Coconut Grape Chia Pudding

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Most of my friends and aquaintances know me as the girl that knows a bit about agriculture and growing vegetables. Few of them remember or know that I started out in college as an English major, or that I actually did continue to take English classes all the way through, receiving a minor instead. All my favorite classes as an undergrad were in the English department, not the college of agriculture. I particularly enjoyed the upper division writing and research-intensive classes as I enjoyed reading others’ research even more than I enjoyed actually reading the classic literature itself.

 

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What I’ve been particularly excited about since deciding to go back to school is the opportunity to dive back into the academic literature—this time in a way that is a little more applicable and interesting to me now than the cohesion of magic and religious practices in medieval literature. Like grape juice. Is grape juice beneficial? Will the grape juice in my freezer enhance my athletic pursuits? Can it do other things?

 

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I’ve had a gallon of really tasty homemade/homegrown grape juice hanging out in the freezer for over a year now. My best friend’s parents gifted it to us for Christmas in 2014. Having already used half of it last year, I knew it was good. But I rarely ever crave a glass of juice, let alone a gallon of it. And William, though he’s quite keen on green juice, proclaimed grape juice is for summer, and turned up his nose when I asked if he’d drink it.

After defrosting the juice, I noticed the thick must from the home-pressing settling at the bottom. It looked, smelled, and tasted like there was a lot of nutrition there, in a good way. Since tart cherry, pomegranate, and beet juice have all been in the research and news these last few years for their benefits to athletes, I started wondering what the verdict has been on grape juice? I did a quick initial search and scan through peer-reviewed journals, and though there’s not an overwhelming amount of research on grape juice and exercise, there is enough to suggest grape juice might increase running time-to-exhaustion (1), improve recovery (2) and immune function (3). What I’m really excited about is to learn how to pick apart the good research from the bad since a study can be found to support just about every viewpoint on any given topic.

For now, I’m comfortable with the idea that eating this coconut-grape chia pudding might have helped me avoid coming down with a full-blown cold last week when I was experiencing a little sore throat and depleted energy. Or it might have been that I recognized the signs and took it easy for a few days. In any case, I’ve been wanting to turn that grape juice into chia pudding for a while now, and as it turns out, grape juice thickened up with chia seeds and some coconut makes an excellent dessert, or breakfast, if you’re of the mind.

 

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Coconut-Grape Chia Seed Pudding, makes 4 cups

The Recipe Redux challenged us to an easy, seven-ingredient-or-less recipe this month since it’s Income Tax Season. What I like about this recipe is that it makes a big batch, can last for several days or feed a crowd, and can be interchanged with another type of juice for a flavor mix-up. I prefer to serve it with tangy yogurt and crunchy granola, to create more of a parfait, but the chia pudding is also quite nice on its own. 

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

3/4 cup chia seeds

4 cups 100% grape juice

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

granola of choice, optional

plain unsweetened coconut yogurt, optional

peanut butter, optional

  • In a medium bowl, whisk the chia seeds, coconut flakes, vanilla extract, and grape juice together. Let sit out for a few minutes and then whisk again to make sure the chia seeds are evenly distributed. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Remove from the fridge, spoon into dishes, and serve as is or with the optional mix-ins.

 

 

References:

  1. Toscano, L.T., Tavares, R.L., Toscano, T.T., Oliveira da Silva, C.S., Monteiro de Almeida, A.E., Biasoto, A.C.T.,…and Silva, A.S. (2015). Potential ergogenic activity of grape juice in runners. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 40(9): 899-906.
  2. Dalla Corte, C.L, De Carvalho, N.R., Amaral, G.P., Puntel, G.O., Silva, L.F.A., Retamoso, L.T.,…and Soares, F.A.A. (2013). Antioxidant effect of organic purple grape juice on exhaustive exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 38(5): 558-565.
  3. UPI NewsTrack. (2008). Quercetin, found in produce, fights flu. Business Insights: Global. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce and Hazelnut Ganache

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Closer to ‘Walden Pond’ than the ‘Joy of Cooking’, I read off the back of the book to Will as we drove from the library.

