Blood Orange Hot Chocolate | On Healing

Patience is a virtue is probably one of the best known axioms, one that we’re directly taught or absorb through any number of spheres—familial, educational, social—at a very young age. As with many modes of behavior, including kindness, generosity, honesty, and attentiveness, we’re taught to cultivate patience in relation to other people. To be patient with our siblings, our classmates, people who operate differently than we do. If we're lucky, we're taught to be patient with ourselves in times of frustration, particularly when developing a new skill, like learning how to divide fractions (super frustrating) or play trombone (probably super frustrating?). Yet the patience with self generally stops there. Which, I've learned as I've grown older, is highly problematic. Because as sentient humans, we don't just feel stuck or frustrated with ourselves in regard to activities; we often feel it in regard to habits, emotions, and our deeper ways of being.

I've been sitting with waves of processing in the past few months, simultaneously fluid and disarming states of centeredness and grief. Noticing the ways in which I am fine and not fine all at once. The ways in which emotions can feel addressed and released, only to suddenly resurface and be exhumed out of nowhere, rising and falling like the tides.

It is easy to feel frustrated with this process, especially if it is in regard to emotions you've been experiencing for a long time. This is where the vitality of deeper patience with self comes in.

The long and short of it is this: healing takes time. And it's allowed to.

Grief is such a complicated beast. Mourning. It can be intense and overwhelming, sad or angry, resigned or numb. It can be completely enveloping or sit quietly with you, humming in the background as you gather yourself together and go about your days. It can slip so far into your bones that you have moments, perhaps many, where you lose sight of it completely, until something comes out of nowhere and triggers the pain all over again—and suddenly, you are overcome.

I’ve done a fair amount of grieving in my time. Mourning the loss of love, of friendships, of places I called home. Mourning the loss of futures I envisioned for myself that disappeared when those things tied to them did. And of course, mourning the loss of life. Of family I held so dear. And now, of friends.

Sitting alongside Patience is a virtue in the neatly packaged axiom box is Time heals all wounds, which I think, to a large extent, is true. But time itself is not a cure-all; it must be lived through with attention if true healing is sought. And with a particular type of attention, too: attention that is kind, compassionate and non-judgmental. Attention that is simply present with what is. Healing will occur, albeit sometimes quite slowly, through processing. Tenderness. Patience. Loving care—even amidst fits of rage. Space for the wounds to be, to breathe. 

When we meet anger, frustration or pain with anger, frustration or pain, it cannot heal. It cannot be moved. We resist ourselves, we feel agitated for still feeling what we feel, and we stay stuck in that place. It is only through compassion for ourselves in whatever mental and emotional state we’re in—for however long we are in it—that we will be able to process those feelings, wrestle with them, feel them fully, and over time, begin to let them go.

So, I accidentally made this blood orange hot chocolate. It was pouring rain here for weeks on end and I found myself making endless variations of cozy chocolate drinks, pairing nut milks and raw cacao with different natural sweeteners and spices. This one was so surprisingly delicious that I knew I couldn't keep it to myself. I want to talk briefly about what raw cacao even is and why it is such a potent, healing food, but first, a brief PSA: 

There is—and there absolutely must be—immense joy in eating healthfully if it is to become a pillar of your life. No one ever achieved joy through depravation, restriction or judgment. For these reasons, we must not only be flexible in our psychology and choices around food, but must also learn to prepare nutrient rich, powerful and health supportive foods in ways that delight us and pleasure our senses. This can seem like a daunting, overwhelming or time-consuming task, I know! It is important to remember that it's a process, not a life overhaul that happens overnight. And, like the process of developing any new skill set, you must be patient with yourself. Start with the basics and expand your knowledge over time. The plus side of this particular skill set is that you get to enjoy delicious food and develop an increased state of physical—and often mental and spiritual—wellbeing as a result.

It also helps to start with chocolate.

Swapping out whatever cocoa powder your have in your pantry for raw cacao is one small action you can take that will have a huge payoff. Raw cacao tastes quite similar to unsweetened cocoa powder, but nutritionally there is a world of difference. The unsweetened cocoa powder we're familiar with is processed using high temperatures, which kills a significant amount of its potent benefits. (Don't even get me started on the sweetened hot chocolate powder...you should most certainly steer clear of that stuff. Read the ingredients next time you encounter some and you'll see why.) Cacao powder, on the other hand, is minimally processed at low temperatures, so its medicinal properties are retained.

