Tender Nettle Spring Tease

Stinging nettles bravely pierce through the early morning mist, an omen of the fertile unfurling to come. Chilly bones rise to greet the sun, shivering as shadows pass, still hopeful, anticipating sweet sun kisses. Creamy roasted roots thether emerald nettle tops; melting stiff lips that whisper like lovers, the promises of spring.

Creamy Nettle Soup
With roasted potatoes and parsnips

Yields 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:
2 medium onions (approx 2.5 cups chopped in half-moon shapes)
6 medium- large potatoes (approx 8 cups chopped in bite sized pieces)
2.5 cups parsnips cut into bite sized chunks
8 cups nettle leaves (cleaned with stalks removed)
A handful of arugula greens for topping

3 tbsp butter or oil
1.5 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or 1/2 cup white wine)
3 cups of liquid (water or real chicken broth to taste)

Equipment needed:

  • Soup pot
  • Steamer, double boiler or a sieve on a pot
  • Roasting pan
  • Emerson blender, or food processor

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°.
  2. Wash the parsnips and potatoes and then chop them into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with enough oil to moisten them. Roast them in a roasting pan until tender (approx 20-30 min).
  3. While the vegetables cook, chop the onions into thin slices. In a soup pot melt the butter on low heat. Add the onions, salt and spices and let simmer until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. While the onions cook, carefully (with rubber gloves if necessary) wash and drain the nettles. Steam them in a pan or pot until they are well cooked. They should still have a bright green color but be very soft and easy to chew.
  5. When the onions have cooked add the apple cider. Continue to gently simmer until the liquid has evaporated. (Alternatively you could use a half-cup of white wine).
  6. Combine the nettles and onions and purée with an emerson blender, or a food processor. Add a small amount of water or broth if necessary.
  7. When the potatoes and parsnips have cooked, purée half of them using water to bring them to a smooth creamy consistency. Use the other half to add as chunks to the soup.
  8. Combine everything in a pot. Stir until consistent, using any remaining broth or water to bring it to the desired thickness.
  9. Add extra salt and pepper to taste. Top with arugula just before serving.

Links:

The parsnips, potatoes and onions all came from Ben at Longspell Farm. They were remarkably tender and sweet, especially at this time of year.

The nettles were lovingly harvested by farmer extraordinaire Amy Lounder at Tap Root Farm. The tops were just starting to come up, so we have plenty of time to get acquainted and write more recipes about the mighty stinging nettle.

The arugula came from Goldfinch Farm.

The apple cider came from Boates Family Farm.

All of the farms are conveniently located close to my home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and all except Tap Root sell at the Wolfville Farmers Market. 

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Let Them Eat Cake!

This winter has been restful and nourishing. I’ve been sharing incredible meals with my house mates and community, sleeping long and well, getting weekly massages, taking beautiful walks in the snowy woods, reading books, journaling, dancing, spending quality time with friends, and making the most incredible whole food cakes. I’ve even been doing cake drops, making many mini cakes and delivering them to my friends and colleagues.

Acadia University kindly asked me to attend their Nutrition Career Fair today, where nutrition students can learn about the field of nutrition and dietetics. I know most people would expect me to go to a Nutrition Career Fair with a lovely assortment of sprouts, shoots and raw seed pates, but today I’m bringing cake. I had second thoughts about arriving with cake, I wondered if people would think I was a fraud. I only had to think about it for a few minutes though to realize that bringing cake is a gesture that in many ways sums up how I practice nutrition.

Firstly, if I’m going to ask someone to change their eating habits, I think It’s only fare to entice them with incredibly tasty and beautiful food that is even better than what they already know and love. I want my clients to see that they don’t have to make a sacrifice to give better care to themselves; what I’m asking them to do is make a lifestyle upgrade. Not only is the food I’m recommending tastier and more beautiful, you’ll also feel great afterwards. No need to sacrifice your well-being for dessert.

Secondly, food is meant to be celebrated and shared. It’s a vital part of feeling connected and supported by a community. I’ve heard a number of people bemoan the distance they feel from loved ones when they try to make healthy changes to their diet. Food is a social event and I hope it always will be. When trying to make changes for the better sometimes it means distancing yourself from social occasions that don’t support your health goals. That being said, eating with other people is one of the most life enhancing things you can do.

