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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Kiss Me Quesadilla

I probably had my first taste of Mexican food when I was a child and our family took a road trip to Mexico.  Although we were barely past the Mexican border on that visit, it was still exotic.  It was like going back in time to a land out of the dark ages, or so it seemed to me as a 9 year old.  Dirt roads were the norm, mangy dogs roaming around aimlessly rooting for food.  Old, rusty cars were sprinkled about like confetti.  My Dad revelled in it!  He tends to gravitate towards places that are more gritty and edgy.   We must have stopped for lunch, although I have no recollection of what we would have eaten but it was probably some sort of taco.  Any memory of what we ate was overshadowed by the colourful landscape and locals that we saw.

Kiss Me Quesadilla by 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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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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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}

The Ins and Outs of Coconut Oil

Did you buy a jar of coconut oil because everyone is telling you it has soooo many benefits and you should jump on the coconut oil band wagon? Now your jar is in the pantry, but you remember that its got a reputation as being a bad fat.  Instead of using it, you eye it suspiciously as your hand reaches past it for the good ole olive oil.  Fear not, I am here to answer your queries about the controversy around coconut oil.

Coconut oil has received bad press because it was studied years ago, but the oil that was used was hydrogenated. As we now know, anytime you hydrogenate an oil it turns into a trans fat, which we should all stay away from.  So, naturally, those studies came to the conclusion that coconut oil was bad for you.

Some of the benefits of coconut oil are that it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, and it also fights yeast (candida), because of its high lauric acid content.  Coconut oil contains about 50% lauric acid.  But, isn’t coconut oil a saturated fat and isn’t saturated fat bad for you?  It is a saturated fat, but not all saturated fats are created equal.  Coconut oil’s fat is made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which behave differently in the body from other saturated fats.  MCT’s get metabolized quickly and doesn’t get stored as fat, but gets converted directly into energy.  There have also been studies done where high amounts of MCT’s help reverse Alzheimer’s.  A doctor, whose husband was diagnosed with the disease, wrote the book ‘Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?’ to document how adding coconut oil to her husband’s diet cured him.

Apart from the occasional times that you pull it out for frying and perhaps use as a moisturizer, what else is there to do with that fabulous jar of coconut oil that’s just sitting on your shelf like a Ferrari in a garage full of Chevettes?

Below are some of my favourite ways to use coconut oil.  The following three recipes are vegan, gluten free and dairy free:

Coconut Oil use 5 kake2kale
Dulse-licious Popcorn serves one hungry snacker

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup popcorn
  • 1 T melted coconut oil
  • 1 ½ T Red Star nutritional yeast
  • 1 T dulse flakes
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  • Pop the corn kernels in which ever fashion you desire, I use a hot air popper.
  • Melt the coconut oil.
  • Then pour oil over the popped corn, sprinkle with nutritional yeast, dulse flakes and salt.
  • Devour while watching your favourite movie.

Coconut Oil use 3 kake2kale

Cheezy Toast* makes one slice
Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of bread (Gluten Free if you wish)
  • ½ T coconut oil
  • ½ T Red Star nutritional yeast
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  • Spread coconut oil on top of bread, then sprinkle yeast and sea salt on top.
  • Put in toaster oven for about 3 minutes.

Voila, delicious crispy cheesiness!

* When you see the words cheez or cheezy, most of the time it means there is no cheese in it, but still has cheesy flavour.  Note there is a cheese cracker out there with the “z” spelling.  But if you are in a health food store and see “z” spelling, chances are it is dairy free.

coconut Oil use 4 kake2kale

5 minute Chocolate Mousse serves 4
Ingredients:

  • I can (398 ml or 14 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ½ small avocado (mashed)
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ½ t sea salt
  • sesame seeds for sprinking on top (optional)

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients into a blender and blend on high for 30 sec. or more if needed.
  • Portion into pretty bowls and serve.  At this time of year we have pumpkins of all sizes everywhere you go, so I served the mousse in a hollowed out mini-pumpkin.
    Note:  This recipe was inspired by Must Have Been Something I Ate by Peggy Kotsopoulos.

Pumpkin Mousse kake2kale

Other Superfoods in my recipes:
Coconut oil:  see above.
Red Star Nutritional Yeast: 
Full of B vitamins, nutritional yeast is really good for vegans and vegetarians because it has B 12, which comes mostly from animal products.  I often use this as a substitute for grated cheese.
Dulse: 
High in vitamins and minerals, iodine (good for thyroid).  Removes heavy metals from the body.  
Pumpkin: 
High in Vitamin A, lutein, cancer fighting antioxidant and also beta carotene which is good for eye health.  High in fiber as well.
Cocoa: 
High in vitamin B’s and magnesium, both of which supports the nervous system. It also has phenylethylamine, which stirs up happy feelings, and releases stress.
Avocado: 
Contains monosaturated fat which may help reduce bad cholesterol.  It also contains lots of vitamins, in particular C, B’s and E and also minerals.

coconut Oil use 2 kake2kale

Other ways I like to use coconut oil, besides putting them in smoothies and chocolate peanut butter cups, I also like to put them in my coffee.  There is a trend going around and perhaps you’ve heard of it – Bulletproof coffee.  It’s coffee made with fat, either grass fed butter or MCT (a form of coconut oil).  Drinking Bulletproof coffee in the morning is supposed to give you energy that will last until lunch.  So essentially lunch would be your first meal of the day.

Well, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day so I can’t give it up.  But I do make my own version, which is just coffee and coconut oil that is blended making a creamy satisfying drink that gives me a good boost through the morning.

One thing to remember about coffee is that it freezes your digestive system, so I wait at least 20 minutes after I’ve had my coffee before eating.

As for buying coconut oil for cooking and consuming, I use organic virgin coconut oil. It will have more of a coconut aroma/flavour, which I like. The version without aroma will be refined, which means more processed.  If the oil is  just for moisturizing skin then non-organic is fine and is less costly.

Coconut Oil use kake2kale

I leave you with a beauty tip, that is – I have been making my own exfoliator with coconut oil, which works really well.  It has lactic acid containing yogurt, which has moisturizing and exfoliating properties.  Yogurt also helps with lightening spots, as does the lemon juice.  Coconut oil is moisturizing of course.

Coconut Lemon Facial Polish/Mask single application

Ingredients:

  • 1 t coconut oil
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/4 t lemon juice
  • 1 T plain yogurt

Directions:

  • Combine coconut oil, sugar and lemon juice, then apply to face and massage the paste into face with a circular motion.  Avoiding eye area.
  • Smooth yogurt over the polish and let it sit for 10 minutes and then rinse it all off.
  • Use this once or twice a week.
  • If you have sensitive skin test on a small area by your jawline.

What I’ve shared is just the tip of the iceberg of all that coconut oil can do for you and what you can do with it, so I encourage you to crack the coconut shell wide open to find out more of its benefits for your insides and your outsides.

Eat healthy, live and look great! {Kake}