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January 9, 2014

Pumpkin Chaga Latte

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Smoothies are great, but with the winter temperatures, nourishing the body with a warm drink can make more sense.  Many superfoods that can be put into smoothies can also go into a hot elixir.  This one combines pumpkin with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory spices as well as chaga which is a wonder all on its own.

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Chaga is a fungus.  A mushroom that attacks birch trees.  Wild Chaga has shown in research to:

  • Be an adaptogen.  This means that if the immune system needs to be stimulated, Chaga encourages the body to stimulate the immune system and if the immune system is overactive and needs to be calmed (example: in an autoimmune reaction or disease the immune system is over active), the body is encouraged to calm the immune system.  This means that Chaga assists the body to normalize immune function.  This affect is helpful to neutralize the effects of pharmaceuticals, assist the immune system during decline due to age, assist patients with autoimmune disease and to simply support the body and mind with the effect that daily stressors have on the body and on immunity.  This immune support also makes Chaga a player in the needs for anti-viral support (one of Chaga’s components is being studied for its potential anti-HIV properties) and anti bacterial function including Helicobacter pylori which causes ulcers and gastrointestinal issues.
  • “Quench” the oxidizing activity in the body through the high amount of antioxidants.  This is especially supportive to reduce inflammation and present with anti-aging characteristics (including skin and hair appearance and organ function)
  • Support cancer treatments.  Chemotherapy and radiation can have many side effects on the body including things like nausea, insomnia, poor appetite, fatigue, etc.  Chaga has shown promise in reducing these side effects in some patients.  It may also help in prevention of metastasis (spreading of cancer cells through the blood stream) and may be able to kill cancer cells in early stages of tumour formation (through both apoptosis or cell death and increased immune function). Note that anti-tumour activity has only been seen from lengthy boiling of the chaga in water, which is how we are going to prepare it.
  • Normalize cholesterol and blood pressure by breaking down “bad” cholesterol in the blood stream creating less arterial plaque and stronger arteries.

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Wild chaga’s main action is to stimulate the body to heal itself (cultivated chaga lacks many of the unique compounds of wild chaga).  It should not disturb the bodies chemical and hormonal balance.  Of course, with anything that can have this many beneficial effects, there is the potential that your body can react negatively as well.  Check with your doctor if you are on prescription medications (do not take if you are on immune suppressing drugs as the chaga will reactivate the immune system) and as with any new food, there is always the potential for allergy so start slow and note any reaction.

With the above disclaimer in mind, chaga is also good for kids, has no caffeine and has a pleasant, toffee like taste.

Now, a slight shift before we get to the recipe.  A little bit of background if you please.  One of the main highlights of working at Amaranth are the people.  Lovely, lovely people.  One of those peeps is Angela Bewick BFA, RHN.  Angela an RHN (Holistic Nutritionist) and has worked in our Wellness Department at the Arbour Lake Store in NW Calgary for nearly 2 years.

Angela is like a loyal, sweet Golden Retreiver – always happy to see everyone, couldn’t love you more than she already does, and thinks about food constantly!  Yes, Ang, this is a big compliment!  Angela has a deep respect for food, what it can do for us and how it can enrich our daily rituals.  Her perogative: nothing heals the body at a fundamental level like real food.  Lucky for us, Angela has shared one of her elixir recipes with us today.  Thanks, Ang!

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Angela used real pumpkin in this recipe.  To roast the pumpkin cut in in half, scoop out the seeds, pop it in a roasting pan with an inch of water and bake it for about 40 minutes to an hour (depending on size of pumkin) at 400F.  The extra can be frozen for future lattes or muffins.  She calls for True Cinnamon which is a type of cinnamon that contains a higher amount of compounds needed to balance blood sugar levels and has a much sweeter and lighter flavour.  Remember you can always play with recipes a bit, adjusting flavours to suit your preferences.

First, you need to make your chaga tea.

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Take about 2-3 tsp of wild chaga (New Earth and Harmonic Arts are great choices) and put it in a pot on the stove.  Add about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  It will start to turn a dark brown colour.  You can use it in about 10 minutes if you haven’t time to wait, but the nutrition with mushrooms just increases the longer and hotter that they get.  You can simmer that, covered, for around 5 hours if you want.  When you are done boiling, strain (but keep the bits) and your tea is ready to use in the recipe below.

A tidbit passed onto us is to have a jar with some vodka in it, put the leftover chaga bits into the vodka and let it sit in there for a few days or longer.  Alcohol extracts components out of the chaga that water can’t do quite as well (think herbal tinctures that are always in alcohol).  Wow, this chaga just keeps on giving.  Bottoms up!

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Pumpkin Spiced Chaga Latte

4 tablespoons roasted pumpkin (or canned organic pumpkin puree in a pinch!)

1/2 tsp vanilla powder, or scrape the inside of a vanilla bean

2 tsp pumpkin spice blend (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg), use the most potent spices you can find to increase the value (if you like it extra spicy then add an additional 1/2 tsp each true cinnamon and a tsp of fresh ginger, yum!)

3 cups hot chaga tea (instructions above)

2/3 cup full fat coconut milk (or whatever milk you like, but go for the full fat)

4 tbsp – 1/4 cup maple syrup (depending how you like it, Angela likes it sweeeeeet!)

Combine and heat up liquids (tea, milk and maple syrup.) Meanwhile, add pumpkin and spices to blender. When liquids are good and hot (be careful, this is a blender with hot liquids now), add to blender and mix with spiced pumpkin. Blend well and serve. Makes 2 large adult servings. Add a bit more warm water or milk to include extra for the kids.

Posted by Amy Buckman and Angela Bewick with some research help from oriveda.wordpress.com/chaga-the-facts

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