Spring is close, I can just feel it! I made these cookies as a lighter, smarter, yet still comforting treat to enjoy warmed up with my afternoon tea. They contain no oil and no flour, yet are gooey and substantial and delicious with a dab of nut butter on top! I hope they help you stay optimistic through the last month of winter.
about amaranth: think of amaranth as the antithesis of flour in this recipe. It is a tiny seed that contains more complete protein than quinoa and more calcium than milk. It’s also high in fiber. What’s not to love?
about fenugreek and fennel: fenugreek has been shown to lower blood sugar and reduce bad cholesterol in the blood due to its soluble fiber and saponins. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates in the blood, and saponins bind to cholesterol and prevent it from being absorbed. Fennel is a great digestive aid and tastes great, as well! Adding these or any of the spices I suggested to these cookies will make them more delicious and more supportive of your amazing body and all it does.
½ cup zante currants (or any dried fruit or chopped nut)
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp ground spices: fenugreek, fennel, anise, cardamom, turmeric, coriander cinnamon…or whatever you like
You can grind whole spices in a coffee grinder to achieve a fine powder, like I did. They will be more flavorful than pre-ground spices. Make sure you clean the grinder well before and after, or consider dedicating a grinder just for this purpose.
4 ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
generous pinch of salt
Cook ½ cup of amaranth in 1 ¼ cups water to yield a little more than 1 cup cooked. Preheat the oven to 375, and while the amaranth is cooking, mash the bananas with the vanilla extract. Mix in all other dry ingredients until well incorporated. Spoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten slightly with the spoon. They will not spread much, so give them the shape and thickness that you desire. Bake for 25-30 minutes and let cool.
If I’m alone in feeling a little salty every time February 14th rolls around, then I must be crazy. But this is the second year in a row I’ve blogged about it, so I must be part of the hype, right? If this hollow holiday makes you feel a little sour about love, then read on, my friend.
If there’s one thing I can say about Valentine’s Day, it’s that it’s perfectly timed. Though I admittedly tell C I love him at least 10 times a day, every day, it feels especially true right now. It’s a harsh, cold world out there, and I have never been more grateful for his warm company and effortless affection than this frigid February. But my point is just this—why do we need an excuse to dote on our loves and make a showy display of affection?
I’m sure you’ve heard this rant before, but it merits repeating. Whomever it is that you love, let them know it today. But let this be the least of days and the least of ways. Surprise them with a candlelit dinner on some random Wednesday in October. Melt them with flowers when they stagger out of work way past closing time on a humid Friday in June. Wake them up with a soft, sloppily strummed tune and your sleepy voice humming along, on a slow Sunday in the middle of the March thaw. Leave a note on their windshield with a naughty message next Tuesday. But whatever you do, please don’t save it all for Valentines Day.
On another note, I made some treats for myself yesterday (International Self-Love day, incidentally) to help me get through the next month and a half of my elimination diet. I can’t have wheat, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, sugar, or caffeine, so this was a bit of a challenge, but I was up to it. After lunch one day on the way home from a snowboarding expedition, I put a name on my craving: Lemon Bars. I set out to find a recipe that would work with my diet, and did I ever. Not overly sweet, these tartlets are also a touch sour and more than a little salty. They are also raw, grain-free, vegan and free of refined sugar. Winning on so many levels.
In Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga that governs wellness and nourishment, wintertime is dominated by vata, the elements air and ether, and the qualities dry and light. There is an excess of these qualities in our environment, and we are encouraged to balance them in our bodies, to avoid experiencing ill effects. Vata is present in each of us all the time, as are the other two doshas or constitutions, pitta and kapha. Pitta is fiery, hot and sharp, and kapha is earthy, watery, heavy and soft. Another Ayurvedic concept, rasa, translates to taste and identifies 6 tastes that make up all flavors in food. Certain tastes are said to aggravate certain doshas, while others will calm them.
In colder times, we do best when we even out an imbalance of vata with some pitta and kapha qualities, and preparing doshic food is an easy way to do this. The three rasas present in these tarts are sweet, salty, and sour, the same three rasas that are said to alleviate vata. Tastes that aggravate vata are pungent or spicy, astringent, and bitter. Think of all those summer salads that contain these flavors. Well, those salads are better left for summer. For now, comfort your inner vata and indulge in a sweet, rather salty, and slightly sour treat, and feel less cheesy on Valentines’ Day.
1 c pitted dates
1 c raw almonds, soaked overnight
1 c coconut butter (I used this to avoid labor) or fresh coconut flesh
½ c fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt or other flaky salt, plus more for garnish
1 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used meyer lemons)
¼ c lemon zest
½ c coconut oil
coffee grinder (if using whole flax seeds)
cupcake or muffin tins
For the crust, process the ingredients until no bits are larger than a sesame seed. I recommend pulsing the almonds a few times alone before adding the dates and flax. Best done in 2 batches. With your fingers, press the paste into each well of a couple cupcake or muffin tins (I used one of each). The crust should be no more than a centimeter thick.
For the filling, process the almonds, dates, coconut butter, ginger and salt until finely blended. First zest, and then juice your lemons, and mix both zest and juice in along with the coconut oil. Fill your wells (there may be some extra—makes a luxury spread or topping for toast or porridge) and garnish with a few grains of salt. Dehydrate at 110 or the lowest temperature on your oven. I achieved an average temp of 120 with the oven door ajar. Do this for 2 hours. The tarts should firm up but not be dried out. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving, or freeze and thaw slightly. Store in the freezer. Can be eaten for breakfast (I did today). Can be eaten alone, given away or shared with love.
What is it about bitching that is just so good? The combination of the storytelling, the incredulity, the horror, the laughter, the guilt and the sharing of woes is a recipe for comfort, and an indulgence of the highest degree. No day feels complete without it. I swear, it releases some happiness-inducing chemicals in the brain. It’s evil how sweet it is.
I could say the same thing about a couple of other ritual indulgences which, when combined, form a misery-melting combo. I’m talking, of course, about cacao theobroma and coffea arabica, sinful substances better known as chocolate and coffee. These partners in crime contain alkaloids that act on the human body in a similar way to a cathartic bitching session, and I am willing to bet that they make you feel just as good. Go ahead, shower a kind friend in a sorry story or two. What are friends for?
Whether or not you set aside time today to bitch, and whether or not you have a sympathetic ear, this chocolate-coffee banana bread is mandatory eating today and every day. Vegans, bitch all you want. I made this treat for you. Eat your hearts out.
BITCHIN’ BANANA BREAD
1 cup rye flour
½ cup white spelt flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or you can use 1 cup white 1 cup whole flour of any kind)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom (optional)
4 ripe bananas
2 tbsp ground cacao nibs (best) or unsweetened cocoa powder OK too
1 tbsp psyllium husk powder or ground flax seed
½ cup strong, fresh coffee
¾ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
Brew the coffee—a french press is best. Use way more coffee grounds than necessary. Grind your nibs in a coffee grinder (if using), and mix the cacao powder with the psyllium/flax in the pressed coffee. Let sit aside until thickened. Then add the active ingredients (that’s your coffee and chocolate, friends) to the banana in a medium bowl and mash until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or grease with coconut oil. Melt your coconut oil into your maple syrup in the warming oven. Mix your dry ingredients in a large bowl, and add your syrup-oil mixture and the vanilla to the dirty banana mixture. Then fold the dry into the wet until just combined. Do not overmix.
Pour your batter into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and pop it until the oven. It took an hour and 20 minutes for my loaf to finish baking. You will know you baked long enough when you insert a toothpick into the very heart of the loaf and it comes out clean. Best when eaten warm, in solidarity.