It might surprise you to know that cacao is actually one of the most nutritionally complex foods on the planet! It contains over 300 beneficial chemical compounds, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and magical compounds that do things like raise serotonin levels in our brains (elevating our moods) and stimulate libido. Cacao is abundant with antioxidants and contains phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant chemicals that have protective properties) that can help lower cholesterol and support heart health. It has sulfur which contributes to healthy hair and nails; magnesium which helps maximize our use of oxygen to naturally boost energy; and is the highest known plant-based source of iron! Seriously, y'all. All this in the plant from which we make chocolate.

Suffice to say that incorporating raw cacao into your diet is one surefire way you can have your cake and eat it, too. It's great in smoothies and raw desserts (including chocolate bars from scratch!). You can also easily bake with it, although some of the potent nutrients will be compromised when exposed to the heat of the oven. And, my favorite, it's perfect for making healing hot chocolate!

When making hot chocolate with raw cacao, it's important to use a nut milk (homemade is best) or coconut milk rather than cow's milk, because the dairy inhibits our bodies' absorption of many of the antioxidants in cacao. Natural sweeteners, like maple syrup or raw honey, are best to sweeten the hot chocolate because they're whole foods that have trace minerals in them, too. From there, go crazy! This version is vibing with the abundant produce of winter—blood oranges for some tartness and a pinch of ginger for extra spice and warmth. May it help you endure the last stretch of winter before spring begins to bloom.

Healing Blood Orange Hot Chocolate
Serves one

Ingredients
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. nut or coconut milk*
2 Tbsp. blood orange juice, fresh squeezed
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch pink or sea salt

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients In a small saucepan over low heat.
2. Whisk continuously until all ingredients are dissolved into the nut milk and liquid is gently steaming. Serve and enjoy.

*I used homemade cashew milk for this, which is super easy to make! Simply soak 1/2 cup raw cashews for 4-8 hours; rinse; put in a blender with 2 1/2 cups water, a pinch of salt, a dash of cinnamon and some raw honey if desired, and blend on high until smooth. Keeps for 5-7 days.

Blueberry Ginger & Rye Hand Pies

About a year ago, while searching for things to listen to on my impending drive from the Bay down to LA, I happened upon a podcast called On Being. You guys...this podcast. It is the stuff of life. The bafflingly well read and ever thoughtful host, Krista Tippett, speaks with a variety of thinkers, including philosophers, artists, activists, religious figures, poets, scientists and social researchers, about the things that make us human, that shape our world. I've been slowly working my way through her new book, Becoming Wise, and was struck by a parable she shared that was originally from her recorded conversation with physician Rachel Naomi Remen. It has nothing to do with hand pies, but bear with me.

Remen, who recognized and integrated the power of personal story into her approach of cancer treatment with patients, recounted for Tippett a tale of one of the fundamental ethics of Judaism—to "repair the world". Her Orthodox rabbi grandfather told her this story as her fourth birthday present. She shared:

In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. In the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. The wholeness of the world, the light of the world, was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It's a very important story for our times. This task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It's the restoration of the world.

And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. That story opens a sense of possibility. It's not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It's about healing the world that touches you, that's around you.

In my years and years of Jewish education, I had never heard this story before. It baffled me and it touched me deeply. The idea that we all of us are healers. And when everyone does small things to make the world as they experience it better, more just, more connected, more curious, more generous, more thoughtful and more human, the entire world is transformed.

So what does all this have to do with hand pies? Aside from the fact that they make the world a more delicious and thusly a better place? 

As much as we inhabitants of this Earth have a responsibility to one another and to the Earth itself, we also have a responsibility to our own selves. To acknowledge and tend to the light within each of us. We must treat ourselves—mind, body and spirit—with curiosity, tenderness, generosity, and care. This was not something I remember being taught as a child, but is something I now believe to be of utmost importance. No matter how badly we want to change other people, we are ultimately only capable of changing ourselves. But the beautiful silver lining in this is that there is so much power in being our best selves. By living in ways that are aligned with our personal truths—treating ourselves with compassion; communicating thoughtfully; listening courageously; being vulnerable; taking risks; holding ourselves tenderly when we fail; standing up for ourselves; playing vivaciously; whatever our personal truths may be—we create an energetic frequency and model of behavior that imprints itself onto the world. And in our wake, the world changes. Even if only the small circles that revolve around us. But in all of this, I wholeheartedly believe that change begins from within.

