheet, with everyone holding the edge with both hands. Count to three and up the rice goes into the air, the breeze blowing the chaff away. This needs to be repeated countless times to separate the rice from the chaff completely. This is unbelievably time-consuming work and experiencing it first hand made me appreciate every grain so much more!

At the end of a grounding day of traditional work, you are gifted a few cups of cleaned wild rice. The appreciation I felt to see the yield of the countless hours by many people, not to mention the effort and contribution of this Earth truly became overwhelming. The experience solidified how food has the unparalleled ability to bring people together — requiring many enthusiastic, hard-working hands (and feet!) to get the job done, start to finish. At the end of the journey, everyone is rewarded with delicious food, straight from the Earth, her waters, her people. It is so simple, and so powerful.

Wildly Nutritious

Wild rice is not related to true rice nor is a grain at all in fact, but the seed of aquatic grass that grows along the shores of freshwater lakes in Canada and the Northern US. It's a little more expensive than other varieties, as it is often harvested by hand.

Wild rice is also, of course, wildly nutritious and is no surprise that Indigenous peoples made a point to cultivate this true super food. Containing high levels of protein, fiber, iron, and calcium, wild rice is also gluten-free. It is extremely high in folic acid, an essential B-complex vitamin lacking in many people's diets. Just half a cup of cooked wild rice yields 21.3 mcg of folic acid – necessary for cardiovascular support, red blood cell production, brain and nervous system health, and of particular importance during pregnancy – where brown rice by comparison offers only 3.9 mcg. The niacin content of wild rice is also notably high with l.06 mg for every 1/2 cup cooked rice. Potassium packs an 83 mg punch, and zinc, which is usually available in trace amounts, registers 1.1 mg.

Wild rice is a wonderful alternative to any grain that you would use in either hot or cold dishes. My favourite is to enjoy it in veggie bowls, soups and stews, as well as hearty salads. Its rich, nutty flavour pairs well with other earthy-sweet foods like beets, sweet potato, pumpkins and squash, making it the perfect ingredient to add to your fall recipes, already full of abundance and gratitude. It lasts for about a week after cooking, so making a large batch at the beginning of the week will give you the honour to grace your meals with a serious boost of nutrition and spirit with every grain!

Wild Rice & Butternut Blessings

This recipe was born from the desire to combine the elements that James and I had a hand in growing: wild rice from his lake, and butternut squash from my garden, coming together for one beautiful meal. Stacking the squash rounds makes for a grand, dramatic, and eye-catching presentation where the simple ingredients are made into something very special. This would be the most stunning main dish for a harvest celebration meal, or even into the winter holidays. It has the perfect balance of flavours, textures, and nutrition, so you'll feel satisfied on every level.

Try to find a butternut squash with a long and hefty neck. Since we are after nice big rounds, the longer your neck, the more rounds you'll have! And try to source your wild rice from a local reserve or farmers market, if possible.

There are several components to this recipe, but I've written it in a way that you can juggle all the elements with seamless management of your time.

