Chestnut Flour Sweet Bread or Castagnaccio

chestnut flour bread

I find that one of the most beautiful things in life is enjoying seasonal foods – foods I can only find during a certain time of year or that my body mostly wants during this time.

My favorite season food-wise is autumn. As the days start getting cooler and crisper and darker, my body starts wanting warm, nourishing foods like soups and stews and roasted vegetables. Foods that are naturally in season like pumpkin, squash, figs, persimmon, pears, apples. There’s the sudden desire to add spices like pumpkin spice mix to pretty much everything and to make apple sauce. And finally, there’s my absolute favorite: Chestnuts.

The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts wafting in the cool, crisp air in the street, buying chestnuts and warming my hands with them – oh how I love this nut!

Yes, chestnut is actually a nut but unlike other nuts, it is very low in fat and protein and very high in starch. This makes it more similar to potatoes or rice or wheat in taste in taste and texture and also the way it can be used. It also has an alkaline effect on the body which is very beneficial as most of us tend to eat too much acidic food.

I discovered this traditional Italian sweet bread or Castagnaccio through a friend. She mentioned she had made a bread that was very quick to make and naturally gluten-free using chestnut flour. I was intrigued.

This recipe uses chestnut flour – a gluten free flour made from dried, milled chestnuts that is also naturally sweet. Sweetened with only raisins or dried figs, we don’t actually need to add any sweetener. The chopped walnuts add healthy fats and protein while contributing to the texture. The aniseed helps make the taste a little sweeter as a naturally sweet spice. The result is something between a sweet bread and a not so sweet cake. You can have it for breakfast or as a snack or even as a dessert. You can make more of the batch and freeze a loaf. And trust me. Once you try it, you will be as hooked as I am!

Ingredients

250g chestnut flour

35g raisins or finely chopped dried figs (that’s 2 dried figs)

350 ml cold water

15-20g aniseed (depending on how much you like the taste)

a pinch of salt

25g finely chopped walnuts (that’s about 10 halves)

3 tablespoons unmelted extra virgin coconut oil 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Place the raisins or chopped dried figs in 350 ml of water and leave them to soak as you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Place a bowl over a scale and sift the chestnut flour into it. Most of the chestnut flour I have found is quite clumpy, so this is an important step.

Chop the walnuts finely and add them to the chestnut flour

Add the aniseed and salt.

Add the water with the raisins or figs and mix until you get a paste-like consistency.

Melt the coconut oil and add this in and mix so everything is combined.

Pour into 2 silicone cake loaf pans or a larger round one. If you are using silicone, you don’t need to grease your pan but if you are using tin or glass you do. This is traditionally made to be only about 1 cm high and it won’t rise so don’t over fill your baking form! Place the pine nuts on the top and press slightly with your hand.

Place in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. Your sweet bread is ready when the top starts cracking. Take it out and place to cool on a wire rack before cutting.

You can buy chestnut flour in any organic store or online in Switzerland here or here.

I would love to hear from you – what’s your favorite autumn food? 

Legend(non)-dairy Raspberry Yoghurt

non-dairy raspberry yoghurtAh, fruit yoghurt, how do we love you! Creamy, sweet with that little bit of tartness…You also masquerade really well as a health food.

OK, sorry to burst your bubble, but have you read the label on fruit yoghurt? Fruit yoghurt or yoghurt drinks or shots often contain artificial coloring, a high quantity of sugar or artificial sweeteners and thickeners like gelatin, corn starch, milk protein concentrate.

Yuck.

A better alternative is of course, natural, full-fat plain yoghurt without added sugars or artificial sweeteners. You can always add in your own fruit if you want.

OR if you want a completely dairy free alternative which is a meal in itself yet tastes surprisingly similar to raspberry yoghurt, try Legend(non)-dairy Raspberry Yoghurt!

Legend(non)-dairy Raspberry Yoghurt is creamy thanks to the soaked, uncooked buckwheat and hemp seeds. It’s sweet thanks to the raspberries. And it has that little bit of tartness thanks to the lemon. Once you have soaked everything in the evening, it takes only 5 minutes to blend everything in the morning and can keep for up to two days in the fridge.

