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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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 asparagus? Asparagus 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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Greens on Tofu

Sometimes things are just totally unplanned! This is what happened for the recipe that you’ll find below. A combination of grocery shopping day, plenty of inspiring fresh ingredients in the kitchen, not too much time to cook, and a warmer weather that calls for green and fresh meals! What came out is something that I suddenly called “not your average toast”, because the idea is the same behind a toast: a thick base with a distinctive flavour (marinated tofu, in this recipe), covered with delicious toppings.

Hope you will like it! Chiara x

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Greens on Tofu

Ingredients
(serves 2)

100 g plain tofu
a pinch of garam masala
1 1/2 tbsp tamari
2 medium-sized courgettes
2 handful of rocket
some microgreens (here I have used the ones made from coriander)
1/3 tsp black sesame seeds
extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Make 4 thick slices out of the block of tofu and toss them with a little bit of olive oil, the tamari sauce and a pinch of garam masala – be sure that the marinade is well distributed around all your tofu, then place it in the fridge for 30 minutes (or you can cook it straight away if you’d have time). Roast the tofu in a pre-heated oven at 180°C until it starts to turn golden and crispy on the outside (approx. 15-20 minutes).

Cut the courgettes into slices (not too thin – so you’ll ensure that they will keep well a crunchy texture) and cook for only a couple of minutes in a warm pan with a little bit of olive oil.

Place the tofu on a plate* (I have used 2 slices for each person) – cover it with the courgettes first, then add the rocket and the microgreens. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top before serving.

* you are mixing cooked and raw ingredients, so it’s better to leave the tofu and courgettes to cool down a little before serving.

 



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3 Benefits that you can get from being more aware around food

Wondering how being more aware and eating with intention can change/improve your everyday life or your relationship with food and with yourself? Wondering how starting to be truly aware of the entire process of eating and don’t only mindless getting some fuel for your body can make a difference for you? Let’s talk about 3 main benefits that you can get.

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1) RECLAIM YOUR TRUE SELF AND START FEELING YOUR BEST

Starting to be more AWARE of the entire process of nourishing, means working on the connection with your body and the food that you CHOOSE to eat, but it also means that you’ll truly put into practice the idea of moving from eating to nourishing. Learn how to listen and trust your body – start giving it what it needs, and not ignoring the messages that will eventually send you even in the busiest times. Start putting yourself first and love taking care of yourself, so you’ll be able to start felling your best!

2) LEARN MORE ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU WANT

Check the difference between “I want to lose weight so I will start a diet next Monday” and “Lately I have been eating too many sweets because I look for them every time that I’m stressed, so I want to sort out this issue at its roots, find a way to de-stress and try new healthier snacks

=> the idea behind the first sentence is looking for a quick fix without questioning the resolution or asking yourself why you should do that and how you feel now or which benefits you will get from accomplishing this goal

=> read again the second sentence. Can you see how this one is not only more complete but is already getting you on a different pathway and motivates you to ask yourself more questions about that idea of losing weight?

  • You don’t need to COMPARE yourself to others
  • You need to be focused on what really matters TO YOU
  • You don’t need to fit into a general resolution but what you should do instead is create INTENTIONS with a non-judgemental approach

Big, bright and shiny resolutions are definitely attractive, but WORKING ON YOURSELF is so rewarding in the long term! Being more aware means start doing this every day and get to know yourself better.

3) START BREAKING UP WITH THE DIETING MINDSET

A few days ago, I was talking with a new client about diets and why they aren’t the right tool to start having a healthier lifestyle or a better relationship with food.

For example: the idea of cheat days – when you have a healthy relationship with food, you don’t need this kind of things. The idea of a restrictive diet for 5/6 days a week and then a free day is only creating more limitations and a wrong mindset: you finally feel free to eat on that day and end up overeating because you know that all those things are NOT ALLOWED on regular days.

  • how can this approach help you to learn more about your body and its needs?
  • how can you truly enjoy your food if the idea is “I NEED to follow these restrictions today, then I will finally eat EVERYTHING that I want on my cheat day“?
  • how can you truly learn to eat with intention, and understand what you like or don’t like?
  • what will you do when your diet will come to an end? Which teachings will you get for your future?

The main goal is generally just one: lose weight. But there are a bunch of things that can help you in reaching your goal and that the classic dieting mindset doesn’t take into account, such as:

  • which are the reasons why you need to lose weight?
  • what else you can do apart from working on the food that you eat?
  • how do you feel about having to lose weight?
  • do you have a healthy relationship with your body?
  • how is your appetite? Do you recognise well when you are full or hungry?

I truly believe that it’s important to check-in with yourself very well before starting a journey like this one or any other wellness-related programs. You need to be aware of what can be disruptive for your mindset and what can help you in MOVING FORWARD.

Unfortunately, it’s so easy to lose confidence in your body or your food choices, and feeling like you are NOT ENOUGH… but, on the other hand, it’s not so easy to get back having a positive, strong and motivated mindset. So, try to PUT YOURSELF FIRST every day, try to choose what is best for you with a critical point of view and start being more AWARE. It’s NOT wasted time!

REMEMBER: if you are not willing to take action, you can’t expect the results that you are looking for!

