This week, this post almost didn’t happen. It would have eventually, but there would have been an inner letdown, a sense of dragging of feet. I am being melodramatic in saying so, albeit in a muted way…meaning, feeling a little let down is hardly the churning emotions of despair, and besides it’s only a blog post. But I wanted to relay some of the energetic buzz I came away with following an inspirational blogger event this week hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market at the Bhakti Chai brewing headquarters. Not only did we lucky attendees get to tour a pristine facility and home to some truly superb products, we got to meet the incredibly talented and driven founder, Brook Eddy, and came away with delicious samples I felt primed and eager to experiment with.
The problem was the usual–finding time. Lately the trend of squeezing more productivity into increasingly less time has built to a sort of tipping point where I find myself weighing options (e.g. sleep vs X) in terms of number of potential gray hairs that might be encouraged or spared. This week I’ve been especially focused in an attempt to stay on top of tasks and get ahead of work priorities where possible because in days Little F and I are visiting our precious new baby cousin/niece. Struggling to fit everything in, an obvious cut to the to-do list would be a verbose addition to personal blog, particularly as I wouldn’t feel right posting without having a recipe or two to share incorporating awesome Bhakti product.
For a change, the rational me almost won out in scrapping blog post focus for the week.
Bhakti Chai founder Brook Eddy was a single mother of baby TWINS, going through a divorce, when she founded her company, which happens to be zero-waste, vegan, socially responsible, compassionate and health conscious. Eddy began brewing her own recipes for the beloved spicy tea after a trip to Mumbai, India. When she hit upon a recipe that was undeniably striking and delicious, she decided to start a company.
Ms. Eddy is a vibrant, charismatic entrepreneur. But even the most energized individuals need sleep here and there. How she grew her grassroots business into the successful, innovative company it is today, working full-time by day, brewing at night, raising twins… is simply astounding. Bhakti Chai merges its founder’s background in social policy with her passion for good food and flavor. A B-Corps, the company has made social action a part of its mission. Early on, it began donating to nonprofits, primarily those serving women and girls, and continues to do so. Just thinking about the origins and evolution of this company is pretty breathtaking… certainly enough of a dose of perspective to stir up a kitchen frenzy in small pockets of time over a couple of days. Besides all that, what is more simultaneously soothing and the fragrant aromas and complex spice notes of chai?
The first round of experiments was too hasty. I had a vision for a healty, vegan coconut pistachio chai tea (er, coffee but actually tea) cake. I turned out something almost yummy, which is to say in fact yucky. Lovely looking, except for the sloppy way I drizzled cashew cream glaze. I tried to convince myself it was blog-worthy, and came close to succeeding, but inside I knew. This secret knowledge was confirmed when at breakfast the next day I presented little F with a wedge of pretty breakfast “cake”. His eyes went wide with delight. “Ooooh, CAKE!” he exclaimed. Upon taking one bite, he pushed the plate away and chose to chomp down on an apple instead. Not to say the idea is dead, however. I’ll keep you posted.
Second try, though, went soooo much better, and successfully good-for-you too (OK, there is some chopped up crystallized ginger and the decidedly important inclusion of dark chocolate chips). I was hesitant about it at first. Because, muffins. Too easy? Too obvious? It doesn’t matter. I love them. They’re sweetened with mashed banana, but the banana isn’t overpowering. In fact, it blends so beautifully with the chai flavor that the result doesn’t actually taste banana and thus, the exclusion of that yellow goodness out of the recipe name. The chocolate chips are a must-have, but I think that tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger is really what gives this easy recipe the edge.
These muffins won’t last long (if they’re not already gone), and will definitely be filling our house with their heady but healthy, tempting aroma again very soon, along with some other treats and repeats. The next day, with dear friend Melissa, Little F and I we made some scrummy and deceptively light oatmeal chai blender pancakes and that famous whipped frozen banana ice cream all of us health foodies know and love elevated with a blissful Bhakti kick. Those recipes will have to wait, though. The second, probably forever (because you already know it really), and the former just for now. Not because of fretfulness over time constraints and fatigue. Just because there’s a limit to how long even an openly rambling post should be, and here I am. Happy weekend! 🙂
- 1 cup sprouted wheat flour (I used One Degree Organics Khorasan) or gluten-free blend
- 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/2 cup Bhakti original chai concentrate
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax meal whisked in 5 T water and allowed to sit a minute)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate/vegan chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix first five ingredients, flour through ginger, in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.