And because of the mix of healthy fats, protein and fiber – it is filling enough to be a meal in itself.

Hello, Buckwheat!

buckwheat

Despite the name, buckwheat does not contain wheat and is actually a seed, not a grain. It is related to rhubarb and has a distinct nutty flavor that I absolutely love.

Buckwheat is one of my favorite gluten-free foods. It is super versatile as you will see from this recipe, and doesn’t actually have to be cooked. It is rich in fiber and minerals such as manganese, zinc, magnesium and copper. It is also rich in amino acids, including tryptophan – the precursor to serotonin, the feel good hormone.

You can buy buckwheat in most supermarkets and also use it cooked as an alternative to rice or quinoa.

The other ingredient in this recipe is hemp seeds, which I wrote about here. You can find them in most organic stores, just make sure you buy them raw and unshelled for this recipe. They are also sometimes called hemp hearts. I usually buy these ones – you can use code WIV403 to get $5-10 off your first order.

Legend(non)-dairy Raspberry Yoghurt 

1 cup uncooked, shelled buckwheat, soaked overnight

4 dried figs

300 grams raspberries (frozen or fresh)

4 tbsp hemp seeds/hearts (shelled/hulled) or cashew nuts

juice of 1 lemon or a whole 1/2 organic lemon if your blender can handle it

1/2 – 2/3 cup water depending on how liquid you like it

A small handful of fresh herbs like mint, lemon verbena or basil (optional, but adds a nice taste)

Method

Wash and soak the buckwheat overnight with the dried figs.

The next morning, rinse the buckwheat and figs and wash well before putting them in a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients.

You can add some fresh herbs if you would like a little more taste.

If you want a more chunky texture, don’t blend all of the raspberries – leave about 1/3 aside and just pulse once in the end.

For the lemon, you can either use the juice or if your blender can handle it, wash an organic lemon well and put half of it whole it the mix. Most of the vitamins are in the skin and it adds even more taste this way!

This makes about 4 servings – you can store leftovers in air-tight jars/containers in the fridge so it is ready for the next morning.

Do you love yoghurt? Would you be willing to try this alternative? 

non dairy raspberry yoghurt

Better than Bircher Müesli: Fruity Chia Bowl

Fruity Chia Bowl

Growing up in Switzerland – and the Swiss-German part no less – Bircher müesli was everywhere. In Switzerland, no hotel breakfast buffet is complete without this beloved breakfast food.

Bircher müesli or simply Bircher as it is called in the French part of Switzerland where I have lived for the past 16 years, is a breakfast of oats soaked in milk, yoghurt, fruits, nuts and seeds. It is made in advance and kept in the fridge to be eaten over several days, making it a quick and convenient breakfast food.

Bircher müesli was invented by a Swiss doctor called Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a way of helping the patients at his sanatorium in Zürich heal through the power of soaked cereal, fruits, and raw nuts and seeds. This might sound obvious to our modern ears, but was revolutionary at the end of the 19th century when meat, potatoes and white bread were the norm.

And while the original Bircher müesli is a pretty good breakfast choice if you are able to digest milk and oats, I am not a fan of either and I know many people also find them hard to digest.

Enter the Fruity Chia Bowl: Using a simple cashew milk instead of milk and chia seeds instead of oats, this breakfast is better than Bircher and might even keep you going for longer.

Indeed, chia seeds were the food of choice for Aztec and Mayan warriors, who believed that a single tablespoon would keep them going for 24 hours. I am not sure I can guarantee 24 hours, but my husband and I both tried 5-6 hours between breakfast and lunch and it definitely kept us going! I wrote more about the wonder of chia seeds here in case you need more convincing!

This Fruity Chia Bowl is super easy to prepare, taking only a few minutes in the evening and can be eaten for up to 4-5 days. There is something I find very gratifying about food that is waiting for you in the fridge: I see it as a love note from me to me or my husband.

