Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

The boys start school on Monday.

I know.  

Seems cruel and unusual to me too.

And yet, they feel good about it, so who am I to say.

My eldest says he likes being in school with his friends when the weather is still so nice ~ (like it turns dramatically here in CA - wink) ~ everyone is full of energy and good spirits and there is a ball to kick or throw at every break. Even though they don't live far apart, plans don't seem to get made quite as often during the summer break so school remains the great joinder.  

We squeezed in all the mandatory pre-school appointments in the earlier part of the week ~ the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker ~ and this morning I dropped my youngest off at his High School orientation. Yup, two boys in high school now. I'll admit I lingered a bit longer than I needed to. Catching those last glimpses of boyhood before it all changes, again.

So here I sit in a new home surrounded by boxes and to-do lists and yet, a warm cup of tea and this quiet space seems just about right. 

These last few weeks have swooshed by in a blur and I'm feeling grateful for the pause.


Today I'm talking about breakfast and sharing some of my favorite ways to start the day. 

I am often asked in my nutrition practice what the ideal breakfast is and my answer is always the same: it depends. And it does.  Age, stage, level of activity, work/sleep schedules, response to food, goals and objectives.  In short, while there are certainly guiding principles, there is no one size accommodates all when it comes to nutrition. 

We are all biochemically unique and each of us has the ability and responsibility, in my view, to experiment and learn what works best for us.  

For myself, the composition and ratio of micronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrate) will vary depending on whether I am preparing for work (sedentary) or exercise.  It may also vary with the seasons as my digestive vitality and food preferences are not the same in the grueling heat as they are in cooler temperatures.  

Prior to exercise, I prefer easily and quickly digesting food sources such as whole grain oatmeal with ground seeds, a few pieces of sliced banana and milk.  A nourishing and easily digested meal that provides me with just the right amount of energy I need to have a productive workout session.  If I eat this type of breakfast sometime around 7:30 am and workout sometime around 9:00 am, I am usually looking for a more concentrated protein source by 10:30 - 11:00 am. 

On the days when I am not working out in the morning, I might opt for a more substantive breakfast with greater staying power (satiety) such as this nourishing breakfast bowl which contains a variety of food elements in more concentrated forms.  A simple and delicious meal bowl made up of protein (found in the eggs, nuts, cheese and quinoa), fat (found in the avocado, nuts and cheese) and carbohydrate (found in the quinoa and sprouts) complete with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Although packed with goodness, this quinoa breakfast bowl is easy on the system and does not leave me feeling bloated, tired and grumpy the way more popular breakfast assortments of the carbohydrate family can (ie: toast, pancakes, waffles, muffins, sugary cereals, etc) ~ pretty much the opposite of how you want to feel starting out the day.

Be sure to have a look at the Nutriton & Cooking Notes I prepared for more information on the role of protein, fat and carbohydrates in the body as well as nourishing food sources of these macronutrients.

Enjoy experimenting with different combinations and remember, nobody ever said you couldn't eat lentils or steak for breakfast. Do what works for you!

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
  • 2 gently boiled eggs, or cooked however you wish.
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup or more fresh sprouts of choice (I used clover)
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • small handful nuts of choice (I used almond)
  • 1 ounce feta cheese
  • seasonings as desired

