Rooted Nutrition Healthy Recipes and Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Articles
Without an ounce of sarcasm- really, I do hope that!
*Confession* But this last 2 months (and probably way longer than that)has not been that way for me. I mean, yes, as a holistic nutritionist, I strive for balance. Balance and moderation are supposed to be my mantra, but here's a hard truth- I regularly bite off more than I can chew in terms of work. This habit of mine to say 'YES' to opportunities has helped be brave in my personal and business life, to do things that I am afraid of or think I cannot do. BUT there's a down-side of course, and that is that I tend to over-work, throwing off my work/life balance (even though I am fortunate enough to love what I do for work!).
Life as a new mom, and having returned to work pretty full-on lately has gotten me into that foggy, over-scheduled state, feeling like "what am I doing here?!" at least a few times a week.
I have been lucky enough to have some amazing help, and Connie Sears is one person who is brimming with positivity and has the kind of focused energy that I am craving right now. Her and I have worked together at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, where I teach cooking classes.
For the sake of returning to a bit more focus and balance in my own life, I will be only focusing on teaching cooking classes, and will be stepping away from any one-on-one nutrition consultations. I am excited to refer people to Connie as she has an approach with clients that focuses on their health goals, with a custom plan for supporting them to reach those goals. I will be referring any one-on-one nutrition clients her way. I recommend you check out her site here and schedule a free phone consultation with her to see if her custom plans are a fit to help you get to your health goals.
In the meantime, I found this article she posted, which I want to share (with permission) here.
It was just the read I needed to help me feel like a I have a place to begin with regaining some much needed balance in my work/life!
Balance -- What a Concept!
By Connie Sears of
While I’ve finally made the choice to sit in the sunshine and just start writing, it has been weeks since my last post and I had started to allow a little guilt to follow me the whole way.
Stress has been the problem and, though I identified it, finding the actual source and then working through it properly can be challenging. I ultimately realized that by increasing my mental load with guilt, I create even more stress. So instead, I decided to do a self-reality check, got in touch with my emotions and asked myself: I’m not perfect and never will be, but…who is? What are my stressors? What can be done about them? What is within my control? After finding the answers, I was able to better understand how stress was affecting my mood, where I was letting stress creep in, and then move on to building a plan to manage my life’s stressors. Finally, I was able to regain balance.
We all know that stress is a part of living, and too much can cause a variety of problems to our physical and mental wellbeing. It can, however, also force us to focus and get more done. BALANCE is a concept I promote to my clients, and I provide suggestions for how they can carve out some “me time” in their busy lives. What I failed to do for myself was create a plan to include this in my own daily routine. Luckily, life has provided me with some first-hand experience to show just how hard that can be.
5 Important Takeaways:
1. - Plan.
Allocate time and write yourself into your schedule every week, pick a consistent evening that’s only for you or schedule an email reminder for later in the week to meet this goal. Then stick to the commitment, just like you would for work. Time for ourselves is usually the first thing we push aside when a busy day happens, but if you don’t at least start with the intention of putting yourself first, it will never happen. From workouts to an uninterrupted lunch break, set the goal regardless of size.
Prioritize–urgent or important matters should get your focus - and sort tasks into “must do” and “want to do” categories. Focus first on the “must do” list, and let yourself off the hook for the “want to” list. Make them longer-term goals until you have time to make them priorities. Giving yourself permission to let go of tasks that aren’t a priority gives you control and peace of mind, while still completing important life tasks. And if your day didn’t go perfectly? Tomorrow’s coming; you get a fresh chance to get it right.
2. - Create a routine .
Spontaneity and a “fun day” in my planner are ideal for me, but getting there means having a good routine – and sticking to it. I spend about three hours on Saturday morning cleaning the house, Sunday is for grocery shopping and prepping food staples for weekday meals (quinoa, roasted vegetables, etc.), cooking with a glass of wine in hand. An organized environment is a great tool for being mentally organized, allowing your focus to be where it needs to be.
