Wake Up Calls

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Okay, so this blog is more for me than it is you…sorry!

But like always, there is a part of me that thinks perhaps someone else struggles with the same issues or is hungry (pun intended) for more information.

I have flaws (many actually) but not eating breakfast properly is the one that I need to seriously work on. On any given morning I would be completely happy with a large cup of tea and a piece of toast. Almost the exact same breakfast my mother has been eating for 30 years and almost the exact same breakfast that I have been trying to get her to change for the last 10 years. Sighhhhh. I am my mother’s daughter. The only difference being mine is Earl Grey tea and Spelt Sourdough toast with Earth Balance. Okay so maybe I am splitting hairs on this one. Anyway you slice that damn sourdough bread my breakfast skills are lacking. Maybe yours are too? Perhaps you are stuck in a rut, eating the same thing over and over. Or maybe you are amongst the many people that jolt their bodies awake with hard to digest (not to mention acidic) meats or dairy? And yes, I am familiar with the popular proverb “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”  🙂

So I gave myself a wake up call!  I have been on a mission these last few weeks to pull together simple, quick and nutrient-dense breakfasts that even I could muster up.

I am not someone who wakes up hungry, I have to work at it. Believe me I understand the importance of a well balanced breakfast…but the truth is that for some people it doesn’t come naturally (well that might be more of “my” truth and not an actual truth).

Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast (as opposed to the kind containing doughnuts) can help give you:

  • A more nutritionally complete diet, higher in nutrients, vitamins and minerals
  • Improved concentration and performance throughout your day
  • More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Help maintain a healthy body weight

And with this information in hand I set out on Operation: Wake Up Call.  My requirements for my morning meal might be more restricted than yours so use these more as suggestions and modify as you wish. Other than avoiding dairy and eggs for personal/moral reasons, a recent food-allergy test revealed that I need to also avoid almonds, soy, and whole wheat. So what’s left? Well, here is what I came up with, I have broken it down into 2 categories, Sweet & Savoury…

Sweet Breakfast Cravings

“Tree-hugging, Birckenstock-wearing Granola Bowl “

(I used Highwood Crossing Organic Sunflower Flax Seed Granola and unsweetened Flax Milk as my base)

Topped off with fresh berries, chia seeds, and chocolate chips. Yum!

Topped off with fresh berries, chia seeds, and chocolate chips. Yum!

Topped off with bananas, coconut chips, hemp seeds and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

Topped off with bananas, coconut chips, hemp seeds and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

Banana Nut Porridge

Slow cooked oats topped with flax milk, caramelized bananas (pan fried using coconut oil) chopped pecans, and delicious maple syrup for sweetness.

Slow cooked oats topped with flax milk, caramelized bananas (pan fried using coconut oil) chopped pecans, and delicious maple syrup for sweetness.

Recipe from lunchboxbunch.com Toss together strawberries, avocado, lemon juice, fresh ginger, maple syrup and assemble on top of your favorite toasted bread. Garnish with hemp seeds. This is by far my favourite new breakfast!

Recipe from lunchboxbunch.com Toss together strawberries, avocado, lemon juice, fresh ginger, maple syrup and assemble on top of your favorite toasted bread. Garnish with hemp seeds. This is by far my favourite new breakfast!

Savoury Breakfast Cravings

Spread homemade hummus over toasted Sourdough and finish with sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and sea salt. Very quick.

Spread homemade hummus over toasted Sourdough and finish with sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro and sprinkle with sea salt. Very quick and protein-packed.

Breakfast FEAST! On a lazy Sunday morning I went all out- Potato Hash (filled w/roasted onions, leeks, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms), sautéed spinach w/garlic, slow roasted cherry tomatoes, leftover baked Maple Beans, and Tempeh "bacon". They leftover potato hash was so tasty for a couple of  weekday breakfasts afterwards.

Breakfast FEAST! On a lazy Sunday morning I went all out- Potato Hash (filled w/roasted onions, leeks, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms), sautéed spinach w/garlic, slow roasted cherry tomatoes, leftover baked Maple Beans, and Tempeh “bacon”. The leftover potato hash was so tasty for a couple of weekday breakfasts afterwards.

