back-to-basics-ghee

Ghee/Clarified Butter

One of my favourite conversations of last year’s was at the Food bloggers conference with a chef cooking at the omelette station. I had asked her to surprise me and oddly got talking about whole foods including butter versus coconut oil. “Why do people get caught up with all these fancy new foods?” she said. “Just eat whole natural foods. Butter is made from cow’s milk which is directly linked to the earth. It’s delicious and good for you, just eat it in moderation.” I left her station with a delicious omelette in hand with a smile on my face feeling oddly better about myself. My philosophy in eating is purely down to earth whole foods. Let’s stop eating processed foods even if they claim “low-fat”, “gluten-free” or any other marketing scheme. The only thing those companies are doing is marketing chemicals in fancy health packages.

Talking about fat and butter have you ever heard of the word ghee? In Sanskrit it means “sprinkled” and is commonly used in South Asian cuisine specifically Indian and Pakistani foods. In European cultures it’s known more by the name of clarified butter? During the clarification process of butter milk solids are removed leaving the healthy butter fats behind.

cubed-butter-for-ghee

Hold up, if Ghee is Made From Butter, What Makes it Different?

GHEE BUTTER
Casein and Lactose free Contains casein and lactose
Higher smoke point Lower smoke point
Slight alkalizing effect Slightly acidifying effect
Can be stored longer (low moisture content) Needs to be stored in the fridge (high moisture content)

So Why is Ghee Better?

  1. Lactose friendly. The impurities are removed during the clarification process; people who are lactose intolerant usually have no problems consuming ghee. If you have an allergy though, please contact your physician.
  2. Contains antioxidants – vitamin A and E. These antioxidants fight free radicals which promote skin cell growth and immune system health.
  3. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are readily absorbed. Ghee helps increase the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins, by binding to them and absorbs them into cell walls.
  4. Increases flexibility. Our cells are made of a phospholipid bi-layer, the less good fat in our diet the more rigid we become. Increasing your daily intake with good quality fats can help with flexibility.
  5. Could possibly help fight inflammation. Studies have been shown to reduce leukotriene secretion and reduce prostaglandins; both play a role in inflammation. Current studies done on rats.

Making ghee is really simple to make, anyone can do it at home with a little time on their hands. Ghee has a unique flavour by itself slightly sweet and nutty, adding a bit of decadence to any meal especially an omelette. If you’re getting a tired of coconut oil, take some good quality grass fed butter and turn it into a glorious creamy gold ghee.

steps-on-making-gheehomemade-ghee

Ghee/Clarified Butter
Turn your butter into a delicious fat safe for people with lactose or casein intolerances.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound grass fed unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Cut your butter into cubes and place into a saucepan that holds all the butter. Turn to medium-low heat and melt the butter.
  2. You do not want to overheat and burn the milk solids, this is a bit of a time consuming process (30-60min) due to the lower simmer and skimming you will be doing.
  3. Once the butter is melted and bubbles start to form, turn your temperature down to low. You want a gently simmer with a few bubbles popping up. After a little while you will see white clumps form at the surface. This the milk solids and "gunk" you want to skim from your ghee and discard. Keep doing this until your ghee is clear and you can easily see the bottom.
  4. Turn the heat up to a medium and gently cook for five minutes. Apparently this is to cook the bit of solids at the bottom of the pan, giving the ghee a nice nutty flavour. You do not want to burn this! Once down, turn off the heat and set the ghee aside to cool.
  5. Pour into a glass container and store sealed either in the fridge or on the counter.

 

dark-chocolate-raspberry-cabernet-truffles

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cabernet Truffles

I’ve been working at the chocolate shop for eight months now, a chocolate recipe was bound to happen sooner or later and what perfect timing with Valentine’s day just around the corner. I feel like truffles are the quintessential treat to say I love you. Just like risotto, they are a labour of love so be prepared to make them over a day or two. Who doesn’t love a bit of creamy chocolate ganache? The problem is trying to only eat a couple without gobbling down the entire plate worth.

raspberry-sauce-for-truffles

It’s always humorous at the store being a nutritionist; I see all kinds of people. From the parents who want to give their one year old a gummy worm to a fit fanatic who never ate candy because of the dreaded S word (sugar) but comes in every week to buy several packages of sugar-free junk. That malitol crap is even worse for you. To the diabetic who comes in for one small package of floral gums that last her the entire month. It’s hard being a nutritionist who has a sweet tooth, my waist band attests to the snacking and 20 percent off I get.

