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Chocolate Orange Chia Parfait

January 19, 2017

If you love the health benefits of chia pudding but can't stand the tapioca-like texture, blending it up is a good solution. Blending it up with chocolate is an even better solution, and adding orange and pomegranate make it even more delicious. This is the most decadent, healthy breakfast in town. I usually prefer warm breakfasts in the winter (like this) but the chocolate made this comforting and cozy enough that I can happily eat it in the cold. Of course you can just have this for breakfast, but it makes a great post-workout snack, too. And it tastes like dessert.

I don't think I need to tell you about the health benefits of chia or raw cacao, you already know it's healthy. If you want to include more raw foods in your diet this is a great option for both dessert and breakfast, and it's less time consuming than many raw desserts. This little nutrient and energy packed breakfast is so good for you and it tastes like christmas time chocolate oranges in pudding form. If you have a high powered blender and can make the pudding really smooth, it's even more fun to eat, but if not (I don't have one) it tastes just as good, but with a little more texture. Like any chia pudding, the seeds have to be soaked overnight or at least a few hours. After soaking, you blend it up with cacao, dates, and orange zest. I wrote "don't forget" and then went away to eat dinner and now I can't remember what I was going to remind you about. Don't forget a spoon?

Chocolate Orange Chia Parfait
Serves two

1 cup non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, oat)
3 tablespoons chia
3 tablespoons cacao
1/4 cup soft dates, pitted
Zest of an orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To serve:
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 orange, peeled and blended 

Place the milk and chia in a container and stir well. Refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours, until the pudding is set. 

In the bowl of a food processor, add the chia pudding, cacao, dates, orange zest, and cinnamon. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. If needed, add another tablespoon or two of milk. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

To make the orange sauce topping the parfait, place a peeled orange in a blender and pulse until you have a thick juice. It will thicken more in the fridge. Add a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey if you find it too tart.

To assemble the jars, place 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds in the base, followed by 1/2 cup of the chocolate pudding, and top with half of the orange sauce. Repeat for the second jar. Serve cold. The pudding, unassembled, will keep in the fridge for up to three days.

• Using canned coconut milk will make this pudding very rich and dessert-like. If you prefer something lighter choose nut or oat milk instead. (Coconut milk for dessert, almond for breakfast.)
• You don't need medjool dates for this recipe. Just use regular dates, and soak them in hot water for half an hour before blending if they're not soft.
• The orange sauce will seem too much like juice, but it will thicken, and it goes well with the hint of orange in the pudding and the pomegranate. Leave it out if you don't want to dirty your blender, and serve the pudding in a bowl with pomegranate or granola. 

The Cold Weather Bowl

January 13, 2017

It's really not cold in Oldenburg right now. I don't think it's ever actually cold here, but it's chilly enough that I want some good comfort food. It did snow this morning (the rain has washed it away now) so that means it's sort of winter, right? The rain makes me irrationally grumpy, probably because I grew up in an area with so little rain, and I'm just outraged when rain falls on my face, ha. Now it seems like we're probably moving to Ireland later this year for Graham's masters, so I'll have to put up with rain for a while longer. I keep reminding myself that rain is better than air that can freeze your face off. 

Despite the freezing weather, you can be growing your own food inside - have you ever tried sprouting? If you never have before, they're the easiest possible thing to grow, no green thumb needed. It's the coolest thing to see little lentils transform right in from of you. To sprout seeds or legumes, just soak them for 24 hours, then drain and place in a glass jar. Fill the jar with water once in the morning and again in the evening, and drain. This keeps the sprouts wet enough without drowning them and creates a good environment for growth. I keep my jar on a north facing windowsill. You don't need a special sprouting jar, just use the outside of a fine sieve with the opening of the jar pressed against it to drain the sprouts. They'll start growing within a couple of days but I like to wait around five so that they're good and green. Sprouting foods increases both the amount and availability of the protein, vitamins, and minerals already present in legumes, grains, and seeds. My favourites are black, green, and brown lentils (not red) but mung beans are common, and if you're looking to grow sprouts similar to the ones you buy at the supermarket, try mung beans. Store them in the fridge for about a week after they're done growing, and add them to everything from buddha bowls to sandwiches and smoothies. Sprouts are especially beneficial in the winter, when we don't have as much access to fresh foods.

