Brownies with Black Beans

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.

 



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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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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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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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Talking about FODMAPS

WHAT ARE FODMAPS?
Fodmaps are short-chain carbohydrates that some people poorly absorb and digest
=> so in some people, they can cause digestive issues and aggravate the symptoms of conditions like IBS (for these individuals the fodmaps pass through most of the intestine remaining unchanged).

WHAT DOES FODMAPS MEAN?
FODMAPS = Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols

FERMENTABLE: compounds that are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine
OLIGOSACCHARIDES: simple sugars connected together (in a polymeric structure)
DISACCHARIDES: double sugar molecule
MONOSACCHARIDES: single sugar molecule
POLYOLS: sugar alcohols

EXAMPLES OF HIGH FODMAP FOODS?*
Garlic, onions, beans, fermented cabbage, ripe bananas, dates, pears, apples, figs, cherries, peaches, wheat flour, spelt flour, semolina, rye, cashews, sweeteners, honey, agave milk, yogurt.

EXAMPLES OF LOW FODMAP FOODS?*
Squash, kale, ginger, courgettes, eggplant, carrots, olives, unripe bananas, kiwi, grapes, papaya, orange, beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, fresh cod-salmon-trout, crab, mussels, prawns, oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, walnuts, butter, eggs, tofu, oils, cacao.
[*source: ibsdiets website]

The LOW FODMAP diet has been studied especially in relation to people suffering from IBS and seems to be helpful in improving their quality of life (IBS = irritable bowel syndrome, a digestive disorder). A low fodmap diet can also be beneficial for people with other digestive-related diseases.

It’s IMPORTANT to remember that FODMAPS ARE NOT bad from a general point of view. But knowing more about them is a big step for people suffering from conditions affecting their digestive system.

IBS or other digestive issues can be not only difficult to manage, but also frustrating and cause of embarrassment. So, it’s even more important than usual for the people who are affected from this kind of health issues, to build a good relationship with their body, being able to love the food that they choose to put on the table, and feel a little bit more in control of how food affects their days. Things that can help: knowing your triggers (both regarding food and lifestyle), keeping a food diary, trying new ingredients or recipes (but also different portions) and keep track if they worked well for you or not.

Here there’s a recipe that I have prepared with low fodmap ingredients and that is also gluten-free + vegan. It’s pretty simple and versatile: polenta flour is not the most common choice for pancakes but they are actually delicious and you can use this as a base for both a savoury or sweet brunch. Hope you’ll like it! Chiara x

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polenta pancakes (2)

 

POLENTA FLOUR PANCAKES

Ingredients

For the pancakes:
150 g polenta flour
5 tbsp rolled oats (choose gluten-free oats if you need them)
water
a pinch of salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preparation
In a bowl, mix the ingredients for the pancakes (blend the oats into a flour – crush the spices in a mortar or add them in the blender with the oats). Add water to the mixture slowly and in small portions, you want a quite thick batter as result (as you will notice that polenta flour behaves pretty much differently compared with other flours – oats will help you to make everything stick together). When the pancakes’ batter is ready, leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Heat a frying pan, preferably a non-stick one, on a medium heat with ½ tsp of extra virgin olive oil. Use 2 tbsp for each pancake, moving the pan until the batter is evenly distributed and using a spoon to help you. Cook each pancake until it can be easily flipped with a spatula. Keep the batter well mixed. Using these quantities, you will be able to make approx. 10 small pancakes.

SERVING IDEA: KALE PESTO

Ingredients
approx. 20 hazelnuts
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
4-5 kale leaves
1 handful of rocket
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

Preparation
Toast for a couple of minutes the hazelnuts and seeds in a pre-heated oven at 180°C, then leave them to cool down. Blend together all the ingredients for the pesto and add 1-2 tbsp of water if you need some extra help to get a smooth mixture. Mix it well again with a spoon before serving.

Serve them with some pesto on top or in between each pancake – you can also add a salad as a side and some smoked salmon or a poached egg or some tempeh for a lovely brunch.


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