Three Oil-free Salad Dressings

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There are no store-bought salad dressings in my house.  In my humble opinion, store bought salad dressings are over seasoned and/or over sweetened and often they contain inferior oils. The flavours are much too strong and overall, none of them taste fresh. 

Salad dressings are easy to make and taste infinitely better than anything you can buy so skip the store-bought varieties and make your own. To get you started, I am sharing my top three oil-free salad dressing recipes. 

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Remember, oil free is not the same as fat-free. There is no shortage of contradictory information available of the benefits of adding oil to your salad – indeed to your diet. A recent study published in Science Daily found that pairing vegetables with fat matters. The study found that fewer nutrients were absorbed when using low fat dressing and that overall, salads need to be paired with the right type and right amount of fat-based dressing in order for vitamins and minerals to be absorbed by the body.  

Other sources of research denounce the benefits of pouring any oil (even so-called healthy oil) on your salad and suggest that a salad made from homegrown or local, organic ingredients is completely healthy all on its own. These sources indicate that vegetable oils, (yes, even olive oil) can damage the health of your arteries and that you can get all of the healthy fat you need from nuts, seeds and other whole foods such as avocados. (Click on the “Why this blog?” page for more sources citing on the dangers of consuming vegetable oils).

All three dressings below contain seeds, nuts or a combination of the two, which provide a good source of monounsaturated fat. I have come across nothing in the research to suggest that the fat found necessary for vitamin and mineral absorption must come from extracted oils and the Science Daily study didn’t touch on absorption of nutrients from seeds, nuts or other whole plant-food sources, such as avocados. To me, it seems logical that health benefits would be maximized from eating the whole food rather than an extracted and processed component of the food. 

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These are my “go-to” dressings. I have at least one of them in my fridge at all times. As well as being oil-free, none contain refined sugar, dairy or soy either, including a “Caesar” dressing that is very satisfying and tastes incredibly like the traditional variety. Each of these dressings pack a punch of flavor and take no time at all to whip up.  They all last about a week in the refrigerator.

These dressings are prepared exactly the same way so I won’t belabour this post by repeating the method of preparation for each recipe – I have just listed the ingredients. For the method, place the ingredients for your selected dressing in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. That’s all there is to it!

Creamy Black Sesame Seed Dressing

A hint of sweetness from maple or date syrup make this a delicious choice for both green salads or fruit salads. You can switch the black sesame seeds with poppy seeds if you like. 

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp. maple or date syrup (homemade)
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds or poppy seeds

IMG_3268Yields about 3/4 cup dressing.

Chipotle Dressing

This is an adaptation of an oil-free chipotle dressing recipe by anunrefinedvegan.com  The chipotle in adobo sauce gives this dressing quite a kick so start with a small amount and increase to satisfy your tastebuds. The 1/2 tsp measure is perfect for me. 

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp. raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

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IMG_3306Yields approximately 1 1/4 cups dressing.

Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing

Imagine! A creamy Caesar dressing with no eggs, dairy or fish! And no other unhealthy ingredients either! This is an all-time favourite in my family – you’ll love it! 

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I have included a recipe for a quick almond cheese (tastes like Parmesan) for those who would miss the addition of cheese in their Caesar salad. However, I have to say, this dressing tastes every bit as good as a traditional Caesar dressing and the salad is delightful with or without the mock Parmesan.

This dressing calls for dulse flakes.  Dulse is a type of red seaweed that has been harvested for its high mineral content for hundreds of years along the shores of Canada, the Atlantic coast, Ireland and Norway. Dulse flakes are added because they impart a salty and mild fishy flavour – they take the place of the anchovies called for in a traditional Caesar dressing. But don’t be put off – dulse flakes are not at all overpowering and they contribute to the rich depth of flavour in this dressing. 