pouring-cream-over-chocolate

Then there are the times that I oddly get to help people. The yogi asking me if we have any chocolate completely dairy and gluten free (Taza is certified gluten, dairy, soy free and is my favourite) or the parent of a nut allergy kid seeing if there was any candy/chocolate other than the Nestle brands that were certified peanut free. I even have random conversations with  people who want to eat healthier and just come in for a little treat of dark chocolate or gorge themselves before a cleanse. I never realized how many people I would be helping nutritionally at a chocolate store. Especially when you think about it … a nutritionist working at a candy store? I feel like a super hero/villain. Healing people during the day, feeding people sugar drugs during the night.

ganache-rolled-into-balls

During Christmas we made a dark chocolate cabernet fudge which despite not being a fudge lover I had to admit was divine. For Valentine ’s Day we made a raspberry version, but with white chocolate. This recipe is a combination of the two and really is just a recipe for flavour combination than actual truffle. Please don’t skip the cabernet in this recipe, I know it’s such a small amount, but the cabernet brings out the flavour of the dark chocolate in a pleasant way. The raspberry brings a nice sweetness to the bitterness of the dark chocolate that all combines together for one decadent treat. The ganache is easily transferable to be used as a tart filling if you don’t want to take the time to roll it into balls and dip them into chocolate. Trust me after testing them for two weeks I’m ready to just eat it by the spoonful and forgo the rolling.

mixing-red-drizzle

You know I never understood why chocolate truffles have to be so perfectly spherical, the fungus which the name, “truffle,” is based off of, come in so many odd looking shapes. Am I trying to justify my messing looking chocolate truffles? Hell yes, but damn do they taste good!

pink-drizzle-over-truffles

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cabernet Truffles
The delicious combination of raspberry and cabernet makes these truffles decadent
Ingredients
  • RASPBERRY SAUCE
  • about 1 cup defrosted raspberries
  • 1 tbsp honey
  •  
  • CHOCOLATE GANACHE
  • 10 oz 55-70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ghee, diced
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp coconut milk (I used one with a 13% fat content)
  • 4 tbsp raspberry sauce
  • 2 tbsp cabernet sauvignon
  •  
  • COATING
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • white chocolate chips
  • leftover raspberry sace
Instructions
  1. Just a heads up - truffles can be tedious, be prepared to make them over a day or two.
  2. I personally use frozen raspberries for this recipe, they are cheaper than fresh especially in winter and don't take away from the flavour. Using a strainer over a small sauce pan, mash your raspberries and press out all the juice from them, leaving the seeds behind. You will need a ½ cup of liquid. Move the saucepan to the stove and heat to medium. Stir in the honey and keep stirring occasionally for ten minutes, you want the sauce to thicken and concentrate the raspberry flavours. Once done, transfer to a small glass bowl and set aside.
  3. Pour your coconut milk into the sauce pan, it doesn't really matter to rinse. You want the coconut milk to come to a simmer. While you're waiting for this to happen. Pour your chocolate and cubed/diced ghee into a glass container (pick one that can handle heat). Once the coconut milk has come to a simmer, pour over the chocolate. Chocolate is temperamental when it comes to heat, so slowly stir, this allows the chocolate to get used to the high temperatures. When things are mixed, add the raspberry sauce and wine. Stir till combined and place into the fridge for a minimum of three hours.
  4. This is where truffles can get a little tricky. If your ganache set and can be easily rolled into balls - awesome! If it's soft and sticky uh oh! I mention this because I had the ganache set during testing but not set while making the final photo version. I brought my ganache out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature and then slowly added 2-3 oz of melted chocolate. Set that back into the fridge for several hours. I then spooned out chocolate into the size that I wanted onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Allowed that to set in the fridge, then rolled that into balls to make an even shape (see photo above). If you just want to say screw it you can easily make tart shells and use this ganache as filling. Once all the ganache is rolled into balls and on the cookie sheet, set aside in the fridge.
  5. I didn't measure my coating for the truffles but just started out small and just kept melting chocolate chips in the microwave. If you want to be professional and temper your chocolate properly, melt your chips over a double boiler. I find the truffles get eaten so fast that it doesn't matter about tempering. Bring out your sheet, and with a fork dip each ball into the melted chocolate, roll around and then place back onto the sheet. Do this with all your ganache balls. They probably won't be pretty, mine weren't, as long as they taste good that's the main thing! Melt a little bit of white chocolate, stir in some leftover raspberry sauce. You might need to add more sauce and/or melt the chocolate a little again to make it get to a drizzle consistency. Once it has done that, drizzle over top of the truffles for decoration. Let the truffles set in the fridge before bringing them out and serving.
  6. Enjoy!

