Good Mood Food: Frothy Coconut Chai Tea Latte

This frothy vegan coconut chai tea latte is packed with all sorts of brain nourishing ingredients, like turmeric, mushroom powder, coconut oil and of course, tea! 

Happy blogaversary to me!

This little blog turns three years old today. It's crazy watching my little internet baby grow up, seeing where it started and where it is today.

Since it's a blog and not an actual child, I can look back and laugh at how awkward and unattractive it was in that first year of life. If anyone has been hanging around here that long, you remember the hideous yellow header which morphed into a much less hideous, yet incredibly basic and boring black and white script.

And the pictures. Oh, the pictures! I had an intern shadowing me last week and she asked if I had always been a good photographer. I pulled up my first recipe post which spoke for itself. No, not at all.

I'd like to think the aspect of this blog that would win most improved is the writing and the message behind my writing. When I first started, I was really focused on clean eating. I always had a food loving approach to eating, but I think that message was really hidden by my very nutrition-centric blog posts. Now I find my most interesting, fun to write and most shared recipes are ones that explore our relationship with food. I still chat nutrition science, but I don't care as much about why whole foods help you lose weight, but rather why whole foods make you feel awesome. I truly believe feeling happy and vibrant and joyful is a much more powerful motivator than a number on the scale!

That's why I started my Good Mood Food column, where I explore the science of how food can impact brain health. I'm endlessly fascinated by the relationship between diet and mental health. But even outside of a mental health diagnosis, good food = good mood!

It's been a little while since I shared an 'official' Good Mood Food post, so hopefully this frothy coconut chai tea latte makes up for it. Of all things, it was inspired by the bulletproof coffee trend, which to be honest, I think is overhyped from a nutrition standpoint, but I was curious enough to try a homemade version with coconut oil and thought it was super tasty. I loved how the oil whips up into a creamy drink with a frothy top.

Since then, I've been creating all sorts of frothy hot drinks souped up with ingredients that have health promoting powers. This one is packed with ingredients know to nourish the brain - turmeric, tea, cinnamon, coconut and one secret ingredient I think you'll geek out over  - mushroom powder!

Yes, really! I'm sure I lost a few of y'all at the idea of mushrooms in a cup of hot tea, but stick with me on this one. I first learned about mushroom powder last year at FNCE at an incredible dinner with the Mushroom Council, cooked by celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan. I learned how they grow high vitamin D mushrooms by exposing them to sunlight. The resulting mushrooms are dehydrated and ground into a powder that's been shown to be just as good as supplements, if not better because it's from food!

Vitamin D plays a huge role in brain health. Most known for it's role in bone health, this fat soluble vitamin also helps control the expression of thousands of genes. We know it has many roles in brain function because there are receptors all over the central nervous system for the vitamin. It activates/deactivates enzymes in the brain, reduces inflammation, aids in neurotransmitter growth, and protects neurons. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, seasonal affective disorder, dementia and decreased cognitive function. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is quite common afflicting 40% the population and over 80% of blacks (because darker skin makes it harder to form from sunlight).

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, making it a tricky nutrient for most people to get enough of. It's particularly hard for those on a vegan diet, since the best natural food sources are fatty fish, eggs, cheese, and butter from pasture raised animals. Mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight are a nutritious plant based source of the vitamin. It's hard to find vitamin D mushrooms on the market (or at least I haven't seem them in Columbia!), so keep an eye out for mushroom powder, which you can find in health food stores or order online. It's so simple to sneak into smoothies or hot beverages, where you can't even taste it at all.

Frothy Coconut Chai Tea Latte

Makes 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk

  • 1 chai tea bag

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk or cream

  • 1-2 teaspoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon mushroom powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Pinch black pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring water and milk to a simmer in a small pot. Turn off heat, add chai tea bag and let steep 2-3 minutes.

  2. Carefully fish tea bag out and place tea in a blender with coconut oil, coconut milk/cream, honey, mushroom powder, turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper. Blend 2 minutes until frothy. Serve immediately.

More Good Mood Food: 

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango

Coconut Steel Cut Oats with Chocolate and Almonds

Coconut Steel Cut Oats with Chocolate and Almonds

Homemade Fermented Pickles

Homemade Fermented Pickles

Vegan Red Curry with Freezer Tomato Coconut Sauce

Make this vegetarian red curry with freezer tomato coconut sauce to save time! It's vegan, gluten free and vegetable packed. 

