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

{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

  • 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


  • 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

  • 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


  • 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


  • 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}

Kale Pesto with Roasted Potatoes and Egg

We’ve been growing kale in our garden for a few years now.  For those of you who have never planted anything for fear of killing it, then kale is for you.  We usually just buy the seedlings in the spring, plant them and water them somewhat regularly and they supply us with their prodigious leaves from summer into late fall.  Growing kale is definitely 20% effort for 80% results.

Kale used to be one of those mysterious things that adorned plates at restaurants.  Mom and I had lunch many years ago when my sandwich platter came with a scoop of coleslaw that was nestled in a green frilly leaf.  Mom saw this leaf and in an awed voice said, “I think that’s kale; it’s very nutritious.”  It was like she had seen a unicorn!  I took a little bite of this strange leaf with high expectations, but was completely disappointed by the tough chewy texture and bitterish taste.  Mom finished off the rest of my discarded leaf.  Little did I know then that she was further fortifying her anti-aging genes; my Mom has always looked young for her age.  But at that time, I had as little use for kale as those plastic green cut-outs that come with your sushi.

Kale Pesto 1 Kake2kale

How far we’ve come! Kale has now shot out of the shadows and straight into our gardens, our salads, chips, smoothies.   It’s the Susan Boyle of the vegetable world, living a life of obscurity until a spotlight was shone on it and it burst forth in all of its green glory.  It has definitely had more than its share of 15 minutes of fame, and still going strong, though other veggies are trying to vie for its prominence in our fridges and plates.  Besides the conventional curly and heavy textured leafy kind, there is the non-curly and not as chewy kind called locinato, or dinosaur kale, as well as black kale, which really looks purplish.

My favourite way to eat kale is to make them into chips by dehydrating them, which makes them really crispy so they taste just like the kind you can spend oodles of money on in the grocery store.  It’s worth the trouble.  My neighbor has a dehydrator that she generously let me use, but she just moved and I might have to get one for myself.  Here is my go to recipe for dehydrated kale chips.

Kale Pesto 2 Kake2kale

With the abundance of kale in my garden, I thought I’d make pesto with it.  One night I had a craving for comfort food, and what’s more comforting than breakfast for dinner.  So I roasted some sweet potatoes and potatoes, added the kale pesto and a fried egg, read my Vanity Fair magazine and settled in for the night…heaven.

Superfoods in this recipe:
Kale – High amount of calcium and vitamin K. In the Brassica oleracea family which is known to have a protective effect against cancer, because they contain Indole-3-carbinal (IC3) , which promotes a healthy balance of good estrogen to toxic cancer causing form of estrogen, it also has an anti-tumour effect.
Garlic – The major player in the allium family ( includes, leeks, onions, shallots, chives, green onion) contains sulphuric compounds that may help with lowering blood pressure, destroy cancer cells.  Allicin, one of these compounds in garlic is not only anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, but research has shown that as allicin helps your body to neutralize dangerous free radicals.
Pine nuts – This seed has the highest amount of protein found in any nut.  They are the only source of pinoleic acid, an appetite suppressant.  They contain a high concentration of oleic acid which is good for heart health. Pine nuts are also rich in iron and packed with antioxidants.
Olive oil – Extra virgin olive oil has a distinctive taste and is high numerous antioxidants which are anti-flammatory and may protect the heart.
Sweet potatoes – Contains vitamin C, B complex, calcium and beta carotene. This is a complex carbohydrate, which means the carbs get released slowly in our body, so we don’t experience a dip in our energy levels, so our blood sugar remains stable.   B vitamins support our nervous system, which help us to feel calm and improves sleep.
Eggs –Nature’s near perfect food. Contains a wide range of vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, choline, B12, as well as protein, lutein and zea-xanthin. Try to purchase Omega 3 eggs, to make it even more of a superfood.
Breakfast for Dinner serves 2


  • 1 potato
  • 1 sweet potato
  • ½ T. olive oil
  • ¼ t. salt
  • Kale pesto (recipe below)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Cut both potatoes into wedges then drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Place on baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, turning once.
  • Just before the potatoes are done, fry the eggs and set aside.
  • Once potatoes are cooked, divide them between two plates, put about 1-2 Tablespoons of pesto onto each plate and top with fried egg and parmesan cheese if desired.

Kale Pesto makes about 1 cup


  • 2 cups kale (chopped)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Puree kale, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor, or blender.
  • Then stream olive oil into the mixture with machine on low.
  • Then add cheese and salt and pepper at the end.

To store leftover pesto, pour olive oil over the top to create a seal, so the pesto does not oxidize.  It can be refrigerated for a week, or frozen for 3 months.  But if freezing, do not put the cheese into the pesto, but add when serving.

