food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · recipe · slow food · vegetarian

Pesto Primer

Is there anything better than Italian food? I mean think about it, how many other places in the world could you see Roman ruins, the beautiful relics of greats like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, the legendary canals of Venice and the Tuscan hills lined with vineyards and yet when people return from there all they can talk about is the food. How many times have you had this conversation: “How was your Italy trip?” “The food was amazing!” I know I’ve heard it countless times and I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m saying that there is something intrinsically right about how that country puts ingredients together…simply, efficiently, magically. It’s no wonder the Slow Food movement started there, or that pizza was invented there, or any number of spectacular combinations were first tried in that rich and fertile country by the sea. One combination that I can’t get enough of is pesto. I know people get all herbal-ly with nettle pesto or vegetable-y with parsley pesto but I personally like to stick to the basil kind. I add it to salads, sandwiches, pizza and a recent favorite, farinata. I always have to look up proportions though when making it, so I was thoroughly pleased to find this handy infographic by Delicious Living. I hope it makes your life a bit more bella too.

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essential oils · health · Herbs · recipe

Essential Oil Sprays

One of the easiest ways to use essential oils is to make up a spray that can be used on your body or in a room to freshen up and influence the atmosphere. You basically just need a spray bottle, distilled water, and whatever essential oils you want to use. I have a video about it also, or you can just follow along here:InstagramCapture_8b745782-8f02-4a8d-a640-236f39e38e7b[1]I also use a funnel to fill the spray bottles with distilled water, just to be on the safe side, and I always write down what I make in a notebook. And when I say ‘always’ I mean I always intend to write it down, though unfortunately, that doesn’t quite always happen.

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It’s best to use dark-colored glass, generally found in brown or blue (I’d love charcoal colored glass bottles~ why doesn’t anyone make those?) but plastic or aluminum will do. If you use clear glass then be sure to store your goodies in a cool, dark place, they will last longer and smell sweeter for it.

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That brown glass bottle as well as the aluminum one above hold 4 oz or 1/2 cup of distilled water and the blue glass container holds 6 oz or 3/4 cup. For the smaller containers I’ll add 20-40 drops of essential oils, depending on how strong they are. For the larger bottle, 30-50 drops will do it.

As for deciding which essential oils, it really depends entirely on what you want~ something that smells of flowers (Ylang Ylang and Jasmine?) Or forests (Cedarwood and Pine)? Something anxiety relieving (Lavender and Neroli)? Something to help you remember to write down your essential oil recipes (Rosemary)? There are endless possibilities so it really helps to get to the root of why you are making the spray. I generally have an uplifting daytime spray that I use all day long, and a calming nighttime spray I use before bedtime. That aluminum spray bottle if filled with Thieves oil and distilled water to use for antibacterial/antiviral uses which has been used all too often this wet winter season.

Even though I use the daytime spray more often, I have to put it in the smaller bottle because visually the dark blue bottle reminds me of night and the Lavender and Sandalwood that resides in it, while the brown bottle reminds me of my favorite daytime mixture which is Bergamot and Clary Sage. (Bergamot is in Earl Grey tea so I guess that explains the brown connection.) Together they produce an uplifting spray that is antidepressant and smells incredible good, lightly floral with a hint of citrus-y sunniness.

Another combination I like to use for day use  is Rosemary and Orange, which is the combination I use in my diffuser every morning to get my mind jump-started and influence my mood to be a bit sunnier despite the early hour. Rosemary is the classic brain herb especially benefiting memory, while all citrus oils are great mood enhancers and are stimulating thus perfect for morning. They do increase photo-sensitivity so that is something to be aware of when using them. I’ve written before about how cool that actually is because of the whole sun-D-seasonal affected disorder connection, so I won’t repeat myself but it’s worth reflecting on how brilliant nature really is.

Here’s what I made today (and I actually did remember to write these in my notebook already~ thank you Rosemary!)

Day Spray:

4 oz distilled water

20 drops bergamot

20 drops clary sage

And Night Spray:

6 oz distilled water

30 drops lavender

10 drops sandalwood

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I should note that many people put alcohol such as vodka in their sprays in an effort to keep the scent around longer. I do not do this because I find the alcohol scent lingers longer than the essential oils and that is not a smell I personally enjoy, but there are plenty of recipes online if you want to experiment with adding alcohol to your sprays.

Have fun experimenting and here’s a link to aura cacia’s recipe page which has all kinds of inspiration on it should you find yourself in a creative mood. And lastly, don’t forget to label what you make~ all it takes is a bit of paper and tape to keep straight what’s for day and what’s for night. And do shake your mixtures to blend them well. Valerie Worwood who has written many best-selling aromatherapy books including The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy says to rub your palms together with the bottle between your hands for best blending.

