a birthday & blueberry vanilla lemonade.

i don’t know about you, but i’ve noticed there are two types of people in the world.

1. the type of person who is REALLY into their birthday
2. the type of person who just isn’t

the first type will openly count the days until their birthday arrives - it’s usually a month-long countdown, but can be a week or even three months. these people are usually the ones who also like to celebrate their half-birthdays, and the ones who indulge in week-long, even month-long birthday celebrations. (maybe this open display of excitement wanes after a certain age, but you know who i’m talking about.) there’s nothing wrong with this. if you’re this type of person - go for it!

i happen to be the other kind of person - the kind of person who doesn’t really make a big deal about their birthday and, on occasion, has just let it slip by without many people noticing.

except for this one.

i just have to say it…today is my birthday, and i have been counting down! i’m excited and happy because this birthday is a milestone that i am so relieved to cross. if the last few months are any indication of what’s to come, i have a lot to look forward to! more and more, i feel like i’m settling into myself. i feel confidant in who i am, in my own skin, what my talents and skills are, and what the future holds for me. today, i feel blessed and grateful and hopeful. :)

ok. now that i got that out of the way, let’s move on to the recipe…

i love juice. i just love it, i do.

but since i’ll drink it instead of water, i don’t like to keep it around. instead, i opt for making my own fruity concoctions that have less sugar and more beneficial components. usually i indulge in smoothies, as an attempt to keep the fiber of the fruit used. but in the summertime, i am a sucker for some lemonade!
last week i made a wonderful goji ginger lemonade from my new roots that was delicious and thirst-quenching. a few days later i hosted a fancy-pants lemonade stand for kids at work, where they got to mix different fruit purees into a homemade lemon or limeade.

lemonade stands are the epitome of the american childhood summer. even though i was raised in japan, we were fortunate enough to spend summers in california and hawaii. (i know, i know.) well, like most kids do, one summer i decided to have a lemonade stand. i wanted to raise money to ride the rollercoasters at great america.

i learned two things that summer:

1. to make money from a lemonade stand, you have to have great lemonade
2. and, probably most importantly, you also have to have people around to sell it to

needless to say, that summer i didn’t make enough money to go to great america. but, we got to go anyway! :)

last week organic blueberries were on sale. boy, was i happy when i realized they were actually sweet! i’ve been eating them by the handfuls, and have been putting them in everything. hence, this blueberry vanilla lemonade.

blueberries are high in many phytonutrients, (which literally means “plant” nutrients, or nutrients that come from plants) especially antioxidants like anthocyanins. anthocyanins provide blueberries and other fruits & veggies with their blue, purple and even red hues. they are mainly known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. the color of a food is an indication of different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. so, it’s always best to get a lot of color in your diet!

blueberry vanilla lemonade.
makes about 4½ cups

3 cups water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract (or, if you’re extra fancy, the seeds from an inch of a vanilla bean!)
sweetener to taste (optional…i used a couple tbsp of raw honey)

combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. the longer you blend this, the more vibrant the color will be. if you don’t want gritty bits in the lemonade, i recommend filtering the lemonade through a cheese cloth or fine mesh strainer.

you’ll find the vanilla ties the flavors together, making this lemonade an extra special treat! serve with ice cubes, fresh blueberries, lemon slices and/or even lemon zest for a nice touch. enjoy!

©2012 amanda corissa

chai + chai spiced oatmeal with chia.

i’m a sleep early/wake early kind of girl.  granted, my life doesn’t always happen this way.  but if i can get myself into a routine and make it happen, i’m balanced, i’m cheerful, and way more fun to be around.  i like rising early enough so that my dogs aren’t wiggling balls of excitement as soon as my feet hit the floor.  instead, i prefer that they barely lift their furry heads when i tiptoe out of bed. 

on mornings like these, it’s easier to put the kettle on the stove and roll out my yoga mat. it’s delicious to sit, sleep still in my bones, wrapped in my meditation shawl for my daily practice.  on mornings like these, even though i might have to go to work early, it feels like i’ve managed to stretch the hours somehow. 

summertime or not, warm homemade chai tea just does it for me.  it’s comforting and cozy, and makes me feel like i’m taking care of myself.  i prefer making it from scratch rather than buying a blend – that way i can put just the right amount of spices and honeyed sweetness.  

chai typically refers to black tea steeped with a spice blend, and originates from india.

the word “chai” itself means tea.  shortened - “cha” - it’s the word for tea in both china and japan.  

here, i’m sharing the recipe not only for the chai i’ve been drinking at least three times a week lately, but also for a chai-spiced oatmeal that will bring about the same kind of coziness. 

chai, plain & simple.
serves 1

1 black tea bag (i like english breakfast, but for less caffeine, green tea works too)
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
3 cloves
1 cardamom pod, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ginger, freshly grated (ground ginger works too)
raw honey (or maple syrup) to taste

in a pot, combine all ingredients, except for honey and bring to a boil.  boil for 2 – 3 minutes (make sure you watch the pot just in case the milk boils over).  let sit for another minute or two to cool slightly, then add the honey.  according to ayurveda, honey turns toxic when exposed to high heat, which is why i don’t add it until later.  using a mesh strainer to strain the spices and tea bag, pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

depending on your palate, you can add more or reduce the different spices used.  this recipe is pretty mild compared to some others i’ve tried.  when i’m in the mood, i add whole black peppercorns and up the ginger.  you can also add vanilla or use unsweetened vanilla almond milk for a special treat. :) 

in a rush? boil almond milk and tea with a shake of ground ginger and ground cinnamon and you’ll be good to go!

now, for the next recipe…

chai spiced oatmeal with chia.
serves 2

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup water
2 tbsp dried fruit like raisins, apricots or mulberries if you can get them!
1-2 tbsp chia seeds (if you don’t have chia, ground flax works well in this recipe too)
6 cloves
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick

over medium high heat, add spices to a pot and stir frequently until slightly fragrant.  this will really bring out the flavors.  add oats and almond milk and simmer for 5 – 7 minutes, or until oats are cooked to your liking. top with fresh fruits and nuts and seeds for some crunch or if you need it, simply sweeten with a dollop of honey or maple syrup.

a great source of protein, chia is a superfood that adds omega-3 fatty acids and a slew of other vitamins and minerals, not to mention soluble fiber, to the mix.  because chia doubles, maybe even triples, in size due to the gel it forms around itself when soaked in liquid, adding it to your oatmeal with keep you fuller longer.

need a faster meal?  combine ½ a cup of rolled oats and 1 tablespoon of chia in a to-go container with some almond milk and fresh fruit.  finish getting ready for work or take it with you.  by the time you’re ready to eat, it will be done soaking!  

©2012amanda corissa

coconut black bean dip.

maybe it’s the heavy, humid heat of this floridian summer, but all i’ve wanted to eat lately is fruit, black beans and corn.  i’ve always enjoyed corn, but never to this degree.  i must admit, i’ve become a bit obsessed.  i’ve been eating it in as many forms as i can get it: oven-roasted corn on the cob, frozen corn, polenta, corn muffins and popcorn (sprayed with bragg’s and nutritional yeast - yum!!).  i’ve even discovered a love for freeze-dried corn!  who knew.  i’ll eat it right out of the packet.  and i’m not shy about it either.  i will literally tear open that little ziplock bag, tilt my head back and pour as much as i can in my mouth.

one corn product that i haven’t been able to live without are these amazing oil-free corn tostadas that i found in the international section at whole foods market.  they are thick and crunchy and they make eating salads so much more fun!  it’s just an added bonus that there’s only two ingredients: corn and salt.  

my favorite way to eat them is as a vehicle for this amazing coconut black bean dip that i made a few months ago, on a whim.  you know those days when you really can’t be bothered cooking, but don’t have anything that can readily be eaten?  well, i was having one of those days.  

sometimes i feel like a magical kitchen genius.  i’m sure you’ve had these moments too - when you look in your pantry and fridge and feel like you have to go to the grocery store because you don’t have anything to eat?  but then you spot a can of this and a bit of that, and you somehow throw it all together and all of a sudden you’ve whipped up an amazing meal?  well this, my friends, is exactly how this bean dip came about.

in my pantry was a can of lite coconut milk and a can of black beans.

i also happen to have in my fridge some fresh cilantro and one lonely head of romaine.  inspiration hit.  

i was hungry.  i wanted a meal fast.  usually, this is when i turn to my vitamix.  literally, no more than fifteen minutes later, i had a damn good meal on the table.  

this is one of those dishes i’ve had to make again and again and again because it is so good.  i love to pour this dip, warm and saucy right off the stove, onto a big bowl of romaine and sprouts, scooping it up with my beloved tostadas.  it’s also great room temperature or cold, as the coconut helps thicken it up.  it is so versatile, so have fun with it!  enjoy .

coconut black bean dip.   
serves 4

2 cans black beans (i like eden organics because of their bpa-free lining)
1 can lite coconut milk
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 dried chili peppers
2 limes, juiced
sea salt to taste

rinse and drain beans.  (in a perfect world, i prefer to make the beans from scratch, but when time is precious and bellies are empty…)  combine with remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  pour mixture into a pot and simmer for about 20 minutes.  taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  

dip will thicken as it cools because of the coconut.  due to its saturated fat content, coconut is solid at room temperature.  

serve warm over brown rice.  try it as a warm dressing over romaine and sprouts like i mentioned earlier!  enjoy it on tostadas with avocados and fresh salsa.  it’s great for leftovers the next day - the flavors meld together even more.  you’ll love it.

we enjoyed it over romaine, topped with a chunky avocado salsa and of course, tostadas on the side.

©2012 amanda corissa