Serves 1

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Make Ahead: If you prepare your quinoa and eggs the night before, this breakfast comes together in a snap!
  2. Not Just for Breakfast: Although we're talking about breakfast today, this lovely meal bowl would be suitable any time of day.
  3. Break-Fast: After prolonged sleep, breaking our fast (break-fast) helps kick start metabolism and promote mental acuity providing us with the necessary fuel to start our day.
  4. Lack of Time or Appetite: If lack of time or appetite is a factor, start small and bring something quick and easy to work: a wedge of cheese; a handful of nuts; a hard-boiled egg (you can prepare ahead of time and store in fridge); plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey; almond butter on sliced apple or cucumber. It doesn't have to be big or complicated. Start small and build over time.
  5. The role of Protein/Carbohydrates/FatsProtein, the basis of all structural components in the body, tops the list for satiety. Protein requires more work for our bodies to break down than carbohydrates, keeping us feeling fuller longer and preventing jags in insulin levels. The regulation of blood sugar can also help stabilize mood and energy levels. Most neurotransmitters (the brain's communication channels) are made of protein which is critical for mood, alertness and concentration. Carbohydrates are the body's number one source of energy however most of us continue to over-consume carbohydrates relative to our protein intake and activity levels.  The trick is to consume carbohydrates in proportion to our actual energy requirements and to focus on nourishing sources ~ those that offer high fibre relative to their sugar release (low glycemic) ~ options below.  Fabulous Fats often maligned and feared, fat is needed for the absorption of vitamins, the proper functioning of sex hormones, the insulation of our vital organs and the protection of cell membranes including our brain.
  6. Key Sources of Protein/Carbohydrates/Fats: Carbohydrate Sources: complex grains (quinoa, kamut, millet, teff, buckwheat, oats, amaranth, etc.); fruits + vegetables.  Mixed Sources: lentils/legumes (combination carbohydrate/protein). Protein Sources: animal meats; fish; eggs, soy proteins: tempeh, tofu, vegetarian wheat/gluten: seitan. Mixed Sources:  nuts/seeds (combination fat/protein), yogurt and cheese (combination fat/protein). Fat & Oil Sources: avocado, coconut, olive.


  1. Note: you can prepare quinoa the night before and simply store in fridge.
  2. Cook quinoa (generally 2:1 ratio water to quinoa) and eggs (boil for 4 to 5 minutes for a yolk that is still runny, 6 to 7 minutes for a yolk that is barely set and 8 to 9 minutes for a firm set egg).
  3. Allow quinoa to cool somewhat while you assemble the remaining ingredients.
  4. Add cooked quinoa to the base of the bowl.  I sometimes mix in a little bit of coconut oil or butter with the warm quinoa and add a sprinkle of herbs (I especially like rosemary) and sea salt/ground pepper.
  5. Add remaining ingredients in a layered or circular fashion as desired -- eggs, avocado, nuts, feta cheese and sprouts. 
  6. For the sprouts, I sometimes add a splash of apple cider vinegar but more often than not I just leave them naked -- there is plenty of flavor coming from the other ingredients including the savory feta and seasoned quinoa.
  7. I hope you love this simple meal bowl as much as I do!
© Inspired Edibles

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Fine.  I confess.  I often add massaged kale (and you'll like it too!)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spicy Peanut Chicken with Mango Slaw

Well, we're less than a week away from our big move and we could not be more excited. The renovations have been moving along swimmingly and, knock on my hard head, all appears to be in order and on track...when does that ever happen? The relative calm and lack of perceived trouble is stressing me out.

Let the moving chaos begin!

While we sort through boxes, bins and furniture over the next couple of weeks, I'm sharing a delicious little number for all of you peanut butter fans out there.  

This spicy peanut chicken has a place at my table any time of year!

I especially enjoy it combined with a sweet and sour coleslaw to draw out the best of the contrasting flavors and textures.

And who doesn't love a dish that comes together so easily in the summer, when we'd all rather be outside doing something else with our time.  

The delicious coconut-lime peanut marinade will do the work for you while you put your feet up, sit back, relax and sip on a refreshing Mojito smoothie.

Ah, summertime.... enjoy!

Spicy Peanut Chicken with Mango Slaw

Spicy Peanut Chicken with Mango Slaw

For the Spicy Peanut Chicken
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 nub of ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 heaping tsp (or to taste) chili garlic sauce
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves (about 1 cup), finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts for topping

For the Mango Slaw
  • 1 small head (about 4 cups) chopped or shredded cabbage of choice (I used a mix of napa and red)
  • Two generous handfuls (about 2 cups) kale leaves, preferably massaged ;-)
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and roughly cubed

For the Mango Slaw Dressing
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed, optional
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

Serves 6

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. I like to prep the marinade for this chicken in the morning - get it done and have the chicken all set for dinnertime.  That way, the afternoon is mine and there's no last minute rushing about.
  2. If spicy is not your thing, simply omit the chili garlic sauce altogether - the peanut chicken will still be delicious! Heat is a matter of taste but I find 2 tsp of chili garlic sauce relatively mild on the heat scale so you can work from there.  
  3. Although I have not tried it, I suspect this recipe would be at least as delicious with almond butter and, for that matter, with any nut or seed butter.  So if peanut is off your list, feel free to experiment.  On that note, sunflower seed butter is one of my favorite flavor discoveries of the past several years -- delish!
  4. Any combination of cabbage, additional greens and fruit works for the coleslaw -- this is merely a suggestion.  I often wait to see what looks freshest at the market and make my decisions accordingly.

