Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Heat-Beating Treat

While the folks back home in New England are buried under masses of snow, here in Melbourne we've had three high-30 degree days in a row. To keep cool and nourished, I'm drinking this:

Come here glass of yumminess, I'm going to drink you...

It's a banana-date-almond frostilicious glass of cold creamy joy. Takes about 1 minute to make, so it's perfect for a hot day when even moving is an effort. You could also add any superfood powders that you like for an extra boost.

Banana-Date-Almond Frostilicious
Serves 1

1 frozen banana
4-5 dates, pitted
small handful of almonds

Chop the frozen banana into a few pieces. Toss it in the blender with the pitted dates, almonds, and enough water to cover. Blend until smooth.

Chia Power

Chances are if I say the
word "chia
" to yo
u, it con
jures up this image:

Amazingly, it turns out that this same little seed that gave us not only the Chia Pet, but also the Chia Mr. T, Chia Britney and Chia Obama - I know, quite a miracle seed! - is also a serious nutritional powerhouse. But why eat something that you can grow into a decorative piece of greenery? Here's a few reasons:

1. It's a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids (including the famous omega-3 and omega-6) that our body needs to survive but can't produce itself. There are very few plant foods that fall into this category, so it's a fantastic food for vegans or anyone looking to decrease their meat and dairy intake - or just anyone looking for low-cal, high-energy protein source. Chia has been reported to contain twice as much protein as any other seed or grain.

2. It has more iron than spinach! Again, great for those who don't go to red meat for iron.

3. Chia is really high in those good old antioxidants, which we know help fight free radicals and keep our lovely cells stable and cancer-free. It is reported to have three times more antioxidants than blueberries! Further, all those antioxidants help keep chia really stable at room temperature, and can be stored in the cupboard for years without going rancid (unlike flax and many other seeds and nuts).

4. It contains way more calcium than milk (and none of the dubious hormones found in conventional dairy). Don't get me started on the dairy = calcium myth! Let's suffice it to say, it's a big industry with a powerful lobby and a long, strong history. Getting calcium from chia is a much better choice for many reasons. For starters, it also contains the trace mineral boron that helps our bones absorb calcium.

5. Chia has more potassium than bananas. Mix these two together in a smoothie and you'll be cramp-invincible!

6. It slows the release of sugars into the bloodstream, helping to prevent energy spikes. Great for diabetics or anyone, really. Add some chia into your sweet foods or drinks, and the chia creates a barrier between the carbs and the enzymes that digest them. It also means your carbohydrate energy becomes longer lasting, so you feel stronger for longer.

7. As above, because chia slows the release of carbs, it seems to be a great exercise food. If I eat chia and go running or practice yoga later that day my endurance and strength seem to be increased. Perhaps this is also due to chia's water absorption capacity, which keeps the body hydrated and full of electrolytes during exercise. In Mayan tradition, chia was eaten by runners carrying messages over far distances - they always had a little pouch of this "running food" with them.

8. Chia is great at cleaning out your intestinal tract. It acts like a little broom, sweeping into those out-of-the-way corners and removing accumulated waste (yuck, I know, but so much better to get it out of there!).

Chia is one of my favorite superfoods because it is not only packed with nutrition and a source of endless energy, but it is also incredibly versatile in terms of culinary creativity. Here's what the little salvia hispanica seeds look like when dry:

And here's what they look like when soaked in water:

They go all gell-y when soaked and can absorb up to 10 times their volume in water (or juice, or any other liquid). Chia doesn't have much flavor of its own but has a kind of tapioca-like texture, which makes it great to use in recipes. I especially like to create all kinds of puddings using chia as the base, or add the gell to smoothies or juices for some extra slow-release energy.

Black Sesame Chia Pudding

Chia Pudding, Three Ways
Serves 4 for a light breakfast or dessert, or 2 for a hearty breakfast

Basic Recipe
5 Tbsp chia seeds
2 cups almond milk*
1-2 Tbsp raw honey, agave or maple syrup (adjust to taste - sweetness is a very personal thing!)

For Middle Eastern Chia Pudding
1 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Add the vanilla, rosewater and cardamom to the basic recipe. Stir well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Stir again. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with cinnamon.

For Vanilla and Nectarine Chia Pudding
4 nectarines
2 Tbsp agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
1/2 vanilla pod

Cut nectarines in half and remove the stone. Drizzle with sweetener and place, cut side up, on dehydrator screens. Dehydrate for at least 4 hours, or overnight if eating for breakfast.

Scrape the seeds from the 1/2 vanilla pod and add to basic recipe. Stir well and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with 2 nectarine halves each.

Variation: Omit the nectarines. Mascerate 1 cup of berries in orange juice to cover for 1 hour. Spoon on top of pudding to serve.

For Black Sesame Chia Pudding
1/2 cup +1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
2 cups water
1/4 cup dried coconut

Omit the almond milk from the basic recipe. Instead, grind the black sesame seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Blend the ground seeds with the water in a blender. Add the black sesame milk to the chia seeds and sweetener. Stir well and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Just before serving, mix through the dried coconut. Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and a dusting of dried coconut.

As you can see, chia is highly adaptable. For more sweet chia inspiration check out:
Chia can also be added to savory recipes. Carmella's (of The Sunny Raw Kitchen fame) Chia House Dressing is so beautiful, and it has inspired me to being adding chia to all of my favorite salad dressing recipes to thicken them without adding more oil. I recently created the following adaptation and served it tossed through a salad of raw rocket, zucchini and red onion mixed with cooked millet.

