Going sugar-free + my quinoa salad recipe

It’s spring clean time!

On Monday I start Sarah Wilson’s 8-weeks “I Quit Sugar” programme. Who’s in?

After reading articles and glimpses of her work here and there for a few years I’ve finally got myself equipped with the books and going all at it. Sarah has a very practical, clear and fact-based approach which makes total sense. If you think you have a sugar addiction (who doesn’t?) or just want to lighten up the load and cleanse the system as is most recommended in spring then she’s your girl.

The fact that she is a big fan of Ayurveda is just icing on the cake… without the sugar spike.

 

img_1391For more information on Ayurvedic cleansing read my previous post here.

And if you fancy the challenge of the sugar-free programme then in a tiny nutshell the menu is lots of good fats, nuts, seeds, lots of proteins, vegetables especially the green kind. Start including more superfoods and make coconut oil your friend.

So here enters my quinoa salad, anyone who knows me will know this is my cooking-for-dummies one-trick-pony party dish. Nothing too clever but a whole lot of goodness.

Ingredients:

quinoa

feta cheese

dill

tomatoes

cucumbers

pine nuts

sesame seeds

olive oil

lemon juice

turmeric

salt

pepper

lots of all the above, a good shake and go.

Alberto Villoldo in One Spirit Medicine gives a very interesting take on the sugar-free detox if you need more inspiration. Different angle clearly, he’s a shaman!

 

 

Figs & Pomegranates as Superfoods

Superfoods are nutritional gems the supermarkets have all clocked on. But have you ever heard of figs and pomegranates as superfoods? You’re about to. According to Ayurveda both are tridoshic meaning that they are nourishing and supportive of all 3 doshas, the 3 basic humours (see here for a reminder). Their composition makes them highly antioxidant and rejuvenating. Zoom in below:

FIGS

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Figs are an excellent tonic for energy and vitality. In Ayurveda they qualify as rich in ojas, the essential energetic sap and immunity. Due to their nutrients and high fiber they are a good detoxifier, diuretic and emollient. Figs are considered a blood purifier and activate blood circulation. They are full of vitamins B which are excellent for protection of the micro- blood vessels. Again figs are nourishing, antioxidant and rejuvenating. They’re rich in minerals which restore the metabolism and repair the internal equilibrium of the gut.

In Ayurvedic terms figs calm excess Vata and soothe excess Pitta. They help balance the air and fire elements within the body and mind, generally helping to ground. Ayurveda maintains that natural foods have an inner intelligence which goes far beyond the breakdown of the nutritional elements – an intelligence carried through Rasa (the taste of foods) which communicates with the natural intelligence of our body and mind to properly feed and heal our organism. With this in mind figs are known in Ayurveda to be neuro-sedative, they are helpful in long-time grief and sadness, feelings of solitude or isolation, helping with emotional pain. They are comforting and bring fresh energy that can alleviate sadness and enhance confidence, ease and a sense of wellbeing.

They’re also a laxative, helping elimination. Figs disperse excess heat and harmonise the body’s temperature in Pitta types, soothing inflammatory conditions including those affecting mucous in the body and irritation of the lungs. They even appear to cool overly fiery temperaments.

And here I have the most beautiful illustration, all credits to Kimberly Espinel at The Little Plantation. I have been following Kimberly’s blog for almost as long as it’s been spreading its wings and with the same glee every time I open a new post. Kimberly is exquisitely talented in presenting through her work a passion for “vegetarian, vegan and raw vegan food for the whole family”. Not only is she a genius at designing inspired healthy recipes but she has a delightful eye for beauty that beams through her photography. I am deeply grateful that she has offered me a couple of her beautiful pictures to ornate my website. Thank you! And please go over to check her Vegan Fig And Kale Pesto Pizza.