I like using cake to bridge the gap between lifestyle choices. Over the winter I’ve been making many variations of cheesecake style (gluten and dairy free) whole food cakes, which I have never written. People keep asking me for the recipe but unfortunately it’s just something I’ve learned to improvise with whatever nuts, seeds and whole grains (not flour!) I have on hand. One day I will get around to standardizing it, but in the meantime I’d like to share this moist crumb cake recipe. I’ve used it for years and always have great results; winning friends and influencing people wherever I take it.  There are many substitutions that can be made to account for dietary preferences and budget.

So to the Nutrition students I say, let them eat cake!

Chocolate Black Bean Cake

Gluten free

Yields 16 servings (1 large cake or 2 layers).

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom and sides of a 10” spring form cake pan with parchment paper.

  • 4C. cooked and rinsed black beans (Soak dry beans overnight and rinse thoroughly before and after cooking)
  • 4 Tbsp. vanilla (or coffee for a darker flavor)
  • 3/4C. coconut oil (or organic butter)
  • 2 cups of pitted dates (or organic cane sugar in a pinch) (soak dates in boiling hot water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain off all water before using)
  • 3/4C. organic Fair Trade cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder (non-GMO if possible)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp. sea salt
  • 10 local free range eggs
  1. In the food processor, pulse the beans and vanilla until evenly chopped. Put aside in a bowl.
  2. In the food processor blend the coconut oil and dates until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a large bowl beat the eggs, for 2 mins, until light and fluffy.
  5. Combine everything in the large bowl and stir until uniform.
  6. Bake for at 350° for 20-45min or until a clean knife inserted comes out clean. Time depends on whether the cake is a single or double layer.

Frosting:

Enough for one cake. Double if using for filling on a double-layered cake.

  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • ½ C. Melted coconut oil or butter
  • ½ C. Organic Fair Trade cocoa powder
  • ¼ C. Boiling hot water
  • ¼ C. Raw honey
  1. Soak the dates in boiling hot water for about 15 minutes, or until soft. Strain the water off them and purée in a food processor. When more liquid is needed, add hot water and honey.
  2. Add cocoa powder. Blend till smooth then drizzle in oil. The mixture should be creamy and smooth.

 

 

All I Want

Meandering through the Gaspereau Valley, memories of France and falling in love with food for the first time mingle with the uncertainty of starting a new chapter. Everything is unknown and new again, that’s how it goes. New chapters stimulate growth, a larger capacity for tenderness and a different lens for perceiving life. I circle back around to what seems like the same passage repeating, yet each time just a little further up the mountain path. Even though the scenery is strikingly similar, I’m still the same. I still want the same things; connection with nature, internal stillness, pure food, a simple spacious life, rich relationships and a community to share it with.

Radish & Apple Salad
1 bunch of purple mild radish
1 bunch long red mild radish
1 bunch regular red mild radish
1 bunch white hakurai turnip
2 med sized crunchy sweet apples (jonagold are nice)

* Various radish colors, shapes and flavors are available at The Hutten Family Farm stand at the Historic Farmers Market in Halifax.

Dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil (or other good quality cold pressed oil)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
dash of sea salt

Optional:
1 tsp chopped fresh mint (I happened to have some coming up in the garden)
a handful of pea shoots ( I happened to have a small forest of them growing on my kitchen table)

  1. Chop the radishes and turnips into quarters
  2. Chop the apples into bite sized chunks.
  3. Mix the dressing ingredients together and toss everything except for the pea shoots together. Top with the pea shoots and serve.

That’s Just How I Roll

No matter how many cooks and farmers have come before me, I will always discover something new based on the season, my region, my health and the song I happen to be listening to at the time. We need to eat and we need to create, so there will never be an end. The more we create the more we want to create and explore and expand our minds to all the possibilities for beauty. If feeding yourself healthy, delicious food seems like a chore, I suggest you give your head a shake and reflect on how very privileged you are that you can even have that thought. Rather then feeling guilty about it, rouse your inner child, cancel ridiculous obligations that you don’t give a damn about, smash your TV, call in well, turn up the music and get messy in your kitchen.

