Sweets without Sugar

 

cocoa-jayca-flickr

Yum, cookies. Yum, ice cream. Yum, chocolate mousse. Yum, yum . . . sugar! How many times a day do you reach for some sugar? With your coffee or tea first thing in the morning? With your breakfast, as jam on your toast? For a mid-morning snack, as a sweet roll or donut? And at lunch, how often is sugar part of the menu? By mid-afternoon, are you ready for a protein bar with another 9 to 29 grams of sugar? And then for dinner . . . dessert . . . before-bed snack?

Many of us have tried kicking the sugar habit over the years; one person I know goes on a sugar fast every once in a while, and somehow it always creeps back into the diet. Especially during the winter season. Have you noticed how it starts around Halloween, with trick-or-treat candy; continues through the Thanksgiving/ Christmas/ Hanukkah/ holiday season; arises again for Valentine’s Day, and again at Easter in the early spring? Every holiday has come to be associated with sugar sweet treats. Our culture inundates us with sugar for nearly half the year!

Now in Ayurveda the sweet taste is considered one of six essential tastes that are part of a balanced diet. (The other tastes are sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.) Sweet food is nourishing, building of tissue, cooling, energizing, and delicious. Babaji would always given the children one candy, telling the wary moms that ‘sugar helps build their bones.’ Natural sugars include milk and rice, as well as honey, molasses and maple syrup! We don’t often think of milk and rice as being “sweet,” but from our body’s point of view they are! And we need them to stay healthy . . . but only in balance with the rest of our diet.

For many of us, however, the sweet taste can also be addicting and that is where the trouble begins. When we encounter the “high fructose corn syrup” that is part of so much processed food these days, the body reacts by wanting more. Consumption of excess sugar is a contributing factors to many diseases that are rampant in our modern world – diabetes, heart disease, obesity, to name a few.

So here, for your nutritional and gustatory enjoyment, are a few sweet treat recipes, that contain only natural sugars: a kitchari sweetened with squash, carrots and raisins, a fruit crumble with natural fruit sugars, a chocolate dip made with spinach and sweetened with dates, and a protein bar based in almonds, coconut and milk sugar.


 

SWEET KITCHARI

Ingredients:
¾ c. basmati rice
¾ c. split mung beans
1 small delicata squash
1 c. chopped carrots
1 fennel bulb
1/3 c. cashew pieces
1/3 c. flame raisins
2 T. coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp fennel seeds
¾ tsp coriander seeds
1 piece fresh ginger
Handful of flaked coconut (optional)
1 can coconut milk
½-1 bunch fresh basil

Directions:
1. Sauté fennel, coriander seeds and fresh ginger in coconut oil, until seeds start to brown and pop.
2. Add the drained rice and beans, and sauté for a few minutes until rice and beans are fully saturated with ghee and spices, then stir in the cinnamon and cardamom powder.
3. Add the coconut milk plus 1 can of water, and bring to a boil.
4. After ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally, add the carrots, chopped squash, fennel, raisins, cashews and coconut flakes. Bring to a low boil, covered and stir occasionally.
5. Cook until rice, beans and veggies are tender and it has thickened to desired consistency.
6. Stir in freshly chopped basil just before serving.

Serves 4-8 for breakfast or lunch, particularly enjoyable in fall and winter.


 

FRUIT CRUMBLE

Ingredients:
4 cups fruit (apples, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, pears, or mangos)
2 cups apple juice
¼ cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon coriander powder
⅛ – ¼ teaspoon dry ginger powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-4 teaspoons honey (optional) or apple concentrate
Topping: 1 cup fruit juice sweetened granola and 1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions:
Wash fruit. Berries can be used whole; other fruit chop into 1 inch pieces; measure. Pour apple juice into medium-sized saucepan; heat on medium. Put chopped fruit, raisins and cinnamon in juice in saucepan, cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add coriander, ginger, lemon juice, and honey; stir. Spoon into individual serving bowls and top with granola and coconut. Serve hot or cooled. Thanks to the The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar.


