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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Whole grain scones and Raw Raspberry Chia Jam

Before moving to Ireland, I never had a scone before… but they are such a lovely idea for breakfast or brunch that after trying them a couple of times, I ended up experimenting at home with several combinations. I always use whole grain flour as a base, but all the other ingredients are different every time (sometimes I also sneak in a part of almond flour) – being creative while cooking can actually be the key to really enjoy your healthier choices.

“DO YOU HAVE LIMITED OPTIONS? DO YOU END UP EATING THE SAME FOODS EVERY DAY?” …these are just two of the most common doubts for someone who wants to start having a healthier diet and lifestyle. And don’t make me start mentioning the fear of eating tasteless and boring food.

Well, speaking from my personal experience, when I have decided to embrace a healthier lifestyle, paying attention to what I was eating, cooking more from scratch, and reading the labels of products before buying them… my diet changed completely and has been an exciting journey made of new foods, preparations, combinations, flavours, and colours! It’s incredible because on one side I had this “discovery journey“, and on the other side I was learning more about myself, my body, tastebuds, cooking skills, and (last but not for importance) I was learning more about the FREEDOM to choose and not to be limited by a diet or a food trend or an impossible goal! After more than 10 years, my journey is not over yet and I’M SO GLAD that every day I’m still OPEN to experiment and learn!

Below you will find an example of what I’ve written… Scones and an easy raw jam that pair well with them!

Chiara x

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WHOLE GRAIN SCONES

Ingredients

  • 200 g whole grain flour (I usually use wheat or spelt or a mix of them)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (measured solid)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp date syrup (optional)
  • almond or hazelnut drink

If the coconut oil is solid, start by placing your 2 tbsp in a small cup and wait until it gets warmer and softer. In a large bowl, mix the flour, date syrup, and cinnamon – in a cup/glass, mix the 2 liquids (mix approx. 100 ml of vegetable drink with the vinegar, then if you will need more liquid, simply add some extra plant-based drink). Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients and mix with your hands until the flour starts to “crumble”. Then, add the baking powder and, straight after, start including the remaining ingredients in small portions, checking if your dough really needs more liquid or not. When the dough is ready and doesn’t stick to your hands anymore, quickly cut the scones – I use a cutter that has a diameter of 7.5 cm and I roll out the dough to approx. 3-5 cm (but you can decide how to make them – in this way, you will make 4-5 large scones with the quantities listed above).

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 20 minutes. When they are almost ready, I brush them with a mix made with a splash of almond drink and a little bit of date syrup (approx. 2 tbsp drink + 1/4 tsp date syrup) – you can do this step twice so the scones will be more golden on top.

Serve them warm with Greek yogurt (or coconut yogurt) and fresh berries or the raspberry chia jam that you find below.

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RAW RASPBERRY CHIA JAM

Ingredients

  • 250 g fresh raspberries*
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • optional: add a pinch of vanilla or 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Mash your washed raspberries with a fork, add the lemon juice and the chia seeds (add also some vanilla or ginger, if you are using them). Mix well and leave in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before using it (you can add more lemon juice or 1-2 tbsp of water to get your preferred consistency for the jam). You can store the jam in a closed container in the fridge for a couple of days.

* my suggestion if you use frozen raspberries: heat them for approx. a couple of minutes in a pan with 1/2 tsp of ghee, mash them with a fork and leave to cool down before adding the seeds.



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Mince Pies

I have finally decided to make my own version of these cute little tarts. I always want to create recipes that we can truly enjoy at home, not just something good for sharing a pretty picture, so I needed to come up with a combination of taste, festive feeling and obviously an attention to the nutrients (such as using almond butter, fresh mandarin peel, and whole grain spelt flour – not using extra sugar in the filling or on top, etc). To get the most out of this spiced filling, serve them warm – the ginger, cinnamon and mandarin peel give a perfect festive taste to these mince pies with a healthier twist.

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Ingredients
(makes 12-14 mince pies)

for the filling:
2 medium-sized apples (sweet, preferably cooking apples)
4 tbsp raisins
1 ½ tbsp almond butter
juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 mandarin (peel)

for the dough:
180 g whole grain spelt flour
25 g butter (or olive oil, 4 tbsp)
1 level tbsp dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
nut or oat drink

on top:
coconut flour

To prepare the filling:
mix the grated apples (use apples grated in small pieces, not in a paste, or finely chop them) with the other ingredients and mix well. Among other ingredients listed, there’s the peel of a mandarin: use an organic one, washed and peeled – for the filling you will need the peel finely chopped. Place the mixture in a jar and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours – you can even prepare the filling 1 day in advance.

To prepare the dough:
in a bowl, mix the sugar with the melted cold butter and cinnamon. Start adding the flour and allow it to absorb all the liquid mixture (you will get a sort of crumble). Start adding some nut or oat drink in small portions – mix well with your hands and check the dough, before adding more liquid. You want a final result that doesn’t stick to the bowl or your hands. Cover the dough and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using it.

You can use a muffin tray to make the mince pies if you don’t have one for small tarts. To cut the dough, I have used a 7.5 cm round cookie cutter for the base and a little star-shaped cutter for the top. Prepare the dough more or less thick depending on what are your preferences. Cut the rounded base for each pie and place it in the baking tray, add approx 1 tbsp of mince meat (filling) and then add the little star on top. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until they start to turn golden.

