Barley Salad with Courgettes and Blue Cheese

(read in Italian)

Do you sometimes cook with barley? Do you know that barley has a good content of beta-glucan? Yes, the same fibre that you can find in oats! Beta-glucan is a glucose polymer (polysaccharides) found in the cell walls of cereals and other food (for example yeasts, seaweeds, and some mushrooms like shiitake or reishi – it’s also found in other foods in smaller amounts).

The positive effect of grains like barley and oats on cholesterol has been associated with their content of soluble fibre. The beta-glucan structure is different based on the food source (so they are for example soluble fibre in cereals and insoluble in yeasts.. the power of chemistry!). Taking good care of yourself through your food and lifestyle choices CAN BE EASY AND ENJOYABLE.. You just need to give it a go!

Below you’ll find the recipe for a salad with barley, courgettes, and blue cheese – I have used a cheese that has easily become a favorite in my house: Young Buck, a delicious raw milk blue cheese made in Northern Ireland. You can check it out if you’ve never tried it or do a little bit of research until you find your own favorite!

Chiara x

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Barley Salad with Courgettes and Blue Cheese

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 120 g barley
  • approx. 340 g courgettes
  • approx. 40 g blue cheese
  • 1 small handful of alfalfa sprouts (or your favorite sprouts)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (crushed in a mortar)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small handful of fresh mint leaves
  • a pinch of black pepper

Cook the barley according to the instructions on the package. When it will be ready, simply rinse it with cold water and drain well. While you wait for the barley to cook, you can prepare the other ingredients: cut into small slices the courgettes and cook them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil for 1-2 minutes – you can also decide to divide the courgettes into two parts, then cook some of them and leave the remaining veggies raw (to get the best results, I’ll do this only with small, fresh and crunchy courgettes). Once the courgettes will be cold, place them in a large bowl with spices, dried thyme, lemon juice, barley, cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. Mix well all the ingredients and set them aside in the fridge for approx. 10 minutes. Add the sprouts just before serving and top your bowls with some mint leaves.



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Brownies ai Fagioli Neri

(read in English)

Mi piace tantissimo riuscire a condividere il momento della colazione con il mio ragazzo – purtroppo non capita tutti giorni, ma cerchiamo di fare del nostro meglio! La vedo come un’occasione per passare più tempo insieme, parlare dei nostri impegni per la giornata, e condividere una colazione nutriente… Tante volte è anche un’opportunità per provare delle nuove ricette – esattamente quello che è successo con questi brownies. Li ho preparati un po’ di settimane fa provando ad ottenere una buona consistenza con alcuni ingredienti che avevo in mente: la prima volta erano decisamente troppo asciutti ma il sapore era promettente! La seconda volta, invece, erano buonissimi: con un po’ della classica consistenza da brownies, ma non troppo “bagnati”.. con la crosticina sopra, ma non troppo asciutti. Noi li abbiamo mangiati sia a colazione (accompagnati da un frullato), sia dopo cena come dessert.. ottimi in entrambi i casi!

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Brownies ai Fagioli Neri

Ingredienti

  • 180 g fagioli neri cotti
  • 110 g farina di riso integrale
  • 2 1/2 cucchiai di cacao in polvere non zuccherato
  • 1 1/2 cucchiai di sciroppo di datteri
  • 25 g ghee (ammorbidito – puoi utilizzare l’olio di cocco per una versione vegana, ma aggiungine un pochino di più rispetto al ghee)
  • 1 1/2 cucchiaino di lievito per dolci
  • 1 1/2 cucchiaino di zenzero fresco grattugiato
  • circa 200 ml bevanda agli anacardi

Frulla i fagioli, la bevanda agli anacardi, e lo zenzero finchè non ottieni una crema omogenea. Mettila poi in una ciotola ed aggiungi gli altri ingredienti (includendo il lievito per dolci alla fine) – mischia bene affinchè non ci siano grumi. Metti l’impasto dei brownies nella teglia, aggiustando la superficie con una spatola o il retro di un cucchiaio. Cuoci in forno preriscaldato a 180°C per circa 20-25 minuti – saranno pronti quando la parte superiore inizierà ad essere rigida ed si sarà formata una crosticina. Lascia raffreddare i brownies prima di tagliarli.

Puoi servirli con sopra yogurt Greco, cannella, e lamponi.

  • si conservano in un contenitore ben chiuso in frigo per qualche giorno
  • è importante che l’impasto dei brownies sia omogeneo e non ci siano pezzi di fagioli, per ottenere poi una buona consistenza dei brownies quando saranno cotti
  • i dolci o simili fatti con la farina di riso tendono a seccarsi facilmente, quindi non lasciarli troppo a lungo nel forno
  • sia la bevanda agli anacardi, sia il ghee (o olio di cocco) sono importanti per ottenere la classica consistenza “umida” dei brownies finiti


Vorresti iniziare ad avere uno stile di vita ed un’alimentazione più sani, creando anche una serie di abitudini che possano diventare parte della tua vita d’ora in avanti? Non sai esattamente da dove iniziare? Clicca sul link qui sotto per fare il primo passo:

INIZIAMO!

 

Kale and Basil Pesto

(read in Italian)

Summer means plenty of fresh basil available.. and what a better way to use it than making pesto? I like the traditional one with cheese and pine nuts, but I get bored easily so I always like to get creative and try new food combinations. This recipe calls for basil, kale, and pumpkin seeds: the taste is a little bit different obviously, but it’s rich in flavor and pairs well with a slice of sourdough bread or some pasta.

Let’s briefly talk about kale! Are you among kale lovers or not? Kale has been one of the most trendy healthy foods around for the last few years, but honestly, if you don’t like it, there’s no need to force yourself to eat it! There are many other nutritious veggies that you can include in your days. I honestly love kale and is usually a weekly staple in my grocery shopping – I mainly use it in salads, oven-baked chips and, obviously, pesto!

Kale is a member of the cabbage family, rich in vitamins like C, A, K, B6, but also minerals like magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium. Among vitamin C and beta-carotene, it has other compounds with antioxidant activity, like flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants are important compounds that help us working as a protection from the effect of oxidative stress and free radicals – so, for example, they may help us dealing with inflammation and aging). Kale contains also some compounds that may help us to lower the cholesterol levels in the body. Sounds like a mighty little plant, right?

Interesting studies:
Antioxidants and kale
Binding of bile acids by kale (for cholesterol)
Kale and postprandial glucose level

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KALE AND BASIL PESTO

Ingredients

  • 100 g pumpkin seeds
  • approx. 40 g basil, stems included
  • approx. 150 g kale
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • approx. 100-120 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp capers (optional – delicious variation inspired by a post from Green Kitchen Stories)

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a pre-heated oven at 150°C for a few minutes, just until they start to turn golden. Wait until they are cold to add them in the blender, with the lemon juice and a small part of the basil: it’s better to add basil and kale in small portions – blend for a few minutes, pausing from time to time and scraping the walls. When your ingredients will be finely chopped, start adding the olive oil in portions. You can adjust the amount of both oil and lemon juice to your preferences. Store in the fridge in a closed jar for a few days with a thin layer of olive oil on top (just to keep the top covered with oil).



 

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How to start taking a good care of your gut

(read in 🇮🇹️)

There are plenty of studies that underline the importance of a healthy gut to support our health and well-being from a general point of view. Keep a few things in mind:

  • embrace a healthy lifestyle rich in fibre, fruit and vegetables, together with a variety of foods to get all the nutrients that you need daily
  • include sources of probiotics/prebiotics, spices, and herbs
  • stay active and de-stress

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Here there are also a few information that you may find useful:

1) KNOW YOUR FIBRE:

Look for a balance between soluble and insoluble fibre. They work in a different way once they get in the body, and we need both of them to stay healthy.

We talk about them as soluble/insoluble in WATER.

SOLUBLE FIBRE: they form a gel-like substance in the gut which attracts water and helps to keep clean the digestive tract. Found for example in oats, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas, barley, vegetables, some fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas. This gel also helps to slow down the digestion => “full sensation” that lasts longer.

INSOLUBLE FIBRE: they help to move the things through the digestive tract. Found for example in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts.

START increasing your fibre intake today to keep a healthy gut => start discovering a healthier and happier you.

Remember that is important to change your diet STEP BY STEP – give your body enough time to adapt to the new habits.

2) NOT A BIG FAN OF PROBIOTICS (YET)?

Start with basic fermented foods like yogurt and kefir.

  • when choosing one of these products in the shop, look for unsweetened options – the amount of added sugar in this kind of products can be a lot, and it won’t help you with either your overall health or gut
  • choose one with only your key ingredients
  • make them part of your daily life (in smaller amounts at the begin, to check how you feel and to give your body time to get used to them)
  • pair them with fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds for breakfast or snack time
  • you can find both yogurt and kefir made with plant-based ingredients
  • at some stage, why don’t consider to start making your own?

3) A SIMPLE RECIPE TO START ADDING KEFIR TO YOUR DAYS…

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SMOOTHIE WITH KEFIR, BERRIES, AND MIXED SEEDS

(x 2 smoothies)

  • 1 small pear⠀
  • 1 banana⠀
  • 1 handful of raspberries/blueberries⠀
  • 150 ml kefir⠀
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger⠀
  • 1 tbsp shelled hemp seeds
  • 2 tbsp milled chia seeds
  • water (adjust to your preferences) ⠀
  • on top: coconut yogurt + cacao nibs (optional)

Blend all the ingredients and adjust the amount of water according to your preferences. To get an extra smooth finish, I like to prepare in advance a chia pudding using kefir and chia seeds – so instead of adding directly these two ingredients in the blender, I add the pudding (this is also useful to allow the seeds to mix properly with a liquid and release their characteristic “gel”).

