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My New Roots

My New Roots
Wed, 07 Jun 2023 21:31:43 +0000

French Toast Cubes with Salted Honey Custard

Happy June my dear friends! It's wonderful to be back in the blog space, and to bring you this new and *very* luscious recipe for French Toast Cubes. Where did this divinity come from?! I have no idea, but I was pretty excited to receive the download. It's a real egg-celebration! And right at the height of the season here in Ontario, as we witness the forces of life unfolding, in every moment. 

Since I'd like to focus on our star ingredient today, let's talk about sourcing and buying eggs. There is so much to decipher when purchasing in regards to the grade, size, and raising claims, along with the nutritional, ethical, and environmental impacts of these varieties, so I hope that you find my guide to this highly nutritious and miraculous food helpful to you.


Eggs are given grades (AA, A, or B) based on interior quality factors like defects and freshness, and exterior factors reflecting shell attributes. Grade A eggs have thick whites (Grade AA whites are slightly thicker) which do not spread easily, making them a preferred choice for frying. Meanwhile, Grade B eggs usually have thinner egg whites, making them ideal for baking, omelets, fresh toast cubes for example, and yes, custard.


Eggs vary in size (Extra Large, Large, and Medium are the most common sizes in stores) based on their weight. The size markings on egg cartons tell the minimum net weight for a dozen eggs. If you are looking for more protein, you should choose a larger-sized egg.


Many are concerned with the way egg-laying hens are raised. Here's a quick definition for some popular claims.


Conventionally-raised eggs typically come from chickens that are bred in large industrial facilities. These chickens are often confined to cages and given a diet of corn and soy, supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Conventional eggs are usually the least expensive option and are widely available, but many people have concerns about the welfare of the chickens and the environmental impact of this type of farming.


Organic eggs come from chickens that are fed an organic diet and are not given antibiotics or hormones. In order to be certified organic, at least by USDA standards, the chickens must be cage-free, and also have seasonal access to the outdoors. Organic eggs are typically more expensive than conventionally-raised eggs, but many people believe that they are healthier and better for the environment.

Fortified / Nutritionally-enriched

Fortified eggs come from hens who have been raised by conventional standards, but have been given feed that is enriched in some capacity. Typically, this can include anything from ground flax seeds, to sea kelp, sunflower oil, fish oil, alfalfa, or rice bran. Depending on the feed, fortified eggs may have more Omega-3s, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, and iodine.


Pasture-raised eggs come from chickens that are allowed to roam freely on pasture, scratch, forage, and eat a natural diet that includes grasses, insects, and other plants. Pasture-raised chickens are often considered to be the most humane and sustainable way to produce eggs, and many people believe that the resulting eggs are more nutritious and flavorful than conventionally grown eggs. This is true depending on, you guessed it; what they are eating!

So, what are the differences between these types of eggs? Here are some key factors to consider:


There is some evidence to suggest that pasture-raised eggs may be more nutritious than conventionally grown eggs. Studies have shown that pasture-raised eggs can have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and antioxidants than conventionally grown eggs. However, the differences in nutrient content between different types of eggs can be small (and in some cases hard to track due to season, soil health, and the specific foods eaten) and may not be significant enough to make a major difference in overall health.


If you are concerned about the welfare of the chickens that produce your eggs, you may want to consider buying pasture-raised or organic eggs because these types of eggs come from chickens that are allowed to roam freely and are not confined to small cages. However, it's worth noting that the regulations around organic and pasture-raised farming can vary, and some farms may have more humane practices than others. If you have the possibility to do so, ask your local egg provider how the hens are raised, what their physical environment is like, and even their slaughtering practices.


All food production impacts the environment. To minimize the impact of egg production consider buying organic or pasture-raised eggs, as these types of farming practices often involve less use of or are free from pesticides and fertilizers, and may have a smaller carbon footprint than conventionally grown eggs. However, it's worth noting that the environmental impact of egg production can be complex, and the specific practices used by each farm can vary. Again, ask your farmer!

