Quick non-laminated Croissants

A quick alternative to the classic laminated croissants. Obviously, it’s not flaky and less fancy, but you will be surprised by their nice texture, the slightly sweet crust, and the fragrant smell that will spread all over your home.

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Cecina or Farinata

This is a typical Italian simple recipe (originally from Tuscany and Liguria, but you can find it in other parts of Italy as well). Just a few basic ingredients, paired together to give you this tasty result – great eaten straight from the oven, or reheated, or even cold. It’s a versatile food – good as a snack, or paired with a salad/soup for lunch, or as part of a savory breakfast… why not?

There was this little vegetarian and vegan cafè in between my house and the college in Bologna, and sometimes I was stopping by to grab something for lunch: almost every day they had freshly made super thin cecina and it was so good! Light and nourishing, perfect for a busy afternoon spent studying or working in the lab.

So, here there is my recipe for cecina. This is one of the recipes that I often share with my clients, it’s perfect when you are busy, but at the same time, you want to stay healthy and get your nutrients.

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Cecina (or Farinata)

Ingredients:

  • 200 g chickpea flour
  • 500 ml water
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper
  • other spices (optional)

In a mixing bowl, add the water and spices, then slowly add the flour using a whisk to mix everything really well (to prevent lumps of flour). Leave to rest for at least 30 min, but even a couple of hours or overnight if possible (if you leave it to rest overnight you may (depending on the temperature of the room) have to add a little bit of water before baking since chickpea flour absorb water easily). Mix well again before baking and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place on a baking tray – the result should be thin, between 1-1.5 cm and 2-3 cm. You can use some baking paper or those reusable non-stick trays since tends to stick a lot to the pan – or you can add some oil on the bottom of a non-stick baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C until there is a nice golden crust (a few minutes before taking it out from the oven, add on top some olive oil and spread it all over the surface, then put it back in the oven – that’s optional, but adds a nice extra flavor). Allow to cool well before removing from the pan (if you are using baking paper, remove the paper+food and place on a cooling rack). It will keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

You can prepare the plain version first, then try adding different spices to the mixture or spinach or carrots or courgettes, for example. If you add vegetables inside the batter, add them just before baking.

Alternatively, you can decide to top your cecina with some sauteed spinach or chard or kale or cavolo nero (any other similar dark green leafy vegetables will work well). Prepare your sautéed greens in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, chilli flakes or cayenne pepper, and black pepper – it will take a few minutes for them to be ready (chop them finely before or after cooking). You can also add some crumbled goat cheese or feta or chopped cashews for a dairy-free option.

Healthy Summer Skin

Recently, I was talking about vitamins, the sun, and melanin on my social media pages. So, I have decided to write this Summer-themed blog post. It’s an interesting topic, ’cause sometimes you actually tend to forget that food is not just a fuel to keep you running all day long. You can make the right choices and get the most out of your meals, in terms of keeping your body and mind healthy, or in terms of helping you with mood swings, skin health, energy levels, concentration, digestion, etc. Let’s talk about a few tips to help your skin and shine from the inside out!

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7 basic tips for a healthy skin

Your skin is the body’s largest organ and the fastest-growing one. Unless your skin is damaged or cut, your skin protects your whole body.

The skin has the ability to absorb active compounds that you use with lotions, but at the same time can use compounds that you introduce with the diet.

In this blog post, I will guide you through basic topics and pieces of advice, simple and easily adaptable to everybody’s life.

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What you eat influences not just how you feel “internally”, but it has also an effect on your skin, your energy levels, your sleep pattern, etc. (think for example at how your skin looks after a few days of not drinking enough water). A healthy lifestyle can also be helpful if you have a skin condition like acne, rosacea, or psoriasis: obviously, in this situation, you should be extra careful with your make-up, lotions, and beauty routine in general. Also, sometimes there are specific treatments to follow given by a dermatologist, considering that the reason behind these conditions can be different.

Remember that what worked for someone can be useless for you, or your skin can even react badly. That’s why is always better to do little patch tests on an arm when buying a new cream or make-up. Also “the more, the better” is not always true: putting too many products on your skin won’t make you look great faster – just find a few that work well for you and have a good list of ingredients, and use them on a daily basis. It’s like a healthy diet, you need to be consistent and slowly you will see results, but the body needs time to adapt!

7 basic tips for a healthy skin

1. Drink plenty of water: seems like the most useless advice, but it’s actually something good to remind. We are reading everywhere different pieces of advice related to health: drink this, drink that, drink those daily, a healthy shot of this, 10 glasses of that. Go back to the basics: are you drinking enough water? Your skin can tell you, also your lips, your digestive system, your ability to concentrate, your tiredness, and much more. Sometimes your body is telling you in many ways that you need more water – you should just pay more attention to the signs! There isn’t a fixed amount of water that is good for everyone, the classic rule of 8 glasses may not work for you. Consider how is your day, diet, exercise routine, etc. You will notice a big difference by start drinking more water: one of the first positive effects will be on your face’s skin!

2. Green tea: you can use it both as a beverage and as a skin treatment. It’s rich in antioxidants, that will help you fighting free-radicals and keeping a younger skin. Much research has been done about green tea, and the powerful effect of its catechins and polyphenols both for skin cells and protection from environmental damages has been proved. Using it topically, it will also help with inflammation and will give a good cleanse: you can make a concentrated cup of green tea, cool it down, and mix it with some aloe vera, then use as a cleanser with a cotton pad (after removing the makeup).

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3. Good fats: this is an important part of a balanced diet. Your body needs good fats: they are important for things like cells, metabolic processes, and vitamin absorption, just to name a few. Of course, you need them in the right amounts. Use extra virgin olive oil (that is also rich in vitamin E, great for skin), or nuts (for example almonds, that contain also minerals, vitamin A and E), or avocado (source of vitamin E, C, antioxidants, and vitamins from the B group), or seeds (source of omega-3, vitamins, and minerals).

4. Minerals: reduce sodium, go for fruit and vegetables rich in potassium (to keep a healthy sodium-potassium balance). Include foods rich in magnesium (that will also help with stress), and iron (lack of this mineral can give you a dry, itchy, aged skin). Overall, a good amount of minerals will help in keeping a radiant and hydrated skin. Green leafy vegetables, beetroots, spirulina, dried apricots, nuts, whole grains, cocoa powder, etc. are good vegetable sources of iron. Magnesium can be found in oats, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes, cocoa powder, etc. Examples of food rich in potassium are bananas, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, apricots, etc.

5. De-stress: high levels of stress can mess up with your whole body, skin included. Find some relaxation techniques that work well for you, whether it’s yoga, meditation, cooking, reading, exercising, massage, or walking… find the most effective one (or ones) and include it in your daily routine. Stress is often related to emotional eating, digestive issues, lack of absorption of nutrients, high blood pressure, skin problems, etc. Also, staying active boosts your happiness-related hormones, helps to keep your digestive system working well, helps the body’s natural detox by sweating, etc.

6. Healthy gut: the more we know about our gut, the more we understand that there is a deep relationship between its health and our well-being. Your skin health is related to your internal balance because it’s related to diet, absorption of nutrients, hydration, hormones. Embrace a healthy lifestyle rich in fibre, fresh fruit, and vegetables, together with a variety of foods to get all the nutrients that you need daily. Include also healthy sources of probiotics, fermented foods, spices (like turmeric), and herbs.

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7. Exfoliate and massage: when doing a simple scrub, the important thing is using just a few basic ingredients that you know are good for your skin and don’t do this deep cleanse too often. You can easily prepare your own face scrub: taking inspiration from Ayurveda, you can use gram flour, honey, and rosewater. Or the simpler and cheaper option is using sugar as base. You can add spices like turmeric, but use small quantities and try it first on a small hidden piece of arm’s skin (it may be too much for a pale skin). By exfoliating, you will help your skin giving a breath of fresh air from dying cells, and you will also do a nice massage to stimulate the micro-circulation. To massage, or for a face mask (maybe together with honey), you can use coconut oil or ghee (they are both  rich in nutrients, that will help your skin in re-build a good external protective layer and will deeply nourish your skin): there are several kinds of oil/butter that you can use on your body or face skin, but among many options, these two are good alternatives both for nutrients (ghee is a staple in Ayurvedic treatments) and for adaptability to sensitive skin.

