Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cocoa & Raspberry Chia Seed Pudding

Image by me, Danielle Rose
We all have that number one insecurity that always seems to be lurking behind you any time you start to feel confident in yourself. For myself that number one insecurity has been my skin. Ever since high school and especially in university I have suffered from acne. Though it's had it's ups and downs with deep, dark, scary downs in university that often left me feeling such extreme self hate that I wouldn't want to leave my bedroom. I would fake sick just so I wouldn't have to go to work and have the beautiful people I worked with see my embarrassing skin. I would keep my head down in lectures to try to cover my face with my hair so no one would have to see my face. I remember bursting into tears while catching a glimpse of my reflection while out at a restaurant with my mom because I thought I looked like a monster. As extreme as this all sounds, and though my skin has drastically improved, I still have those days where I feel like a monster. 
Image by me, Danielle Rose
Through the many ups and downs with my skin I've learned that much of my skin issues have to do with my diet. Of course there's the obvious food no-no's for having clear skin like reducing the amount of alcohol I consume (thank goodness I hardly drink at all) as well as greasy and fried foods (damn, I love those!), but what I didn't realize was affecting my skin so much was dairy. Now if you know me at all you will know that cheese is my secret lover. We have had a passionate affair since I first tasted it and I refuse to ever let go. So if I'm going to be keeping my dear cheese present in my daily life, I'm going to have to be extra diligent about reducing all the other dairy I consume. 

With a new healthy diet on my mind since, you guessed it, January, I've been trying to curb my late afternoon foodie cravings each day with a yogurt and granola bowl as a way of upping my fruit intake as well as delivering other great health benefits such as probiotics, chia seeds, flax, and more. Though those yogurt and granola bowls were awesome for keeping me satiated throughout the day and gave me a great boost of energy, my skin was not happy with having all this dairy in my system. I started breaking out like crazy igniting the awful pattern of self hate that I'm all too familiar with.
Image by me, Danielle Rose
Thanks to my savvy Pinterest hunting, I was able to come up with an alternative to my fruit and yogurt bowls in the form of chia seed pudding. I have kept a steady supply of chia seeds in my kitchen ever since I first learned about its incredible health benefits, which include being packed with antioxidants, fibre, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Completely flavourless and very tiny, chia seeds have been great for shaking into salads, onto my yogurt bowls, in smoothies, and so much more. More than just a garnish for adding a hit of nutrients, chia seeds are also fantastic thanks to their texture when moistened. Chia seeds are a lifesaver for vegans, as they are a fantastic egg substitute when stirred with some water and left to rest. When moistened, chia seeds expand and take on an almost gelatinous texture, giving them the ability to bind many different foods. The binding properties in chia seeds make them the magic ingredient in creating a vegan pudding, ie. chia seed pudding.
Photograph by Kristi Giambattista
Because chia seeds have no flavour, they are a wonderful base for pudding, allowing you to get creative and play around with different flavours. This time, inspired by a recipe by Minimalist Baker, I chose to make a cocoa flavoured chia pudding, seasoned with cinnamon, a little bit of sea salt, and a touch of maple syrup for sweetness. Chia seed pudding is insanely easy to make, just stir and let rest, that's it! It's ease of preparation means you can whip up a big batch on a weeknight and spoon them into individual jars, topped as you wish, so you can have a variation of chia puddings each day, all week long! Though it may not be quite as creamy and decadent as a traditional pudding, it certainly satisfies a craving for pudding thanks to the delicious combination of chocolate, cinnamon, raspberries, and coconut. I love that I can still have my easy and healthy afternoon treat each day, without worrying about how it will affect my skin. Give my chia pudding a try and let me know on Twitter if I've made you a chia convert. Tweet me: @thisgingerrose. 