In summary, the type of eggs you choose to buy will depend on your budget, priorities, and values. Organic and pasture-raised eggs may be more nutritious and have a smaller environmental impact, but they are often more expensive. Conventionally grown eggs may be easier to find and more affordable, but some people have concerns about the welfare of the chickens and the environmental impact of this type of farming. Ultimately, the best way to choose eggs is to do your research, read labels carefully, speak with your local egg provider if possible, and find the option that best suits your needs.

Okay, now to the recipe 😀

Why French toast cubes, you ask? Because six sides of golden glory is way better than two, haha! I really wanted to create a standout dish, one that was both delectably indulgent and also visually stunning. Having this beauty placed in front of me would absolutely make my jaw drop!

The real star of the show here, however, is the custard, which is a completely new-to-me food, and one I've been curious to attempt! Also known as Crème Anglaise, it is the base of all ice cream (at least the really good stuff). That should already tell you that it is rich and satisfying – goddess food – as my dear friend Elenore puts it. I must say, I do feel exceptionally queen-like enjoying the ultra-creamy and luscious divinity. It's like being kissed by an angel!

The custard was surprisingly easy to make once I understood the science behind it: real cream and high-fat milk are infused with vanilla, cooled down until it can be combined with egg yolks without curdling them (this process is called tempering), then slowly back brought up to temperature so that the yolks cook and thicken the sauce. Simple in theory, but it does require some patience and your full, undivided attention at times. I found a lot of recipes for custard call for starches and thickeners, but I wanted to go the whole food route and stick with just eggs. So glad I did! I also replaced the refined sugar with creamed honey. This not only imparts such a stunning flavour, but also serves to help thicken the custard.

Here are some recipe notes on the custard:

If you fumble and the eggs curdle or the sauce breaks, use an immersion blender to bring it all back together.

If you have access to organic eggs (or better yet, pasture eggs from free-roaming hens!) I highly encourage you to use them here since you're really going to taste them. Same goes for the dairy products; find the best you can, bonus points for local and grass-fed. For the whipping cream, choose between 35-40% fat. The whole milk should be around 3-4% fat.

Do not try this with clear, runny honey as I cannot guarantee the same results.

The custard makes more than you need for this dish, but leftovers will keep in the fridge for 5 days. You can warm the custard back up by gently heating it in a double-boiler over just-simmering water, stirring frequently.

If strawberries aren't in season, choose another fruit! The sky is the limit – you can even start with frozen if that is all you have.

I hope you love this recipe for French toast cubes as much I do. It is an ode to eggs, to cream, to vanilla, to joy! I am very certain it will put a smile on your face and everyone who is lucky enough to enjoy it with you.

Print Salted Honey Custard Author Sarah Britton Ingredients
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 egg yolks
  • cup / 75ml creamed honey
  • 1 cup / 250ml whole milk
  • 2 cups / 500ml whipping cream
  • salt to taste as desired
  • Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the milk and cream. Turn on the heat to medium and stir every so often, just until the mixture begins to bubble around the edge of the pan for about 2 minutes. Do NOT let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and let cool and infuse for about 20 minutes.
  • Separate the egg whites and yolks (set the whites aside for the french toast). Whisk the egg yolks and honey together.
  • Ladle 1 scoop of the cooled cream mixture into the egg yolks and swiftly whisk to combine. Add another ladle and whisk, repeating until you have no cream left. Clean the saucepan well, making sure there is no residue left.
  • Pour the tempered cream and egg mixture through a sieve back in to the clean saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for about 8-10 minutes (do NOT leave the stove!). The custard is ready when the mixture coats the back of the spoon and you can draw a clean line through with your finger (see photo).
  • Once it has thickened, remove from the heat and strain once again through a sieve into a bowl or other heat-proof vessel. Immerse this vessel in an ice bath to stop cooking, remembering to stir every so often. Let the mixture cool. Season with salt, as desired. Serve and enjoy immediately, and store leftovers in the fridge for up to five days.
Print Strawberry Topping Author Sarah Britton Ingredients
  • 250 g / 9oz. fresh strawberries
  • pinch salt
  • ½ – 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup as desired
  • Hull and chop the strawberries into small cubes. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, stir well to coat, then add maple syrup and fold to combine. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
NotesServes 4 Print French Toast Cubes Author Sarah Britton Ingredients
  • 1 loaf sourdough bread preferably wholegrain
  • 2 eggs + egg whites from custard making
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cardamom pod optional but delicious
  • ghee or butter to cook
  • Cut the bread, roughly, into four, 3" / 8cm cubes. Remove the crusts.
  • Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl. Crush the cardamom pod, discard the skin and pummel the seeds until broken up into very small pieces. Whisk into the eggs mixture.
  • One by one, dunk each bread cube into the egg mixture, allowing each side to bathe for 15 seconds or so, then turning until all six sides have been coated.
  • Melt your fat in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and cook on each side for 1 minute, or until golden brown.
  • To serve, spoon as much custard as you like onto each dish (I used about 1/4 cup / 60ml per serving), then place the french toast cube on top, and spoon over some of the strawberry mixture. Say thank you and enjoy.
NotesServes 4

Sending you all love and abundance for this glorious season! May you be nourished and a little spoiled 😉

xo, Sarah B

The post French Toast Cubes with Salted Honey Custard appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Fri, 28 Oct 2022 14:23:08 +0000

Coconut Dreamcake – Celebrating 15 Years of MNR

Happy birthday, My New Roots! We're celebrating 15 years strong with a Danish dreamcake, and I am so grateful to you, dear reader, for following along. Whether you've been here since the beginning, or this is your first post, thank you for being here and supporting my vision of a healthier, happier world.

I could say something cliché, like "I cannot believe it's been 15 years already" but I CAN! Haha, I've packed so much into this last decade-and-a-half, that I'm actually shocked it hasn't been 30 years! Two cookbooks, countless international cooking classes and workshops, an online membership platform, a TV show, a TED talk, a wellness retreat business, and a global community of hundreds of thousands of fine folks just like yourself. WOW.

This space has seen me through two overseas moves, four restaurant jobs, a marriage, a baby, home renovations, major health challenges and triumphs, and the personal evolution that comes along with all of it! I knew I needed to create a recipe that celebrated all of it and I'm so excited to share this Coconut Dreamcake with you.

Honouring a Classic

It was pretty fun deciding what I was going to bake for this anniversary and how I was going to photograph it. Those over-the-top layer cakes I made for previous birthdays felt fun and celebratory, but I also wanted something nostalgic and reverent for this one.

I have been wanting to try making a Sarah B-version of the classic Danish dessert, drømmekage (translation: "dreamcake") for a very long time. When I lived in Copenhagen, this was one of my favourite treats because it is just so darn delicious and satisfying. The sponge is a moist and tender vanilla cake, with a topping of gooey, coconut caramel. Typically baked slab-style, and served in squares at bakeries all over the country, dreamcake is one of the most ubiquitous and well-loved desserts for a good reason – it truly is a dream!

Playing with an a time-honoured recipe is challenging, because why mess with a good thing?! But I've built a career on making healthy-ish, more nourishing swaps in traditional dishes, so why not attempt a drømmekage of my own?

Happy Hemp

If you've been here a while, you know that one of my favourite ingredients to work with is hemp! These light-tasting and creamy seeds are the perfect addition to so many meals, boosting the Omega-3 fat and protein content. They also contain good amounts of magnesium, iron, and zinc, and we could all use more minerals! Best of all? They're grown locally here in Canada!

I love hemp seeds sprinkled onto my Revolutionary Pancakes and granola, blended into a rich and delicious milk, made into a mock-parmesan cheese, and of course blended into hemp butter. I knew I had to include hemp seeds in this celebratory dessert since I feel it's my *signature move*. So I incorporated them in two ways: first as part of the flour mix for the vanilla sponge; this adds a beautiful tooth and moisture to the cake, keeping it fresh for days! And I made a hemp cream to replace the dairy cream in both the cake and the topping (just for fun – nothing against dairy cream!).

Celebrating Coconut

Other notable variations include toasting the coconut for the topping, which really brings the coconut flavour to the max! I used two kinds of coconut, since I love having just a few larger pieces for a textural change-up, but if you only have finely desiccated coconut, that's *fine* too 🙂 Using coconut sugar in the topping adds an incredible depth of flavour and complexity that I suggest you don't miss out on – it brings so much more to the party than plain old brown sugar.

Helpful Notes

I used unbleached cane sugar instead of coconut sugar in the dreamcake because I wanted to maintain the light colour of the cake. If you want to use another granulated sweetener, go for it! Substituting with a whole food liquid sweetener is a different ball game and I haven't experimented with that yet. If you do, make sure to share in the comments and let us know how it goes!

You can use whole or light spelt, or a combination of those flours for the sponge – the combo was my favourite, a mix of half and half. You can substitute these with any other gluten-containing flours, or with a gluten-free mix that mimics all-purpose flour for baking (or make your own!).

Now I gotta tell you about the topping, because there is a moment when you're making that caramel that I know will make you think you've failed and you haven't! The butter and coconut sugar are stubborn to meld. The whole thing will split and look chunky and strange, and the excess butter will be oozing around, not wanting to play with anyone. THEN! it will magically come together if you just keep stirring. Make sure the heat is very low, and stick with it. If you're going on 8 to 10 minutes even… just keep stirring – you got this (and it's SO worth it)!

Print Coconut Dreamcake  Author Sarah Britton IngredientsSponge:
  • cup / 50g hemp seeds
  • 1 cup / 150g wholegrain or light spelt flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 50 g salted butter preferably organic
  • 4 eggs preferably organic
  • 1 cup / 250g unbleached cane sugar
  • cup / 80ml hemp cream see recipe below
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 100 g salted butter preferably organic
  • 1 ⅓ cup / 200g coconut sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. hemp cream see recipe below
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. flaky salt such as Maldon
  • 1 ½ cups / 150g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • ½ cup /25g unsweetened large flake coconut
Hemp Cream:
  • 1 cup / 250ml water
  • cup / 50g hemp seeds
  • Start by preheating the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Prepare a 7" / 18cm round springform cake pan by greasing the interior with a little butter, and placing a parchment paper circle in the bottom (I find it easiest to trace the bottom of the cake form, then cut it out to fit perfectly). 
  • Make the hemp cream by placing the hemp seeds and water in a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds, or until the cream is smooth. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, blend hemp seeds until they're the texture of sand (but don't blend too much or you'll end up with hemp butter!). Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse to blend and set aside.
  • Melt the butter over low heat and let cool. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy (either with an electric mixer or your arm muscles!). Stir in the flour mixture, then fold in the butter, hemp cream and vanilla. Pour batter into the prepared springform pan and place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Then reduce oven temp to 350, and bake for another 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • While the sponge is baking, make the topping by toasting the coconut in a large skillet over medium heat (work in batches if necessary, and toast the two types of coconut separately). Once golden and fragrant, set aside. Melt the butter over low heat, then stir in the coconut sugar. Stir frequently until they combine into a thick caramel (this make take a few minutes, but keep stirring!). Add the hemp cream and vanilla, stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat, then add the flaky salt, toasted coconut, and fold to thoroughly combine. 
  • Once the sponge is baked, remove from the oven and spread the topping over as evenly as possible. Place back int the oven for another 5 minutes, just until the topping is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool completely, then place in the fridge to firm up, at least 2 hours. Remove cake from the fridge, then using a sharp knife, cut around the edge to release caramel that is stuck to the sides. Unlock the springform to reveal! Slice, say thank you, and enjoy. Leftovers can be stored covered, at room temperature for about a week.

Photographing this dreamcake was just as much fun as eating it. Since I was re-creating a Danish recipe, and those flavours got me all nostalgic for my Copenhagen home, I decided to try emulating that very special Nordic light that I truly miss. I feel like I succeeded! This was not an easy feat, but after 15 years of teaching myself how to take photos of food, I think I figured it out. This is all to say, that I'm still challenged by this ongoing project, and in love with everything I've learned along the way. What a trip!

And one final thanks to you, for being here, for the time and energy you've spent here on the blog, engaging on social, on Grow, in my cooking classes and retreats, zoom hangs, or even those passing moments on the street when you come up and say hello (don't ever NOT do that by the way. I love meeting you!). The thing I value most from the last 15 years of creating this space, is the people that I've had the privilege of connecting with inside of it. Words could not describe how big and full my heart feels when I remember the meaningful conversations, hugs, high-fives, tears and smiles that we've shared, while navigating this wild ride of life, and trying our best to look after our miraculous, individual bodies, together as one.

Immense gratitude and love. Your friend always,

Sarah B

The post Coconut Dreamcake – Celebrating 15 Years of MNR appeared first on My New Roots.

My New Roots
Tue, 26 Jul 2022 12:38:31 +0000

Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Crumble Bars

My dear ones! It's been another while since being in the blog space and I'm happy to be here with you, in the glory of summer unfolding. I love having the time to craft these posts, since they are a true outpouring from my heart to yours, in the hopes that it will tether us to this time and place, land, season, and true nourishment. Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Crumble Bars is one of the special ones, that has been bubbling away in my consciousness since last summer.

I was cycling on the boardwalk at the beach near my home last August, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of fuchsia – the unmistakable pink of rose hips. Ahhh this gorgeous bushy plant is one that I first became familiar with in Denmark, where they bloom along the shores of every beach, punctuating the salty summer air with rose perfume. And here it was, at the water's edge in Ontario, the very last petals dropping in the slanted summer sun. I knew I was too late to do anything with them at that point, so the idea-seed was planted for next year. Which is now, right on time!

They say what grows together goes together, so for this recipe I waited for the rose hip to bloom, and then checked out what the other plants were peaking in my garden; strawberries and rhubarb! What a divine and classic combination! I couldn't wait to get to celebrating this triple-blessing of flavours.

Early Summer Stars

Peak-season strawberries are nutritional super stars. They're loaded with vitamin C, and good amounts of manganese, folate, and fibre. Their total antioxidant capacity is extremely high, and as we learn more about this summer delight, there is evidence proving its positive effects on cardiovascular health. After consumption, there is less platelet aggregation, less lipid peroxidation and an increase in free-radical scavenging – meaning those antioxidants get to SNACK!

Rhubarb is also a high-fibre food, which is essential for digestion. Fibre is exclusively a plant nutrient, as plants grow it for structural support. Animals have bones, so fibre is not a significant part of their composition. Therefore, increasing our dietary intake of plants in comparison to animal-based foods means an increase in our fibre intake. Makes sense, right?

So much of our nourishment depends on the healthy passage of food through our digestive tract. Without the fibre in things like strawberries and rhubarb, it is impossible for our digestion to take place in a balanced way. With imbalanced digestion comes the risk of poor nutrient absorption, and along with that comes compromised metabolism, immunity, even our mental health. The risk of most chronic diseases is lowest when whole plant foods, like a simple serving of strawberries and rhubarb, are plentiful in the diet. These bars also contain high-fibre oats, almonds and almond flour, so basically what I am saying is eat a lot of these.

The Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Compote

I knew that I wanted the seasonal ingredient to really shine in this recipe, so I started by making a compote with the strawberries and rhubarb, adding a kiss of vanilla and rose. The results were like, mind-blowing, people. I've made this compote several times now, simply because it is delicious on everything and in so many ways. So far I've slathered it on the Revolutionary Pancakes with almond butter, hemp, salt, and even more fresh strawberries. I made popsicles with it (blended this with more strawberries and froze it). And warmed slightly over vanilla ice cream? Unreasonable. The fact that it comes together in under 15 minutes is also motivating for me – I know I'm not in for a huge project to make it, even though the end result *feels* like such a luxurious extra in my life. Make a triple batch now and freeze it I say!