Sweet Sunny Chia Coriander Dressing
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tsp himalayan salt
1/4 cup (packed) coriander/cilantro leaves
1 cup water

Place everything into the blender and blend away. Mmmmmm. This would also be lovely over sweet potatoes, or any salad really.

Chia are really one of most versatile, remarkable and nutritious foods I've ever come across. I eat the slippery seeds nearly every day, and I suggest you give them a try. And if by some off chance they don't do it for you, you can always use them to do this:

"I pity the fool who don't like chia"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Superfoods for Super People

"The Beginnings of Green" by Alan Jaras

You and I are beams of light, shooting stars, balls of glowing vibrational energy.

And to burn our very brightest, let's add some super fuel to that internal fire, and see what kind of creativity comes glistening, gleaming, shining through!

We can eat anything to get "full" - to satisfy that pure animal appetite that is a grumbly tummy. But what are we getting full of? I want to be full of the materials that make me my best light-self; full of joy, full of love, full of boundless energy and creative impulse. Those materials come to me through plants, which have kindly synthesized nutrients from the earth, the sky and the water in delectably digestible morsels. Their life-force, ingested, adding to my own - imagine the possibilities!

Beyond the beautiful plant foods, there is another class of foods that are exceptionally high in essential nutrients. These are the superfoods, which nutritional visionary David Wolfe describes as straddling the categories of both food and medicine. These foods are among the most nutritionally dense and healing substances on the planet. When we eat them, we not only boost our bodies with vitamins and minerals, we also take on an extremely high level of vibrational energy. You only have to eat a little bit of these foods to feel the spirit of these plants awaken within you.

If you're among the superfood skeptics, bear with me a moment. I'm not talking fads here, I'm talking about foods that have been used medicinally for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Our contemporary knowledge of the superfoods often comes out of ancient traditions who recognized their power. Take the goji berry, for instance. Chances are if you're reading this, you've not living under a rock and you've seen the ubiquitous goji berry, or its concentrated powder or juice, at your local health food shop. This tart little ruddy guy is so much more than the latest thing in health foods - it has been celebrated within Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries as a powerful longevity-booster, a claim which contemporary scientific study corroborates. It belongs to a class of foods known as adaptogens - substances that, by working on the body in several therapeutic ways, increase overall health. Gojis support the adrenal glands, helping the body deal with stress, while also strengthening the immune system, creating alkalinity, and directly supporting the liver, eyes and blood. On a nutritional level, gojis are a complete protein source, chock full of all the essential amino acids, as well as a range of trace minerals and a host of vitamins. They are also rich in anti-oxidants.

Other superfoods that I know (intimately) and love (deeply) include cacao, spirulina, maca, honey, bee pollen, hemp seeds, coconut, acai berries, sea vegetables, chia seeds and aloe vera, among others. I find these foods so much fun to incorporate into my recipes, and they make me feel AMAZING. Keep an eye out for my superfoods series, in which I discuss different superfoods in depth and explore their potential culinary uses.

The one caveat I would add about superfoods is that while they may be helpful in treating illness, and there are certainly cases where they have contributed to profound healing, they are at their most effective when consumed regularly in order to support ongoing health, longevity and vibrancy. This doesn't mean swallowing tablets or capsules! Superfood ingredients are more and more readily available in health and natural food stores or through the internet, and they are incredibly fun to play with across a range of recipes.

You might just find that the more superfoods you get into your body, the more inspired you feel to create new recipes with them. Go with it!

What are your favorite superfood recipes - what do you eat that really gets you glowing?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coconut Lucuma Cake with Mango and Coconut Vanilla Creme Swirl

I've been having fun creating superfood recipes lately, and this one was inspired by a box of ripe mangoes and a dinner party invite. Almonds, coconut, lucuma, honey, mango, banana, macadamias, vanilla - this cake is more chock-full of nutrients than most people's meals. Protein and mineral rich almonds, immune-system and weight-balancing coconut, vitamin-C packed lucuma and mango, enzyme-rich raw honey, and much more.

All that goodness and three delicious, complex textures and flavors to tantalize the taste buds to boot! The bottom layer is a dense, cakey coconut lucuma extravaganza, topped with smooth mango puree swirled with a beautiful coconut macadamia vanilla creme. This is why raw desserts are amazing. Every bite is packed with yumminess and vitality.

Coconut Lucuma Cake with Mango and Coconut Vanilla Crème Swirl

Cake Layer:
1 cup almonds, ground to powder
1 cup dried coconut, ground to powder
½ cup lucuma powder
6 dried apricots
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp water

Mango Puree:
4 cups fresh diced mango (2 large)
2 dried bananas
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Coconut Vanilla Crème:
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup Thai young coconut meat (1 large)
½-1 cup young coconut water or plain water
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp coconut oil


Grind the almonds to a powder in a coffee grinder or high powered blender. Set aside. Grind dried coconut to a powder using the same method. Combine the almond, coconut and lucuma powders in a food processor and add apricots, honey, coconut oil and water as needed. Whir until combined. Press into a springform cake pan and place in the refrigerator.

Combine mango, dried bananas and coconut oil in food processor or high powered blender and whir until completely smooth. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Rinse your food processor or blender, then combine coconut vanilla creme ingredients and whir until smooth. Add more coconut water or water as needed to achieve a very smooth, creamy consistency.

Spread the mango puree over the cake layer. Then make little wells and add the creme a little bit at a time until it is well distributed. Using a chopstick, swirl the mango and creme together. Place the entire cake in the freezer to set for about an hour, then remove to the refrigerator. Serve chilled and eat within 4 days.
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