Friday, December 21, 2012

Hot Cocoa Chai

Gift chai mix & my first attempt to imitate the recipe.
A dear friend sent me two amazing boxes of gifts recently, meant to cover a year's worth of celebrations--including my 2012 birthday and the one soon to come--filled with an assortment of feel-good items from BPA-free insulated travel drink cups and 2013 calendars, through shawls and pajamas, to my favorite: food. In keeping with the cooler weather, a tin of DAGOBA(R) organic drinking chocolate / chai mix was included. What a treat!
The can reads "DAGOBA(R) is dedicated to The Art of Chocolate Alchemy(R): transforming exceptional cacao into edible gold." What's not to like?!

Ingredients are listed on the front as follows: "cacao powder, bits of pure, dark chocolate, cane sugar, crystallized ginger, & essence of chai." Ingredients are organic and Fair Trade certified.

When looking at the Nutrition Facts and ingredient listing on the side of the can's label, the emphasis on sugar becomes clear. The first listed ingredient is cane sugar (organic) and a 3-tablespoon serving contains 8 grams of sugars--making sugar nearly 1/3 of the mix.

Having just hosted two "Sugar Blues: Combat Cravings" workshops in December, and still battling the seasonal influx of sugar-laden treats, I waited a few days to dive into the divine-looking cocoa. It wasn't until my housemate had enjoyed a couple of servings and the scent had wafted my way, that I decided it was time to try it myself. (Need I mention that the box of chocolates included in the gift had long since vanished, or that I had given in to the seasonal influx of gift chocolates? By the time I dove into the chocolate chai, I had chocolate and sugar running in my veins again--true to form.)

Since the goats are a month away from supplying us with milk again, I added a scoop of Action Whey(TM) to the hot water. After it dissolved, I added the DAGOBA(R) mix, and the result was delightful!

Knowing that the gift tin won't last, I promptly set about trying to imitate the mixture.

So far I'm pleased with the following: a scoop of Action Whey(TM), a half-scoop of raw organic cacao powder (abut a hefty heaping tablespoon), minced raw ginger root (about 2 teaspoons), and a tablespoon of semi-refined sugar. Next time I'll shave in some 85% dark chocolate.

Stay tuned while we work out the kinks to this recipe. Come January we'll have to return to shunning sugar. Although the sweet taste is a treat, the negative health impacts are not acceptable. Why, after a few days of indulging in gift chocolates I actually suffered some of those sugar blues I once lived with daily. Talk about a wake-up call! I am NOT going back to sugar-laden mood swings. No thank you, ma'am.

If you have a favorite hot cocoa recipe, please feel free to post a comment and include a link if you so desire. Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Primary Food

Tennessee's graceful trees and blue skies feed my soul.
Primary Food is one of the core concepts taught by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and one that resonates with me. Basically, IIN teaches that the food we put in our mouths is secondary to the rest of the nourishment we receive from our lives. Emotional and spiritual well-being impact our physical health. 

For me, getting adequate Vitamin D by spending time outdoors is crucial to my well being. Connecting with the natural world--hearing the birds twitter, cows moo, leaves rustle and hens cluck; seeing plants leaf out, bud, grow and pass; and feeling the sun or rain on my skin--is deeply important to my feeling connected with the earth. Nature's music feels my soul.

When I pass graceful trees, or admire the vast expanses of sky that Tennessee affords me, I thank my Creator for the natural gifts that surround me. There was a time in my life when I was too busy to take note of natural beauty, or--if noted--to pause to give thanks. Since making the effort to build conscious gratitude into my repertoire, I am healthier, more grounded and infinitely happier.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eat to Be Fit Workshops

The Jimmy Floyd Family Center in Lebanon, Tennessee, located on North Castle Heights Avenue, will be hosting a pair of "Eat to Be Fit" workshops by yours truly in December!

Join me on Monday evening, December 3rd, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. for "Sugar Blues: Combat Cravings" (repeat class on Saturday morning, December 15th, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.). We'll discuss sugar cravings, and learn about the history of refined sugar, how sugar can contribute to ill health and how to spot sugar by reading nutrition labels.