POMEGRANATES

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Pomegranates are one of the most nutrient dense potent health food you could find and though we in the west are more used to eating the seeds or drinking the juice, all parts of the flower, leaves, bark and peel are known to be used with powerful benefits. Pomegranates are also tridoshic, they are high in vitamin C, potassium and fibre. They are sweet in taste which in Ayurveda makes them cooling, soothing, astringent and mild. The first obvious benefit it derives quenching thirst and hydrating the body. These qualities also reduce fire in the system, and pomegranates are excellent for aggravated Pit ta digestion – the first consequence of which would be loose bowels, diarrhoea and related IBS symptoms such as stomach acidity and low metabolism due to low digestive enzymes.

Their antibacterial qualities makes them a good food to take when fighting parasites and viral infections or simply to boost the immune system. Pomegranates are overall very healing and balancing. They are cooling and pacifying for aggravated Pitta heat in the stomach and also the blood, skin, eyesight and even emotions. Use of pomegranates for cooling a fever is possible.

They are very effective in preventing ama (Sanskrit word for toxins) in the lymphatic system and plasma which in turn enhances the health of the blood, blood pressure and circulation. They are said to lower cholesterol.

Pomegranates are strengthening all around including being considered a tonic for the heart and benefiting blood vessels. Without going too much into the how’s and why’s which I haven’t for lack of space (check out Ayurvedic sources if you’re interested) pomegranates enhance oxygenation to the brain and body as well as circulation of nutrients and energy.

Scientific research shows that they also protect against osteoarthritis.

On a mental level they may help focus and clarity.

Quite the list, isn’t it?

Time to give another credit to photographer Cheryl Juetten who provided the striking picture above which will also start appearing in the banner on the website.

And what better time for me to pick up my copy of Sue Monk Kidd’s Travelling With Pomegranates, a mother and daughter journey I aspire to take one day.

Need some cooking ideas? I take you back to Kimberly with this Roasted Red Kuri Squash With Sumac, Pomegranates And Greens.

As you may have noted though, I am a little late with the season this year in terms of “harvest” time so of course my advice is eat seasonally if you can.

Wishing you all health & happiness this Yule!

 

On being present, with Hot Coco Cacao

imageAyurvedic wisdom says that our waking consciousness rests in the heart. Experiencing how your mind lives in your heart is central to understanding how your feelings and emotions affect your experience of wholeness. Sebastian Pole – A Pukka Life, Finding your path to perfect health.

It’s a grey wet February day, perfect for going inward and having a quiet moment with yourself. We’re so used to our perpetual inner chat and the glorifying of busy. When our environment is still largely in hibernation should give us a clue that our frantic outpouring of energy and stimulation is out of balance with natural rythms.

Today might just be the day for a little centering and grounding, being aware of the present moment, inhabiting our body fully and truly being there. Pausing the flow of constant thoughts to just witness the day and ourself is very soothing. If you don’t know where to start you could begin by being mindful of your senses: sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. Feel your world.

Then try singling out one of those perceptions. What sounds can you hear, notice the sensations and let the vibrations touch you. Completely tune in to hearing the flow of noise in your environment. Listen to the silence.

Move to an awareness of touch and feeling. Observe the impressions of clothes on your skin, your body against the floor, air on your face, hair on your neck, palpating of hands on skin, breath touching your nostril.

Next use your eyesight to really see, notice colours and shapes, movement in your scope of vision. How far can you see, do you pay attention to objects in your very close surroundings?

Bring your awareness to your sense of smell. This brings the earth element forward. What aromas can you distinguish, objects may emit aromas. Try to pick up the scents of your household. What do they evoke for you?

Finally move to your tastebuds. Are there any flavours in your mouth as it is, in different parts of your tongue or mouth? What are you experiencing?

Breathe, filling up the belly first, expanding the abdomen. Feel the rib cage lift and expand front and sides as you continue to breathe in then finally feel the collar bones rise as your breathe comes up. Exhale from the upper chest, relax the lower ribs and gently pull in the abdomen to empty the lungs fully. A few minutes of this deep 3-part breathing technique familiar to all yoga practitioners will bring you to your core.

