Chocolate Raspberry Tart

raspberry chocolate dessert

Beloved friends, I hope you are resting and enjoying this final day of 2014. The Chinese year of the horse has been quite a gallop, hasn’t it? Yet when we look back, there is so much to be thankful for. Most of all, that we have each other – a conscious, loving community of soulful, heart-centered people nourishing the world with mindfulness, presence, love.

I personally have felt so supported this year. That was diagnosed years ago as a severe deficiency, as an underlying cause of all that was imbalanced in my body, and in my life. Given that both Yoga and Ayurveda tells us that all problem arise from “the mind,” I set about to change that. So today I really want to pause and give thanks to all who support me, and who support the ways I love and grow and thrive – by every now and then having a read, showing up in a class, attending a workshop or Retreat, dropping me a line, showering us with smiles, or sharing a simple meal. I am so fortunate to live the beauty I love, to paraphrase Rumi, and it is due mostly to you, our community of beloved friends and divine souls.

chocolate tart with raspberries and pear coulis

So, today I give thanks for you.

Here is my gift. A little bite of sweet, tart, rich, light up the new year deliciousness. You can make it right now in ten minutes if you have a bar of dark chocolate (who doesn’t after the holidays?) and a basket of fresh raspberries in your pantry. You can actually make it with any fruit, but red is best for the color, and raspberries give it just the right pop.

As for the chocolate, I used what remained of a Scharffenberger 70% bittersweet dark chocolate baking bar. You can use anything, just keep it dark – for beauty, for taste, for balance, and for all those anti-aging antioxidants.

chocolate berry tart

Chocolate Raspberry Tart
Serves 8-10

5-6 ounces dark Chocolate  (there’s a good list of some of the best here)
1 T Coconut Oil
1 basket fresh Raspberries, rinsed and pat dry
Cinnamon, Cardamom dustings

sfb-hbbbitter
a scharffenberger baking bar

Break up the chocolate and very gently melt it over a low flame watching it carefully and stirring constantly, or use a double boiler to be safe. You want to be sure you are only melting the chocolate – not cooking it, and certainly not burning it.

Warm a tart pan (see this great article on the different between a tart and a pie and the dishes that help us make the best of each), and coat with the coconut oil. Pour in your melted chocolate and spread evenly across the pan. Lightly set your raspberries on the chocolate with their points facing up. Completely cover with berries, then refrigerate to set (I sealed it with a plate to not crush the berries).

Remove from the refrigerator at least ten minutes before serving so the chocolate softens enough to be able to cut and serve without breaking. Once plated, dust with cardamom, cinnamon. A dollop of yogurt is good with this and makes a beautiful contrast in dark and light. I also served it with the pear coulis below, which can be added to sparkling water for a delightful new year’s sparkle.

red berry chocolate tart

Pear Coulis Sparkler
Serves 3-4

1 Pear
1-2 T Lemon juice, depending on how juicy your pear was

Puree the pear with the lemon juice in your blender. You might need to add a teaspoon of water just to get it to puree, but try not to add too much water, nor to over blend. If you do it will turn brown which is less pretty, although every bit as delicious.

Add 2-3 spoons of pear coulis to a glass of sparkling water – or omit the lemon, and add to champagne.

pear coulis bubbly

raspberry pear bubbly

I wish you and your loved ones every joy this coming year.
Let’s remember: we have everything it takes, and we are the ones to light the world with love.

Happy New Year!

Thank you always! 

Chocolate Pasta

#chocolate pastaIn a recent class we taught on Ayurveda for families, we made a “chocolate butter” (as in peanut or almond butter) demonstrating one of many examples of healthy snacks for children. With some of that chocolate butter remaining, Valentine’s Day approaching, and the inspiration of children still in my heart, I thought I’d get playful and try out the chocolate butter as a sauce for pasta.

#Valentine's Day Pasta

Thus emerged this Chocolate Pasta, a delight both easy and quick to make. I think it took all of ten minutes.

The sauce is made with cacao, so has all the health benefits of dark chocolate. If you are making this for adults, use cacao nibs. It gives an accent of bitter that really works. But if you are making this for children, cacao powder will better integrate the flavors.

#chocolate pasta

You could serve this as a side, or add your choice of protein and make it a one dish meal. I added fresh green peas as my protein, mixing them in at the very end so they would hold their fresh aliveness.

chocolate #pasta

#chocolatepasta

Once served, you can dress it up however you like. I added chives, but chopped spring onion would be great for that burst of pungency. I also like toasted or roasted sunflower seeds, but you could garnish with toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pepitas. It needs that nutty bite. Best of all, I sprinkled cacao nibs over each serving. It ‘s more than a theme note, its gives the pasta a rich contrast in color, texture and taste.

