Thursday, 26 November 2015

THICK CHOCO-COCO CAKE (GF, V)


When I was a little girl my mum used to make a chocolate and vanilla cake I loved so much. I remember myself eating it for breakfast with my huge cup of tea.
Did you say, “for breakfast”? mmmmm...Yes, I did.
I don’t know if you are familiar with Italian breakfast, but the typical one is milk or caffè-latte (milk with a splash of coffee) with cookies or a homemade cake. Yes, lots and lots of sugars! I know. 
A big cup of oatmeals with plant milk, a green smoothie or a slice of wholegrain bread with avocado is way healthier, but you know, changing habits is never easy and changing Italian’s mind about breakfast is almost impossible: they want their cookies or a slice of a cake with their milk. Stop.

I was saying then that that cake was delicious and what I loved the most was the fact that it was thick, very think. I love cake to be thick if you missed something!
It was made with all purpose flour, sugar, eggs and butter, like all the “normal” cakes.
Unfortunately I found out to be celiac height years ago and my mum has never made it since. Sigh.

But there is a good news! I finally found the perfect balance of ingredients to make it gluten-free and way healthier then the original one: no butter, no refined sugar and no eggs. Yeah! And I promise, it is D E L I C I O U S! This is one of those recipes I really urge you to make. You can’t fail. You can only enjoy!



Difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder

You can basically get three different powders from grinding chocolate beans:
The most nutritious is raw cacao powder, which retains all the antioxidants cacao is rich in and also its very high content of magnesium, the “anti-stress mineral” -it has a relaxant effect in the body-. Raw cacao powder is obtained by unroasted chocolate beans.

Then you can get natural cocoa powder, obtained from roasted chocolate beans. After grinding it is not further processed and keeps the acidity chocolate has and it has a milder brown color. It is fat free and sugar free. Most of the beneficial benefits of cacao are lost, but it still keeps the natural strong chocolate flavor.

The last and the worst one is the dutch processed cocoa powder, which is treated with an alkalizing agent to reduce the acidity -making it slightly sweeter- and to modify its color -it becomes deep brown-. This process gives it a milder and more palatable flavor, but remember, this is far away from the natural one!

So, which one should you use?

To make this cake, go for the natural cocoa powder. It doesn’t make sense to use the raw cacao powder and then cooking it. And please, stay away from the dutch processed one from now on!
Use the raw cacao powder to make raw teats or raw chocolate (recipe coming soon!).



THICK CHOCO-COCO CAKE (GF, V)
Make a 7-inch (18 cm) diameter cake

Ingredients:
1 cup (150 gr) of brown rice flour
2/3 cup (100 gr) buckwheat flour
1/3 cup (50 gr) shredder coconut
1/2 cup (50 gr) natural cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 generous pinch of salt
1/3 cup (60 ml) coconut oil
1 cup (240 ml) maple syrup (or raw honey)
3/4 cup (180 ml)water (or any unsweetened milk of your choice -nut, seeds, rice, soy)
1 tbs unpasteurized apple cider vinegar

Directions:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add shredded coconut and whisk to combine.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the coconut oil. Add the maple syrup, water (or milk of your choice) and whisk to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk to remove any lumps. Add the vinegar and whisk quickly to incorporate.
- Pour the batter into the cake tin.
- Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the corner comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
After 30 minutes you might want to protect the top of the cake with an aluminum foil to prevent it to burn on the surface.

Monday, 23 November 2015

MELT IN YOUR MOUTH GLUTEN-FREE FOCACCIA



Have you ever tasted focaccia?
If yes, you already know how delicious it is, if not, you should definitely make it!
Focaccia is like a fluffy flat bread with olive oil and salt, and the traditional recipe calls for white flour, lots of olive oil, water, salt and yeast. In Genova, where I live and where they invented focaccia, everyone loves it. They usually eat it by itself, to make a sandwich instead of using bread or for breakfast when they dip it in milk or cappuccino -I know, it might sound a bit odd dipping something savory in cappuccino and if I told you that someone dips focaccia with onions in cappuccino, that would sound even worst!-.
Anyway, I said “they” because focaccia is usually made with flour containing gluten and it is pretty hard to make it gluten free. BUT, after a few tests in the kitchen, I finally found the perfect recipe to make a delicious gluten-free focaccia. It mets in your mouth and it is incredibly delicious. Trust me!




Using virgin olive oil in baking is not the best thing ever, but I could’t think about making focaccia with coconut oil instead! I decided that, when I bake my focaccia I will “forget” all the things I am learning in my Natural Nutrition course.

