Chaga Chai

Chaga Chai

This Chaga Chai recipe has to be one of my favourite things in the whole world. I was all set to publish a post on popsicles this week, when I woke up to a cold and rainy day and decided to shift my focus.

This recipe was influenced by a few different things. When I was working on Meghan Telpner’s Culinary Nutrition Expert program in the fall of 2013, one of the recipes we were asked to prepare was Meghan’s Yogi Tea. I fell in love with her simple and delicious recipe. Another recipe that I cross referenced for my Chaga Chai is from Sarah McLachlan’s Plenty, a wonderful vegetarian cookbook I discovered back in the day in Indigo books while completing my undergrad at Queens University. You can find the recipe for Sarah McLachlan’s chai here. I elected to blend the two recipes when it came to developing my own recipe.

While completing Meghan’s course and David Wolfe’s Nutrition Certification, I began to explore the benefits of super foods, including goji berries and medicinal mushrooms. David Wolfe has dedicated an entire book to the wonders of Chaga, along with an excellent summary of the benefits here. This recipe evolved to include Pau D’arco, a lovely tonic herb that helps boost the immune system and also contains anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, among other benefits.

Chaga Chai

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dried chaga pieces (or 2 tsp Chaga powder)

1/4 cup pau d’arco

2 Tbsp goji berries

2″ piece ginger, grated*

2 tsp whole cardamom

2 tsp whole cloves

2 tsp whole coriander

2 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp amchoor (mango) powder (optional)

1 cinnamon stick

4 cups filtered water

* If you freeze ginger before grating it you’ll end up with a lovely texture and no stringiness – this works with fresh turmeric too!

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a pot over low heat for 2+ hours. I like to steep mine using Ron Teeguarden’s 32 oz Glass Tea and Elixir Maker and Candle Tea Maker, but the stovetop or a crock pot on low heat works as well. Sometimes I will let it steep all afternoon, for a lovely, nutrient filled tonic.

Strain through a thin wire mesh strainer and store in the fridge for up to a week.

I love to pair my Chaga Chai with homemade nut milk and 1 tsp of maple syrup, although you can feel free to substitute with coconut or seed based milk or another natural sweetener of your choosing (no artificial sweeteners please!) One of my favourite nut milk recipes is as follows:

Quick and Easy Macadamia & Hemp Milk

Ingredients:

1 cup macadamia nuts

2 Tbsp hemp seeds

4 cups filtered water

Directions:

Process in a high speed blender until smooth. A regular blender works too, it might just take a little longer and soaking your nuts in advance would be a good idea! Strain through a fine mesh strainer or nut sack and use immediately, or keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for 3-4 days.

This milk pairs really nicely with vanilla bean powder and a hint of maple syrup. You can also turn this into chocolate milk by adding raw cacao powder and a pinch of sea salt.

This Chaga Chai recipe is also delicious served over ice, if you happen to be experiencing a warm and sunny day today!

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Chocolate Panda Tea Infused Coconut Ice Cream

Chocolate Panda Coconut Ice Cream

This week’s ice cream post was motivated by a few different things. We have had a glorious summer thus far, with beautiful sunny days – and thankfully a bit of much needed rain in the last little while. I have always felt that ice cream pairs well with warm, sunny days and our recent acquisition of a new ice cream maker opened up a whole world of possibilities. We have been following a dairy free, plant based diet for the past 5 years, and I am excited to explore different flavour combinations this summer. We had an ice cream maker attachment for our stand mixer back in St John’s, but the stand mixer didn’t make the cut when we moved.

We are big fans of Cold Comfort Ice Cream in Fernwood, they offer several delicious dairy free options and I was thrilled to see Chocolate Panda Ice Cream on their menu a few weeks back. As much as I love wandering over there for a special treat on occasion, they shift their recipes around frequently and I couldn’t guarantee being able to order the same flavour on our next visit. I was also quite excited at the prospect of coming up with my own DIY tea infused ice cream recipe, as I have never tried this technique before. I have mentioned how much I love Silk Road on many occasions, and their Chocolate Panda tea pairs beautifully with coconut in this recipe.