A few posts back, I shared my slightly embarrassing story of exclaiming my love for my freezer on the local news. Although my enthusiasm made me the butt of a few jokes, I still stand by my words, and by my hard working freezer.

The styled photographs on this blog and instagram probably make it look like I spend half the day in the kitchen, but that's not the case. I love to cook and truly believe it's the key to achieving health. I probably spend more time cooking than the average person, but just like every other person I've ever met, I simply don't have enough time to cook dinner from scratch every night.

Despite that, other than the couple of meals we eat out with friends each week, almost everything else is home cooked. It's not because I am a superhero. It's because I know how to make my freezer work for me.

Given my enthusiasm for my hard working little GE, I'm sure you can imagine, I was pretty excited when I saw this month's Recipe Redux theme - 'Fantastic Freezer Meals.' I think I've got a couple of those up my sleeve ;)

My favorite way to use my freezer is for storing leftovers. When I put time into making a soup, stew, casserole or some other easily freezable meal, it only makes sense to buy double the ingredients, spend a few extra minutes prepping and make extra to freeze for later. You might be surprised all the things you can freeze. Here's some of my favorite freezable meals from the blog:

The other thing I like to do is get a start on cooking by freezing sauces that I can add to simple stir fries for flavor, like this creamy Indian tomato sauce. I usually freeze it in sandwich or quart sized zip top bags then defrost before cooking. To make this meal, all you have to do is saute vegetables, add a can of chickpeas and Indian simmer sauce then cook to warm through. It's a fairly complete meal on it's own, but you could also serve it over brown rice. Use frozen or precooked brown rice if you want to stick with the time saving theme.

To make this, I always include chickpeas, lentils or tofu for protein and potatoes or peas as an unprocessed carb. For nonstarchy vegetables, I used zucchini, mushrooms and peppers in this dish, but you could also use spinach, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, green beans, eggplant...basically anything!

Vegan Red Curry with Freezer Tomato Coconut Sauce

Serves 4

Feel free to use any vegetables you like - peas, eggplant, onion, spinach, green beans and greens all work beautifully. Simply adjust the cooking time accordingly. Freeze sauce in 2 cup servings in zip top bags. Curry sauce adapted from Jamie Oliver.

Ingredients

Tomato Coconut Freezer Sauce:

  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Thumb sized amount peeled, fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can full fat coconut milk

Curry: 

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled in 1/2 in dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped in 1/2 inch dice
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. First, make the sauce. Place onions, carrots, bell pepper, garlic and ginger in a food processor and pulse until pureed.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add spices and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in pureed vegetables and stir to combine. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and it starts to look like a moist paste, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth and cilantro. Bring to a simmer and cook 20-30 minutes until thickened. Stir in coconut milk and turn off heat. If cooking the rest of the dish, start preparing the curry. Otherwise, let cool to room temperature and freeze in 2 cup servings.
  3. Before making the curry, defrost about 4 cups of curry sauce. To make the curry, heat coconut oil in a large skillet. Add potatoes, a pinch of salt and saute 5 minutes until starting to brown, stirring every so often,. Add peppers, stir and saute 3 minutes. Add zucchini, stir and saute 3 minutes. Finally, add the mushrooms, a pinch more salt and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the curry sauce and garbanzo beans, stir, and simmer 5 minutes until warmed through. Serve over brown rice.

Healthy Skin Carrot & Citrus Juice

This weekend I taught a smoothie workshop for an awesome group at the Pure Barre studios in Greenville, SC. The topic was definitely well received. I get questions about smoothies almost as often as questions about carbs, popular diets and the latest topic on Dr. Oz. The people are hungry for smoothies!

Whenever the topic of smoothies comes up, so does the topic of juicing. "What is juicing?" "Do I really need a juicer?" "Is it healthier than a smoothie?" "Why on earth does it cost $10 at Whole Foods?"

Here's my take:

Overall, I'm team smoothie. As a general rule of thumb, I like to feel full and satisfied when I eat. Weird, I know.

There are some downsides to juicing. Without the fiber in fruit, juices have more of a glycemic effect, especially if using mostly fruit. It's also expensive to do regularly, especially when you see how much produce goes into one little glass of juice.

However, juicing does have it's benefits. It's a great way to use up fruits and veggies that have been hanging around too long or an overabundance of summer produce. I often juice as a way to squeeze in extra nutrients to prevent myself from getting sick. For my clients with digestive illnesses like Crohns or Celiac, it's a source of easily digestible nutrients their body so desperately needs.

I like to think of juice as a supplement rather than a meal or snack. It's a way to strategically get the specific nutrients your body needs. Going for a long run? Beet juice would do your body good. Want to boost your iron intake? Throw in some greens with lemon to aid in absorption. Coming down with a cold? Throw a knob of immune enhancing fresh turmeric or ginger.

I created this juice as a supplement for my skin, to help calm breakouts, reduce redness and improve elasticity. There's actually a (kind of) funny story of how it came to be.

Early last year, my normally clear skin started breaking out, horribly. Like, worse than middle school. After reading this article, I put two and two together and traced it back to when I started putting pure lavender oil on my pillow at night. Apparently, my skin is sensitive to lavender, which is was my favorite scent. Probably why I had it in just about everything - laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner.

Needless to say, when I rid my house of lavender, my skin cleared up pretty quickly. But whenever I accidentally come in contact with it (pretty frequent since it's a common ingredient) I break out. To give my skin some TLC, I started whipping up a batch of this juice packed with beautifying produce. Here's a look at what's inside:

CUCUMBER // I'm sure you've heard of putting cucumber slices on your eyes to reduce puffiness, but eating/drinking cucumbers is beneficial for skin as well. Cucumber is a rich source of silica, a mineral needed for healthy connective tissue and skin elasticity.

CITRUS // As we all know, citrus is a rich source of vitamin C. The vitamin is needed to produce collagen, which gives skin it's elasticity. It also helps to reduce redness associated with breakouts.

CARROTS // Carrots contain vitamin A, a vitamin which plays many roles in maintaining skin health. It promotes cell turnover, decreases acne, and prevents wrinkles.

TURMERIC & GINGER // Both ginger and turmeric, which are related, have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which helps to calm a breakout. Both also improve blood circulation, giving your skin a healthy glow.

While drinking a glass of this doesn't immediately turn me into a Neutrogena model, I do notice my skin looks calmer, less inflamed and with better tone. Even more important for healthy skin is to stay well hydrated, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, incorporate fermented probiotic foods and to limit sugar and dairy, both of which are linked to acne.

Any tricks you use for healthy skin? 

Healthy Skin Carrot Grapefruit Juice

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 large cucumbers

  • 2 large carrots

  • 2 grapefruits, peeled

  • 2 navel oranges, peeled

  • 1-inch nub of fresh ginger

  • 1-inch nub of fresh turmeric

  • 1/2 lemon

Instructions

  1. Juice all ingredients in a juicer. Pour into two glasses and serve or store in a sealed mason jar until later.

Kabocha, Kale & Roasted Garlic Soup

A simple winter soup made with the most delicious of all the winter squash - kabocha. Roast a head of garlic along with the squash for a rich, caramelized flavor and stir in sauteed kale for a hit of fresh green. 

Remember when I first met kabocha and quickly fell in love? Well guess what? We're still going strong! In fact, I've left Scott and kabocha and I are moving in together ;-)

Okay, that last part was weird...

But in all seriousness, kabocha and I have been having quite the love affair this winter. I can't get enough of it's dense, creamy texture and rich sweetness! I've been throwing roast cubes of it into everything I eat...and sometimes snacking on caramelized cubes of it between meals. But mostly, I've been making soup. Lots and lots of soup.

I tend to get sick of pureed soups pretty quickly, but I remain enamored with this basic one, even after multiple batches. You can use this recipe as a template and add different flavors and spices as you like. Give it a Middle Eastern flair with a sprinkle of za'atar, swirl of olive oil and dollop of plain yogurt. Stir in sweet rice cake balls to make a traditional Korean soup called danhobak juk. Stir in curry and turmeric for an Indian spiced soup. Or, go all Paula Dean with it and cook the kale in rendered bacon fat then garnishing with crumbled bacon. Kale cancels out bacon, or something like that.

For a topping, I saved the kabocha squash seeds and roasted them as I whipped up the soup. One thing I love about winter squash is you get a meal and a snack out of one piece of produce. Squash seeds are packed with nutrition - healthy fats, fiber, zinc, and copper to name a few. I've seen many recipes that call for meticulously soaking and cleaning the seeds, but I say pfffttt to that! The squash "guts," if you will, may not be as pretty, but it adds flavor and that's the important thing.

This is one of those recipes that speaks for itself, so I'll just get to it. But first, tell me your go-to winter soups in the comments below. The temperature is dropping and I need some inspiration!

Kabocha, Kale & Roasted Garlic Soup

serves 4-6

You could certainly make this with any other winter squash, it's just that kabocha is the best, so why would you :) Other greens, like chard or collards, work in this as well, just adjust your cooking times accordingly so the greens are wilted, not crunchy.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium kabocha squash
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Carefully cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and guts using a spoon, reserving only the seeds in a small bowl. Cut each half in half so you have four sections. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a large baking sheet.
  3. Peel away the paper outer layers of the garlic. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and wrap with a square of aluminum foil. Place alongside the squash.
  4. Place pan with garlic and squash in the oven and roast about 45 minutes until tender. Check the squash after about 30 minutes with a fork to see if it's tender. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. While cooling, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Add onion and saute 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add kale, salt and pepper and saute until wilted, adding a couple tablespoons of water to help it steam.
  6. While the kale is wilting, scoop squash flesh and roasted garlic (just squeeze the individual cloves out of it's paper) into a blender. Add vegetable broth, turmeric and caynne and blend until pureed. Pour into the pot with the kale. Add 2 cups water to the blender to help rinse out the remaining squash puree and pour that into the soup. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Bring soup to a simmer then cook 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  8. Reduce oven temp to 375. While the soup is simmering, toss the seeds with 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet (can use the same one you roasted the squash on). Roast for 10-15 minutes until crispy and crunchy, but not browned.
  9. Serve soup garnished with toasted seeds.

Cure a Cold Gingery Green Soup

Give your immune system a boost to fight off that cold with a warm bowl of gingery green soup, packed with immune supporting ingredients like ginger, turmeric, green leafy veggies and garlic!

Does it seem like everyone is sick right now? We hosted supper club this Sunday and about half the people there were just getting over something, myself included. Of course, now the other half are probably currently sick from being in my germ infested house. Sorry guys. Hope the coq au vin was worth it!

Whenever I catch a cold, it usually runs it's course in a couple days, but this one has lingered almost a week. Yesterday morning I was fed up after I woke up feeling congested and groggy yet again. So, I decided to whip up a soup with all the immune supporting ingredients!

Although I do still believe in the curative powers of chicken noodle soup, I wanted to take this recipe in a different direction. I chose this recipe from 101 Cookbooks as a base, which I've had stashed in a binder for years only to stumble across it again last week. Perfect timing, no?

This soup basically has every food known to enhance immune function packed into each bowl. Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it's definitely has it's fair share of cold and flu fighters! Here's a look at what's inside:

Green leafy veggies // Citrus fruit is probably what comes to mind when you think of vitamin C, but green leafies are a pretty good source too. Green leafy vegetables have also been shown to help lymphocytes, a type of immune cell, function properly. 

Ginger // Ginger tea is one of my favorite tricks for a sore throat. I'm actually drinking it as I type! This gingery broth helps soothe a sore throat. Plus, ginger is an effective way to reduce nausea, so this light, brothy soup would be perfect if you've got a stomach flu.

Garlic // Garlic has been used medicinally for years to treat everything from gangrene to the plague. However, there's actual scientific evidence showing garlic's benefits for colds. One study found people who take garlic supplements were less likely to catch a cold, and those who did recovered faster.

Turmeric // Powerfully anti-inflammatory turmeric is fantastic for immune system support. It helps to boost a protein called CAMP, which helps the immune system fight bacteria and viruses.

Yogurt // Did you know the majority of your immune system is located in your gut? Beneficial probiotics from fermented foods like yogurt are a critical part of that system.

So, how do I feel now? My fingers may be permanently stained yellow from turmeric, but I feel much better! If you're feeling under the weather, I'm sending healing thoughts your way and a warm bowl of this soup!

Cure a Cold Gingery Green Soup

Serves 6

For a vegan version, simply mix the turmeric into the broth at the end of cooking. It will turn the broth quite yellow, but it will be delicious. Or, you could substitute a plain coconut milk yogurt, which I think would taste pretty great with the Asian flavors in this soup. Adapted from 101 Cookbooks. 

Ingredients

Soup:

  • 1 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped small
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

Turmeric yogurt:

  • 1/2 cup plain, organic yogurt
  • 1 small nub of fresh turmeric or
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional for color)

Instructions

  1. First, make the turmeric yogurt. Using a microplane grater, grate the turmeric into the yogurt or whisk in turmeric powder. Season with salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, a pinch of salt and saute until lightly browned and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and saute 25 minutes until caramelized.
  3. Place sweet potato, kale, leek, ginger, and garlic in a pot with water, broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes until tender. Add spinach, cover and simmer another 5 minutes until wilted. Add lemon and soy sauce to taste.
  4. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt.