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Macro Mondays: Dulse - My favourite weed from the sea

Happy Macro Mondays, friends! This week let's talk about my favourite seaweed.

Delicious Dulse

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Health Benefits:

Dulse is an Atlantic seaweed, and like most seaweeds, it contains vital minerals & vitamins our bodies need! Dulse is high in the B vitamins, along with zinc & magnesium: all of which are crucial for managing stress. I know, I know---eating seaweed might sound stressful in and of itself. But give it a shot, & you might be surprised. Dulse also has insanely high amounts of potassium (up to 34 times more than in a banana).  {Side note: I try to include some seaweed in my day for some iodine, as I do not use iodized table salt, and do not want a goiter thank you very much}.

I can only speak from my experience, and here it is: once I started eating seaweed, I actual couldn't stop. My body starts craving it if I ignore it on the cupboard for a few days. I think my body didn't know it was missing some minerals & vitamins, so once it got a taste of them from seaweed, it started sending out messages to my tastebuds saying "eat the seaweed, eat the seaweed". If you're new to eating weeds from the sea, I think dulse is a good one to try first. The taste isn't as strong as some others, and it's high mineral content makes your body enjoy it tons!

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How to eat it / use it:

  • It comes in 3 forms: pieces, flakes, & powder
  • My #1 favourite way to consume dulse it to stir the pieces into hot grain porridges. It gets soft & melty and tastes wonderfully salty. Try it in hot oats with some flax oil in there too.
  • My #2 favourite way to eat it is to sprinkle the flakes on top of cooked grains, especially brown rice.
  • #3 = apple & dulse (like apple & cheese). Yum, not yuck, I promise.
  • I also throw it in sandwiches, wraps, and on rice cakes.
  • I have put both the pieces and flakes in stir frys.
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Photos: Clockwise from Top left - brown rice porridge with dulse & flax oil, brown rice & vegs topped with mushroom leek gravy and dulse flakes on top, brown rice with dulse flakes, steamed veggies with whole dulse.

**A tip for buying it: squish the package to see if it is crunchy or soft. I always go for the packages of whole dulse that feel nice & soft. Maybe it's just personal preference, but these ones always taste better to me.

Have you eaten dulse? If so, what's your favourite way to consume it?

Macro Mondays: Wakame.

Hi guys, it's time for another:

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And actually, this is the last Macro Mondays (MM) in March... and the last week of Maggie's Macrobiotic March! (But I'm so loving getting inspired by Macrobiotics each monday, so MM will definitely continue!).

I can tell it's almost a full moon...and Springtime...because things have been a tad crazy these past few days, with lots of emotional clearing! There's nothing better to dust and clean off for the new Spring weather than your inner self! (and I say Spring weather with a smirk, as we literally got a sick amount of snow this week).

But along with lovely flowers and warmer weather, there are many good things to come for sure, including excitement for Shauna @ She Cooks Macro to be here in Edmonton. Yipee! Super-awesome, yo!

Well, what to do when emotions are flying high? I say...cook some seaweed. Or rather, in my case, write about seaweed, at 1AM, with some tea in hand.

MM:Wakame - Another weed from the sea.

Wakame is a kind of seaweed, and one that you might be familiar with! It's delicious & nutritious. It's especially great for women, as it's a good source of calcium, magnesium & folate, along with many other vitamins & minerals. Here's the wakame I've been buying these days:

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It's not nearly as delicious as the stuff I could find in Japan, but c'est la vie!

It's a lot softer and thinner, and much more wavy, than kombu.

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Really, I mostly just use it in three ways, although there are many more possibilities!

How I use Wakame:

1. Cooked in with rice.

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This makes rice super delicious, and if you're keeping leftovers, I find that it helps the rice retain some moisture in the fridge. And of course, it adds some yummy minerals and green-in-a-good-way to your rice. {you can make brown rice in the pressure cooker like so or by boiling on the stovetop like so} . Yum, I seriously want some right now while typing this.

2. In Miso Soup.

I don't have a pic of it, but if you've eaten miso soup at a sushi place, you've experienced it! Wakame adds a wonderful deep flavour that compliments miso oh-so-well. This is not my photo, it's sourced from google images for your viewing pleasure, & if you click on the pic it'll take you to a delicious recipe for miso soup!