For over a year and a half of my life, I was afraid of butter. And sugar. And white flour. If I ordered a veggie burger at a restaurant and it didn't come with a whole wheat bun, my body would enter a state of panic. I ate heaps of plants and whole grains and dates after almost every meal to satisfy my sweet tooth. I lost so much weight that my friends and family started to worry. 

Almost a year into this passionate and incredibly inflexible love affair with healthy food, I began to apprentice in the kitchen of my favorite restaurant. Guess what? They loved butter. And sugar. And loads of vegetables and healthy things too. As a learning chef, I was required to taste everything. Which, of course, reminded me that I loved butter. And sugar. And then I couldn't stop eating it. In the years that followed, which were rife with personal, professional and financial disappointment and struggle, food (read: flour, butter and sugar...and chocolate) became my outlet, my method of comforting myself and showing myself how inept at life I was all at the same time. I gained back all the weight I had lost and more. I felt completely unworthy and completely out of control.

It's scary to write that here. But as both a lover of food and someone who is committed to helping people heal and love themselves (my version of tikkun olam), I feel that it is important to share my story. Because as I have looked within to establish my truths and learn how to embody them (which is an ongoing process), I have seen both my personal world and the world around me change. I eat kale salads and I spend a disproportionate amount of my meager income on baking supplies. I spent an afternoon making these divine hand pies and I allowed myself to savor every bite I ate of them. And that, dear friends, is about self-love and balance and communion with friends and creating beauty and being human. 

Blueberry Ginger & Rye Handpies
makes 14 4" pies
Adapted from recipes by Yossy Arefi,
Apt 2B Baking Co.

Ingredients
Crust
1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups rye flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (preferably organic, pastured/grass fed, European style), chilled
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
8 Tbsp. ice water

Filling + Assembly
2 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar
2 Tbsp. cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. ginger root, freshly grated
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 lemon (unwaxed), zest only
pinch of salt
extra flour for rolling out dough
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. turbinado sugar

Method
Crust
1. Combine apple cider vinegar and ice water. Set aside.
2. Mix the flours and salt into a bowl. Cut the chilled butter into 1/2" cubes and then add it to the flour. Using your fingers and the palm of your hand, crumble and smash the butter into flat discs, scooping up the flour from the bottom of the bowl and incorporating it as you go. Stop when most of the butter is about pea sized. It's okay if not all of the butter is incorporated. 
3. Sprinkle six tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the dough and work it through gently with your hands. Pick up a bit of dough and see if it sticks together when pressed. If it is still too dry, add more water a little at a time until the dough has reached this state. 
4. Gather all the dough together into a large ball and then gently press it into a rectangle about 1" thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Filling
1. Combine sugar, flour, ginger, vanilla and lemon zest in a large bowl. Using your fingers, incorporate the small and grated bits into the sugar.
2. Add blueberries and gently toss to coat.

Assembly
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. After the dough has set in the fridge for at least two hours, lightly flour a large surface to roll out the dough, keeping the flour nearby. 
3. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle until the dough is about 1/8" thick (aiming for a 12"x16" rectangle), flipping it over as you go and adding more flour if necessary to ensure it doesn't stick to the counter. If it rips, don't fret; just patch it back together. If the dough gets too large and unwieldy, you can cut it in half and place half of it back in the fridge to roll out separately after.
4. Trim the edges of the dough into straight lines so you have a perfect rectangle. Pat the trimmings into a disc, re-wrap and put back in the fridge. Cut the rectangular dough into 4" squares by cutting vertical lines 4" apart from each other starting from one side and then the same horizontally. If you kept the dough in one piece, you should have 12 squares.
5. Brush around the perimeter of each square with your egg wash. Place a small spoonful of the blueberries into the center of each square. 
6. Pick up one corner of each square and fold it to meet its diagonal opposite, creating a triangle. With a fork, press around the folded edges of the triangle. Place on baking sheet.
7. When a baking sheet is full, put it back in the fridge to allow the hand pies to firm up again, at least 15 minutes.
8. Repeat process with the scrap dough that you placed back in the fridge.
9. Preheat oven to 400F.
9. Once the hand pies are all assembled and re-chilled, brush their tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

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ONE MORE THING, friends! An ANNOUNCEMENT!

I am super excited to invite you to attend my first ever wellness workshop in Berkeley, CA on Saturday, August 13!

Join me and my dear friend/fellow wellness practitioner Leyna Brabant in exploring your relationship to food and developing tools for balance, attentiveness and vibrancy in your life. We will also be making healthy raw chocolate truffles, so there's that. 

Register here: http://calmmindhappyheart.wix.com/foodasfreedom
Have a friend or loved one who might benefit from diving in with us? You can share it with them on Facebook too.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Roasted Pear & Ginger Skillet Crumble

I have a confession to make: I have a massive sweet tooth. I stare, aghast and confused, at people who say they don't like chocolate; will happily drive from the East Bay to SF just to get a Tartine morning bun; and eat potentially dangerous amounts of cookie dough straight from the bowl. Ironically, I am also a mild health nut. I vigilantly read the ingredients on every packaged item I buy; love seeing a spectrum of radiant hues on my plate; and am well educated on the horrors that refined sugar inflicts on our bodies. As you may imagine, it is oftentimes difficult to reconcile these two things. 

I began slowly. When baking, I swapped out portions white flour for whole wheat or spelt in recipes. Used molasses-rich, unrefined muscovado instead of brown sugar; a bit of apple sauce instead of oil. And then I discovered dates: nature's carmel. The one incredible whole food, chock full of fiber and nutrients, that could conceivably pass as candy, could serve as the binder in raw truffles and sweeten oatmeal so well that sugar or maple syrup became superfluous. My palate and cravings shifted and I began to savor the creativity in experimenting with making decadent treats that would also make my body feel good. Full disclosure: this crumble is one of those treats.

Arguably the best thing about this dessert is that it is free of refined sugar, gluten and dairy, yet no one who eats it would ever know. It is a wonderful dessert for these chilly winter months when you're still craving something sweet, warm and comforting while trying to take a break from the indulgence that the holidays inevitably bring. Plus it's perfect for your vegan and gluten-free friends! Everybody wins.

While traditional crumbles build their topping from butter, white flour and refined sugar, this version uses a variety of nuts, spices, and muscovado sugar to create its crunchy, crumbly crust. The nuts provide our bodies with protein, vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, which help lower LDL (the "bad") cholesterol levels and increase HDL (the "good") cholesterol in our blood. Muscovado, while certainly still sugar, is an unrefined variety that retains much of the nutritional value of the molasses (which is super high in iron!) that gives it its distinct, rich flavor. I was surprised when I first learned that brown sugar is subjected to the same refinement process and chemical treatment as conventional white sugar—it just has the molasses is added back in after—but c'est vrai

Truth be told, pears were never a fruit that particularly wowed me until I was subjected to the bleak yield of winter produce while living in the UK. In those dark months, they were a most welcome respite from the unending root vegetables and hardy winter greens that filled my local farmers' market stalls. Maybe it was the desperation, but I swear those pears were more succulent than any I had ever tasted. They completely won me over and created the spark for this roasted winter crumble. It's adapted from a recipe by the ever-inspiring Sarah B. of My New Roots, who created hers in the summertime using raw peaches. That's part of what I love about it though: the formula. Swap the peaches for pears in the winter, or figs in the summertime, apples in the fall, apricots in the spring. You really can't go wrong.

Roasted Pear & Ginger Skillet Crumble
Adapted from My New Roots' Peachy Keen Raw Cobbler

Ingredients
Filling
10 pears (I used D'Anjou, but Bartlett, Bosc and Comice would work well too)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juice & zest
2" piece ginger root, grated
5 Medjool dates, pitted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping
1/2 cup raw brazil nuts
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw pecans
1/4 cup muscovado sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Method
1. Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C. Cut pears into 1/2" cubes.
2. In a roasting pan, toss pears with coconut oil and cinnamon. Roast until soft, about 30 minutes, mixing halfway though.
3. Meanwhile, pulse all topping ingredients in a food processor until roughly crumbly (not nearly as fine as sand). Pour out and set aside.
4. Once pears have roasted, put 1 cup of of the pears in the food processor along with the lemon juice and zest, grated ginger root, dates and vanilla extract. Blend until it is completely puréed. 
5. Place the remaining roasted pears In a well oiled cast iron skillet (or a pie or cake pan if you don't have one). Pour the filling purée over the pears and gently mix them together. Smooth the filling flat and sprinkle the nut crumble evenly on top.
6. Return to oven and cook until nuts are toasty, 10-12 minutes.
7. Enjoy warm. Top off with ice cream if desired!