Dulse flakes can turn the colour of the dressing a little pink. This doesn’t bother me, in fact the pinkish hue is barely noticeable when the salad is tossed, but if it bothers you, rather than adding dulse flakes to the blender with everything else, stir them into the dressing at the end, after everything else is well blended. Your dressing will be speckled, but whiter.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. hemp seeds
  • 2 tsp dulse flakes, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 tsp. GF Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard’s
  • 3/4 tsp Celtic sea salt
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp maple or date syrup
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled, halved
  • croutons, gluten-free 

Almond Cheese (mock Parmesan)

Pulse the following ingredients in a small nut grinder or coffee grinder just until combined. Sprinkle over salad before serving to boost the cheesy flavour and add texture.

  •  2 tbsp. almond meal
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. lemon juice

IMG_3279Yields about ¾ cup dressing.

Note: Caesar salad dressing revised November 6, 2015

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Chocolate Raspberry Tart

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Well, Easter is only a week or so away and nothing says Easter like chocolate. And it’s a good thing that in the dessert world, lavish is no longer synonymous with complicated! Just to prove the point, this streamlined, clean-eating raspberry tart is loaded with chocolate flavour, and is a fitting end to any spring or summer meal. In fact, since raspberries are available year-round, albeit at a price, you can enjoy this treat any time of year.

The filling in these tartlets calls for raw cocoa powder instead of chocolate which results in a deep, rich chocolate flavour. Cocoa powder generally contains about 5 times less cocoa butter than pure unsweetened chocolate, which means that cocoa powder packs a bigger punch of chocolatey flavor because you’re getting more cocoa solids and less cocoa butter.

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This recipe makes enough to fill 4, 4 1/2-inch individual tartlet pans, or one 8-inch tart pan but the quantity of ingredients for both the crust and filling can easily be doubled to fill more tart pans and  feed a larger crowd. Both the tart shells and the filling can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight or they can be separately frozen. (If you do decide to freeze the crusts or store them for a day or so in the refrigerator, keep them in their pans to maintain the shape and protect them from breakage. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before continuing with the recipe). 

For the Crust 

  • ½ cup pecans
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup dried coconut, shredded, raw and unsweetened
  • 4 Medjhool dates, seeded, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. date syrup (homemade)
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • Seeds from a 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Place nuts, coconut, salt, dates, water and date syrup and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor and process until quite fine and mixture is sticky.

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I used non-stick 4 1/2-inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms in this recipe and had no trouble removing the crusts from the pans. Any type of tartlet pan should work but I would suggest that the crusts are well chilled before trying. If you are worried about the crusts sticking, line the bases of your tart pans with a piece of parchment sized to fit.

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Remove crust mixture from processor and divide into 4 4-inch tartlet pans or one 8-inch tart pan. Using wet hands, press the mixture into pans as evenly as possible. At this point the tartlets can be refrigerated overnight but refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking, regardless.

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Remove tart pans from refrigerator and poke a couple holes in the base with the tines of a fork to prevent the crusts form rising during baking. Bake the tartlets at 350°F for about 14-16 minutes, or until crusts begin to darken around the edges and the base seems done. (In my oven, this is exactly 14 minutes). If your oven bakes a little unevenly or has hot spots, spin the baking sheet around halfway through total baking time. When done, remove from the oven and cool to room temperature on the baking sheet.

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For the Filling

Pre-soaked dates are considerably softer than fresh and help to achieve a really smooth consistency in the filling. If you are short on time, place the dates in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them while you assemble the rest of the ingredients to give them time to soften. If you are not pressed for time, soak the dates at at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Ingredients

  • 12 dates, pre-soaked
  • 1 ½ tbsp. cocoa powder, raw
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut milk, canned, shaken and well blended

Place the dates, cocoa powder and vanilla in a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Add coconut cream and bend on high speed until thickened well blended. The consistency will be similar to a dense and rich dark chocolate mousse. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Alternatively, freeze the filling – place it in a container with a tight fitting lid. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

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Assembly

Carefully remove the crusts from the tart pans. Place one crust on each plate and divide the filling evenly between all 4 tartlets. The chocolate base should fill the crusts to about ½ full. if you have extra filling, save it for another use. 