This bowl is a little different from my usual wintertime meals because I used more fresh foods than cooked. Sometimes we eat too much cooked food during the colder months and forget about fresh, which provide more enzymes and help with digestion. Root vegetables are a good choice because they're probably not coming from as far away. Graham had brought home lettuce the day I made these so the bottom of the bowl is a layer of hardier wintery greens, but you could use massaged kale or chard instead. I'm a big fan of crunchy roasted chickpeas (recipe below) and this bowl offers plenty of different textures.

Maybe this isn't a fancy or complicated recipe, but it's a good representation of what I eat on a daily basis. Give me some grains, beans, and seasonal veggies and I'm a happy camper. It's really simple, nutritious food that only takes a few minutes of active kitchen time (and only about fifteen minutes cooking time), and it'll keep you full and feeling good. It's a flexible recipe and you can change it around to suit what's in your kitchen or available in the stores, but just stick to a 3:1:1 ratio (vegetables, legumes, grains) and you'll be good. This dressing is a special wintery one with fresh ginger and orange, and it's the bomb. 

P.S. I have a crazy kick-ass cookie recipe coming your way soon.

The Cold Weather Bowl
Serves 1-2 people, depending on how hungry they are

2 cups mixed greens*
1 cup cooked quinoa*
1 cup roasted chickpeas
1/2 cup lentil sprouts
1 medium beet, shredded
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 persimmon, sliced
1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Arrange everything in a bowl, top with dressing, and serve. (My bowls don't look like this when I'm not taking pictures.)

Sumac Roasted Chickpeas

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F. Coat the chickpeas in the oil and spices, then place in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and crispy. They will lose their crispiness if left sitting for more than a day.

Orange Ginger Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice (one small orange)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
Zest of an unwaxed orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl or jar and serve with the salad. Any leftover dressing will keep well in the fridge for up to three days.

1. Try massaged kale or chard in place of the mixed greens.
2. To cook quinoa, give it a rinse in a fine sieve and then cook it with 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water, bringing to a boil and then simmering until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. I usually turn the heat off when there's just a touch of water left and leave the lid on the pot (it'll keep cooking for a couple more minutes this way) to make sure I don't accidentally overcook it.

Persimmon Porridge

January 08, 2017

One of my favourite bloggers and a virtual friend, Susanna of Eat Sleep Green, is currently hosting a virtual persimmon party on her instagram. I have a google doc going with winter recipe ideas, and one of them was for a cozy persimmon breakfast oatmeal with coconut milk, pomegranate seeds, and coconut sugar. Much of the time I write these ideas down (hundreds of them) and don't get around to posting the recipe before the season is over, and I'm thankful to Susanna for giving me the kick in the butt I needed to get this done! One of my new years resolutions was to post twice a week, too. Most of Susanna's recipes are in German but she does speak english so if you see a recipe you're curious about, I'm sure she'd be happy to translate it for you. She's just released a new book if you're located in a German speaking country, all about chia, which you can find here

Graham and I eat oatmeal almost every morning for breakfast, with different fruits and toppings. In the fall we cook apples with the oats, in the winter either bananas or winter fruits like persimmon, and in the summer we always have berries. He swears by adding coconut oil to the finished porridge and the times that I've left it out, I get hungry a lot faster, so a little added healthy fat (coconut milk in this case) can help to keep you full longer. Cooking the persimmons with the oats softens them and makes the whole dish sweeter without adding any sugar. All of the toppings go really well together but you could change them to suit your tastes, like switching out the pumpkin seeds for hazelnuts or pecans. The bowls look prettiest with all the toppings on them but I like to mix everything together right before I eat so that the nut butter swirls through the porridge and I get little surprise bites of fresh fruit.

A serving of this porridge, with all of the toppings in the recipe, has about 15 grams of protein and over 20% of the iron you needed in a day. In addition to the healthy fats, fibre, and a whole host of other nutrients like magnesium, it's a solid start to the day. I find that my eczema is significantly improved if I eat oatmeal every day, which is especially beneficial in the winter when lots of people have dry skin in any case. 