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine: peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, chili garlic sauce, and half of the cilantro leaves, mixing well to combine.  If the sauce is too thick, add one of the following options by quarter cup increments: water, coconut milk or chicken stock, until desired consistency is achieved (while you don't want soupy, you should be able to whisk the sauce comfortably).
  2. Remove half of the spicy peanut sauce (should be a generous half cup or so) and set aside in a small covered container in fridge.
  3. To the remaining peanut sauce in bowl, add chicken pieces, mixing with your hands until all the pieces are well saturated.
  4. Cover the chicken mixture with wrap and store the bowl in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight, allowing the chicken to absorb the marinade flavors.
  5. Meanwhile, assemble mango slaw ingredients in a medium sized bowl and, separately, combine slaw dressing in small bowl or container with fitted lid.  Whisk or vigorously shake the dressing before drizzling over slaw mixture, mixing to combine.  Cover and store in fridge until ready to serve.
  6. When the chicken has marinated sufficiently and you are ready to serve, warm a skillet to medium-high heat adding some coconut or olive oil.  
  7. Carefully place marinated chicken in the hot skillet allowing it to cook/sear on one side for a minute before flipping/tossing.  Continue process until chicken is cooked through. This should not take very long as chicken pieces are quite small (roughly 4-6 minutes) depending on temperature of skillet. Remove chicken from heat.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the reserved spicy peanut sauce in a small pot on the stove or keep it cool as desired.
  9. Remove mango slaw from fridge and give it a final stir before plating. 
  10. Plate spicy peanut chicken beside mango slaw, topping with an additional drizzle of reserved peanut sauce (warmed or cool), cilantro and a handful of chopped peanuts, as desired.
  11. Enjoy.
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh

I have a serious affection for fresh parsley.  And I'm not talking about the kind relegated to garnish!

Well-loved (and possibly overrated) in its dry form and woefully underappreciated in its natural form, fresh parsley will take you places the dried herb simply can't go.  Full-bodied, bright and grassy, this vibrant green contains natural cleansing properties that make it especially refreshing and welcoming in the summer.

Playing a starring role in this garden fresh tabbouleh, fresh parsley draws out the best in sweet summer tomato, crunchy cucumber and tangy lemon.

Tabbouleh is a vegetarian dish, most often referred to as a salad, of Levantine origin. The traditional Mediterranean version of tabbouleh showcases fresh parsley as the principal ingredient (the dish is mostly green) together with chopped mint, tomato, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  Bulgar, a wheat derivative, is sometimes added but it plays a minor role in the classic preparation. 

Today's recipe offers a little riff on the traditional preparation with the substitution of quinoa for bulgar as well as the addition of cucumber and other seasoning choices.  

This lovely Mediterranean salad will store well in the fridge for up to two days and would make a beautiful addition to any meal, picnic or potluck.  The flavors are truly delicious and refreshing and the contents wonderfully nourishing.

I hope you enjoy it but whatever you do, don't substitute dry parsley!