All attendees will be invited to receive a free Health History Consultation with me. Sign up times will be available at the workshops.

Can't attend? Not local? Post a comment with your e-mail and I'll let you know about upcoming teleseminars and webinars coming in 2013!

The second workshop, "Eating for Energy," is being offered on December 17th, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m., another Monday evening. Sorry, no Saturday alternative is available in December; however, one could be scheduled for January if interest is expressed.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Refreshing Teas and Waters

Hot Cranberry Tea with cinnamon
The majority of Americans have been conditioned to choose sugary and/or caffeinated beverages over water. When asked why, many will cite taste. "Water is bland," or "tasteless," according to some. Okay, so perhaps water is an acquired taste; if so, more of us should adjust our palates to appreciate the sweet goodness of pure, clean (unchlorinated, unfloridated, freshly filtered), life-sustaining water.

For those of us who prefer more variety, I've found that simply adding slices of vegetables, chunks of fruit, or the leaves and stems of herbs can be enough to make plain water interesting again.

In our household we often brew up pots of tea on the stove. No, we don't use tea pots. A simple pot, filled with a good quality of water, and seeded with a plant-based flavor source will do. Some of our favorites include beet tea, ginger tea (especially in cold and flu season), and cranberry tea (we like to add a little cinnamon.

Watercress Tea, on the stove
For flavored waters, having a jar with a dispenser spout at the base is nice, although a simple, single-serving glass works as well. While we do make larger batches of waters, I find dipping them from a pot to the glass somehow less satisfying than when dipping teas.

Many folks combine two or three flavors when making summer waters. Examples include watermelon and rosemary, cucumber and mint, among others. Personally, I'm more of a purist when it comes to teas and waters (although it may be hard to discern this about me from my throw-everything-in blender and soup-pot recipes).

Cranberry Tea, just begun
The bottom line is that humans require hydration. Drinking about a quart of water of every 50 pounds of body weight should be sufficient to keep the average person hydrated. More is required during periods of stress, especially heat stress--when one exercises, sweats, or loses inordinate amounts of fluids during periods of illness.

Water should be consumed steadily throughout the day, not in vast quantities when one is very thirsty or happens to remember to drink. Indeed, thirst is an indicator of dehydration. Sip steadily throughout the day. Stop a few hours before bedtime to ensure a good night's worth of uninterrupted sleep. (Hopping up to go the the bathroom during the night is not restful.)

If you crave sugary sodas and other beverages, start small. Exchange one cola or sweet tea for a glass of cucumber water one day, and try a brewed tea on another occasion. Make inroads slowly and you will be surprised that, just by listening to your body, how quickly you will wean yourself off of the addictive, unhealthful beverages.

Good luck. Start today. I wish you many blessings in health.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Good-for-You Chocolate Mousse

Mmm, mmm tasty: Chocolate Mousse
On Saturday while I was trying to make an frozen dessert in my Blendtec blender, I did what I frequently do and simply grabbed ingredients that were handy and hoped for the best. The result surprised me. My palate was expecting an ice cream of sorts, but was treated instead to a very tasty mousse. In retrospect, I realize the mousse-making ingredient must have been the added cocoa butter. (The chia seed helped, too, of course.)

Who knows why I throw in the ingredients that I do? Impulsivity teaches me some interesting lessons. This is one for which I am most grateful.

Now, the ingredients I used included a large tomato because that is what was readily available and practically begging to be used. Plus, I love tomato; however, for those of you who shudder at the thought of including tomato in your mousse--skip it. It's that simple. Substitute an equivalent measure of another ripe fruit.

Also, the liquid base I used was cucumber water, again because that was handy. In this household we brew up pots of teas or simply steep batches of vegetable or fruit waters. I will include a post about this within the next several days. Cucumber water is simply water that has had sliced cucumber sitting it for a bit. By the glass, just add a slice (or chunk) or two of cucumber--being sure to include the seeds--let it sit a moment and drink. The result is surprisingly refreshing and delicious.

