Calming Chamomile and Orange Cake
Are you starting to feel that end of year burn? You know. When you try and do all the things on your to do list, that you’ve conveniently neglected the past 10 months, and yet for some reason MUST be done now. I know this is a thing, mainly because the last two years we’ve tried to book in builders to do some (further) renos on our house, and from literally September onwards they’re like – sorry no, fully booked til March. What is that?!
I’m concluding this to be the human desire to do it all, do it now, especially when there’s a ‘due date’ nearing. This can of course be a great technique to crank through your to do list, that you may have been neglecting/procrastinating about (drop said clothing item for repairs, pick up flea collars for infested cats, get that niggly mark on wall finally painted over…).
However – it can also mean that we end up putting an inordinate amount of pressure on ourselves, to get it all done. What is “it all” anyway? A great quote I read a number of years ago was, we’re all going to die with a to do list that’s still fully unchecked. In fact, if we didn’t, that would mean we had stopped living, experiencing, challenging, enjoying.
So – what can you do to reduce that niggly feeling of needing to do do do this Xmas season, and instead just be and enjoy? Here are 5 of my top tips, that you can start implementing today. And yes, eating cake is one of them (obviously).
Try them out below, and of course, get this delicious Chamomile and Orange Cake recipe too…
Top 5 Tips for Creating Calm
(or any other time of the year for that matter)
1. Say no
You might have heard this one before, but now is THE opportune time to start flexing your no muscle. Women often have an innate desire (partly biological, partly due to societal conditioning) to care and look after others. This is lovely in essence, and what makes us great friends, partners, and mothers. But it also means we can very easily spread ourselves thin (and no-one likes a skimpy spread). Instead of doing 3 things with great enthusiasm, energy, and fire, we end up doing 10 things half-pie, which ends up being a major drain on our own satisfaction levels. Think about it – that time you spent an hour having a deep conversation with a close friend, and were fully engrossed in the moment – how good, satisfied and fulfilled did you feel afterwards? As compared to that time you had a conversation whilst you were trying to fold the washing, cook the dinner, answer your screaming kids, or scroll down your latest Facebook notifications. I’m guessing, the former felt a lot better.
So this Xmas – try saying no to any new items/meetings/processes that come up, unless you feel they’re 100% necessary for your wellbeing. Guaranteed you will feel remarkably more calm, and able to enjoy and be present in the things you ARE doing.
2. Try a mindfulness app
If you haven’t yet gotten on the mindfulness/meditation band wagon, Xmas is the perfect time to give it a go. You don’t have to go all zen and sit cross legged, mindfulness is just about paring yourself back to the present moment, instead of – regretting and lamenting the past, or fearing and worrying about the future. If we only ever regret the past, or fear the future, we’re never really living, experiencing and enjoying the right now. We’ll never actually ‘be’ in the past, nor will we ever ‘be’ in the future. When we are there, it’ll be the now! If you like the sound of this concept, have a read of this book by Eckhart Tolle “The Power of the Now”.
To get yourself a little more mindful, try downloading an app on your phone, and committing to 10 minutes each morning. My favourites are Headspace, Smiling Mind, and if you’re pregnant, Mind the Bump. Try setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier than you normally would, so you can squeeze this little practice in. I guarantee you’ll feel more calm, content, and ready to hit the day running, whatever that may bring.
3. Incorporate calming foods in your diet
You know I couldn’t do a list without including some reference to food. Luckily though, there’s scientific evidence behind this one – with a multitude of herbs and foods having been shown to be able to calm and relax the mind.
Here are just a few herbs that can sometimes be used to relax and calm the mind – passionflower, valerian, skullcap, green oats, schisandra, californina poppy, kava, zizyphus, bacopa, lavender, and chamomile – to name a few. Many of these you’ll need to be prescribed by a qualified naturopath or medical herbalist (if you’d like to come see me one-on-one, have a look at my consultation page here). However, others you can easily incorporate into teas or foods – like we’ve done with chamomile in this cake here!
The key with naturopathic herbs, to get the most benefits from the constituents, is to infuse them for at least 10-15 minutes, with a lid on top of the bowl, to keep all the essential oils from escaping. Lovely excuse to eat cake before bed right? Try this delicious Chamomile and Orange Cake recipe, and while you’re at it, why not pair it with a calming sleep tea too (have a look on the back – if it contains any of the above herbs, you’re probably on the right track).
4. Try acupressure for relaxation
Another fabulous way to relax your mind, is to start by relaxing your muscles. Acupressure and acupuncture have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and work by stimulating key pressure points and meridians or energy paths within the body (think of blood and lymphatic vessels as examples of how this might work). This encourages blood circulation to different areas, depending on where the pressure is applied, and in doing so can encourage muscle relaxation. This can also have the effect of drawing away energy from the brain (our ever busy minds), down towards your muscles and organs, thus leading to a clearer head. The same way you might feel after having a massage – energy drawn away from the brain to the muscles, and a sense of calm and peace afterwards.
I’ve been using acupuncture for some years now, and have found it to be super beneficial. There’s also significant scientific research backing up its efficacy as a medical treatment.
Acupressure then is like acupuncture’s baby sister, and something that you can safely do at home on your own, without the needles. I got sent one of Shakti’s mats a number of months ago, and absolutely love it for winding down in the evening. The key is, if you’re wanting to use it for relaxation, is to lie on it long enough for the initial pain sensation from the spikes to abate, flooding you with a lovely warm feeling of relaxation as the blood flow and circulation adapts to the pressure points.
If you’re keen to give them a go, check out their website here. I love the story and ethos behind Shakti too – every mat is hand stitched from organic cotton, in a charity workshop in India, and the spikes are even made from recycled plastic. Now that’s a sense of calm – body and soul.
5. Move your body – for 30-60 minutes every day
When life gets busy, one of the first things that often goes out the window is exercise. But it’s one of the key elements that keeps our minds and nervous systems calm and collected. Have you ever noticed how on the days you don’t get out for a walk/gym/yoga class, you’re more likely to lose it when something untoward happens in your day? That’s because not only is exercise good for keeping our buns tight and bones strong, it has also been shown to reduce depression, and increase levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA.
How to implement? Same as with our mindfulness technique, try getting up an hour (and 10 minutes) earlier than you normally would, so you can fit in a quick walk around the streets where you live (then come home and do your 10 minute meditation). I’ve recently started waking at 545am, so that I can get to a yoga class or walk, back for a meditation, then a quick journal to plan my day and shower – all before Mila wakes up for the day. I’ve found I’m so much more productive, relaxed, and capable of achieving things throughout the day as a result.
So that’s it! My 5 top tips for creating your calm. Would love to know what you think, are any of these part of your regular routine, and if so, have you felt any beneficial effects? Or if they’re not but you think you’d like to give them a go – leave me a comment below so we can commit together!
Before I leave you, that recipe. Of course. Imagine a creamy chamomile infused centre, between a delicious orange zest spiked crumble. The perfect little sweet treat to have after dinner, before your Shakti mat routine even. If you love chamomile tea, you’ll love this combination. Not overly sweet, but just enough to hit the spot – while relaxing you at the same time. Pair it with a calming chamomile tea and feel the tranquility descend!
I’d love to see if you make this recipe, or just let me know what you’re doing to keep your calm this Xmas. Tag me in your pics on Instagram, in your main feed or your stories, with @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics. I’d love to hear your thoughts and get your top tips for calm too!
Til next week, stay happy and well.
PS If you like this recipe, I’d love you to pin it on Pinterest, share it on Facebook, post your recreation on Instagram (tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics), or share it with your family and friends. Also, if you’re not already subscribed to my weekly recipe emails, be sure to do that here, and don’t miss my next recipe video by signing up to my YouTube here.
Please note – if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements below, please read my recipe notes.
Base & Crumble
- 2 c dates
- 2 c almonds
- 2 c desiccated coconut
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp liquid sweetener brown rice syrup/coconut nectar
- 2 tbsp coconut oil melted
- 1 heaped tbsp dried chamomile flowers / 1 chamomile tea bag
- 1/2 c boiling water
- 1 1/4 c cashews soaked 1-2 hours
- 3 tbsp sweetener brown rice syrup/coconut nectar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 c coconut oil melted
- 5 drops wild orange essential oil (optional)
- Bee pollen if desired
- Orange segments
- Coconut yoghurt
- In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the chamomile flowers and put a lid on top to keep the infused oils inside – leave for 10-15 minutes while preparing the base.
- Blitz all base ingredients until crumbly but with some texture. If your food processor is not the strongest, blend the dates first, then add the almonds, then coconut zest and salt until a couscous texture is achieved, then add wet ingredients. The mix needs to hold together between your fingers when pressed, if it doesn’t, add another 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil (see notes).
- Press 2/3 of this mix into a lined square tin, and press down until very firm, compact and flat.
- Drain your chamomile infusion, squeezing the flowers to remove all possible liquid, then blend with the infused water with the remaining filling ingredients until super smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Pour over base.
- Lightly press the remaining base/crumble mix over top, so it sticks into the cream filling. Place in the freezer for a few hours to set, or in the fridge overnight.
- Once set, remove, slice, and serve with coconut yoghurt, sliced orange, and extra orange zest. Store in the freezer up to 2 months, or fridge up to a week.
- For extra orangey goodness, add a few drops of wild orange essential oil to the filling. If you do this, just make sure you’re using a high-quality, food grade essential oil – I personally use and love these ones here. If you’d like to learn more about the incredible therapeutic benefits of plant-based essential oils, and how you can use them in your life, check out my introductory workshop here.
- Make it nut-free: To make this nut free, simply swap the almonds and cashews for sunflower seeds and watermelon seeds respectively. You can also use activated buckwheat to replace the almonds in the base, but make sure to add an extra 4-5 tablespoons of coconut oil until it holds together as the buckwheat won’t release any oils to help bind.
- Make it diabetes-friendly/lower sugar – to make this diabetic-friendly, use yacon syrup (instead of brown rice syrup/coconut nectar) in the filling, halve the dates, and add an extra few tablespoons of yacon syrup (or coconut oil for a less sweet option) to the base as well.
- To create your chamomile infusion you can use either loose dried chamomile flowers, or a ready made chamomile tea bag – just make sure to choose a high quality one (i.e. organic, and where you can see the actual flowers in the bag is best!), and brew for at least 10 minutes with the lid on – you’ll get the best flavour result.
- If you have time, use dried activated almond and cashews (see my post here on why and how to dehydrate/activate). Otherwise raw works great too (I used raw for this shoot and they were amazing).
- I like to set this in the freezer, rather than the fridge, as it makes it that extra bit firmer so you can achieve a nice clean slice like in my photos. Simply leave it in there until its super firm but not quite starting to freeze – that’s the perfect time to remove and slice.
- If your food processor isn’t the strongest, blend your base in the order recommended above. How sticky your mix ends up will depend on the dryness of your dates and nuts, as well as the strength of your processor. Stickier dates = more stickability. Drier dates = more floury mix (this means they may need a bit more melted coconut oil OR 1-2 tbsp of hot water to hold). Drier nuts = more likely to release their own oils, which will again = stickier/oilier base with better hold. Finally, a hefty food processor with more grunt will warm the base, helping to release oils = a stickier mix. If your processor is not the strongest, you could also use medjoul dates instead of regular ones (which are quite dry), that way you’ll be guaranteed to achieve a nice sticky crumble mix which holds well. If so, you may be able to omit the liquid sweetener at the end – try blending see how yours turns out, then decide if you need (a) the extra sweetness, and (b) the extra hold. Let me know how you get on and what works for YOU!