Eating healthy whole foods is important to Sarah Britton, but only if they taste delicious.
“It’s really hard to make changes to your diet unless the food tastes really good,” says the author of My New Roots (Appetite by Random House).
She has divided her first cookbook into five seasons, such as is followed in traditional Chinese medicine: spring, early and late summer, fall and winter.
“I think eating with the seasons is really important just to prepare your body for the external environment. If we’re eating things like cold smoothies every day in the winter, we’re actually telling our body it’s hot outside and this is one way we can get sick, as a matter of fact.
“Nature gives us what we need for certain times of the year, but most people are disconnected from that in their daily lives,” she adds.
Britton’s favourite ingredients are avocados and all types of greens, especially kale.
“It’s one of the most nutrient-dense plants per calorie on the planet. It’s definitely something to add to your diet if you can.”
Versatile avocados can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, are satisfying, loaded with healthy fat and widely available. She uses them in the super-creamy filling of a key lime tart instead of cream, eggs and butter.
Here are two recipes from My New Roots to try at home.
GRILLED ZUCCHINI AND GREEN ONIONS WITH BABY SPINACH AND HAZELNUTS
Grilling is a quick way to give a relatively bland vegetable a flavour makeover.
For a dish with so few ingredients, you’ll be amazed at the complexity of tastes. And even if you’re familiar with grilled zucchini, the grilled green onions will surprise and delight. The chili brings some heat, while the hazelnuts deliver an earthy, satisfying crunch.
For a more substantial meal, add some crumbled goat or sheep feta, and perhaps some lentils or chickpeas.
Zucchini contains good amounts of fibre, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. The summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and combined with its potassium, it can also reduce high blood pressure.
This recipe comes from the “early summer” section of My New Roots. It’s suitable for vegan and gluten-free diets.
- 1 medium to large zucchini
- Knob of coconut oil or ghee, melted
- Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 medium green onions
- 7 ml (1/2 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) cold-pressed olive oil
- 1/2 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 fresh chili, minced (serrano is a good choice)
- 2 ml (1/2 tsp) raw honey
- Grated zest of 1 1/2 organic lemons
- A few good handfuls of baby spinach
- 35 g (1/4 cup) hazelnuts, toasted if desired
Heat grill (an indoor grill pan is fine as well).
Slice zucchini lengthwise into thin ribbons (but not too thin or they will fall apart on the grill). Lightly rub melted oil on zucchini slices, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Slice and season green onions in the same manner.
When grill is hot, lay zucchini and green onion slices on grate, and cook uncovered until there are some char marks on underside, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip over and cook until tender and marked, another 2 minutes. Remove vegetables from grill and place on a plate.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, chili, honey and grated zest of 1 lemon. Put spinach in a serving bowl and pour dressing over it; toss to combine.
Roughly chop hazelnuts. Arrange grilled veggies on top of spinach. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and remaining lemon zest.
Makes 2 servings.
SUNFLOWER SESAME SEED BRITTLE
Britton remembers making peanut brittle for special occasions with her mother when she was a little girl. Years later, she has figured out a way of making it much healthier, using sunflower and sesame seeds in place of peanuts, and brown rice syrup instead of processed sugar. It’s still salty-sweet with an extreme crunch, but much less allergenic and easier on blood sugar levels.
It’s also easy to make with a few ingredients that are readily available at bulk stores, she says.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant, benefiting the body’s cardiovascular system. Sunflower seeds also contain good amounts of magnesium, a natural relaxant that helps calm nerves, muscles and blood vessels.
This brittle recipe appears in the spring section of “My New Roots.” It’s suitable for followers of vegan and gluten-free diets.
- 175 g (1 1/4 cups) sunflower seeds
- 45 g (1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 35 g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
- 75 g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries or raisins, roughly chopped
- 5 ml (1 tsp) fine sea salt
- 5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) coconut oil
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) brown rice syrup
Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sunflower seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, cranberries, salt and cinnamon and stir well.
In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat. Add syrup and whisk until uniform. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and fold quickly to incorporate before mixture becomes too sticky. Spoon mixture onto prepared baking sheet and smooth top with back of an oil-greased spatula.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely on baking sheet.
Using edges of parchment as handles, lift cooled brittle off baking sheet and place on a work surface. Crack brittle into pieces and store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Source: “My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season” by Sarah Britton (Appetite by Random House, 2015).