As always, where possible I use raw, organic ingredients.

  • cucumber water -- 12 oz
  • flax seed -- large palm full
  • chia seed -- large palm full
  • maca root powder -- 1 T
  • cacao powder -- 1 T
  • Action Whey [TM] -- 2 scoops
  • cocoa butter -- 2 T
  • very ripe figs -- 4, peeled
  • fresh papaya -- 3/4 cup
  • ripe tomato -- 1
  • maple syrup -- 1 blurp (maybe a tablespoon? I just tip the jug quickly)
  • frozen blueberries -- 1/4 cup
  • frozen strawberries -- 1 cup

Blend for whole juice.
Serve immediately or chill and serve the next day.
Garnish with sliced strawberries for an added sweetness.

Although made as a dessert, it is highly recommended that this food only be consumed at a time when the eater plans to stay alert for several hours. The inclusion of superfoods, in this instance most particularly the cacao and maca, make this treat not only a sweet dessert but also a recipe for sustained alertness. I only had one serving on Saturday night, yet was up well into the wee hours. A serving on Sunday following lunch kept me fresh and alert through the remainder of the day.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Autumn Sweet Potato - Kale Soup

Sweet Potato - Kale Soup
As chilly nights descend, we delight in the warmth and full-bodied flavors of simple fall soups. This sweet potato kale soup in a coconut milk base is delicious fresh and hot. Later, when the flavors have had time to sit and blend, I enjoy it warmed from the refrigerator to room temperature.

Although I have yet to fully swear off the microwave--I still munch on microwave-popped popcorn--I no longer use it to reheat food. When I travel to work, I like to take a single-serving dish of food that I can eat without taking the time or trouble to reheat on a stove top. That's how I discovered just how delicious this soup is after a few hours out of the refrigerator.

The sweet potatoes in this particular soup were not from our garden; however, with the pan roasting, rich spices and milky soup base, their flavor was quite pleasing.

  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes 
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 cans water
Include ample spices, amounts are estimates:
  • tumeric -- 1-2 Tbsp.
  • black pepper -- 1/2 tsp.
  • garam masala -- 2 - 3 tsp.
  • ginger -- fresh, minced -- 1 - 2 tsp.
  • parsley -- dried, small palm-full crumbled in
  • oregano -- dried, small palm-full, crumbled in

Melt coconut oil in heavy pot. Add onion, sweet potato, and kale; lightly saute until vegetables brighten with the heat. Add garlic, stir. Add coconut milk and water, then spices. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Do not simmer or boil.

Serve with fresh baked bread for a filling treat.

Refrigerate leftovers after cooling.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweet Potato Harvest

Our 2012 sweet potato harvest.
Whoo hoo! Our first sweet potato harvest came in this morning. Pulled from a 4' x 8' raised cedar bed at the side of the house, one that I threw together last fall and filled with layers of compost and shovelfuls of the clay that passes for soil in these parts, the harvest proved quite fruitful. (Sorry, pun intended.)

Although the soil had not matured fully by spring, after pulling the wintered-over cabbage plants and tossing in a few more errant red worms to work, I had tucked in a small flat of sweet potato starts late in the spring and hoped for the best. The fellow at the feed store where I picked up the plants had told me that "some folks hill 'em" (the plants) but that he didn't know if that was necessary. During the summer, I occasionally treated the plants to the raw-milk rinsings from the milk bucket, and infrequently side-dressed the plants with a dose of humic acid in hopes of enriching the soil and the plants. Starting out with virtually no research and with plants fed mostly on prayer, I guess we can count ourselves lucky to have hauled in 14.5 pounds of the rich vegetables.

As eager as I am to taste these, I will insist that we deplete the backlog of sweet potatoes garnered from local farmers' markets first. They may keep well, but the last several batches we've purchased have been less than optimally fresh to begin with, so I would rather eat them than allow any to go to waste.