Choco Cake Bites [Low Sugar/Vegan/Grain Free]

Happy weekend, y’all!

It’s been awhile since I wrote my last post – apologies for being MIA. Summer is one hell of a chaotic (the good kind of course) ride. And somehow along the way, you lose concept of time because of the summer memories you’re busy creating.

To make it up to you, here’s one of my favourite cake recipes. You know how I do: low sugar, gluten/wheat free, vegan and crap-free.

It’s also a chocolate cake.

That’s how sorry I am.

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Cause chocolate makes everything better, amiright?

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What you’ll need:

1 cup of buckwheat flour

6-7 tbsp of organic raw cacao

1/2 tsp of sea salt

1/2 tsp of baking soda

3/4 cup of organic coconut sugar or granulated xylitol + 3 packets of stevia (adjust to sweet tooth!)

1/4 cup of plain unsweetened coconut yogurt

3/4 cup of unsweetened almond/coconut milk (or filtered water)

1/4 cup of raw almond butter (or Sunbutter if you want it nut-free)

2 tsp of alcohol free vanilla extract

2 tbsp of organic coconut oil + 1 tsp of organic coconut oil for pan greasing

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8″ square pan with 1 tsp of organic coconut oil. Set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and use a fork to get rid of any clumps. In a second bowl, bring in nut butter, yogurt, milk, coconut oil and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and mix. Do not over mix! Transfer into pan and distribute evenly.

Bake for 22-26 minutes. Remove and let it sit to cool.

For the coconut yogurt icing, you’ll need:

1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut yogurt (or non dairy option – I love using Yoso Coconut Yogurt)

1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract

1-2 pinches of uncut stevia (or 1/4 of organic coconut sugar)

3 tbsp of coconut cream (not oil!)

1 tsp of organic raw cacao

Combine everything in a frosting bowl until completely smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness. Spread icing on the cooled cake, cut into desired square slices and top with sugar free chocolate chips (or carob chips). Nom nom away!

 

Choose Organic!

Organic Week is approaching us in Canada and I thought I’d discuss the benefits of buying organic and local whenever possible! Now I know the word “organic” can sound just as overwhelming and “trendy” as the word superfoodbut regardless of your diet, buying organic food is a smart and beneficial priority. Opting to buy even some organic and local foods can be an efficacious choice for personal and environmental health.

So why (try to) buy organic? 

Organic food delivers more nutrition and is higher in minerals and antioxidants than traditional foods. There have been many studies that have been shown that show an increased level of some nutrients in various organic foods. On average, organically grown foods provide roughly 20 percent more iron, 25 percent more Vitamin C and 30 percent more magnesium per serving. Significantly more minerals, vitamins, enzymes and micro nutrients than conventionally grown foods because the soil is handled and nourished with sustainable operations by accountable standards. So by consuming organic foods fairly consistently, we technically can double our overall daily nutritional intake!

Buying and eating organic also means avoiding and lessening your chance of chemical absorption. There are a cocktail of chemical poisons and pesticides that can be found in commercially grown foods in today’s society. More than 600-1000 active synthetic chemicals are registered for agricultural use in North America that produce about 45,000-55,000 different pesticides. More than 90 percent conventionally grown produce is guaranteed to contain pesticide residue. Most of them have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency prior to extensive testing for long term effects on our health. When we are exposed to a number of different toxic chemicals, that are most likely carcinogenic, for over a long period of time, we put ourselves at risk for adverse health issues such as cancer, birth defects, mineral deficiencies, hormone system disorders and other diseases. To dramatically reduce our exposure to these harmful. choose to buy locally organic foods that contain much lower concentrations of chemicals whenever possible. Purchasing locally grown food doesn’t always mean chemical or pesticide free unfortunately. The pesticide residue some organic produce sometimes come from the soil that previously sustained conventional farming, pesticide accumulation from neighboring farms or other environmental factors. But certified organic produce is always grown with absolutely no chemicals and pesticides! Better for your body and the planet in the long run.