Why shouldn’t we use olive oil for cooking?

I report an extract of the great book “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill” wrote by the researcher, psychologist and nutritionist Udo Erasmus:
“Unsaturated fatty acids* are anti-mutagenic (saturated fatty acids** do not have this protective capacity). This means that they can protect the genetic material in our cells from damage (mutations) caused by toxic chemicals or destructive rays. More than 80% of the fatty acids that virgin (unrefined) olive oils contain are protective, unheated, mainly monounsaturated and some essential unsaturated fatty acids.
When these protective unsaturated fatty acids are heated above 150°C (302°F), not only do they lose their protective effects, but they become mutation-causing themselves.”
(*) Unsaturated fatty acids: mainly oils from vegetable source.
(**) Saturated fatty acids: mainly from animal source (butter, animal fat) and coconut oil.

So, what should we use for cooking?
The best fats to use for cooking are coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter - homemade from organic butter is better).
You can use olive oil for cooking over the stove as long as you add a little water to keep the temperature under control.




FOCACCIA (GF, V)

Make a 21x31 cm focaccia

Ingredients:
1 cup (150 gr) brown rice flour
1 cup (75 gr) arrowroot flour
1/2 cup (60 gr) chickpea flour
2 tbs cold pressed virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp rice syrup
1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm unchlorinated water
2 tbs cold pressed virgin olive oil
3 tbs unchlorinated water
1 tsp rock sea salt

Directions:
- Place the three flours and the dried yeast in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
Add the olive oil and stir again. Then add the water and the rice malt. Stir well with a fork until the mixture is smooth -it should be a bit thicker that the crepes mixture-.
- Line a high edges baking tray (21x31cm) with parchment paper and grease it with one tablespoon of olive oil heavenly spreading it with your hand.
- Add the mixture and spread it with a spatula.
- Cover the focaccia with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for at least two hours (4 hours is best).
- Preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C).
- With your fingertips breaks the focaccia surface in a few spots.
- Whisk the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil and the 3 tbs of water and splash them over the focaccia with your hands (without touching the surface!).
- Crush the rock salt with a mortar and pestle or with the base of a glass and sprinkle it over the focaccia surface. (If you like it salty add more salt because there is none in the mixture).
- Bake for 10 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 360°F (180°C) and bake for further 10 to 12 minutes or until the surface of the focaccia is golden.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

GLUTEN-FREE CRUNCHY WATER COOKIES


Most of the vegan and gluten-free cookies recipes I find around the “blogsphere” contain oats, which is good, they are super nutrition and high in protein, but they are not always easy to find. In Italy, for example, it is almost impossible.

When a girl goes away on holiday, she usually buys whatever but food.
But because I am not a ordinary girl, guess what I usually buy? Yes you guessed right. Just food. On the way back to my recent trip to Copenhagen, my luggage was full of freshly baked gluten-free bread and one and a half kilos of oats.
I was even tempted to bring with me a small kale, to plant it on my terrace-garden, but because I was not sure if I was allowed to bring it with me on the plane, I had sadly to give it up.


All that to say that the vegan and gluten-free cookies recipe I’m going to share with you today is made only with whole grain flours, that are easy to find everywhere. And...they are made with water instead of nut-milk! I used water for the first time when I was making other cookies and I realized that I had no nut-milk left in the fridge and I couldn't be bothered to make my own again (I generally don't but it, but I make it). They turned out perfect, even crunchier than the version with nut-milk. 

I have never loved Autumn because it is usually a cold and rainy season in Italy, but this year it’s warm and sunny. I’m loving it.
To me, Autumn means chestnuts, but because it takes so long to boil and peel them, I prefer to use the flour made out of them, which keeps the sweet and nutty flavor anyway–when you by it, store it in the fridge in an air-tight container after opening, because it becomes rancid pretty easily-.
I am sure you will love these cookies, they are super-easy to make -only 15 minutes!- and the combination of chestnuts and toasted hazelnuts is to die for. 



Why should we add some proteins and fibers to your cookies?

First of all, let me clarify what I mean for “proteins” and “fibers”.
For proteins, I mean any flour made out of legumes (chickpeas flour is the most common) or nuts and seeds.
And for fibers, I mean any whole grains reduced in flours, chestnut flour or chickpeas flour (rich in fibers, not only proteins).