Print Wild Rice and Butternut Blessings with Mushrooms, Toasted Walnut Garlic Sauce, and Sumac Author Sarah Britton Ingredients
  • 4 lb. / 2kg butternut squash about 1 large, try to find one with a long neck!
  • 1 cup / 175g wild rice soaked for at least 12 hours
  • 9 oz. / 250g mixed wild mushrooms or any mushroom of your choice
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • a couple sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary
  • ½ cup / 13g chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 batch Toasted Walnut Sauce recipe follows
  • 1 Tbsp. sumac divided
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • handful of walnuts for garnish if desired
Toasted Walnut Garlic Sauce
  • 1 cup / 125g raw walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
  • 4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 generous pinches of fine sea salt plus more as needed
  • Start by cooking the wild rice: drain and rinse the soaked rice well, place in a pot. Add 3 cups / 750ml of fresh water, a couple pinches of sea salt, then bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cook until rice is chewy-tender – about 45 minutes.
  • While the rice is cooking, preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 7 to 10 minutes, watching them carefully so they do not burn, until they are golden and fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  • Turn the oven heat up to 400°F / 200°C. Give the butternut squash a good scrub, making sure to remove any dust or dirt. Leaving the skin on, slice the squash neck into rounds about 1" / 2.5cm thick. Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little salt, and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking, until the squash is fork tender. Remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil and a little more salt, if desired. 
  • While the squash is roasting, make the Toasted Walnut Sauce. Place the toasted walnuts, garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup in a blender.
  • Blend on high, adding up to 1 cup / 250ml of water to thin the dressing as needed—you are looking for the consistency of melted ice cream. Season with salt. Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Lastly, prepare the mushrooms. Clean and cut the mushrooms as desired (I used king oyster mushrooms, sliced in half lengthwise and scored diagonally). Add a knob of your favourite cooking fat to a large skillet, and once melted add the mushrooms and a couple pinches of salt. Cook the mushrooms without crowding them, and do not move them about in the pan too much. You're looking for a nice sear and that comes after the mushrooms have been in constant, direct contact with high heat. Once golden on one side, flip, and continue cooking until golden on the other.
  • In a large bowl, combine the wild rice and parsley. Drizzle a touch of the sauce and about ½ Tbsp. of the sumac, a few grinds of black pepper, and fold to incorporate.
  • To assemble, drizzle or puddle some sauce on the bottom of your serving plate. Add a round of butternut squash, followed by the wild rice mixture, a couple mushrooms, then repeat the layers of squash, rice, mushrooms. Drizzle remaining sauce over top, sprinkle with additional sumac and black pepper, and a handful of walnuts.
  • Say thank you and enjoy each bite, each grain.
NotesServes 4
Makes approximately 1 cup / 270ml of Sauce
In Closing

I would love to hear your thoughts about how we can better respect and heal our pasts culturally, together. I wanted to open up the conversation here, not try to offer some kind of "solution". This is a complicated, complex, deeply layered issue that has deep roots, well beyond us here today. I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to be in a canoe with James himself, to witness how to harvest with intention and gratitude. It felt deeply meaningful to be there with him, the place our two family lines have crossed in many ways for many years, finally converging in a peaceful, cooperative, and hopefully reciprocal way. This extends far beyond James and I, and takes many more hands and hearts. The first step of many, I am forever grateful to James for sharing the story of his family and community as it has been silenced for too long.

Thank you for taking the time to read this today. I'd also like to add for those who haven't seen Canadian news over the past few months, that there has been uncovering of more extreme darkness in this country in relation to the Indigneous people of this land. The residential school system removed children from their Indigenous culture, communities, families, and ways of being. These Anglo-Saxon, Christian boarding schools are sites of mass unmarked graves where thousands of children's bodies were found, taken from their families. There are many agencies working towards healing, remediation, and reconciliation in response to these unfathomable atrocities in our history. One of them is the Downie Wenjack Foundation, which aims to to aid our collective reconciliation journey through a combination of awareness, education, and action. This link will take you to their page about Reconcili-ACTION, and a list of ways to catalyze important conversations and meaningful change, recognizing that change starts with every one of us and each person can make an impact.

The post Wild Rice and Butternut Blessings appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Fri, 05 Mar 2021 10:01:00 +0000

Burn the Best: Beeswax Candles

I was at a health food store with a friend the other day, cruising the aisles when he asked: "Hey Sarah, why do beeswax candles cost so much more than regular candles?" Well, I had to admit that he had me stumped there. I had heard that beeswax candles were better to burn than their paraffin counterparts, but I didn't know why exactly. Oohhh so exciting – I couldn't wait to get to the bottom of this one! With a little research I found some truly shocking information that was certainly blog-worthy…

Before I explain why beeswax candles are so superior, first let me give you the low-down on the downsides of the alternatives.

Paraffin origins
Most candles we buy are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product, left over after producing many of the other common petroleum products such as gas, oils, pavement, etc. This material is then bleached with 100% strength bleach creating toxic dioxins, before being refined into 'solid' paraffin using various carcinogenic, solidifying chemicals.
Candle companies purchase paraffin wax and then add various other texturizing chemicals, artificial dyes for colour, and synthetic fragrances.

When synthetic fragrances are burned, they produce toxic fluoro-carbons and other polluting by-products. Inhaling these fluoro-carbons damages the receptors in our nasal passages that detect scent, and over an extending period of time diminishes the overall abilities of your olfactory senses by 'wearing them out'. This is one of the reasons many people seem to require increasingly stronger-smelling candles (or synthetic air fresheners), etc., to experience any enjoyable aromas at all!