 



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Brownies with Black Beans

(read in Italian)

Love when I can manage to share a nice breakfast with my better half – unfortunately, it doesn’t happen every day. I see that as a chance to spend some extra time together, talk about the day ahead, and share nourishing food… or even try new recipes! This is what happened with these brownies. I have prepared them a few weeks ago trying to get a nice texture with some specific ingredients: the first time they turned out too dry, but definitely promising! The second time they were delicious: moist but not too chewy, with a lovely crust, but not too dry. We enjoyed them as part of our breakfast (with a smoothie), and as a dessert to share after dinner.

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Brownies with Black Beans

Ingredients

  • 180 g cooked black beans
  • 110 g brown rice flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp date syrup
  • 25 g ghee (softened – you can use coconut oil as a vegan option, add a little bit more than ghee)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • approx. 200 ml cashew drink

Blend beans, cashew drink, and ginger into a smooth paste. Place it in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients (add the baking powder at the end) – mix well until there are no lumps. Pour the batter into the pan, then smooth the top with a spatula or a spoon. Cook in a preheated oven for approx. 20-25 minutes at 180°C – they will be ready when the top is firm and you start to get a nice crust. Allow the brownies to cool down before cutting them into squares.

You can serve them with Greek yogurt, cinnamon, and raspberries on top.

  • Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for a few days
  • It’s important to get a smooth black bean paste to get a great final texture for your brownies
  • Rice flour tends to get dry easily, so don’t leave them too long in the oven
  • Both the cashew drink and ghee (or coconut oil) are important to get the characteristic moist texture


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Noodles with Asparagus and Courgettes

Asparagus is one of those veggies that many people avoid to cook at home because of their characteristic taste, not so easy to pair and to prepare. The key is actually “keep it simple” – find a way to eat asparagus that you like and that at the same time allows you to celebrate them and really appreciate their flavour.

This Spring vegetable comes in several colours (green, purple, white) and it’s actually packed with nutrients*

  • low in calories
  • good amount of fibre (important to keep the body overall healthy)
  • rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, A, K, and E – folate, potassium, phosphorus (folate is important for many processes in the body (among them, cognitive functions) and it’s a key nutrient for women who are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy – many other nutrients come in a smaller amount in asparagus, making this veggie really useful for our health and well-being)
  • good amount of antioxidants (important compounds that help us working as a protection from the effect of oxidative stress and free radicals – so, for example, they may help us dealing with inflammation and ageing)
  • being a source of potassium, they are one of those foods that help us get our daily intake of this important mineral (potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and the amount of sodium in the body – for many people, the daily diet is often rich in sodium and lacks in potassium)

Asparagus is also pretty famous for something else… the smell! Wondering why? What’s the chemistry behind asparagusAsparagus contains asparagusic acid, which our body converts into sulfur-containing chemicals that stink. In this interesting study published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers tried to know more about asparagus and our metabolism.

* if you have a specific medical condition, for example, uric acid kidney stones, talk to your doctor about having asparagus as part of your diet.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL! Here there is a simple recipe that will help you to fall in love with asparagus – it’s simple, rich in flavour, and really quick to prepare. You can use your favourite noodles, I have decided to go for the brown rice ones, that are pretty basic, and are a staple in my pantry (you never know when you’ll want to make a bowl of ramen or a stir-fry!).

Hope you’ll like it!

Chiara x
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Noodles with Asparagus and Courgettes

Ingredients
(serves 2)

  • 1 medium-sized courgette
  • approx. 200 g asparagus
  • 120 g brown rice noodles
  • 100 g plain tofu
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a pinch of hot paprika
  • black sesame seeds
  • some finely chopped Spring onions (to add on top before serving) – approx. 1 tsp of chopped pieces for each person, but you can also put some in a bowl and leave it on the table
  • extra virgin olive oil

Cut the vegetables (courgettes and asparagus) in thin slices (leave the tops of asparagus as they are) – chop the tofu into small cubes and mix it with the tamari, black pepper and paprika. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan and then cook the tofu until it starts to get golden brown on the outside, then add the vegetables, mix well, and keep cooking for a minute (the vegetables are thin and you want to keep them crunchy).

Cook the noodles in boiling water following the instructions on the package and when they will be ready, rinse with cold water, drain the excess of liquid, and add them to the pan – add also the grated ginger, mix well, and get ready to serve. Add a little bit of olive oil just before serving, together with black sesame seeds, and some finely chopped raw Spring onions.

 



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TAKE GOOD CARE of yourself
FILL your days with love, attention to your well-being, and positive vibes
LEAVE behind all the negativity
LOVE the food that you CHOOSE to put on your table

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