 

CHOCOLATE DIP

Ingredients:
2 cups baby spinach
1-½ cups vanilla soy, hemp or almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup dates, pitted
2 T natural non-alkalized cocoa powder
2/3 cup raw almonds
½ teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Serve as a dip for fresh fruit such as strawberries, bananas, apples, orange sections, pears, apricots or pineapple.


 

PROTEIN BAR

Ingredients:
2 cups almonds soaked over night, then dried
1/2 cup flax meal
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup nut butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted on low heat)
2 T maple syrup
Vanilla to taste

Directions:
Process together almonds, flax, coconut into a course meal. Add the rest of ingredients. Press the mixture into a 9” by 13” pan (or 8” by 8” if you want it thicker). Refrigerate to firm the mixture. (Optional: Melt some dark chocolate, smooth over top and chill once again.) Cut into bars and enjoy!

Please remember that even with natural sweets, the guiding principle is moderation. Have enough to satisfy and share the rest with others! And make sure the other five tastes receive their rightful place in your balanced diet. Bon appétit!

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que[at]gmail[dot]com.

Cocoa powder image by Jayca

Soup, Beautiful Soup – Recipes for Fall

soup-joana-mendez-flickr-cc
Ayurveda has always stressed the importance of serving freshly cooked meals, using fresh ingredients, and cooking with a sense that we are feeding the divine within ourselves. To have the means and the skills to feed ourselves is such a blessing! And to be blessed with the abundance of a home garden from which to draw the ingredients, is a double treat. Even if your ingredients come from the local farmer’s market (or a nearby Costco!), do make sure they’re labeled ‘organic’. Better for you, better for the planet, and so much tastier!

The cool, windy qualities of fall may call us back to the kitchen, with visions of a hearty bowl of warming soup to share with our family during the darkening hours of evening. The soups below (when prepared with ghee) will also help bolster our digestive agni to help maintain the ojas, or vital immunity, during the coming days of winter.

Enjoy either of these soups with your favorite grain dish and an assortment of steamed greens! Nourishing and satisfying as you prepare for an evening relaxing with friends!

Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

One of our favorite blended soups, this sweet and creamy dish is vata reducing, pitta balancing and, depending on how much you eat, can be kapha increasing! Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 2 T ghee or olive oil
  • 1-cup leek or onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 4 cups soup stock (or water)
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash (skin removed)
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon (or cube) of vegetarian bouillon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Steam or bake the butternut squash and mash it a bit.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped leeks (and garlic if used), and cook until leeks are translucent.
  3. Add soup stock (or water), squash, grated carrots, bouillon, and turmeric.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots and ginger are tender.
  5. When cool, transfer to a blender; blend briefly to desired consistency. Soup is intended to be thick and creamy, so add water only if necessary.
  6. Return soup to pan and heat to just below boiling. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon to taste.
  7. Serve with a swirl of cream on top, or a sprinkle of parsley. And if you still like to indulge in wheat, some crusty French bread!

Thanksgiving Beans

This festive soup is from Dan Jason’s “The Whole Organic Food Book”. A sublime centerpiece for your Thanksgiving celebration, this dish is especially delicious if the main ingredients are fresh from the garden. Prepared with love, this soup is balancing for all three doshas. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 1-cup beans (lentil, adzuki, pinto, black-eyed peas are suggested)
  • 4 T olive oil or ghee
  • 4 medium onions (or 2 leeks), coarsely chopped
  • 2 T chopped garlic (optional)
  • 4-6 cups plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium sized winter squash, cooked
  • 1 T green, red, or jalapeno chili, finely chopped
  • 2 T orange rind, chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled, cored and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight or at least 4 hours. Heat to boiling in a large pot and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Sauté the onions (or leeks, and garlic if used) in oil in a large skilled until golden. Stir in tomatoes, squash, peppers, orange rind, raisins and spices.
  3. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the drained beans and apples. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with oven-roasted potatoes.