So here’s how to prepare your own love note to yourself and your family. The recipe is very versatile, so feel free to adapt it to suit your needs or just keep things interesting!

INGREDIENTS (for about 8 servings)

1 cup/175 grams raw, unsalted cashews – preferably soaked for 3-4 hours to make them more digestible and easier to blend. Rinse well before using.

FRUIT OF YOUR CHOICE such as:

250 grams raspberries (I used frozen without defrosting them first)

1 medium apple (sour apples like Granny Smiths give more taste)

1 medium pear

1 medium banana

Juice of 1 lemon

3.5 cups/950 ml water

3/4 cup or 135 grams chia seeds

Spice of your choice – a little vanilla or cinnamon powder work well. I usually don’t add spices during preparation and add  some to my bowl instead so I can change the taste a little every day.

METHOD

Chop fruit into the size you like and place in a big container that has a lid. Place the frozen raspberries in there as well. Pour the lemon juice over the fruit and stir. The lemon juice is very important as it helps keep the fruit fresh and lends a sour, almost yoghurt-like taste.

Drain and rinse soaked cashew and put them in a blender with the water. You have just made cashew milk! If you want a sweeter taste, you can add a little maple syrup, honey or dates to this mixture although I find it doesn’t need additional sweetness thanks to the fruit. If you are adding spices you can also add them in at this point.

Once you have made your cashew milk, add the chia seeds. Pulse very briefly on the lowest setting of your blender – just enough to mix the chia seeds without actually blending them.

Pour the milky mixture over the fruits and stir. If you want an even closer experience to the original Bircher, you could add quinoa or buckwheat flakes and stir again. I don’t personally find this is necessary and prefer the taste and texture without.

Cover the container and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to allow the chia seeds to create a jelly-like texture.

You can keep your Fruity Chia Bowl in the fridge for about 4-5 days, so you have breakfast ready for almost the whole week! For the best taste, take your Fruity Chia out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before eating.

You can now find chia seeds in any organic store. I usually order them online here as they are cheaper to buy in bigger sizes. You can use code WIV403 to get up to $10 off your first order.

Are you a fan of Bircher müesli? Let me know what you think if you give this alternative a try! 

Healthy Apple Sauce – Spiced Up

Healthy Apple sauce2

Few foods say winter comfort to me like apple sauce. And what I’ve noticed about comforting food is that taste is only a small part. The bigger part is the sensorial experience. The smell. The texture. The warmth.

I hesitate to even call this a recipe as it is so simple. My apple sauce is a one ingredient wonder of apples cut up into small chunks and slowly stewed over low heat. No sugar added. Nothing else needed. Except, of course for the spices which bring this apple sauce to a whole new dimension.

So next time you make apple sauce, don’t just add cinnamon. Make your own spice blend by combining the spices below and storing the spice blend in a jar, adding as much as you want to your apple sauce or to spice up other foods, such as muesli, porridge, smoothies etc.

I love apple sauce as part of breakfast or even as a dessert, especially with nuts and seeds or granola/muesli.

Apple Sauce

Try to buy apples made for cooking if you can find them – they are quicker to cook. Otherwise, use the softest apples you can find, chop them up and put them in a pan. No need to peel the apples if they are organic.

Barely cover the bottom with water and cover. Place on low heat and leave to stew until the apples are soft and mushy. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the variety of apples used.

Once the apples are cooked, use an immersion blender to turn the apples into a smooth sauce.

Add your Apple Pie Spice Blend to taste, leave to cool and store in the fridge for several days.

Healthy Apple Sauce

Apple Pie Spice Blend

Simply combine the spices in the proportions shown below, mix and store in an air-tight jar. If you don’t have one of the spices, just leave it out – it shouldn’t change the taste too much. Unless that spice is cinnamon. Obviously.

You can use your Apple Pie Spice Blend with apple sauce, apple pie, muesli, porridge, smoothies or other foods to add a taste reminiscent of apple pie.

Apple Pie Spice Blend

Chia Pudding, Winter Style

Chia Pudding, winter styleWith 20% protein, 25% dietary fiber and about 35% healthy fats, mostly Omega 3, chia seeds are one of my favorite seeds to use on a regular basis. They are also a good sources of iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals.