Fancy reading more about this topic? Below there are a few links to scientific publications related to skin health and some of the foods that are mentioned in the post.



 

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Ghee

Have you ever read about liquid gold? It’s one of the common ways used to talk about ghee, one of the cornerstones of Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine). The use of ghee for cooking, Ayurvedic treatments, or as part of ceremonies is well-established in the Indian culture (but also in other countries). The Sushruta Samhita, a compendium on medicine and an Ayurvedic classic text, talks about ghee claiming that’s beneficial for the whole body and associates its use as a remedy for issues related to the pitta dosha, such as inflammation.

But what is ghee and how does it differ from butter? Butter is an emulsion, it contains a fat component, water and milk proteins (emulsifiers). Ghee, also known as clarified butter, is obtained by heating the butter with separation of milk solids (casein, lactose): what remains is a golden liquid that will solidify when cool. The high heat applied to butter removes moisture. Chemically, ghee is a complex lipidic mixture made of glycerides, free fatty acids, phospholipids, sterols, sterol esters, fat-soluble vitamins, carbonyls, hydrocarbons, carotenoids (the quantity depends on the milk used), small amounts of casein and traces of minerals such as calcium or phosphorus. Approx. 98% of the ghee’s composition are glycerides, while sterols (mostly cholesterol) is usually the 2-5% of total material. Typically, ghee has a higher smoke point than butter (approx. 250°C vs 150°C), so it’s ideal for cooking at high temperature. Ghee as also the ability to give a unique flavour to preparations such as curry, dahl, soups, and it’s useful in baking.

  • Obviously, ghee remains a fat source, so it should be considered in the total daily fat intake, used in limited amounts and appropriately (especially for people who suffer from high cholesterol or related diseases).
  • If ghee is prepared properly, there should be just traces of casein and lactose so it can be suitable even for people who are dairy intolerant, unless a person is extremely sensitive (discuss with your GP if you have any concerns about allergic responses).
  • Since moisture is largely removed, ghee is shelf-stable: you can store it in the fridge, but it’s safe even if you keep it outside in an airtight container. In India, aged ghee is considered to have even more healing properties than the freshly made one (even 100-years old ghee): it’s used externally for therapeutic treatments by Ayurvedic practitioners.
  • Ghee contains vitamins such as A (that has an important role in different metabolic processes, assists in protein absorption and contributes in slowing the ageing process), E (with antioxidant properties), K (that stimulates bone growth/repair and plays a role in blood health).
  • Ghee is rich in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids, both unsaturated and saturated. Ghee contains omega 3 and omega 9 essential fatty acids. It’s also one of the highest natural sources of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), especially when made from organic butter and grass-fed cow’s milk. Ghee contains also phenolic antioxidants, good for the immune system.
  • Traditionally, ghee has been used especially to aid digestion and for keeping connective tissues and joints healthy.

That’s interesting: a research group studied the antioxidant activities of orange peel extract in ghee stored at different temperatures. The study revealed that orange peel could be a good natural source of antioxidants which can be used in fat-rich food products like ghee to retard the process of oxidative deterioration.

How to prepare ghee?
Ghee is often available in health food stores, but you can make it at home easily. Use preferably organic and unsalted butter. Ghee can be made starting with different kind of milk (traditionally in India is made with buffalo’s milk).

Cut the butter into small cubes and place it in a saucepan over low heat until completely melted. Heat for about 10-15 min. You will notice the separation of white curds that will start to collect at the bottom of the pan. The melted butter will pass through different stages such as foam, bubbles, and then foam again: at this stage the ghee is ready. You should have a bright golden liquid and milk solids. Let it cool for few minutes and then filter the liquid through a cheesecloth. Allow to cool completely and solidify before closing the jar.

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References:

Ghee: Its Chemistry, Processing and Technology
Ghee: An Ayurvedic and Biochemical Treatise

 



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