Eating fresh organic produce also means a decreased intake of food additives such as MSG, food colouring agents, artificial ingredients, growth hormones and antibiotics. Your body will also thank you for providing it with food that doesn’t contain any genetically modified organisms (GMO) and hasn’t been put through irradiation. Popular grocery list items such as apples, strawberries, spinach, almonds, soybeans, and corn that aren’t certified organic and locally produced are contaminated with an alarming rate of GMO, with repercussions beyond our own understanding! Did you know that GMO foods do not have to be labeled in North America? How do we actually know what we’re eating if the government chooses to conceal it from us? Why is everything else labeled and deemed safe to consume but GMOs are kept hidden ingredient lists? Instead of labeling items as “non GMO” or “organic”, shouldn’t that be the natural thing to assume they are and label them when they aren’t? Since the organically grown food supply is not permitted to be genetically modified in any way, choosing to go organic is the only option to steer clear from ingesting genetically modified foods and having to play the ingredient guessing game altogether. 🙂

Sustainable organic food also tastes a lot better! I can’t imagine the amount of times I’ve bitten into a strawberry that wasn’t organic and it tasted like plastic! Not to mention how ginormous they were to begin with. Strawberries shouldn’t be the size of tennis balls. As a matter of fact, they’re actually quite small, sweet and absolutely lush! And if you compare the non organic, non local strawberries to strawberries that aren’t, you’ll not only notice the difference in size, but also in taste – big time! Organic produce tends to taste better and fresher for the most part. Well balanced soil means better produce which means better tasting nourishing food for us! And since most organic food is locally produced, it doesn’t need to travel as far as most conventional foods do. Because they’re picked closer to their peak ripeness, it allows the natural rich flavors to be more delicious and potent. Besides, is it really necessary be eating strawberries imported from Mexico when we’re capable of growing them here? *And by here, for me, it’s Canada! 😉 

There’s a myriad of exceptional decent reasons why you should always try to choose and eat organic whenever you can! Aside from avoiding chemicals and better taste and better quality, you’d also be supporting local economies and farming communities, help preserve our ecosystems, reduce pollution, protect our water and soils and preserve agricultural diversity. While there are some expensive organic items on our shelves today, there are ways to eat organic and local without breaking your budget. You can shop at bulk stores, food coops and/or local farmers’ markets like The Stop @ Wychwood Barns and Evergreen Brickworks which are two of my favorites in the city! If you’re a meat eater, you can maximize your plant consumption and swap for plant based protein options that are definitely less expensive like organic dried beans, nuts and more nutrient dense greens like kale, collard greens and broccoli which are actually affordable to purchase organic!

Some other simple guidelines you can gradually follow that will help you make the healthiest and safest choices:

  • Read the labels that are accessible on all of the foods you buy and learn about the ingredients.
  • Eliminate one conventional processed food product that you normally grab and buy it organic! Non organically grown apples, carrots, seeds and soft fruits are some of the most heavily pesticide sprayed products. If apples are usually on your list, opt to buy them organic. And if that’s not convenient or accessible, it is important to thoroughly wash the skin with apple cider vinegar to reduce pesticide intake. Remember, companies invest big money in chemicals that are resistant to rain drops! So soak, scrub and repeat!
  • Look for Non-GMO options for particular foods like grains, corn, soybeans, beans, nuts and frozen produce.
  • Buy local whenever you can! Try to stay away from produce that’s grown in countries that requires two plane rides! 😉 (It always makes me happy to see a product that’s in my case, 100% Canadian and local.)
  • Focus on buying produce that’s in season. You can freeze summer fruits and vegetables if you live in a country with a not so pleasant winter season.
  • Choose who your money goes to. Buy from companies that are committed to providing you the best worthwhile quality food…