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Arrange raspberries side by side in a circular pattern on top of filling.  

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Garnish with mint, toasted coconut and a dash of cocoa powder.

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Alas the moment has come! Bon Appetite!

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Outstanding Non-dairy Cheese

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This isn’t hard. I promise.

This is a stellar raw and vegan cheese recipe – seriously. It is a perfectly satisfying snack when  you’re looking for the taste and texture of traditional creamy cheeses made from dairy. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients or the number of steps as the entire process is actually quite straight forward. Once you have done it once, you’ll make raw, vegan cheese again and again.   All it takes is a little planning ahead as the rejuvelac takes time to ferment and needs to be made first, and the cheese itself takes time to ripen. That said, the rejuvelac freezes well, so you could make extra and save yourself some time that way.

The texture of this cheese is similar to commercial soft cheese, and if flavoured with garlic and herbs, tastes surprisingly similar to “Boursin.”  The cheese will be firm enough to hold a shape if molded, yet soft enough to spread on crackers.    

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The nuts suggested in the ingredient list all provide a creamy texture, mild flavor and will blend completely smooth. You can substitute with other nuts but be aware that different nuts impart different flavours, and almonds for example, may result in a slightly grainier cheese. Nevertheless, the recipe will produce an equally tasty cheese to be used in spreads and dips regardless of the types of nuts used.  My preference would be macadamia nuts except that it is difficult to find macadamia nuts that are not stale where I live. Therefore, I almost always use cashews, brazil nuts or a combination of whatever nuts on the ingredient list that I have on hand.  

The lemon juice and rejuvelac (recipe follows) create a wonderful cheese-like tang in this recipe and probiotics speed up the fermentation process. I have read that miso paste can be used instead of probiotics, but I have not made cheese this way. Nutritional yeast would also create a cheesy flavor, but I prefer not to use it for reasons mentioned here, and frankly, this recipe doesn’t need it. The flavor is excellent without it.

You will end up with about 1 1/2 cups of cheese but the recipe is easy to double. The recipe for rejuvelac yields about 2 cups, which is more than plenty even if you double the cheese recipe.

Now, scroll down, as you will need to make the rejuvelac first. 

Making the cheese:

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups raw nuts, (cashews, brazil nuts, or macadamias)
  • 1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan salt
  • 4 cups filtered water, or enough to cover nuts, room temperature
  • 2 capsules of probiotics (I have used probiotics by Raw Primal Defense and Progressive, but other brands should work too)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup rejuvelac* (recipe follows)

Seasonings

Flavour Option One – Garlic and Dried Herbs

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp. dried herbs, such as parsley, dill, basil, chervil, chives
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Adjust to taste with extra salt and lemon juice.

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Flavour Option Two – Chipotle 

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chilli pepper powder

Chipotle pepper powder packs quite a kick so tone it up or down to taste. You can add it to the cheese mixture or just sprinkle it on the bottom of your mold so that it will be visible when you unmold the cheese. Adjust flavour with extra salt and lemon juice.

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Soak the nuts for 8-12 hours in 4-6 cups of room temperature filtered water and a teaspoon of salt.

Strain and rinse the nuts and place in a high-speed blender. Discard the soaking liquid. (A Vitamix, or equivalent blender works really well here as it has enough power to make the nuts completely smooth).

Pull the probiotic capsules apart over the blender, and add the powder to the blender with 1/2 cup rejuvelac to start. Blend the nuts until smooth, adding more rejuvelac as necessary. You may not need all of the rejuvelac. You just want the mixture wet enough for the blender to do its job and blend the nuts until completely smooth. There should be no visible or textural remnants of nuts when done.