Summer Fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh

Summer Fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh (Gluten Free)

For the Quinoa Tabbouleh
  • 1 cup (250 mL) dry quinoa (yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa)
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced or bite size chunks
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced or bite sized chunks
  • 3 green onions (scallion), minced
  • 3 (or so) garlic cloves (always optional - we love our garlic!), smashed
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, flat or curly (about 1 cup/250 mL), chopped
  • Handful mint leaves, (about 1/4 cup/60 mL), chopped

For the Dressing
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) terragon vinegar (substitute rice vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) grainy dijon mustard
  • sea salt and coarse black pepper to taste

Serves 4-6

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Storage: this summer fresh quinoa tabbouleh will keep well in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two days.
  2. From Side to Meal: you can easily convert this recipe into a meal salad by adding lentils or legumes (I especially like it with white bean); cubed tempeh, salmon, tuna (fish/seafood of choice) or any meat protein as desired. 
  3. Quinoa: dubbed the Mother Grain by the Incas, quinoa’s nutrient profile has earned it star status. Rich in plant protein, quinoa is an important staple for vegetarian/vegan diets. It also contains B vitamins and a number of minerals including, notably: magnesium (a natural muscle relaxant), manganese, phosphorus, copper and iron. Quinoa’s low glycemic index also makes it an excellent choice for blood glucose control.
  4. Parsley: parsley contains vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid.  Notable minerals include: calcium, iron and potassium.  Parsley is often used to cleanse the palette and is said to be a natural diuretic that can ease distention/bloating. 
  5. Garlic Crush: I recommend smashing/crushing garlic (as distinct from running it through a garlic press) for two reasons.  I love the chunkier texture of the garlic and chopping/slicing the garlic cloves alone without first flattening it (smashing/crushing) will not release the allium's beneficial oils. To smash, simply use the flat side of a large knife and carefully press down on the garlic over a cutting board until it breaks/flattens somewhat. Sprinkle with sea salt and then chop or slice the garlic.

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions (generally 1:2 ratio quinoa to water).
  2. Allow quinoa to cool while you prepare/chop herbs.
  3. Place quinoa in a large bowl (large enough to accommodate the entire salad) and add chopped parsley and mint, tossing to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine: tomato, cucumber, onions and garlic, mixing to combine. 
  5. In a small bowl or container with fitted lid, combine: olive oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard and salt & pepper to taste, whisking or shaking to combine. Adjust seasonings as desired.  If you find the dressing overly acidic/sour, you can add a tsp or so of honey/maple syrup.
  6. Drizzle dressing over tomato mixture and mix gently to combine.
  7. Add tomato mixture to quinoa-herb mixture and mix gently to combine, taking care not to mash the tomato.
  8. Allow the quinoa tabbouleh to sit covered in the fridge for one hour absorbing the delicious juices from the dressing before serving.  
  9. Top individual salads with additional parsley, as desired.
  10. Nutrition Facts below are based on 4 servings.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Roasted Summer Plum Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Normally any home purchase is news and certainly worthy of celebration but this one feels especially sweet for our family (yes, we just bought a home!!).

When we arrived in the Silicon Valley almost a year ago now, little did we know that we would find ourselves in the middle of the most challenging real estate market in the US at the moment. A combination of very low inventory and a swelling population fueled by the booming tech sector (think: Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn to name a few), set the stage for shamefully inflated housing prices, unprecedented bidding wars and the common phenom of all cash offers (along with a host of other miscellaneous shenanigans). We experienced free market enterprise at it's worst, or best, depending on how you look at it. 

So when the stars recently aligned and our family of six -- dog and cat inclus -- picked up the keys to our home last week, there were tears of joy from this mamma. Relieved, grateful and yes, deliriously happy to have our own patch of green.

All of our belongings from Canada are still sitting on a truck and we are working out of the original suitcases we came with last August. But here's the funny part about that. You discover very quickly just how little you need to survive and to survive well.  I'm not going to pretend that I don't think about my stuff from time to time.  I do.  But frankly, a lot less than I would have ever imagined.  The two things I miss the most? Our family photos and my books... sure, it will be nice to have my kitchen appliances back and an extra pair of shoes but all in all, if there's anything this year has taught me is that we carry way more than we need. I'm overwhelmed at the prospect of fitting it all back into our lives. (And I'm not sure I want to).

Meanwhile, the aspect that I'm probably most excited about relating to our new home is the edible landscape. This subarctic gal is still shaking her head in disbelief at the beauty and utter wonder. 

Care to see what's growing in our backyard?

Let's start here. You might recall this image from last week's post... 

A beautiful apricot tree!

My husband is a huge fan of apricots ~ he and the boys used to play a game of 'catch the flying apricot with your mouth' at breakfast time when the boys were young. This particular tree felt like it was meant for them.