May your appetite be hearty, your pantry full to overflowing, and your heart attuned to sharing the abundance of this life.

– Pratibha

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que[at]gmail[dot]com.

Soup photo by Joana Mendes.

Keeping your cool in the summer heat

GreenJuice-flickrCC-WildTofuSummer is the time of year when pitta dosha predominates both in the body and in the outer world. For vata and kapha predominant folks, this is a great blessing; they’re going to feel warm and cozy at last! But if we have pitta predominant in our nature, any excess of inner heat can become reactive, can settle into the tissues, and wreak havoc with our metabolism. When it accumulates in the summer season, it can then lead to dryness when the autumn winds kick in.

So how do we recognize excess heat or pitta in our system? Here are a few of the signs: fever, inflammation (such as sunburn or painful joints), indigestion (including constipation and diarrhea), skin rashes, sores or ulcers, bad breath & body odor, excessive sweating, and hyperacidity in the GI tract. As you first begin to notice feeling too warm, that is the best time to take action (after peeling off excess layers of clothing, of course).

The weather plays its part in creating excess pitta in the system, to be sure. But other causes can come into play as well – a pitta-provoking diet, for example, or too much sun exposure, and even emotional distress from a challenging relationship.

Food Tips for Keeping your Cool

To antidote pitta, we choose both cooling and reducing methods. First, here are some dietary suggestions to keep our internal heat in check:

• Plenty of cool, fresh water will help flush out excess heat and toxins. Aloe vera – 2 T in your first water of the day – can help keep you cool well into the afternoon.
• Green juice is such a great refresher to soothe the inner fire. Green juice can include any dark leafy greens and herbs, as well as watery summer squash. Blend quickly with water and season with ginger, turmeric, coriander, or any favorite spices. It’s easy to digest, encourages detoxification and provides absorbable vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Many people like to dilute the drink with more water, or you can enjoy it as a quick, short shot!
• Choose sweet, juicy fruits like melons, plums, nectarines & peaches.
• Include bitter, astringents vegetables like summer squash, dark leafy greens (collards, kale) and asparagus in your evening stir-fry.
• Limit hot spicy chilis, garlic, salty and fried foods. Alcohol and caffeine are both sharp and hot; reduce or eliminate them.

Cooling Herbs & Spices

• Digestive spices like cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric are helpful to cool and support the digestive track.
• Neem is one of the most powerful anti-pitta herb in the Ayurvedic pharmacy. It cools a fever, reduces inflammation, and is both anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Neem is used in combination with other herbs that support balanced liver function, such as guduchi and bhumyamalaki.
• Amalaki (one of the 3 ingredients of Triphala) is helpful to cleanse excess pitta from the GI tract. This vitamin-C rich herb helps support regular bowel function as well.

Lifestyle Suggestions

• Take a cool shower, or a dip in the lake, pond or ocean. Or after a warm shower, simply rinse off under a cool spray.
• Slow the pace of life enough to take breaks – meditate, chant, sing or walk along the river for an hour.
• Bring spontaneity into your life. Release yourself from your own expectations; let friends and colleagues off the hook occasionally, too!
• Surround yourself with cooling colors – blue, green, white – in your clothing and environment.
• Plan to exercise in the cool of the morning or evening hours, never in the heat of a summer’s day.
• Try moon-bathing. The moon’s cooling light is a perfect antidote to the heat of the sun.

Staying Cool on the Mat

• Bring softness and compassion to your practice. Include cooling forward bend as well as restorative poses. Spinal twists massage the liver and spleen, where pitta does its work to cleanse and purify. The Moon Salutation series is ideal for keeping pitta in check.
• Shitali (or sitkhari) pranayama is cooling for body, mind and spirit. It can be practiced at any time of the day when cooling winds are desired. Making a pipe with the tongue (or placing the tongue behind the front teeth), inhale slowly through the open mouth; then pause a few seconds before exhaling through both nostrils.
• Lunar Breathing (chandra bhedana) is another simple breathing practice that cools. Blocking the right nostril, inhale through the left; after a full inhalation, exhale through both nostrils (or alternatively, exhale through the right).
• In our meditation practice, bring forth the qualities of patience and compassion, allowing rajasic emotions (like anger and envy) to return to neutral, encouraging sharp judgments to soften, and letting go of any excessive sense of urgency.