Why is that good? To control your blood sugar levels after eating them.
It might not sound that exciting for most of you, but let me try to explain how it works.
To make it simple: if you eat a cookie made with white flour and white sugar, it is more likely that your blood sugar levels rise incredibly high immediately after you eat it, and you feel great and with lots of energies. This is because all the sugar –glucose- contained in white sugar and white flours are immediately digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. BUT, after two or three hours, you blood sugar levels drop so low that you may experience fatigue, tiredness, nervousness and cravings for sugar. Does it sound familiar?

Well, if you eat a cookie made with whole grain flours and some nuts, as well as coconut sugar instead of white sugar, you won’t experience that roller-coaster effect. Why? Because both fibers and proteins slow down digestion and sugars are absorbed more slowly. This means that you won’t have any up and down neither in your blood sugar levels, nor in your mood!




Crunchy water cookies

Ingredients:
3/4 cup (100 gr) coconut sugar
3/4 cup (100 gr) buckwheat flour
3/4 cup (100 gr) brown rice flour
3/4 cup (50 gr) chestnut flour
1 pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup (80 gr) coconut oil
1/3 cup (80 gr) water
1/3 cup (50 gr) toasted hazelnuts*

Directions:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C and line a baking tray with paper parchment.
- Pour all the dry ingredients (flours and salt) in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. When it is melted, add the water and stir to combine.
- Add coconut oil and water to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine with a fork. You’ll get crumbles. Work it with your hand to incorporate all the flour and make a ball.
- Crush the hazelnuts with a mortar and pestle or with a knife. Add them to the dough and work the dough again with your hand to incorporate the hazelnuts.
- Scoop a tablespoon of dough and make a ball, place it on the tray, then flatten it with your hands. Do that until you finish the dough.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool down slightly and place them on rack to avoid any humidity to form underneath.
- Store in a air-tight container for up to a week.

Notes: 
- You can substitute chestnut flour with chickpeas flour.
- How to toast hazelnuts? Place raw hazelnuts on a tray and bake them at 320 °F / 160°C, starting with cold oven, for 20 minutes. Rub the toasted hazelnut between your hands to take off the skin.

Monday, 16 November 2015

SORE THROAT NATURAL REMEDY

Where I live, in Genova, it seems like Autumn doesn’t want to arrive. The sun is still so hot that you could lie on the sun only with your bikini on. I’m not joking. That’s incredible. I hate feeling cold so I’m enjoying every single day of this very late Summer.
When the sun goes down it, the air suddenly cools down, though. So, as you can imagine, getting a cold with this kind of weather is unfortunately pretty easy.

When I was a little girl I used to get a sore throat every now and then and I remember my mum giving me drugs at the first symptom: a pill, a spray, a vitamin C candy –which I bet didn’t contain any vitamin C unless in the name!- and probably something else. Oh dear!
However, now that I’m studying holistic nutrition, I prefer using natural remedies.

Today I want to share with you the sore throat natural remedy we have been using at home for months. My boyfriend Jack named it the “DIABLO”. The name should already tell you how strong it is! In the beginning it was only made with lemon and ginger, but we now improved it, adding a few more ingredients to make it stronger, more effective and finally “drinkable” without any grimace. It is a real bomb!


Let’s go through the ingredients to understand why they makes the “DIABLO” so flawless. 
Lemon. The juice contains vitamin C, which has been shown to help the immune system. The pulp contains flavonoids, which not only make the vitamin C more easily absorbed in the intestine, but have antibacterial and anti inflammatory function too.
Ginger. It is a natural antibiotic, which means that it kills the bacteria, in this case those who cause the sore throat, without destroying, unlike the common antibiotic, all the good bacteria who live in our intestine. Furthermore, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and it is thought that its effect is linked to its ability to lower the levels of the molecules that trigger inflammation.
Turmeric. It belongs to the ginger family, and it is a strong natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. It also helps the immune system.
Cayenne pepper. It warms up our body, and when the body temperature increases the immune system works faster –this is why it is good not to contrast the fever with drugs, by doing so we slow down the immune response-. It is also rich in vitamin C.
Raw honey. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and has antiviral properties.
If you are vegan you can omit the honey or you can substitute it with maple or coconut syrup.


I usually drink two of them per day, one first thing in the morning and the secondo ne before going to bed. If you have a very strong sore throat you might want to have one more, but be careful because if you are not familiar with ginger it can irritate the intestinal lining.

