Well, winter has officially set in and Christmas is in full swing. I just adore it. Even though the hustle and bustle is a bit too much for some to handle (ahem, my husband), it excites me to the core! It warms my heart to watch how everyone makes a bit more time for one another and goes that extra step to making others feel loved. Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit more than wrapping that perfect gift, the scent of freshly baked cookies wafting from the oven, a fir-scented tree lit up next to a crackling fireplace, and a Christmas-spiced concoction on the stove, all while listening to the cheery sounds of Christmas music. My husband came home to this very sight the other day and said “You really do love Christmas, don’t you?!”. Well, YEAH! Who doesn’t?!
I guess I am still on a pear kick, or maybe I was just trying to use up the leftover pears from last week’s Pear Cider, but what came out of this week’s breakfast was anything less than festive! These Christmas-spiced pears are poached in a liquid made from honey, star anise, ginger, orange zest, and vanilla and the coconut millet pudding is reminiscent of the creamy, rice pudding your grandmother used to make. You can even make a quick, spiced-pomegranate molasses with the poaching liquid and a bit of pomegranate juice after the pears are cooked. As an easy breakfast, or a stunner on the dessert table, this dish is a new staple in my home.
I have been intrigued by the teachings of Ayurveda lately and have totally absorbed myself in the book “Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby”. The author shares tips for eating during pregnancy based on your dosha as well as monthly meditations, breathing exercises and stretches. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian mind-body health system where each person is denoted a “dosha” based on certain physiological criteria. Your dosha then determines what foods you should eat, what activities you should do, etc. By paying attention to our varying body types in this way, it is said to balance us inside and out, i.e.: our dosha. One of the focuses of Ayurveda is for everyone to increase their Oja by sattvic foods and oja-building activities. “Oja”, in Ayurveda, is one of the “three vital essences” and a subtle energetic counterpart to the doshas. “Ojas” govern immunity and vitality and help maintain natural resistance. “Sattva” represents qualities of balance, higher awareness, clarity, and compassion. Foods of a sattvic nature are nourishing, wholesome, and highly nutritious. Things like stress, lack of sleep, and poor digestion weaken Ojas. However, by spending time in nature, taking a break from electronics, and eating nourishing, “sattvic” foods like almonds, honey, certain spices, whole grains, certain legumes, fruit, etc (to name a few) we can strengthen Oja. If you want a bit more of an explanation, this is a great passage. I can’t really explain the entire study of Ayurveda in this short post, but there are some great resources online if you are interested further. The book says that abundant Ojas in the mother creates love and compassion that she passes along to her child. Beautiful thought, right?! I’ll take all the Oja-energy I can get!
I feel as though during the holidays, increasing our Oja is probably a bit more difficult, considering the frantic nature of the season, as well as the plethora of decadent food and drinks. Not that there is anything wrong with indulging from time to time, but we all need a bit of a balance! That’s where this creamy, comforting breakfast can help: a great way to balance within during the hectic, holiday season. When your not feeling too hot after a few too many at the Christmas party last night or finding yourself a bit run down from all the holiday shopping, indulge in this festive, “Oja-building” breakfast.
Ah, millet. The red-headed step-child in the grain family…at least in my kitchen! I don’t use it often, heck, the only recipe (until now!) that I’ve loved using millet in is this Millet and Black Bean Bowl. Other than quinoa, millet comes the closest to a complete protein out of all the other grains and helps balance dysglycemia (an imbalance of blood sugar). Millet is a gluten-free, alkalinizing grain, that has been a staple in ancient cultures for centuries. By “alkalinizing” the body, it helps to reduce inflammation and balance acidic conditions in the body, which is how disease proliferates. Millet helps support the spleen, pancreas, and stomach so is beneficial for people with low immunity, hormone imbalances, acidosis, colitis, ulcers, and urinary disorders. Due to millet’s content of iron, lecithin, and choline, it can help keep cholesterol in check while supporting the nervous system. “When researchers looked at how much fiber 35,972 participants in the UK Women’s Cohort Study ate, they found a diet rich in fiber from whole grains, such as millet, and fruit offered significant protection against breast cancer for pre-menopausal women.” (Cade JE, Burley VJ, et al., International Journal of Epidemiology).
So why aren’t I and everyone else using millet more often?! Well, now we have a reason to!
- GROCERY LIST
- 1/2 cup millet
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, full fat (don't shake the can!)
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 Tablespoon honey or maple syrup for vegan option
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cardamom
- 2 large vanilla bean pods or 4 small vanilla bean pods
- 2 cups pure, filtered water
- 1 pear, cut into quarters or diced*
- 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, sliced
- 3 1/2 Tablespoons of honey or maple syrup for a vegan option
- 2 inch piece of orange peel
- juice from 1/2 an orange
- 1 star anise
- 3 Tablespoons pomegranate juice, optional**
- hemp seeds, to garnish
- pomegranate seeds, to garnish
- pistachios or walnuts, to garnish
- Do not shake the can of coconut milk! Open the can and spoon off about 2 tablespoons or so of the thick coconut cream. Set aside to use later.
- Thoroughly wash and rinse the millet in a sieve. In a medium sauce-pan, bring the millet, coconut milk, almond milk, honey or maple syrup, and cardamom to a low boil. Cut 1 large vanilla bean pod or 2 small vanilla bean pods carefully down the middle, exposing the vanilla bean seeds. Scrape out the seeds or "caviar" and add to the pot, along with the empty pods. Cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn't stick. If you need to add more liquid, use coconut milk and add little bits at a time. It should be similar to a porridge consistency when finished cooking. Stir in the coconut cream reserved from earlier, cover, and set aside.
- While the millet is cooking, prepare the pears. In a medium sauce-pan, combine 2 cups of water with the pear, ginger, honey or maple syrup, orange peel, orange juice, and star anise. Repeat the process from above with the remaining vanilla bean pods (1 large or 2 small vanilla bean pods) and add the vanilla beans ("caviar") and pods to the sauce-pan. Bring to a simmer and poach for 15 minutes or until pears are cooked through and a fork is inserted easily. I don't like mine cooked too much, so cook a bit longer if you want them softer. Remove the pears and set aside.
- If you are making the spiced pomegranate molasses, add the pomegranate juice to the spiced pear poaching liquid after removing the pears. Return to a simmer for about 7 minutes, reducing to a syrup. Remove the aromatics and set aside the pomegranate molasses.
- Divide the millet between 2 bowls and top with the pears, hemp seeds, pomegranate seeds, pistachios or walnuts and drizzle with the spiced pomegranate molasses.
- If serving as a dessert, divide between 4 cups or bowls.
- *If eating this dish for breakfast, slicing the pears is sufficient, but I find if you are preparing this dish as a "rice pudding" sort-of dessert and serving it to guests, diced pears look a bit nicer when served in parfait cups.
- **You can make a quick, spiced pomegranate molasses to drizzle over the pudding with the pear poaching liquid after you have cooked the pears.