I only recently started eating persimmons, and the research I did said that the type I used (more elongated than squat) are supposed to be overripe when they're eaten, or they're very astringent. I just chose orange fruits and didn't let them ripen for a week or anything like that before eating. They weren't sour or and didn't dry my mouth out. I've come across a couple of people who write that if the flesh has tiny black specks in it then it doesn't need to be mushy before you eat it, and you can see that these do. It might be that I got lucky and the store was selling persimmons that were already the right amount of ripeness.

Persimmon Porridge
Makes enough for two people

2 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
1 ripe persimmon, chopped
1/4 cup coconut milk*
Optional: 1 tablespoon honey

In a saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the oats and persimmon and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes, uncovered, or until the oats have absorbed all the water. Stir in the coconut milk. Add the honey if you like it quite sweet.

Separate the porridge into two bowls and top each with the toppings below or make up your own! Serve warm.

For topping:
pomegranate arils
dates, halved*
nut butter*
pumpkin seeds
chia seeds
coconut, shredded or flaked
coconut sugar

1. Use the creamy bit from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk.
2. I recently got a package of khanezi dates instead of my usual medjool because they were a lot less expensive - they're a lot smaller but the taste is even more caramel-like than medjool. It doesn't matter what kind you use here, and you could use raisins instead if you'd like.
3. Peanut butter might be a little weird here but almond or hazelnut is good.

Yoga Tea

January 05, 2017

I'm a yoga teacher. Or, I was, before we moved to Germany and I found out my German wasn't good enough to teach here. I was offered a position at a local studio and completely bombed my audition class, which ended up with the studio owner leaving and me teaching in english for the last hour. It's been tricky because yoga uses specialized language and I don't know the right words in German. So I'm a yoga teacher without students - but I've been thinking about starting to make yoga videos and posting them. I feel like I had just found something I really loved to do (other than this, which doesn't pay me) and then we moved and lost it again. Moving here was this big adventure but it has often been overwhelming and difficult, really just because of the language barrier. I'm happy to see this part of my family more and we do love it here, but I feel kind of useless, you know? 

This type of tea has its roots in ayurveda, which is linked to the practice of yoga. You might see similar teas served at different studios, and almost all workshops worth their salt will offer a type of yoga tea. Personally, I think ayurvedic medicine is interesting, but some of it is just goofball nonsense. For example, my dosha is encouraged to eat plenty of ghee, but I have a dairy allergy. It's comparable to pre-modern medicine in east Asia and Europe - and just like I'm not going to bleed my boyfriend if his stomach hurts, I wouldn't practice the majority of ayurvedic medicine either. I think the best thing to take away from it is that you should eat foods that make you feel strong and healthy. 

There are a pile of different combinations out there for yoga tea, and this is just my preference. The primary ingredients in this tea are fresh ginger and turmeric* with a blend of other spices, depending on how you want to make it. I'm providing a couple of options, and they have slightly different benefits. One tea is combined with lemon juice, and the other with apple juice. The lemon tea is great to drink in the morning right after you wake up, and it'll help clear your skin and calm your stomach. The apple tea is perfect if you prefer something slightly sweeter, or if you want to share it with children or picky adults, and it's still great for an upset stomach. I've included a few tips at the end of this post for extra spice combos and the reasons certain things are included. This is a very simple recipe, the extra suggestions and notes are just there for your information.

I've also used this tea to make some naturally fermented ginger beer for good digestion. We loved it, and I'll share the instructions soon.

Thanks to Dearna of To Her Core for her fabulous editing guides, which helped me rework these pictures! I find bright photos a little more difficult and it really helped. I just have the editing guides (I won them!) but I've heard great things about the photography/styling guides. Dearna's super sweet and kind, too. 

Yoga Tea
Makes a large pot

1 litre water
10 cm piece fresh ginger
4 cm piece fresh turmeric*
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, outer shell removed
5 whole peppercorns 
After cooking: Juice of two lemons and 1 tablespoon raw honey, or 1/2 cup apple juice

Add the water to a pot. Roughly chop the ginger and turmeric. Don't worry about peeling them if they're organic, but peel them if they're not. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom, and peppercorns. Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and honey or the apple juice, depending on your preference. Serve hot. You can drink this continuously throughout the day, but one cup every day will help reduce bloating and inflammation. 