Chiara x



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Golden Milk

(read in Italian 🇮🇹️)

What is golden milk? If you have ever tried it, you know well why it’s called “golden”. This brightly coloured warm drink is indeed based on turmeric, that gives it the typical yellow finish. It’s a classic Ayurvedic preparation and really easy to make – a more traditional recipe uses both almond oil (food grade) and a turmeric paste that you can make ahead then store in the fridge and dissolve in a cup of warm liquid anytime you want. When I have made it for the first time years ago, I have followed this recipe and didn’t like the almond oil at all… it has been really difficult to empty that (luckily) little bottle! Well, after this disappointing start, I have found my own way to make golden milk and I’ve felt in love with its flavour. The ingredients in your cup will work together to increase the nutritional value of this warm drink.

You can also slightly adapt the recipe to your taste buds – the main things that you can change are:

  • amount of turmeric (especially if you have never tried it, I would say that’s better to use a little bit less than what’s written in the recipe)
  • liquid: you can use a plant-based drink or any kind of milk or a mix of one of these and water 1:1 (I like to make it with plant-based drinks and almond/cashew/ hazelnut are my favourite options to choose from)
  • this is a basic recipe, but you can decide to add other spices (for example cardamom (crushed into a powder) or cloves (making an infused milk) or vanilla powder)
  • you can choose between powdered cinnamon or use it as a stick
  • if you are using a liquid that is very diluted or you have decided to go for water as base: you can add 1/3 tsp of ghee or coconut oil or 1/2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil to the golden milk – you will do this to ensure that you have a certain amount of fat to improve the absorption of turmeric
  • the recipe below is for an unsweetened golden milk – if you’d like to add 1/3 tsp of honey when the drink is ready (especially if you have never tried it), go ahead. But keep in mind to try it without any sweetener and use this as a chance to learn something more about your taste buds!

Turmeric is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties and the golden milk was traditionally used by people practising yoga to support their joints’ health. If you want to know more about turmeric’s properties, I’ll publish soon a blog post with all the details that you need to take the most out of it – so keep an eye on my social media pages to ensure that you won’t miss that!

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GOLDEN MILK

Ingredients to make 1 cup:

250 ml hazelnut or almond or cashew drink (unsweetened)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (heaping tsp)
a pinch of cinnamon powder
a pinch of black pepper

You can mix all the ingredients when you want to prepare your cup of golden milk or decide to prepare ahead a turmeric paste (mixing 1 part of water, 2 of turmeric, and some black pepper in a small pan until it’s warm and without lumps – allow to cool down and store in the fridge for up to 4 days) to add to the warm milk.


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Kitchari

(recipe in Italian HERE 🇮🇹️ – fa parte della mia collaborazione sull’alimentazione consapevole con Gaia di The Green Pantry)

Who knows Kitchari? Or it’s even better to ask… who else loves it? Because this is what happens when you try it for the first time, you suddenly fall in love with this nourishing and simple preparation. Kitchari is a classic Ayurvedic recipe to support your body’s natural balance. It’s a great option when you need to reconnect with your body and you’re looking for an easy (and healthy) way to rebalance – for example, in between seasons, after a stressful time, or in a period with several occasions for overindulging with food.

You can check out my version for this deliciously simple soup below. This is actually only one of the ways in which I prepare Kitchari – not only I try to change the spices and vegetables, especially according to my own needs or to the seasons, but I also sometimes decide to blend part of the mung beans (usually half of them, to get an extra creamy texture). Every time I have some Kitchari left from the day before (a rare occasion!), I try to change it a little by adding extra fresh veggies.

Hope you’ll like it! Chiara x

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KITCHARI

Ingredients:
(x 2)
2 parts of yellow mung dal beans (approx. 100 g)
1 part of brown basmati rice (approx. 50 g)
4 medium-sized carrots
1 shallot
2 bay leaves
1 cardamom pod (open it)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1/3 tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1/3 tsp cinnamon powder
5-6 coriander seeds
a pinch of black pepper
ghee or extra virgin olive oil
fresh coriander or parsley to use as a topping
optional: chopped spinach, kale, or other dark leafy greens

Preparation:
Heat 1 tsp of ghee or ½ tbsp of olive oil in a pot over a medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and stir until it turns golden. Add the yellow mung beans (previously rinsed with water) and mix well. Add enough water to keep everything covered. Add also the bay leaves and crushed fennel seeds (half of the total amount that you are using for this recipe). While they are cooking, keep adding water in small amounts to be sure that there won’t be water left when they will be ready. After approx. 20 minutes, add the finely chopped carrots, rice, and turmeric. Mix well. Cook for approx. 20 minutes or until everything is cooked and start to become quite creamy. If you are also using
some finely chopped dark leafy vegetables, add them almost at the end (cook for approx. 5 minutes).

To prepare the mix of spices: heat in a pan ½ tbsp of olive oil or 1 tsp of ghee and add the spices (at this stage, you have already used turmeric, bay leaves, and half of the fennel seeds – so just use what is left on the list). Stir well until fragrant. You can crush them in a mortar before or after toasting them. Add your mix of spices into the Kitchari and mix well – remove the bay leaves.

When the Kitchari is ready, turn off the heat – leave to rest in the covered pot for 5 minutes before serving. You can serve it by itself with just a little bit of olive oil on top or you can decide to use some fresh parsley and/or a dollop of yogurt as a topping.


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