Pause & Nourish: Managing Stress through Food & Lifestyle
When we are stressed, we often turn to our breath or yoga practice. Or, another mindful activity that brings us back to the present.
But what about food? Surprisingly, nutrition plays a key role in stress; and simple, intentional strategies can help you manage it better.
Join me at Downtown Yoga Shala’s Instagram TV for the series Pause & Nourish, where I offer simple ways to better nourish yourself during times of stress.
Day/Time: Every other Wednesday at 12pm PT (each chat is 30-40 minutes long).
Past & upcoming topics
(click on the topic for the link to the video):
If you want to learn more, register for one of my upcoming Classes or Workshops!
OMG. I don’t normally rush to post a recipe right after cooking, but here I am, still swooning over possibly the best brownies I’ve ever made.
Granted, my track record of brownie making aint that impressive (considering the last time I made them was two years ago).
These brownies are quite simply, to die for. They’re:
- flour-less (I’ve been baking with nut- and seed-flour lately with delicious results).
- sinfully chocolatey (with cacao powder AND chocolate chips).
- the perfect balance of bitter-sweet (with a tinge of espresso).
And they’re small-batch (perfect for that quick-hit chocolate craving).
Because the recipe only makes 8 brownies, you’ll be tempted to eat it all in one go, but try not to.
Savor these brownies. Eat them slowly. Relish the wholesome, ooey gooey textures. And if you can bear to, share them with your neighbors.
The idea for these brownies came from Ambitious Kitchen’s Small Batch Paleo Almond Flour Brownies with Raspberries. I loved the idea of a small-batch brownie recipe, and one made completely with nuts (and no weird gluten-free flour blends) seemed too good to be true.
So, I’ve been trying to find an excuse to make them this entire lock-down.
But the longer I waited, the more this recipe evolved (you know me, I can’t leave a recipe alone).
I finally decided to make them for my dad’s birthday (my dad’s a chocolate monster; and yes, he might be in a different country, but a girl can still celebrate!).
So, here are the tweaks I made.
#1. Blitzed almonds and pumpkin seeds (pepitas) instead of almond flour. I don’t normally buy almond flour and instead grind raw unsalted almonds into a fine flour-like substance. I’m also a bit stingy with my raw almonds (especially in times like these, when grocery store trips are limited), so I used an almond-pumpkin seed blend, which totally worked.
#2. Maple syrup instead of coconut sugar. The recipe uses 1/3 cup coconut sugar. I used a little less than 1/4 cup maple syrup because that’s what I had at home. I don’t love overly sweet desserts, and this quantity worked well for me, but you can adjust it if needed.
#3. Espresso instead of raspberries. Since it was my dad’s birthday, I wanted something that represented him. And if there’s anything my dad loves more than chocolate, it’s coffee. So I swapped out the berries for 1.5 tsp of a strong espresso powder. I also added chocolate chips, a handful of walnuts and garnished with more pumpkin seeds.
Et voila – here it is, a dense, moreish, nut & seed-filled caffeinated masterpiece.
Hope you love it as much as I did (and if you make it, don’t forget to share and tag me!). xo
Small-Batch Flourless Espresso Brownies
These gluten-free brownies are adapted from Ambitious Kitchen's Small Batch Paleo Almond Flour Brownies with Raspberries. They're chockful of nuts, seeds, chocolate and espresso, and make an ooey, gooey, wholesome treat!
Servings: 8 brownies
- 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg (room temperature)
- 1/3 cup raw almonds
- 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (or raw almonds)
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
Optional (but recommended)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (to garnish on top)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a 8X4 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. (The original recipe provides an option to make it in two 5-inch skillets, so if you want to try that instead, refer to the Ambitious Kitchen recipe).
Place a small saucepan over low heat, add coconut oil and maple syrup and stir until the coconut oil is completely melted. The oil will be separate from the maple syrup at this point.
Set aside to cool for just a few minutes, then transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth.
Next, in a food processor (I used a hand-held food chopper), blitz the almonds and pumpkin seeds together until the texture resembles sand. You don't want it to become clumpy or turn into paste, so don't go crazy with this!
Add the other dry ingredients - raw cacao, baking soda, sea salt and espresso powder to the ground nut-seed mixture. Blitz once so they mix together (you ca do this in a separate bowl if you like, but why dirty another bowl?).
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter should be quite thick.