The tea is best served hot but you can also drink it cold. It will keep on the stove without the additions (lemon or apple juice) for a couple of days. You can keep adding water to the same spices and repeat the process up to five times, as long as they stay covered with water in between cooking (only let it sit for a day without cooking, though). After about a week the spices lose their strength. The tea with lemon or apple juice will keep in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed container. 

• To get the most benefits from turmeric, it should always be combined with pepper. All of the spices in this tea are great for reducing inflammation, but turmeric is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse.
• Both ginger and turmeric can help with inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis when used over time, but can also cause blood thinning, so discuss this with your doctor if you take blood thinners or if you're pregnant. 
• Too much turmeric can upset your stomach, but the amount in this tea is unlikely to have that side effect. You should have a happier stomach thanks to the ginger, but if you do find that it bothers your stomach, don't drink it. 
• You can alter the recipe to increase or decrease certain ingredients if you like it to have a more pronounced cinnamon flavour, for example. Other additions could be cloves, star anise, or fennel, but I don't like them so I don't include them.

1. If you can't find fresh turmeric, you can either substitute a small amount of dried (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) or leave it out. Fresh turmeric is getting easier to find these days, though, and I can't recommend trying it highly enough. 

Honey and Oat Cookies

December 29, 2016

This post was meant to be part of a pre-Christmas cookie series (here and here), but I got a little caught up in the holiday and didn't end up posting before Christmas - sorry! It works as a healthy new year resolution cookie, too!

I feel like I've tested a million honey and oat cookies over the past couple of years, all with disastrous results. They were either dense little rocks or spread way too much. One batch in particular literally filled the cookie sheet with one giant cookie and I had to peel it off in one great chunk. Finally, success. This version is just the right amount of chewy with a big honey flavour. There's so little flour in the recipe that it might seem like it won't work, but it will! I started with dense little honey pucks and worked my way down to this amount, and it's just right. Graham loved the hockey pucks but he likes the weirdest things. 

My mom had a cookie book when I was a kid that had this one recipe for giant oatmeal honey cookies, and it was my go-to recipe for cookie cravings. It always confused me a little that the recipe called for about 2 cups of sugar in addition to the honey, though, because it seemed like a honey cookie shouldn't have sugar interfering. Well, almost 20 years later, I have a proper honey and oat cookie recipe that doesn't need any sugar (or butter!) and I think it beats the original. It's much healthier, really simple, and there are a couple of fun wintery add-ins you can do if you feel like a more exciting oatmeal cookie. 

This is the last cookie recipe for a little while - I have some healthy drinks, snacks, and meals coming your way for the new year! 

Honey and Oat Cookies
Makes about ten large cookies

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole spelt flour*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted*
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
2 cm fresh ginger, grated (optional)*
Optional: 1/4 cup raisins/chocolate chips and 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you may need two sheets if yours are small). 

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and vanilla powder. Add the raisins or chocolate and the sliced almonds if you're using them.

In a smaller dish, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, milk, and ginger.

Add the honey mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. If it seems too thin let it sit for five minutes to thicken up a little before shaping the cookies.

Place two tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet and spread it out to about a 1 cm thickness with the back of a spoon. Repeat until all of the dough is used, leaving 6 cm (2 inches) between each cookie to allow for spreading. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 10 minutes before carefully lifting them off with a spatula and letting them cool fully on a rack. Store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

• To keep the cookies from sticking to each other when you stack them, cut squares of parchment or wax paper and place them in between each cookie.
• Use maple syrup or another favourite liquid sweetener in place of the honey to make these fully vegan.

1. I think this recipe would work with gluten-free flour, but I haven't tested it yet. My recommendation would be something like whole buckwheat, but I can't guarantee anything - if you try it, please let me know!
2. I tried this with olive oil, and found the flavour overpowering. The coconut oil helps keep the cookies from falling apart once they're cool, too.
3. You can also use 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger (just add it to the dry ingredients) instead of fresh, but the flavour will be significantly different. Use ground if you prefer a more traditional flavour, or just leave it out.