Spring Salad Rolls with Tahini Dip

Rice papers
Green or purple cabbage cut into fine strands
Carrots shredded or in match sticks
Sprouts
Apples cut into match sticks and tossed with lemon juice
Spinach or any greens cut into long strands
Chinese radishes
Chopped basil, mint or cilantro
Basically any seasonal vegetable that strike your fancy, cut into ribbons or match sticks.

Optional ingredients to add UMPH:
Cooked tofu or tempeh
Avocado
Slices of an omlette
Seaweed
Soaked sunflower seeds

  1. Instructions for rice paper rolls are usually on the package. They are found in the imported or Asian food section of the grocery store.  (Avoid rice products from the US of A as they have been known to dump lots of arsenic in their water).
  2. Stack up all the yummy pre-cut vegetables, roll them up in the rice paper, slice in half and then double dip them in the tahini sauce. If anyone says anything about double dipping give them the stink eye and say “suck it” yup that’s right “suck it”. It’s purely culinary.

Tahini Dip
Yields about 1 cup

4 tbsp Tahini
2 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Tamari (or to taste. I was using homemade tamari which is more mild then the store bought kind)
½ tsp Minced garlic
1 tsp Lemon juice

  1. Mix all the ingredients together with a fork until smooth.
  2. That’s it.
  3. Eat it.
  4. Or suck it….off the salad roll.

Crepes and Castaneda

A little food for thought…

“Impeccability begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise, and sustained. If that act is repeated long enough, one acquires a sense of unbendable intent, which can be applied to anything else. If that is accomplished the road is clear. One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential”.
-Carlos Castaneda

What if we were to start the journey by simply peeling the carrots, washing the dishes or wiping off the table with our full attention and care?  Every day I hear someone say that they don’t have time to prepare wholesome food for themselves, yet it’s a fact that we need nutrients from real food to live. If we neglect ourselves in this way, is the opposite of the above quote also true? When we repeatedly neglect our basic need for sustenance are we blocking the road to our full potential? Something to chew on anyway.

OK back to the food box recipe for the week. I slacked off last week, as I was busy with my colleagues at Conscious Catering preparing three meals a day for fifty people over six days. What a blast and what an opportunity to peel carrots and wash the dishes!

Winter Root Crepes
with Lemon Tarragon & Coconut Cream
Yields 4-5 servings

The Crepes:
Prepare in advance and freeze or refrigerate, or make fresh.

Follow this link ( http://consciouscatering.ca/nama-bread/ ) to find out how to make gluten and flour free fermented buckwheat batter. Then simply dilute the batter by mixing 2.25 cup of batter with ¾ cup of water.  (When I’m making my weekly batch of buckwheat bread I just make a little extra for pancakes or crepes).

It’s important to have a nice big non-sticking (preferably cast iron) pan. Heat it to medium and oil it with coconut oil, being careful not to let it burn. Poor the batter over the pan very thinly. When it’s cooked on one side flip it with a large thin metal spatula without breaking the crêpe apart. I find it usually takes one to practice getting the heat and technique right.

The filling:
Peel and slice the following into rounds or sticks of the same thickness:

  • 3 carrots peeled
  • 1 white sweet potato (they taste like plantains, yuuumm)
  • 1 red sweet potato
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1tsp. coconut oil
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2.5 cups mushrooms roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dry French tarragon
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes (these are totally optional. I only added them because they were in the food box. They are not in season but Ted got them from a heated greenhouse near his farm)
  • 1 pkg. coconut cream
  • ½ tsp ground wild pepper
  • ½ lg clove garlic minced
  • ¾  cup water

I recently learned how to roast vegetable in such a way that they become sweet and rich yet moist. I use very little oil and It’s much faster then before. Amazing!

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. Brown both sides of all the root vegetables in a frying pan on medium heat, without cooking them through.
  3. Put the vegetables in a large oiled roasting pan with enough space to spread out thinly. Sprinkle with the sea salt.
  4. Add 1 cup of water to the pan and cover with tin foil. Bake in the oven till the vegetables are cooked through (about 15-20min).
  5. While the vegetables are roasting, sauté the onions, mushrooms and tarragon. Add the tomatoes at the end, cook them lightly and set aside.
  6. Break up the coconut cream and melt in a saucepan. Whisk in the water, garlic and pepper. Set aside on low heat.
  7. When the vegetables are cooked strain them from any remaining water and toss together with the mushrooms.  Roll them up in a crêpe and drizzle with the cream. Serve with extra cream on the side

Strictly Roots

Shiitake, burdock root, spinach, buckwheat…this recipe reminds me to dig deep.
Worlds colliding, crumbling and recreating, the humble burdock root offers potent purity to threadbare hearts, bursting at the seams.

