Long Live Quinoa

Living in a youth obsessed culture makes it difficult not to be influenced by all the subliminal and some not so subliminal messages that bombard our surroundings.  I have been told many times that I don’t look my age and my ego always swells a little when I hear this.  I think next time someone says I look younger I will say, “Oh, I wish I looked older.”  Then there will be awkward silence………..yes just like this.  On second thought, my strict proper Asian upbringing won’t permit me to be ungracious, so I will just have to say, “Good genes”.

I would like to change how I view people who may be considered old.  Even just typing the word “old” is not comfortable for me right now.  We have come up with ways to avoid using that word, “more experienced”, “golden years”,”senior years, “women of a certain age” (or does this mean women in their middle years).  Working in a retail health food store gives me lots of opportunity to have fantastic conversations with all sorts of people and I especially delight in my exchanges with the older customers.  Hearing about their life experiences, sharing their knowledge, is so very enriching to me.  “Old people know stuff!”

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers from Kake2kale.com

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Choco Chip Cookies to Chase Away the Blues

I haven’t had such a disheartening day in a long time.  Lately I’ve been asked to audition more and acting is something that I’ve done in the past, but have taken a break from it to focus on other pursuits.  I had prepared for this audition well and by the time it was my turn to go in I had been stewing in the waiting room with the other actors for well over an hour.  It didn’t go the way I had hoped and I left feeling like a failure.   Once I got home I put on some Harry Connick Jr. music, a mood lifter for sure, and then headed to the kitchen to make these baked treats.

These chocolate chip cookies are the perfect indulgence to soothe my soul without having to say “I shouldn’t have” afterwards.  For our followers, you might recall that I recently confessed to breaking a five day liquid fast by eating half a bag of Chip Ahoy cookies, not my proudest moment.  Since then, I have made thousands of cookies and have a few “go to” recipes.  Lately, the avocado is having its moment in the spotlight.  So much so that global demand for this once exotic fruit, (yes, it is a fruit) has skyrocketed.  No longer is it just for California rolls and quacamole, but it is topping quinoa salads, sandwiches, as well as being grilled, made into fries, used for chocolate mousse and now baked into cookies!

chocolate chip cookie Kake2Kale.com

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A 4-Carrot Soup

I once knew a couple who were very much in love.  They dated for 5 years and didn’t have much money, so he proposed to her with a 1-carrot diamond ring!  No, that is not a typo, he found the biggest carrot and carved it into a ring.  To her, that ring was more meaningful than a real diamond ring and she proudly wore it until it wasn’t fresh anymore. As demonstrated, you can do more with carrots than just eat them.

soup 2 Kake2Kale

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Gung Hei Fat Prawns

Gung Hei Fat Choy! I love Chinese New Year!  Lots of eating with family, friends, lucky money, special treats, and new clothes (on the first day of the New Year you should wear new clothes to give yourself a fresh start).   But I also love that Chinese New Year for me is where I get to have a “do over”.  If there were any resolutions made on Jan 1 that haven’t started, then I can try again.  And, to all of you who also had good intentions to ie.  give up sugar, start a new workout, read more, floss every day, and/or eat more superfoods, well, don’t be discouraged as you can try again in the Lunar New Year….even if you aren’t Chinese!

My  Chinese New Year recipe is quite unconventional, in that the ingredients aren’t your standard New Year’s fare.  Because, frankly, most of the “special” dishes eaten at this time are not delicious to my North American palate, such as dried oysters, black moss (looks like a clump of black hair), jai (vegetarian gluten dish).  Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it?  But I hope this Gung Hei Fat Prawns does! And, it’s loaded with superfoods.

Chinese New Year 2 Kake2Kale

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Valentine to a Golden Birdie

It wasn’t love at first sight, not even second sight. My “date” was quite verbose, but I was seduced by his vulnerability, the ease with which he stripped his….heart bare (clothes stayed on). Once I fell into his grasp, I fell hard for him. My husband knew of this love affair, and was fine with it because the object of my affection is a book, The Goldfinch. I devoured it for hours at a time, good thing I don’t have kids, otherwise I would surely have Child Services knocking on my door. I was swept away by the raw beauty of Donna Tartt’s writing, and how the main character wooed me into his inner life. The story unwound itself page by page and wrapped itself around me in sensurround. The Goldfinch in the title of the book refers to an actual painting that became very dear to the main character, but please go read it for yourself if you haven’t already.