I was also very inspired to try an ice cream recipe after reading Sondi Bruner’s recent Ice Cream Friday posts. Sondi is a Vancouver based freelance writer and Holistic Nutritionist whom I had the pleasure of meeting through Meghan Telpner and the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. Her recipes are delicious, and healthy to boot! I can’t wait to try her Vegan Dolce de Leche recipe from a few weeks back, and am also keen to try  the Fermented Chocolate Ice Cream recipe she posted earlier today.

Here is my take on Cold Comfort’s Chocolate Panda Coconut Ice Cream, feel free to play around with the recipe to your heart’s content:

Chocolate Panda Tea Infused Coconut Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 cans full fat coconut cream*

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup chocolate panda tea blend

1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder

* I love Earth’s Choice organic coconut milk and cream because in addition to being organic, they use BPA free cans and don’t contain any additives. Many of the recipes I looked at online and in ice cream books used a combination of coconut and nut milk, so feel free to experiment and see what variations you can come up with!

Directions:

Whisk coconut cream and maple syrup over medium heat until it reaches a light boil and maple syrup is fully incorporated. Remove from heat, add Chocolate Panda loose leaf tea and vanilla bean powder and let steep for half an hour.

Strain the ice cream mixture through a fine wire mesh strainer, and let chill in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge once fully chilled, processing in a blender if any of the mixture has solidified (I found this necessary when using coconut cream, and also found it much easier to pour the ice cream mix into the ice cream maker using the Vitamix container!) Process according to manufacturer instructions (we have a Cuisinart ICE-21C and I found it took about 20 minutes).

You will end up with a soft serve consistency at this point; if this is your texture preference then dig in – otherwise you can transfer the mixture to a freezer safe container (I love these glass containers) and let it solidify further in the freezer.

I suggested using Chocolate Panda as that is one of our all time favourites, but this recipe would work well with London Fog or any other tea you happen to have on hand.

What are some of your favourite dairy free ice cream recipes for the summer?


Reciprocal Relationships

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I read this quote a week ago via a Higher Perspective post on Facebook, and it gave me pause. I sat and thought about it for a few minutes, and realized there is some very real truth to this statement. People can say they care all they like; but the truth lies in what they actually do, the interest they show, and how engaged they really are with you. A person with whom you have a relationship may even believe they care about you, with the best of intentions, but you invest time and energy into the things you truly care about, so when someone is not putting a lot of effort into their relationship with you, it is really telling. 

It made me incredibly sad, but was also liberating. In the past I have tried to convince myself that people cared about me, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and that can be exhausting after awhile. Yes, there are extenuating circumstances sometimes, but when patterns repeat for a long time it is harder to believe that there isn’t something else going on.

Over the past year I have let go of all non-reciprocal relationships and focused on the ones that truly are reciprocated on all levels, including a mutual investment of time, energy and engagement. I have less relationships in my life, but the ones I do have are rich and rewarding, an exchange of energy rather than a one way flow. 

I have been reading several very inspirational books lately, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, as well as The Fear Cure by Dr Lissa Rankin. These books opened my eyes to the fact that I have lived my life from a place of fear and shame, feeling as though I was inherently flawed and incapable of being “fixed.” I was afraid of being vulnerable, and built a wall around myself as a self protective mechanism. But over the past year I have begun to shed this skin, to embrace the possibly that I am enough, exactly as I am, and to finally express myself, openly and honestly. 

I believe the work you do on yourself has a fallout effect. Embracing hope and possibility rather than fear and doubt opens up so much space for wonderful experiences to enter. I have had a beautiful opportunity to connect in an open and honest way with a couple of people with whom I have been distanced for several years this week. I realized through this process that yes, often when people act as though they don’t care it does genuinely mean that they don’t. But there are also exceptions to this rule. Often people are dealing with their own demons, facing struggles that you know nothing about. Sometimes a lack of interest or connection has nothing to do with you. 

Being able to open up to the possibility of true, honest connection has given me hope; while I do believe that relationships should be reciprocal, I also believe that sometimes you need to cut people some slack. Perhaps it comes down to meeting people where they are at; accepting their limitations (as well as your own) and doing the best you can with what you have in front of you. 

