Thursday, April 2, 2015

Matcha Maca Latte: Pure Harmony in a Cup

matcha, maca, latte, energy, concentration, clarity

Spring break has been fantastic so far! The last three days Dane and I spent time at our cabin on the Olympic Peninsula with wonderful friends. We hiked, we biked, we cooked, and we relaxed around the campfire. It was the perfect start to a rejuvenative week off. My body is pleasantly sore and my mind is calm. So much happiness was to be had.

Now back home in Seattle, its time to get organized for the last two and a half months as a Bastyr Dietetic Intern. Time has flown by and I can’t believe that my long journey is almost over. Quite frankly I am more than excited to get out there and make a difference! Cook, teach, and counsel, whatever it may be it’s so close on the horizon. It seems like only yesterday when I first stepped foot onto the Bastyr University campus. It also feels like just yesterday that I started this blog. It sure has changed over the years, grown, and developed just like I have. With that said, it's a good time to celebrate. Cheers to three years of blogging and two and a half months left as an intern!

Instead of celebrating in the middle of the day with a glass of champagne, which does sound lovely, I am going to celebrate by making a Matcha Maca Latte to keep my energy and concentration up for the rest of the day.


Matcha is a Japanese green tea. However, it is very different than other green teas available. The leaves are shade grown, picked, steamed, and then dried. And finally ground into a fine, fine powder, so fine, you can drink the entire leaf. It has been prized as a nutritional powerhouse because it contains more antioxidants, more EGCG (a well-researched phytonutrient), and more of the amino acid L-theanine than other green teas. It also is rich in caffeine. However, because of its high L-theanine content matcha promotes a feeling of relaxed alertness instead giving you the coffee jitters. After 30-40 minutes the L-theanine stimulates the alpha waves within the brain, which promote relaxation. The combination of both caffeine and L-theanine, induce feelings of heightened concentration and creativity.

Maca on the other hand is a root vegetable, related to the radish, and is found in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. Peruvian farmers have touted it as a superfood for thousands of years. According to Peruvian herbal medicine maca root has been used for everything from hormonal imbalance to mental clarity and endurance. Its unique ability to act as an adaptogen allows maca to offer a wide range of benefits depending on the needs of the individual. Today you can find it in health food stores promoted as an adaptogen that may enhance energy and endurance, increase fertility, and heighten mood. Furthermore, maca root is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and E, B vitamins, and plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

matcha, maca, concentration, clarity, energy, well-being
matcha, maca, latte, frother, concentration, energy, mood, clarity

Since both matcha and maca have an earthy, sweet flavor I thought that the two would harmonize perfectly; offering well-being in their rich earthy notes. And indeed the clarity and energy I feel after drinking this superfood latte enhances my spirits as well as my creativity. It is pure harmony in a cup! Perhaps you are a coffee lover, or a tea aficionado, or perhaps you are a lover of both. Either way, this superfood latte may just be the new perfect addition to your morning routine.

Let’s unwind, relax, and celebrate together with a Matcha Maca Latte!

Matcha Maca Latte
Makes 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1 teaspoon matcha powder
½ teaspoon maca powder
¼ cup hot water
1-1 ½ teaspoon honey
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup unsweetened soymilk (any milk is fine)

DIRECTIONS

Put the matcha and maca into a tea strainer or fine mesh strainer, and sift into a cup. Add hot water. Mix with a traditional matcha bamboo whisk or with a small metal whisk until combined. Add the honey, vanilla, and sea salt and continue to whisk until the honey is fully dissolved.

Meanwhile heat 1 cup of soymilk or any other milk in the microwave or on the stove stop until hot but not boiling. Using an electric frother, froth the milk until a thick foam is formed.

Using a spoon hold back the foam as you pour the hot milk into your cup. Stir and then top with the foam. Enjoy!

Note: You must add the sea salt...it brightens the earthy flavors of the matcha and maca. Trust me :)
________________________________________________________________________________ 

Reference:
Mason R. L-Theanine Boosts Alpha Waves, Promotes Alert Relaxation. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 2001;91-95.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spicy Arugula Salad with Candied Fennel Seeds

arugula, beets, fennel seeds, detox, healthy, spring, salad, easy, lemon, vinaigrette

Spring has sprung! Although the last month we have already been experiencing record high sunny days, we have now officially made it through the winter months. It feels like the calendar is behind this year, as my apple and pear trees are already in full bloom, and the frogs in the pond have already croaked me to sleep the last 6 weeks. Spring in Seattle started February 1st, not March 20th.