Last, but certainly not least, is the indirect cost of burning a fuel like paraffin in your home, which emits black soot that coats your walls, household furnishings and curtains, and least desirably, your lungs and skin. It is a proven fact that paraffin, with its associated synthetic scents and other additives, causes headaches, allergic reactions and difficulties with sinuses and lungs. Anyone with respiratory problems should not burn paraffin candles, nor should those that want to prevent said problems.

I hope this sheds some light (ha!) on the perils of paraffin to your health, home and environment. Now let me introduce you to beeswax and the incredible properties it has to offer.

Beloved Beeswax
Burning beeswax candles is better for you and the environment for so many reasons. First, burning beeswax produces negative ions, which benefit us and the air we breathe by attracting pollutants, in much the same way that a magnet attracts iron fillings. Negative ions attach to positively charged ions that hold onto dust, dander, molds and other air borne contaminants. Once attached, the positive ions are weighed down and this drops both the ions and the contaminants to the ground to be swept up or vacuumed away. Bottom line: burning beeswax will actually clean your air.

Beeswax candles are the best choice for the environment since the material used is 100% renewable, and in its native, raw state does not require bleaching or hydrogenation. The production of paraffin (a non-renewable resource), and even soy and palm waxes, involves chemical intervention to modify the raw material into a wax form and then into a candle. This means that beeswax is a better choice for the environment, since its processing is minimal, does not require chemicals, and the end product is completely biodegradable.

You can burn beeswax in an unventilated room without fear of pollution. In fact, many people report that burning a candle in the bedroom for 30 minutes or so before falling asleep produces a more restful sleep. Beeswax is hypo-allergenic, benefits those with environmental allergies, sensitivities, and even asthma. To keep your air as clean as possible, just remember to trim your wicks before each use, and extinguish the candle by submerging the wick in its own wax pool instead of blowing it out, as both these measures prevent smoke.

Lastly, the quality of the golden light given off by beeswax candles is unsurpassed by its paraffin counterparts. Because of the high melting point of the wax, beeswax burns stronger and brighter than paraffin, in addition to emitting the same spectrum of light as the sun — how amazing is that!

The Overall Cost

So to answer my friend's question: while the initial cost may seem higher than paraffin candles, beeswax burns for much longer – two to five times the burn time of other candles. Beeswax has a much higher melting point than paraffin – in fact, the highest melting point of any wax, so it burns far more slowly. Costing only pennies an hour to burn, beeswax is much more economical than paraffin over time.

You can purchase beeswax candles at farmers markets, health food stores and of course online. The candles in this post are from The Beeswax Co., an American company committed to tradition and quality, they ship internationally, and I highly recommend them.

Wherever you choose to purchase your candles, beware of imitations! Look for 100% pure cappings beeswax, which is the wax that comes from the seal around each cell in the honeycomb. Some companies will cut their beeswax with paraffin, palm or soy waxes and still call them "beeswax" candles, so read the labels. Also, make sure the wick is made of a natural fiber (like cotton or hemp) and that it doesn't contain a metal wire (which can sometimes contain lead), and that there aren't any artificial scents or chemical colours added. Pure beeswax should smell like honey, and have a natural, golden hue.

Burn, baby. Burn!

The post Burn the Best: Beeswax Candles appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Mon, 07 Dec 2020 16:37:31 +0000

White Chocolate Peppermint Torte

white chocolate peppermint torte


Hi friends.

It feels good to be back in this blog space. Since the beginning of this year, I've been focusing my attention on my latest project, My New Roots Grow – an online universe of wellness education – which will launch soon. Grow is the most energy-intensive and large-scale project since my cookbooks, and once again it feels like birthing something major. The blog has been on the back burner giving more space for Grow to, well, grow, but I thought I'd pop in with this stellar holiday dessert because 'tis the season for a White Chocolate Peppermint Torte!

I actually developed this recipe last winter, but wasn't sure what to do with it. I thought about keeping it exclusively on Grow (since that is where a lot of my recipe content will live from now on!), but because it is so special and delicious, I felt that it should just be out in the world. Inspired by the Spiced Chocolate Torte that I make on the retreats in Mexico (remember places?!), I wanted to make a festive holiday version with white chocolate and peppermint… enter the White Chocolate Peppermint Torte.

The crust is dark chocolate and pecan, so rich and delicious with just the right amount of salt. The interior is velvety smooth and beguilingly creamy, made with cashews, coconut oil, and white chocolate. I love the kiss of peppermint in the filling, which is definitely present but not overwhelming. I didn't want anyone to feel like they were eating dessert and brushing your teeth at the same time!

white chocolate peppermint torte


Some notes on the recipe…

If you're using peppermint essential oil to flavour the filling, I find it helpful to measure it out on a spoon first, just in case the bottle is in a giving mood – one too many drops of this stuff will ruin a good torte with too much minty-ness! I like to use about 6 or 7 drops total, but if it comes out too fast, I have no way of controlling the amount. If you're using peppermint extract, start at a quarter of a teaspoon and work your way up to the flavour that suits you.

If you eat a vegan diet, you can use maple syrup instead of honey in the filling, but the colour is going to be more brown / beige than creamy. Also, make sure to find dairy-free white chocolate, since the vast majority of commercially-made white chocolate contains milk solids. And then, if you do find vegan white chocolate, read the ingredient list to make sure that is doesn't contain any hydrogenated oils or weird emulsifiers (or just pick your battles!).


white chocolate peppermint torte

The torte decorating is entirely up to you, although pomegranate seeds create a striking display of holiday cheer! Other options include fresh mint leaves, cacao nibs, or shaved dark chocolate. You could even include them all, if you're feeling extra festive.

Store the torte in the freezer until you're ready to enjoy it, then bring it out about 15-20 minutes before serving so that it's not rock hard. It's easier to slice and eat when it's warmed up a tad. Use a smooth, very sharp chef's knife, and run it under hot water before cutting into the torte to make it glide.

If you're not in the mood to make a crust, you can turn this dessert into freezer fudge by preparing only the filling. Pour the filling into an 8-inch / 20 cm square pan lined with plastic wrap; top with ½ cup / 65g toasted pecans, cacao nibs, or chocolate shards, and freeze until solid (about 2 hours). Slice into squares and enjoy straight from the freezer!

white chocolate peppermint torte


Print White Chocolate Peppermint Torte Author Sarah Britton Ingredients
  • For the crust:
  • 1 cup / 100g pecans
  • ¼ cup / 60ml coconut oil preferably flavour-neutral
  • 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp. fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups / 150g rolled oats divided, gluten-free if necessary
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • For the filling:
  • 1 ½ cups / 200g cashews soaked for at least 4 hours
  • ¾ cup / 175 ml creamed honey sub with maple syrup, but be warned the colour of the filling will be brown
  • ½ cup / 125 ml coconut oil
  • 75 g / 2.6 oz. white chocolate melted (dairy-free / vegan if desired)
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. fine-grain sea salt
  • a few drops peppermint essential oil or extract to taste
  • pomegranate, mint, cacao nibs, shaved dark chocolate, for garnish, optional
  • Make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) spring form pan or pie dish with coconut oil.
  • In a food processor, blend ½ cup (50g) of the rolled oats on high until you have a rough flour, place a small bowl and set aside. Without cleaning the machine, process the pecans into a fine crumb with the texture of sand. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, salt, oat flour and cacao powder, and process again until the dough comes together. Finally, add the remaining 1 cup of rolled oats and pulse until the oats are chopped, but still have some texture to them. The dough should stick together slightly when pressed between your fingers. If it doesn't, try adding a bit more maple syrup or processing a bit longer.
  • Crumble roughly half of the dough evenly over the base of the pan. Starting from the middle, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom, moving outward and upward along the side of the pie dish. The harder you press the crumbs into the dish, the better the crust will hold together. Taking a small section at a time, use the remaining crust to go up the sides, all around the form until complete. Poke a few fork holes into the bottom of the crust to let the steam escape.
  • Bake the crust, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until fragrant and slightly darker around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Make the filling: Drain and rinse the cashews. In a high-speed blender, combine the soaked cashews, honey, oil, melted chocolate, vanilla, salt, and peppermint, then blend on high until the filling is completely smooth. It can take a few minutes of blending to get it smooth, depending on your blender. If the blender needs more liquid to get it going, add a tablespoon (15 mL) of plant-based milk (or a bit more) to help it along.
  • Pour the filling into the prepared crust, smoothing out the top evenly. Place the torte on an even surface in the freezer, uncovered. Freeze for a couple of hours, and then cover the dish with foil and freeze overnight, or for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours, until the torte sets.
  • Remove the torte from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes before slicing. It is meant to be served cold. Garnish with mint leaves, pomegranate seeds, cacao nibs, melted or shaved chocolate, if desired.

I hope that wherever you are and whatever you're celebrating this month, you are safe, healthy, and grateful. This year has thrown us all for the biggest loop of our lives, and finding the small joys and tiny triumphs (like getting out for some fresh air, putting dinner on the table) is enough to make me feel proud, anyway. The holidays will undoubtedly look different this year, but I know that I am just thankful to have a roof over my head and a torte to share with the ones I love. I hope the same for you, dear friend.

In light and love, best wishes for the season ahead.

Sarah B

The post White Chocolate Peppermint Torte appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Sat, 23 May 2020 14:52:24 +0000

High-Vibe Condiment Classics

Summer is fast-approaching (at last!) and I don't know about you, but to me this means grilling, eating outside, and enjoying all of the classic, warm-weather treats. But wait! Did you know that there are all kinds of funky ingredients hiding in the most innocuous places, like your ketchup, mustard and relish?! We shouldn't have to forgo these truly classic condiments just because we're walking on the whole foods path. No way! So I decided to do a high-vibe makeover all of the condiments that you'd find at a barbecue, picnic, or baseball game: ketchup, mustard, honey mustard, Dijon, relish, mayo and secret sauce, without any refined ingredients, colours, or preservatives. They are entirely vegan (except for the honey mustard), and taste absolutely incredible.

Making your own condiments from scratch is empowering, and you too will see that by whisking up your very own mustard, or blending your very own ketchup that you are incredibly capable in the kitchen! It's a serious delight to realize that you're not only qualified to make things you thought you needed to buy, but that you're also doing yourself a giant favour in cutting questionable ingredients out of your life.

When I was a kid, I loved hotdogs with mustard and relish (not ketchup, that was for burgers). The vinegary tang of the yellow mustard with the sweetness of pickle relish perfectly offset the salty squishiness of a microwaved wiener. This was a typical Saturday lunch, with doughnuts for dessert, all washed down with a giant glass of milk. I wanted to recreate that nostalgia, minus pretty much everything else. The flavours bring me back to simple times and simple food.

But simple food is not always so simple. Have you read the ingredients on a squeeze bottle of relish lately? It's a complicated collection of chemicals that I certainly wouldn't want in my body. High-fructose corn syrup, "natural flavour", and food colouring are just a few of the ingredients that plague most tasty toppings. Food additives are everywhere, especially in shelf-stable products. If you're not going to refrigerate something or preserve it properly, it has to have things in it to prevent it from spoiling. It also has to look appealing and taste good, even after months (or years!) on a grocery store shelf. That is why it is so important to read labels and be discerning about what you choose to buy. This is not to say that these additives are inherently harmful, but they are far from natural, and I'm a believer in eating as close to the earth as possible! Luckily my condiments are not only based on whole foods, but they taste amazing and are actually good for you.

Here is a small list of the food additives to watch out for and avoid, if possible. Remember to check the packages of your other summer favourites, like chips, salad dressings, sparkling beverages, soda and "juice", ice cream, popsicles, and frozen yogurt.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Sometimes labeled HFCS, this highly-refined artificial sweetener has become the number one source of calories in North America. It is found in almost all processed foods, since it is cheap to make, shelf-stable, super sweet, and highly addictive. Excessive consumption has been linked to obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Watch out for it in condiments, salad dressing, bread, candy, soda, yogurt, breakfast cereals, even canned vegetables and fruit.

Natural Flavours This is a sneaky term meant to throw you off. When you see these words on an ingredient list, they refer to a naturally-derived flavouring agent that has to be extracted from plant or animal sources, designed to enhance the taste of food. Conversely, artificial flavours are synthetically created, with their original sources being manmade chemicals. Natural flavours however, are still made in laboratories by food chemists who can add any numbers of chemicals, including preservatives, solvents and other substances, which are defined as "incidental additives", to what they are creating. Food manufacturers are not required to disclose whether these additives come from natural or synthetic sources, and as long as the original flavouring comes from plant or animal material, they can be classified as natural. The point is, natural flavours don't appear to be any healthier than artificial flavours, and they can still contain ingredients that may cause reactions in sensitive individuals, especially children. To avoid them, cut back on packaged products and stick to the real-deal whole foods!

Food Dyes / Colours To make food look bright, fresh, and especially appealing to children, food manufacturers add dyes to obvious things like candy, sports drinks and baked goods, but also not-so-obvious things like condiments (!), pickles, cereals, salad dressing, yogurt, and chocolate milk. Some of these dyes are approved for use in certain countries, while others have banned them, making it challenging for consumers to navigate. The safety of food dyes is controversial, especially in regards to children. Studies have linked them to hyperactivity in sensitive kids, and they may cause allergic reactions in some people. Because most food dyes are found in unhealthy processed foods, it's easy to avoid them if you're sticking to a more natural diet.

Hydrogenated / Partially Hydrogenated Oils You know when the World Health Organization plans on eliminating these fats from the global food supply, they must be pretty problematic. Created by forcing hydrogen gas into vegetable fats under extremely high pressure to turn liquid into solid, hydrogenation creates trans fats, which increases the amount of LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL cholesterol, therefore significantly increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. What's more is that these fats are pro-inflammatory. Although their use has been banned in several countries, trans fats still lurk in many processed foods. As long as there is less than .5% per serving, it isn't required in to be listed in the ingredients or nutritional information. The best way to avoid them is by cutting out processed foods, especially margarine, coffee creamer, chips and crackers, frozen pizza, fast foods, baked goods, and microwave popcorn.

Health Claims – these are put on the front of the box to lure you in, and can include buzz words like "natural", "whole grain", "low-fat", "no added sugar", "organic", "light", "low calorie", "gluten-free", and "enriched". Terms like these should be a red flag for you, so read the entire label, including the ingredient list, the serving size, the amount and types of sweetener and fat used. Think critically and be selective – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The bottom line?! Stick to whole, or minimally-processed foods and ingredients as often as possible. It's better for you, and your family to make your own from scratch whenever possible. Not to mention, it's fun to brag to everyone that you're a condiment master, a yogurt wizard, or a salad dressing whisperer.

I had so much FUN with these recipes! It was a blast to brainstorm which condiments I would attempt to health-ify, experiment with, and eventually master to make them all easy-to-make and delicious. My condiments won't last years in the fridge, but all of them passed the two-week mark with flying colours (all of them natural, of course). As long as you're using clean utensils to scoop out your servings, you shouldn't have a problem keeping these toppings around for a few weeks – ya know, if you can ration them for that long!

Yellow Mustard
This was in fact my first attempt at making yellow mustard and it proved to be ridiculously easy! I think I'd built it up in my head to be some complicated project, but wow was I mistaken. Just a few simple ingredients, and a little stovetop whisking will get you the brightest, tangiest, most beautiful ballpark mustard of your dreams! I must warn you, from one condiment-master to another, that the bubbling mixture gets darn hot and tends to splatter when it's cooking. To avoid scalding yourself, use the pot lid as s shield (insert laughing emoji here).

Yellow Mustard
Makes 1¼ cups / 300ml

1 cup / 250ml cold water
3/4 cup dry mustard powder
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground paprika
1/2 cup / 125ml apple cider vinegar

1. In a small saucepan, whisk together water, dry mustard, salt, turmeric, garlic, and paprika until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low to low heat, stirring often, until it bubbles down to a thick paste, 30 to 45 minutes.

2. Whisk the apple cider vinegar into the mustard mixture and continue to cook until it's thickened to the desired consistency – this can take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on how thick you like it.

3. Let the mustard cool to room temperature. Transfer the mustard to an airtight glass jar or container, and refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Honey Mustard
Depending on how sweet you like your honey mustard, it's just the above yellow mustard recipe with as much honey stirred in as you like! I added two tablespoons and it was perfect for me, but if you want even more, got for it. I recommend avoiding very runny honey, since this will loosen the mustard. Instead, opt for something on the thicker side to maintain the consistency. If you're vegan, brown rice or date syrup would be the best choices, since they are more viscous than maple syrup, for example. I love this on sandwiches with lots of fresh veggies and sprouts!