 

Eating for the Seasons

Throughout the month of January I’ve seen the words detox, diet, cleanse, even food challenge being thrown about. When the calendar refreshes and we hit a new year, marketing promotes the talk of New Year’s resolutions that ultimately is food themed; dieting, getting rid of sugar, carbs, and alcohol. I’ve even had a few people ask me to discuss more about detoxing. Which isn’t a bad thing mind you, it’s just January for me isn’t the correct time. So if you feel like you’ve failed and ate a burger while on a paleo challenge or you ate that chocolate bar during a detox don’t kick yourself up over it. That’s because I ultimately believe in eating for the seasons and listening to your body.

I wasn’t a huge fan of my Ayurvedic class, it was something that just didn’t connect with me, but the one ideology that felt right was the notion of eating for the seasons. This ideology starts in spring and ends with winter.

Spring – The season where temperatures warm, dormant trees sprout new growth, and waters start to run.
Summer – Is a hot and humid season where lethargy usually sets in and people are more relaxed and chill; think siestas.
Autumn – Is a time where things start to cool and people look towards storing foods. It’s the time of year we crave apples and pumpkins.
Winter – It’s cold and rainy (or snowing depending on where you live) it’s the season of hibernation where we crave rich fatty foods.

What goes on in our bodies reflects what we see in nature. During winter we want to hibernate due to the weather; we hold on to fat, we become sluggish and we crave warm wholesome foods. Do you really crave that fresh green cold juice at eight in the morning when it’s dark outside or does the idea of a bowl of hot oatmeal with warming spices like cinnamon and ginger sound appealing? Spring is when we see bears come out of hibernation and new life begin to chirp, squeak and meow. So why is it that we force ourselves to do this so early? It can easily set us up for failure.

Small Tips to Feel Good

But I don’t want to leave you feeling like there’s nothing you can do if you do want to become healthier in this part of the year. Start off with small changes every week.

  •  Start off your day with a glass of warm lemon water. I hate drinking water and know how hard it is to do this, but starting off your day with a glass of lemon water when you wake up will improve your metabolism. Chug it if you have too.
  •  Increase your veggies, even if they are cooked. Add some kale or spinach to a bowl of chili. Mix some broccoli into chicken soup. Veggies will increase your fibre cleaning out your system making you feel good
  • Flip your thinking and be mindful. Really think why you want that burger or pop. Will it satisfy you? Does it make you feel good afterwards?

Slowly adding good tips through the cold months will help you maintain small habits making you feel good about yourself. Instead of jumping right into a detox/cleanse to crash and burn while it’s cold outside. When the weather turns and the birds start to chirp and you’re feeling like you need to come out of your winter cocoon then let’s start a detox/cleanse to refresh and rejuvenate.

kale-lentil-salad-with-citrus-featured

Kale Lentil Salad with Citrus

It’s been several weeks since I’ve returned from the land of meat, carbs, and what potato isn’t a vegetable? As much as I love my bangers and mash, after two weeks of heavy carbs and animal protein it was time to break from the rut and consume some salads. I’m honestly not a huge fan of them especially in the winter, but red leaf lettuce with chicken was mighty tasty to my palate. Salad doesn’t have to be boring nor does it have to be what my Grandpa calls it, “rabbit food.” You all know what I mean; that iceberg lettuce “salad” with a few slices of tomato and carrot with Thousand Island dressing that you can find at old diners. Salads can be hearty, filling, and delicious.