Observe the stream of thoughts come and go without engaging.

Now just be with yourself. It’s my hope that you found stillness and the wholeness within, a moment of connection with what is, and peace.

For a little more grounding why not try this naughty recipe from Full Moon Feast, Food and the Hunger for Connection. This is the recipe as Jessica Prentice writes it but you could swap the palm sugar for coconut butter for a slightly healthier version (that’s what we’re about isn’t it) and the cocoa for raw cacao (here‘s an explanation of the difference & benefits):

HOT COCO CACAO

Serves 1-2

1/4 cup filtered water

1 tablespoon Palm sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa powder, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1&1/2 cups raw whole milk

Few grains of sea salt

1. Heat the water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat

2. Add the palm sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk vigorously as the mixture comes to a simmer until both sugar and cocoa are dissolved.

3. Add the remaining ingredients.

4. Heat gently until the cocoa feels hot to the touch, but not so hot that you can’t keep your finger there (about 110*F)

5. Remove from heat and pour into warm cups or mugs

Bliss!

 

When life throws you lemons

Organic Bush Lemon's (3)This beautiful picture of organic Bangalow Bush lemons is my inspiration this week and it comes credit to Lorien Waldron from Wholesome Loving Goodness all the way over the pond in sunny Byron Bay, Australia.

I absolutely love this picture and from now on it will be my blog profile picture and a banner on my website, alongside some of my more humble shots of a local Dorset beach and the Shiva Temple at the Ganga Talao lake in Mauritius from a recent trip.

But back to Lorien! I have been following her through social medias for a few years now and she’s been a bit of a muse with her business sharing Ayurvedic wisdom as a Lifestyle Consultant. She has a real passion for pursuing healing through food and teaching Ayurvedic cooking to the community. What a wholesome goal! She’s also a photographer so check her out on Instagram or via her website, details in the Resources page.

In a previous post I made a quick suggestion that you start your day with a glass of warm water & a dash of lemon with perhaps even some grated ginger and/or honey. Lemon water is a kitchen staple in Ayurveda. Make it fresh every day. It is cleansing upon waking and prepares your digestive system for breakfast. It helps flush toxins out and you’ll feel much more energetic once your digestion is back on track, which this simple technique will help with.

Although lemons are a citrus fruit and acidic in nature they actually have an alkaline effect on the constitution when metabolised, after the minerals dissociate, and so help counteract acidity in the body and over-acidity in diet which is a well-spread issue nowadays. Long term acidic environments are damaging to the cells structure & function and to the human tissues which causes health problems.

Some of the benefits of lemon water first thing in the morning are:

– fighting bad cholesterol

– relieving abdominal colic pain & gastritis pain due to indigestion

– reducing mucus

– helping with weight loss

– detoxifying (reducing ama) and alkalising

– boosting immunity

– glowing skin

– generally supporting to the digestive system, it improves digestive enzymes

There are multiple ways to use lemons particularly as a salad sauce mixed with herbs. Here is a side-dish recipe from “Eat, Taste, Heal” which can’t fail to give you some zing and takes absolutely no time to rustle up:

” Steamed Kale with Lemon and Dill Butter

Ingredients

3 to 4 cups chopped curly or flat kale leaves

1/3 cup organic unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or fennel leaves

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1) Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer or in a saucepan with a steamer insert. Put the kale in the steamer, cover, and cook until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes

2) Put the butter, dill, lemon juice and a lemon zest in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper

3) To serve, spoon a dollop of butter on each serving of kale

Vatas can add thyme or rosemary; and Kaphas could replace the butter with safflower oil, and the dill with thyme or rosemary. The Kapha version is dairy-free and gluten-free.”

If you liked this post, join the tribe and leave me your email address to receive weekly inspiration and calls to action. And in return I’m delighted to announce that you’ll get a copy of my freshly pressed free new guide: “The How-To Of Food Shopping, My Top 10 Tips” (and you’ll recognise Lorien’s lemony picture in the background again).