Honey Mustard
Makes 1¼ cups / 300ml

1¼ cups / 300ml yellow mustard (recipe above)
2 Tbsp. raw honey

1. Combine the mustard and the honey. Taste and add more honey if desired. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Grainy Dijon Mustard
This style of Dijon is a whole-seed one, which is my favourite because of the great texture and colour variations. It's spicy and complex, and will only get better with time. Keep in mind that this recipe is in two stages, the first one requiring you to soak your mustard seeds the night before you plan on blending.

Grainy Dijon Mustard
Makes 1 cup / 250ml

1/4 cup / 40g yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup / 40g black mustard seeds
1/2 Tbsp. ground mustard
1/3 cup / 75ml white wine vinegar
1/3 cup / 75ml apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight (for 12-24 hours) to allow the mustard seeds to soften and absorb the flavours.

2. Place mixture in blender and mix on high for a minute or two, until the seeds have broken and the mustard thickens.

3. Transfer contents to a clean jar and enjoy! Dijon will keep for about one month in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickle Relish
This was the most anticipated condiment to try and make myself, since it's one of my favourites, but also one of the worst offenders for additives. I successfully recreated that gorgeous tang, and succulent texture of commercial relish that I loved so much as a kid. The taste of this one is off the charts! My recipe uses coconut sugar instead of refined sugar and syrups, so the colour is a little darker and browner than the conventional types, but I don't think you'll notice – and you certainly won't miss the food colouring!

Sweet Pickle Relish
Makes 2 cups / 500ml

2 cups / 340g finely diced cucumber
1/2 cup / 85g finely diced yellow onion
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 cup / 125ml apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup / 40g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tsp. arrowroot, dissolved in 2 tsp. water

1. Toss the cucumber and onion with 3/4 teaspoon of salt in a sieve set over a bowl, and let drain for about 3 hours. Next, press the ingredients against side of sieve to release as much liquid as possible, then discard liquid from bowl.

2. Bring the vinegar, coconut sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then simmer until reduced to about a 1/2 cup / 125ml (just eyeball it), about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mustard, dill, and turmeric, stir until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the drained cucumber and onion mixture, plus diced red bell pepper, and simmer, stirring for about 2 minutes. Make the arrowroot slurry, then whisk it into the relish. Simmer, stirring, 2-3 minutes until noticeably thickened. Turn off the heat and transfer relish to a glass jar or storage container and leave uncovered until it cools to room temperature, then put in the fridge. The relish will keep for up to a month in the fridge.

Tomato Ketchup
This ketchup was an old blog post that I revisited and revised. I used to make this recipe in the oven, but my new method eliminates the need to crank up the heat when it's probably the last thing you want to do. Instead, the whole thing is made on the stove, then blitzed up in the blender. It's deeply spiced and complex, so much more interesting than store-bought ketchup. The first time I made the new version, I used a good portion of it for a soup base, then added more to a dip – both were delicious, so if you have leftovers, put it to use in an unexpected place. It's tasty with everything!

Tomato Ketchup
Makes 2 cups / 500ml

1 Tbsp. coconut oil (expeller-pressed, flavour neutral)
3 star whole anise (make sure they are whole to remove easily!)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground coriander
pinch of chili flakes
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2.2 lbs. / 1 kg tomatoes
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1. Melt the coconut oil in a medium stockpot, then add the star anise, bay leaves, coriander, and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant about 2 minutes, then add the onions, salt and pepper, and cook until slightly browned, about 10 mins. Next add the add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add balsamic vinegar, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes and their juices, then bring to a simmer.

2. Cook on low heat for about 60 mins or until reduced and starting to caramelize on the bottom of the pot.

3. Turn off heat and remove bay and anise, add maple syrup. Let cool slightly and transfer to a blender, blend until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning to suit your taste.

4. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight glass container and store in the fridge. Keeps for about one month.

Aquafaba Mayonnaise
This was the most exciting discovery to make: vegan mayo using aquafaba! Aqua faba translates to "bean water" and it's the cooking liquid from chickpeas. Although any can of chickpeas will have this, I make my own, since there are no additives or chemicals that have leached from the can itself. If you cook your own chickpeas from dried, you have aquafaba. Although I wouldn't normally consume large amounts of aquafaba, in this case it's used in such a small amount that I think it's fine. Plus, did I mention it makes vegan mayo?! The results are so unbelievably shocking and delightful that I'm a convert, even though I eat eggs!