I can’t stress this enough: Get to bed on time! Eight hours will allow you to start your day off right, especially near the end of the work week. Hit the pillow at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning. A tired brain is a stressed brain, and it messes with your body (inflammation, weight gain, etc.) and mental focus – BIG TIME .
3. - Just say “no”. (Nicely.) Saying “yes” can become a theme in life if we’re not careful, especially when offered interesting opportunities or helping out friends and family. Being over-committed can trigger feelings of impatience and anxiety, and cause a lack of objectivity or peace of mind. Excitement about a new project is great if you have the time to commit to it. Failing to meet the needs of the person asking can lead to guilt, increased stress and personal sacrifice. Sound familiar? It’s time to think twice about saying yes.
I find the best path is to stop and try to see the bigger picture, and to maintain a week/month perspective. Your time is an investment; always consider your return on that investment. You are worth it, your time is valuable and you deserve the return. Acknowledge that you’re eager to take something on, then assess if it’s a reasonable possibility. Will doing it have a negative impact on your sleep, health or relationships? Remember that family, relationship and friend commitments don’t disappear when you’re busy and need nourishment, so keeping those aspects of your life in mind is important as well.
4. - Write it all down.
Related to the Plan piece, write in whatever format you prefer, and commit to doing it twice a week. I use a planner and pen/paper for “mind dumping” (writing everything down that’s on your mind, especially when you can’t sleep, utilize any reminder method you prefer). The “mind dumping” list gets added to my planner and forces me to critique and prioritize. Google Calendar will track everything from work hours to sports games, “me time” and work tasks. Be sure to include social activities for BALANCE, and remember that perfection is not a realistic goal.
5. - Find the joy.
We all need it, and you’ve got to be on the lookout for it! Consider what makes you laugh and feel centered and at peace with the world, then include them in your day. Something as simple as petting a neighbour’s dog, calling a close friend for giggles or literally stopping to smell the flowers will hit your reset button and keep you on the right path for mental balance. Tell a joke, share a funny animal video on Facebook, hold open a door or give up your seat to another person on transit. Giving = getting, and remember to be grateful for all the good in your life.
Even I have to strive for balance, and I slip up now and then. Balance is not a goalpost, but a process, and I challenge you to ask this question of yourself each day: What are you going to do for your balance today?
Link to my site: http://www.nutritiouslife.ca/2017/08/25/balance-what-a-concept/
Finally, I open one from a sender I don't recognize. He's a student, attending a local school, doing a Bachelor's degree in Business and Hospitality. His questions about healthy eating actually stopped me in my tracks, then made my start typing feverishly... he had really basic, but super questions. They are questions that I ponder, evaluate, ask my students, investigate... it is the search for the answers to these questions that prompted me to do what I do; nutrition education with a practical life-skill component, or, more accurately, teaching cooking skills from a nutrition perspective.
It's easy for nutritionists to get into the minutia, and even among holistic nutritionists, we have differing perspectives, but these wide-strokes questions about healthy eating helped me nail down some key points:
Q) What is the definition of healthy eating?
As a Holistic Nutritionist, I see each person as unique, and so what is healthy for one person would not necessarily be for another! And so what 'healthy eating' is, is not actually that easy to define. (For example, tomatoes have many healthy anti-oxidant vitamins and can confer an overall benefit for most who eat them, but they are a plant in the nightshade family which can cause inflammation for some people, making it an unhealthy choice for those few)
Healthy eating is really a continuum, not some end-goal of attainment. A healthy diet can be omnivorous, vegetarian or even vegan.
That said, there are the pillars that I use to create a healthy diet
that is a fit for most people and here's what I convey in my classes/workshops
1) Choose Homemade food over Corporate-made food.
Seems almost overly-simple, but really, we are already going the right direction by ditching packaged food. Even if people are still using somewhat refined ingredients in their home cooking, they are likely not adding the cheap fillers, chemical additives, artificial and excess sweeteners colours etc.
2) Ditch the sugar (You're sweet enough already!)
The most dramatic health-benefiting action you can take right now is to seriously reduce or get rid of refined sugar! Sugar has a myriad of health consequences and is absolutely unnecessary for health. When avoiding sugar, learn where it lurks, and also avoid refined flour (cookies, pastries, white bread and yes, even most gluten-free items). Easier said than done (which is why I teach about healthier alternatives to refined sugar, baking with sprouted grains and replacing sweets), but once sugar is out, it is amazing what healing can take place! Normalizing weight, balancing blood sugar and reversing diabetes, hormone and mood regulation, reduction of pain and inflammation of all types.
3) The more whole, the better
Choosing foods that are wholesome, or un-refined is key to getting the most nutrients in the diet. When a food is in its 'whole package' it has the right balance of fiber, water and nutrients. When we start breaking or stripping away parts, or 'refining' the food, we get nutrient depletion, or are not able to properly assimilate the nutrients (ie: whole wheat berries into whole flour, then into white flour, we lose the fiber, most of the nutrients and are left with only the starchy endosperm, a blood-sugar-raising food with almost no nutrient value). Choose vegetables and fruits with edible peels, left intact and eaten whole, whole grains, unrefined sweeteners and even unrefined natural salt.
Nutrient-density is another way to look at 'wholesomeness' of food, and takes it another step. Choosing more foods that have high nutrient value compared to caloric values, such as choosing orange squash over white potatoes, or zucchini 'noodles' over white or even whole-wheat pasta.
4) Proper preparation
Switching to brown rice from white, or munching on nuts and seeds instead of processed snacks is a great step towards healthier eating. But both science and traditional food preparation agree- some whole foods need careful preparation to become optimally digestible and nutritious! Soaking and even sprouting or fermenting nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans/legumes is an important step to stepping up your healthy eating to 'optimal', and for some people who have digestive difficulties, could be an essential step towards digestive health and nutrient absorption.
5) What's on your plate?
Some people thrive on more or less protein, or more or less carbohydrates, but in general , it is most important to focus on nutrient-dense foods. Filling half of your plate with vegetables, leaving the other half for protein and carbohydrate (potatoes or whole grains) is a good guideline. ( Again, I'm talking base guideline! Some people thrive on lower carbohydrate diets etc.) Fruits are best eaten on their own and are not interchangeable with vegetables. Most of us would benefit from increasing vegetables in the diet, so consider snacking on raw veggies, adding one salad dish to lunch and dinner or sipping on a vegetable soup as part of your meals. Variety is key. Eating produce seasonally and locally brings variety and more nutritious food than shipped produce.
4) The good fats
Thankfully, gone are the days when we thought of 'low-fat' as synonymous 'healthy'! Rather than blaming fat for the enormous health problems of overweight/obesity and heart disease, we are starting to realize what important roles that fat plays (hormone balance, nervous system and cognitive functioning, vitamin absorption and more), and choosing the best quality of fats is paramount. Ditching trans-fats altogether is an important first step. Choosing to get fats from whole sources such as nuts, coconut, seeds, avocados and olives assures the fats are fresh. In their 'whole package', fats come with vitamins, minerals, fiber and often protein.
Adding a few good oil supplements (fish oils, walnut oil, flax and hemp oils) helps balance omegas 3 and 6. In the kitchen, healthy cooking fats are unrefined coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil and even butter and ghee from organic and grass-fed dairy (if you include or tolerate dairy)
5) Balancing your Biota
Your intestinal biota, or micro-flora, is an essential aspect of your overall wellness. Bacteria cells outnumber your other body cells 10:1! Your gut bacteria being in balance is essential to the proper functioning of your body as a whole, with clear links to digestive health, absorption of nutrients, hormone balance and a properly functioning immune system. Include a variety of probiotic foods everyday, such as yogurt, or raw (un-heated) sauerkraut, kimchi, brined pickles, miso and more. A couple of serious disruptors for intestinal biota balance are: food sprayed with pesticides as well as (unnecessary) antibiotic use.
6)The hydration station
How much water you need a day depends on your activity, your body constitution, body weight and even the climate you live in! One great way to be in touch with your thirst is to start every day with a warm glass of water and a squeeze of lemon. By sticking to a wholesome diet that includes lots of fresh produce as well as homemade soups, you may find you get a lot of hydration from food. Sipping on room-temp water through the day, and herbal teas as well as avoiding the dehydrating culprits such as alcohol, excess salt, excess meat and coffee, all contribute to great hydration balance. Avoid falling for the sweet beverages, which add calories with little to no fiber or other food value. The best way to tell if you're hydrated? The colour of your urine: should be pale yellow. Dark yellow, and you need hydration asap! Clear, and you should lay off the excess water.
7) The 80/20 rule: We eat what is optimal for our healthy 80% of the time, and have free range without guilt or shame with what we do with the other 20%. This balance helps us enjoy 'treats', feel relaxed about social situations where we eat different foods than we might normally choose. It's important to attain balance, not 'perfection' (and that a fixation on 'perfection' in diet becomes an eating disorder called orthorexia , an increasingly common problem!) The stress of trying to attain 'cleanliness' or 'perfection' in what you choose to eat or refrain from eating can become its own serious health detriment! Chew thoroughly, relax and enjoy your food!
What do you think?
Are there any guiding principles that help you make healthy choices?
Countless times as a healthy cooking instructor - during cooking classes, baking demonstrations and seminars - I have had someone ask me ' what it is about wheat that is so bad? !' Or they tell a familiar story of not having Celiac disease, but their symptoms (weight gain, IBS, skin problems and many other inflammatory conditions is just the tip of the iceberg) decrease or disappear when they avoid wheat and/or gluten altogether.
The rise up against the grain
Since my early days as a cook, fresh out of culinary school, I have been asked for a lot of 'mods' - special requests for a gluten-free or wheat-free version of something that's on the menu. My station in kitchens was often making pasta from scratch or making pastries. The answer was usually 'no', with chefs and cooks muttering under their breath (or some of them proclaiming loudly) that they hated accommodating these 'fake' allergies and fad diets. Yet bakeries and pasta kitchens were going out of business all over town, the ones who survived were offering alternatives to wheat and/or gluten on the menu. The Atkins diet was the first that I saw of a wave of anti-wheat, anti-gluten and now anti-grain diets like paleo and keto.
I am a lover of pasta, bread and cake, and I saw no reason to quit enjoying these foods. Although I did not share some of my fellow cook's disdain for people's diet requests, I was glad that I was not among those who needed to single themselves out in a group and ask if there was something different for them at dinner or dessert.
Discovering wheat intolerance
A few years down the road, as I was attending nutrition school, I tried out a cleanse on myself (one which excluded glutenous grains)mostly out of curiosity for what I might notice, having no major complaints health-wise. And then everything changed. My symptoms were so status-quo to me, that I thought that the bloated feeling after meals, the hung-over feeling every morning, the constipation and the brain-fog were all the normal state-of-affairs for my health. Had I not done this cleanse, I might not have known what 'better' felt like. The bar for my new 'normal' state of health and energy had been raised. After methodically re-introducing foods after the cleanse, I realized that wheat (and I thought maybe gluten in particular) was to blame. I found that I had what is known as 'wheat intolerance', and that I was among the growing masses of people who are finding that there's something about wheat that does not do our bodies good.
I know that my story is pretty low-stakes. I am fortunate not to be among the many who have serious inflammatory issues, allergies and more serious health concerns. But I was my own case study for school, and I looked at my symptoms as warning signs to pay attention to before anything more serious cropped up. I dutifully ate a diet free from gluten for a couple of years. Thankfully, this was before the plethora of gluten-free junk-foods had showed up on the market, so my diet was pretty basic and whole-foods oriented, with a lot of whole grains and very little flour at all.
The modern wheat problem
No food has been so revolted against as wheat, and later, the protein gluten was singled out as a culprit for people's growing suspicion of wheat as the cause of their weight gain, digestive woes and many other symptoms.
Yet grains- and wheat to a large degree, has been the backbone of agricultural society and staple food for generations, and if our ancestors largely thrived on it and with inflammatory conditions, allergies and auto-immune disease on the rise (especially in North America), the question should not be 'what's bad about wheat?' but 'what's changed about wheat?'
Well- in short, three things:
1) The processing of wheat flour. Our ancestors learned to grind grains between stones, which moved slowly- powered by animals or water or by wind. This slow processing didn't create the heat that modern steel roller processing does. The heat created by modern milling denatures the fats in the germ of the grain, causing whole flour to go rancid quickly. Rancid fats are one cause of free-radical cellular damage, which can lead to a variety of chronic conditions. Another processing issue is this: the label 'wholegrain' on flour in North America does not mean what you might think. Most 'wholegrain' flour is actually white flour, which has had all of the germ (vitamin E-rich healthy fat) and bran (fiber, most of the vitamins and minerals in the grain) removed. Some of the (now potentially rancid) germ and the bran is added back to the white flour and is called 'whole'. Hmmm...
2) The toxic load of a chemical called glyphosphate which is permissible and abundant in conventional wheat is now being pointed to as a likely culprit for more and more people having issues with wheat. Symptoms include but are not limited to: bloating, indigestion, constipation, allergies to wheat and other foods, skin problems and inflammatory issues of all kinds. This is because the chemical disrupts the functioning of bacteria in the gut , throwing off the healthy balance of microbiota. The answer here (in addition to expressing outrage that this chemical is allowed in our food system by calling for a ban of Monsanto's Roundup) is to buy organic.
The spraying of this chemical is so far not allowed on organic foods. In addition to avoiding conventional wheat, supplementing your diet with probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles and yogurt helps keep a balanced micro-flora; imperative for digestive and immune functioning.
3) Our grain-eating ancestors prepared grains carefully for maximum benefit. Wheat (and other grains) in its whole and unprocessed form is not properly digested and is high in an anti nutrient called phytic acid . Consuming a diet too high in this anti-nutrient causes malabsorbtion of minerals, especially zinc and iron. Grains that go through the process of soaking, sprouting and/or fermentation are not only much lower in phytates, but are also 'predigested', making them much easier for our bodies to absorb the nutritive value from the grains.
Opening up to sprouted grains and enjoying fluffy, healthier cake!
After a couple of years eating a gluten-free diet out of fear that the uncomfortable symptoms I had lived with for years would crop back up, I started learning more about modern wheat and farming practices, heirloom relatives of wheat and about the processing of glutenous grains for digestibility. I started by making my own sprouted kamut and spelt crackers and then branching out to learn how to make sourdough breads and sweets. My food world blew wide open again! After years of avoiding sweets and breads, or occasionally putting up with the GF versions that were never quite as good or were full of other dubious ingredients, I could enjoy whole-grain crackers, cakes and breads.
So in our baking classes, I recommend either or both methods of preparation if you want to keep enjoying bread and baked goods made with heirloom glutenous grains.
Learn to bake with sprouted ancient grains
Our upcoming class by guest baker, Lexi- is all about sprouted flour, its yummy (also all vegan) products and how to work with it. The Sprouted Bread Frontier class is on Sept 17- so join us!
All the flour in our class is from Abbotsford's One Degree Organic Foods mill <3 <3 <3
The photo is one of Baker Lexi's beautiful vegan creations. It's a sprouted grain carrot cake. It's as moist and yummy as conventional, but unlike conventional wheat cake, it will love you back too.
Be bold and choose a squash you've never eaten before! Any yellow or orange-fleshed winter squash will work. The recipe works well with standard butternut squash, but equally well with delicata, pumpkin, turban, red kuri or kabocha. We have so much variety in heirloom squashes coming back, this recipe is a great excuse to try them out
Makes about 4 liters (serves 8)
1 medium butternut or other winter squash
2 Tbsp coconut or sunflower oil, or ghee
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 chipotle peppers (canned, in abodo sauce. Or use 2 dried whole chipotle chilies, re-hydrated). Use less if you don't like too much spice.
1 tsp sweet(mild) smoked paprika (use regular paprika if you don't find the smoked)
2 tsp ground coriander
2 cans coconut milk
About 2-3 liters good (chicken or veggie) stock or water (depending on how big the squash is you used.)
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Place halved squash on baking sheet cut-side down
- Roast for about 45 min or until the squash is soft. For hard-shelled squash you need to test the fleshy side to see if it is soft. Once it is done, cool it, scoop out the flesh and set aside
- In a soup pot, saute onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat, until fragrant
- Add chipotle, coriander and paprika and stir
- Add coconut milk and roasted squash and just enough water to cover. Simmer for a couple of minutes for the flavours to combine.
- Puree and season with sea salt to taste
with lime wedge and cilantro, some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or some feta cheese
This recipe happens to be free from wheat, dairy and eggs, while remaining very moist, just sweet enough and satisfyingly your dark-chocolate craving. The addition of beets keeps it moist and adds a serious nutrition booster.
Topping this with chocolate avocado mousse or whipped coconut cream makes it an extra special healthy treat. This is a great base for a birthday cake.
2 cups spelt flour (or use ½ spelt and ½ kamut). Use sprouted whole grain (spelt) flour if you have access to it.
1/2 cup cold-pressed sunflower or avocado oil. You can sub melted coconut oil if you prefer (makes a denser cake)
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup whole sugar such as sucunat or coconut sugar (coconut sugar effects your blood sugar 1/3 as much as regular sugar! It's a great sub 1:1 for sugar in most recipes)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk alternative (I like almond milk or cashew milk)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups raw shredded beets – peeled first and packed to measure
2/3 cup good (dairy-free) dark chocolate chips (optional. Add 2/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts if you prefer)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Oil a 9 X 11 inch cake pan (or a 10” round pan).
- In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.
- In medium bowl whisk together sugar, oil, milk and vanilla.
- Add wet into dry and stir to combine.
- Add beets and chocolate chips stir to mix.
- Spread batter evenly in pan.
- Bake until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
*These can also be made into muffins/cupcakes! Simply spoon them into the cupcake papers in muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops crack a bit!
Roasted Balsamic Beets with Nasturtium Greens
6 medium beets (red, Chioggia or yellow)
1 handful of nasturtium leaves (or substitute arugula), whole or slightly torn
A few leaves of basil, Thai basil or mint, or a combination
¼ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350F
Clean beets, cut off greens and reserve for another use (use as any other cooking green.)
In a roasting pan or pyrex dish, pour about ½ inch of water and add beets. Add half of the balsamic vinegar to the dish and cover with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until you can poke the beet with a knife without it sticking.
Cool beets enough to handle and using a kitchen towel (that you don’t mind staining!), slip the skins off of the beets.
Chop the beets into big-ish bite-sized chunks and add to a mixing bowl with other ingredients, adding the rest of the vinegar, olive oil and seasoning with salt to taste.
This makes a nice warm or cold side salad. Add goat’s cheese for a decadent touch.
Sesame Summer Greens
This inspired by one of my Japanese cuisine favourites- Gomae. I change it up a bit and am pretty loose with which greens I use and how they are seasoned. I also enjoy this both warm and chilled. It’s a wonderful way to get a ton of greens on your plate and in your body! Adding lemon juice or vinegar greatly enhances the ability for us to absorb the calcium. Lemon juice enhances absorption of iron from the greens as well, as it is a source of vitamin C.
1 lb (450g) of fresh cooking greens. Include kale, chard, nasturtium greens , arugula, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy or spinach, or a combination. A spring variation can be enjoyed with stinging nettles and radish tops. Wash well shake dry.
2 Tbsp sesame oil (toasted)
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated. Substitute for 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped if you have them.
2 Tbsp tahini or any nut or seed butter
Juice of ½ a lemon, or about 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
Tamari, soy sauce or sea salt to taste
Sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds
In a wide-bottomed pan or pot with a lid, over medium heat, add sesame oil, being careful not to over-heat oil (it should never smoke!). Add garlic and greens, stirring before putting the lid on top to steam the greens.
Steam for about 2 minutes, or until you peek in and see the greens wilting down.
Add tahini, lemon or vinegar and your choice of tamari, soy sauce or sea salt to taste.
Take off of heat and plate the greens- sprinkling with sesame seeds to garnish.
These greens taste good both hot and cold.
My garden is in a pretty paved-over area in East Vancouver, there are not a ton of green spaces around. When I got started, I had the purely utilitarian sense that I would plant veggies and herbs that would save me money and be more nutritious than those in the store. I planted radishes, zucchini, kale, herbs, peas etc. My first year or two were not very productive. I had missed one major thing... attracting pollinators!
Of course I needed to invite the bees and other pollinators to my yard! I started planting nasturtiums and other flowers to attract bees, but have realized that nasturtiums are edible and delicious too! I now recall that as a kid, I would bite off the end of the pointy end of the flower and suck out the tiny amount of sweet nectar from inside. And sometimes I'd collect the flowers and put the petals on spaghetti bolognese (I don't know why I chose to decorate spaghetti, but I guess my aesthetic sense as a cook was developing!) The flowers are a little peppery and perhaps elevated that spaghetti in more than just a visual way. But I had to resist eating all the flowers if I wanted to invite the bees to my garden party.
The leaves of the plant are abundant in relation to the yellow and orange flowers the plant produces and out of curiosity, I tasted one. Peppery! Tasty- just like arugula (which I adore.)
So I have taken to harvesting the leaves instead of the flowers. I even found this variegated variety this year- adding interest to the patch.
I have learned a lot from my little backyard food garden; well beyond just how to grow food. Having floral plants that live among the veggies and herbs has added beauty, variety and incidentally, also function to my garden. Stopping to smell (and taste) the flowers has reminded me to slow down and notice the function of beauty of diversity in my community. Diversity of plants, of people and the necessity of art and beauty in everyday life.
And with this- I'll suggest a few directions to take with your nasturtium greens in the kitchen. If you don't have them, substitute arugula leaves or mustard greens.
Nasturtium Greens Pesto
Roasted Balsamic Beets with Nasturtium Greens
Sesame Summer Greens
Nasturtium Greens Pesto
Enjoying a diversity of greens is what my summer garden is all about! When I learned that nasturtium greens are edible and full of peppery goodness
(just like arugula greens!), I got all excited and started adding them to pesto, salads and cooked greens.
Enjoy this pesto as you would any other fresh summer herb sauce: on omelettes, on fish, as a sauce on pasta or gnocchi, add to mayonnaise for a nice sandwich or wrap spread.
Collect a couple of good handfuls of leaves (or substitute arugula) Wash and pat or spin dry.
Add some basil leaves if you like
1 clove garlic, or 1 garlic scape (the curly sprout of the garlic that comes up about June)
lemon juice, to taste (or if you have it- sorrel is a lemony-sour herb)
optional- hemp hearts (a couple tablespoons adds a creamier texture)
Salt to taste
To make pesto:
Add all ingredients except for olive oil to a blender or food processor (or an old-school mortar and pestle) and blend to combine, adding enough olive oil to blend smooth.
Adjust lemon and salt to taste and pour into a clean jar.
Pesto like this one keeps for about a week in the fridge, or freeze well for longer storage.
What is a cleanse? What is a detox?
I am often asked ‘what is the right cleanse ? Do I need to cleanse ? There is a confusing array of cleansing pills and boxed supplements out there. These can be bought in health food and supplements stores. They are readily available, but choosing the wrong one for you may be ineffective or even dangerous! The safest and most effective way to cleanse is actually by eating everyday, cleansing whole foods! There is no one size fits all cleanse!
Let's start with some terminology:
Cleansing: The body’s natural breakdown process. Removal of buildup. The composition of certain foods and drink can be used to aid in the bodies cleansing process.
Detoxification: Removal of toxins from the body or neutralizing or transforming them through abstinence from food, increase in hydration or through the use of specific nutrients, treatments and herbs. A specific type of cleansing.
Why cleanse? Cleansing can reduce symptoms of congestion, let the organs rest, to slow down, help us to lose excess weight, improve flexibility, rejuvenate the body and mind, and can help us to become more organized, inwardly focused, conscious, clear, attuned to nature, energetic and relaxed.
This said, cleansing is a process that is happening all the time in your body. Cleansing especially happens when the organs of digestion are at rest, so by all means, any 'lightening of the load' of digestion (intermittent fasting is gaining popularity), consuming liquids only (like a bone broth cleanse)helps the liver do the work of filtering the blood most effectively. For most of us, following everyday healthy eating habits like not eating before bed, chewing our food very well, choosing fresh, wholesome foods that are in season... all of these practices help support the body's cleansing process to keep everything running well.
Signs and times that you do not need to cleanse are: constant coldness, underweight, serious blood sugar problems and also do not cleanse deeply during building times, like pregnancy or during childhood and adolescence.
All this said, everyone lets their self-care practices slide sometimes as life gets busy. Eating well is a form of self-care that sometimes we need a reminder about. And springtime is a natural time of renewal, so let's review some practices that help us to cleanse!
1) Phase out non-foods like refined sugar, caffeine and non-prescription drugs.
You can do this one step at a time. Start by cutting down one cup of coffee. Substituting naturally energizing green drinks like a spirulina smoothie is a great way to reduce reliance on sugar and caffeine. Click here for green smoothie recipe!
2) Support your cleansing process by taking lemon juice and water or unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and water.
Both of these tonics help to cleanse the liver ( hint: the taste sour stimulates the liver and gallbladder). They also increase digestive fire, maximizing our digestion and therefore absorption of nutrients.
Check out this recipe for tonifying warming and tasty apple cider vinegar tea! Click here for stomach fire tonic recipe!
2a) Drink more pure water!
Water transports toxins. Cleansing without adequately hydrating causes toxins to re-circulate. Water comes in many forms- from sipping on herbal teas to enjoying broth soups and eating refreshing vegetables like cucumber and melon, you are contributing to deep hydration. Remember that drinking water, especially ice water with or just before a meal actually extinguishes your digestive fire!
3) Reduce congesting foods and Include more cleansing foods
Step three is where you can really customize your cleanse. Starting exactly where you are in your diet, choose congesting/ building foods and replace them with cleansing foods. What on earth are congesting foods? The biggest culprits are poor quality fats (deep-fry, cheap 'vegetable' oils, processed foods, packaged baked goods) and refined sugars (as in sugar in all it's names as well as flour. Even the GF refined flours like white rice or cornstarch)
An example of this is to replace potato chips with snacking on sprouted mung beans or raw veggie sticks.
Check out this Liver-Loving Salad recipe that I made especially for a nice and tasty spring cleanse dish.
4) Eat lighter- don’t stuff yourself! Especially at night.
As a general rule, eat until you are 2/3 full. You will benefit from more sustained energy and smoother digestion. Chewing well increases absorption and satiation. Healthy fats like coconut oil and flax oil are great during cleanses. Eating too little fat causes sugar cravings and hunger.
5) Light exercise and reduce stress. Rest and relax
Cleansing happens in the body naturally when we are in a relaxed state. Take time to go inward and listen to your body during your cleanse.
I wish you renewed energy and the sense of freedom that comes from shedding the winter 'coat' (both mentally and physically!)