You do know ‘Walden’, yes? I asked.

No idea, he said.

It’s a great American classic! I astonished, the former English major in me kicking in. You should have read it in 11th grade along with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’, and Jonathan Swift’s satire about eating Irish babies. Yes?

No idea. I hated English. I almost failed that year.

 

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Whoompf. Deflated, I let the conversation sink in.

No wonder I don’t get any poetry. 

 

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And then recalling all the frustrated exchanges about technology, the wireless button this, the computer gidget that, the tiny intricate parts on his truck I really should stop asking about, the movies I’ve never seen nor heard of, and his daily exasperated, why-don’t-you-stop-clicking-random-things-for-god’s-sake!?! 

 

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That year he lived and worked with my parents, they were incredulous he didn’t know a halter or a hoof-pick. Walter good-naturedly gave him a hard time for all the daily first time learnings. We don’t all grow up on a ranch, dad, I wanted to say when I learned of it.

 

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And then, the last we were home, Will gave the ribbing right back when he taught Walter about an iPhone, and we could all see the dawn of realization come across dad in knowing all those second nature morsels of truth in the ranching life were his and there he was being the one who didn’t know.

 

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We each have our knowings, interests, and talents. The divine interweaving of their chaos into our social network is a special kind of art; you like this and I like that, and we still love each other and are friends and can relate; the somehow perfectly messy order of it is beautiful and awe-inducing, don’t you think?

 

(and if you don’t and it’s just me then point in case!)

 

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce + Hazelnut Ganache

adapted from Dolly + Oatmeal

makes two 6-inch layers

gluten + dairy-free

The Recipe Redux February theme is chocolate pairings. Unlike most of the ladies I know, I generally choose chocolate last when given a choice of flavors. Chocolate, for me, is either a simple square of plain dark after dinner or super fancy special occasion layer cake. There’s no in between. I’m just not into chocolating-up granola bars and breakfast and smoothies and the like. Sorry not sorry. This cake is definitely in the special occasion category. It is intensely dark, and for a discerning chocolate snob, about the best damn chocolate cake I’ve had. William tends to like fluffy white cake-mix type cakes and is real particular about sweets. He gobbled this up day after day. Considering recipe testing, this is a stamp of approval in the truest sense! 

I haven’t mentioned it often, but I’m all over the eating locally lifestyle (an ongoing gradually-more-over-the-years change), so I paired the chocolate with the abundant locally grown hazelnuts and strawberries picked fresh from the farm last summer. They are the most insanely delicious strawberries. Mixed with chia seed to thicken up into a sauce, they require no additional sweetener. Add them between the layers with the ganache and serve them on the side. Depending on your berry availability, sweeten them up as necessary. As for the cake, I trialed it with and without eggs. The egg-free version is denser and more brownie-like than the version with eggs. We didn’t think it lived up to the egg version on the first day, but it won out as the days went on, so if you’re slow at eating sweets, perhaps give it a try with two tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 Tbs. warm water to form a flax slurry in lieu of the eggs.

for the cake

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal (ground from toasted and shelled hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raw cacoa powder*
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (soft, not melted)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened hemp milk

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 4 Tbs. chia seeds

for the hazelnut ganache

  • 3/4- 1 cup unsweetened hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 275 grams (10 oz.) high quality dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal
  • chopped hazelnuts for garnish

for the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F and line the bottoms of each cake pan with parchment paper.  Then rub a little coconut oil up the sides of the pans and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil with a whisk and a strong arm until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated; then add the vanilla and milk; mix again until  it is combined.  Next, a bit at a time, stir in the dry ingredients to the wet.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check after out 20 minutes so as not to over bake.
  • Transfer the layers to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 20 minutes; then remove layers and rest them until completely cool.

