Chocolate Chia Pudding

Fridays are wonderful. In my mind, they’re synonymous with beauty sleep and freedom.  Sure, Friday mornings and afternoons can be stressful if I have a paper to hand in or an exam to write, but Friday evenings? totally my jam. During the week I’m so busy studying, writing papers and running around campus that sitting down for an actual meal becomes really difficult, impossible even, I just don’t have time! Dinners are planned days in advance, breakfasts are eaten in minutes and lunches are spent in the library. Me, my textbook & a subway sandwich – the three very unexciting amigos (thank goodness for sriratcha). Come Friday, I’m ready to relax, which means hitting up a yoga class, reading a good book & most importantly, having a few leisurely meals. My favorite meal of the day is breakfast and this particular dish has everything I love; chocolate, raspberries, almonds & chia seeds!

Don’t let anybody fool you with talk of chia pets, chia seeds are the bomb. They’re full of antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins and fibre, have little taste and have a similar crunch to poppy seeds. These days you can find them in almost any supermarket, I think even Walmart sells them.  Also, they’re just really fun to play with. Chia seeds soak up liquid like a sponge, creating a gel-like substance that can substitute egg whites in recipes. If you leave them overnight in liquid, they turn into something like tapioca pudding -which leads me to this simple recipe. For a chocolate chia pudding, simply toss cocoa powder, chia seeds, nuts, stevia and some salt in a container, cover with almond or coconut milk and go to bed. When you wake up, you’ll have a beautiful thick pudding, which you can either eat as is or turn into a mousse by pureeing in a blender. So versatile, so easy and oh so delicious.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp stevia

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground almonds

1/2 cup milk

How to:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in either a plastic container or a small bowl
  2. Cover with milk and add any other sweeteners or toppings
  3. Leave overnight or a minimum of 5 hours to achieve optimal thickness
  4. Serve in a bowl with fruit and nuts or smothered in whipped cream for added decadence. I served mine with a side of oatmeal, raspberries, maraschino cherries and valhrona chocolate pearls.

 

Best Ever Rum Raisin Banana Bread

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Today I woke up with a major craving for banana bread. Scratch that, for bananas in general. I must have had some kind of weird vitamin deficiency going on because ripe, speckled bananas were all I could think about until I finally caved and walked to superstore with my mom to get me some nanas. Did you know that if you buy a bag of ripe bananas from superstore they only cost about a dollar? and they’re not even overripe, they’re perfect! miles away from their sad, green counterparts. They’re adorable and come in a little white paper baggie that says “eat me” on it. So cute in fact, that they sat in my lap during the taxi-ride home while the rest of our groceries got put in the trunk. Yes, I am that devoted. That much devotion deserved a very good banana bread recipe and because I wasn’t fully satisfied with my own, I referred to a couple different cookbook recipes and in typical Maja fashion added chia seeds, pecans and alcohol. Completely contradictory? maybe so, but in my books, if it has raisins in it, it’s gotta have rum too. In any case, what turned out is probably the best banana bread I’ve ever made. It’s delectably moist, crunchy from all the pecans and perfectly sweet and salty. You could easily replace the raisins with chocolate, the pecans with other nuts and the butter with coconut oil. If you do and can eat butter however, I highly recommend using one with a higher butterfat ratio such as one of the polish butters from the Italian center. I drizzled mine with smooth natural peanut butter. I totally encourage that too.

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Ingredients

    1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

    ¼ cup wheat bran

    3 tbsp chia seeds

    1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder

    3/4 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

   3/4 cup brown sugar

   100 grams butter (7 tbsp), softened

    2 large eggs

    2 tablespoons milk

    3 ripe bananas

    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    1/4 cup white sultanas

     ½ tsp rum or 6 drops rum extract

 How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and line a standard issue loaf pan with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.
  3. Using a hand mixer, in a medium bowl cream brown sugar, rum and butter until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl often, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and then the milk, beating until smooth
  5. Add flour mixture and mashed banana  to creamed mixture and fold in nuts and sultanas.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in oven for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Fusilli with porcini mushroom & smoked haddock ragù

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In our family, anything that’s dried and smoked is king. We often buy smoked sausages, smoked salmon, smoked clams, jars of smoked peppers and cans and cans of smoked paprika from the Italian store. Impulsively buying smoked haddock then, wasn’t strange for us at all until we realized we didn’t know what to do with it and just left it in deep dark corner of our fridge to wait patiently until one of us came up with a recipe.  Yesterday it hit me. Why not pair the haddock with porcini mushrooms and make a ragù? Throw in a lot of garlic, some dill, some olive paste, some sweet paprika and see what happens. Well, friends, what happened was glorious. One of those kitchen experiments that didn’t end in disaster but rather in a stroke of genius. I had no idea that mushrooms and fish could go so well together! The sauce is healthy, low-fat, easy to make and really quite impressive. whats-more, the varying components are incredibly balanced. In foodie lingo, the result would be called “umami”. In Maja lingo – delicious enough to lick the pan clean. 