Ohhhh pasta, how do I love thee…

Last week my 11-year old daughter comes stampeding into the kitchen fresh off the school bus, scavenging for her after-school snack (and I use that word lightly…she somehow always seems to find the worst option out of everything we have in our house…it is a talent really!). She does her regular rounds; stands in the pantry staring blankly in hopes something will fly off the shelf into her hands, then moves over to the refrigerator suddenly becoming a deer in the headlights once the fridge light hits her pupils. On this particular day, when she opened the fridge I heard a robust “OH Sweet!” come out of her mouth. Immediately my mind thinks “Crap! What high-fructose garbage found its way into the fridge that I did not intercept and now HOW am I  going to rip it out of her grubby little hands” After walking over to my daughter I realized she was talking about my Arugula Cashew Cream Sauce that I had made earlier in the day!!! Wait. What? After I picked myself up off the floor, it occurred to me that I might be on to something here. Maybe I should share this recipe I thought.

So here it is, chalked full of all the wonderful green things that you know you should eat but somehow don’t always make the time for. This sauce literally takes about 5 minutes to whip up and requires NO STOVE! Yes, it’s raw. Even if you don’t consider yourself a raw foodist this sauce will transform the way you think about raw ingredients. I know its only April but trust me this sauce is heavenly in the warm summer months when you don’t want to start up your stovetop or even turn on the barbecue. (Reminder: if you are on Pinterest just PinIt and the recipe will be waiting for you when July rolls around). Not that you need to wait, it’s still a pasta dish and that’s good all year round 🙂

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The base (as you may have guessed) is cashews. They require about 30 mins of soaking time and then a quick puree in the blender. Make sure to rinse the soaked cashews and add fresh, filtered water into the blender. I like to take 1-1.5 cups of cashews at a time for soaking. This recipe calls for 1 cup of cashew cream (the finished product, not the raw cashews) so you will have extra but it stores in the fridge for about a week or so. When blending the cashews add just enough water to cover the nuts and then add more as needed. You should end up with a thick, smooth cream.

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After that everything just gets tossed into a food processor. So simple. The longest part of the preparation will be your noodles. Choose whichever type you like. I tend to use brown rice spaghetti or gnocchi…cause that is just how I roll 🙂

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But it is also fantastic on baked spaghetti squash or if you want to keep it totally raw use grated zucchini as your base. Either way it’s truly all about the sauce..it’s so addictive…I could barely stop myself from licking out the processor bowl (truthfully, I was just concerned that I might cut my tongue on the blade )

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I do not heat the sauce after the food processor.  The heat of the cooked pasta warms the sauce nicely if you marry them right away. However,  I am also not the type that likes my food scorching hot so heat if you want but make sure to do so gently. The avocados and cashews are fragile oils that shouldn’t be heated too quickly or too high. This dish is also great served cold if you want for leftovers or to pack as a work lunch. FYI- If you are having any challenges getting your kids to eat something green, I like to make weird names up like crocodile sauce or dinosaur noodles (which, by the way, almost became the title of this recipe).

So that’s it! Meatless Mondays have never been so tasty and easy.

Bon appetite!

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Arugula Cashew Cream Sauce

Prep time: 5-10 mins (plus soaking time for cashews)

Serves: 4-6 people

1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

1 cup cashew cream

juice of 2 lemons, plus zest of 1 lemon for garnish

10-12 pieces of basil

1 avocado, pit and skin removed

4 cups (or 1-5oz clamshell) fresh arugula ***you may substitute spinach if you like or do half-and-half

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp. crushed chili pepper flakes

6-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered (garnish- optional)

  • Using a medium sized frying pan add pine nuts over medium heat. Heat them for about 5 minutes until lightly toasted, watching carefully and stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  • Toss all all ingredients, including pine nuts, into a food processor or blender. Blend together until thick and creamy. Adding water if you feel you need a thinner sauce.
  • Pour over your favorite pasta and top with chopped tomatoes…and a chilled glass of white wine (optional ;-))

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Sweetness of Nature

Stewart's Sugar Bush Pakenham, ON

Stewart’s Sugar Bush
Pakenham, ON

What a difference a week makes! Last week I was heading to Ottawa with a million things on my mind and no time to execute them. Today I am a peacefully sitting in my kitchen with a Raspberry Leaf tea and a bunch of checks off my “to-do” list.  Happiness may be overrated but contentment fills the soul.

