Food with Friends: Claire Ragozzino

Mar 04, 2020

*Claire Ragozzino is a certified yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner with a background in holistic nutrition and natural cooking. Her work is dedicated to bringing yoga, Ayurveda, and nutrition to a modern lifestyle. She is the author of the popular site Vidya Living and also writes and photographs for online and print publications surrounding topics of food, culture, and our relationship to nature. Her first book, Living Ayurveda, will be released in Fall 2020 with Roost Books. *

Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Hi Claire! First things first: how do you take your coffee?

Claire Ragozzino: With a pinch of cardamom and a spoonful of ghee! The spice helps to offset the heating qualities of coffee and the healthy fat from the ghee levels out the caffeine for a less jittery experience.

SCR: Tell us a bit about how you developed this carrot cake recipe.

CR: I’ve loved a good carrot cake since I was a kid, but I don’t particularly love how painfully sweet traditional recipes can be. In fact, most desserts can use far less processed ingredients and still taste absolutely delicious. This is my take on natural cooking in general. You never have to compromise on flavor when eating healthier!

While building this carrot cake recipe, I looked to some easy ways I could swap out standard ingredients for healthier alternatives. In place of bleached flour, I like to use simple gluten-free or low-gluten flours (think brown rice and oat flour, or sprouted spelt flour). I swapped the refined sugar for a lower glycemic sweetener, in this case coconut sugar; date syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup and raw honey are also great natural sweeteners when making desserts. Working with spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and other flavor boosters like fresh orange and lemon zest, was a great way to enhance taste without overdoing it on the sugar. I made this for a birthday initially, but have returned it more than a few times for other special occasions and afternoon treats.

SCR: When did you start Vidya Living + what is it?

CR: I launched Vidya Living in 2012 as a way to bring food, breath, movement and meditation into one space. I am a certified yoga instructor and holistic nutrition educator. My philosophy is that we are all our own healers given the right tools and knowledge. I work with the time-tested wisdom of Ayurveda and yoga to empower my readers with greater self-awareness and connection to their true natures. Vidya Living is where I share, teach, and inspire holistic wellness, fusing the ancient practices of Ayurveda and yoga with modern plant-based nutrition. On my site, you’ll find lots of delicious recipes, resources, guided meditations and programs that help guide you towards good health and vibrant living.

SCR: Can you give us some basic information about Ayurveda?

CR: Ayurveda is the indigenous medical system of India, which views health through an all-encompassing lens, looking at the body-mind-spirit in relationship to nature. Ayurveda means “the knowledge of life and longevity,” or another translation I enjoy, “the art of living.” As poetic as this sounds, the roots of Ayurveda are deeply established in centuries of practiced medical science with eight branches of specialties—general medicine; pediatrics; psychiatry; diseases of the head, neck, and face; surgery; toxicology; geriatrics/rejuvenation; and fertility/reproductive science. These eight limbs work together to support our health at different times of need, but generally how we use it comes in the way we take care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. What I teach is how to interpret this language and apply it to your life in a very real, very practical everyday way. Understanding your body’s natural needs— how to eat, cook, cleanse, move and breath — through each season to stay in balance and feel vibrantly alive!

SCR: Any advice for 2020?

CR: Schedule more time to do less. That’s right, do less. It’s crucial for your health. And in an age of hyperconnectivity and stimulation, it can feel near impossible to break away from the cycle of phone, texts and emails and the responsibilities that come with them. If you do one thing for your health this year, plan for more unstructured down time. It sounds obvious, but are you doing it?

CARDAMOM CARROT CAKE WITH ORANGE BLOSSOM FROSTING

Carrot Cake
Dry
2 cups oat flour
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup almond meal
2 cups coconut sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp fine sea salt

Wet
4 organic local eggs, whisked
1 cup olive oil or melted ghee
1 cup organic applesauce
2 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs first, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour the dry mixture into the wet and fold until well combined - careful not to overmix. Set aside.

Line two 8-inch springform cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides with olive oil. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Stick a toothpick into the center to test it’s done. When it comes out clean, remove it from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before removing.

To assemble, carefully remove the cakes from the springform pans. Place on a cake stand or serving plate. Use a spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the first layer of the cake. Gently place the second layer on top and finish frosting. Drizzle honey, orange zest and chopped walnuts on top of the cake to serve.

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ORANGE BLOSSOM LABNEH FROSTING

4 cups organic plain greek yogurt
2 tsp orange blossom water
¼ tsp vanilla powder (1 vanilla bean scraped)
1 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp local raw honey

To make the labneh frosting, you must strain the yogurt first. This takes about 24-48 hours, so plan ahead if you’re making your labneh not buying it! To begin, line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and place over a bowl that is deep enough so that the bottom of the strainer sits a few inches from the bottom of the bowl. Pour the mixture into the lined strainer and fold the cheesecloth over the top, twisting the ends of the cheesecloth to seal. Place in the refrigerator and let strain for at least 24-48 hours.

An hour before you’re ready to frost the cake, remove from the refrigerator and unwrap. Transfer to a bowl and allow it come to room temperature. Once at room temp, pour off any excess liquid and stir in the orange blossom water and ground cardamom. Set aside until ready to frost.

Yield: One 8-inch double layered cake