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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Is Paleo for You?

What do you picture when you hear the word Paleo?  Half clad hairy ape-like people where the men carry big clubs (not for golf) chasing down wild beasts as the women huddle around a fire, while skinning the wild beasts that the men have clubbed to death.  Or do you picture healthy, shiny-faced lean people munching on a plate of veggies with a side of meat.  If the first image is what you see, then you are definitely behind the times and need to catch up.

The word Paleo is gaining popularity like “yoga” once did.  There’s the Paleo lifestyle, Paleo diet, and Paleo workout.  I’ve been hearing of the Paleo diet for a couple of years now, and especially the testaments of weight loss and improved health.  One would think that meat would be a large component of the Paleo diet.  But meat actually comprises only a small percentage of the diet, and the balance is made up of fruits and vegetables.  That’s about all I know about this trend, so when {Kale} recently met a follower of the Paleo lifestyle we wanted to find out more and organized an interview with her for our blog.

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Natalie Cishecki calls herself ‘The Peaceful Paleo’ and I wanted to know why she chose that name.  It started off as an acronym taught by a high school teacher. According to Natalie: “P.E.A.C.E — People Educating Accepting and Celebrating Everyone. This is what I wanted my website to be: A place for people to come together, share their experiences, and build a community of support. Thus, The Peaceful Paleo was born.”

I was curious to know how she adopted the Paleo diet.  “Originally, I had adopted a Gluten-Free diet as a result of some digestive issues I was having, however, the symptoms seemed to persist, and in some cases, worsen. From there, I cut out dairy and refined sugars (gradually) and started to feel a bit better, but still not 100%. After being diagnosed with MS a friend of mine recommended a book called ‘The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal your Body’ by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. I began reading and decided that this diet made sense, not just because of being autoimmune but because it is based in science and history, not just the latest fad.”

Though her health has improved drastically since she has been on the Paleo diet, Natalie is still finding out which foods work better for her and which not, so it’s never really cut and dried.  As Natalie says, ” I am working on making the switch to Autoimmune Protocol or AIP (‘Paleo Approach’) which is a little stricter than a conventional Paleo diet, and I am taking it one step and one day at a time.”

Since our focus at kake2kale is on superfoods I asked how she incorporates them. The focus of the Paleo diet is on eating nutrient-rich foods that are not pro-inflammatory. Consequently, the diet is focused on eating unrefined, whole foods. As a result, there are many superfoods that fit into a Paleo diet, especially fruits, vegetables, proteins (minus Eggs for AIP), herbs & spices, nuts and Seeds; however in very limited quantities (except for AIP which avoids these foods). The main difference is that Paleo eliminates all grains and starches because they have similar scientific effects on the body as gluten does, being highly pro-inflammatory and contributing to leaky gutThis is all explained very thoroughly and comprehensively in the book, The Paleo Approach.”

I also asked Natalie about her favourite superfoods and how she likes to prepare them.  “My top 3 superfoods would have to be avocado, coconut (in all its wonderful forms) and beets. The main reason for this is that they are incredibly diverse! I bake a lot and definitely have a sweet tooth (partially because I am still an infant in the broad spectrum of those living the Paleo lifestyle), so being able to incorporate these delicious superfoods into my baking is not just delicious but also nutritious! Additionally, I cannot eat bananas so avocados are my main potassium source and a great source for fats to sustain me through the day. I eat avocado with everything. It is my favourite burger topping, I eat it plain sometimes, or use it as an egg substitute BUT my favourite thing to do with it is to add it to a salad. I often eat it for breakfast like this: 1/2 avocado cubed; 1 apple cubed; 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped, and some sort of fruity vinaigrette + whatever protein I am eating for breakfast. As for coconut, I use coconut flour mainly in all of my baking, and if I am having a protein shake, I mix it with coconut water. I love shredded coconut, especially in my Chewy Paleo granola bars.  I add beets to my Red Velvet Cake or I love to cut them thin, BBQ them and add them to my lettuce-wrapped burger as beet chips — delicious!

Natalie’s favourite dish is soup and bacon, which she sometimes has for breakfast.Last night’s leftovers are completely suitable at 6am the next morning, and if I want protein-pancakes for breakfast with bacon, then I do it!”  I love that there are no ‘should have’ in terms of breakfast, lunch and dinner, because earlier this week I had leftover pasta topped off with a fried egg for breakfast.” 

One of the main goals for eating Paleo is that it eliminates pro-inflammatory foods and yet red meat is known to be inflammatory, so I asked Natalie about this and she said grass fed beef actually does not promote inflammation and suggested I do some research into this.  You can read more about this topic here.  Thanks Natalie for opening my eyes and my stomach!

I wondered what her challenges are when eating at restaurants.   “Variety.  There are not many places I can go to eat ‘safely’ (meaning Paleo-friendly) that also have a decent selection for me to choose from (more than 2-3 options).  However, I have focused on finding restaurants that are willing to adapt.  Anywhere that is not a chain, or some of the higher end chains (like the Keg) tend to be very understanding and accommodating in my experience.  When in doubt, I just order a steak and veggies.

For my kake2kale recipes, I asked Natalie which are Paleo-friendly?  Her reply was that Kale Pesto with Potato and Egg would be acceptable if only sweet potatoes were used.  For the Cauliflower Steak, it would be Paleo if nutritional yeast and sherry were left out.  And, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups would be Paleo if almond butter replaced peanut butter.  Lastly, the 5-minute Chocolate Mousse is Paleo as is.