Drop in the chocolate chips and walnuts, and combine gently.
Now pour the batter into the parchment-lined loaf pan. Tilt the pan so the batter is evenly spread, then garnish with the remaining pumpkin seeds.
Place in the preheated oven for 18-23 minutes, or until the edges are set. Under-bake these brownies, so they remain fudgy once they cool down.
Once you take it out of the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool on a wire-rack, another 5-10 minutes (trust me, it's easier to cut once they cool down).
Cut into 8 brownies, and tuck right in. <3
- Almond meal is not the same as almond flour. The original calls for almond flour, and I used to mix of almond & pumpkin seed meal (blitzed). It totally works.
- I used a little less sweetener than the recipe called for. I tend to enjoy sweets that are less sweet, and in the bitter-sweet spectrum of chocolate, I gravitate towards the bitter end. The brownies was sweet enough for me (especially once you add chocolate chips). Don't knock it till you try it!
I made this dip as a snack for my Spring into Balance stress-management workshop on March 7th at Willow Glen Yoga. The photos could be better, but I’ll update them the next time I make it.
The idea for this dip was planted in 2012, during my first visit to Australia to meet my future in-laws. My Aussies have an afternoon ritual called “Cheers Beers.” It’s like afternoon tea, or chai-time; but instead of chai, you have beer; and instead of khari biscuits and chivda, you have chips, dips and cheeses. Instead of musing about the weather and cricket, you muse about the weather and cricket with an Aussie accent.
As you’d expect, I was there for the snacks. In particular, there was a ‘roasted pumpkin, cashew and parmesan cheese dip‘ that checked all the scrumptious boxes for me. It was savory, nutty, slightly cheesy and very addictive. I couldn’t get enough of it!
As I loaded up my cracker with a dollop of this deliciousness for the 37th time, I began to wonder how sustainable this dip addiction was. My time in Australia was running out, and since there was no feasible or legal way to take this dip home with me, I knew I’d have to figure out how to recreate it back in California.
Then, as is often the case (blame it on jet lag), I forgot all about the dip until I went back to Australia two years later.
So, there I was in December 2014, scanning the Queensland supermarket aisles for “Cheers Beers” snacks, when I vaguely remembered a “pumpkin-cashew dip” and became obsessed with finding it. But as luck would have it, they’d stopped selling it. And since I could no longer locate the original ingredients, I had to rely on my memory to piece it together.
So, here it is – my version of “the dip.”
- Roasted butternut squash
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nutritional Yeast
- Extra-virgin olive oil
The combination of flavors makes it comforting, yet dangerously addictive.
But what makes it useful for stress?
First, all winter squash is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C – which are antioxidants and helpful for lowering oxidative stress. Next, most nuts and seeds (particularly pumpkin seeds) are rich in zinc, another key antioxidant beneficial during times of stress, along with magnesium (a relaxant), along with an ideal nutrient profile for blood sugar regulation – namely, fiber, protein and healthy fats. Nutritional yeast (AKA hippie fish food) is not only full of B-vitamins which are helpful for energy production, stress reduction and a healthy nervous and immune system) but also tastes like cheese and what could go wrong with that? Finally, rosemary ranks high on the antioxidant scale (ORAC) and garlic is both anti-viral and anti-microbial (helpful for the immune system).
You can find the seeds and nuts in any health food store, in the bulk bins or packaged snacks section. You’ll also find the nutritional yeast in most health food stores in the seasoning section (although it may not be available in every country). Or you’ll find it in a bulk bin. Either way, you can start with the Bragg’s brand of nutritional yeast (if available).
While this is not quite the Aussie pumpkin-cashew dip I remember, it’s the dip of my dreams and I hope you’ll enjoy it. xo
Savory Roasted Pumpkin Cashew Dip (Vegan)
This dip is a stress-busting, nourishing and highly addictive snack that comes together quickly once you have all the ingredients. I whole-roast a pumpkin/butternut squash for easy meal-prep during the week, but you could use steamed pumpkin instead.
Servings: 2 cups
- 1.5 cups roasted butternut squash (any winter squash or pumpkin will work)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (shell-free)
- 1/2 cup raw pecans
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves (more if needed)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (more if needed)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp lemon juice (if needed)
Put all the ingredients into a food processor. If using a hand-chopper, start with the oil, garlic, rosemary and sea salt to make sure it gets mixed in properly.
Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve with crackers or veggie sticks.