Chia seeds are great for thickening foods due to their jelly like consistency in liquid. This makes them an ideal ingredient in puddings so healthy you can also have them for breakfast, like this one!

This is a basic chia seed pudding recipe that I have spiced up and zested up to make it more winter-y. I find that the combination of spices and orange and lemon zest make for a very Christmassy taste that is reminiscent of cookies like the Basel Leckerli that I loved growing up in the German part of Switzerland.

This recipe takes only a few minutes to whip up and can be kept in the fridge for several days. I usually have chia pudding as a breakfast or dessert and you can also have it as a snack.

Blend together:

2 Tbsp almond butter + 3 dl water or 3 dl almond or other nut milk

2-3 Medjool dates

¼ tsp cardamom + ½ tsp nutmeg + ¼ tsp cardamon + 1 tsp cinnamon

Then add to the blender:

40g or 1/4 cup chia seeds

zest of 1 organic orange and 1 organic lemon

Pulse very briefly on the lowest setting of your blender – just enough to mix the chia seeds and lemon and orange zest with the other ingredients.

Place in individual cups or one big jar and put in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours. The pudding will take on a more solid, jelly-like consistency when it is ready.

I order the chia seeds you can see in the video here. You can use code WIV403 to get up to $10 off your first order.

Want more recipes like this?

Download my Healthy Sweet Christmas eBook with recipes for cookies, granola, chocolate and spreads that are all gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free.

 

Ground Nut & Seed Porridge

Ground nut & seed porridge.jpgI have written about breakfast before because I feel very passionately about this first meal of the day. I find that making sure I have a healthy breakfast sets me up for better eating patterns the rest of the day. Also, breakfast accounts for about 30% of the day’s nutrients – doesn’t that make it the ideal place to start making healthy change?

Most mornings of the week, I have a mostly vegetable smoothie which I keep exciting by playing around with the vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and taste I use. Some days I will have a more gingery smoothie, others a more chocolatey or chai-inspired one.

There are days when I feel like having something different to a smoothie though and this recipe is what I often have. I personally am not a fan of oats – I find I don’t digest them very well and they don’t keep me full, so I wanted an alternative to typical mueslis and porridges.

Here is my answer to a more traditional porridge – a ground nut and seed porridge that will keep you going until lunch time thanks to the healthy fats and protein you get from the nuts and seeds. Try it out and see if it works for you, too!

Ground Nut & Seed Porridge

The mix below is actually called LSA (Linseed, Sunflower and Almond) and was created by Australian doctor, Dr Sandra Cabot, also known as Liver Doctor. It is very simple to prepare and provides essential fatty acids Omega-3, 6 and 9 in the ‘right’ ratios, while also being rich vitamins and minerals. I also find the nutty taste really delicious when it is prepared as described below.

You can make a bigger quantity of the mix and keep it in the fridge for a few days, making it a breakfast that is ready to eat in just a few minutes!

Ingredients

3 tbsp linseeds

2 tbsp sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds

1 tbsp almonds or hazelnuts

A splash of milk of your choice – I use almond milk which I make myself. This video shows how you can make your own nut or seed milk in just a few minutes. You can warm the milk a little if you want.

OR

Full-fat, natural yoghurt (without any added sugar)

Fresh or dried fruit

Method

Grind seeds and nuts in a coffee grinder or spice mill.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the ground mix into a bowl and add a little natural yoghurt or milk – enough to create a thick paste.

Add spices of your choice such as cinnamon, vanilla or cardamon. Spices add a naturally sweet taste while also providing taste benefits – for example, cinnamon has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.

Top with raisins/other dried fruit or fresh fruit.

Chocolate Breakfast Cookies

Chocolate Breakfast Cookies.jpg

Cookies for breakfast? Why not, as long as they are a good source of protein, healthy fats and sustainable energy. Not something that can be said of most cookies that come in a package! So here is a recipe for making your own breakfast cookies which take just 5 minutes, one bowl and no mixer or blender to prepare.