The picture on my homepage illustrates my personal signposts for conscious living. One of the things I am trying to do in all of my relationships is release expectations. I am trying to be present and in the moment in my interactions with people, to repeat the mantra to have fun and connect. Of course all relationships are informed by past experience, but I would love to think that at some point it is possible to let go of the baggage, to move forward from a place of love and understanding, and a genuine desire to connect with the people you are in a relationship with. I am not naive enough to think that rehabilitating some of the relationships in my life will be a walk in the park; there is a lot of healing that needs to happen. But I would like to believe that all things are possible if I can remember to always choose love.

I would love to know, what are your personal experiences with reciprocity and connection (or lack thereof) in relationships? What are your personal boundaries or guidelines for the relationships in your life?


Refreshing Lemonade Duo

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The weather here in Victoria has been crazy hot over the past few weeks. As a result I have been focusing on staying hydrated, which includes seeking out some nourishing alternatives to water. Don’t get me wrong, water on its own is fantastic, but when I find myself drinking a lot of it I start craving some variety.

Coconut water is a great option, however I try not to buy too much of it as I don’t want to accumulate a lot of packaging. In addition Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe recently posted an expose on commercially produced coconut water that gave me pause. I prefer to go straight to the source and buy fresh young coconuts on occasion instead.

One of the beverages we have been enjoying of late is lemonade. Crisp and refreshing, lemon juice also contain vitamin c and has an alkalizing effect on your body. For a thorough summary, Dr Axe recently posted an article extolling the virtues of lemons here.

My first recipe incorporates a classic combo of fresh squeezed lemon juice and sugar – in this case, one of my all time favourite sweeteners, coconut nectar. Coconut nectar (or syrup) is a wonderful option, as it has a lower glycemic index than many of its sweet counterparts and boasts a caramel flavour that I love. Some of my other favourites would include stevia (my personal preference would be stevia leaf powder), maple syrup or honey.

To this I added steeped chamomile and lavender tea. I chose this combination of herbs for its relaxing qualities; in addition the floral note it adds to the final beverage is a lovely complement to the lemon and coconut nectar flavours. I love serving up my lemonade old school style, in a mason jar with a glass straw.

Sparkling Lavender Chamomile Lemonade

Ingredients:

3 teaspoons chamomile
3 teaspoons lavender
4 cups water
4 organic lemons, juiced
6 Tbsp coconut nectar (more or less, to taste)
Sparkling water (I love using my soda stream for this!)

Directions:

Steep the lavender and chamomile tea in 4 cups boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Add ice, or let cool to room temperature and store in the fridge overnight (my preference, when I have the time). Add the lemon juice to the tea mixture, along with 1/4 cup coconut nectar and whisk until coconut nectar is fully incorporated. Serve chilled with equal parts lemonade and sparkling water.

The second recipe I am including comes care of Ingredients Market Cafe here in Victoria. A special ingredient in their Mermaid Lemonade is spirulina, a blue green sea algae that contains chlorophyll (excellent for detoxification) and high levels of protein, along with a host of other benefits. Deanna and Cindy kindly gave me permission to share their delicious recipe below.

Mermaid Lemonade

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh apple juice (from 3-4 apples)
1/4 lemon wedge squeezed
2T coconut syrup*
Ice
1/2 cup filtered water
1/4 tsp spirulina, whisked with 2 Tbsp water to combine

* I prefer my lemonade a bit less sweet and a bit more tart, so I added 1 Tbsp coconut syrup and the juice of a full lemon.

Directions:

Juice your apples and add 1/2 cup of the juice to the mason jar. Squeeze the juice from the lemon wedge into the jar. Whisk in the coconut syrup, until it has fully dissolved. Add ice and filtered water, followed by the spirulina/water mixture. Add a glass straw, and stir to combine.

Feel free to adjust the above recipes to fit your taste, and be sure to stop by Ingredients Market for a cool glass if you find yourself in downtown Victoria!

I am curious to know, what is your favourite lemonade variation to help beat the summertime heat?