I wanted to make an edible Valentine to The Goldfinch, and thought something lemony would be fitting. I decided to create golden cupcakes that are tart and sweet, which is one of the book’s messages, that is – even though your life may be sour, sweetness can still be found. Because the book is so substantial in content and length I wanted my cupcakes to be dense and substantial, almost like a pound cake quality.  For the love of The Goldfinch, below is my Valentine cupcake recipe.

Sweetheart Muffin Kake2Kale

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New Year New Food!

What do aliens eat?  Do they have the same food groups as earthlings?  Do they care about eating local, organic and fair trade?  What do their fruits and vegetables taste like, look like?  Do they even eat?  Or, have they done away with eating, which would be sad.  I am fantasizing about alien cuisine because I’ve got food fatigue.   That is what I am experiencing more and more these days.  You must have those days too where you just can’t stomach another boring bowl of oatmeal, spring mix salad, or chicken breast.  I want to travel with my tongue.

And so it was with gratitude that I came across 2014’s top ingredients of the year.  And I find myself behind the food trend because it is now 2015 and there are foods from last year’s list that I have never heard of, ie. shishitos, leaf lard (I didn’t know leaves have fat) and gribenes to name a few.  But I am happy to say there are many ingredients that are staples in my pantry.

The number one ingredient of last year is the spice mixture, zaatar, I remember reading about it a few years ago when it first burst onto the culinary scene, but have never tried it.  Until now, it is a new year and new food, well, at least for me.  So I went on the hunt for zaatar, and found it at a Mediterranean market.  What exactly is zaatar? It is a mixture of herbs – thyme, oregano, marjoram – sumac and sesame seeds.  You may be familiar with the first three ingredients, but sumac?  What the heck is that?  When I had gone to Turkey in the past, I brought some sumac back and didn’t really know what to do with it.  But it is a berry that is dried and then ground into a powder.  It has a tangy citrusy flavor.

Spicy Chickpeas 2 Kake2Kale

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Appy New Year!

My New Year’s resolution is to KISS a lot. I will KISS more at home, at work, anywhere that I can do it.  That is, to “Keep It Simple Sweetheart”. This extends to the appetizer that I am blogging about today, because I often put pressure on myself to come up with dishes that are unique, tasty and good for you. And sometimes ‘simple’ is best. Many years ago, I had a tasty chicken dish that my friend’s mom made for me and it was made only with chicken wings and oyster sauce. The chicken wings were placed in front of a window all day to dry out (this was before food safety was an issue, and hey, none of us got sick eating those wings) and then lightly fried in a hot wok with the oyster sauce barely coating them. They were super crispy and flavourful; I remembered that it was hard to stop eating them. Not only did the taste blow me away, but the fact that it was made with only two ingredients stuck with me.

Today’s recipe is barely even a recipe. It has only two ingredients in homage to my friend’s mom. This classic Italian dish can be served as an appetizer or as a dessert. But in my home, this is the perfect light meal when it is served with a salad.

Italians are brilliant in so many ways – they gave us Leonardo Da Vinci, stunning architecture, and Ferrari sports cars. Then there is their contribution to the culinary world, but I must say that my favourite Italian import is prosciutto crudo, which is raw cured ham. Parma and San Daniele are the best and come from the same region in Italy. A popular way to serve prosciutto is with ripe cantaloupe. For those of you who are Italian or have travelled to Italy, you will be familiar with this dish, but you may not know that cantaloupe is a superfood! It offers a high amount of vitamin A (great for eye health), vitamin C, vitamin B’s and also many minerals including calcium, iron and magnesium. It also has the antioxidant, zea –xanthin, which protects the body from UV rays. Prosciutto would not really be a superfood as it is high in sodium and fat so I wouldn’t recommend eating it on a regular basis, but it does have iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and of course protein.

My husband is of Chinese descent, but because he is good friends with Italians he has eaten a lot of authentic Italian food. When we were dating and before I was able to visit his place, I asked him what I might find in his kitchen. He said that the contents of his cupboards gave the impression that an Italian lived in his apartment.  This was a dish he made for me when we first met and I have loved it ever since. The saltiness of the prosciutto with the sweetness of the cantaloupe makes the perfect marriage.

Proscuitto and melon kake2kale

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Celebrating at Chau

Kale and I are celebrating the 6-month anniversary of our blog so we wanted to go to a restaurant that represented who we are.  Kale and I are Asian and consider ourselves to be modern and have good taste, so I thought Chau (in Vancouver) would be the perfect place to go to.  Having been there before, I knew Kale would like it.  I had just returned from sunny, though sub-zero, Ottawa and woke up to a gloomy dreary rain-whipped day in Vancouver, aiyah!  But the blue sky poked through the angry clouds on our way to Chau and we felt the heavens smiling down upon with us.