Ingredients:

2 smoked haddock filets (I got mine from a German market, you could also use smoked salmon)

1 large sweet onion

2 tbsp clarified butter (butter with the milk solids removed)

1 tbsp oil

1 tbsp thyme

1 1/2 cup canned or dried and reconstituted porcini (or any kind, really) mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 tbsp olive paste (or about 10 thinly sliced black olives)

1 anchovy, sliced very thinly

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp sweet paprika

salt&pepper to taste

2 cups mushroom or vegetable broth

1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water

4 cloves of garlic, pushed through a garlic press

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 box dried pasta (I used Barilla whole wheat fusilli)

freshly chopped parsley, dill & Parmesan shavings to garnish

How to:

  1. Heat a pan on medium with the tbsp of oil until the oil starts sizzling. Add in the butter, onions and thyme and cook until onions are soft and glossy.
  2. Add mushrooms to pan and stirfry for about five minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through. Add in the olive paste, the anchovy, the honey and the sweet paprika and stir to combine. Add in the broth and salt & pepper to taste.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the cold water, the nutmeg and the pressed garlic and add to pan. Simmer the mixture, turning up the heat if necessary until mushroom sauce is thick. Lower to medium-low and cook for about ten minutes, adding water if sauce gets too thick.
  4. While sauce cooks, boil the pasta according to the instructions on the box, salting and oiling the water so that the pasta doesn’t stick. When cooked, drain and add as much pasta as needed to sauce. Chop up haddock and warm through in sauce.
  5. Plate the dish in large bowls and top with chopped dill, parsley and shavings of either pecorino romano or Parmesan. Serve with crusty bread and a large salad.

Flourless Almond & Honey Cake

As a general rule, I don’t discriminate between nuts and seeds. Like a fashion editor with a closet full of designer clothes would say, It’s hard to pick a favorite. They’re all delicious in their own way, pairing with both sweet and savory foods to create different harmonies of flavor. On the rare occasion that I’m forced to chose just one, however, I somehow always gravitate towards the almond. This humble nut native to Asia is actually the seed of a flowering plant closely related to the apricot tree. I love eating them by the handful, adding them to my granola and soaking them in water to make almond milk. Toasted and ground, they give a remarkable buttery flavor to baked goods as well as a light and fluffy texture reminiscent of pastry flour, just without the gluten or starch. This simple cake, comprised mainly of almonds and honey is a celebration of all those things and will make your home smell glorious.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup almond flour

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup honey

2 tsp almond extract

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

How to:

Preheat oven to 178 c . Line the bottom of a nine inch spring-form cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides with butter or oil.

  1. Toast the almond flour in a cast iron skillet on medium heat until it turns golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Carefully separate the eggs, placing the whites and the yolks in two medium sized bowls.
  3. Whip the egg whites and salt with a hand mixer until doubled in volume and fluffy but not stiff enough to hold peaks.
  4. Add your honey, almond extract, cinnamon and baking soda to the bowl containing egg yolks and using the same mixer, whip until light yellow and doubled in size.
  5. Slowly add the toasted almond flour to the egg yolks, whipping on low speed until well combined.
  6. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until a light, homogenous batter forms.
  7. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 15 minutes uncovered. Then, cover with aluminum foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
  8. Cool and decorate with toasted almonds, raspberries or any other fruit. Drizzle with honey and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Healthy Chia Cinnamon buns

My mother and I are cinnamon addicts, i swear its an inherited trait. We go through a bottle of Saigon cinnamon faster than a squirrel goes through nuts. I’m more of a lost case though, I sprinkle it on buttered bread, fruit salad, smoothies and even put it in my bolognese. Is there such a thing as cinnamon poisoning? Dear god I hope not. Ironically enough, I was never much a fan of cinnamon buns, finding them too gooey for my taste. My mother on the other hand adores them, one of her favorite treats of all time being a freshly baked Cinnzeo with a liberal coating of cream cheese frosting.  On special occasions, we’d often share one with a clear understanding of who gets what. I’d give her the sticky innards and she’d let me eat the flakey outer layers. We eventually stopped eating them after we realized how nutritionally defunct they were and I’ve been looking for a recipe that would please both of us ever since. This is it – the dream recipe, yeilding gooey yet flakey cinnamon buns with a third of the sugar and fat of my childhood rolls and twice the fibre and protein thanks to the addition of chia seeds. The process is lengthy but the reward is more than worth the wait. Trust me, these are amazing.

Original recipe from serious eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/11/bread-baking-cinnamon-knots-cinnamon-buns.html . My changes are in bold.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup lukewarm water

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes
2 3/4  cups bread flour (I used all purpose)

3 tbsp chia seeds, ground in a coffee press. Chia seeds are what add fibre and protein to the dough without changing it’s taste or texture.

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons room temperature butter (Or same amount, coconut oil)

1/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar, you could also use raw or coconut sugar)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (I used at least 4)

2 tbsp clarified butter or coconut oil

How to:

In bowl of stand mixer combine water, honey and yeast.  Set mixture aside for ten minutes until foamy. Add eggs, milk, instant potatoes, chia flour and flour. Knead with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Add salt and butter or oil and continue kneading until everything is completely incorporated and dough separates from both hook and from the sides of the mixer.

Take dough out of mixer and start needing by hand. The dough will be sticky from all the honey so don’t panic if it starts to stick to your counter, simply coat your work surface with flour.

Let rise for at least two hours or even overnight in a large bowl coated with a little oil. I let it go overnight as the temperature of our condo drops to 18 during the night. Letting your dough rise overnight in a warm house would spoil the yeast and make it go sour.

In the morning or after a minimum of two hours have passed and dough is risen, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix cinnamon, butter/oil and sugar in a little bowl. Flour work surface. Remove dough from bag and knead with a rolling pin to make a large rectangle, being careful not to have the dough too thin.

Spread the cinnamon mixture onto the bottom of the rectangle and start to roll the dough bottom-up. Cut dough into about ten buns and place on baking sheets.

Cover pans with plastic wrap and let the buns rise again for about an hour. Bake for 25 minutes and serve with either cream-cheese frosting or melted coconut butter, both mixed with honey and a little vanilla to taste. My favorite coconut butter is Artisana (so so sooooo good).