These soups are simple and essential, as I wish my new year to be.
And as I wish my Christmas and New Year’s celebrations to be, in fact. When I switched to a mostly plant-based diet I definitely started caring for big meals a lot less. And, ironically, I started enjoying ‘rich’ dishes, such as stuffed pastas or dessert, a lot more. If there is one big tip I can give to those who need to find a balance in their meals, all I would feel like suggesting would be behaving towards eating the Mari-Kon way: remove all that is not necessary, and enjoy the extras from time to time. In fact, I suggest gettingMarie Kondo‘s books and applying her philosophy to your diet in general. Beth Kirby has been talking about the same thing and it’s definitely inspirational.
I love soup because it’s simple: it tastes delicious even when only needs barely 3-4 ingredients and it’s quick to make. It can be loaded with vegetables and is as healthy and light as you want to make it. It’s just a perfect everyday food. After all, we are always drawn to the things we understand and relate to, and it’s impossible not to relate to a hot bowl of soup when it’s cold and icy outside (and, in case you want to splurge and follow with hot chocolate, here is the (giftable) recipe for that as well.)
So I’ll be sitting here sipping tea and soup, and planning how to make my 2018 less cluttered than my 2017. I have many plans and I’m working to make them all happen. In fact, in case you feel like spending some time here in the Italian countryside this spring or summer, I’ll probably need a collaborator…
Straight to these soups! All are vegan, but definitely benefit by the addition of a little grated cheese if you so fancy. All are super simple to make – literally throw all ingredients in a pot and blend afterwards. I used all sorts of brassicas / broccolis / cabbages and alliums, for max health benefits. If you have leaves, veggies scraps, stalks etc, throw them in as well – if you have a good blender, they’ll end up blended as well – just cook them thoroughly.
I did not add specific amounts of salt as they are very easy to customize as you please. I suggest using stock, but water with some organic veg bouillon will also do. All these soups are low in calories and I sometimes drink them as a snack as well. If you want to turn them into a complete meal, eat with cooked legumes or grains (or any other protein of choice), or with a nice slice of sourdough bread (heaven).
Note: below is a little encouragement to share content that you really care about and that will eventually draw people closer to you. If you want the recipe for this delicious cake, scroll to the bottom and ignore my ramblings.
‘In order to be recognized by others, you need to give them a reason to remember you. You need to gift them something yours, in a way. If you don’t say anything because you’re scared, you’ll never gift anyone anything.’
This is something a dear friend of mine told me as we were sitting in his car and I was complaining about how difficult it had always been for me to make friends, or make connections in business.
‘Waiting for people like you to come to you is all right,’ he went on. ‘But what if there’s someone who shares your view in a room filled with a crowd you’re both feeling out of place in? if you don’t tell everyone who you are, you’ll never find them. You need to talk about yourself through the things that are dear to you.’
This conversation gave birth to what I can consider my first real New Year’s resolution.
I have always had a hard time to speak my mind. I have always been the kind of person who was very conscious of the fact that, when you say something, whatever you say, there will be at least one in ten, a hundred or a thousand people who will disagree with you. I was always the one trying to find the most democratic solution for everyone. I was scared of that ‘one’ out of ten who might have destroyed my feelings (or my being right).
This friend’s words came like a slap in the face.
He is the total opposite of me: he is a kind of person who, when working in the kitchen at a seaside resort in Cuba, he legitimately threw a whole set of old pots into the ocean and urged the boss to buy new ones. They listened to him.
“Is there a point you feel it’s important to prove? Then go ahead and do it full-throttle. No one needs lukewarm sentiments. Share your point of view with the world, and do it in a hot-fire way. I feel like you need to rekindle your timbers, but you’re not going to do it if you’re being lukewarm. You need to burn. If you know what I mean.”
I feel that this principle is also valid for what we share on social media, and for our success on IG, Facebook, or wherever else. Here’s why:
In business or social media, we often behave like I do with people – in our specific case, we do it with our Instagram or Facebook content. We’re constantly talking about what people like, what people want, and what the trends are. In other words, by complying with what we think will work best for a crowd, we are trying to be lukewarm. And it is no more than guess work, because the truth is that we hardly ever know what people really want. We can examine the trends, we can follow the flow and try to ‘shoot in the crowd in the hope to catch someone randomly’ (as an Italian saying goes). But trends pass quickly and no one can cater to everyone.
No one should, really.
But work that matters to you will always be 100% yours. It might imply failure, and it might even imply losing some following. But it is the right – and best – thing to do in the long run. If you feel it isn’t working for you, it is time to change, even if it seems to be working for the crowd. It can be a small change, a little at a time, so that the crowd that follows has time to adjust. But it needs to be done nonetheless.