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • place the strawberries and seeds in a food processor and puree until smooth or still slightly chunky (your choice). Then turn into a container and place in the fridge for firm up for an hour or more (this might depend on the water content of your berries).

for the hazelnut ganache

  • In a food processor, puree the hazelnut meal and chocolate together until finely ground. In either a small bowl in the microwave or a small pan over the stovetop, heat the milk to frothy and boiling. Next, with the food processor running, slowly pour in the hot milk to form a thin sauce. Pour into a bowl and leave to sit out at room temperature or if you’re impatient, put in the fridge for an hour or two. It should become quite thick, like buttercream frosting.

assemble

  • Level the cake layers, if necessary, with a long serrated bread knife.  Place one layer on the cake stand or plate, and using a cake spatula or thick knife, put about 2-3 tablespoons of ganache on one cake layer and spread evenly.  Spread roughly 2-3 tablespoons of the strawberry sauce over the frosting, leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the edge.  place the other cake layer on top and frost the rest of the cake.  Garnish with extra chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

If keeping the cake around for longer than a day or two, store in the fridge.

*for reasons to start using a little more raw cacoa instead of cocoa powder, Sara gives a great explanation.

 

Blood Orange & Rhubarb Smoothie {Recipe Redux}

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Last Valentine’s weekend William and I competed in a couple’s 5k race. This was the first time we’ve run such a race, where our scores and ages were combined and pitted up against a crazy-fast group of local runners. We’re often asked about running together, and though we do so only every now and again these days, our relationship did begin in part because of our mutual interest in running.

We were in the same college at OSU and happened to take a class together the last term of my senior year. Will strolled around like a laid-back California dude with his casual persona and curly blonde hair. He also routinely wore his Hood to Coast shirts. He was definitely the only guy in the class to do so. I was intrigued. 

When we started hanging out, running was our first common ground and we began running together before we were officially dating, in the final weeks before Will’s annual Hood to Coast race. A year later, we both ran Hood to Coast. Through that experience, I learned that I could still find some speed after two hours of sleep, which was periodically interrupted by manic, nearby, cowbell ringing. Having a warm-up buddy at 4:30 am after those two unrestfull hours was a definite motivational plus.

Even though we haven’t been running together quite as often these days, Will has remained my biggest supporter. He routinely wakes up early and comes to races with me, and even when he doesn’t race, he dons his run outfit and champions me through the warm up and cool down. He stands right off the starting line and takes all my extra layers at the last moment and then strategically places himself near the finish and yells at me to sprint as if my life depends on it. I jokingly refer to him as my coach because he’s been at this racing business longer than I have and he is a true encourager.

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Valentine’s Day may be past for this year, and we don’t truly celebrate it anyway, but we do celebrate the early mornings and post-workout meal of our favorite shared hobby as frequently as we can. We also share a love for healthy smoothies, and turn to them more often when amping up mileage.

As far as ingredients go, I tend to mix together stronger or more seasonal flavors, while Will consistently opts for a heavy dose of berries. I am a huge fan of rhubarb and have been hoarding last summer’s crop in the freezer for months now. Rhubarb happens to pair beautifully with oranges. Cue blood orange season, and our blender has been in a near constant state of pink-smoothie-use for several weeks straight! 

It may not feel like it lately, but spring is just around the corner and rhubarb is one of the earliest spring crops in these parts of Western Oregon. If you’re lucky enough to have your own plant, throw a dark pot over it, and you can begin to force it out of its winter dormancy. I did this at the school garden in early January, and we are well on our way to having rhubarb ready to harvest a couple months earlier! If you are not in possession of a rhubarb plant or a freezer full of last year’s cache, you can bet there is a farmer that knows this trick and will have the first rhubarb of the season in the market soon, just in time for the last of the blood oranges! Happy smoothie sipping and early season running!

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Smoothie, serves 2
2 blood oranges, peeled and diced
1 Tbs. chia seeds
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 cups rhubarb sauce*
stevia drops or sweetener, to taste

Pour all the ingredients into a blender and mix until it is thick and creamy. Season to taste with sweetener.

*For rhubarb sauce, chop rhubarb into small pieces, pour into a medium stock pot, add about an inch of water, and heat to boiling. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the fibers have broken down and the mixture begins to get thick. I don’t add any sweetener at this point, but you certainly can sweeten it to taste, if you like.