And here’s a refreshing treat!


Limeade with Rose Water
¼ cup lime juice
6 cups fresh water
4 T rose water
2 T organic maple syrup (or other sweetener)
Squeeze the lime juice (use fresh, if possible).
Strain the pulp; add maple syrup or sweetener of your choice. Serve with a smile!

And the best antidote of all . . . bring sweetness to your heart, and share it with a smile!

Peace, ~pratibha

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que[at]gmail[dot]com.

Green juice image by Wild Tofu.

Zucchini feta


Wondering what to do with all the zucchinis that have begun to spring forth from your summer garden or the local farmers’ market stalls? This is an easy Mediterranean dish that is sure to please, especially over a steaming bowl of rice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped leeks
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 7 cups diced zucchini
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tamari
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta

Method:

  1. In a frying pan, sauté the leeks in olive oil until soft. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and spices and mix together.
  2. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the zucchinis are soft. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the feta just before serving.
  3. Enjoy!

 

(Recipe from The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit. If you would like to purchase a copy of our popular book, contact us and we’ll be happy to send you one!)

Photo by Adacito

Kitcheree – comfort food, Centre-style

Kitcharee is a favourite dish of guests and Karma Yogis alike. It’s a combination of mung beans, rice and spices that warms and nourishes. It is also easy to prepare and just plain delicious.

Ingredients:
SERVES 8-10

  • 6 Tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 3 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2-1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 cup split mung beans (uncooked)
  • 2 cup basmati rice (uncooked)
  • 8 cups water
  • 5 Tbsp ginger juice

Method:

  1. Heat the ghee in a soup pot. When it’s hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the other spices (except ginger) and the leeks.
  2. Stir the spices for a minute or two. Watch that they don’t burn.
  3. Add the rice and mung beans. Stir to coat them with the spices. Then add the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to simmer until the rice and mung beans are cooked (about half an hour).
  4. Add the ginger juice.

Variations:

  • You can add more water if you prefer your kitcheree soupier, and more ghee if you want it richer.
  • You can add vegetables like potatoes or squash to the pot for a heartier version.
  • You can add chopped fresh kale or chard near the end of the cooking time for some extra green goodness.
  • How do you like your kitcheree? Do you have a different version of this recipe? Do share in the comments!

Recipe reproduced from The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit.
If you would like to purchase a copy of our popular book, contact us and we’d be happy to send you one.

Photo by www.grantharder.com

Sid’s Tofu Scramble

A spicy alternative to eggs, great with buttered rye or sourdough rye toast or rolled in a tortilla. Sid, our local jalapeno aficionado, swears this recipe came down from the ancient Aztecs, revealed to him in a vision.

INGREDIENTS:
SERVES 6-8
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
1 cup (240 mL) chopped leeks or onions
2 cups (480 mL) chopped green peppers
6 cups (1.54 L) crumbled or cubed tofu
2 cups (480 mL) chopped tomatoes
5 Tbsp (75 mL) tamari
4 Tbsp (60 mL) balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 mL) turmeric
1 Tbsp (15 mL) turbinado sugar
2 finely minced pickled jalapeno peppers (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup (60 mL) pitted and chopped Greek olives (optional)

METHOD:
In a wok or large frying pan, saute the leeks and green peppers in olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring regularly until the tomatoes are cooked in.
ENJOY!

(Recipe reproduced from The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit. If you would like to purchase a copy of our popular book, email us and we’d be happy to send you one.)

Photo by: rusvaplauke