These Chocolate Breakfast Cookies are a great choice when you are on the go – on a business trip, needing to catch an early flight or just want a snack to take with you that nourishes both your body and soul.

Instead of the traditional flour, sugar and butter, these cookies use mashed white beans to add consistency and sweetness. You have to try them to believe they can actually taste this good! The combination of whole grain oats and white beans means they are a complete protein while the tahini, coconut oil and cacao add healthy fats. Both protein and healthy fats are essential to balance blood sugar levels, so you have stable energy all morning.

I used very little maple syrup in this recipe, but feel free to add a little more if you need a sweeter taste!

Ingredients:

Makes about 16 medium cookies

1.5 cups whole grain oats

1.5 cups white beans (1 can rinsed)

2-3 tbsp pure maple syrup

2 big tbsp cacao or 4-5 tbsp sugar-free Ovomaltine

2 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

a pinch of salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 18o degrees Celsius.

Mash beans in a bowl until the consistency is smooth. Add the oats, salt, cacao, tahini and mix. You can use a food processor or just mix by hand.

Melt the coconut oil if solid on medium heat until it is liquid. Add to the bowl and mix everything with your hands until the batter is uniform.

Form cookies on a lined baking tray and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Take them out and leave them to cool on a rack.

Chocolate Breakfast Cookies2

Morning rituals + 2 easy breakfasts

I really believe that the way you start your morning massively influences the rest of your day. If you wake up with an angry alarm going off and then rush through your morning, eating breakfast on the run and running to catch the bus to work – how do you expect the rest of your day to be? And because your every day eventually becomes your life, changing your relationship to mornings can make a massive difference to how you live.

I know a lot of people don’t consider themselves morning people. I do not consider myself a morning person, yet my morning routine has now become such a vital part of my day that I feel something is off when I don’t do it.

Morning routines can involve meditation, exercise, yoga, writing or being in nature. The key is to do something only for yourself, even if it involves waking up 10 minutes before everyone else at home to have this time for yourself.

How about trying to make just 5 minutes of me-time first thing in the morning this week, just to see if it makes any difference?  

Another vital part of mornings, is of course, breakfast. Most of the people I work with have packed lives and often end up eating out for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is the one meal they can really control, so we put in that extra effort to make sure it is healthy since it influences 30% of the day’s nutrients. Even more importantly, recent research quoted by Dr Andrew Weil shows that a healthy breakfast

…improves your metabolic response to subsequent meals throughout the day. This means that one consequence of eating a healthy breakfast is that no matter what you choose for lunch (and possibly dinner), your body will handle it a little better than it would have if you ate something made of processed grains and sugars, or skipped breakfast all together.

I already shared my current smoothie obsession which is a very versatile breakfast option, and here are two even quicker options. They are both made using whole grains which are a much better option to the typical, processed breakfast cereal. You can also make a bigger quantity and keep it in the fridge to eat over several mornings.

soaked buckwheat goodness.001

 

5 minute overnight oats

What about you, what is your morning currently like? Are you willing to try waking up just 5 minutes early this week to create your own morning ritual? 

PS – If this blog post left you hugging your sweetened cereal box, refusing to let it go, read this article :)

 

How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie

photo-7An indispensable skill in any healthy living repertoire is knowing how to make the perfect green smoothie. Not only is it delicious and healthy, it is also quick to prepare and clean up after.

The best part is that there is no wrong way to make a smoothie and no limit to what you can experiment with. You can sneak in healthy ingredients like green leafy vegetables and superfoods without influencing the taste – it somehow always manages to taste good! Or you can make a much simpler version with just a few ingredients. Get curious and experiment!

All you need is a blender and some of the ingredients below. I often include 1/2 banana per person to ‘camouflage’ the taste of the vegetables. I also often include seeds and nuts as the protein they provide helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which is linked to avoiding energy crashes throughout the day and maintaining a healthy weight long-term. They also help make the smoothie more filling.

Here is a step by step guideline to make the perfect green smoothie.

How to Make a Green Smoothie.001