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Mike and Mike’s Organics carries a variety of diverse nutrient packed finds such as nuts, seeds, dried fruits and fresh produce that’s good for you, nature approved and organic! All of their products meet the rigorous standards and handled according to strict procedures in order to be certified organic. This ensures that the quality of their products are deemed safe to consume for everyone. They carry a delicious line of good-for-you healthy munchies that you can happily choose from: raw organic almonds, pine nuts, cashews, trail mixes, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, walnuts – you name it! And all bursting with natural nutrition, quality taste and sustainable substance. Everything you would want (and more) in fresh valued food! Use them in salads, homemade baked goods, savory dishes, or soak ’em then eat ’em raw as healthy delicious snacks! They are all so unbelievably convenient and reasonably priced too (from as low as $3.99 to $8.99 depending.) If you care about your food just as much as I do or starting to make the change, Mike and Mike’s Organics is on your side.

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Organic Select will now be marketed as Mike & Mike’s Organics. Here’s a sneak peek of their new and upcoming brand! Same quality taste only now in a new fresh seal packaging. Easy to open and favorable for any time of the day! You’ll see their latest collections at your local store very soon. 🙂 

I admit, I don’t always buy organic. It can definitely be a challenge at times especially when it comes to eating at restaurants, the limited selections at our stores and of course, the cost of organically grown food. But when I do, I choose companies like Mike & Mike’s to help me out and I buy certain products organic whenever I can like spinach, frozen berries and corn. 🙂 The hope is that when we do start buying more organic food, that prices will eventually decrease. But this is all up to us – the consumers. The choices we make today as consumers not only affect our health but have a profound impact on tomorrow’s future. The best way forward it is to expand our enquiring minds, continuously question the food we feed ourselves today, reclaim our health by simple ways like choosing organic and voting with our dollars.

Do you vote organic? 

Raw Protein Nib Bars [Vegan, Sugar Free, Grain Free]

But where do you get your protein?” is one the many commonly asked questions when I’m talking to someone about my plant based diet and lifestyle. Whatever “diet” you may be on be it vegan, vegetarian or the funny named flexitarian, if you care about a healthy one, want to increase your muscle mass, or gain/lose/maintain weight, then you know that a clean, full and sustainable protein source is vital. My answer to the question: protein is a non issue for me as high quality protein is quite abundant in a lot of plant foods!

How much protein do we need on a daily basis? Well, the RDA recommends 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram or 0.36 grams per pound. This can fluctuate base on your activity levels and desire to gain more muscle mass. Our bodies use sufficient protein to support optimal tissue health, immunity function, growth and maintenance of lean body mass during activity, muscle recovery and overall vital body preservation.

So we all know the importance of adequate protein as well as good fats and vitamins and minerals sourced from plant based foods. However, having an active lifestyle while living in a very fast paced society, it can be a challenge to prepare healthy smoothies, juices, complete meals and snacks to fuel my days. Let’s face it guys – counting your calories and carbs, making sure you’re getting the proper amounts of protein and vitamins can be a pain and time consuming! Especially if you’re a vegan/vegetarian since we’re often told to be more mindful of our protein intake. But regularly consuming a variety of whole foods and nutritious snacks, you won’t need to play diet mathematician! Though there aren’t many plant based friendly, sugar free/low sugar products catered towards protein density on the market (yet), the best option is to always make your own! All you need are the best of the best ingredients, a set time during the week and a little bit of arm work. It’s definitely worth it and you’ll feel more at ease knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body.

So when Raw Green Organics provided me with their RAWJUVENATE Organic Vegan Protein powder in vanilla for an original recipe on my blog, I knew I could not just make an easy peasy smoothie. Of course, it’s definitely delicious enough to throw in smoothies and other energy beverages or even just milk – that is how it is mainly used, yes? But variety is the spice of life and there are many yummy and fun ways to incorporate protein into your everyday ritual. Like these moist, luscious good-for-you bars I’m about to share with you. One of the best parts about these bars is that you don’t feel like you’re eating anything “healthy” – they’re that good! It’s as if you’re eating raw cookie dough but without the added nasties. There’s also no need for unnecessary protein supplements because these bars have you covered! Thanks to my new favourite vegan protein powder, they’re naturally rich in protein, high in healthy Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids and certified organic! A perfect base to the protein bars and actually, they make em taste….better! I’ve found that many commercial protein powders contain a whack load of refined additives, added sugar and sometimes make my recipes taste dry and chalky. This was especially apparent in some brown rice protein powders I’ve tried as well. But Raw Green Organics locally sources all of their organic ingredients so that we are compensated with only high quality tasting products.

Their Organic Vegan Protein powder is naturally derived and made with organic yellow peas, organic sacha inchi protein, organic hemp protein and organic flaxseeds. The formula was carefully formulated to appeal to those on the vegan diet as well as those with the common food allergies and is 100% free from lactose, dairy, whey, gluten, wheat, sugar and soy. Each serving (about 2 tbsps) provides about 15 grams of protein and supplies a balanced fatty acid and complete branched-chain amino acid profile. These serve as important fuel sources for our muscles during times of stress and exercise.

Hold up! What is organic sacha inchi? Also known as the Savi Seed, sacha inchi is a plant that’s grown in mountainous regions of South America like Peru. It’s been used for thousands of years but you will most likely start to see this popping up more and being developed for commercial purposes and benefits for health products like this protein powder! Nutritionally, it’s impressive profile is very similar to hemp in that the plant offers a wide variety of EFA’s and high complementary or standalone protein content. There are sources that state sacha inchi is one of the most nutritionally complete foods you can include in your diet because of its vast beneficial benefits because the seeds are rich digestible protein content and contain about 25% of Omega 3’s by weight alone. Like chia seeds and maca powder, sacha inchi is definitely another “superfood” we can benefit from particularly if the indigenous peoples have been consuming it for energy for centuries! Another naturally vegan plant based protein source we can add to our list which also gives the extra health boost needed in these protein bars! Mmmm.

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A good quality protein bar can be convenient fuel, whether it’s post strength training workouts, during long hikes with friends or for easy breakfast morning grabs. Making these raw high protein bars is an excellent snack option that will keep you satisfied and help maintain your healthy regime. These bad boys are raw so baking is not required here. This definitely helps to cut down time while giving you more time to enjoy your happy, active life!

These homemade protein bars are raw, vegan, dairy free, soy free, corn free, grain free, wheat free, yeast free, preservative free, sugar free and packed with vitamins and minerals!

Keep them individually wrapped and cool in the fridge for a convenient way to grab, go and nourish!

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What you’ll need: 

2 tbsp of organic virgin coconut oil

3 tbsp of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/4 cup of granulated xylitol (or raw coconut sugar but it won’t be sugar free!)

1 tbsp of non alcohol vanilla extract

3/4 cup of Organic Vegan Protein Powder (Vanilla flavor is my favourite!)

3/4 cup of 100 % almond flour or almond meal (to make it nut free but still grain free, try coconut flour or buckwheat flour – taste will differ a bit)

1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of raw organic cacao nibs

1 tsp of organic cinnamon powder

Optional: 1 tsp of maca powder, carob powder or chia seeds for an extra kick!

Melt the coconut oil in a small pan or bowl. Whisk in almond milk, vanilla, sweetener, and cinnamon until well combined. Add the dry ingredients. Taste and adjust the sweetness if necessary. If it’s a little too dry, add a tiny bit more oil or 1 tsp of nut butter! Do not add more coconut flour or protein powder as they set and dry out when chilled. Fold in cacao nibs and mix.

Using your hands, grab mixture and press down on parchment paper. Shape into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Place in fridge to set. Cut into bars, eat and conquer the day!

 

Raw Zucchini Pasta w/ Chunky Vegan Sauce!

I’ve been wanting a spiralizer for quite some time now. But I just don’t have the counter space for it since my gigantic handy blender and can’t- live-without juicer takes up most of it up. Maybe the answer to this is getting a bigger kitchen? 🙂

So as a kind (and surprising!) gift, Tina from Classic Chef sent me the very popular Zyliss Julienne Peeler for my cooking needs. It’s the handy little device that can shred vegetables and fruits into decent strips. I haven’t tried using a spiralizer yet, but this one seems to be doing the trick perfectly well. It’s easy to handle, small enough to store away and pretty good quality. You don’t need to spend big bucks on spiralizing tools either since this gadget is easy on the wallet (approx 10 bucks!)

