Blueberry Lavender Smoothie Bowls

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I have a big race planned for the morning of the 4th and am now in full on taper mode for the next few days. As anyone who has raced the marathon distance or longer knows, the taper period can be full of anxiety, pre-race nerves, last minute poor decisions, and all around stir-crazy-ness. This time around I haven’t had a big taper due to some training adjustments a few weeks back. It has also become my norm now to fit in my summer classes around the rest of my life so a lot of my otherwise “free” mornings, early evenings, and weekends are spent with my head in a gazillion research papers or on clinical nutrition cases. So all in all, I can’t complain about the current taper.

Even so, as is maybe obvious, I’m definitely prone to anxiety as my emotional go-to, and as the day grows nearer, I’m starting to have a little of that prickly circular overthinking creep in.

 

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At this point in my nutrition program, I’m close to being done on paper, but I’ve returned to taking minimal classes each term to retain some semblance of work-school-life balance so it will still be another year or so to finish. The classes I do have left are also the most intensive because we’re starting to pull all the pieces together and use them in clinical work. Lately, we’re focusing on nutrition for mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and I was glad to see some good solid research supporting the use of lavender for anxiety symptoms.

 

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I created a lavender tincture for one of my herbal classes last year for this very reason and on certain days, nothing is so wonderful as opening the top just to let it’s floral aroma infuse into and calm my system. I also created a tincture formula that uses lavender for just this calming and grounding purpose, and there’s one more left in my online shop, if you’ve the mind.

Lavender, in addition to its ability to relieve nervous tension and anxiety, also helps with cognitive function and exhaustion. Its essential oils in the flowers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, and I find their aroma just lovely. The recipe below is one of my favorites for a mid-afternoon snack and it ups those anti-inflammatory abilities by packing in lots of blueberries, greens, and healthy nuts and seeds. The lavender really rounds out all the flavors and adds that calming touch.

 

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Blueberry Lavender Smoothie Bowl, makes 1
– Add culinary-grade lavender flowers or if available, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. lavender extract/tincture.
– I’ve experimented with lots of plant-based protein powders and currently enjoy PlantFusion brand for its easy digestibility and fermented ingredients. Vega Sport and Garden of Life Sport are also good.
– If you make smoothies or smoothie bowls on the regular, keep in mind it’s wise to change up your choice of greens on the regular to get in all the good nutrients each type has to offer. 

1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup spinach or kale
20 grams/ half scoop vanilla plant-based protein, optional
3/4 – 1 tsp. dried lavender flowers
2 tsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. almond or sunflower butter
1/3 cup almond milk, or as needed to reach desired consistency
1 – 1 1/2 tsp. adaptogen powder of choice, optional

  • Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add additional liquid to reach your desired consistency. I prefer mine spoon-able.
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Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

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I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 

As part of my nutrition program, I took a class last term which covered the basics of cooking whole foods including how to cook grains, beans and other legumes, and greens. One thing I hadn’t previously given much thought to was the reason for soaking grains, beans, nuts, and seeds prior to eating.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain antioxidants called phytic acids (or phytates) which are the plants’ primary form of stored phosphorus. Phytates tends to bind minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, making them more difficult for us to absorb. Soaking these foods overnight prior to cooking or eating initiates the sprouting process, which makes many of the minerals more digestible.

There is some debate as to whether we should worry about phytates or bother taking the time to soak our whole grains and nuts, as many experts suggest we simply eat a balanced diet and we’ll get enough of these minerals anyway. From my own personal experience however, I have been eating a diet of whole foods, comprised mostly of these phytate-rich plants, for going on 10 years or so, and I’ve continued to struggle with absorbing the vitamins and minerals my diet should contain–even after removing the two big culprits which were causing me the most damage, gluten and dairy. Gut health is an area I’m super interested in learning more about, but in the meantime, I’ve been trying to remember to soak more of my grains and now nuts, in addition to beans, more of the time.

 

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This porridge combination contains three ingredients to get the day off to a good start thanks to those soaked seeds and nuts including walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat. The California Walnut Commission generously sent me a 2-lb. bag of walnuts to play with and I’ve been having lots of fun using them in unconventional ways. Walnuts are a delicious and versatile ingredient and they perfectly complement other whole foods for nutritious, tasty meals. I’ve found that walnuts can be used a lot like cashews to make “creams,” although with a stronger walnut presence due to their nice wholesome flavor. They pair especially well with amaranth and buckwheat, as all those earthy flavors complement each other.

Walnuts are a nice addition to meals and snacks as an ounce of walnuts — the amount in one serving of this porridge — has 2.5 grams of the essential plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in addition to 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

 

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Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been streamlining my morning process and often make my breakfast the night before, or batch cook a few days of meals at once. I tend to opt for some form of porridge most days and this means I have the perfect opportunity to soak and prep my morning fixings. Since it’s been getting hot outside, I have considered returning to a more summery breakfast like raw buckwheat porridge, but find that I  still tend to wake up ready for something warm to start my day. I tend to run cool most of the time so I decided to make a porridge that is soaked overnight or for a few hours prior to blending, and then it can be quickly finished and heated on the stove top to eat. I usually do the whole process the night before, as long as I remember to soak those main components a few hours before that evening prep. Then I reheat individual portions in the morning.

 

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Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge, serves 4

1/3 cup buckwheat groats

1/3 cup amaranth

1 cup raw walnuts

1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 Tbs. raw honey or maple syrup

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

dash of sea salt

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2- 1 1/2 cups water, divided

Directions:
  1. Cover walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat with warm water and one tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let soak overnight. The next morning, drain and rinse well.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries and honey until they become smooth. Spoon out about half the puree and set aside.
  3. Without removing the remaining puree, add in the drained and rinsed nuts and seeds along with the spices and about 1/2 cup water. Puree the mixture until smooth.
  4. To assemble and eat, spoon the pureed porridge into a small saucepan along with enough water to make it a thinnish consistency, if necessary. This will depend on your berries. Heat through until it forms a thick porridge. Then, swirl a few spoonfuls of the blueberry puree into each portion. Top with more blueberries and walnuts, if desired.

 

 

References:

Frølich, W. (n.d.) Phytate–a natural component in plant food. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved from:  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/backup_migrate/PhytateProsCons_0910_DK-WGC.pdf.

Sparvoli, F. and Cominelli, E. (2015). Seed biofortication and phytic acid reduction: A conflict of interest for the plant? Plants. 4 (4): 728-755. doi:  10.3390/plants4040728.

Weil, A. (2010). Are phytates bad or good? Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html.

Raw Buckwheat Porridge with Hazelnuts & Rose Water

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Almost a year ago, I wrote about a new beginning, my desire to meet new people, and to connect to place. Having grown up on a ranch where we were seemingly always connected to neighbors who often shared their honey, lamb, fruit, or eggs while we returned the favor with armfuls of zucchini, beef, and cookies(!), it is natural for me to connect to a place through its food and farmers. Food is precious, unique to place, and meant to be celebrated as such. I’d like for us all to return to that mantra, in whatever way we can best make it so.

 

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I have high aspirations to grow my own, get to know my farmers, and to share the abundance. The truth is though, I live in a tiny dark apartment under a canopy of giant oak trees. It is shady and I haven’t even been able to successfully grow herbs in the windowsill. I have a community garden plot full of packed clay soil, but at least it’s growing something. (Lots of things, actually!) I’m working on it.

 

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Because life also has room for trade, trying flavors from afar, and celebrating with foods that just won’t grow nearby, I have been finding ways to integrate local flavors into even the most international of themes. It is a balance and I’m still fine-tuning. Mostly though, I’m excited that the Willamette Valley is seeing a resurgence in local grains and pulses–and millers!

 

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Though there are dreams aplenty ’round these parts, I’m holding out for a larger piece of land for my buckwheat and oat plot. In the meantime, I’m excited to be trying out a couple different varieties of “dry beans” in the garden. There is more to eating locally these days than fruits and vegetables–and that is exciting!

How do you connect to your community?

 

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This porridge is raw, Middle-Eastern and June-inspired, and features edible flowers as part of this month’s Recipe Redux theme. There are roses blooming now and the weather has been continuously summer-like. Buckwheat is gluten-free, nutritious, locally grown and processed here (albeit still somewhat seasonally available), and super quick to blitz up on an early summer morning when there is a desire for nutritious, filling, and uncooked.

There are local hazelnuts and honey too, along with rose petals that can be gathered and dried. All together, I’ve gathered the makings of a quick, super delicious breakfast. Top with the berries of the season: Here, we are right at the beginning of blueberries.

 

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Raw Buckwheat Porridge with Hazelnuts and Rose Water
Serves 2–3
 
3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked overnight 
1 1/2 tsp. rose water
1/2- 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs. raw honey
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
blueberries, by the handful 
dried rose petals, to taste 
  • Drain soaked buckwheat and pour into a food processor.  Pulse a few times until the grains are starting to break apart.
  • Measure in the rose water, cardamom to taste, vanilla, and honey. Puree until smooth.
  • Pour out into your container of choice and top with hazelnuts, berries, and rose petals. Enjoy!