If you want to prevent the cold you can use echinacea to support your immune system. It works by increasing the number of white blood cells, helping the body to kill viruses and bacteria more easily. Purchase only pure Echinacea in health food stores, and do not take it for more than two weeks (unless your physician recommend a different dosage), because otherwise your immune system can become “addicted”. Furthermore, in excessive dosages it can irritate the liver and modify the intestinal flora.


DIABLO (sore throat natural remedy)
Make one glass

Ingredients:
1 lemon
½ inch (1 cm) of fresh ginger
½ inch (1 cm) of fresh turmeric (or ½ tsp of powdered turmeric)
a pinch of cayenne pepper
½ tbs raw honey
½ glass of unchlorinated water

Directions:
- Squeeze the lemon in a citrus juicer. Keep both the juice and the pulp discarding the seeds. Place it in a high speed blender.
- Peel the ginger and the turmeric and add them to the blender.
- Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high speed for 10 seconds.
- Pour it into a glass and drink immediately.

Notes:
- Do not substitute fresh ginger with powdered ginger.
- For a vegan version, omit the raw honey, or substitute it with maple or coconut syrup.



Thursday, 12 November 2015

THE LIFE-CHANGING GLUTEN FREE BREAD

Everyone knows that Italians love pasta and pizza, but probably only who came to visit Italy knows that Italians love bread too. At home as well as at the restaurant, bread is never missing. There are also people, like my mum, who don’t feel full unless they have at least a slice of bread. 
Having said that, you can imagine that being celiac (a bit more than gluten intolerant) in Italy is... a disaster! You are surrounded by flour and gluten. Everywhere!
Luckily I have never been a big fan of bread myself, so that, when I found out to be celiac a few years ago, it was not too hard to give it up.
Sometimes, though, I’m missing it. 
I miss having a slice of bread with avocado or along with my salad or, why not, with a healthier version of Nutella (I’ll be posting the recipe soon !).
The gluten-free bread I can find here in Italy is usually prepackaged, made with refined flours, full of unpronounceable ingredients and, honestly, it is not good at all. 

I had to find a solution. I definitely had to.


While I was living in Sydney I tasted a gluten-free bread at a café: It was  made of sprouted grains (mainly baby quinoa). As soon as I got home I tried to make my own and it turned out a bit different, yet delicious. I was impressed. It was so damn easy to make. What I had to do was simply put grains in a bowl, cover them with water, waiting for a few hours, draining them and blending them in a food processor adding only a few more ingredients.
I felt so empowered when I tasted it: it was soooo good.
For a person like me, who has never been able to make a decent bread, even with a flour containing gluten, it was great to make a delicious gluten-free bread without having to find the right proportion between flours and water or without waiting for it to rise.
Last, but not least, this bread is way more nutritious than a normal bread made with flours because it is made with whole grains and seeds. (Did you know that the milling process destroys many important nutrients? Read abut it further down the post).

This bread is delicious by it self, with a few slices of avocado on top, with veggies or cheese if you eat it, but it is also delicious with honey -I love it!-, jam or with a healthy hazelnut-chocolate spread. Enjoy it whenever, wherever and with whatever you want!


A lot of people have already made this bread and it turned out perfect to all of them and, most of all, they all loved it!


Milling of flours: milling of nutrients

Did you know that the milling process brings to a loss of vitamins and minerals? And I’m not talking about white flour -the worst you can eat!-, but about whole grains flours. 
The vitamins that are generally lost during the milling process are some B vitamins, especially B1, B3 and B6, and vitamin E, as well as the minerals magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc.

But, what do these vitamins and minerals do for us?
Vitamin B1(thiamine) helps turn glucose, the fuel for the brain, into energy. So, one of the first symptoms of deficiency is mental and physical fatigue. Low B1 means poor attention span and concentration.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) helps increasing energy through improving food utilization: it helps converting proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy. It is important to healthy activity of the nervous system and normal brain function.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) it is necessary for many body functions, for example it is vital for a healthy brain function: our neurotransmitters need vitamin B6 to be metabolized and it is also needed to convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, an important antidepressant neurotransmitter.
Vitamin E is one of the most important antioxidant in nature and it helps us to contrast free radicals, which try to damage our cells.
Magnesium is also called the “anti-stress” mineral because of its calming effect. It works along with calcium to guarantee a correct functioning of our heart.
Iron is essential for hemoglobin production. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to organ tissues. Iron is also necessary for myoglobin, which carries oxygen to our skeletal muscles.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant and works with vitamin E. Selenium is also necessary for a proper functioning of the thyroid because it helps in the conversion of the pro-hormone T4 into the active hormone T3.
Zinc is vital for most of the metabolic reactions that take place in our body. It also supports our immune system and a lack of it is usually linked to prostate problems in men because the organ with the highest concentration of zinc is the prostate.

Note: if you mill the whole grains at home it is more likely most of their vitamins and minerals are retained. Their loss is mainly linked to exposure to light and air.




THE MAGIC BREAD (gluten free)
Makes one loaf

Ingredients:
3/4 cup (140 gr) quinoa (mixed white, red and black)
1/2 cup (90 gr) millet 
1/2 cup (90 gr) buckwheat
1/4 cup (40 gr) sunflower seeds
1/4 cup (40 gr) pumpkin seeds
 2 tbs flax seeds or chia seeds
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
coconut oil for the loaf pan

Directions:
- Put quinoa, millet and buckwheat in a bowl, cover with water, add the apple cider vinegar and soak for up to 8 hours. 
Put sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a smaller bowl, cover with water, add a pinch of sea salt and soak for up to 8 hours.
Put the flaxseeds in a glass and add 6 tbs of water, whisk vigorously and let soak for up to 8 hours. They will make a gel, which will help to bind all the ingredients together.
I suggest you to do that the night ahead. 
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
- Drain, rinse and drain well again the grains. Put them in a food processor and process for 10 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the container and repeat for three times.
- Add the flaxseeds (or chia seeds) gel and process for 10 second to incorporate them. If necessary mix them by using a spoon or a spatula first.
- Add salt and bicarbonate of soda and process again for 10 seconds to incorporate them.
 -Drain, rinse and drain well again the seeds. Add them to the container and incorporate them to the grain mixture using a spatula or a spoon. Do not process them.
 -Slightly oil a loaf pan and pour in the mixture. Flatten it with a spatula or a spoon.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool down, slice and enjoy.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

I WISH...

I wish I was living in a big house with a huge garden where I could grow my little carrots, my beetroots, my kale and my juicy tomatoes, like many famous food bloggers do, but I live in a 30 meter square flat with my boyfriend Jack, and I grow my little salad in fruit boxes on my small terrace.
I wish I could say I grew up in a farm surrounded by beautiful fruit trees and lots of delicious veggies everywhere watching all the seasons passing by with their different colours and perfumes,  like many famous food bloggers do, but I grew up in a flat, near the beach, and I used to eat tomatoes and zucchini all the year around (my mum loves them!) without knowing the existence of leeks and pumpkin to name a few.
I wish I could say that I love cooking because I used to help my grandmother in the kitchen when I was a little girl,  like many famous food bloggers do, but my grandmother passed away before I was born and what I have been left with are just her passion for cooking and one of her rings, which I wear every day without taking it off. Never. 
I wish I was a talented graphic designer, like many famous food bloggers are, to be able to create an awesome website by myself, but I'm not, and I have to use blog spot to share with you all my thoughts in the quickest way.
I wish I was a great photographer,  like many famous food bloggers are, but I’m not good at all with my camera. I bough a Canon, a pretty good lens, but I can’t be bothered to make a set as I should, to use my tripod and I usually end up taking unstable photos standing on my knees. 
I wish I could say cooking has always been my passion, like many famous food bloggers do, but I realized I loved cooking while watching a stupid tv show.
I wish my English was perfect, like the one of many famous food bloggers, but, as you can tell, it's not. I'm Italian and I hope you will be understanding if I make mistakes.
I wish I was 24, like many famous food bloggers are, with the best years of my life in front of me, with the feeling to be still young to make mistakes, but I am 30, I am an engineer, a structural engineer, I designed the biggest Exhibition Centre of Indonesia, a hotel in Melbourne, a seven floor stair in Sydney and a 2 km railway viaduct in Algeria, but, unfortunately, I realized this is not my way. 
I am 30 and I decided to start studying holistic nutrition and I’m just about to quit my successful job to follow my heart and my dream: sharing with people my love for food and nutrition
Crazy? Probably Hopefully not.

Yes, as you can tell, my life is not quite the one "I wish I had”, but you know what? I’M HAPPY. I’m happy with my veggies growing in the fruit boxes, with my ring always with me, with my love for cooking, with my messy life and my worries about the future. I'm happy because I'm starting this little blog with the hope my recipes and nutrition tips will be helpful to you. And I'm happy because, even if I'm thirty, I still dream of becoming a famous food blogger. 

I’ll be sharing pieces of my life and bringing you in my tiny, little kitchen with me.
Hope you will enjoy this journey.

Lots of love


Emanuela