 

Snappy lassi recipe

imageYoghurt is something of a superfood in Ayurveda, a natural energizer. It is sattvic which means it is energy-producing – as opposed to a tamasic food which would create dullness and lethargy in the body.

These days if you’re interested somewhat in living a healthy lifestyle then you’ll have come across the barrage of information suggesting you remove all dairy products from your diet – and yes, there are real concerns mostly about how livestock are kept, the infiltration of chemical pesticides and herbicides into their feed and about dairy food preparation standards.

In Ayurveda milk and yoghurt are potent healing foods but they must be raw, organic, from happy cows (really), used in small quantities (not the gallons we’re used to, this goes with all the enlarged portion size we western people have been accustomed to in the last decades).

Yoghurt is high in vitamins B2 and B12, minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It contains beneficial bacteria that can help the digestive tract. If you’ve caught on the healthy gut trend about fermented food then yoghurt is a basic. With that, it can also ward off candida and apparently gastric ulcers. It can help lower cholesterol levels, supports the immune system, clear skin and protect against osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Yoghurt must be taken plain, live and natural. Make your own batch at home is best as freshness is crucial to retain its vitalising properties; and stay away from shop-bought fruit versions which are ladled with sugar or artificial sweeteners.

But do you know what packs even more of a healthy punch than yoghurt? 👊

Lassi. The yoghurt based drink, call it your Indian smoothie…

Nothing snazzy but contains pure goodness.

This simple recipe is an extract from Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Digestion:

“To make four servings, place 1/4 teaspoon of cardamon, a pinch of saffron threads, and three tablespoons of hot water in a blender. Blend for ten seconds. Now add two cups of plain yoghurt, two cups of cool water, and two tablespoons of sugar; blend until smooth. Lassi should be refrigerated until use.”

I usually ditch the sugar for a healthier version. You can adapt the recipe to taste too with ingredients such as honey instead of saffron or cumin instead of cardamon & saffron. Play with it according to your dosha and the tastes that support your physiology the best.

If you like this post then please share it around. Thank you, mwah!

Time to cleanse

I’m lucky enough to have extended my summer by a couple of sunny weeks in the South of France but I’m quite aware that after a most glorious summer, Autumn has been knocking at our door early in the UK and other parts of Europe. The change of seasons are taken very seriously in Ayurveda and especially so the turn from summer to autumn and from winter to spring. The subtle and not so subtle changes in our environments are said to have a profound impact on our bodies and temperaments and I must say that I wasn’t surprised when I first learned of this, it explained a lot of my sluggishness, low mood and the small ailments I seemed to face come the cooler and airy months.

Just as you should follow a pitta soothing diet and lifestyle during the summer or “pitta season” and follow each season’s best practises to support optimum health and well being; it is also important to support the mind-body system with special routines during the change of the seasons.

This is best done with cleansing and detoxing the body, ridding it of toxins (Ama) and rebooting your metabolism (Agni). A better definition for Ama is any food or substance that the body has not fully digested or absorbed and is left clogging the system. Agni refers to our internal fire, our digestive system, the ability for our mind and body to absorb and transform what it ingests into what we become – we are quite literally what we eat and digestion is probably “the” cornerstone of Ayurveda. Good digestion is considered absolutely essential to good health and most illnesses can be tracked back to poor digestion, poor care of our digestion or poor quality food.

You will benefit from detoxing the most if you’re feeling heavy, are congested, suffer from seasonal depression, allergies, skin problems or a generic feeling of cloudiness and blah. A good detox programme will have a period of preparation, say a week, followed by a week of detox proper then a week of rehabilitation where you start reintroducing some of the foods you’d excluded on the cleanse. This is the period of healthy nourishment after the purge.

The ideal time to start such a programme is around the mid-October (I am giving you an early heads up) as you are likely to still feel the impact of accumulated summer heat in the body and environment in the earlier autumn period which you should balance with cooling foods.

A good detox will also provide a schedule of activities and advice about exercise and your overall day’s routine rather than just tell you what to eat. But for today I just want to offer you a couple of simple methods you could use if you’re strapped for time.

If you have just one day I would suggest a full day cleanse following a kitchari diet (yes I did say a full day, breakfast, lunch & dinner and obviously no snacking inbetween). Kitchari is a bit of a miracle cure when it comes to detoxing. It’s an Indian recipe based on basmati rice and dhal (mung beans), see the recipe below. It is said to be healing, rekindling for Agni/your metabolism and nourishing for the tissues and immune system. It is easy to digest which means your body will spend less energy on supporting the digestive system and will be able to clear more Ama/toxins/residues. Kitchari is alkaline, the herbs (coriander, fennel, cumin, turmeric and ginger) make it anti-inflammatory and blood cleansing. It is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids and will sustain you and curb cravings.

Kitchari is balancing for all the doshas. Vata types and most Pitta types will find it very nourishing but Kapha’s and healthy Pitta’s may find much benefit from a 1-day detox based on purely ingesting liquid – this meaning that they can take any (healthy) food they would like but in a liquid form. The 1 day liquid diet can be done weekly or whenever you feel a need for cleansing. It will rev’ up your system and help with weight issues.

Give these a try and let me know what you think here.

Ingredients for your kitchari:

Basmati rice, split mung dhal, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, fresh ginger, turmeric powder, coconut oil or ghee, natural rock salt, squash, peas or green beans, lime or lemon (all ingredients should ideally be fresh, organic, from a good source, powdered herbs & seeds in good shelf date). You will probably need to buy the dhal from a specialist health food store.

Instructions:

Soak the Dhal overnight

Melt 1tblsp ghee or coconut oil

Add a 1/4 of teaspoon of cumin, coriander, fennel seeds and grated fresh ginger until they slightly roast

Add 2 cups of the beans (dhal) you have soaked overnight and then rinsed

Add 1 cup of rice

Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder and stir

Add 8 cups of boiling water, stir and bring to boil again

Add a pinch of salt

Add squash cut in cubes, peas or green beans volume to taste

Stir regularly

When the rice and beans are cooked through and creamy, turn off the heat & allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice to nourish all the 6 tastes.

Eat in a calm, beautiful environment if you can and switch off from all other activities. Enjoy!

(Check out banyanbotanicals.com for a free downloadable detox based on your dosha incl. bi- and tri-doshic advice & an extensive list of the benefits you might notice)

Chai tea

 

imageChai has become my morning go-to. I love the smell of the spices and it seems to refresh me and get me started for the day like nothing else. You might be familiar with it and have your own recipe but here is one you can easily make at home. It’s a very grounding ritual at the start of a busy day, and Ayurveda loves a daily ritual!

“Heavenly Chai

Serves 2

1 tablespoon black tea

1/2 cup (soy) milk

1 cup spring water

1/2 teaspoon cardamon powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 pinch clove powder

1 pinch ginger powder

Add black tea to milk and water then boil for 20 minutes. Add cardamon, cinnamon, clove, and ginger. Stir and serve warm.” Chai is traditionally drank flooded with cow’s milk and a good dose of sugar but I skip the sugar to keep it healthy. The dairy argument we’ll keep for another occasion.

And for those with a more fiery nature, referred to as a Pitta type in Ayurveda or during the hot summer months you may wish to go for a more cooling recipe (I know I should use it more!):

“Saffron & Rose Petal Tea:

8 cups water

1 small handful dried rose petals (organic)

12 strands saffron

1 tablespoon honey

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Remove from heat and add rose petals and saffron. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Add honey to the warm tea. You may serve with the petals or strain the tea and reserve the petals for your bath water.” If very fiery nature, skip the honey altogether!

On a totally different note thank you for bearing with me whilst the content and look of the website and blog continue to evolve daily.

(recipes in “” from Bri Maya Tiwari’s book Living Ahimsa)