Finally, I asked what is the top advice she has for someone interested in adopting the Paleo diet. “I can only speak for myself and from my own experience, but I definitely needed to do things gradually, otherwise I would have been very overwhelmed.  I started with (cutting out) gluten, then dairy and sugar, grains and starches, and then legume.”

Will I become Paleo?  Well I don’t adhere to any one particular way of eating, but if I were to have health challenges, I would definitely give Paleo a good go, especially after meeting Natalie and hearing her story.

We asked Natalie to share a Paleo-superfood recipe.  Below is her Maple Smoked Sesame Crusted Salmon with Candied Pumpkin Seeds and Kale Slaw which serves 5-6 people.   It is superfood-friendly, scrumptious, and is definitely worth making!

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Pumpkin-Spice Candied Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ – 2 Cups Pumpkin Seeds
  • ½ TSP each Cinnamon, Ginger, & Cayenne
  • ¼ TSP Nutmeg
  • 1/8 TSP Cloves & All Spice
  • 2 TBSP Maple Syrup or Honey
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

  •     Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  •     Mix together Maple Syrup or Honey with the spices.
  •     Add in Pumpkin Seeds and stir until seeds are evenly coated.
  •     Spread Pumpkin Seeds in a single layer on the parchment paper.
  •     Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  •     Remove from oven, stir, and let cool entirely.

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Paleo Pumpkin-Spiced Kale-Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1 Bundle Green Kale
  • 2 Medium Beets, Peeled & Shredded
  • 2-3 Large Carrots, Peeled & Shredded
  • 1 – ½ C Medjool Dates
  • 1 batch Pumpkin-Spice Candied Pumpkin Seeds *see above*
  • 1 batch Sesame & Apple Cider Vinaigrette *see below*

Directions

  • Wash and dry Kale thoroughly.
  • Cut Kale across the leaf in ½ inch-thick strips. Stop when the base of the leaf meets the stalk and discard the remaining stalk or save it for soup broth.
  • Place in a bowl.
  • Peel and shred beets and carrots and add to the bowl of Kale. Toss until all ingredients are thoroughly coated with the Sesame & Apple Cider Vinaigrette (below) and allow to sit in the fridge for a minimum 1 hour or up to overnight. The acid from the Apple Cider Vinegar will break down the starches of the beets making them softer to bite into.
  • Cut the dates lengthwise and remove the pit. The date will fold open like a butterfly. Cut down the middle, so the date is split into two, lengthwise halves. Then cut these halves lengthwise once more. You will have four strips. Cut these strips horizontally so that each yields 3-4 pieces. Do this with all the dates. (Of course you can chop the dates however you want, this is just how I do them to yield the size shown in the photograph).
  • When ready to serve, add the dates and the Pumpkin-Spice Candied Pumpkin Seeds to the slaw, toss, and plate. I initially served this slaw as a side for wings at a movie night I hosted, and the next time, I paired it with my Maple-Smoked Sesame-Coated Salmon – Delicious!

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Sesame & Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • ½ C EVOO
  • ¼ C + 1 ½ TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBSP each Sesame Oil & Coconut Aminos
  • Salt to taste

Direction

  •  Mix together EVOO & Apple Cider Vinegar by pouring one into the other slowly and whisking continuously.
  •  Add in Sesame Oil, Coconut Aminos, and Salt to taste. Mix thoroughly.

The dressing is under-seasoned because the spices from the Pumpkin-Spice Candied Pumpkin Seeds will integrate throughout the dish, bringing lots of flavour.

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Paleo Maple-Smoked Sesame-Coated Salmon

Ingredients

  • 5 – 4oz Salmon Fillets
  • ¼ C Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ¼ C + 2 TBSP Maple Syrup
  • Liquid Smoke
  • ½ C + 2 TBSP Water
  • 1 C toasted Sesame Seeds
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Grapeseed Oil

Directions

  • For the marinade, mix together Apple Cider Vinegar, ¼ C Maple Syrup, ½ C Water & 3-4 splashes Liquid Smoke. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
  •  Place Salmon Fillets skin-side down in a glass pyrex baking dish or equivalent large enough that they are not overlapping. Pour marinade over Salmon. Cover and place Salmon in the fridge, setting a timer for 30 minutes. Fish is very delicate and will begin to cook if marinated for more than 30 minutes. Additionally, this is as long as it takes for fish to absorb flavour, so any marinating in addition to this is unnecessary.
  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • While Salmon is marinating, mix together 2 TBSP Maple Syrup, a few splashes of Liquid Smoke, and 2 TBSP water in a shallow plate.
  • Cover another place entirely with toasted sesame seeds. If you want to add additional Salt or Pepper, add it to the seeds.
  • Prepare 5 square sheets of aluminum foil by placing them shiny-side up, and putting a small dot of Grapeseed Oil in the centre of each one (~ 1 TBSP).
  • When the fish is done marinating, remove each piece one at a time from the liquid. Dip it flesh-side into the Maple Syrup mixture, and then into the sesame seeds, and lay it in the centre of the foil, skin-side down. Fold the foil to create a small house shape around the fish so that the foil is not touching the sesame seeds. Repeat for all fillets and place them on a baking sheet.
  • Place the baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the oven to broil and open up the houses. Let the salmon cook an additional 2-5 minutes at this temperature or until the seeds are golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and enjoy with a generous helping of Paleo Pumpkin-Spiced Kale Slaw.

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Thank you Natalie for sharing your inspiring story, insights about the Paleo diet, and recipe with us!!  You can find her blog at www.ThePeacefulPaleo.com.

Eat healthy, live like you mean it! {Kake}