3. Seaweed Salad

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If I can't get my hands on fresh wakame (it's kept cool in bags and covered in salt that you soak & rinse off, and often found in Korean markets), then I soak the dry stuff until soft---usually 5-10 mins. Then I chop chop chop it up. I dress it up with some lemon, shoyu, and toasted sesame oil, and a bit of sesame seeds. It's mega-delicious (the super old blurry photo does not affect the taste, I promise!). I loved living in Japan, because every grocery store deli had a wide variety of seaweed salads to munch on at a moment's notice. 

Have you tried wakame, and if so, do you like it?

Happy Monday guys!

Macro Mondays - Kombu: A weed from the sea

Hello, and welcome to week two of:

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Macro Mondays: Kombu

Last week, I mentioned the Top Three Macro Ingredients to try including in your diet. One of them was seaweed. This week, let's explore one of them a little further, with some pictures and information about what to do with it!

Kombu - A Weed From the Sea.

Also known as kelp, this is the flavour-enhancer seaweed. Therefore, I add it to things --- usually soups, stews, or homemade broths --- to make them taste good. In fact, MSG was originally created from kombu by a Japanese scientist. While I don't use MSG in my cooking, I have no problem with some mild flavour boosting from a seaweed in it's pure form.

Kombu can be bought dried, in teas, pickled, and preserved fresh with salt. Or, if you are living in an area where it's harvested, you might be able to buy it really really fresh, without being preserved in any way!

Here's the brand I buy most often, and what it looks like:

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As you can see in the above pictures, there is sometimes a bit of a white film on the kombu. This is totally fine --- often it's salt --- and you can simply wipe it off with a wet cloth before using in any cooking.

What To Do With It

I often make dashi, Japanese soup stock, with kombu. I learned a super easy fast trick to make delicious soup stock in my macrobiotic cooking class in Japan. Here it is:

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Yup, that would be dried kombu in a pitcher of water... the invisible ingredient is time. Simply leave it overnight in the fridge, and the next morning you have a tasty vegan dashi/soup stock, to add to soups, stews, stirfrys, etc. I used it in my celeriac & carrot soup in the fall, and it was delicious. Please check the recipe for Kombu Dashi ratios.

Other Forms of Kombu

Another way I use kelp is in granule form.

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This is convenient to add on top of a cooked grain or steamed vegetables, for a splash of colour and taste. I have also added it to stir frys and soups (when I didn't have or feel like using dashi). It is very very potent, so use with caution --- a teeny tiny bit will do.

I have also seen recipes in many macrobiotic cookbooks for roasted kombu & salt condiments, and I've even tried some kombu chips & candies in Japan.

My Favourite Recipe Using Kombu

One of my favourite things to make with Kombu is to make nishime vegetables.

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Nishime is simply a traditional country-style Japanese Vegetable stew. The kombu is placed on the bottom of the pot, and vegetables are layered on top with some water added last, and simmered for a long-ish period of time. At the end you can flavour with some shoyu or sea salt, and cut the kombu up to be eaten along with the veggies. The result is amazingly sweet vegetables. No, I mean, seriously good vegetables.

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A link to the recipe I use most often (from Jessica Porter's The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics) is here. Any macrobiotic cooking book I've come across always includes a basic nishime recipe, and the variations are endless. Any root vegetables taste delicious made this way.

Have you ever eaten or cooked with Kombu?
Please find all the Macro Monday together here.
I'm just loving this month of Macrobiotics.

Macro Mondays: Top 3 Macrobiotic Ingredients.

Hey guys.

I am so very thankful that the lovely Maggie over at Say Yes to Salad decided to start a Month of Macrobiotics this March. 

I'm thankful, because I have been in need of a little inspiration lately. Six months of snow on the ground, and what's now turned into slushy grey melty madness has felt a little overbearing this year. 

But there's no better way to say goodbye to the dreary winter blues and fire up the old inspiration station than by spending some quality time focusing on Macrobiotics. A Month of Macrobiotics sounds just GREAT!!! Yipee!

