Chia pudding, three ways (in Iceland)
After spending three nights in my favorite capitol city, we headed south to explore Jökulsárlón (strikingly different from the clear view we had two and a half years ago, eh?) and wound up crashing in Vík for the night. Unfortunately our favorite hotel in the history of hotels (no really,it's the best) was closed for the season so we stayed on a nearby farm, instead. We woke early the next morning and set out to see all our favorite parts of Vík, then headed north for Gullfoss. It turned out to be overrun with tour buses (and cold as heck) so we went down to the falls, snapped a few photos, then found respite inside a cafe. Thom devoured a bowl of lamb stew while I sipped on a coffee. For lunch. For those of you who have been asking about how it is to eat vegan in Iceland, there you go.
I suppose it's worth mentioning that I am not intentionally eating vegan, it's just sort of been the way of things since we arrived. Although I consume a vegan diet 95% of the time, I don't expect to be able to eat the same while we're traveling outside of the US. The reason I started following a vegan-heavy diet, in the first place, was mostly for digestive issues, but also because I am vehemently opposed to the way animals are treated and processed in the States. Years ago, I took a position and have since refused to participate in that part (AKA factory farming) of our overly industrialized agricultural system, as the environmental ramifications far outweigh any benefit I could possibly receive from being a consumer in that market. With that being said, I am not opposed to eating good quality fish that came in fresh from the sea (although I am still warming up to it) and I also eat eggs from time to time, but those have been pretty scarce this trip. So I have been, in a way, forced to eat vegan and that's ok with me. Although I have gone to bed hungry a couple of times, it was due to my laziness of not wanting to search for food or spend $50 on fancy zucchini and potatoes or eat apple slices and cashews for dinner. So there's that.
We headed up to the cottage (!!!!!) on Monday afternoon, straight from the crowded waterfall, and our GPS took us on a seriously gnarly route that had me thankful we hired a 4WD instead of one of those wimpy, fuel efficient cars (those things have no place outside of the city, Ring Road, or Golden Circle, FYI). We drove, for 50km, on dirt roads that were riddled with potholes, at about half the recommended speed because tiny wheels and giant potholes. We wound up going out of our way to get groceries (ok, we mostly went out of the way for booze) and, I shit you not, I was like a kid in a candy store when we got to the produce section. Tomatoes, garlic, onions, cucumber, potatoes, BEETROOT, SPINACH, CARROTS!!!!!! We were going to eat well those next five days. And I could hardly wait to have a belly full of good food (especially after having a liquid lunch), but knew there was a drive ahead that likely included more potholes and dirt. In the dark.
The owner of the cottage recommended both a 4x4 vehicle and that we get there by sunset. We followed one of those recommendations. We had every intention of following both, except we got held up looking for the wreckage from a US Navy plane that made a crash landing in Vík in 1973. Like, two hours held up. And when there are only six hours of daylight, well? You can do the math. Driving up to the cottage - ahem, being a passenger while Thom drove up to the cottage - was filled with so much hesitation and uncertainty that I was shocked when we made it to the top of the hill (with no help from our navigation system) to find the tiny house I recognized from the pictures. THIS IS IT! I shouted, with complete and utter relief. We made it.
Currently: I'm wearing a hand-knit Icelandic sweater made by the cottage owner's partner, there are two dozen horses grazing about 100 meters from where I'm sitting, and a 5x7 window that's letting me take it all in from the cozy chair with the green cushion. Outside the wind is blowing and there's a blanket of snow on the ground, but inside there is warmth, calm, and peace; everything I could ever want, and then some. There's a wood burning stove (that we've been putting to good use) and an open kitchen with no shortage of windows to soak up the rolling hills and snow-dusted mountains. There are copious amounts of coffee and tea, and there's a stash of expensive booze we brought along for Thanksgiving day. Like every year, I am thankful for all of you (as well as my unwavering support system back home), but this year I am especially thankful just to be on this planet, getting to do what I love with the person I love. Which, I think, is pretty much all I can ask of this life. I am fulfilled - in every sense of the word - and I am so goddamn thankful for an existence that sometimes seems too good to be true. Gratitude, it feels so good. And I like to think it looks pretty good, too (proof + more proof).
For those of you who are wondering: Califia is not available in Iceland; I cold-packed it in my checked luggage. And since it arrived safe and sound, next time I'll do the same with hard alcohol (sans the ice packs) because the tax on booze here is INSANE.
Notes: If you'd prefer to use a different liquid sweetener (agave nectar, coconut nectar, etc.) feel free to do so. No matter what kind of chia pudding I'm making, I tend to add either two tablespoons of toasted buckwheat or flaked quinoa to make it extra filling. I burn through breakfast pretty quick, so the extra fiber is not only welcome, but necessary. I prefer my chia pudding to be a bit thick, so if you'd prefer something on the runny side, you can increase the almondmilk to 1 cup (but I don't recommend anything above that or else it'll be too soupy). If you can get your hands on Califia's chocolate coconut almondmilk, I have a feeling that'd be delicious with the double cacao chia pudding. Same goes for using the toasted coconut variety with the banana-buckwheat chia pudding. Just sayin'!
This post is sponsored by Califia Farms. All opinions are my own (and I think Califia rules).
CHIA PUDDING, THREE WAYS
3 tablespoons chia seeds
2-3 teaspoons Grade B maple syrup, optional
2/3 cup Califia Farms vanilla almondmilk
In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the chia seeds, maple syrup, and a small amount of almondmilk. Once combined, add remaining almondmilk and whisk until the seeds are evenly dispersed. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to set for at least one hour, although I like to let mine set overnight. Enjoy as is or follow the next few recipes for a little variety.
Yield: 1 serving
BANANA-BUCKWHEAT CHIA PUDDING WITH COCONUT
Mash one ripe banana in the bottom of a jar. Add 2 tablespoons of toasted buckwheat groats (kasha) to the chia seeds and stir in the liquid ingredients (maple syrup is not necessary if your banana is ripe). Top with flaked coconut and buckwheat, if desired.
DOUBLE CACAO CHIA PUDDING WITH HAZELNUTS
Add 1 tablespoon of cacao powder and 1 tablespoon cacao nibs to the chia seeds and stir in the liquid ingredients (add as much sweetener as necessary, as the cacao makes the pudding a bit bitter). When ready to serve, top with cacao nibs and coarsely chopped hazelnuts.
MIXED BERRY CHIA PUDDING WITH ALMONDS
Put a handful of mixed berries (I used frozen) in the bottom of a bowl or glass jar. Muddle, if desired, or keep whole. Layer with chia pudding (already stirred together) and top with more berries and finely chipped almonds.