- Pour batter two-thirds of the way up each muffin cup in prepared tin. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Gluten-free banana blueberry coffee cake with granola topping (aka Monk’s practice birthday cake, aka “best cake ever”)
We’ve been feasting in our living room a lot lately, and by ‘feasting’, I mean this:
And the feasting isn’t limited to the cardboard builder’s block tables and chairs of “Chocolate Wally’s”, our 3-year old’s chosen play restaurant name which is sometimes shunted to the side in favor of “No Noggin’s” instead. In the kitchen, we’ve been gnoshing on cake. (Quick aside, isn’t “Chocolate Wally’s” the cutest, most enticing restaurant name? If it isn’t already in existence as a ‘real restaurant’, it needs to be, one day.)
What I mean by cake, specifically, is breakfast cake which is also very important “practice” birthday cake for THE very important Monk, whose birthday is coming up in February (Valentine’s Day). This information alone should be testament enough to the scrumptious, wholesome loveliness of this cake. Anyone who knows anything about Monk knows he deserves the very best.
We all know anything labeled “cake”, from coffee cake to birthday cake to be a sometimes-only treat. I mean, we love them, but not on a regular basis, right? When it comes to this cake, however, there’s so much to glow about. First, its yumminess meets the standard for the BIG birthday celebration cake while the combined ingredients rise to optimistic requirements for healthiness. Chickpea flour has yet to let me down, though I’m sure I’m bound to push the boundaries eventually. Ripe bananas and just two tablespoons of honey (or maple syrup for vegan) are plenty enough sweetener when delivered parceled into the dense, moist texture the garbanzo bean flour brings. And what ties it all together and makes prep a quick cinch in the morning is the sprinkling of delectable granola baked on top.
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a blogger’s event hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market and Fiona’s Natural Foods at the Fiona’s production facility in north Longmont. The building space is shared with several local brands, all of which share like-minded philosophies concerning health, sustainability, and compassion. Our group was treated to a tour of the facility, and throughout it was apparent how much meticulous care and purpose went into every corner.
The owners of Fiona’s Natural Foods, a family with combined interest and experience in agriculture and food service, purchased Fiona’s Natural Foods from the Fiona, a woman from Boulder inspired by a family recipe. Touring and tasting product, the fact that the Fiona’s team today is committed to the original mission of good nutrition and whole health was clearly evident: slow roasting and hand-tossing to bring out the best in flavor and texture; using only quality ingredients; sweetening with organic coconut nectar, the newest in superior sweeteners that I’m just learning about. Coconut nectar comes from a painstaking process of tapping the flowering stems of the coconut blossom to draw sweet sap. The sap is then evaporated at low temperatures, producing a raw, low glycemic syrup that provides perfect, delicate sweetness to perfect, crunchy granola…
which also happens to provide the perfect sweet-crunchy topping for breakfast/birthday cake for the very best of friends. “Best cake ever,” Monk pronounced it. In this moment, in our house, there may be no greater foodie stamp of approval.
- 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch sea salt
- 2 large eggs or egg replacer equivalent (such as Bob's Red Mill)
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
- ½ cup almond milk
- 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (defrosted)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup Fiona’s almond millet granola (or vanilla sunflower, or any flavor really!)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round (or square works, too) baking pan with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Make a well in center of flour mixture. (If using frozen blueberries, add to dry mixture to coat.)
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs or egg replacer, honey/maple syrup, almond milk, applesauce, banana, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Add to the flour mixture in large bowl, stirring to blend.
- Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with granola.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm.
This recipe’s description should go further than “baked or steamed” to include the useful tip “or lose the bun and let the filling be an easy, honestly filling meal on its own”. The latter is way easier after all, plus tasty and accommodatingly variable. But then, the buns can be awfully fun to make, if you can squirrel away the time for the fiddliness and want to add a little novelty. Also, they should be called ‘baos’, as in “deck the halls with boughs of holly”. Only it’s “baos”, and they’re buns.
From November to January, it rang through the house, the car, and sometimes a little awkwardly, the grocery store: Falalalala la la la laaaaa. If ‘las’ can be said to roll, they rolled off little F’s joyful tongue in the most distinct and lovable way. Unmistakable, yet tough to describe. It was like little elves were pulling notes out of the back of his consenting throat with tiny shovels and tossing them out of his mouth where they’d linger for a moment in the air before falling to the earth with a satisfying thump.
Somewhere in December it occurred to me that little F very likely had his own unique merry, tantalizing framework for “boughs of holly”. Boughs would be baos, fluffy, Chinese steamed buns, often sweet, but equally welcome stuffed with savory mushrooms and greens. Little F had grown accustomed to receiving from Ammy (my mom) with increasing expectation and delight since he could chew. In fact, one key consolation that it was time for Nanny (Dave’s mum) to return to England was that soon we would be flying to Ammy’s house, where not only would there be baos, but from where we would be going shopping for baos. (Shopping for MORE baos, Monk! We gonna get a lotta baos!)
Wouldn’t it be fun to treat little F with shared bao-making fun for dinner? I thought. Idealistic me imagined making dough, rolling it out into pliable rounds, spooning filling in the centers, and pinching up seams at the tops, all side-by-side with my little sous chef. Skeptical-realist me pictured groaning at my intensifying headache while my enthusiastic but appropriately impatient little one crawled under the table, simultaneously soaking up and spreading sticky, floury mess.
What happened was predictably somewhere in the middle but surprisingly, mostly on the rose-colored glasses side. Because, today we had the luxurious option of spreading out the prep, which helped a lot. First, we made the dough using my favorite method for making pizza crust since becoming a mom, the food processor. Little engineer loves a good go a button-pushing, especially when gratified with immediate whizzing and chopping that happens to not be ear-splittingly loud.
Hours later, we threw all the filling ingredients in the pan and let them heat up and sit while we devoted our attention to other important things like painting snow in plastic tubs on the kitchen floor. And yet another hour or so after that, We rolled out the dough into neat circles, spooned on the filling, and pinched up the seams. For at least five of the ten buns, little F was a careful gem. For the remaining five, I got to marvel at my quick fingers and his overall speed in general.
If anything felt remotely disastrous about preparing this dish, it really didn’t hit until time to cook, and the big flaw was in materials. Since switching to a convection oven/induction stovetop, I’ve lost the reliable steamer basket that fit with a pot I no longer have. Instead, I planned to steam with a much smaller double boiler insert, and realized too late that we just didn’t have close to the time it would take to steam the buns and avoid a meltdown before dinner. So, we slid a tray in the oven and baked instead. I would have preferred the steaminess of the intended version, but this one is great, too, just different. More like a dairy-free Asian riff on a calzone. Bonus, the filling is great on its own, and super over rice, which is really handy since the recipe does make more filling than bun. Swap the tempeh for some other lean protein if you prefer; skip the onion, play with different mushrooms. Just don’t lose the water chesnuts, in my opinion. Or the lime juice. They’re the crunch and the zing. Choose what flour you’d like, too. I haven’t tried gluten-free bread flour, but I will eventually. We used One Degree Organics sprouted red fife flour, a superb 1-1 swap for whole wheat.
I wouldn’t dare imply that this recipe naturally suits a big-little pair-up, or expect the experience together to ever match the relative ease it took on tonight. It’s not hard, but easy to get messy with. But that may be one of the reasons I will definitely make this again, not just for the filling sans buns (which will also happen). You know I can’t resist a good food metaphor, and this one’s too ripe and pluckable to ignore. Our bao-making experience was a clear-cut process-not-the-product kind of worthy experience. Not to say, we don’t deserve to relish beautiful plates when we eat our meals. What I mean is, everywhere there are reminders begging to be accepted, that treasures, even perfect and beautiful ones, emerge from a little chaos. That it’s the imperfect, joyful, take-a-chance-on-me messiness in life that we should really sink our teeth into, together.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 package dry yeast
- 3 cups whole wheat flour (I love One Degree Organics sprouted wheat)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled
- ⅓ cup low sodium vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms (crimimi, button, baby bella) chopped
- ½ small red onion, diced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 5 cups chopped kale, ribs and stems removed (Or 1 11-ounce package shredded kale or kale, cabbage and carrot mix)
- Prepare the dough: Dissolve yeast and honey in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a food processor with chopping blade, combine flour, olive oil, baking powder and salt. With the machine running on low, pour the liquid mixture through the feed tube as fast as the flour absorbs it. Process until the dough forms a ball, and continue 30 seconds further to knead. Dust with extra flour if sticky and remove to a bowl lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour.
- Prepare the filling: Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add tempeh, broth, ginger, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and onion to pan. Cook, stirring regularly and turning tempeh, approximately 5 minutes. Add lime juice, soy sauce, cilantro, and kale. Continue to cook, stirring, until kale is cooked through, approximately 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
- Divide dough into 10 equal portions, forming into a ball. Working with each ball individually, press into a circle, roughly 5 inches, and place approximately ¼ cup filling in center. Bring up sides to cover filling and meet on top.
- Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown colored OR arrange buns on parchment paper squares 1-inch apart in a steamer basket. Cover with lid and bring pan to boil over medium-high heat. Steam in batches according to space, 15 minutes each or until set.
- Filling is great served over rice or with noodles if you want to save time and skip the buns!