This was just the kick in the pants I needed to institute something I've been planning for awhile for the Dainty Pig:

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A guaranteed good start to your week.

Today is the first of many Macro Mondays! I will use Macro Mondays as a way to focus in on Macrobiotic tips, tricks, or information about specific ingredients & cooking styles. 

To collect all these posts & ideas in one place, I have made a new page on my site for this. Click here to check it out!

Each week as I do a Macro Mondays post, I'll put the link on the special Macro Mondays page, along with any other tips or tidbits, so it's all easy to find.

If you're interested in contributing/guest posting for a Macro Monday post, please send me an email. And I'm taking suggestions for any topics you'd like me to focus on here with our Macro Monday posts.

This very first MACRO MONDAY is devoted to...

The TOP 3 Macrobiotic Ingredients to ADD to your diet...or just try ;)

Macrobiotics can get a little overwhelming sometimes. So instead of worrying about what not to eat, perhaps try adding in a few Macrobiotic foods and see how you like them and how they make you feel.

Here are the ingredients that I am most happy to have discovered / embraced through Macrobiotics. 

  1. Seaweed 
  2. Umeboshi
  3. Miso
  • Seaweed:   Truthfully, I haven't met a seaweed that I didn't like. My top 2 favourites are wakame, and dulse. I sprinkle dulse flakes on whole grains or popcorn all the time. I use whole dulse pieces in wraps or sandwiches. They add a nice salty flavour. I'd say that Dulse is probably the gateway drug/seaweed to more hardcore things like arame & hijiki.  My second most favourite is Wakame. I use wakame when cooking brown rice, and in miso soup. If you've ever eaten miso soup at sushi, the seaweed floating in it is usually wakame. It is great for balancing lady hormones and tastes fairly mild on the sea-vegetable spectrum.

  • Umeboshi: Chances are you haven't heard of these Japanese Pickled Plums unless you've lived in Japan, or have looked into Macrobiotics. These little suckers pack a punch! They are tangy and salty, and aid in digestion (as do all naturally pickled things). Not only can you simply place a pickled plum on top of brown rice for a decorative & tasty treat, but you can also find/use umeboshi in many different forms, such as in Umeboshi Paste: a tiny bit goes a long way on sushi rolls! Umeboshi vinegar is a delicious and sour addition to steamed vegetables and tastes oddly AWE-mazing on lentil stews ---> this one in particular. Umeboshi extract looks like black tar in a teeny tiny bottle. But it is used like a medicine in Japan. It is insanely alkalizing, and great for stomach/digestion problems. When I say a little goes a long way, I mean little as in the end of a toothpick little. I love sour things---lemon is my lover---and umeboshi put lemons to shame. Pucker up, you won't regret it!

  • Miso: I know, I know, you've had miso at Sushi places and it was so-so. Probably super salty, and had lots of seaweed floating around in it. It probably wasn't the same stuff i'm going to tell you about. Proper miso (aged naturally, made with a combination of grains & soybeans) is a treat. It has tons of minerals and probiotics ---> a nutritional powerhouse. It adds a delicious salty rich taste, which can turn a pot of boiling vegetables into a delicious soup. Bonus: It comes in a tub and lasts a long time! Also, play around as there are many different types of miso: white miso made with white rice (great in desserts and for a lighter sweeter taste), barley miso---which is a great day to day miso, brown rice miso for a stronger flavour, and then pure soybean miso for the strongest flavour. You can use miso to make dressings and dips (tip: tahini + miso + lemon = all good things). And rumor has it that miso + cashews blended up tastes cheesy! One of my all time favourite desserts ever was a baked tofu cheesecake I had in Japan, and the chef leaned over and whispered to me: "shiro miso" (white miso). Ah ha! You can put it into cakes! Sold.

I'll expand further about each one of these lovely ingredients in the near future.

But for now, I highly encourage you to try at least one of these ingredients. A simple dash of ume vinegar to some steamed veggies might just taste good enough to spark your Macrobiotic interest. And if that doesn't suit you, then try mixing some miso paste with tahini and lemon and drizzling that onto some quinoa or brown rice. Top with a sprinkle of dulse flakes and BAM: a macrobiotic success story right there.