Kake2kale @ Chau 1

Chau is a hip and contemporary, vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant that serves fresh, flavourful and satisfying dishes.   Vegan and gluten free options are also available.  We started off with taro chips served with a fragrant tofu dip.  Then we had my favourite dish, the Golden Temple (top picture below).   It is a light turmeric curry broth with tofu, broccoli, yam, lotus root, taro, kale, and herbs. I enjoy it best with quinoa and a side of free range eggs.  We also ordered the Moonlit Midnight Swim (right-hand image, below superfoods list), which is a wild rice blend with tofu, kale, mushrooms, lotus root, a spiced peanut mushroom sauce, and topped with roasted peanuts and seeds.  These dishes are filled to the brim with superfoods – kale, yam, broccoli, herbs, egg, quinoa, and turmeric broth.

Kake2kale @ Chau 2

Here are some of the superfoods we had:

Kale:  Has over 45 different flavonoids which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as loads of calcium.
Quinoa:  Contains quercetin which is a natural anti-histamine (helps with allergies), and quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
Turmeric:  Anti-inflammatory and has anti-cancer properties.
Taro:  It has a low glycemic level, which means, it won’t spike your blood sugar, high in fiber, high in B vitamins and minerals.

Kake2kale @ Chau 3

We toasted our achievement with the Coconut Shake, a creamy coconutty, refreshing  counterpoint to the savoury food.  The meal felt like we’d been whisked away to a tropical island, which was perfect since yesterday I was in Ottawa with my face frozen numb.  Check out Chau at chowatchau.ca, particularly their menu.

Kake2kale @ Chau 4

As I reflect upon the last six months since starting our blog, my first thought is how my friendship with Kale is being enriched, it is going better than I could’ve expected.  We seem to have the perfect partnership.  First, while I enjoy writing, Kale prefers  taking photographs (I’ve tried, but I am definitely not talented with a camera).   Second, it’s fun to share my healthful, tasty recipes and use ingredients that are foreign in my kitchen.  Thirdly, I have a greater appreciation for photography and Kathy’s great “eye” for getting the right angle.  Lastly, I am intimidated by social media, but Kale embraces technology.  I look forward to another six months of more superfoods adventures!

Eat well!  Live great! {Kake}

By design, the past year was meant to be a time of change, transition and discovery.  I had no idea that I would be involved in a blog, let alone working on it with my sister-in-law; but our collaboration has turned out to be one of the best experiences of 2014!  I love that our skills and interests are complementary, allowing our creative process to flow naturally.   We are also having fun with it, together, and I couldn’t imagine a better partnership. And,  even though we’ve been friends since the age of eight, we’re still learning new things about each other.  I continue to be impressed with Kake’s nutritional knowledge, culinary and writing abilities.  Just as important, Kake2kale has allowed me to do what I love – photography, food and travel!

I believe we are staying true to our mantra – to share our adventures searching for tasty and healthy superfoods, through our recipes, travels, photography, and stories.  We’re excited about the months and years ahead for the blog, particularly with new ideas and more interviews with people making a difference in wellness and superfoods.  We thank you for enjoying and following Kake2kale!

Travel Far, Explore More! {Kale}

Black is the New Black

My Mom was known for wearing a lot of black and she could have coined the word fashionista. She had hot pants, gogo boots, and an assortment of wigs for every look. Through my Mom, black became the symbol of everything chic, classic and timeless. Can you guess the predominant colour in my wardrobe? Yup. And I married a man who also has a love affair with black.  My affinity for black has transferred over to my taste buds.

How many of you can say that one of your favourite desserts is a bowl of black goo?  And I mean black, like shoe polish black, Aretha Franklin music black, sleeping in a tent miles away from the city, black. One of my fondest childhood memories of family dim sum in Hong Kong was the cart with the big cauldron of the deepest, darkest, blacker than all the hair on our heads, black. It is called Tsee Mah Woo, literally black sesame paste. “Woo” is Cantonese for any dessert made of nuts or seeds that are ground up, then cooked with water and sugar; it is a cross between a soup and a paste. It’s not the most visually appealing dessert, but in those days the look of food was pretty irrelevant next to taste. It basically looked like a bowl of hot black tar. Traditionally, almonds, walnuts or peanuts could also be made into a “Woo”. To this day, the memory of seeing the dim sum cart lady pushing that cauldron makes me feel like a 5 year old again, without a care in the world except how to get my brother to share his Batman toy’s with me. This dessert is like a hug for your taste buds. You can still have it at places that serve dim sum, and {Kale} and I always order it if it’s available.

{Kale}’s Mom used to make black sesame “Woo”. She would even grind the sesame seeds herself, using an old fashioned stone grinder. {Kale}’s Mom would fit right in with the Paleo lifestyle! Apparently it was quite the process, grinding it so fine to a smooth silky texture without any graininess. Well, I have made it myself successfully with a Vitamix, which replaces the stone grinder quite nicely.

Black Sesame Kake2Kale

What is the difference between white and black sesame seeds?  Well, black seeds still have the protective hull intact, while the white seeds have had the hulls removed.  White seeds are usually used for food preparations (ie. tahini paste) and the black seeds are usually pressed into oil.  Because the hull has been removed, the white seeds are less nutritious as the black.  It’s like comparing white bread with whole grain bread.

My grandmother would always tell me that eating black sesame will keep my hair from turning grey. She isn’t the only one who says this and is a common belief amongst the Chinese. But is there evidence for this? In my readings, I only came across one person who claims to have turned some of her graying hair to black after eating black sesame seeds for a year. In any case, black sesame seeds is a superfood as they are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, protein and vitamin E.  In Chinese medicine these seeds support the kidney and liver meridians (pathways). The adrenal glands sit right above the kidneys, so by nourishing them you also do the same for the adrenals. These glands secrete hormones (ie. estrogen, testosterone and cortisol), and its main function is in helping your body react to stress. Over time our adrenal glands may become over taxed, and greying hair can be a sign of this. If black sesame seeds can help with my adrenals and perhaps darken some of my just-starting-to-grey hair, then bring it on. To read more about adrenal fatigue go to adrenalfatigue.org.

{Kale} challenged me to come up with a recipe for black sesame because it is rare to see it served anywhere apart from Tsee Mah Woo at dim sum.  So I came up with two – i) a green soup and ii) banana brulee.  Salads do not cut it for me now that the temperature has dropped and I don’t feel like eating stir fries; therefore, a soup with green veggies topped off with black sesame pesto seemed like a good idea.  And, I love a caramelized banana as a base for dessert and my fun recipe version is included below.

Other Superfoods in the two recipes are:

leek – Contains vitamins A,K, and B, also kaempferol, a phytochemical that may lower risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
onion – Contains a high amount of quercetin, which is an anti-histamine and helps to combat allergies.
watercress – Has high amounts of vitamins C and A.  It also has strong detoxing properties, especially targetting heavy metals.
avocado – Besides being a good source of vitamins C, B’s, E and K, it is also a rich source of monosaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol.
banana – Contains Vitamin C, fibre, and a significant amount of potassium. High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.

Black Sesame pesto leek soup 3 Kake2Kale

Green with a touch of Black Soup serves 6
Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 leek
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 medium potatoes (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 large handful of watercress

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large pot at medium high heat then add onion and leek.  Sauté for 5 minutes until softened, then add the stock and potatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes can be broken up with a fork.
  • Add the avocado and watercress to the pot and then puree with a blender.
  • After pouring the soup into bowls put a dollop of the black pesto on top.

Black Pesto
Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup black sesame seeds
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • A handful of Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T. applesauce or finely chopped apple
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Puree black sesame with olive oil and parsley, then add the rest of the ingredients and continuing pureeing until mixture is smooth.

Black Sesame pesto leek soup 2 Kake2Kale

Banana Brulee serves 1

  • 1 banana
  • sugar (enough to sprinkle)
  • 1 T. almond
  • 1 T. black sesame seeds

Directions:

  • Cut a banana into two halves, dip in sugar.
  • Broil for about 5 minutes (keeping an eye on it), until sugar caramelizes.  Or alternately use a mini torch to brulee the banana.
  • Then spread with almond butter and sprinkle black sesame seeds over the almond butter.

Black Sesame Banana 2 Kake2Kale

I’ve wanted to get a mini torch for quite some time and making this dessert was a good excuse to get one.  For those who want one, note that you’ll also have to get a butane refill.  The torch does not include butane.  Tip: do not get butane for lighters as the nozzle is too small.  I found this out during the photo shoot and had to run out to get the proper refill.

Black Sesame Banana 3 Kake2Kale

There are many ways to incorporate black sesame seeds into your diet besides what I’ve done here in this post.  I encourage you to add them to your smoothies, oatmeal, cookies, or as a coating for salmon as Natalie (The Peaceful Paleo) had done in the previous post.

Black Sesame Banana 1 Kake2Kale

Get your adrenal glands acquainted with this power packed seed!

Eat well, live great! {Kake}