Place a nut-bag or double layer of cheesecloth in a sieve and place the sieve over a bowl. Using a spatula, scrape the nut mixture from the blender into the lined sieve. Fold the cheesecloth or nut-bag over the top of the mixture to enclose and then weigh it down with a can of beans or something heavy resting on top of a plate. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm place to ripen for 12-14 hours.

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After 12-14 hours, the “cheese” will have thickened a little and formed a crust on the top. The crust formation is normal.

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Scrape the cheese into a bowl, and using a whisk, beat the crust back into the cheese mixture.

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It won’t taste like much at this stage. (At this point you can divide the mixture in half if you like and flavour each half differently). Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. Then add seasonings. Adjust to taste. 

To shape the cheese using a mold, line your mold with plastic wrap or a non-stick liner and spoon in the cheese. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula and cover with a piece of waxed or parchment paper, or loosely cover with the overhanging edges on the saran wrap. 

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Smooth the surface of the cheese and tap the cheese firmly on the counter several times to remove any air pockets. 

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If you like, you can line the mold with dried herbs or seasonings before spooning the cheese into the old. The photo below shows the mold lined with chipotle powder. 

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Leave the cheeses to set overnight. The cheese will continue to firm up as it rests in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, uncover the mold and flip it over onto a flat board or serving plate. Carefully remove the silicone liner or plastic wrap.

If you want to roll the cheese in chopped nuts or herbs, do it now, being careful not to disturb the shape of the cheese.  Serve with crackers or bread. Cheese keeps well in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days.

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Making the Rejuvelac

What the heck is rejuvelac?

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Rejuvelac is a non-alcoholic fermented liquid made from sprouted grains; such as, wheat berries, oats, rye, quinoa, barley, millet, and buckwheat. Rejuvelac is considered a digestive aid because it is a live food containing beneficial bacteria and active enzymes.

Rejuvelac can be used as a starter culture for other fermented foods such as raw nut and seed yoghurts, cheeses, sauces and Essene Breads. It is possible to make a second batch of rejuvelac from the same sprouted grains, and if you do, the second batch will take less time to ferment. 

Ingredients

  • 1-cup wheat berries
  • 4 cups water

Directions

This recipe makes more than you’ll need for a batch of cheese, even if you double the cheese recipe above. You can drink the extra, or freeze it for future use.

First, sprout the wheat berries.

Place the wheat berries in a large bowl with at least double the amount of water. Stir well and leave to soak 12 hours or overnight.

Strain the wheat berries and discard the soaking water. Refill the bowl with fresh water; stir vigorously and strain the wheat berries again. Continue rinsing and straining until the water runs clear. After straining the wheat berries for the last time, cover the bowl of wheat berries with cheesecloth and leave at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. The wheat berries should be sitting in only the water that clings to them.

Repeat the step above (rinsing and straining) 2-3 times a day for the next one or two days, until tiny tails begin to sprout on the ends of the wheat berries. The wheat berries are ready to use when the tails are ¼-inch long – they do not need to be longer.

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Make the Rejuvelac

Add 4 cups (I litre) of water to the sprouted wheat berries in a large jar or pitcher, cover loosely with cheesecloth and place in a warm place out of direct sunlight. As the wheat berries ferment, rejuvelac becomes cloudy and the colour of pale straw.You may notice tiny bubbles on the surface of the liquid – this is normal. Leave for 12-36 hours.

Rejuvelac is ready to drink or use in recipes when the aroma is mildly sour and earthy. The flavor will be faintly tangy with a hint of lemon. It won’t be unpleasant.

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Rejuvelac lasts for 3-4 days refrigerated, but it can be frozen too. If you are making a second batch using the same sprouted wheat berries, discard them after the second use.

Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Cumin

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Did you know that spaghetti squash is a fruit?  Me neither! Botanically, squashes are fruits because they contain the plant’s seeds, but they’re usually cooked and eaten as vegetables.

This low-calorie fruit belongs to the family of winter squashes, which includes: acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, and kabocha. It is full of fibre, antioxidants and vitamins, including Vitamin C, B6, potassium and manganese. When raw, the flesh is similar to the other raw winter squashes but when cooked, the flesh pulls away from the outer skin in strands that resemble spaghetti – thus the name.

Spaghetti squash is less sweet than other varieties of winter squash – in truth, it is quite bland. But the benign flavour is exactly why spaghetti squash is often substituted for wheat noodles in gluten-free circles, and paired with sauces and seasonings that would typically accompany pasta.

This recipe pairs the squash with garlic, cumin, and fresh herbs, taking the otherwise bland vegetable in a whole new direction! This might just be my favourite way to eat spaghetti squash. It’s delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small fresh red chilli, seeds and inner stem removed (or ½ tsp. sambel oelek)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tbsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. Celtic or pink Himalyan salt
  • 1-2 fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted (garnish, optional)

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves cut-side down in a roasting pan (with sides) and pour just enough water into the pan to reach the cut edges of the squash.

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Bake the squash in a preheated 375F oven for 30 – 45 minutes. In my oven, 30 minutes is perfect at that temperature. While the squash is baking, prep the fresh herbs and place in a large bowl with the minced garlic, spices and salt.

Test the squash for doneness after 30 minutes of baking. To do that, press your finger into the skin of the squash and gage the resistance. If there is little or no indentation from your finger, the squash is not cooked enough. If there is, then the squash is done. Remove squash from the oven and flip the halves over – cut-side up, to cool. Spaghetti squash firms up a bit as it sits and cools so don’t omit this step.

I generally err on the side of slightly under-done because spaghetti squash holds quite a bit of water and if it is overcooked, the strands will be soggy and soft, and won’t hold their shape as well.

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When cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape the squash out of the shell and place in the large bowl with the seasonings and herbs.

If the strands still seem to be wet even after they cool, strain the strands in a colander or rest them on paper towels to remove some of the excess water.

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Using tongs or a couple of forks, toss the squash with the fresh herbs and seasonings as best you can until well mixed.

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This may take a few minutes because the strands of squash are prone to clumping together, but just do your best.

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Now, when I first made this dish, I garnished the plate with a couple of tomato wedges and I ended up enjoying the tomatoes with the squash so much that I will be including them in the list of ingredients from now on! Just toss them in at the very end if you decide to add them. 

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This dish makes a great side to any main course, but to be honest, it is usually the entire main course for me!

Millet with Pine Nuts, Currants and Fresh Herbs, served with Exotic Carrots

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Exotic flavours abound in both of these dishes! I like to eat them together as a meal because the flavours compliment each other so well. But they can be served individually as a side dish to accompany other main courses. They can also be made ahead and served at room temperature, which makes them ideal for picnics and potlucks.

Millet is a gluten-free grain and easily digested. It is considered an alkaline food and one of the least allergenic grains available. Millet contains high levels of several key minerals and nutrients, including B-complex vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. It is also high in fiber and protein and is well balanced in essential amino acids (source).

This versatile little grain can be cooked firm, similar to couscous, or soft and mushy similar to polenta. The consistency is determined by the length of cooking time and the liquid to grain ratio. The longer it is cooked in stock or water, the softer it becomes.

The flavours and textures in this recipe are reminiscent of a Moroccan couscous. Millet takes longer to cook than couscous but I highly recommend becoming familiar with cooking this grain, as it is a great one to switch things up with every now and again.

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Ingredients

Serves 6 -8, as a side dish

  • 1-cup millet
  • 3-cups vegetable stock, or water
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • ½ cup pine nuts, pine nuts
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp. Celtic or pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Lightly toast the millet for about 3 minutes in a dry frying pan or until millet becomes fragrant and lightly golden brown. Watch out for the few grains that pop!

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Add the stock and salt. Cover and simmer gently until millet is cooked, about 20-30 minutes.

Test for doneness – the millet should be firm and dry, but cooked. If it is crunchy and tastes a bit chalky, cook it a little longer, adding a bit more liquid a few tablespoons at a time if necessary. Alternatively, if the millet is cooked and there is liquid in the pan, drain the excess liquid away.

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Transfer the cooked millet to a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste, and serve. In this recipe, its the mint that brings the flavours together for me! Love it! 

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Exotic Carrots

Generally, I like the taste of carrots without any added seasonings – especially when they are in season and locally grown. Can’t beat that fresh sweet taste! However, I am making an exception for this recipe! These carrots really are truly delicious and pair so well with the flavours in the millet above. This is an incredibly fast and easy recipe too!

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Ingredients

Serves 6 -8, as a side dish

  • 1 kg carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/3-cup water
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped.
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

Place the prepared carrots, water and salt in a medium sized saucepan and cook partially covered until carrots are tender but not over done; about 5-7 minutes. Drain off any excess water and transfer carrots to a large bow. Mix in the remaining ingredients and adjust the seasoning. These carrots are equally good served hot or at room temperature.

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Pine Needle Tea?

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I wish you could smell this photo! I read a bunch of articles this weekend about the health benefits associated with Pine Needle Tea and decided to try it out for myself.  Conveniently, I have a Spruce tree right outside my front door so  this was quite easy to do.  All of the photos in this post are from my own Spruce tree.

Did you know that pine needle tea has medicinal properties and that Native Americans have been using pine needle tea in a variety of healing remedies for centuries?

According to herbalist and educator Kami McBride, drinking a cup of pine needle tea may help your body expel phlegm causing the congestion of colds or coughs. Pine needles are strongly aromatic and even just inhaling the vapors from the tea may break up mucus in the lungs. Pine needles are also reported to be highly antiseptic and may help heal infections in the respiratory and urinary systems (source).

Pine needle tea is rich in Vitamin A, an antioxidant essential for red blood cell production, healthy vision, hair and skin. Pine needle tea is also reported to contain as much as four to five times the amount of Vitamin C found in a lemon or in one glass of orange juice (source).

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A word of caution though; there are over 100 different varieties of pine, of which three are toxic and should be avoided: the Ponderosa, the Norfolk Island and Yew.

According to one source, the age of the needles will influence the taste of the tea: young, light green spruce tips will yield a light, slightly lemony flavor, while mature needles harvested during the winter will create a stronger, slightly more bitter tea. Spruce needles are very aromatic and also have antimicrobial and immune stimulating properties. 

Brewing Pine (or Spruce) Needle  Tea

To prepare the tea, simply cut a twig or two from the branch of a tree, wash it off. Using a sharp knife, cut the needles from the central twig, and then either crush or chop the needles.

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Other practices include removing the papery brown sheaths at the base of the needles.

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I wouldn’t bother removing the brown sheath from Spruce needles for two reasons: one; Spruce needles are considerably shorter than other varieties of pine needles and the brown papery sheath is only about one millimetre (mm) in length. It would be a tedious task to remove a 1-mm sheath from the ends of every single needle! And two; I could not find an explanation anywhere as to why this step was necessary or beneficial. Removing the papery sheath may make sense for longer pine needles, but it seems a bit unnecessary with Spruce. 

Place a tablespoon of the prepared needles in a large mug. Boil a kettle full of water and then pour the boiling water over the crushed needles. Do not boil the needles in water. Let the tea steep for 15 minutes – no need to strain as the needles will eventually fall to the bottom of the cup.

However, for greater medicinal benefits, you may boil a tablespoon of needles in the water for 2-3 minutes in a cup of water (source).

Pine needles can also be frozen, or died using your oven or a dehydrator for use later.  To freeze the needles, just cut them off the twig and place in a zip lock bag in the freezer until ready to use. If drying them, use the oven or dehydrator and once done, place them in a jar and use as desired.

So the next time you are suffering with a cold, or even if you are not, try some soothing pine needle tea and let me know what you think!

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Seriously, I wish you could smell this!