Morgan and I love to bake, so yesterday he invited friends over and we had a holiday-treats-baking-party.
Morgan is creative, adventurous and very clever. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up and he will tell you, as he has been telling people most of his 13 years, “An Inventor!” If you show interest, he will tell you, too, of the details, features and purpose of the numerous, extraordinary designs he is already imagineering.
This year he led his Robotics team to the Regional Championships where they demonstrated a “Nanobot” designed to eliminate cancer. With organizations like Dean Kamen’s First our children have terrific opportunities to imagine and engineer solutions that will make us all safer, happier, and healthier. We are dedicated to that, so we do what we can to keep his curiosity and creativity engaged.
Yesterday, that meant setting an Invention Challenge in the kitchen. The mission was to create a new recipe, without looking anything up, for a divine Chocolate Peppermint Brownie that would make the boys say, “We HAVE to make this again!” But it had to be made without flour, milk, eggs, sugar, or anything we couldn’t pronounce, or anything that comes in a can, box or freezer ~ and it had to be so good we could devour it in one sitting, but so healthy that we would still feel great after we did.
Demonstrating their great technical prowess, the boys created a success, although what we made didn’t exactly come out like a brownie. It had more of a pudding consistency, but it wasn’t that, either. Morgan’s friend suggested we call it a “Prownie” as a merging of the two, which led to a whole chorus of linguistic possibilities, but ultimately we decided to call it a Buche de Noel.
We had two reasons. First, once it is served on the plate, it does look like a Yule log. Second, while it accidentally tastes much like the traditional French Christmas dessert it is named for, we think that most people won’t know what a Buche de Noel is supposed to taste like, so they won’t arrive at ours with preconceived expectations that might otherwise divert them from enjoying ours as much as it deserves.
There may be a third reason: is it possible that it tastes even more divinely delicious with a name, itself, so divine? The beat of the “B,” the bass of the “Ooo,” the soothing “Shhh” that sounds like a sled whirring through snow. Sleigh bells ring, Are you listening?
AN AYURVEDIC CHRISTMAS: BUCHE DE NOEL
This recipe makes a tremendously satisfying treat. Read on for the health benefits of its two main ingredients, almonds and peppermint.
2 cups Almonds, blanched and skinned
1/2 cup Almond Milk
2 tbsp. Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Peppermint Oil or Extract
3 shakes Cinnamon
1 shake Nutmeg
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/4 cup Coconut Flakes
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cacao Baking Bar, broken into small pieces
1 tsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or Ghee, if you are not Vegan)
Begin by soaking the cherries in fresh water. Place the coconut flakes on a toaster tray and toast for one minute. Watch carefully, as coconut can burn easily. Put the remaining ingredients except chocolate and “butter” in a juicer or food processor and blend, blend, blend. You may have to stop and start a few times, scraping the sides often, until you get a smoth consistency.
Melt the “butter” in a medium size pot over a very low heat. Pour in the almond mixture, add the chocolate pieces and stir. Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and thoroughly integrated into the mixture.
Transfer to a serving pan and spread the mixture evenly across the dish. Dry the cherries and sprinkle them with the toasted coconut over the top. You can also add a crushed candy cane to decorate the “buche,” if you are not too strict about the no sugar rule. Allow it sit for one hour before serving.
If you are planning on making treats this holiday season but don’t want the sugar blues, consider a little deconstruction, and focus on the basics. Many of the traditional Christmas aromas and flavors, like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts and peppermint are also considered medicine in Ayurveda.
Almonds, for instance, are highly regarded in Ayurveda for their nutritional value and their Vata pacifying benefits. They are demulcent, expectorant, and a great tonic. Almonds are good for coughs, wasting diseases of the lungs and kidneys, muscle tension and pain. They lubricate the skin and the microcirculatory channels, supporting all the tissues of the body, and strengthening the immune system. Almonds provide several essential nutrients and are 20% protein. From an ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts) you get about 5.6 grams of protein. They are also rich in Vitamin E and magnesium and contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Peppermint has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. It is an excellent stomach digestive, soothing for colds, flu and fevers, relieving for sinus allergies. Stimulating to the mind, it enhances concentration, calms the nerves, develops emotional endurance and is extremely effective for taking the edge off tension headaches. No wonder it is so omnipresent this time of year!
Mother Nature wants to nourish you. Her food is medicine to help you to be your best. Allow her to support you this season, so you can feel the love that is the essence of all life, and the true reason to celebrate these holidays.