When I was six months pregnant with our first child, Teddy, Nick decided he wanted to go to New Zealand to train to become a ski instructor. Life was simpler then. We packed a couple of The North Face duffels and locked the door of our tiny apartment in Fulham, London and off we went. A month later we were back. Nick jumped off something he wasn’t supposed to, landed in a way he wasn’t supposed to and his tibia and fibula did something they weren’t supposed to. You know how it goes.
The next year, with Nick’s Tibia and Fibula back where they were supposed to be, we again packed up and headed to the mountains. This time we had a baby in tow; Teddy was 10 weeks old now and we had a family home and a station wagon. Still we found our old duffel bags, bought and filled a few more and off we went! This time it went more smoothly and we spent the first of what would go on to be four ski seasons in Verbier, Switzerland. (The pride with which our parents must have shared our life stories with their friends continues to amaze me. “Nick? No, he isn’t in finance anymore. He’s training to be a ski instructor. Jessica? No, she gave up her career to follow Nick to the mountains. Yes, I am so proud. No, she isn’t working, but she does study wine so I consider her an academic.” )Most of life in a ski town, during ski season, is pretty great. The vistas are amazing. The sense of camaraderie among other seasonaires, the discounts at local ski shops. Plus, of course, the skiing. These are all the great things. But here’s what isn’t great: Ski towns are germ-infested cesspools. Never has there been a collection of people with as many ailments and illnesses as the twenty-something seasonaires roaming wild along the snowy white streets of ski villages around the world. It is simple to see the correlation between partying hard, staying up late, waking up early and not washing hands that gets them there and, theoretically, one could avoid those behaviors and stay healthy. One can not, however, avoid run-ins with The Diseased altogether. They serve your food, ring up your groceries and share your gondola. So you might avoid the partying but you can not avoid the germs.
Our first experience with “Ski Town Lurgy,” as we affectionately refer to it, was during that first mini season in New Zealand. One of Nick’s trainers warned all of the new students to be vigilant against illness because there was no refund of your fees and no exceptions to the testing at the end of the lessons. If you got sick and missed a week that could cost you your instructor qualification. He went on to tell us that by simply having a mug of hot water + lemon + a teaspoon of Manuka honey every morning he managed to keep sickness at bay for 20 seasons! I was doubtful but we wanted to fit in so we gave it a go. While this isn’t exactly a scientific study I can tell you that sticking to that morning routine we managed to go through 4 seasons without ever so much as an ill timed sneeze. So now we’ve established that I am already a believer. A few months ago the people at Real Health, a maker of Manuka Honey, reached out to me to see if I was interested in partnering on a project. I rarely accept sponsorship for Instagram posts and until now never have for blog posts, in part because I would never promote something if I didn’t really, really love it. I got lucky with Real Health Manuka Honey though. I am even sure they were sorry they ever approached me because when we spoke I went on and on and on (and on) about how much I love Manuka honey and how I swear by it and the ski seasons and blah blah blah. In the end I agreed to the partnership and decided I’d try to one up the honey + lemon + water recipe.
I will get to the recipe but in the meantime hear a few things I learned. Only 1700 tonnes of Manuka honey is harvested but over 10,000 tonnes are sold annually. The only way to be sure you are buying a real Manuka honey is to make sure yours has an MGO level. MGO (Methylglyoxal) is the active compound that gives Manuka its magic. There are four potency ratings: 100, 300, 500 and Super Antibacterial Grade 830 and only Australian Manuka honey can naturally produce that last one. And it turns out it isn’t just a superstition that kept us healthy all those ski seasons. That Manuka honey MGO has antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-viral properties.
Okay, so in the interest of the New Year, eating better and supporting my husband’s no-added-sugar resolution, I came up with a gorgeous use for Manuka honey and honestly the result is the most lovely Chia pudding I’ve ever had. In the recipe below the use of yoghurt in addition to the traditional nut milk adds both a creaminess and tanginess that rounds out the flavor of the Chia pudding. I got the idea for the fruit compote on the bottom from SLS Hotel in Miami – it is how they serve theirs and I am madly in love with it. I used frozen berries to save money and to avoid buying food tremendously out of season, and threw in a cinnamon stick for 10 minutes for the winter spice affect. It all came together perfectly on the first try with tons of room for adjustment for your own preferences.
Stay safe people. It’s a germy world out there.
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup plain low-fat (2 percent) Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons Manuka Honey (Real Health is my preferred brand)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 cups frozen summer berries (I use blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and red currants)
- 1" knob of ginger peeled and finely minced
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 1 pink grapefruit
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Fresh mint sprigs
- A handful of the frozen berries
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons Manuka honey, the vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Whisk in the chia seeds and let stand 30 minutes. Stir to distribute the seeds if they have settled. Cover with cling film pressed all the way onto the pudding mixture (to avoid a film developing) and refrigerate overnight.
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes and then remove the cinnamon stick. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool a bit. Then add to a blender and blend until everything is perfectly smooth (on a Vitamix blender this is only about 30 seconds. For a standard blender you will want to blend for a minute or so).
- Pour evenly into four serving dishes and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Remove the chia pudding from the refrigerator after it has set overnight. Divide evenly among the four cups spooning in carefully so as to not disturb the fruit compote. Top with a few of the remaining frozen berries and serve immediately.
- This can be made and assembled up to two days before serving but wait and top with the frozen berries and fresh mint sprigs right before serving. The berries will slighly frost over for a neat touch!