The above image was photographed by the talented Kristi Giambattista. Check out more of Kristi's work on her website!
Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker
1 1/2 cups almond milk (I used Vanilla flavoured)
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Valrhona cocoa powder)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
agave syrup or maple syrup to taste (because I used the Vanilla flavoured almond milk, I didn't need to add much additional sweetness)
fresh raspberries
toasted coconut, for garnish
chocolate curls, for garnish

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together almond milk, chia seeds, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk vigorously until well combined and no lumps remain.
  2. Taste and season with agave or maple syrup and additional cinnamon and vanilla, if needed. Stir to combine.
  3. Transfer to a jar and chill for at least 3-5 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Spoon desired amount into a jar or serving dish. Top with fresh raspberries, toasted coconut, and chocolate curls and enjoy! 
Listening To:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Asparagus Prosciutto & Ricotta Crostini with Arugula

My Opa (my grandfather) has sold his home and is moving in less than a month. Besides the many photo albums, fancy barware, and furniture that needs to be cleared from his home, is much of my immediate family's belongings. When we sold our family home almost four years ago, there were so many special treasures that we wanted to keep but had no room to store in our new tiny apartment. Alas, my poor Oma and Opa were left with a basement full of all our old memories (which may be a euphemism for "old junk") until we could figure out what to do with it all. Though we still haven't a clue what to do with all of our old mementos, the time has come to take it all back, which inevitably means a nostalgic walk down memory lane. 

Each time I see my mom I get a delivery of some of my old memories (*cough* junk!) for me to sort through and store in my own home. Though there's surely been a lot of useless crap that I've come across that I haven't a clue why I ever saved, there have been some really memorable and personal belongings that I'm so, so glad I held onto (or my mom coerced me to hold onto). The most special boxes I've come across so far are the ones that contain old sketchbooks! 
For as long as I can remember I have kept a sketchbook. Actually, I should correct that to for as long as I can remember I have kept numerous sketchbooks! I always have one for concentrated illustration, one for practicing my handwriting, one for scrapbooking, one for a journal, one for recipes, one for brainstorming, one for painting, one for - oh dear lord, there's too many to count, and you get the gist! The point is, I clearly have too many sketchbooks for my own good, but my sketchbooks are the main destination where I get to express myself in whichever way I so choose. Coming across an old sketchbook from University, when I first began my blog, was really interesting. Tucked between carefully-written song lyrics (so emo!) and drawings of quirky villains were brainstorming sketches of future recipes. 
It was so amazing to be able to look back on the many different recipe and flavour combinations that I had come up with while my blog was still so new and fresh. Some of them turned into great blog posts and recipes that I've shared right here, though so many of them have remained just a dream. Looking back, I can't help but want to kick myself for never making so many of these fantastic recipe ideas a reality! Though I can't turn back time, I can catch up by reigniting my inspiration for recipe development by making all of my old recipes concepts a reality! 

One of my old recipe concepts that I was really eager to create was a crostini topped with ricotta, roasted asparagus, prosciutto, and arugula. I could tell just by reading it that it was going to be great! I love this combination of ingredients for the way all of the different flavours and textures contrast with one another. I love how the creamy and subtle ricotta plays off of the super salty prosciutto, crunchy asparagus, and peppery arugula. These crostini made the perfect casual weekend lunch for my boyfriend Chris and I, though thanks to there beautiful appearance, these would also be fantastic served for guests! If you plan on serving these for friends and family when entertaining, I recommend making the ricotta mixture in advance and keeping in the fridge until ready to assemble so that you can whip these up in under 10 minutes when ready to serve! 
Note: I chose not to include ingredient amounts in this recipe to encourage you to learn how to taste and season on your own and be able to adapt this recipe from a lunch for two to a party for 10!

lemon zest
asparagus, trimmed
good quality bread (I like to use either a multigrain or light rye loaf from Stonemill Bakehouse), sliced thin
good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to season
Maldon Salt, to taste (optional)

  1. In a small bowl, stir together ricotta (you will need about 1-Tbsp/crostini) with some fresh lemon zest (about 1-pinch/crostini) and some salt and pepper to taste. Keep covered in fridge until ready to assemble. 
  2. Lay asparagus (2 spears per crostini) on a toaster oven-sized baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 350º in a toaster oven until tender (about 5-10 minutes). Cut each spear in half and set aside.
  3. Toast bread until crisp and golden. 
  4. In a small bowl lightly toss a handful of arugula with a very light drizzle of olive oil. 
  5. Spread each toast evenly with ricotta. Top with asparagus and then a slice of prosciutto. Top with arugula and drizzle lightly with good quality olive oil and a light sprinkle of Maldon Salt. Serve immediately. 
Listening To:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Arugula & Egg Salad Crostini & How To Get Excited About Choosing "Yes" Foods

You know how every few months I go on a "health-kick" and write about 3-5 posts on my new healthy lifestyle, just to post about how I gorged on pie right after? Yeah, I'm right in the middle of one of those. 

