Popcorn: A romance rekindled

I've rekindled an old love. For popcorn. For some reason this tasty, healthy snack and I took a break from one another for a while. But a cozy Saturday night in with an old friend inspired me to go scouring my Chelsea neighborhood late at night, searching for the closest place to sell straight-up popcorn kernels (i.e. none of that artificial microwave nonsense).

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Not many things could have caused me to pull on my Uggs, bundle up in my puffer and leave my warm apartment and my glass of Cab that night, but, overcome by nostalgia—my friend and I were reminiscing about our early days in NYC, living together in our little Hell's Kitchen apartment, where popcorn was one of our after-dinner staples—I had a sudden yearning that couldn't be ignored. I was on a mission. A mission accomplished, thanks to the Gristedes on the corner of 24th and 9th. And a mission well worth the effort. Our popcorn treat was delicious—a perfect complement to our quiet, girly night at home—and has been serving me well in the days since. I just can't get enough of my new flame.

Popping popcorn is pretty straight forward, so I won't trouble you with the details, but here are a few pointers, in case it's been a while since you've gone back to the basics (i.e. stovetop) with this snack:

  • Use coconut oil instead of butter
  • Place just a few kernels in the pot once the oil has heated and cover. Once the kernels have popped, you know the pot is hot enough and it's time to pour in the rest of the kernels.
  • Don't forget to cover the pot with a lid!
  • When the popping slows down to 2-3 seconds between pops, remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl
  • Pour extra (heated) coconut oil over the popcorn for more flavour
  • Season with good quality sea salt or other herbs and spices
  • Enjoy!

Mushroom and Walnut Paté

With the holiday season approaching, chances are you'll be hosting a party, or tasked with bringing a dish to someone else's shindig. Keep things healthy (and delicious!) with this easy goodie, which can be made ahead of time and served right out of the fridge. 

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INGREDIENTS

1 cup walnuts
 ½ cup minced shallots
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms
4 oz. Cremini mushrooms
4 oz. Portobello mushrooms
Leaves from ¼ bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
 ½  tsp.  each of S&P

PREPARATION

Toast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes until you smell the aromas; or 5 min. in a toaster oven at 350 degrees. In a large sauté pan, cook shallots in 1 Tbsp. olive oil and coconut oil over medium heat until translucent. Add chopped mushrooms, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and cooked through.

Process toasted walnuts and remaining olive oil in a food processor until mixture forms a thick paste. Add in the cooked mushroom mixture and process until it forms the texture of pate. Pack mixture into well-oiled ramekins or bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Serve with toasted whole grain baguette or crackers of your choice.

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Roasted butternut squash hummus

All hail butternut squash! I love this winter veg. It's great in soups, salads, risottos, and even on its own, roasted and mashed with some garlic. I adapted this recipe from food52 and served it at our Samana Social a few weeks ago. A nice alternative to traditional hummus, which, although still number one in my books, is often overdone as a healthy party food.
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Ingredients

  • pounds butternut squash
  • cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons)
  • heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled (about 1⁄2 cup cloves)
  • 2 or 3 serrano peppers, sliced in half, stems and seeds removed
  • 1/4cup tahini
  • tablespoons lemon juice
  • Cilantro or parsley leaves for garnish (optional)
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Rub flesh with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 generous pinches salt. Place squash cut side down in roasting pan and bake until very soft, about 1 hour.

While squash is baking, place garlic, serranos, and remaining olive oil in a small pot over very low heat. Poach garlic and peppers in oil until completely soft (30 to 40 minutes). Garlic should be very lightly browned.

Scoop out flesh from roasted squash and place in food processor. Add garlic-poaching olive oil, garlic, serranos, tahini and lemon juice. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Hummus texture will vary depending on squash variety and size; add up to 1⁄2 cup water until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 1 week.

Garnish with optional pumpkin seeds and cilantro or parsley leaves. Serve with your choice of break or crackers.

