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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Lentil and Carrots Dahl

Another lovely idea for #meatlessmonday: a lentil soup inspired by the traditional Indian cuisine, nourishing and rich in flavour!

Chiara x

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Lentil and Carrots Dahl

(serves 4)

200 g red split lentils
3 medium-sized carrots
1 large shallot (or 2 small)
4-5 sundried tomatoes
1 tsp freshly grated ginger (or 1/3 tsp ginger powder)
1 tsp turmeric powder
a pinch of cayenne pepper
½ tsp tahini per person
extra virgin olive oil or ghee

option 1: ½ tsp garam masala
option 2: ½ tsp cumin and coriander seeds, ½ tsp fennel seeds, ¼ tsp cinnamon powder, 1-2 small cloves.

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pot over a medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and stir until turns golden. Add the lentils (previously rinsed with water using a colander) and mix well. Add the chopped sundried tomatoes and enough water to keep the lentils covered. Add also the bay leaves and crushed fennel seeds (half of the total amount that you are using for this recipe). While the lentils are cooking, keep adding water in small amounts to be sure that there won’t be water left when they will be ready, but just a nice creamy soup.

After approx. 10 minutes, add the finely chopped carrots, with turmeric, cayenne pepper, and ginger. Mix well. If you are using the garam masala mix add that too. Cook the lentils for approx. 25 minutes or until they start to become quite creamy.

If you are using the mix of spices: heat in a pan ½ tbsp of olive oil and add the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir well until fragrant. You can crush them in a mortar before or after toasting them. Add your mix of spices into the dahl and mix well – remove the bay leaves.

When the dahl is ready, turn off the heat – add ½ tsp of tahini per person and mix well. Leave to rest in the covered pot for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can serve it as 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 topping. You can also decide to add a few slices of fresh green chilli on top for some extra spiciness.



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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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