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Rapini, a Love Story

For reasons that go far beyond the fact that I am currently on a serious kick, let us celebrate rapini. It is also known as broccoli rabe, and is a plant well deserving of two names, as it offers both an abundance of natural beauty and an impressive nutritional profile. You can’t eat tulips, just saying…

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I think of rapini as an adult vegetable, mostly because I didn’t grow up with it, and only truly discovered it when I spent some time working in Toronto where the Italian influence is hot and heavy. I could not get enough of it and always had a big juicy bunch in my fridge, along with some good olive oil, garlic and anchovy paste in a tube for when I got home from work. (In the interest of full disclosure, I may have also folded it into some KD once or twice. I’m not proud if it, I was working with kids).

One of the things I love about this beautiful plant, is what it offers up in terms of variety. From just one vegetable, you get thin, tender stalks, hearty leaves, flavour-absorbing florets, and if you’re lucky, even some flowers. It has a bitter edge (like all good things) and some sweetness too, and needs very little encouragement to shine bright like a diamond.

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Wintery Spring Salad

Spring is a funny time of year for food. We start to crave fresher flavours – salads, smoothies and more raw food, even if Mother Nature is telling us not to put away our winter clothes just yet. This salad speaks well to this awkward time of year. It is fresh yet hearty and full of raw, lush winter vegetables, allowing us to curb those spring time cravings and still eat locally.

This combination of vegetables could be thinly sliced or grated to create more of a traditional coleslaw, but I like the chunkier dice and slice, which really makes for a juicier salad (I’m looking at you cabbage!). My Mom was actually the first person I saw do it this way, no kale massage, no small slices or dices, no apologies, just bold, beautiful vegetables, embracing their voluptuous fibers. You can taste the confidence. Not pictured – a sweet bartlett pear to bring out the sweetness in the vegetables, just dice it up and toss it in with the rest.

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These vegetables vary in colour and pigment, which means that we are getting a large variety of antioxidants from this salad. On top of that, we have the kale and cabbage, both being from the powerful cruciferous family, offering up their mighty I3c (Indole-3-carbinol), crushing cancer like it’s their job.

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It needs to be properly dressed to come together. This dressing is tart and rich, and it compliments this salad very well. It’s creaminess comes from avocado and soaked cashews (instead of mayo/yoghurt), and it is where the fat comes from too, no need for refined oils (we are all about whole fats whenever possible). Add as much garlic as you are comfortable with, if too much raw garlic makes you feel hung-over (anyone?), just add one small clove and some extra green onions. (more…)

Dandelion Greens

By now, everybody has heard about the importance of eating your greens. Green smoothies, green pasta, green moustaches all over the place, it seems as though greens are taking over the culinary world. Which is awesome. Now that we are getting so used to inviting our leafy greens to the party, we should be looking at variety and rotation.

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Enter dandelion greens, a particularly nutrient-dense green, PACKED full of anti-oxidants, and often overlooked. They taste fresh, green and bitter (is this why we forget about them?), and bitter vegetables are generally celebrated for their support of the liver. Culinarily speaking, you will mostly find them in Mediterranean cuisine, often spending time with sweet foods such as balsamic vinegar, caramelized onions, garlic or dried fruits to balance out some of the bitter. If you have yet to warmly embrace the natural bitterness found in some foods, this is a really good way to get your feet wet.

The cancer thriver needs to be a little more careful of their sweet food intake, so it is best to pair dandelion greens with something that came out of the ground already sweet. Without going straight to the fruit-volumes of sweet, think root vegetables, winter squash, onions, ripe tomatoes or peppers.

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A dandelion green pesto can be a very versatile condiment to have on hand to add to various dishes, a green, liver-loving punch. A simple, clean recipe would include a half of a bunch of greens, some garlic, a handful of raw and preferably, soaked nuts or seeds (I used pumpkin seeds -hello zinc for your immune system and plant-sourced omega-3s), a splash of e.v. olive oil, lemon (zest and juice) and some dulse (natural minerals, remember? Not enough to really taste it) and enough water to bring it all together in a in a blender or food processor.

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Just Add (more) Veggies

When it comes to eating a healthy diet, sometimes it’s better to focus on what you are adding in versus what you are taking out. Even some of our simplest go-to recipes that are perfectly clean and nutritious can be amped up without a peep from the peanut gallery.

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Let’s look at tomato sauce: tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil stirred in at the end, more or less, right? We have lycopene in the tomatoes, a powerful anti-cancer antioxidant, garlic, a big help in cancer prevention and recurrence and basil, which contains antioxidants and anti-aging properties. This sounds pretty ideal, however there are some sneaky additions that we can use to enrich this recipe to let the cancer know we mean business. You may want to send your Nonna out of the room now.

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Kombu is a type of kelp that you will often see in various Asian cuisines. It is one of the main ingredients in the broth base of miso soup (dashi). I add this to most things that simmer on my stovetop, to add a host of minerals and some alkalinity. Sea vegetables in general also protect us from radiation toxicity. Mixed in with the somewhat aggressive flavours of a tomato sauce, I promise you will not even notice it’s in there. PS- Although you could certainly eat it (it would be very good for you), my recommendation is only for you to simmer it in the sauce and then remove it, like a bay leaf. (more…)