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Sweet Potato and Spice Loaf

Last weekend we hosted the first-ever Samana Social, which brought together friends and friends-of-friends from around the city for an evening of yoga, bubbles and healthy nosh. We downward-dogged our way through some classic MJ and Wilson Phillips, popped a few corks, raised money for the No Kid Hungry Campaign and nibbled on scrumptious treats like this delightful (gluten-free, dairy-free) loaf. Not only was it a hit at the party, but I brought leftovers home and it's been serving me very well for breakfast, morning/afternoon snack or dessert. It's extra tasty topped with some coconut spread or hummus. Many thanks to The Nutrition Guru and the Chef for the creative and delightful recipe!

More Samana Social-inspired healthy recipes coming soon! But in the meantime, here's how you can bake up your own spice loaf at home.

 

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INGREDIENTS

2 cups of ground nuts (I used 1 cup of almonds, 1 cup of cashews)
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups grated sweet potato (skin included)
4 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tsp baking powder (choose gluten free baking powder if coeliac or highly sensitive to gluten)
1 tbsp vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp chai powder OR 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

PREPARATION

Pre heat oven to 350F.  Place ground nuts (you can grind them yourself in a food processor) in a large bowl and add coconut and grated sweet potato.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. Add the oil to the eggs and whisk lightly to incorporate. Add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl containing the oil and eggs and mix to combine.

Add this wet mixture to the dry bowl of nut flour and coconut. Stir with a wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. Pour mixture into a greased and lined loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave in tin to cool.

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DIY Granola

-Guest post by Dr. Ashley Weber

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Sure, it’s a cliché. But it’s true. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast helps to balance your blood sugar throughout the day, increases energy and concentration, and kick starts your metabolism. People who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to be obese and a recent study found that men who regularly skip breakfast have a 27% increased risk of heart disease.   

Most of us cite a lack of time as the culprit for skipping their breakfast chow. But a little prep can go a long way. Here are two of my favourite make-ahead granola recipes that are perfect for a quick bite before heading out the door. I like to pair it with some almond milk or Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. But it’s also just as good au natural!

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Maple-Ginger Granola with Raisins

Ingredients:

3 cups whole rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
 ½ cup sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted)
 ½ cup coconut (unsweetened)
 ¼ cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
A few shakes of cinnamon
 ¼ cup coconut oil
 ½ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup raisins

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine all ingredients except for raisins and mix thoroughly. Spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning with a spatula every 10 minutes. Let cool, add raisins, and mix!

Apricot Cranberry Granola

Ingredients:

3 cups whole rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
 ½ cup sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted)
 ½ cup coconut (unsweetened)
 ½ cup pepita seeds
A few shakes of cinnamon
 ¼ cup coconut oil
 ½ cup honey
 ¾ cup dried cranberries
 ¾ cup dried apricots, diced

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine all ingredients except for cranberries and apricots and mix thoroughly. Spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning with a spatula every 10 minutes. Let cool, add cranberries and apricots, and mix.

These recipes are very similar and can be adjusted to your taste, so feel free to get creative and try adding different seeds, spices, or dried fruits. Using maple syrup will give the granola a drier texture, while the honey gives it a sticky texture.

About the Author: Ashley Weber, Naturopathic Doctor

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By developing close relationships with her patients, Dr. Ashley Weber seeks to gain insight into the physical and emotional factors contributing to their health.  She approaches integrative medicine from multiple angles, and creates an individualized plan for each patient, tailored to their unique needs. Ashley values the principles of detoxification and regularly guides her patients through various detox programs.  She maintains a busy family practice in Toronto, Canada. 

 

Avo on toast

This is one of my favourite healthy quick fixes! It's the perfect go-to for breakfast, lunch or a snack. You could also substitute crackers for the toast and transform this into an impressive tray of hors d'oeuvres. 

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Avocados are a natural wonder food. They are high in the good kind of fat and carry all sorts of great health benefits. They're rich in fiber, they help lower cholesterol and they have the highest protein of any fruit. Yes, avocados belong to the fruit, not the vegetable family! For more fun facts about avocados, click here.

Ingredients: 

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and cubed
1/4 lemon
Dash of cayenne pepper
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
2 pieces of whole wheat toast
1/2 radish, thinly sliced (optional)

Preparation: 

In a bowl, mash the cubed avocado into a chunky paste. Squeze the juice of the lemon on top and add the cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture onto the toast and garnish with the radish.

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