This week has been productive: I returned from out east (okay maybe Westjet deserves the credit for that one), designed/ordered Fig and Basil paper products, prepped this week’s recipe 3 times, started my indoor seeds for my veggie garden, participated in a Garden Show, and don’t tell anyone this but… I also contemplated on getting a rescue puppy 🙂 Okay so I recognize the last one is borderline insanity but for the most part I have got my two feet planted back on the ground.

Indoor Grow-Op: Week One

Indoor Grow-Op:
Week One

My trip “home” was fantastic and we managed to stay very entertained.  Baby Mason, Olivia and Alyssa were adorable, as were the rest of the crew. The highlight was definitely when we drove our 5-car convoy deep into the Ontario bush and spent hours eating and learning about maple syrup. I haven’t done this since I was a kid.  Surrounded by maple trees, we ate pancakes & maple taffy, had a game of adult teeter-totter and even a horse drawn wagon ride. What could be better?  Well…the MAPLE SYRUP, thats what!

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There’s just something about maple syrup.  The sweet, smooth earthy goodness dripping over your pancakes. The nutty smell when you heat it. Heaven! As we get older and wiser (?) there are endless reasons why we should avoid refined sugars but thankfully maple syrup is in a whole different category .  One might even argue that it is a “health food”.  In just 2 tsp of pure maple syrup there is 22% of your Daily Value (DV) of manganese and almost 4% DV of zinc. Manganese is a very important trace mineral and is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defences. The zinc supplied by maple syrup, in addition to acting as an antioxidant also can decrease the progression of atherosclerosis. So it’s good for your heart! Not to mention that the zinc and manganese are a sweet support for your immune system.

***Never confuse pure maple syrup with the maple-flavoured syrup that is loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners. Pure maple syrup, although more expensive, is a natural product, has many health benefits and a superior flavour.

So when I came home with a little piece of Ontario in my luggage (many thanks to Paulette & Sebastian) I almost immediately started my Slow Cooked Maple Baked Beans.

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This recipe is simple and versatile. Serve as a complete meal or a side dish…I even had it for breakfast this week on a piece of toasted sourdough bread. The preparation of this dish only takes about 10 minutes active time with the remainder of your time spent waiting (hence the word SLOW in the recipe name :-)).  Patience is important for this dish. Plan ahead by soaking your dried beans overnight and then boiling them for about an hour in the morning. Of course, canned beans are always an option but you need to reduce the cooking time on your slow cooker to 4 hours and be sure to use a firmer white bean like a navy bean.

Aside from all the nutritional benefits of maple syrup, the blackstrap molasses and beans in this recipe are also amazing. The beans provide an excellent source of fiber & folate and are a good source of iron. The molasses is very high in iron, manganese and potassium as well as a good source of calcium. Since everyone usually asks a vegan how they get their calcium, here is a great example; Just 1 tbsp of molasses contains 179 mg of calcium (as a point of reference- 1 tbsp of plain yogurt contains 24 mg of calcium).

If you are out west like me, then you are likely getting a fresh dump of snow this weekend so its a great time to crank up your slow cooker to keep warm. I hope you enjoy this recipe and feel free to let me know how yours turns out.

Emily

Slow Cooked Maple Baked Beans

Prep Time : 6-8 hours (Inactive), 10-15 mins (Active) plus soaking time for beans

Ingredients:

2 cups dried Great White Northern bean (or approx. 4 cups of canned white beans, drained and rinsed)

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped small

1 clove of garlic, minced

15 oz canned tomatoes, crushed (+ one can of filtered water)

1/2 cup blackstrap molasses

1 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp allspice

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp liquid smoke (if you do not have liquid smoke then add another tsp of smoked paprika instead)

salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  • Cover 2 cups of dried beans with filtered water, in a large bowl. Leave to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

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  • When soaking is complete, drain and rinse with clean water. Add beans to a med saucepan and cover with fresh, salted water. Bring water to a boil with lid on. Then lower heat to med-low and simmer for approx. 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.
  • Heat coconut oil in medium sized frying pan and then add onions and garlic. Sauté for 5-7 minutes until slightly caramelized.
  • While onions are cooking turn on slow cooker to 6-8 hours on HIGH.
  • Toss all ingredients into slow cooker.  Don’t forget the 15 oz can of water and the sautéed onions/garlic.
This is a double batch. I managed to fit it all in my little slow cooker!