If you want to get ahead, you can make the compote up to seven days in advance. And yes it lasts that long in the fridge. So convenient.

You can use store-bought, instead of homemade rosewater in this recipe to skip a step, but I understand that sourcing store-bought might be just as much of a challenge for some. Surprisingly, I can find bottled rosewater at my local, small-town grocery store, so check with an employee at your closest market since you might be surprised they stock it! Heath foods stores are a good bet too. And if you can find fresh rose / rose hip flowers, then harvest them sustainably and make your own rose water. Recipe and two methods here. As a last resort, order online!

The Crumble Bars

The top and bottom layer of these bars are a slight upgrade from my original crumble bar recipe with blackberries and hazelnuts, back in 2014 (!). This time I made more of a cookie base, kind of like a giant shortbread cookie with almond flour, which turned out to be more moist and easier to cut than the one just made with oats. I really love this change, and hope you will too! The crumble topping is exactly the same except for swapping out the brown rice flour for almond flour, since it's yummier / fattier / moister. And since knowing that almonds are in the strawberry and rose family (Rosaceae!) it only made sense.

Enjoy this literal slice of summer, friends and lovers. These Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Crumble Bars are truly a moment, captured. And I hope you choose to savour it.

Print Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Crumble Bars Author Sarah Britton IngredientsStrawberry Rhubarb Rose Compote
  • 400 g / 14oz rhubarb
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 300 g / 10.5oz ripe strawberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. rosewater to taste
Shortbread Base
  • 2 cups / 200g rolled oats divided (gluten-free if desired)
  • ¾ cup / 70g almond flour
  • ¾ tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 60 g expeller-pressed coconut oil ghee or butter
  • ¼ cup / 60ml pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Crumble Topping
  • 1 cup / 100g rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. expeller-pressed coconut oil ghee, or butter
  • cup / 100g almonds
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. almond flour
  • Start by making the compote. Bring water and maple syrup to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Roughly chop rhubarb and add it to the pan, stir and cover. Simmer for 5 minutes, stir again and use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the rhubarb. If it's still quite tough, cover and continue to cook until almost soft. While the rhubarb is simmering, wash and stem the strawberries, then roughly chop. Add them to the soft rhubarb, stir well and cook covered, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, and smash the mixture with the back of your spoon, until it's your desired texture. I like mine pretty chunky. Stir in the salt, vanilla and rosewater. Adjust the flavours to suit your taste. The compote will firm up as it cools. Measure out 2 ½ cups / 625ml of compote and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. In a food processor blend 1 ½ cups / 150 grams of oats on high until you have a rough flour, like coarse sand. Add almond flour, salt, and baking powder, then pulse to combine. Add maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Pulse until evenly moist, then fold or pulse in the whole oats. The dough will be quite firm and sticky.
  • Turn the dough out into a lightly greased, or parchment-lined 8" x 8" / 20 cm x 20 cm glass or metal pan and press firmly, especially around the edges – it helps to wet your hands so that the dough doesn't stick to your fingers. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  • While the base is baking, make the crumble topping. Without cleaning the food processor, add the all the ingredients for the crumble, and pulse a few times to mix. You can chop the ingredients as finely as you like, but I like mine pretty chunky.
  • Remove the base from the oven, and spread the compote over top in an even layer. Crumble the topping over, and place back in the oven for another 30-35 minutes, until the top and bottom are golden brown, and the middle is a bit bubbly.
  • Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Say thank you and enjoy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for five or six days. Freeze for up to 3 months and let warm for a few minutes before enjoying!

The post Strawberry Rhubarb Rose Crumble Bars appeared first on 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.

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