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So what’s the deal with wanting to tatter my food up anyway? For one, I try to keep my dishes grain free (gluten free as well) so this means cutting out carbs when possible and sticking to whole plant based dishes. This doesn’t mean I deprive myself of the awesome-ness of the psuedo grains like organic quinoa, buckwheat or the occasional whole grain brown rice! However, it’s easy to eat more of these carbs as the main part of the dish and then subconsciously eat less vegetables. So moderation and balance is key. Whether you want to lose some stubborn weight, improve your blood chemistry, increase your energy levels or get more vitamin intake, making some meals grain free can help you to achieve that. This means filling the place of (hopefully gluten free) breads, pastas and brown rice dishes with a favourite vegetable like zucchinis and sweet potatoes and preparing them in the same delicious way.

Pasta is one of my favourite dishes EVER. If I could eat it everyday, I would. Oodles of noodles and a rich creamy tomato sauce always hits the spot. I’m sure it does for a lot of people too! I’ll usually make it with organic brown rice pasta or Explore Asia mung bean noodles and both would do the trick. Of course, too much of a good thing is never good. So thanks to my handy dandy Julienne peeler, I am able to shred vegetables like zucchinis and cucumbers to pasta shaped noodles. So not only do I cut the carbs and calories down by a heck of a whole lot by making it grain free, I also get more doses of healthy greens onto my plate. The key to not compromising the taste of this grain free pasta dish: a kick ass flavorful chunky vegan sauce to go on top of the zucchini noodles!

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Vegan, grain free, wheat free, gluten free, preservative free, soy free, protein rich delicious-ness! 

As they say in Italy: Buon Appetito!

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What you’ll need:

Spiralized or peeled zucchini – try to keep it raw to take in full plant based enzymes

Sauce

2 cups of organic crushed tomatoes

1 cup of sodium free chickpeas or soaked/cooked garbanzo beans

1/2 cup of chopped bell peppers

1 cup of diced dinosaur kale

1 tsp of 100% tomato paste

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp of dried basil

1 tsp of coriander

1 tsp of dried thyme

1 tsp of organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup of yellow onion, minced

Black pepper and himalayan salt to taste

In a small pot, heat oil and diced onions for a few minutes until golden brown on medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add chickpeas and mix well. Coat the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes over. Let cook for a minute or two. Throw over all spices. Combine well. Lower heat. Add bell peppers and kale and stir. Adjust to taste.

Pour sauce over peeled zucchini noodles and top with cracked black pepper. Devour.

 

The King of Superfruits + A Vegan Baobab Sweet Potato Spiced Curry [GF]

Move over acai, there’s a new superfood fruit coming to take over!

While there are plenty of fruits out on the market assigned with the prefix of “super” (like the popular elixirs of acai, pomegranate, goji) or some other new powder being crowned as the next best thing, in truth, baobab really is the upcoming fruit to look out for. Chances are, you probably haven’t heard of the word baobab unless you’re from Africa (or some parts of Europe). Like the Maca root, I learned about this interesting and favored fruit during my stay in South Africa. If I can remember correctly, it’s pronounced “bo-bab” – am I bo-rrect? 🙂

Skeptical foodies: Don’t start rolling your eyes yet! This is a positive food with an impressive nutritional profile you’ll want learn more about!

A prevalent fruit in Africa, this exotic fruit is packed with nutritional goodness and has the potential to enhance the nutritional value of just about any dish or beverage. Sure there is no scientific definition of what a “superfruit” or superfood should be, but the baobab fruit is one of the many foods out there that can actually help boost the nutritional quality of our diets and lifestyles.