While this may seem to be just another repeat of the same somewhat toxic pattern of healthy vs. unhealthy eating that I've gone through more times than I can count, what sets this time apart is my expectations of myself and my perspective. Previously whenever I would begin a new health kick, I would start by cutting out the bad foods, the foods that were absolute no-no's for my new diet. That, my friends, would be mistake number one. Instead of taking the time to focus on the "no" foods, I should have changed my perspective to get excited about all of the vibrant and flavourful "yes" foods that I was opening up my palate to! How could I ever expect to keep up a healthy diet with such a negative perspective? The trick I've found is to find new ways to get excited about all of those yes foods! 

So how does one get excited about clean eating? I mean, kale and lentils aren't exactly the most thrilling ingredients on paper, so what can we do to encourage ourselves to reach for ingredients that aren't hanging out at the "cool table" as opposed to the easy, ready-to-eat, big flavour bombs that can satisfy in seconds? I believe that for many people, myself included, the key to getting excited about healthy eating is all about convenience and building flavour. 

The only way that I can keep up a healthy diet is by having healthy, flavour-building ingredients right at my fingertips every single day. Sure, that maybe means taking an extra trip to the grocery store each week to stock up on fresh items like leafy greens, fruit, vegetables, and protein, but there are also so many other ingredients that you can keep  for months in your pantry or your freezer that can help to layer flavour for healthy meals and snacks. Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, oils, dried herbs,  spices, mustards, and more are all fantastic ingredients for adding a big punch of flavour and texture to a dish in mere seconds! 

I like to take the time at the start of each week to toast up a batch of mixed nuts and coconut to store in airtight containers to have on hand all week to dress up salads, yogurt and chia seeds bowls, soups, stir-fry's and more! Think about it, are you really going to choose a plain mixed green salad that will still take at least seven-minutes to prepare over a juicy and hot burger that you can pay $1.99 for and have ready in less than 2-minutes? If you have those healthy and flavourful ingredients prepped and on hand that can turn that bland mixed green salad into something spectacular, you just might! My go-to quickie salad has become greens tossed in a homemade dressing (prepped in advance) with toasted mixed nuts, dried cranberries and figs, homemade croutons (prepped in advance) and some sort of fruit (apples, mandarin oranges, and berries are all great options!).

This weekend when a late afternoon hunger storm hit my belly, I was tempted to rush out and grab my favourite $2.99 bacon and cheddar perogies with sour cream at the local Hungarian takeout joint. Just as I was about to reach for my coat to give in to the temptation of sautéed bacon, potatoes, and onions, I remembered all that prep I had previously done in the week and realized that I already had a fantastic lunch in the works! With pre-boiled eggs in the fridge, as well as some arugula, and green onions, I could see how easily I could have a delicious lunch ready in less time than it would take me to go out and purchase pre-made perogies. No, an egg salad sandwich doesn't sound as appetizing as bacon and cheddar perogies slathered with sour cream, but an an egg salad crostini with Koslik's Triple Crunch Mustard, and green onions, topped lightly dressed arugula, extra virgin olive oil, fresh-cracked pepper, and Maldon salt sounds pretty freaking wonderful if you ask me! Again, it's all about building the flavour! 

I began with delicious Prince Edward County Rye bread and spread some rich grass-fed butter on top to prevent any sogginess from the egg salad. The egg salad was seasoned to perfection with more than just salt and pepper, but with Koslik's Triple Crunch Mustard, mayonnaise, and green onions. The arugula garnish was given the same amount of care as the rest of the dish, by being tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette (literally just lemon and olive oil with salt and pepper). The whole dish was finished off with a little bit more fresh cracked pepper, Maldon Salt (a crystallized finishing salt that provides both texture and a "clean" salt flavour), and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. As you can see, this dish is all about building flavour on flavour, and texture on texture, which makes the final result irresistible, satisfying, and positively delicious! Perogies who? Sorry, forgot all about those potatoes and bacon, this crostini is just too good! 

Listening To: