Simple Restorative Eats

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For the last week I have been doing a fairly intensive cleanse, new year, new start. Right?  Cleansing is a very personal thing, some people like it and do it – some people don’t.  A girlfriend at work and myself have been successfully cleansing and fasting for a number of days now… by that I mean it feels like ten. Ridding our bodies of the old and helping to boost rejuvenation.   The cleansing battle has been a bit up and down for me, considering I have a slight food obsession and this particular program includes a five days of no solids. How does a food blogger… quit food? Quit juicing.  Quit…. it all.  It’s been an adventure, lets say that.  

Before beginning the cleanse I spent a lot of time brainstorming how to properly use up the remaining items in my fridge and how to break the fast in a way that would be satiating as well as gentle. The recommended options stated in the cleanse are an apple for breakfast, a salad for lunch and if that goes well – another salad at dinner.    Well that’s all good, fine, quite tolerable.  However, for someone like me who eats an abundance of fermented foods, I have noticed a dramatic change in my inner self with not having any added happy friendly bacteria.

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So I have decided to rebel.  I am not going to break the fast with salads, an apple – sure, a green juice instead of a salad and a niiiccee warm bowl of miso soup.  I don’t love soy, honestly I don’t even like soy. I generally try to avoid it, with the occasional exception of some tempeh and a tub of miso paste that calls the top shelf of my refrigerator home.  There are so many debates about soy, so many.  For a very informative and objective look at some of the debates head on over to the Holy Kale, take a read. Decide for yourself if you want to use it and include it.   Like I said, I have a whole shwack load of friendly ferments in my daily life – so miso works for me on occasion.   Occasions… such as this, where I would really like to gently reintroduce semi solids and send my digestive system back into orbit with some fermenty friends.  The thing to remember when making miso, is that in order to get the full benefit of those bacteria it needs to be warm not hot. Scalding those little loves will do no good, so be careful when mixing it up!

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Can’t have miso soup… without just a few little steamed gyoza. Right? So easy once you get the hang of it, knowing that after a bowl of miso I would be dying for at least a couple… I made a batch of 20 and froze them. I have a previous post about making gyoza so I won’t delve deeply into my love for little steamed pockets. Maybe the fact that I am doing a second dumpling ish post says enough! These ones are just mushroom, no tempeh or kale. 

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I chose to steam the gyoza, limit the frying and why bother with the baking.  Simple is best, plus I love cooking with water and steam.  This cleanse taught me an incredible amount of just how gentle the system is, while being so strong and resilient at the same time. It’s amazing! Truly a wonder.  My own body has gone on a round about ride up and down between feeling good and feeling like crap, I will be happy to have some real food again. That’s for sure.  Steam, because it’s simple and it’s healthy. No added oils or splatter burns.  Just some quick cooking love.

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Although I have a burning love for shiitakes on a regular day, I chose to use only these little delights for my come back soup.  Shiitakes support healthy stomach function, are incredibly restorative and are great immune regulators.  Medicinal mushrooms, gotta love ’em! They also look beautiful and ever so traditional in a simple miso broth.  Floating perfectly in place of small pressed tofu cubes!

Shiitake Miso
(makes two bowls)

2.5 Cups of Water
1 Handful of Shiitake Mushrooms
2 Green Onions
1 Tsp Tamari
1.5-2 Tbsp Shiro Miso Paste
Sea Veg & Pea Shoots 

In a medium sized pot, boil the water and the mushrooms. Cook at medium heat for about 5-8 minutes with the lid on. Slice and add the green onion continuing to cook for a minute or so before turning the burner off and adding the tamari. Remove the pot from the stove completely, then scoop out about 2/3 of the mushroom water (liquid only) leaving the lid off and allowing it to cool down slightly, putting it in a soup bowl. Stir the miso paste in the 2/3 of mushroom water until it’s fully dissolved. Once the pot is no longer steaming visibly, add the miso water into the pot and give it a good stir.  Top with nori or other sea veg and some fresh pea shoots.

Mushroom Gyoza 
(makes about twenty)

1/3 Cup Water
2 Cups of Oyster Mushrooms
1 Cup of Shiitake Mushrooms
0.5-2 Tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
1 Green Onion
1 Tbsp Tamari
Splash of Rice Vinegar
Salt & Pepper 
Wonton Wraps

In a large pan or wok, cook the mushrooms in the water until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid has disappeared. Allow the mixture to cool, and then blend in a food processor until it forms a paste like texture. Add the ginger – to taste, sliced green onion, tamari, rice vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend it again to make sure it’s fully mixed. Scoop out half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of filling into the middle of a wrapper, wet the edges and fold! Easy peasy, I promise, once you do a couple you’ll fly through it.  For a more detailed explanation of wrappers and folding check out my previous gyoza post.

Dipping Sauce

2 Parts Rice Vinegar
1 Part Sesame Oil
As many heaps of chili flakes as desired

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Talk About a Chlorophyll Hit!

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Last week I was in Vegas for the 70.3 Ironman World Championship! Oh.. no no…. I wasn’t racing, but my really super special somebody was!!  We had a very relaxing trip, in addition to the race we did lots of reading, sunning, and a went on a stunner of a kayak ride from the Hoover Dam along the Colorado river! We paddled back and forth from Nevada to Arizona, stopping at hot pools and bath-water warm waterfalls; The twenty-some kilometer glide was a real adventure, winding through ancient lava and stone formations – not a bad way to introduce me to the United States (seeing as this was my first trip to this neighboring country).

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the company, and the race itself… although, I did spend over half of it in traffic trying to actually get to where I was able to spectate.  One thing that I did not enjoy, was the realization that I do not function as optimally as I would like – while outside of my comfort zone. Outside of my home, my space, my sanctuary. Not that anyone who doesn’t know me would be able to tell, but those close sure could.  My system was all out of sorts, my regular inner schedule was completely off. I felt like I was in a time warp, the days were so much longer than they are at home, and I was eating things that I otherwise very rarely would have.  I suppose maybe this wasn’t a new realization, more of a reminder.  As spontaneous and carefree as I would like to imagine I can be – I am just one of those people who likes to have a schedule. It doesn’t at all need to be a schedule that is always the same, but a simple guideline that keeps me on track both mentally and physically.  Perhaps, next time I travel I should remember to take time in the morning to ritualistically map out some space for just me.  Some space in which I can regroup, reflect and rejuvenate all at once.

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Now that I have been back for a few days and have had a chance to regroup, my body very clearly screamed at me to replenish. My typical nutrient dense food intake needed a giant kick-start, a big whack of pure awesomeness delivered as quickly as possible.  I’ve been loading up on fresh pressed juices, cleansing with lemon, raw honey and spices, and tonight for dinner I made a supercharged cold soup.  I thought about making a green smoothie, but a green sort of gazpacho won out. Something in a bowl, not a glass. Something that required a spoon. Nothing sweet, only herbs and greens with a touch of citrus.

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 Kick Butt Chlorophyll Gazpacho

1 Medium Zucchini
1 Medium Avocado
1 Large Lemon
1 Bunch of Lacinato Kale
1 Cup Baby Spinach
1 Cup Baby Red Chard
1 Bunch Cilantro
1 Purple Bell Pepper
1 Clove of Garlic
1 Cup of Water
Splash of Chia or Flax Oil
Fresh Black Pepper & Chunky Himalayan Salt

Wash up all the greens, the lemon, zucchini and the pepper. Zest and juice the lemon, chop the pepper, zucchini and avocado. Put everything into a blender, reserving a bit of both the zest and the avocado for garnish. Add the water, then whirl away until it’s smooth and beautiful. Drizzle with oil, dust with fresh ground black pepper and the chunky pink salt, top with remaining avocado and lemon zest – enjoy!

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Immuni-tea Thai Soup

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I recently fell in love with the idea of using herbal tea blends as the base for a broth.  It never occurred to me before, thanks to my growing supply of various Harmonic Arts teas, roots and mushrooms…. I am now well versed in making tea broth!  Feeling a little bit under the weather? Why not boost the old chicken noodle with some echinacea! Ginger! Or how about….  you typically have digestive issues, why not use a tea with fennel! Ginger, or marshmallow!  It’s genius, really.  Perusing the Harmoinc Arts website looking for new and exciting elixirs and dried superfoods, I found myself stationed on the Willard family recipe page.  I kid you not.. the Immune Protective Vitality Soup stopped me in my tracks.

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I adapted their recipe and added a bit of an Asian flare… as I tend to do when cooking for myself.  Thai style soups are a staple for me, and seeing as I had made it home with a massive bag of organic Thai basil from the farmers market the other day…  it had to be a soup that I would have for supper.  Instead of rice noodles, I busted out the trusty spiralizer and made some perfect zucchini noodles! So delicious, crisp and fresh. Why not, right? I have been taking full advantage of the summer season and all the local produce.  Finishing this beautiful steaming bowl is what’s known as Japanese Seven Spice… or Shichimi Togarashi. A mix of citrus, sesame, poppy seeds, chili, paprika, Szechuan peppercorns, nori and garlic. If you don’t have access to this phenomenal blend, simple black or white sesame with cayenne would suffice.