Keeping our apricot tree company are two lemon trees... 

One of them (pictured above) is doing quite well, with large, luscious lemons (we've taste tested them of course). The other lemon tree is rapidly producing miniatures -- they're very cute but we suspect the tree may need a little TLC and some pruning to focus it's energy back to its natural growth pattern.  How fun to think that we might have an impact on the growth of a lemon tree ♡.

Further along the path, there is a mandarin tree (we have yet to determine the variety). Mandarins typically bloom in the winter but when I visited the property to shoot some photos, wouldn't you know it, there was one fruit on the tree; just waiting to pose. Handsome devil!

And here is the crowning glory (in my view) and the subject of today's recipe... a beautiful, bountiful plum tree!

It just takes my breath away every time I look at it.  I had no idea mature plums were covered in a dusty-white coating on the tree (the ones we find in stores have been rubbed off or polished).  The coating (an epicuticular wax) or 'wax bloom' protects the fruit and allows it to prevent moisture loss. (You could almost mistake me for a natural gardener).

Here's another shot of one that I rubbed off with my thumb -- looking more familiar.

And what about this fellow.  Any guesses?

We had no idea either.  It's a pineapple guava tree (!!?) -- I keep calling it a grapefruit guava (I confuse pineapple and grapefruit linguistically though not conceptually. I do however confuse dinosaurs and dragons conceptually, which is more concerning).

The former owner tells us that for every one delicious pineapple guava fruit, there are twenty or so horribly sour, inedible ones. So it's a bit of a game to see who can get the good guava! We can hardly wait to discover this fruit and so much more... every time we visit, we seem to uncover something new.  We have never been so excited and motivated to learn!

We have a month or so of renovations ahead of us (currently underway) with a projected move-in date of late-July/early-August.  The summer posting schedule will not doubt be hit-and-miss but, it is summer after all, so let's all enjoy it!

I hope to be back to regular posting sometime in September.


On to today's recipe...

So simple and full of deliciousness!  The plum sauce need not be reserved for dessert -- though it's mighty delicious enjoyed this way and seemed suitably festive. The first time I made this sauce in fact, my husband and I ate it with seared scallops (delish!).  It also pairs beautifully with yogurt and mixed in with morning oatmeal or smoothies.

I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour of our backyard and stay tuned... if I'm feeling brave, I may post some interior reno photos. We'll see how it goes!

Wish us luck ;-).

Roasted Summer Plum Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Roasted Summer Plum Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

For the Plum Sauce
  • 10-12 juicy, ripe plums, skin-on, pitted and roughly cut in half 
  • 4 Tbsp (60 mL) orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) (or to taste) honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) balsamic vinegar

Serves 4

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Sweet, juicy and nutritive, plums are low on the glycemic index and offer a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and fibre.  Plums also contain calcium, magnesium and plant-based iron. These dark-skinned lovelies are rich in phenols that offer a protective effect against oxidative damage (they operate as antioxidants) helping to reduce the risk of disease. 
  2. Ripe plums are the way to go here -- tart, hard plums will not render the same results. The plums should have some comfortable give when you gently press on them.  
  3. This plum sauce need not be reserved for dessert (though it's mighty delicious used this way) -- the first time I made this sauce in fact, my husband and I ate it with seared scallops (delish!).  It also pairs beautifully with yogurt and mixed in with oatmeal or smoothies.