lentils-being-washedpile-of-shredded-kale

The main reason why I started my seasonal fare series was to teach people. I find in the foodie and even nutrition word we may think things are so blatantly obvious that everyone should know them, yet they really aren’t. It happened with citrus; I mentioned to my Mum I was writing a post saying it was in season right now, completely surprising her. It was something I took for granted, but after a drive to our local produce stand it was so clear that they are. There was your average navel orange, the cara cara (my favourite), the tangelo, mandarins, satsuma, clementines, and the deliciously red blood orange. Then you have you have grapefruit from either Texas or Florida, pomelo, key limes, limes, regular lemons and meyer lemons. We even saw a Buddha’s hand but for ten dollars that thing was not coming home. What’s your favourite?

massaging-tuscan-kale

Previously on the blog, in my first seasonal fare post, I discussed why citrus is good for you and why you should incorporate more into your health than just your average glass of OJ. Citrus isn’t just juice nor should it be defined as only for desserts (lemon meringue, orange cream, etc.) combining them in salads or using them as marinades is an excellent way to use this seasonal fruit. This wintery kale and lentil salad is brightened by a dose of tart lemony vinaigrette and sweet chunks of mandarin; perfect for any meatless dinner meal. Once everything is prepped, your lentils are cooked (I follow this recipe), your kale is massaged (trust me it works, do it), and everything is chopped this salad comes together pretty quick. It serves a family of three or two hearty portions.

IMG_2654mixing-salad-with-vinegariettekale-lentil-salad-with-citrus

 

Kale Lentil Salad with Citrus
A filling winter salad is brightened by the addition of citrus.
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups cooked green lentils
  • 3 cups tuscan kale, finely shredded
  • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 3-4 mandarin oranges, chopped
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  •  
  • LEMON MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Instructions
  1. Prep your ingredients. Remove the stalk from your kale and cut the leaves into thin stripes. Place into the mixing bowl and pour ½ tbsp of olive oil over top. Massage the oil into the kale. I know this may seem weird, but for some reason it makes raw kale taste so much better. Trust me, just do it.
  2. Mix the lentils, hazelnuts and mandarin oranges in with the kale. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the juice and zest of a lemon with the dijon mustard and a few pinches of salt and pepper together. Slowly pour in 2 tbsp of olive oil while whisking. Mix the vinegarette into the salad and serve.

 

pile-of-citrus-fruits

Citrus Fruits

January isn’t just a month full of rain, clouds and drab food while everyone is on a hangover from the holidays. It’s a month when we see corner grocery marts come alive with bright tangy fruits. I’m talking about citrus! Yes, in this boring rainy Vancouver month we can see tangelos, pomelos, satsumas, meyer lemons, key limes, even the very weird looking buddha’s hand. We can get citrus year round, but these fruits are at their peak and highest variety in January.

variety-of-oranges

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking citrus. We all link scurvy to nutritional deficiencies in this vitamin which is why British soldiers were nicknamed, “limeys,” for the limes they carried on board. Personally, I feel like this is one of the most important vitamins to have in your diet. Not only is it an antioxidant, good for viral and bacterial infections, it also aids in metabolism for those “feel good” amino acids like tyrosine (dopamine) and tryptophan (serotonin) – hello rainy Vancouver for 8 months of the year! This fruit comes out at its peak in nature when we get SAD so easily, listen to nature people! Also for those people like me who suffer from knee problems or general joint issues, Vitamin C helps with the formation and maintenance of collagen. Trust me it helps. The only issue is it’s the least stable vitamin and can be easily destroyed by cooking and during storage. Our body uses it within four hours so to get maximum benefit you need to pop those pills twice or three times a day OR include more citrus in your diet.

Other Benefits

On top of Vitamin C, citrus is high in folate a vitamin essential for new cell production and growth. As well as potassium, an essential mineral that helps maintain our body’s water and acid balance. This mineral is especially important for you athletes; it’s an important electrolyte helping with nerve impulses to the muscle. Ever seen long distance runners crawl to the finish line in a marathon? It’s not pretty and it’s caused by lack of potassium in their system.

lemon-and-limes

Other Uses

Not only are citrus fruits an excellent food source, they can help our health by other means. Lemon especially has been known to as a natural disinfectant and deodorizer. The below links are excellent suggestions to include lemons, oranges, and other tangy fruit into your life.

DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner by In Sonnet’s Kitchen
Natural Honey Citrus Syrups for Coughs & Sore Throats by The Yummy Life
Homemade Body Butter by She Wears Many Hats


References

IHN Class notes by Dr. Matt Greenwood
http://www.fao.org/docrep/x2650T/x2650t03.htm