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Immuni-tea Thai Soup

4 Cups of Water
5 Tbsp Harmonic Arts Immune Boosting Tea
2 Cups of Oyster Mushrooms
4 or 5 Cloves of Garlic
Knob of Ginger
1 Birds Eye Chili
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Juice of 1 Lime
Handful of Thai Basil
1 Zucchini – made into noodles
1 Broccoli Floret – chopped
Pinch of Himalayan Salt
Shichimi Togarashi – to taste

Get the water boiling on the stove then add in the Immune Boost tea, letting it simmer for about 15 minutes. Slice the garlic and birds eye chili, peel the garlic and add all three ingredients to the simmering pot. Allow the flavors to meld together for another 5 minutes or so.  Add in the oyster mushrooms and cover the pot, you don’t want to lose any of the broth while the mushrooms soak up the flavors. After about 10 minutes, add in the broccoli, lime juice and coconut oil – removing from the heat and replacing the lid. This will steam the broccoli without cooking it to mush. Using a spiralizer (or a grater, or even just a knife) whirl the zucchini into thin noodle strips. Taste the soup, season with salt if desired then add in the zucchini noodles. Let it sit for a moment before serving to lightly warm the zucchini noodles. Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi and fresh Thai basil.

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What my body needs.. and some energy boosting gazpacho

What a crazy busy month May was!  Holy man!  Whirlwind of giving notice in my apartment… finding a new place to call home…  moving.. out and then .. in….. and many buckets of rain (hooray I love the rain!!).  Now – a long deep breath filled with pure joy.

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One of the meals I had come to rely on in my crazy busy May, was a very delicious gazpacho.  So simple, so quick, and totally amazing.  I never really appreciated cold soups before, warm soups are such a comfort…  curling up with a hot steaming bowl is one of my secret pleasures. Cold soup?  You can’t curl up with cold soup.  Well, that was perfect – seeing as I had very little time to curl up.

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Since making the choice to cut my consumption of eggs and diary, as well as to incorporate as many (primarily) raw meals into my day.. I feel like a completely new person. I have way more energy during the day yet fall asleep much easier at night, my belly is a much happier camper.. if bellies could be campers.. and although I had a fairly high stress month, I felt generally pretty awesome!  Fueling my body with freshness greatly reduced the internal stress on my digestive system.  I honestly think that helped a lot with the overall stress I was under, eliminating digestive stress seemed to allow me to cope better with my external stress…. or maybe the extra boost of raw vitamins and minerals impacted my mood/outlook/attitude to such an extent that I felt mentally and emotionally lighter.  I am going to go ahead and vote both.  I realize that some people find raw food difficult to digest, and a lot of people have told me to “cut the crap” – rejoin the land of eggs and cheese. Cutting meat is a big step, let alone all animal products. I’ve done very well for someone who loves oozy melty yummy cheese.. and can happily pack away egg after egg.  In recent days I have been craving eggs for breakfast, and have given in to those cravings.   I am finding more and more each day that my body tells me everything it needs, the challenge is listening to it and understanding the messages.  Fitting into a category seems to be an importance for so many people these days (or maybe it’s trying to not fit into a specific category.. thus placing ourselves in a different one?). When the only real slot you fit into is the one that you innately are.  Our natural ebb and flow cannot be a category..  whether it’s “cool” to be a veggie, a vegan, a raw foodist, a carnivore…  or anything in between, fueling with what makes you feel optimal is key.

This soup…. makes me feel top notch. For sure! The addition of seeds, extra veggies, different oils and spices gives it extra vitamins, minerals and protein. I made quite a large batch because I love the flavor the garlic imparts the next day… keep that in mind when adding garlic, I am a big big BIG fan…   Not so crazy about garlic? Especially the kick it gives raw? Maybe add a little less.

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 Energy Boosting Gazpacho

5 Heirloom Tomatoes
1 Whole Cucumber
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Lemon – Juiced & Zested
Mineral, Spring, or Filtered Water
Fresh Ground Pepper – to taste

Optional Toppings

Hemp Hearts
Chili Flakes
Roasted Artichokes
Cilantro
Pumpkin Seeds
Flax Oil

Wash and chop the tomatoes and cucumbers, peel the garlic, and prep the lemon. Toss it all into a blender, starting with about 1.5 cups of water. Water content in the tomatoes and cucumber will increase once blended, so be careful – you could end up with a bounty of soup if you use too much water off the start.  Once it’s blended, transfer to a serving bowl and add fresh pepper, along with whatever toppings you can imagine!

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