HAPPY HAPPY MACRO MONDAY to you all!

Brown Rice Version 2.0.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

But, I'm sure you know this already.

In spirit of enjoying my time during the weekend, and being a little less adventurous in the kitchen, this post is dedicated to the perfectly simple meal.

Yup.

It's Brown rice. 
Pressure cooked with a little wakame.

2 ingredients I can just never get enough of.
So without further adieu, here's 

Brown Rice Dainty Pig Style 
             Version 2.0 
(Step-by-step guide to the best pressure cooked brown rice)

Please gather:
4 c. short grain brown rice, rinsed and drained.
7.5 c. cold water
a few pinches of salt
a couple of inches of dried wakame, cut into small pieces.

Directions:
1. Add half the rice to the pressure cooker. 
2. Smooth rice over with hand or a spoon to make it level. 
3. Take a couple inches of dried wakame, and break into a few  
   small pieces. Place in some cool water. Let sit a few minutes.
4. Scoop out rehydrated wakame. Place on top of rice. Then cover 
   with second half of rinsed rice. Again, level rice with hand.
5. Pour wakame soaking water, plus enough extra water to equal 
   7.5 cups, SLOWLY down one side of the pot, so water 
   doesn't disturb the rice. Some wakame might rise up, no prob.
6. Add a couple of pinches of salt.
7. Lock lid, and bring to high pressure over high heat.
8. Cook for 30-35 minutes on high pressure.
9. Let pressure come down naturally (takes about 10-15mins).
10. Take lid off, shake condensation into rice.
    Let rice sit in the pot a bit, at least 5mins.
11. Smile. Express Gratitude. Chew. Feast.

♥ please note: always follow the directions and safety instructions provided with your own pressure cooker, and make sure your cooker is big enough for this much grain (adjust accordingly).
wakame is recommended, but not necessary! 

If you put a crystal in your window, you get magic rice!

If you don't have a pressure cooker, don't fear. 
There are lots of old photos and instructions for boiling rice here: my step-by-step guide to making boiled brown rice, dainty pig style.

*Step-by-step Photo Tour*
Gather the rice. (4 cups)
Rinse it. Let it drain.
Wakame.
Cool! Seaweed!
Cut it up.
Soak with cool water for a few mins.
Put half the rice in the pot.
Scoop out wakame from water, lay on top of rice.
Cover wakame with rest of rice. Smooth over.
Slowly pour in water.
(7.5 cups total, including wakame soaking water)
Add sea salt. A couple pinches will do.
Put on cooker lid. Bring to high pressure.
Cook away on high pressure for 15-50mins.
I prefer 30-35mins.
The longer you cook, the crispier it'll be.
Let pressure come down naturally.
Shake condensation from lid into rice.
Let sit for about 5 minutes in pot.
Scoop out into bowls or containers.
Mounds and mounds of glorious rice.

yup. 
that's it.


Eat some warm (super yummy), then re-use the rest over a few days reheating by steaming, or in soups, or by adding a tiny bit of water and boiling for porridge, or lightly frying with a bit of oil and vegs.


Tahini Custard

I made a most delicious dessert from my new favourite cookbook "The Macrobiotic Guide to Cooking" 
(I've added it to my amazon store. Check out the link!)  
Tahini Custard 
from Aveline Kushi's "Macrobiotic Guide to Cooking"
This dessert requires only a few ingredients:
  • apples
  • tahini
  • raisins
  • a bar of agar agar 
  • some water 
  • some apple juice
I made a kanten following the usual method, but used apples and tahini and raisins instead of strawberries.
Then you let it set, blend it up, let it set again, and voila! A creamy, delicious, nutty dessert. Not too sweet, but really creamy. To make a less sweet dessert, you can use less apple juice and more water...but I think it was perfect how it is! (For full directions, please check out the book!)
I love agar-agar:
Cooking away:
Yummy yummy!
 
Have you ever cooked with agar-agar? 
Do you like custards? 
What's your favourite vegan custard/pudding recipe?

Some Eats This Week

Hello hello.
As promised, some food from this week:
Lentil and Veggie Soup
This one had burdock, carrots, green lentils, onions, and parsley.