VDay Chocolate Pasta

I think it worked, but would love to know what you think.

Chocolate Pasta
Serves 3-4

2 quarts water
1 cube veg broth
1 T sesame oil
1 fistful soba noodles
1-2 cups seasonal greens, shredded
1/2 t ginger powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/8 t red pepper (the slightly milder aleppo is my preference)
gf tamari
toasted or roasted sunflower seeds
sesame seeds
chives or spring onions, chopped
red pepper flakes, optional

Chocolate Sauce
2 T Almond Butter
3 T raw cacao (powder or nibs)
1 small pear, cored and chopped
1 T Raw Honey (or 2 Medjool Dates)
pinch pink salt
pinch cinnamon
pinch cardamom

Start with the chocolate sauce. Put all the ingredients together in an electric blender and mix until well integrated and smooth. If you are using cacao nibs rather than powder be sure to mix until the nibs break down, but don’t worry if some remain solid. It will give a nice texture to the sauce when added to the pasta.

Meanwhile, boil 2 quarts of water in a saucepan. Chop up your greens and set aside. When the water comes to a boil, add the cube of vegetable broth. Stir until it dissolves, then spoon in the sesame oil. Stir in the ginger and garlic powders and red pepper. Add the soba noodles and your greens. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Gently spoon in the chocolate sauce, stirring lightly so you don’t break the pasta. Season with tamari. Taste, and a pinch of pink salt, if needed.

Chocolate Pasta VDay

Since there are at least six good reasons to celebrate with chocolate, for dessert we have many choices ~ there is this amazing Chocolate Pâté, this extraordinary Flourless Chocolate Cake, or this Chocolate Pudding, all to remind us to celebrate love not just today, but every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

On Sunday, Celeste came over for a class we called “Learn to Love the Kitchen.” Given she had just been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I wanted to include something really delicious and easy to make so she wouldn’t feel it’s a diagnosis of labor and deprivation.

Sunday with Celeste
Sunday with Celeste

Celeste arrived after a morning of writing. Not very purposeful writing, and not even very useful, but full of flow and ease, and a healing making right with the world kind of sweetness.

You see, I was taught to write in a stream of consciousness: “Don’t think, just write.” “Put pen in hand and begin.” “Let it flow.” “Be uncensored.” “Afterwards,” they would say, “you can go back and edit.”

This way of writing has been like therapy for me. It helps keep me alive to the river of life. It restores my faith that all is flowing towards some ocean, symbolic in Yoga for expanded consciousness, the cosmic mind, our oneness.

It’s one reason I put this quote from Norman MacLean on my personal website ~ “But when I am alone in the half light of the canyon all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories… Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

Nutella Mousse

“Under the rocks are the words…” he goes on. And it feels that way to me. Writing helps dislodge the rocks, underneath which are buried the words. There, a river runs through, and everything fades to a being with my soul and the memories…

Hazelnut Mousse

Sometimes I think I write for my life. To unfurl the coiled and sometimes twisted emotion, energy, experience and restore balance, perspective, peace.

At least that is how it began. Now I write to cultivate a divine essence, or a relationship with that. It’s a relationship that includes food, Nature,  you, even my own spirit ~ elated as it is to now be so free.

Homemade, healthy Nutella

In his novel, A River Runs Through, MacLean writes: “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.” 

Which makes me think not only of writing, and blogging, but of the kitchen, and all that we do to maintain health. Maybe our work is our art, and even our diagnoses can be seen not as labor and deprivation, but as acts of art leading us towards grace.

Nutella Pie_4
The art of our labor came for Celeste and for me, in this Flourless Chocolate Cake, which I affectionately call, “Nutella Pie.” It is simple, with only about 5 main ingredients. It is also messy. MacLean promises all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation… and that must include chocolate cake, don’t you think?

This little delight is made with hazelnuts, almond milk, dates, eggs, and some spices. It is not made with sugar, flour, dairy, or any junk. I ran the nutritional data on it and it seems to have about 150 calories per slice, plus a lot of vitamins, minerals, fiber and good-for-you love. I served it with a Coconut Cream Coulis and strawberries, but raspberries would be pretty, too.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Hazelnuts, 1 cup
Dates, 6 large, pitted and chopped
Almond Milk, 1 cup
Vanilla Extract, 1 Tablespoon
Coconut Oil, 1 Tablespoon
Eggs, 3 large
Pink Salt, a pinch or two
Raw Cacao, 1/4 cup scant
Cinnamon, 1 big shake
Cardamom, pinch
Maple Syrup, 1-2 Tablespoons, (optional)

Set your oven to 335F. Pit and chop the Dates, then soak them in pure water for at least ten minutes. Toast the Hazelnuts lightly (about 3-4 minutes in a toaster). Put the nuts in a Vitamix or electric blender and grind until it is a powder. Drain the dates and add to the hazelnuts, along with the Almond Milk, Vanilla and Coconut Oil. Blend until it is creamy. You might have to stop, stir, and blend a few times to get it to really come together.

In a small bowl whip the eggs with the salt. Add to the hazelnut mixture and blend some more. Once that is creamy, add the cacao, spices, and maple syrup.

Grease a 9″ round pan, or muffin tins,with a dab of coconut oil. Pour in the mixture and smooth with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for 2o-25 minutes for the cake/pie, or 15-20 minutes for the minis.

Serve warm or at room temperature with plain yogurt or this Coconut Coulis.

Coconut Coulis

Coconut Milk, 1 can
Raw Honey, 1 Tablespoon

Chill the Coconut Milk for at least one hour. Spoon it into a bowl and blend with the Honey. Whip it until it gets a bit fluffy and thickens. Drizzle over your Chocolate Cake. It is also wonderful with fresh fruit.

Nutella Pie_1

“Study after study shows that cocoa flavanols can disarm cell damaging free radicals, preserve cell membranes, protect DNA, prevent the formation of artery clogging plaque, improve blood flow to the heart, lower high blood pressure, and prevent blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke. ~ Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD

I hope you enjoy this delicious reminder that food is a love story, and that Mother Earth is always loving you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Namaste ~

Six Reasons to Celebrate with Chocolate

Raw Chocolate Truffles on Daniel Max’s Blog

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Best day of the year, or commercial imposition? Invention of the Hallmark industry, or a wonderful reminder to love, love, love?

However you see it, most of us seem to agree ~ the day presents a delicious opportunity to enjoy one of nature’s most luscious gifts: Chocolate. Scientifically named Theobroma, or food of the gods, chocolate treats us to a heavenly experience, pointing to the feast that is our divine nature.

Being divine means that chocolate is good for you ~ as long as it is raw, unfussed, and minimally processed, of course. Here are six good reasons why.

Six Reasons to Celebrate with Chocolate

Chocolate Reduces Pitta

Chocolate will transport you from peeved to passionate in one time-stopping, evocative bite. When my Pitta clients sheepishly admit to a daily indulgence in dark chocolate, I congratulate them. Sometimes there is nothing better than chocolate to help you release stress and restore a deep, sweet breath. Just one bite is the perfect medicine.

The Science: My friend Nicole Plaisted, Herbalist, Medicine Woman, co-founder of San Diego Herb Co. and a Theobroma Expertoma explains, “Chocolate contains PEA, a chemical known as the molecule of love. This same chemical is found in Blue Green Algae and is known to increase concentration and focus by balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is one of the reasons we crave chocolate.”

Chocolate is Anti-aging

Chocolate helps keep you looking young and feeling great, while quietly, potently staving off disease.

The Science:  Chocolate is off the charts on the ORAC Index, which measures antioxidants. According to Nicole, “Cacao has the highest antioxidant content of any known food. Antioxidants slow the aging process by preserving cells and preventing their decay.”

Italian researchers found that eating 100 grams of dark chocolate a day for 15 days lowered blood pressure in a 15-person study. This University of L’Aquila team also found that the body’s ability to metabolize sugar was improved. Both results are credited to antioxidant levels.

Chocolate Makes You Smart

Chocolate is loaded with minerals that feed the neural networks, balancing brain chemistry, enhancing memory, increasing clarity and combating depression.

The Science: “Mineral rich foods can be hard to come by but fortunately the food that we love most of all is one of the most mineral dense foods we can eat,” says Nicole. “High in magnesium and iron, Cacao nourishes our nerves, brain, heart, bones, and supports the free-flowing life forces in the body. It is also full of trace minerals which, combined with enzymes from raw foods like fruits and vegetables help to build new cells which can extend the life of the body.”

Chocolate May Help with Weight Loss

A chocolate bar processed with hormone-laced milk solids, artificial fats and vats of chemically altered sugar is not slimming. But pure, raw cacao seems to be.

The Science: Cacao seems to diminish appetite, thought to be due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) which allow more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors facilitate youth regeneration and rejuvenation, and encourages weight loss naturally.

Chocolate is Bliss

The Science:  “Another reason to love chocolate is the molecule of bliss called Anandamide, from the Sanskrit word Ananda for bliss. This molecule is a cannabinoid neurotransmitter and mimics the endorphins you get when working out,” says Nicole. Cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies’ ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that anandamide may stick around longer, making us feel good longer, when we eat cacao

Chocolate is Seductive

To really draw out the flavor of chocolate you have to warm it in your mouth, press it up against the palate, slowly allow it to melt, and gently roll it around so all its various tastes can be enjoyed across the landscape of your tongue.

Have you ever tasted Fortunato no. 4? Listen to chocolate farmers and chocolatiers describe their first tasting of this sensuous delight.

Nicole’s Hot Cacao

“Now that you know your favorite food is so good for you, all the more reason to enjoy it,” says Nicole. “Try this yummy, guilt-free hot chocolate recipe: 1 can coconut milk, 1 can water (use the coconut milk can), 2 tbsp Cacao powder, and your sweetener of choice. Add 2 cinnamon sticks and let it simmer on low heat for 15 mins. Enjoy with your loved ones.”

~

Happy Valentine’s Day. May you remember that, even though chocolate is delicious and good for you, love requires no person, no element, no thing ~ for love is an energy that eternally abides within.

If you really knew how much love is in you, seeking you and surrounding you, your heart would burst.  So have a cup of hot cacao and sip on that.

Namaste!

Glorious, Guilt-free Dark Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Medicine

A couple of weeks ago I asked, “What do you crave?” Across the vast interconnected web of planetary health-wizards and cultural creatives came the resounding answer, “Chocolate!”

Why, of course. Chocolate is a stimulant, so it is not surprising in this hyper-active world of ours that we look for an easy, edible pick-me-up. Plus, combined as it usually is with sugar and fat, it can be undeniably delicious.

Perhaps more than the stimulant, for some of us it is that sweetness that is craved: a little comfort, relief from the stresses of every day life, a bit of soothing reassurance. Of course, too much of that and instead of a lift, you get a false high and then a deep, enduring bottom.

In fact, studies show that people who snack on chocolate regularly are more depressed than those who only eat it now and again. Ayurvedic Practitioner Alex Duncan wrote a great article about that on his blog, Ayurveda & Life.

But did you know that chocolate can be good for you?

Cocoa Beans

The source of chocolate, Cocoa beans are chock full of heart-healthy anti-oxidants, anti-depressants such as serotonin and dopamine, brain enhancing neurotransmitters, and the “love” chemical phenylethylamine.  The Ayurvedic taste of pure chocolate is Bitter which means it has a cleansing, dilating and therefore cooling, anti-inflammatory action, almost like an air-conditioner to the inner body. It is usually craved by Pitta’s – people who run hot and benefit from the heat-reducing qualities of chocolate.

Another delicious benefit is that bitter (cocoa) unites with sweet to help alleviate pain. In Ayurveda, we understand that the sweet taste provides a feeling of contentment or pleasure to the body and comfort to the sense organs. It is no wonder we sometimes consider chocolate like  a medicine.

Combining dark chocolate with whole, fresh foods like banana, almonds, or avocado (yes, really!) gives you a great snack to satisfy cravings ~ in moderation, of course.  As long as you use pure 100% cocoa (nibs or powder) with healthy ingredients, a little now and then can help you remember that life, as with food, is a love story!

Raw Chocolate Pudding

This Chocolate Pudding has been a favorite around our house, and neighborhood, all summer ~

“No Cook” Chocolate Pudding
Serves 2

1 Avocado
2 tablespoons Raw Cacao Powder
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Cardamom, Turmeric
Dash of Himalayan Salt
Maple Syrup to Taste

Blend the ingredients together until it is a smooth consistency. Spoon into bowls and dive in!

The original recipe for “No-Cook” Chocolate Pudding came from Whole Living, but their recipe calls for Honey which has a heating action on the body. For Summer, Maple Syrup is recommended by Ayurveda. Coconut sugar is another option. Careful though – this doesn’t need much!

I also like to add Cardamom for a little digestive boost, not to mention that exotic peppery note. Turmeric will help keep the tissues clean and the channels clear after any heavy food, as this is.

Maha Shakti Detox Protein Powder

For extra medicinal goodness, I add a spoonful of my Maha Shakti Detox Protein Powder, one of my Ayurvedic Specialty Foods now carried at the recently opened Urban Food & Gourmet in San Diego.

Meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying the last days of August, especially the juicy bounty of late summer’s colorful harvest!

Namaste ~ 

The Taste of Love: Chocolate Pâté

Chocolate PateThink about something you love for a moment.

How does that thought make you feel? If you could taste it, what would be its flavor?

Sitting in an Emergency Room earlier this week waiting for my husband to be wheeled off for a CT scan followed by an MRI, I thought about that, the taste of love, and noticed on that day that love’s taste was bitter.

Narayana and Lakshmi, Cosmic Lover and Nature’s Love Goddess

Of course, we normally think of love as sweet, associating it with what we call “comfort” foods ~ Mom’s Mac Cheese, home-baked cookies, warmed milk ~ or with a romantic “diner à deux” with a rich menu of courses, wine, and a sumptuous dessert.

But on that day, under stark hospital lights, love tasted anything but sweet. What if they find a tumor? An aneurysm? Could this unbearable pain he has had for two weeks now be a symptom of something fatal? Or, not fatal but also not curable, not knowable, never-ending?

According to Ayurveda, the sweet taste is the taste that gives us strength, patience, endurance, health. Love is like that, isn’t? It fortifies us. It is grounding, pacifying, reassuring. It makes us more accepting, more generous. It helps us feel whole.

Bitter, on the other hand, is the taste associated with the emotion of loss. Grief has a bitter edge to it. This is not bitter as we usually think of it. Not the bitter of frustrated resentment as in, “My, how bitter she has become since her divorce.” The taste of that emotion would actually be sour, as in “sour grapes.” Combining the elements of fire and earth, sour feelings are like fire buried underground, a subterranean seething.

Cacao Pods

Bitter, instead, relates to letting go, surrender, releasing the old. Its taste combines the elements of air and space. Foods that taste bitter help us lose weight, loosen Ama, unclog the system, lighten up, eliminate toxins, clean wounds, purify the tissues.

Which brings me to Chocolate. Of course.

In its essence, chocolate has a bitter taste. It is almost unpalatable without the leavening of something sweet like sugar, milk, maple syrup, or honey. Chocolate, or choco-late, is cacao, a pure bitter, and “late” meaning milk, a sweet.

Monday helped me understand more fully why chocolate then, is the food of love. True love, enduring love is sweet. It strengthens, affirms, uplifts and expands us.

Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love

But deep, pure love is also like a fire. It lights us up. It purifies. It burns away our false, constructed ego, eliminating the toxins of selfishness, defensiveness and pride. It restores innocence, unclogs channels of self-expression and authenticity, renewing energy.  It puts our priorities into proper perspective. It forces us to face our interdependency, bringing to the surface buried fears of inadequacy, loss, annihilation. In this sense, deep love has much in common with the taste of bitter and its effect on us. It purifies.

Bitter and Sweet, chocolate helps us dissolve our mental strategies and resistance to life’s flow, restoring trust so we can melt back into the heart, allow connection, strengthen our bonds of oneness and remember what is true.

Chocolate Love

After Monday, my love for my husband is prioritized. Gone is anything that distracts. It feels clearer, stronger and purer than ever. Best of all, we are fortunate that the thumping, sleep-depriving, shrieking pain was only the result of a pinched nerve. A very pinched, very distressed nerve, but one that is now calmed and finding its way back to normal.

So we have a lot to love and to celebrate this Valentine’s Day. I am going to splurge and make a Chocolate Pâté.

Chocolate Pâté

The simple recipe for this sumptuous dessert lets the chocolate speak for itself, and it doesn’t just speak, it resounds. Loooooooooovvvvvveee ~

Chocolate Pâté

168 grams of 100%  Cacao (Ghirardelli and Scharffen Berger make the perfect Bar)
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup ghee
1.5 tablespoon Jaggary, or Evaporated Cane Juice

Ingredients

Put all ingredients into a medium size pot and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, once chocolate has mostly melted, turn off the heat. Continue to stir until the consistency is smooth and even.

Line the bottom of a small loaf pan with a large piece of cellophane, or parchment paper, leaving excess wrap to hang over the sides. Give the chocolate mixture a few minutes to cool, still stirring, then pour it into the loaf pan. Cover with the wrap, and refrigerate 5 to 6 hours, until firm. Before serving let stand at room temperature one hour, then turn out onto a plate and sprinkle with cocoa or cinnamon powder. Garnish with figs, blueberries, blackberries and serve with Crème Fraîche.

A Dusting of Cinnamon adds Spice

This is such divine succulence from the Mother. With food like this, her eternal, delicious love is hard to deny!

~ Happy Valentine’s Day ~


La Molina

Sally Bernstein has many great ideas for Valentine’s Day over at Sally’s Place, including loads of recipes and gift ideas. That is where I discovered La Molina Gianduja Spread, inspired by La Molina, the chambermaid and chocolatier to 17th century Queen Marie-Therese. Nothing like the love of a good woman!