Whether or not you are here on the West coast in a light spring jacket, or on the East coast bundled up from head to toe, I have decided it is time to bring the spring into the kitchen, highlighting spicy arugula, bright and tangy lemon zest, sweet and soothing fennel seeds, and the beautiful golden beet. Now you too can experience spring for lunch or dinner, even if you are wrapped in a parka. 

So what’s so great about arugula? Fennel? And the golden beet? Besides the fact that they all taste amazing, especially when tossed together in a lemon zest vinaigrette, these spring delicacies have so many wonderful benefits. Craving a spring detox, then this salad is for you!

beets, raw, health, detox, anti-inflammatory
arugula, beets, fennel seeds, detox, healthy, spring, salad, easy, lemon, vinaigrettebeets, raw, health, detox, anti-inflammatory

Firstly, did you know that arugula is considered a cruciferous vegetable? It is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, and therefore has a lot of the same wonderful benefits as these powerhouses do. One unique thing about arugula, compared to many other leafy greens, is that when chewed it releases a spicy flavor. This spicy compound is a phytonutrient called glucosinolate, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities. Plus it is great at supporting detoxification in our liver. Researchers have studied this phytonutrient extensively, especially in regards to its potential in cancer prevention. However, often times we cook cruciferous vegetables, which reduces the amount of this powerful phytonutrient. Therefore, eating raw arugula is a great way to get an abundance of this spicy and uber healthy plant compound.

TIP: Throw your salad greens into a bowl and top with fresh cold water. Let them soak while you prepare the rest of the recipe. This way the leaves plump up with water and are nice and crisp.

Instead of using the fennel bulb, I decided to use the fennel seed, for an extra somethin’ somethin’. Inspired by my favorite restaurant The Temple Bar in Bellingham, WA, I decided to make candied fennel seeds for added flavor and texture. Fennel seeds have been used for a long time to support digestive health, ease bloating, and also freshen ones breath. Have you ever tried candied fennel seeds after eating Indian food? These sweet treats are there for a reason; to aid in digestion after a meal and sweeten the breath after enjoying all the spicy and garlicky dishes. However, making your own at home is the best option. When using quality ingredients, candied fennel seeds add a delicious sprinkle of anise flavor, whether on a salad, dessert, or breakfast yogurt bowl.

fennel, seeds, digestive support, health, breath

Finally, lets drop the beet, with the golden star. Bright and sunny, like a warm spring day, this root vegetable adds a little weight to the otherwise light salad. Steam it, roast it, grate it, or slice it. Use it, how you best enjoy it. However, to reap the most of its benefits, including detoxification support, anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as potent antioxidant abilities, try to eat the beet raw or lightly steamed, as the powerful phytonutrient betalain steadily decreases with heat.

TIP: When purchasing beets, by those with greens. That way you know they are super fresh. Plus, you can use the greens in a quick sauté or even thrown them into a salad.

Wow, so much goodness in just one salad! It’s surely the way to bring spring into your kitchen and the spring back into your step. I know I will be eating this for some added detox support throughout the week!

Candied Fennel Seeds
Makes about 3-4 T

2 T organic sugar
2 T water
2-3 T fennel seeds 

DIRECTIONS

In a small saucepan add the sugar and the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until the mixture becomes syrupy. Usually at this point it will produce a lot more bubbles. About 2-3 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add in the fennel seeds. Continue to stir until the mixture crystalizes. This will happen from one second to the next and the fennel seeds will look almost dry. Quickly remove from heat and continue to stir a few more seconds until the fennel seeds are dry and separated. Pour into a sealable air-tight container.

Sprinkle on salads, desserts, oatmeal, etc. Or use to freshen breath after a spicy meal :)

Note: I tried using coconut sugar and it doesn’t work well. It becomes a solid mass. You have to use cane sugar for the best results.

Quick Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes about ¾ cup

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey or sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Zest from one lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a glass container and store in the refrigerator.

Spicy Arugula Salad
Makes as much as you want

1 medium golden beet
Fresh arugula
Candied fennel seeds
Quick lemon vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

Thinly slice the beet into rounds (I used a mandolin) and then cut the slices into thin matchsticks (you can also steam or roast the beet for added sweetness).

Toss with as much fresh arugula, fennel seeds, and vinaigrette as you want. Serve with goat cheese toasts and grilled salmon for a balanced meal.  

Note: toss all the ingredients right before serving to keep the fennel seeds crisp.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Mousse

chocolate, mousse, pudding, avocado, chili, ginger, mint, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, easy, quick, holistic, nourishing

Oh AVOCADO….how much I love the. Especially when you are whipped with chocolate to a creamy perfection. So decadent, so rich, and so full of flavor!

Who knew that this combination really is all that it can be! I have been making this decadent chocolate avocado mousse weekly this past month. I change up the flavor every week; one week its chocolate mint, the next week its spiced Thai ginger, and sometimes its just plain ol’ vanilla. Either way, it never gets old. My husband loves it just the same. And trust me, a little goes a long way. I try to slowly savor each and every bite, just like I savor gelato. Yummmmmmm…its soooo gooooood!

Now its time for you to go to the grocery store and pick out two large perfect avocados, ready to be whizzed to creamy chocolate perfection. You don't want one too ripe, nor one too hard. If you can find one right in the middle, your golden. Here are my grocery store tips to help you find the perfect avocado:

  • Firstly, when pressed it should give only slightly. If the avocado gives too much this indicates that it is overripe. And if it does not give at all, it still needs to ripen.  

  • Secondly, if you flick off the top nipple, the flesh should be completely green without brown fibers inside. If you see brown spots, this indicates that there could be brown spots inside the avocado.

  • Thirdly, try to find the avocado with a neck. This indicates it was ripened on the tree. If it is oval, and does not have a neck, it did not have the time to mature on the tree.  


chocolate, mousse, pudding, avocado, chili, ginger, mint, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, easy, quick, holistic, nourishing

BENEFITS OF AVOCADO

The avocado is simply amazing. It is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants, and many phytochemicals. Did you know that the dark green part of the avocado contains the most phytochemicals? Therefore when you scrape out the avocado, don't leave behind the stuff on the edges. Makes sure to get it all!

Also, what you may not know is that 1 cup of avocado (about 1 large) contains 10g of fiber, about 40% of your daily recommended intake. Therefore in combination with all the wonderful monounsaturated fats, avocados can be really satiating. The fats also help the body absorb all the wonderful fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K that are abundant in the avocado and have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. There is so much goodness inside this single fruit it should not be overlooked!

Now when you mix avocado with rich dark cacao you will be feeling happy and satisfied in no time. Dark chocolate and cayenne naturally increase serotonin production. Serotonin is our feel good neurotransmitter, which is produced in the brain as well as in the gut. Therefore, the combination of dark chocolate and cayenne can be a potent feel good therapy. However, as always, moderation is key. A little goes a long way and eating too much chocolate can negate the positive benefits.

chocolate, mousse, pudding, avocado, chili, ginger, mint, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, easy, quick, holistic, nourishing 

So not only will you be treating your senses with this decadent chocolate avocado mousse, you will be nourishing yourself with a nutrient dense delectable treat that is vegan and gluten-free. Trust me nobody can tell.

I will share with you the three versions I have made so far. A chocolate mint, a spiced Thai ginger, and the simple base vanilla. My husband likes the mint best and I like the spiced Thai. But let me assure you, all three are darn delicious!

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Mousse (3 ways)
Makes 5-6 servings

INGREDIENTS
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (I get mine in the bulk section)
2 ripe large avocados
¼ cup dark cocoa powder (you want to make sure to get the dark)
5 tablespoons maple syrup
2 pinches sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons soymilk (any other milk will do too)

Variations:
*Mint: Add 1 teaspoon organic peppermint extract
**Spiced Thai Ginger: Add 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger and ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne  (depending on your preference)
***Vanilla: Add an additional teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Set up a small double boiler by filling a small saucepan with a little water and placing a small ceramic bowl inside. Put the chocolate chips inside the bowl and heat the saucepan over medium to melt the chocolate.

Meanwhile add the avocados, cocoa powder, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla, soymilk, and additional spices to your food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the chocolate when melted and continue to process until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Spoon the creamy smooth mousse into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop and the mousse to set. Garnish each serving with chocolate shavings and a strawberry. You can even go an extra step and serve the mousse with a dollop of whipped coconut cream (or regular whipped cream).

Adapted from the Food and Nutrition Magazine, November/December 2013
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