Eat healthy, live  great! {Kake}

Kale Pesto 3 Kake2kale

From the Culinary Trail – Ciaoing Down in Italy Part 1

The Trofie al Pesto Trail of Cinque Terre

You say pesto, I now say trofie! Let me explain. Despite all of us living in different parts of the world, my closest girlfriends from our university days continue to meet up whenever and wherever possible.  I was thrilled when Italy was selected as the get-together destination this year.  The land of  ‘dolce vita’ is likely number one or two on my list of countries worth visiting umpteenth times.   Italy feeds not only my travel photography appetite, but also a craving for my favourite cuisine.  I adore all Italian food, but my best-loved item is pesto. It is simple to make, is healthy for you and produces a luscious flavour for so few ingredients. I add this bold green, fragrant sauce with nearly everything – from salad dressing, sandwich spread, to chip dip.  With pasta, Pesto with angel hair pasta was my combo of choice; but now, it is Trofie al Pesto!  This part 1 of 3 posts, covering my adventure with superfoods found in Italy,  focuses on Trofie al Pesto from Cinque Terre.

Early this July, our group of friends met up in Cinque Terre which is a portion of the Liqurian coast (stretching from Genoa to Pisa) in north-western Italy.   When people think of Cinque Terre, the popular perception is about hiking between the five colourful villages perched on the rugged coast. This was our main reason for going.  And, lucky for me, I found out that Liquria is also a pesto paradise!  Originating in Genoa, around the 16th century, the name is derived from the Genose word pestâ, meaning to pound or crush.  The traditional pesto is made from fresh Genovese basil, garlic, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses.  I’ve tried pesto after pesto variations – from sun dried tomatoes to kale, but I still prefer the classic Pesto Genovese.  Below is the easy pesto perfect recipe that I use.

Basil Cinque Terre kake2kale
Pesto Genovese
– makes 1 cup

  • 2 cups fresh basil (add more as desired)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. sea salt (add more to taste)


  •  Combine the first four ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended.
  • Add the olive oil in a steady stream as the processor is running on slow. Blend until smooth.
  • Add sea salt to taste.

I have visited Italy on many occasions, but only discovered the wonderful trofie pasta on this trip.   Trofie also originates from Genoa and is a small, thin squiggly pasta that is made from flour and water (no eggs).  It is best accompanied with Pesto Genovese.  I love the pasta’s texture and the way the pesto wraps around its twisted form.  A popular version of Trofie al Pesto includes potatoes and green beans.  We enjoyed adding tasty Italian tomatoes when we made it on the trip. During our time in Cinque Terre, I couldn’t get enough of Trofie al Pesto and ate it every day.  It was already a dream to hang with my friends in Italy, but being on the trail of trofie and pesto was a special treat!

Trofie Pasta Kake2kale
To my surprise, we didn’t see the trofie pasta again on the rest of the trip in Italy and I have yet to find it in Vancouver.  However, it is easy to make.

Trofie Pasta 
– serves 4

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 3/4 cup water


  • Place the flour and sea salt in a bowl, then make a well in the middle.
  • Add the water in the well and create the dough by mixing the ingredients in a bowl with a fork then with your hands, adding more water or flour as needed to avoid the dough being too sticky or dry.
  • Place dough on floured flat surface, then knead it with your hand by folding and turning repeatedly until the dough is smooth.
  • Create a ball and wrap it in plastic.  Let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  • After the dough has rested, place a small portion (eg 1/4) of the dough on a floured surface and roll the dough into a 1/3″ roll or rope with your hands.
  • Cut the roll into 1/4″ pieces and sprinkle flour over them.
  • To shape, pick up each piece and roll it quickly between the palms of your hands, in one direction, to create a twisted tube with tapered ends.
  • Open your palms to drop the trofie piece onto a floured cookie sheet but pieces should not touch.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Cook fresh the pasta in boiling water (usually a few minutes for al dente) within 1-2 hours or refrigerate for later use.  As an option, I like adding a bit of salt and olive oil to the boiling water.

Superfoods to highlight are:

Basil – Rich in vitamin C, A, K, Magnesium, potassium and calcium.  Basil’s antioxidants are good for heart health.  Loaded with beta-caryophyllene, basil offers anti-inflammatory benefits.  It also has high anti-bacterial and anti-aging properties.  Basil can help fight against various medical conditions.  Its phenolics (specifically, vicenin and orientin) are a DNA protector.  It is a  great source of essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Garlic – The major player in the allium family ( includes, leeks, onions, shallots, chives, green onion) contains sulphuric compounds that may help with lowering blood pressure and destroy cancer cells.  Allicin, one of these compounds in garlic is not only anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, but research has shown that allicin helps your body to neutralize dangerous free radicals.
Olive Oil – The benefits of olive oil are extensive and best described on the Olive Oil Times website. To summarize, olive oil has been found to be effective against heart disease, cancer, stress, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Pine Nuts – This seed has the highest amount of protein found in any nut.  They are the only source of pinoleic acid, an appetite suppressant.  They contain a high concentration of oleic acid which is good for heart health. Pine nuts are also rich in iron and packed with antioxidants.

Buon Appetito!   Travel Far, Explore More! – {Kale}