Friday, March 25, 2011

Energy Crunch

Good things come in small packages. Take, for example, the minute chia seed. Smaller than a single poppy seed, it is chock full of fuel and nutrients. 

Chia Seeds
Buckwheat Groats
Chia seeds and buckwheat groats have a new place of honour in my pantry. I try to toss them into all my recipes. Here's why:  

Buckwheat groats are crunchy mini-pyramids filled with fibre, amino acids,  phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and other minerals. While you enjoy the light nutty taste, your body will benefit from the magnesium which relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and the delivery of nutrients to your cells.

Those bland, black chia seeds work wonders for the body. In liquid, the protein and fibre-rich seeds form a gel which expands in size and weight. A tiny amount of chia seeds can make you feel full for a long time. As the gel slowly passes through your system, it acts as an intestinal mop containing a healthy dose of omega-3s. 

A Healthy Marriage
I married the two ingredients and threw in a few other favourites to make A-K's Energy Crunch. This blend is guaranteed to rev up your breakfast or snack. 

Energy Crunch

A-K's  Energy Crunch
2 cups chia seeds
1 cup buckwheat groats
1 cup hemp/sunflower/ pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/8 cup raw cacao nibs (optional)
1/4 cup dried fruit (raisins/ apples/ apricots/ dates)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a container with a lid.
Presto! Your own home-made functional food. 
Breakfast Fuel

If you're looking for a snack during tonight's Earth Hour, try some of AK's Energy Crunch. Add 2 tablespoons in 1/4 cup of water or milk (hot or cold). Let it sit for about 5 minutes and stir. My kids like to add maple syrup or honey. It won't look like a lot of food, but it is very satisfying. Try sprinkling the crunch on your baked goods, yogurt, eggs, soups or stews. Or, eat it straight out of the jar.

Monday, March 14, 2011


It's great to be home. I left Japan a day before the massive earthquake and tsunami. I thought this posting would be a fun account of my food adventures in the land of the rising sun.

But as I hear the news reports about the mounting destruction, my heart aches for the growing number of victims. I am stunned by the images of devastation and what lies ahead for the Japanese people.

I prefer to remember the Japan that I visited only a week ago. Its awe-inspiring beauty and spirituality. The respect and hospitality of the people. Every one of our hosts, tour guides and shopkeepers bowed low to show their utmost respect to us.

 Their indigenous religion is Shintoism; the belief that every living thing has a spirit and that every aspect of nature is sacred.

Shibui is a Japanese word which describes a subtle, unobtrusive and deeply moving beauty. Shibui aptly describes the Japanese aesthetic. From the landscape, to the architecture, to the reverence of the people, everything I witnessed was shibui, even Japanese cuisine, in which the purity and freshness of the ingredients are paramount.

I was told that Osaka is the food capital of the country. There, street food is gourmet. You can slurp up fresh oysters on a street corner.
Fresh oysters 

I savoured takoyashi, warm balls of seasoned rice flour stuffed with fresh squid.

Takoyashi, squid balls 

Manju is a traditional cookie sandwich. Two spongey cookies are glued together with vanilla or chocolate cream or sweet bean paste. On the stunning island of Miyajima, you can enjoy momiji manju, or maple leaf cookies. They are famous throughout the country. I sampled a chocolate momiji manju fresh off the assembly line.

Manju assembly line
Miyajima is a sacred island for the Japanese. Our tour guide told us that the word Miyajima literally means "island of shrines."  The most prominent landmark on the island is the O-torii Gate, a world heritage site. During high tide, the O-torii Gate appears to float on the water.
O-torii Gate

My photos of a peaceful and perfect Japan are a stark contrast to the bleak images of unimaginable loss. It will take decades to rebuild.

If you wish to lend your support to the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I urge you to contact the Red Cross.