Heat oven to 400 F.
  1. In a spacious bowl, combine orange juice, honey or maple syrup and balsamic, whisking to combine.
  2. Add plum segments to the juice mixture and gently toss to combine.  Allow plums to sit in the juices (mixing on occasion) for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  You could also use an unlined baking dish if your prefer, provided there is sufficient room for the plum segments to roast without touching each other.
  4. Remove plum segments, one by one, from the juice bowl and place on the baking sheet such that they are not touching.  (if you need to, simply use two sheets or work in batches). Drizzle any remaining juice over the plums.
  5. Roast the plums in the oven for approximately 12-18 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until the plums have started to break down with juices flowing.
  6. Carefully remove tray from oven and allow it to cool before transferring the plum segments (and any transferable juices) to the blender or food processor.
  7. You can remove the skins from the plum segments at this point (you will be able to roll them off easily) but I don't recommend it.  The skin is where all the flavor is and once blended you won't be aware of it in the sauce (it leaves only the tiniest bits of chewy deliciousness). 
  8. Blend the roasted plum segments until the plum is well broken down and integrated into a nice smooth and consistent sauce.
  9. Carefully transfer the sauce into a serving dish and enjoy with food of choice, for example: ice cream; frozen yogurt; regular yogurt; on cereal; with a smoothie or with fish/seafood.  Any leftover sauce can be kept in a covered container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  10. I have a number of ice cream recipes on the blog if you wish to make your own but this particular recipe is all about the plum!

© Inspired Edibles

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Massaged Kale Salad with fresh Apricot & Spicy Skillet Chickpeas

It's not every day I make a plea to get intimate with your greens.

I mean, who in their right mind massages their greens anyway?

When I first encountered the term 'massaged kale' I found it not only pretentious but kind of silly too.  Had kale been elevated to such a precious status that it now required massaging?  I couldn't just eat the stuff, I needed to pet it too?  

And was there any point to this ritual or was it merely to establish the depth of my reverence for this culinary darling?

Being the curious soul that I am, I wanted to investigate further.  So I took a step back, depersonalized the whole thing and decided to give this otherwise innocent green a fair shot.  

And yes, a couple years ago, I too started massaging my kale.  And here's what I discovered: 
  1. Semantics: While the term 'massage' is irksome in that affected kind of way, the idea is not new. Our hands are almost always involved in some capacity in the kneading, mixing and combining of foods and food ingredients.  After all, we rub our meats and veggie proteins before tossing them onto the grill and we use our hands to ensure the good and proper penetration of marinades and dressings. We also routinely engage in the hand-rolling and kneading of dough. We just don't generally refer to any of these practices as massaging.
  2. Texture: In its raw form, kale is a tough and at times bitter green.  Using your fingers to work a little olive oil into the leaves breaks down the fibrous cell walls and literally softens the green while mellowing its sharp taste, making it more palatable and considerably easier to digest for many (including kids who wear braces!).  And neat too that you can achieve this effect without having to heat the plant or diminish its nutrient content. 
  3. Taste: Beyond softening and reducing the bitterness factor, when you work a little oil and herbs into the kale leaves, the flavor penetrates each of the leaves allowing the entire salad to be well seasoned while avoiding the problem of over-saturated dripping dressing on impermeable leaves (yuck!) or a pool of dressing sitting at the bottom of the bowl and a bunch of tasteless bites.
  4. Beauty! Most curly kale (the most common variety) will be a moderate to light green colour when you purchase it. Perfectly handsome in its own right but when you massage the leaves, watch for the magic transformation.  After just a minute of working the leaves, you will uncover the most gorgeous, lush, deep-coloured green imaginable.  It's like polishing silver ;-). You can compare my unmassaged kale below to the deeper more saturated leaves in the finished salad. 

To summarize, if you can get past the massage thing, you may find it well worth the two minute practice of rubbing a little olive oil into your kale leaves.  The taste, texture and appearance are incomparable in my view. 

You may even find that the consumption of this powerhouse green becomes less about should and more about want, which is the only way to build sustainable eating habits.

Be sure to check out my Nutrition & Cooking Notes for more information and do let me know if you get close up and personal with your kale!

Massaged Kale Salad with fresh Apricot & Spicy Skillet Chickpeas

Massaged Kale Salad with fresh Apricot & Spicy Skillet Chickpeas

For the Kale Salad
  • 1 generous bunch kale leaves (4-6 cups), washed and torn into smaller bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups (500 mL) cooked chickpea, thoroughly rinsed and dried
  • 6 fresh apricots, sliced or diced as desired
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) shaved almond, or any other nut/seed of choice

For the Chickpea Spice
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cumin powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) coriander powder
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) curry powder
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch chili powder of choice
  • pinch cinnamon powder
  • pinch sea salt

For the Massage Oil ;-) or Salad Dressing
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • juice of one lime (about 2 Tbsp/30 mL)
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) honey
  • sea salt and coarse black pepper to taste

Serves 4

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. This is a perfect warm summer's day lunch salad.  I sometimes add a chopped boiled egg but tend to gravitate towards the more easily digested proteins when the heat is on.  Even chicken (a beloved stable in our home) can feel too heavy this time of year.
  2. You can use any combination of spices you wish for the chickpeas.  I chose a mildly spicy Indian inspired combination that seemed to work nicely with the apricot but of course, this is all a matter of personal preference.
  3. Nutrition Snapshot of Kale: An excellent source of vitamins K, beta-carotene/A & C and the eye-protective carotenoids (antioxidants) lutein and zeaxanthin. Notable minerals include: calcium, potassium and plant-based iron.  Studies continue to link kale, and other dark leafy vegetables, with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. The vitamin E content in kale is also said to protect our brain cells against oxidative damage, helping keep our minds healthy as we age. 
  4. Nutrition Snapshot of Apricot: Fresh apricots are a quality source of beta-carotene/A, vitamin C and potassium.  They also happen to be in season right now and could not be more beautiful growing with abandon here in California. Their sweet taste and soft texture makes them a gorgeous complement to the spicy Indian inspired chickpeas in this recipe.
  5. Nutrition Snapshot of beans! Often neglected, the lowly bean delivers potent health benefits including assisting with blood sugar regulation, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and guarding against cardiac incidents.  They are an excellent source of quality carbohydrate, fibre and protein as well as delivering numerous vitamins and minerals (notably folate, magnesium and iron).

  1. Warm a dry skillet over medium-high heat and toss chickpeas in warmed skillet for about two minutes to remove any residual moisture.  Be sure to shake the pan and/or stir the chickpeas.
  2. While this is happening, sprinkle the chickpeas with seasonings of choice.  I used a combination of: cumin, coriander, curry, paprika, chili, cinnamon and sea salt with black pepper.  Stir seasoned chickpeas to integrate.
  3. After about two minutes, drizzle a little bit of coconut or olive oil over the seasoned chickpeas and toss to combine.
  4. Keep stirring the chickpeas and adjust seasonings as desired.
  5. The texture of the chickpeas will remain soft but the taste will evolve into a well-seasoned delight with the once dry seasonings now coating the oiled chickpeas.
  6. When the chickpeas are well saturated with flavor, remove from heat and reserve.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl or container with fitted lid, combine salad dressing ingredients whisking or shaking well to integrate.
  8. Place kale pieces in a large mixing bowl (I use a large wooden bowl) and drizzle with dressing.  
  9. Simply use your fingers to work the oil/dressing into the kale leaves - watch and feel the color/texture transformation.  After only two minutes your kale is beautifully seasoned and softened and all set to eat.  
  10. You will also find that it's easier during the massage stage to remove any excessively hard pieces from the center rib of the kale.  The leaves will fall off the rib quite easily and your fingers will be in place to feel it happen and facilitate the process.
  11. Place massaged kale in large serving bowl, or on individual serving plates, and dress with seasoned chickpeas, fresh apricot and almonds.  Optional add-ins and variations: chopped boiled egg, sliced avocado, feta or halloumi cheese.
  12. Enjoy and do let me know if you give this method a try! :) 

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lemon Chia Seed Pudding with fresh berries

I'm not sure it would have been his personal request but this is how we decided to start Father's Day in our home.

A cool and refreshing lemon pudding that's tasty enough to enjoy for dessert - any time of day!  My husband is a big fan of citrus puddings, jams, jellies, tarts and desserts generally, so it seemed fitting to celebrate his day with this little spin on traditional pudding.

[Sidebar: when I mentioned to my husband that my friend Sandra (oooh that Sandra...) whipped up a batch of homemade fudge ice cream for her husband on father's day, my hubby's response was that he still liked my chia pudding best -- smart man].

Our eldest son, a distance runner, introduced me to Chia Fresca about five years ago when he was 11-years-old.  He had just read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall which explores the world's greatest distance runners and their secrets to success.  