Awesome Facts About Baobab: 

  • Low in calories, sodium and sugar yet high in heart healthy fat fiber
  • Has double the amount of antioxidants levels than acai or goji berries according to ORAC tests (it is the king of antioxidants!)
  • 6 times more the antioxidant levels of blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates
  • High in potassium
  • Gram for gram, has roughly 66% more iron than spinach and sprouted greens
  • High in Vitamin C – they say up to 6 times more than oranges!
  • Excellent source of Vitamin B, A, magnesium, phosphorous, essential fatty acids and zinc
  • Calcium rich, twice the amount as milk
  • Baobab fruit pulp contains up to 56% water soluble pectin that help with digestion and stabilizing blood sugars
  • The pulp contains both insoluble and soluble fibers that promote a healthy gut flora and aid intestinal health

So now you know the amazing nutritional profile this powerful fruit has to offer. It is truly a special fruit. And by special, I’m also referring to the fruit’s birthplace: The fascinating African Baobab Tree (adansonia) also known as the Tree of Life or The Upside Down Tree. An integral part of the African landscapes, these 200-500 year old trees have a stunning (albeit an eerie) silhouette and the striking appearance of it being uprooted and stood on end. In Africa, it is considered the Tree of Life because notably all parts of the tree are used for food, beverages and is the heart of many traditional and medicinal remedies and legends. The evolution of this tree is also extraordinary. During the rainy season, these trees can store water in their trunks which allow them to produce fruit later on in the year, when everything around them is arid and parched. We can see why it’s profoundly a symbol of life and a spiritual significant icon in the African culture.

There’s nothing quite like the power and divinity of Mother Nature.

Give it a year or even a few months when health companies and snack food manufacturers start falling over themselves to incorporate and push baobab into protein bars, smoothies and beverages. Although, from a wellness perspective, using a good quality, ethically and sustainably harvested dried baobab powder in your own meals is always the best way to go!

Baobab Food’s Baobest Baobab’s Fruit Powder is 100% pure nourishment and delightful. The powder contains absolutely no additives, fillers, preservatives, artificial flavouring or added sugars. Their unrefined fruit powder dries naturally on South African trees and then grounded into a fine powder. No freezing, heat pressing or pasteurization methods are used in order to sustain the fruit’s natural benefits. It’s suitable for a variety of different things and when used as a cooking or baking ingredient, can improve and invigorate healthy everyday recipes. You can add a few teaspoons to water, juices, smoothies and brilliant in homemade jams, fruit bars, chia pudding, baked goods…you name it. I also use it to naturally sweeten my green tea when I want the extra tangy kick!  Breakfast is most likely the easiest way to embrace the baobab goodness or you can enjoy this rich, scrumptious grain free, plant based dish while also boosting your immune system and energy at the same time.

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This is my beautiful cat: Pharaoh.

He cares about you and believes that you need some Baobest Baobab in your life! 

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What you’ll need: 

1 large sweet potato

1 handful of chopped kale (or more!)

1/3 tbsp of organic, virgin coconut oil

Half a small red onion, diced

3 small garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 tbsp of grated ginger

1/2 tsp of chili powder

1/2 tsp of garam masala powder

1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp of organic cinnamon

1/2 tsp of cumin powder

1/2 tsp of coriander powder or crushed coriander seeds

1/2 tsp of himalayan pink salt

1/4 tsp of turmeric

1 cup of 100% pure organic crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup of organic tomato paste

A squeeze of half a lemon

1 tbsp of Baobest Baobab powder

In a small pot, bring sweet potato to a boil and let soften for about 3-5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat, drain and cut into desired chunks.

In a pan, melt the coconut oil and saute the onion on low heat for about 8 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and mix for about 4 minutes until fragrant and lightly brown. Add the spices (except the baobab) and stir for another minute or two.

Add the tender sweet potato chunks and chopped tomatoes and allow to cook until it thickens. Add the tomato paste and continue stirring for about 5 minutes. Finally, throw in the chopped kale, baobab powder in the mixture. Squeeze the lemon juice last. Cook for a few more minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with fresh coriander, black pepper, raw baby spinach and sprouts! Enjoy. x

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