Click here for the theme song of the week. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=zyK8mcuUIGI&feature=endscreen

Ted asked me specifically to work with the burdock root this week because he had so much extra. I’ve been juicing burdock root daily for the last month and a half, but I hadn’t done much with it otherwise. It’s often used medicinally as a blood purifier and fortifier as well as in many Asian dishes. Looking around I found many simple, good recipes so I suggest just looking what others have written, this was my favorite. I did come up with a tapenade (which seems to be my thing lately with all kinds of root vegetables) and then today, was inspired by the darling of brunch menus everywhere, Eggs Benedict.

Burdock Benedict with Shiitake

Burdock Root Tapenade
These are the basic ingredients and the method. The proportions are completely up to your personal taste.

1-3 Burdock roots peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
1-2 cloves garlic minced
2-4 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. In a large frying pan sauté the  burdock root on medium heat until they are slightly browned.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the pan, and cover with a lid or tin foil.
  4. Put the pan in the oven and bake until they are very soft (about 25-45min).
  5. Put the burdock root in a food processor and process until pasty.  Add the remaining ingredients until the mixture is creamy, smooth and seasoned to your taste. You may need to stop the food processor occasionally and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula.
  6. You can eat it immediately or store it in the fridge for a firmer more butter like texture.  This can be made ahead of time and then used for many wonderful creations such as eggs benedict.

Assemble the Eggs Benedict as follows:

  1. One slice of buckwheat toast or other tasty gluten-free bun, bread, waffle or pancake.
  2. Spread a thick layer of burdock tapenade on the toast and then pile on the wilted spinach.
  3. Top with a poached egg and a generous dollop of burdock tapenade.
  4. Serve with the shiitake mushrooms on the side.

What’s Your Source?

The jonagold apples that Ted sent out this week are remarkably sweet, crunchy and juicy. They combine well with the earthy mild spice of the radishes.  The radishes are beautiful! Lime green inside, they almost resemble a kiwi when sliced into rounds.  We are able to eat so well in this climate, at this time of year, because of farmers like Ted who are passionate about growing a wide variety of vegetables. Also, they have engineered storage solutions for fruit and vegetables so we can just show up in March and have an incredible selection at our disposal. I’d love to live in a world where farmers were compensated generously for all they contribute to our lives, rather than living hand to mouth and acquiring enormous debt to keep their farms running.  If we were an intelligent society we may have the self-interest to realize that our well-being lies in the hands of our farmers. My hope is that as you start to slow down and prepare more delicious food for yourself and your loved ones, you will naturally want more connection to the source of your sustenance.  Maybe one day you will come to grow your own food too, as 95% of our population did only 100 years ago.

Carrot Butter
Sweet, creamy, late winter deliciousness

8 carrots chopped into rounds (1 bag from Ted’s food box)
1 tbsp coconut oil for cooking
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp flavorful (organic extra virgin) coconut oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1tsp sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. In a large frying pan sauté the carrots on medium heat until they are slightly browned.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the pan, and cover with a lid or tin foil.
  4. Put the pan in the oven and bake until the carrots are very soft (about 25 min).  Don’t add more liquid if it all evaporates, this will allow the carrots to caramelize.
  5. Put the carrots in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and process until creamy and smooth. You may need to stop the food processor occasionally and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula.
  6. You can eat it immediately or store it in the fridge for a firmer more butter like texture.

Click here to find out how my friends at Conscious Catering are making amazing gluten-free buckwheat bread.

Jonagold and Tae Baek Radish Marinade on Spinach

2 cups each of chopped, sliced or julienned jonagold apples and tae baek radish.

Marinade:
1tbsp each of olive oil, lime juice and honey
¼ tsp sea salt
Several handfuls of clean dry spinach

  1. Cover the apples and radish in the marinade and let sit for fifteen minutes or so.
  2. When you’re ready to serve, toss the marinade with the spinach or simply top a bed of spinach with a pile of the radish and apple mixture.