I just want to do a big shoutout to all of you who are dissatisfied with social media: just talk about what you care most about, and find creative ways to do it. People often lack ways to find marvel: you can be the eyes of those who can’t seem to source it from anywhere just by sharing what awes you. Those who relate to your feelings will come. It’s like magic.
Talk about your process, your struggles and your successes. Make a phone call rather than sending an email. Invest in yourself and learn the best ways to deliver this kind of content in a way that works. Connect with others, then connect more. And keep doing these things on repeat.
The next time you’re sharing something for your social, ask yourself: am I really sharing content that matters to ME? Because I asked myself this very thing over and over and quite often the answer was no.
With all the ifs and buts you put before your work, the truth is that you can choose and the options are only two: you complain about the world / the industry /the people being lukewarm, or you do something to rekindle the fire.
I will stop being lukewarm and start lighting flames that heat me up but won’t burn me.
This cake is also a result of this kind of thinking. I was thinking that maybe I should so some cookies but then some others, or something lighter, or something easier to make…but then I decided to go full blast and make a whole damn cake. If you are like me and you feel the need to implement this full-throttle behavior in your business or life, let’s take this challenge together.
What’s your challenge for the new year?
Aside this, mine is turning Hortus into a better performing site, with a good newsletter and possibly writing in Italian as well.
PS: I just wanted to let you know that as I was writing this article I burned a whole bag of beans I was BOILING. Silly me. So I’ll be happy if you appreciate the effort.
ABOUT THIS CAKE
I haven’t made one in quite a while and, well, it isn’t perfect looking, but it is one of those kind of cakes that are moist, full of flavor and delicious. The sponge cake is actually very light, and has very little butter as its goal is to absorb the flavoring liquid, jam and flavor from the filling. Flavor-wise, it is a mix between a classic buche de noel that we’ve always made with my mom when we were kids, and a sort of Black Forest. I love cherry jam the most in this kind of cake (the one I personally made with cherries from our trees this past June!), but feel free to use the kind of jam you like most.
I also use rum because it gives heaps of flavor and you 100% won’t taste the alcohol. Still, skip it if you prefer and use some aromatic liquid – maybe elderflower syrup or some other flowery mix. You could even use some Dona Chai if that is how you roll. Up to you.
Let this cake rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving – HIGHLY recommended. And, even if it doesn’t turn out super pretty, it is still gonna be delicious!
In a bowl, combine the flour, starch, cocoa powder and baking soda.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks in two bowls, and add the sugar to the bowl with the yolks. Beat them until pale and very fluffy, then sift in the combined dry ingredients. Loosen the mix up with the butter, rum and add the vanilla - if it seems too tough add a tablespoon of milk, but we'll be adding the whipped whites as well.
Bet the whites until stiff and gently fold them into the mixture.
Generously butter and flour a 9-inch / 24cm baking mold and slowly pour in the mixture. bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
MAKE THE LIQUID
Add the first 4 ingredients to a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook until reduced by almost half, then add the lemon juice, vanilla and cherry jam and mix well. Let cool.
MAKE THE FILLING
Beat the ricotta with the sugar, rum and vanilla. Whip the cream until stiff and, if you like, add a drop of almond extract. Fold the cream into the ricotta mixture, and let set in the fridge.
Once everything is cool and set (you can do all the above things a day before) assemble the cake.
Divide the filling in 3 parts, one of which more abundant than the other two, saving the most generous portion for last.
Cut the sponge cake lengthwise into 3 layers, and set the bottom layer on a pretty plate or cake stand. Wet it generously with the liquid and spread a layer of cherry jam, then spread a first layer of filling. Lay the second sponge cake layer on top and repeat, then top with the top layer. Cover the entire cake with the remaining filling. It will give your cake a 'naked effect on the sides, but make sure to smooth out the top.
Now, you can leave the cake as is if you cannot be bothered to use a sac-a-poche to decorate the cake, and just finish with some pretty white flowers and a ribbon on the sides, and maybe crumble or arrange some meringues on top. I whipped /2 cup cream and used it to do a few frills and decorations with a sac-a-poche, in my mom's fashion, then topped with meringue.
You can serve it straight away, but I suggest letting the cake rest in the fridge anywhere from a few hours to overnight. Once it will have sat for some 10-12 hours, it will be twice as delicious!
ANNOUNCING OUR ANNUAL FOOD BLOGGER CONFERENCE WORKSHOP!
Over 4 Saturdays in January, you’ll be able to stream in from your home or office & start your new year off with creative inspiration. (PS – Can’t stream live? No problem – just archive at your convenience.) Last year was such a blast and I learned way more than I taught!