Better served warm – sprinkle on top with some coconut flour. Do you have some leftover filling? Use it on top of your bowl of porridge or yogurt!


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Pear and Nuts Crumble

Playing with oats… again! This time to make a naturally sweetened dessert that will be a great plan-ahead breakfast. I have a deep love for both granola and crumbles – this one has a great mix of nutty taste, spices and a little bit of crunchiness. There’s no added sugar and just a few simple ingredients – each of them a staple of many healthy eating pantries. I definitely try to have all the time oats, flour, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, spices, and fresh fruit in my kitchen.

Not only nutrient-packed but also a delicious and easy to make treat – it’s a win-win recipe!

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Pear and Nuts Crumble

Ingredients:

(serves 2)*
for the crumble:
3 tbsp rolled oats (choose the gluten-free option if needed)
1 ½ tbsp whole grain flour (any kind of whole grain flour will work well)
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 handful of hazelnuts, chopped
2 tsp almond butter
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lukewarm water
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
a pinch of salt

for the fruit layer:
1 large pear
a handful of raspberries
a splash of lemon juice
½ tsp cinnamon powder
a pinch of nutmeg

In a large bowl, mix all the things that go in the crumble – add the water as last ingredients (you will need enough water to allow the crumble to combine together but not to form one big piece).

Prepare the fruit for the bottom layer: chop in small pieces the pear and mix it with raspberries, lemon juice, and spices – mix well and place them in the single-serving pots (as you can see from the pictures, I have used a couple of oven-safe mini cocottes). Place the crumble on top of your fruit and bake in the oven at 180°C for approx. 20 minutes (check them from time to time ’cause the crumble tends to burn easily).

Serve as itself, preferably warm or with a dollop of yogurt or labneh.

*If you want to make these crumble in a larger baking tray, just increase the amount of ingredients.

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Pumpkin Seeds Granola and Thick Mango Lassi

One of my favourite options for a plan-ahead breakfast: you can soak the chia seeds overnight in the fridge, and make the granola in advance. In the morning, you will just have to mix the ingredients in the blender and prepare your bowl. You can even prepare this in the morning, pack everything in a jar, and use it as breakfast to go.

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I definitely have a deep love for granola, and this recipe allowed me to pair it with another thing that I usually enjoy ’till the last drop: a mango lassi. Perfect as snack or breakfast, this bowl is packed with nutrients. If you have never tried to make a mango lassi before, have a look at my basic recipe for it. The one presented here is a thicker version, different in taste, but still delicious.

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Let’s see which are some of the benefits of mango:

1) RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS
Mangoes contain plenty of antioxidants like vitamin C, carotenoids, and other phenolic compounds. They may help your body in fighting oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.

2) GOOD FOR YOUR HEART
Mangoes are rich in folate, a nutrient that has been studied in relation to cardiovascular diseases, showing that has benefits for our heart health. They are also rich in fibre that helps to manage cholesterol levels and overall health.

3) HELPFUL FOR IRON ABSORPTION
The high content of vitamin C makes mangoes a good pair for foods rich in non-heme iron (less easy to be absorbed than heme iron).

4) GOOD FOR YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Due to their high content of vitamin C and carotenoids, mangoes are a good choice to boost your immune system.

5) GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN
Due to their characteristic content of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals (especially vitamin A, C, E, B6, K – folate, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron) mangoes are helpful for keeping a healthy and younger skin.

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Thick Mango Lassi

Ingredients:

(serves 2)
1 ripe mango
4 tbsp unsweetened plain yogurt (regular or plant-based)
½ medium-sized banana
2 tbsp chia seeds
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 green cardamom pods (it’s better to crush the seeds in a mortar before adding them to the blender)
1/3 tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp of turmeric
a pinch of black pepper

In a cup, mix the chia seeds and the yogurt – leave to rest for 10 minutes. Then combine all the ingredients in a blender, and mix until you get a smooth paste.

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Pumpkin Seeds Granola

Ingredients:

(serves 4-5)
100 g rolled oats (choose the gluten-free option if needed)
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
80 g almonds, chopped
½ tsp ginger powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp coconut oil, melted (measured solid)
approx. 2 tbsp lukewarm water

In a bowl, combine oats, spices, coconut oil and some lukewarm water. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients. It can be useful to use a baking tray with baking paper or reusable baking sheets. Spread the granola on the baking tray making an even layer. Place in the preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 5 min. (mix once).

Take the baking tray out from the oven, add the chopped almonds and pumpkin seeds. Mix well with a spoon. Place in the oven at the same temperature for 5 min. (mix twice).

Allow to cool completely before serving or putting in a container.

Place the lassi in a bowl and top it with some granola. If I’m serving this for breakfast, I like to place a bowl with some extra granola on the table so everyone can add more to their bowl if needed.



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Pumpkin and Almond Cookies

Cookies with a different twist:  pumpkins have a high content of fibre, potassium, and vitamin C, all nutrients that are good for our heart health. They are also a well-known source of beta-carotene, that is a powerful antioxidant.

Continue reading “Pumpkin and Almond Cookies”