Served with some yummy brown rice (cooked with wakame), and topped with shoyu toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Mixed Veggie Soup
I believe this one had cabbage, daikon, celery and carrots, and kudzu for thickening.
Topped with shredded nori, and green onions.


I have also been enjoying one of my favourite vegetables: Kabocha Squash.
So so so yummy.
I just steamed it, and then blended up a bit with some homemade almond milk and cinnamon.
3 minute pumpkin pudding!
I also saved some and cooked it into steel cut oats in the morning.

I am just LOVING soups! Thanks to my new cookbook I am experimenting with different vegetable combos, and cooking styles. The soups are all fairly simple, cutting up the veggies, layering them according to yin and yang, adding water, bringing to boil, them simmering.
Yesterday I made a delicious red lentil soup...it turned out more like red lentil dhal with chopped up veggies in it, and I was ok with that. Mmmm.
What's your favourite soup?
I tend to enjoy creamier thicker soups, with pumpkin, or chickpeas or lentils. But I am definitely enjoying experimenting with brothy soups.
Happy Weekend to you all! I am off to go on an adventure in the car, through the mountains to a delicious macrobiotic restaurant I have heard lots about. Can't wait!

Brown Rice: A step by step guide to make the most perfect grain

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I have a huge love for brown rice. I have always liked it, but my intense love affair began with a 7 day brown rice fast last year. Brown Rice makes it's appearance on my table at least once a day.

When people find out that I eat brown rice, the most common response is: "but it takes so long to cook!" My response? Well, not if you try making it like I do! I cook it in less than 30 minutes--and it's not chewy and hard!

Brown Rice: Dainty Pig Style

What you'll need:
* 2 cups of short grain brown rice (other types work too, but this is my favourite)
* 4 cups water (plus a bit)
* a nice cooking pot (stainless steel works really well)
* a pinch of sea salt
* some dried wakame, ~2 inches (optional)
* a bit of ginger ~1cm chunk (optional)
* lots of love

1. Rinse your beautiful grain! I rinse all my grains; brown rice is no exception! Most books / articles recommend rinsing until the water running through is no longer milky, but clear. I usually just put my rice into a sieve and shake under running water for a few minutes.

2. Soak!! Add the drained brown rice to a pot, add the water, and let it sit there(I usually just rest the lid on top, kinda half on) for as long as you can. I usually soak mine for at least 6 hours, but most often overnight. This not only saves you cooking time, but makes the rice easier to digest, AND makes the grain more alkaline! And another bonus: the rice becomes so fluffy--much more voluminous!

3. Once you are done soaking, get the wakame and ginger ready |if you aren't using wakame or ginger, skip right to step 6|

Chop up the wakame, and soak in a bowl with enough lukewarm water to cover, for ~10mins. This re-hydrates the seaweed.

Dice up the fresh ginger root (you can even leave the peel on!), and add it
to the pot of rice.

4. Bring the rice to a boil, with the lid off.
This should take around 10 minutes, so by the time the rice has begun boiling, the wakame should be nice and soaked.

5. Add the soaking water from the wakame to the pot (this lets you keep the nutrients in the water).

6. Wait until the water boils again, and then add the pinch of sea salt.

7. Turn the stove down to simmer, and put on the lid. Set a time for ~15 minutes.

8. When the timer goes off, add the soaked wakame to the pot, and put the lid back on. Cook for ~10-15 mins. more. The total cooking time is usually around 30 minutes --not so long, definitely worth it You can lift the lid off to make sure there is no water left in the bottom.


(usually there is some water left when I add the seaweed in--sometimes there isn't, and this is ok...the seaweed just gets a bit "steamed")

9. Last step: leave the lid on, just shut the stove off, and let the rice sit in the pot for about 10 minutes. This steams away any last bit of water, and by waiting, also stops the rice from sticking to the pot. If you leave it on the turned off burner, the rice will end up a bit drier. I prefer mine not so dry, so I just take it right off the burner.