There is a passage in Born to Run dedicated to the wonderful power of iskiate - otherwise known as chia seed.  The author speaks at great length about the nutritional value of chia and its long history as a revered, sacred food in Mexico.

"Chia was once so treasured, the Aztecs used to deliver it to their king in homage. 
Aztec runners used to chomp chia seeds as they went into battle and the Hopis [tribe] fueled themselves on chia during their epic runs from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean."

After reading this passage, my son promptly grilled me about chia seed and then politely requested (or something like that) that we procure some on the double.  And so a chia tradition was born in our home.  

[Sidebar 2: Unlike the other 3 members in this family, I am not a natural runner (no matter how much chia I might consume). I bump and grind and fight for every inch. I also come with a long and well-practiced list of excuses should anyone care to hear them. But the person who quietly listened and still managed to motivate me to get out there and prepare for my first 10K almost twenty years ago now, was my husband.  On the days when I really (really) didn't want to go out and join the jolly fellow on his regular runs, he would simply say "we'll just go for ten minutes. If you're done after ten minutes, we'll come back, no questions asked."  Of course, every runner knows that getting out the door is the toughest part. Once you're out there, it's never ten minutes. Smart man].

This is the same patience, gentle persistence and wisdom he has brought to raising our sons.  He's our guy and he's pretty awesome.

Cheers to all the great Dads, role models and mentors in our lives, past and present.  You make a huge difference.

Lemon Chia Seed Pudding

Lemon Chia Seed Pudding with fresh berries
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk variety of choice
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 generous Tbsp (45 mL+) chia seed
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon + more for garnish
  • 4 Tbsp (60 mL) honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) pure lemon extract, optional
  • raspberries and basil or mint for topping, as desired

Makes 2 puddings approximately 1 cup/250 mL each

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. Breakfast, Snack or Dessert: I served this pudding for breakfast - it was cool and refreshing and just right on a warm California morning but you could equally enjoy it for snack or dessert as you wish. 
  2. Chia Seed: Chia seeds offer plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants and an impressive array of minerals. Unlike flaxseed, chia does not have to be ground to be bioavailable (ie: to be absorbed and usable by the body).  Chia is also highly 'hydrophilic' meaning that its seeds absorb water/moisture beautifully to create a mucilaginous gel that's ideal in desserts, puddings and jams. Flaxseed has a similar nutrition profile to chia (with slightly less fibre, omega-3s and minerals per serving) but flaxseed has the added benefit of containing lignans - plant compounds believed to be protective of breast health - which chia does not.  Chia is more expensive than flaxseed but due to the highly concentrated nature of its nutrients on a gram per gram basis, a small amount of chia goes a long way. You can find chia seed at any health food store and many larger grocery stores.
  3. Pure Lemon Extract: Pure lemon extract is a brilliant way to intensify lemon flavor in desserts naturally. It is simply lemon concentrate that does not contain any added sugars.  I find the juice and zest from the lemon combined with the honey/maple syrup just the right combination for my taste but, if you want a slightly more pronounced lemon flavor, this is a great option.
  4. Pudding Texture & Appearance: The longer you allow the chia to sit in the pudding mixture, the more moisture it will absorb and the larger and more visible the chia seed granules will become. A fifteen minute sit will give you a nice gelling but more of a milky texture.  A two hour or more sit will bring more visibly large viscous chia seed to the surface, so you can decide to some extent on the type of texture and appearance you prefer.
  5. Make-Ahead Option: You can make the chia pudding the evening before, store it covered in the fridge and enjoy it the next day.

  1. In a generous sized mixing bowl, combine: milk, yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey or maple syrup and natural lemon essence if using. Whisk ingredients well before carefully transferring the pudding into serving dishes of choice.  
  2. The recipe renders approximately 2 cups/500 mL of pudding so you can divide into two, 1 cup/250 mL portions or four half cup/125 mL portions, as you wish. The Nutrition Facts Label below is based on two, 1 cup/250 mL servings.
  3. Cover the puddings with wrap and carefully place in fridge for at least 15 minutes before enjoying.
  4. Just before serving top the puddings with additional lemon zest (if desired), berries and a sprig or two of basil or mint.
© Inspired Edibles

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