This week only, we’re offering a special rate of $399 for the Global online food & lifestyle conference! We want to make this global conference as accessible to all as possible, so early bird will be valid through DECEMBER 9th.
I’ll be teaching all about styling with light, dark moods, bright moods and how I style my photos to make them look the way they are. This conference is probably the cheapest and most complete available and I would take it even if I were not be teaching.
I love jars when it comes to gifting. I am actually fond of the overly expensive baking mixes you see on sale all over the stores during this time of year, even though by ‘fond’ I mean that I stare at them lovingly from afar, as I have way too much fun assembling them on my own.
Brownies and cookies have been vastly seen and done, so here I am, offering you the recipe for this hot chocolate, Italian style. Italian style, because it is usually thickened with a little bit of potato starch and served in a cup rather than a mug.
This hot cup of deliciousness brings memories of many afternoons spent with friends, especially after snow, which happens so rarely in this part of Italy. Because it is so easy to tweak and change while still remaining delicious, I decided to try a superfood, easily vegan-izable version. In fact, my favorite version of this hot chocolate is with almond milk or light coconut milk. Sometimes, if I want to keep it lower in calories, I even just make it with water, skip the sugar and add a touch of honey, and enjoy it as is. I love this recipe as it can be as healthy and fit-friendly as it can be absolutely decadent. Hot chocolate is my favorite winter drink and I would be more than delighted to receive this jar as a gift.
IDEAS TO ASSEMBLE YOUR JARS – Write the instructions on a small scroll that you can roll up and tie to the jar, rather than on the lable, so you’ll have more space. – I used Weck Jars, but feel free to use ones with screw caps (which Weck has, by the way). – Use a pretty ribbon to tie the jars, and add a simple piece of fir to finish it off. You could even cover the caps of the jars with a piece of fabric and tie it with the ribbon, á la Christine Ferber. – Gift the jars along with another jar of toasted hazelnuts in honey or maple syrup, or along a vintage cup to drink the chocolate in! Or bake some cookies to go with it for a full treat (there will be cookies on this blog very soon!!)
BASIC HOT CHOCOLATE FORMULA
To make hot chocolate for one person, you need one tablespoon of high quality cocoa or raw cacao powder, one teaspoon potato starch, 2 teaspoons sugar (here, I use Mascobado or coconut), about 5 grams chocolate and 1/2 cup to 1 cup milk of choice, depending on how thick you like it. You can add vanilla and a pinch of sea salt.
The recipes below serve 4 people for each jar, but you could of course make bigger jars by doubling the recipes. You could also omit the sugar for an even healthier option, and write instructions to sweeten as preferred. The chocolate will be rather bitter with no sweetener though, so use a little bit of it!
This is Italian style hot chocolate, which is served rather thick, hence the potato starch. You could even leave it out and obtain a regular liquid chocolate, but where’s the fun then? It’s so little potato starch that I’m not even going to label it as unhealthy.
If adding superfoods, make sure that they do not interfere with any medical condition the person you’re gifting it to might have. If you’re not 100% sure, just leave superfoods like maca out.
Here, I made my two favorite flavors, dark spiced and rose milk. But you could add dried citrus peel to make dark citrus chocolate, or add freeze-dried raspberries to make raspberry chocolate…the possibilities are endless.
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Superfood Hot Chocolate Jars For Christmas + Workshop Announcement!
50 grams dark chocolate (choose 60% to 70% cocoa mass) - make sure it is dairy free o keep this vegan
½ a vanilla bean
A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
1 star anise
1 small piece Macis
FOR THE MILK ROSE CHOCOLATE
4 heaping tablespoons cacao powder
4 teaspoons potato starch
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
½ teaspoon rose hip powder
Pinch sea salt
50 grams vegan milk chocolate or regular milk chocolate
½ a vanilla bean
4-5 dries rose buds
Whipped coconut cream or regular whipped cream
ASSEMBLE THE JARS
layer all the ingredients in the listed order. close the jars tight and attach a label with instructions.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE
Each jar serves 4 people. For one person, you will need ½ cup to one whole cup liquid, depending on how thick you want your chocolate.
Fish out the whole spices or rose buds and add them to 2 to 4 cup of your favorite milk. Heat the milk until barely simmering, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly, letting the spices or the rosebuds steep for at least 15 minutes. It would be even better to let the milk infuse overnight.
When ready, pour the chocolate mix in a pot, and whisk in slowly about ½ cup of the milk (make sure it is warm) and whisk well to make a paste. Turn on the heat to medium, and gradually whisk in the rest of the milk. As the chocolate gets to a simmer, it will start to thicken. Keep whisking or stirring constantly. When desired thickness is reached, turn off the heat and serve immediately with coconut or regular cream, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and sugar pearls for decoration.