The Teacup Chronicles

Category: cardamom

Chocolate avocado love tart

I can hear the howling of coyotes coming from somewhere out in the darkness. It’s an eerie sound, one that makes you draw your sweater tighter around you and go and double-check the doors to make sure they are locked. But once I get over the initial hair-raising reaction and stop to listen, I think its sort of beautiful too – a desperate sounding song full of wildness and hunger and longing. In the next room, there is a roast in the oven – a pork loin sitting on a bed of apples and onions, and sprigs of thyme tucked in. The sounds of the oven clicking on and off are comforting against the back drop of coyote song.  There is a bouquet of pink and red tulips on the table, the table is set for two – and in the fridge sits the tart you see above.

This tart is one of those things that looks horribly sinful and decadent, but in reality is quite wholesome. It’s raw – meaning nothing is cooked and that everything is in its whole, unprocessed glory. Loaded with good fats from avocados and nuts, sweetened with honey and dates, and spiced with chocolate, vitality building “aphrodisiac” herbs and spices, it leaves you feeling absolutely radiant after you eat it – like you are just glowing. I can’t think of many other cakes that will do that. I think it’s the perfect  way to celebrate that sense of awakening we all start to feel about now (which is what I think Valentine’s is all about). I think that must be what the coyotes are singing about too, come to think of it.

Chocolate Avocado Love Tart

Feel free to leave the herbs out if you like – just add in 25g extra cocoa powder.

For the crust:

  • 150g each pecans and almonds
  • 100g pitted medjool dates, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp sea salt

For the filling:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 85g virgin coconut oil
  • 125g cocoa powder (raw if possible)
  • 10g maca powder
  • 10g muiri puama powder
  • 5g cardamom powder
  • 175 mls honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • powdered rose petals and whole rose petals for garnishing

Lightly grease a spring-form pan (a cake pan with a removable side) with coconut oil.

In a food processor, combine the nuts, dates and sea salt until they begin to clump up in the machine and form a ball.

Press the nut mixture into the base of the spring-form pan using your fingers or the back of a spoon so that it extends over the entire base and has a fairly even texture.

Combine all the filling ingredients (except the rose powder and petals) in the food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust for sweetness if desired – adding a tiny bit more honey if you like. I tend to like chocolate on the less sweet side. Scoop the filling on top of the nut mixture, and smooth evenly over the top, extending to the sides of the pan. Place in the fridge for at least one hour before serving to chill.

When ready to serve, remove from the springform pan – you may need to run a knife around the edge first. Dust the top with powdered rose petals (you could also use cardamom, cocoa powder or cinnamon if you can’t locate the rose powder) and then sprinkle dried rose petals over the top.

Mulled Cider

When the leaves begin to turn and the air turns chill, when the fields are full of pumpkins and browning cornstalks, then it is time for cider. It should be the official drink of autumn, if you ask me. When I see it arrive on the shelves at the store, then I know, beyond any conceivable doubt, that summer days are now behind me.

Last night we had our first frost warning, and the air turned brisk with the hint of winter on its breath. The wood-stove was lit for the first time, and to celebrate we put a pan of cider filled with spice on top to bubble away and fill the house with its comforting sweetness and warmth. I must say, the scent of wood smoke, the feel of a warm blazing fire, and the scent of apple marrying with cloves and cinnamon is one of the real pleasures of life. It almost (and I say almost) makes one excited about the cold.

While plain ol’ cider is wonderful, mulled cider is a thing perfectly suited in all ways for a chilly day. To hold the warm mug in your hands, inhale steam laced with notes of apple and orange peel, taste sweetness and feel the spice in your belly – is warming in a deeply comforting way. We make it often on those brisk autumn evenings, sipping it huddled next the stove and listening the crackling of wood and wind howling down the chimney.  It is a yearly tradition, a ritual.

Aside from the usual warming spices, I like to throw in a handful of some rooty goodness as well: a little astragalus and Siberian ginseng, two roots that bolster the immune system and help the body adapt to the stress of seasonal changes. Both taste slightly sweet and mostly bland, so they lend little in flavor, but lots in goodness. Paired with all those blood moving, digestive fire kindling and antioxidant packed spices, mulled cider is not only delicious but a health-tonic as well!

A variety of spices can go into mulled cider, and it’s really up to personal preference (or for me, fishing around the spice cabinet and seeing what calls) what you will put in.  While the ingredients vary from night to night in our house, they most often include the following: a few thin slices of fresh ginger;  the zest of an orange; a few cinnamon sticks; a few cloves and star-anise pods; a bit of mace; a few juniper and allspice berries; a vanilla pod and a handful of astragalus and Siberian ginseng roots.  I’ve also been known to throw in some hawthorn berries, a few cardamom pods or even a bay leaf when the mood takes me.

All the ingredients are put into a pan with a half-gallon of cider, and left to simmer on very low heat (or perched atop the wood-stove) for a good 20-30 minutes with a cover on.  Once it’s mulled to your liking, strain it into mugs and top off with a bit of rum if it’s an extra cold night.

Cheers to the beginning of autumn!

Delicious hydration: herbal waters

Drinking enough water is one of the simplest yet most profound things we can do to improve our health and sense of well-being. After all, water is the stuff of life.  Without it, we simply couldn’t survive and life could not exist.  Indeed, every cell and organ in the body relies on the presence of water to function. Water transports waste products and nutrients in and out of cells; is fundamental to digestive, circulatory and excretory function; helps to lubricate and protect the joints, nerves and internal organs; and regulates body temperature through perspiration – just to name a few of its important functions.

And yet, how many of us truly get enough water for our bodies to function optimally? While we may get enough water to prevent the symptoms of acute dehydration, we can suffer the effects of chronic dehydration when our bodies don’t receive the optimum level of fluids for proper balance and function. Those of us that find ourselves lethargic, headachey, irritable or nauseated for no real reason may fall into this category.  In such cases, simply increasing the daily intake of water can have profound effects on our sense of well-being.

Hibiscus-lavender-ginger water infusing

And while proper hydration is important to consider at any time of the year, it is especially so during the summer months, when the hot and dry weather can cause us to lose more fluids than normal through perspiration.  Drinking plenty of water also helps to cool the body and keep us in balance, helping us to adapt to the heat of our environment and prevent common summer ailments that tend to plague us around now such as fevers, headaches, rashes and other inflammatory disorders.

But these effects are even more powerful if one adds cooling herbs, vegetables and fruits to infuse into their drinking water.  Years ago, a friend introduced me to this concept – placing sprigs of fresh herbs or slices of fruit into a jug of water to have on hand in the fridge. Her motivation was strictly for the flavor, but the cooling properties of the herbs (as well as some vitamins and minerals) are also imparted to the water, creating a beverage that somehow enhances the water’s refreshing, cooling qualities.  Since then,  I’ve always kept a jug of herbal water on hand during the summer months, finding that the delicate flavors completely refresh me and give me an added incentive to drink. For those who struggle with drinking plain water, this can be a great alternative to sugar laden sodas, juices and sports drinks.

Strawberries and chamomile blossoms ready to be infused

To make, you simply add fresh fruit (berries, sliced peaches or plums, melons, citrus) and fresh or dried herbs to a jug, pitcher or jar of filtered water. Place in the fridge overnight to infuse, and then drink whenever you like. You can strain the herbs and fruits out if you wish, but I like to leave them in for the beautiful visual effect (I usually use whole sprigs of herbs or slice my fruit large enough so that they don’t end up in my cup when I pour). If you’d like a slightly stronger flavored tea, simply place your herbal water into a warm spot in the sun for several hours before refrigerating.

These are great for picnics and dinner parties where they are beautiful and elegant placed on the table, but I also just love having them around for every day drinking. I pull a pitcher out and place it next to me while I work to remind me to drink, or just leave one out on the table with a few glasses for whomever might happen by.

Strawberry-chamomile and Hibiscus-Lavender-Ginger waters

Here are some of my favorite combinations. These amounts make a 1/2 gallon of herbal water.

  • 1/4 sliced Cucumber, 3-4 sprigs peppermint and several slices of lime
  • 3-4 sprigs lemon balm or lemon verbena, 1 vanilla pod sliced in half lengthwise and several lemon wedges
  • A handful of strawberries and a handful of fresh (or dried) chamomile flowers
  • 2 tablespoons hibiscus flowers with a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced, and a few lavender sprigs (or 1-2 tsp dried flowers)
  • 3-4 tablespoons black tea, several slices of orange and a handful of cherries
  • A handful of blueberries, a few slices of lemon and 2-3 sprigs of fresh lavender
  • Sliced plums and 6-7 lightly crushed cardamom pods

Cucumber-mint-lime and Lemony lemon balm-vanilla waters

Now who says water has to be boring!