It’s a cold, wet Sunday in Atlanta today. Quite the change from the gorgeous, sunny Saturday where we hit record high’s of 80 degrees in February. How ridiculous is that concept of global warming or climate change. We ALWAYS have 80 degree weather in Atlanta with trees bursting with blossoms. Hnat at all. I’m bummed because this warmer weather means a shorter growth cycle of my favorite winter greens like kale, collard greens, hearty lettuces, and everything else that prefers the cooler winter temperatures.
So while I was wanting different foods yesterday related to the warmer weather, the rainy day has me craving warm, nurturing foods now. I decided to experiment with the red beet powder “superfood” I purchased at Sprouts for the 11alive Valentine’s Day chocolate episode. Instead of my traditional turmeric latte I decided to go for a beety version. My fear was that it would taste too much like beets so I added some chocolate powder and liquid stevia. WOW! Next level hot chocolate for certain! Tim had one sip and said, “OMG, I WANT ONE!” He’s my best litmus test for all my new kitchen creations. I know it might sound gross: beets + milk + chocolate is a hard sell but trust me on this one, I’ll likely be making either this new chocolate beet latte or regular my turmeric latte moving forward. Can’t go wrong with either of them.
Why should you care about beets?
New and emerging research is demonstrating the health properties of these dirty red root veggies. I mean no disrespect beet: you grow in the dirt and good dirt contains minerals our body craves. As a plant-based dietitian, I am so encouraged to see funding going towards studying the health properties of plants because in my book, they are ALL healers (until you are on blood thinners and have compromised your health, then certain ones you have to avoid). Beets could be used as promising treatment for clinical issues like:
* improving cardiovascular health and athletic performance
* decreasing chronic inflammation, pain and oxidative stress
* boosting cognition and brain function
* initial findings with chemo-protective properties and insulin resistance
So while this sounds incredibly exciting to think we can boost our heart and brain while reducing inflammation and stress with a red-beet latte, most of the participants in the research were relatively healthy. Just like anything else considered healthy like water, exercise, sleep, or fiber, you can overdo it. My point is it’s fun to create healthy recipes with functional foods, but avoid going overboard like we have done in the past with soy in the 90’s and most recently, kale. Moderation darling, moderation.
Back to the purpose of this blog! I warmed up some almond coconut milk (my favorite is Califia Farms but you could easily make with a combo of unsweetened almond milk + coconut milk using Simple Truth brand from Kroger too). I love using coconut milk because it gives the latte a nice rich, fatty texture which increases satiety, especially when paired with a balanced meal like my FULLY LOADED yogurt bowl.
To make the latte: once your liquid is warm, whip in about 1-2 teaspoons of organic red beet powder (I actually purchased from Sprouts for about the same price) and 1-2 teaspoons of raw cacao powder for that mega anti-oxidant BOOST (I also added a pinch of SweetLeaf brand liquid stevia). Your body, brain, and heart will get a turbo-charged kick from all the good functional food free radical scavengers.
To make the yogurt bowl: crumble or quarter two mini Chocolate Banana Protein Muffins (recipe below), 1/3 cup fresh berries, about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt of choice (my all-time fav is from #d’tox The Best Yogurt Ever naked plant-based yogurt) 1-2 teaspoons of raw cacao nibs (I love the taste of these bittersweet natural chocolate treats) and I also added the organic hazelnut spread I whipped up yesterday and made this next level for sure (recipe below). This is optional I usually make without. Also like to add crumbled walnuts, I used Trader Joe’s red walnuts so they’d match the latte but you can use any nut or seed you have available. Sometimes I sprinkle with shredded coconut flakes, hemp seeds, bee pollen, or chocolate covered chia seeds. Just depends on two things: what’s available in my kitchen and what I’m in the mood for.
Oh yeah, and I sprinkled the red beet powder on top just to make it look pretty.
Even thought Tim just ate pizza he was then eyeing my brunch and gobbled several bites in delight. I could definitely eat more but since we’re doing the mindful eating challenge, I ate just enough to feel satisfied! Don’t know about my 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge? The next one starts March 19th and you can read more about it here.
CHOCOLATE BANANA PROTEIN MUFFINS (gluten-free, vegan*)
makes about 24 mini muffins
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup agave, honey, maple syrup or other thick liquid sweetener **honey is not vegan
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder
2 Tablespoons carob powder
1/4 cup brown rice protein powder*
1.5 cups gluten free flour (I used a free-hand mixture of garbanzo bean, cassava/tapioca starch and quinoa flours)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Line a mini-muffin tin with mini baking cups (I use eco-friendly If You Care brand unbleached, chlorine-free ones that I purchase at the co-op Sevananda).
2. In a high speed blender, add “blended ingredients” and whip until well-blended. I usually mix the first 3 ingredients together before adding the rest and let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes or more so that the sugars can react with the baking soda (they normally react with the gluten which is lacking). You will notice that the mixture changes in texture and gets a bit fluffy. That’s a good thing that will help with the consistency of the muffins.
3. Measure out your gluten-free flours and add the wet mixture from the blender. You only want to stir the ingredients about 15 times. Don’t overmix the wet and dry mixtures, it will ruin your muffins! Add 1/4 cup of almond milk or coconut milk and mix another 5-ish times, just so the flour is lightly mixed in. The dough should be wet and a teeny bit runny.
4. Drop about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture into each cup. Mine usually starts out clean then gets sloppy as I get towards the end. Use a spatula to scrap out the rest of the batter. Sometimes I add the leftover to a big glass pyrex dish and make a mega muffin or sometimes make smaller muffins and a couple large ones.
5. Bake for 23-28 minutes on the center rack. Your oven may take longer depending on how it cooks things (our oven is pretty fast). Check your muffins by inserting a toothpick- it should come out clean.
6. Remove from tin and let them cool before gobbling. Store in a sealed container on the counter for a day max, then in the refrigerator for a week or freezer for 2-3 months. Mine never ever last that long so I honestly don’t know how long they would last in the freezer.
*I use plant-based proteins in this recipe but don’t know how whey or other proteins may impact these muffins. They could create a different texture, I don’t know. I’ve experimented with other plant-based proteins before but can’t speak to whey or other animal proteins since the molecular weight can impact how muffins and baked goods turn out.
BETTER THAN NUTELLA (gluten-free, vegan*)
makes about 1 cup
1 cup raw organic hazelnuts
2-3 Tablespoons of raw organic cacao powder
2-3 Tablespoons of thick liquid sweetener like agave, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, cassava syrup (could try combination and see what you like!) **honey is not vegan
1 Tablespoons of cacao butter (optional)*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract**
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
1/4 cup unsweet almond milk
1. Place hazelnuts in a food process and mix for 6-10 minutes, until it forms a thick nut-butter consistency. This might take longer depending on your food processor. Now add the other ingredients (I like to add liquids while the processor is running and powders when it’s off).
2. Mix until well incorporate – taste and adjust. I wanted to create something that was crumbly and not thin so I omitted the almond milk but if you want a nut-butter consistency add this to thin it out. This nut butter tastes better the next day. I love it on the protein muffins and fruit slices or on a teeny spoon since it’s easy to overeat. Would make an amazing spread on a sammie or on a tortilla with smashed banana and cinnamon sprinkle! I’m inspired I might make something sinful and post it…
** I make my own vanilla extract. No don’t be impressed, it’s so simple you’ll wonder why you bought the mass-produced one in the first place! I like to use a good-quality 70% vodka (can use bourbon or other liquor) and a vanilla bean. Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans are recommended for extracts. My friend who grows vanilla gave me a ton so I’m not sure what Grade they are per se, but I love to make my own vanilla-infused agave, vanilla extract, and other treats. Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise but not cut in half. You can scrape out the vanilla “seeds” that looks like powder and add to the jar with the alcohol and rest of the pod. Seal the lid tight and store in a dark place for 6 weeks. Shake it from time to time and take a couple of sniffs from time to time if you like. It smells heavenly! The longer it sits, the better it gets so ideally let it sit for 6 months. I usually make big batches of this with leftover liquor from parties and bake or cook with it. The vanilla-infused agave is ridiculous.
Let me know how your kitchen creations turn out!