I highly suggest using the most neutral-tasting olive oil you can find for this recipe. Since it makes up the majority of the flavour of the mayonnaise, a strong-tasting olive oil will overpower the delicate nature of this condiment. I used the one from Pineapple Collaborative, which works perfectly. I also tried avocado oil, grapeseed, and sunflower, but didn't like the results as much as mild olive oil. It's up to you! You can really use whatever you have on hand, just keep in mind that it will really dictate the taste of the final result.

Aquafaba Mayonnaise
Makes about 1 cup / 250ml

3 Tbsp. aquafaba
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. fine salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup / 175ml mild olive oil (or other light-tasting oil)

1. Place the aquafaba in the bottom of a wide-mouth jar. Add the mustard, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, and the olive oil. Allow a minute for the oil to separate into a distinct layer.

2. Insert an immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the jar. (Note: this will not work with an upright blender) Start the blending process on medium speed and do not lift the blender until the mixture has thickened and turned white at the bottom of the jar. Only then, slowly move the blender up, waiting for the oil to incorporate as you go, until you get the texture of mayonnaise. Use immediately; refrigerate leftovers in a tightly sealed jar for up to 1 month. The mayonnaise will thicken slightly once cooled in the fridge.

Smoky Secret Sauce
This is the creamy, tangy, and perfectly seasoned sauce that most famously adorns the Big Mac burger from McDonalds. What's best about my version is that it has zero secrets…nothing weird to hide here! I had the most fun with this recipe, since it required a number of the condiments that I'd already made as ingredients. I did deviate a tad from the original and added smoked paprika, since I love the added dimension of smoke flavour to anything that's going on grilled food, but I've also found this to be a stellar salad dressing, especially for chop-style salads that have chunky, less delicate ingredients. I hope you find some fun things to slather it on this summer. It's lip-smakingly tasty!

Smoky Secret Sauce
Makes 1 cup / 250ml

3/4 cup / 175ml aquafaba mayonnaise (recipe above)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (recipe above)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (recipe above)
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika (not traditional, but delicious!)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1. Fold all ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. Enjoy immediately, and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

As a bonus, I've included this stellar recipe for carrot hot dogs – since you'll need a high-vibe wiener to put your condiments on! Hahaaa! I realize that carrot hot dogs are pretty 2018, but I'd never tried them before and it was a very amusing undertaking. I looked at a number of recipes online and my version is a mash-up of the ones that sounded the most delicious. My method is also much easier and faster than other versions I've seen, since it's just a braise on the stove and a quick grill (no marinating, steaming, roasting, etc).

The important thing to keep in mind for this recipe, is that the amount of time you braise the carrots for,I'm will be dictated by the girth of the carrots. Mine were more sausage-sized (approx 1.5" or 3.5-3.75 cm) than a typical hot dog wiener, and a 20-minute simmer was the perfect amount. If your carrots are smaller, I'd go down to 15 minutes. Insert a sharp knife to check on the doneness after 10 minutes or so, and take them out when they are tender, but way before they get mushy. Remember that you're also going to be grilling them for 10 minutes so they will cook even more, and you don't want them too soft. The final result should be tender all the way through, but shouldn't fall apart in your mouth.

Carrot Hot Dogs
Serves 8

8 large hot dog-sized carrots
8 hot dog buns
1/4 cup / 60ml tamari
1/4 cup / 60ml apple cider vinegar
1 cup / 250ml vegetable broth or 1 tsp. vegetable bullion powder + 1 cup water
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (preferably expeller-pressed, flavour neutral)
1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepperWash and peel carrots. Round the edges of the carrot to look more like wieners, if desired.

1. Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a large stockpot with a lid. Add the peeled carrots and bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook with the lid on for about 20 minutes (less if your carrots are on the thin side, see headnote). Remove from heat and turn on the grill.

2. Grill the carrots over medium-high, turning every couple of minutes, basting them with the remaining braising liquid if desired. Cook until slightly charred and fragrant, 10 minutes total. Grill or toast the buns. Place a carrot on each bun and enjoy with all of the condiments!

I wish you all an incredible summer ahead! I recognize that this season is going to look very different from years past, but as long as we're all healthy and the sun is shining, we've got it pretty good. Stay safe out there, and keep fuelling your body with the whole foods it needs to thrive and feel alive!

All love and happy condiment-making,
Sarah B

The post High-Vibe Condiment Classics appeared first on My New Roots.

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