Have you ever wondered why we start the New Year by looking at all the things about us that we need to fix? Why we add more needs/goals/desires to a probably-already-too-long list? Don’t get me wrong, I am not adverse to list-making or to striving for loftier goals, but I wonder sometimes if these New Year’s goals actually cause more harm than good. Gyms are notoriously busy in January until attendance falls back to its usual crowd by the following month. Weight loss programs and schemes are taken on with a vengeance and usually peter out before super bowl Sunday. A lot of people accomplish very little other than adding an extra burden of guilt to an already over-extended schedule. My solution to the New Year’s resolution? Do nothing.
I’ve always believed that doing nothing is as important as doing something. No, it is not just my excuse for lying on the couch staring at the ceiling as the laundry piles up- I actually believe it. After all, the pauses in the phrasing shape the music, n’est-ce-pas?
I took a picture of this perfectly ripe avocado to illustrate the point (yes, this is still a food blog!). It has no saucing, no complicated cooking techniques. It requires no time, no work and no clean up. Because I have done nothing to it, it contains no unhealthy ingredients and has not been denatured in any way. By doing nothing, everything I have wanted to do has been accomplished: minimal work and maximum health benefits.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to eat the avocado and go back to staring at the ceiling :-)
The cold weather is now upon us and this time I think it is here to stay. For people who follow a raw food diet this can be the most challenging part of the year. The question is how to stay warm? A fresh salad may not have the same appeal after a day of skiing as it does after a day at the beach. Also important is how food nourishes not just the body but the soul. The days are shorter and the darkness adds an introspective quality to our activities which may have us seeking more comfort (or a trip down south!).
The first thing to remember is why you want to eat raw food in the winter. Are you hard core and do you have the need to do this 100%, or will adding a baked sweet potato or a bowl of quinoa to your otherwise raw meal be enough warmth and comfort to make it enjoyable instead of a challenge? Or maybe you want the challenge, and you can use this introspective time to just sit with your discomfort to let it lead to greater understanding. If you are new to raw food and therefore physiologically conditioned to desire heavier, richer meals, then will adding extra nuts and sweetness to your diet help? The goals and desires of each person differ so you really do need to try different things to see what works for you. There is no such thing as failure in this adventure, only opportunities for increased knowledge and self-awareness.
I have discovered that sipping herbal or spice tea throughout the day is my favorite way to stay warm during chilly weather. Having your hands wrapped around a warm mug is soothing (and keeps your fingers warm!), and there are many spices you can add to your tea (and your food) that have a heating effect. Some of them have the added benefit of helping to keep colds, coughs and congestion at bay. Some of my favorite spices for tea are: cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, and cardamom (cardamom is not a heating spice but it is my absolute favorite and has an inherent sweetness that mixes well with the other spices). Just put a pinch of each chosen spice in a mug and add hot water.
Heat is also produced by your metabolism, your internal fire, so activity is extra important. It may not be the raw food that has you feeling more chilly but rather a reduction in exercise. It helps to move more frequently, in spurts. Doing a few sun-salutations, going for a brisk walk, or getting up from your desk to dance for a few minutes (my personal favorite) can be enough to warm you up again. If that doesn’t work, there’s always shinny!
As cold and flu season approach I turn to the garden to stock up on Mother Nature’s medicine. This time I am foraging on a sunny dry day, in my own yard, collecting the last of the silvery green sage and lavender. Sage is known not just for its heady scent, but for its antibacterial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, digestive and tonic properties (just to name a few!), and a lavender sachet on the pillow is as good as any lullaby Any hint of a cold in this house will be met with sage tea and snuggles, and will not stand a chance of staying around for long.
The herbs are hanging in a well-ventilated area with a paper bag over them to avoid dust settling on the leaves. It is preferable to keep them away from sunlight to protect the volatile oils and therefore the effects and the flavour. I keep the dried herbs in large mason jars in the dark. The following sage tea recipe is the one I had by the sea in Turkey (another good way to escape the winter cold!).
Sage Tea with Lemon and Honey*
A generous handful of sage leaves (I leave the stems on too) in a cup with boiled water.
Let it cool down a bit and add:
A half a lemon, squeezed (I leave the lemon half in the cup)
Unpasteurized honey to taste (Coniferous tree honey is the best!)
Enjoy and be well!
*Sage is not recommended for pregnant women and NEVER give unpasteurized honey to a child under 1 year old.
It’s THAT time of year again, when the sunlight has a certain quality that reminds us to prepare for cooler weather. Because of all the conveniences available to us, we are not as likely to start storing vegetables and filling our freezers. There is something very fulfilling, however, in taking part in the weaving in and out of the seasons. This year I began my foraging in a neighbour’s garden (with her permission of course) and collected pounds and pounds of concord grapes to juice and freeze in ice cube trays for the winter. Their flavor is so rich and voluptuous and their anti-oxidant content is off the charts. The juice may be used alone, in smoothies, as natural food colouring, or mixed with unpasteurized sake for those festive occasions.
This is a delicious smoothie recipe with concord grape juice, almond mylk and frozen bananas. It also makes an amazing (and messy) popsicle, as monster baby can attest to.
Almond Grape Smoothie
1 cup concord grape juice
2 cups almond mylk (recipe follows)
2-3 frozen bananas
Blend in blender and enjoy!
1 cup raw almonds, soaked 6 hours (I soak them overnight), rinsed
4-5 cups water
2 medjool dates (minus the pits!)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use Ultimate Real Raw ground vanilla bean)
1 1/2 Tbsp hemp seed (not necessary but I like the milky flavor it adds)
Blend well in a high speed blender and strain through a nut mylk bag*.
*Nut mylk bags can be bought at many health food stores for about $12. You can also use a paint straining bag from a paint store for about $2. Wash it very well. The mesh is not quite as thin and it will leave a bit more sediment behind (I have never found that a problem for mylks).
Everything that is good about fall can be found in a bite of a freshly picked Macintosh apple: bright sunshine, dappled shade and crisp Sunday hikes. Nothing like its store-bought cousins of January. A friend of mine was- let’s say- exuberant in his apple-picking this year and I was lucky enough to receive some of his basket’s overflow. Most of those apples went into a raw apple crisp that my boys and monster baby devoured for breakfast (dessert for breakfast is the best!). If you want a more elegant dessert, this apple pie is just as easy (and delicious) to make.
Apple Pecan Pie
1 cup pecans
1 cup dried coconut
1 cup pitted medjool dates
Put in a food processor and process until it sticks together but is still a bit crumbly and not pasty. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dried apples (make sure they do not contain preservatives or sugar, or if you have a dehydrator dry your own)
1 tsp Ultimate Real Raw ground vanilla powder
1/3 cup walnuts (soaked 4 hours, rinsed and drained)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt (celtic sea salt is my favorite)
Blend in blender until smooth (not all blenders will make it very smooth- no worries, it will taste just as good).
Mix in a bowl with
4-5 cored, peeled and finely chopped Macintosh apples.
Fill pie crust and decorate.