This is a double batch. I managed to fit it all in my little slow cooker!

  • Mix completely and place on the lid. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID FOR ANY REASON…well, maybe if there is a fire and you need to shield yourself or a food fight breaks out in your kitchen and you need to take cover…you get the point 😉
  • After 6 hours has passed remove lid and stir. Check beans for doneness and determine if you need more cooking time (adding a small amount of water if you feel it needs it). Also adding salt if necessary.
  • When fully cooked, remove and serve immediately with a buttered piece of rustic bread. Delish!

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Dinner Re-vamped

Well, back to the wonderful rhythm of my life this week!

Somehow without even doing anything at all (or maybe because of not doing anything at all!?!) my “to-do” list has grown since before the spring break. Funny how that works. I was just digging through a drawer looking for my camera charger thingy and came across an abandoned “to-do” list from several months ago…and in reading through it I realized that there were still things that I hadn’t done on that list. So…maybe its not just my procrastination but maybe (just maybe) its the list itself! Perhaps lowering my expectations on what I am capable of doing could help me accomplish more!!! I will do some experimenting on that theory…next week 😉

This week I am heading for a small trip out east to visit my nephew and nieces. Ahhhh, Ottawa in early April— too late for ice sculptures and too early for tulips. What will we do? I guess all the pressure will fall on my family’s shoulders to entertain us.

For this past week the pace has been at full speed and planning meals can be almost too much some days. Having all that beautiful leftover food from our holiday meal in the refrigerator has managed to carry us through the week. But it’s not what you think! I have only reheated and served the exact same meal one time. The others have been (surprisingly) well-disguised re-vamps with very little effort on my part 🙂

Earlier in the week I took the leftover Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes (see recipe in New Traditions blog) and tossed them with cooked Soba noodles. Adding in caramelized onions, sauteed garlic, toasted pine nuts and some olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. I popped the sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet and broiled them in the oven to re-heat and add even more of a crispy exterior. It was delicious!

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Then on Wednesday, after finding some stunning watermelon radishes in my grocery basket…

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I utilized the leftover quinoa by adding lightly sautéed radishes (I used a small amount of olive oil and salt in a pan and sautéed for about 5 mins each side) and a scrumptious portobello mushroom “steak”. Now I know what you are thinking- Cooked radishes?  Yes, cooked!  Even though I LOVE raw radishes, cooking them is equally fantastic.  It becomes amazingly sweet and takes away that sharp spicy taste that a fresh, raw radish is famous for. You must try this at home!

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The mushroom steak is a recipe I have been making since first becoming a vegetarian. It’s a Tal Ronnen recipe from his cookbook The Conscious Cook. Incredibly easy, it just requires the time for marinating. And marinating is the secret to a well prepared portobello steak. It infuses so much flavour and transforms the texture from rubbery to “meaty”. Here is the cooking instructions from Tal Ronnen’s cookbook;

Ingredients:

sea salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

4 portobello mushrooms, stemmed and gills removed

1 tbsp dried thyme

  • Place a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect.
  • Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 5 mins. Add the wine, vinegar and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 mins.
  • Add them mushrooms and cook for 1 min. Pour the mushrooms and liquid into a shallow container, cover, set aside to marinate for 1 hour.
  • Sear the mushrooms: Remove from marinade and press between paper towels to remove excess marinade. Sprinkle with crushed peppercorns, salt, thyme, pressing the seasoning into both sides of the mushroom. Discard the marinade. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and heat for 1 min, then add the mushrooms in one layer, working in batches if necessary. Cook until browned and crisp, 2 to 3 mins on each side.

Have a great week! And visit me on Instagram (figbasil) or Twitter (@figandbasil) to find out what kinda trouble (and food) I discover in our nation’s capital 🙂

Emily