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 Italian)

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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Almond, Pecan and Pumpkin Seeds Butter

How many times have you planned to start a diet next Monday, next January, next week?  And, honestly, how many times did you give up before starting or just after a few days?⠀

What if today you decide to stop looking for a quick fix or trying to follow the latest trendy diet… and you simply start working on yourself?⠀

  • rethink your goals⠀
  • set intentions⠀
  • be sure that what you’d like to achieve is something that really matters to you⠀
  • focus on simple changes first⠀
  • work on your mindset⠀
  • start creating LIFELONG healthy habits⠀

Not easy, not quick… but so rewarding! Start all of this process by speaking clearly to yourself in a non-judgemental way. Just be honest and have a better look inside yourself!

What can be your first simple step today? Write down your shopping list for this delicious nuts+seeds butter and get ready to make it soon! Use it as a chance to

  • spend a little bit of time in the kitchen
  • cook something tasty and packed with nutrients
  • get more creative in the kitchen
  • prepare in advance something to add to your next breakfast or snack
  • be more aware when cooking and eating

Enjoy your nuts+seeds butter on toasted bread with some berries, as topping for your porridge, or use it for energy balls as I suggest below!

Chiara x

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Almond, Pecan and Pumpkin Seeds Butter

Ingredients:

  • 100 g almonds
  • 50 g pecan nuts
  • 150 g pumpkin seeds
  • a pinch of vanilla powder

Place your nuts and seed on a baking tray and roast for approx. 10-15 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 150°C (I prefer to start with nuts only, then add the pumpkin seeds a little bit later since they tend to burn quite easily). Leave them to cool down almost completely and then use your mixture to prepare the butter in a food processor or blender: this part will take some time, especially depending on the kitchen appliance that you have – if your blender or food processor starts to warm up too much or smell a little, simply stop for a while and start again later. It takes a while for both nuts and seeds to release their oil and get into a smooth paste. Store your butter in a closed jar in the fridge.

A simple idea to use your freshly made nut+seeds butter…

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Nuts, Seeds, and Chocolate Energy Balls

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp of almond, pecan and pumpkin seeds butter
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 3 tbsp milled flaxseeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp date syrup
  • 1 tbsp oat flour
  • 1 tbsp melted cacao butter
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a little bit of water (to help you shape the energy balls)

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Only start adding water in small portions when the mixture will be ready so you won’t add too much of it. You can easily make the oat flour in a blender starting with regular oats. Shape your energy balls and store them in the fridge in an air-tight container.



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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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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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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.

 



Would you like to start having a healthier diet and lifestyle, but also start building lifelong healthy habits? Learn how to:

CELEBRATE your body
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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