Saturday, March 28, 2015

Orange Coconut Creamsicle Smoothie

As you know, I'm a big fan of smoothies. They're bright, fresh, hydrating, packed with nutrients, quick to prepare, and go down nicely in the morning or after a workout. Always playing around with flavour combinations, I blended this one the other day and loved it so much that I've now made it three days in a row. Cocozia sent me a big pile of their organic coconut water for review and it is so tasty! They're the perfect serving size to bring to school or the gym. The flavour is clean and crisp, especially when refrigerated. Vegans, paleo cavemen/women, or someone in between.... everyone can benefit from coconut water. A lot of folks call coconut water "nature's Gatorade" because it's loaded with natural electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, etc. Click here for the link to Cocozia's site, and here for the link to purchase on Amazon.com. As coconut water is so great on its own, I didn't want to hide its delicate flavour by cooking or baking with it. This simple smoothie lets the ingredient shine:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dara's Vanilla Peppermint Tonic

Tonic drinks are amazing mood enhancers and a great alternative for those who enjoy the ritual of morning coffee. Watching one of my favourite Youtubers, Dara Dubinet, introduced me to the world of tonic herbs: reishi mushroom, chaga, schizandra, maca, camu camu, mucuna, etc. They have been used throughout human history to enhance everything from mental clarity to relaxation to libido. Certain combinations of herbs will yield different results, and building up one's pantry of rare powders can become a really fun pastime. Add them to smoothies or simply stir into a hot drink, or get creative and make them uber palatable using specific tonic recipes. Dara came out with an Intro to Tonics e-book which totally rocks. Today's drink is steaming beside me as I crunch through essays in the final weeks before university exams. It's very close to her "Vanilla Peppermint Tonic." I used a hot tea base called "Mint to Be" from David's Tea, vanilla bean, peppermint extract, lucuma, mucuna, chaga, stevia, a few dates, and coconut oil. Everything gets put in a blender, covered with steeped tea, and mixed on high for a minute. When poured out, it looks just like a creamy dairy drink. Sprinkle on more vanilla bean or cinnamon.

Ingredient of the Week

I've been featuring turmeric in so many recipes this month that I decided to highlight it here. Many of you will know this root in its dried powder form, often added to Indian dishes to dye the whole pot yellow. However, turmeric's uses stretch far beyond the realm of foreign cuisine. It's flavour is pungent and bitter (like mustard or horseradish), and its scent is misleading with sweet notes of ginger and orange. As long as you don't over-do the amount, turmeric can be a superstar ingredient. There are two types: yellow Madras, and Alleppey. The first is lighter in colour and used in curries, mustards, pickles, etc. The second type has a higher concentration of curcumin (the plant's colouring enzyme) and so has a darker orange colour, on top of its richer flavour and earthier aroma. Both are available dried or fresh. While in powdered form turmeric will keep for months in your pantry, I opt to use the fresh variety. A little handful of roots, bought from a health or specialty food store, will cost no more than its dried counterpart. Like ginger, it keeps for weeks or longer in the fridge. Besides for the fact that it will often stain your hands (a charming shade of oompaloompa yellow), the fresh variety wins by its capacity to cross-over into a-typical foods and drinks. Use a microplane to grate it into a little shredded pile like you see in the picture. The following are a few interesting ways to use it. *Note that I am using fresh shredded turmeric.

Friday, March 20, 2015

10 Minute Late-Night Soup

The best part about this heart-warming soup is how quickly it comes together. I walked in the door from a back-to-back day of school, meetings, and work at 9pm the other night. This is a perfect dish for late dinners because it's done before you can justify diving into junk-food, satisfies hunger, but doesn't leave you too full before bed. A big salad is my traditional go-to, but the knob of ginger sitting in my "roots n' shoots" basket was speaking to me. While a lot of soups start with a browning of onions, garlic, and vegetables, I find this step unnecessary for many Asian broths. This soup is meant to be fast, light, and zingy in flavour.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Apple, Cilantro, Spinach Salad

You either love or hate cilantro. I pulled the short straw and was born as one of the later. Unfortunately, this didn't jive with my culinary adventures and so I trained myself to like it! If you're in the same boat, I recommend weaning yourself onto the herb with "cilantro sprouts" which are smaller, softer, sweeter, and less mouthwash-y in taste. It's kind of like the baby-arugula for those who don't like grown-up arugula's peppery punch. Years ago I started adding baby/young cilantro in small amounts to guacamole, eggs, marinades, etc. Now, I am happy to report, I have graduated to appreciate big-girl cilantro for all of it's robust flavour and health benefits. This herb is known to be a phenomenal heavy-metal detoxifier in the body. So, this dressing consisted of: tbs tahini, 1/2 avocado, 1 1/2 tbs apple cider vinegar, 2 tbs minced cilantro, pink himalayan salt, pepper, and water to thin it out. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Next, I chopped up half a large apple, added a big handful of baby spinach, an 1/8th bulb of chopped fennel (last minute bingo addition), a few spoons of rice and lentils, and lots more cilantro leaves. Always taste as you go with salads and season to taste.