10. Eat!! Store the rest of the rice in the fridge. I usually have about 6 servings from this amount of rice.

Notes
**I find that it works best to cook at least 1 cup of rice at a time, and the bonus of doing this is that you get easy leftovers. Just make sure you use 2:1 water to rice.
**the longer you soak the rice, the fluffier it gets, and the less time it takes to cook
**To use the leftover rice, I sometimes just eat it cold, or steam it for a few minutes, or add a bit of water and boil. You can also use it in soups, stews, or casseroles.

Please check out my newer post, Brown Rice Version 2.0 (in the pressure cooker!).

Enjoy your rice, my lovelies! What is your favourite grain? How do you make it and what do you eat it with? Do you eat brown rice?

In 11 weeks I'm leaving for...

Can you guess where?

If you like sushi as much as I do, then you probably guessed it: I am going to Japan in only 3ish months! I realized yesterday, that I have been failing to mention this big life change that is coming up right away!

Why am I going to Japan, you ask? Why haven't I mentioned it? Well here's the skinny:

I graduated this past December with a philosophy degree. I know, I know: what do you do with a philosophy degree, right? Well...you get RYA certified and teach yoga! This is what I have been doing since last summer, and I am absolutely loving it! I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training over the summer, and just kind of fell into teaching at my favourite studio (dream job! yipee!!). I have been teaching since september, but not so much in the fall as I was finishing off school. Since December I have been teaching more and more, and have found my groove.

That being said, I applied in November for a teaching english in Japan program. It is a year long contract with the government, and they pay for your flight and a nice hefty salary, which will help with my GIANT STUDENT LOANS. I just found out about a month ago, that I was accepted (it's a REALLY long application process). I am pretty excited to be going to Japan, as I love Japanese culture. I have read almost every Haruki Murakami book out there, love the cuisine, and the country just looks beautiful.

Financially wise, going to Japan is a sound decision, as it will let me pay off a large chunk of my debt. Excitement wise, going to Japan is also a great decision! I love traveling, and I'm only 23, so I can pick up with whatever when i'm back. So why have I been avoiding posting about this? Well, I feel as though I'm finally settling into teaching. I'm done school, which is nice, and I'm supporting myself with teaching classes. This leaves me with plenty of time to do other things I like, and basically lead a simple, happy, and stress-free life. Which is nice after a long and mentally draining degree! I keep thinking that it would be so much easier to stay here in my comfortable routine! And I'm hesitant to give up my teaching here. I feel as though i'm still learning so much, I adore my studio, and I love my teachers and students.

My mind was in battle mode for a long time: teach yoga here vs. crazy adventure over there. After much deliberation, and discussion with my guy (I promised him we would go somewhere when I was done my degree), and discussion with my teacher (he said not to worry, that i'll be able to teach yoga in Japan for sure, and they will always be here when/if I come back), I decided to just go for it, and take the position. But somedays I still feel as though I'm being negligent to my "career" by giving up my teaching jobs here, and that I will desperately miss my studio. Any thoughts you guys? Any reassurances or similar situations you've been in?

Whew. After that crazy venting session, I'll leave you with slightly less words, and lots of foodie photos. I've stopped taking photos of my rice because well, it's rice. You've seen it before. On to my veggie-ful eats:

I have been continuing on my ravenous veggie eating path, and am loving it!
I opened one of the salted seaweed bags I bought the other day, and it was super yummy. Basically, you rinse off all the salt, let the seaweed soak for 10 minutes. Rinse and soak again, and then drain. You can then cut it up and do whatever you like with it! I think my favourite way to eat is is to just dice it up small, and toss with a bit of toasted sesame oil, lemon, and a bit of shoyu! Very macrobiotic, and so delicious.

You can't beat seaweed salad:

Because soy bugs me, and this month i'm trying to be nice to my body, no shoyu in this one. Along with my seaweed salad, I made a really quick stir-fry made up of sui choy, broccoli, carrots, kale, bok choy, brussel sprouts...I think that's it. I stir fried it in water, and added some dulse flakes at the end. Once it had cooled a bit, I added flax oil:

I liked it so much I made another one the next day, and added in some seaweed:

And I have been eating copious amounts of these guys (sugar snap peas)right out of the bag:

So I decided to post today about all of this because I just had my first Japanese lesson last night, and got kinda excited... Have any of you ever had to make a hard choice between leaving a "good career and life opportunity" and "going on an adventure"?