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Sorry about that weird picture with my hands looking way too large to be human, but it’s a hard thing to describe so I had my son take this pic of me doing it and this is the best we got. Enjoy your herbal crafting!

food · gf foods · gluten free · gluten free food · gluten free foods · recipe · vegetarian

Sopsky Salat

I’ve written before about living in Prague with my flatmate and how often our chatter turned to foods of our pasts~ dishes we missed, restaurants the other had to try, and (more often than you might ever guess) frozen food favorites. As two pescatarians living in the Czech Republic over 15 years ago, our choices were slim to say the least. We ate a lot of minute rice, bread, cheese, and if we were feeling flush, canned tuna. In fact, the fish served in Czech restaurants was mainly carp served with head, tail, and bones fully intact which wasn’t exactly making our mouths water, so tuna was as fishy as we got there. Every once in a while, over tea or too many glasses of boxed wine, we’d grow mindful and imagine some day far in the future when we’d actually miss food from Prague. It seemed almost laughable at the time, and yet what else brings a place and time back more poignantly than food? Maybe it was the endless grey dotted with blossoming trees this weekend that had me reminiscing about Prague, or maybe it was pulling on my winter coat yet again while the calendar teased of spring, much like the Czech winter seemed to drag on well past its welcome. Whatever it was, I made up a large batch of sopsky salat (pronounced shopsky salat) to bring back the taste of that bittersweet year.

Sopsky salat was on just about every menu in Prague, and it was also often the only vegetarian item available, so I have had my fair share of sopsky salat in my life. It is similar to Greek salad without the olives, but everyone makes it a little different. I decided to make a version with what I had in my fridge instead of trying to copy an authentic recipe and it turned out pretty darn good, but not exactly as I remember. It might have just been missing the cheap box wine accompaniment, or (more likely) my favorite Canadian companion.

Ingredients:

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Sopsky Salat

1 yellow pepper

1 cucumber

1 medium tomato

1/2 red onion

Feta cheese (as much as you want but I used about 3.5oz, or half that package shown)

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T olive oil

salt and pepper as desired

To make, simply chop and mix. Let the salad set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating for best taste.

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This was my son’s and my lunch for a couple of days, with warm (gluten-free) toast on the side. We like to spoon the salad on top of the bread and when the bread is still warm, the feta melts a tad. Delicious. Na zdravi! (Czech for Cheers!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · health · Herbs · recipe · vegan · vegetarian

Herbs and Spices for Digestive Health

I’ve been thinking about Indian food lately…yum…but specifically how is it that a (largely) vegetarian diet could have existed so long in a culture without mass IBS issues? Not that I know about the IBS percentages in India, nor have I ever even been there, but I do think I know at least part of the puzzle~ the herbs and spices that are a part of daily life. The traditional foods are prepared with digestive help built-in~ turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, anise, ginger, and more all have positive digestive influences, and some also help regulate blood sugar. (Another bugger with vegetarian diets that one has to watch closely.) If you want to know specific herbs and their detailed affects, here’s a great list. Not only are the meals prepared with these herbs and spices, but in many parts of India is common to chew a spoonful of fennel seeds after each meal. This not only freshens breath but it helps digest the meal without bloating and gaseous effects. Also, many Indians drink chai multiple times a day, with digestive soothing spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves mixed with their (usually) black tea. This means they are getting good digestive support all day long~ something that I bet no one there even thinks about because it is just naturally a part of everyday life. Not only are these customs part of their food and drink regimes, the tri-herbal formula, Triphala, is largely taken by people there for decades upon decades. Triphala has many actions, but one of the most well-known traditional uses is on the digestive tract~ it regulates the intestines. People reach for this blend when constipated especially, and it has an extremely large following for just daily usage. I’ve heard and read it is the most commonly used herbal blend in the world, but I cannot say for sure if this is true and really I have a hard time believing anyone tracts things like “most popular herbal blend” but maybe… I think it’s safe to say that it’s popular anyway. For those familiar with Ayurveda, the three herbs used in Triphala are specific to the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha, and therefore balance out all three doshas in the body. If you want a very cursory introduction to Ayurvedic doshas, here’s a short bit to read. So it seems all together, Indian cuisine works because it is so fundamentally supported by the traditional herbs and spices used. Personally, I can’t incorporate all these factors into my life, but I have started having chai in the afternoons instead of coffee or plain black tea when I need a lift which is usually around 2:PM. It takes a little more effort than boiling water and grabbing a tea bag (though you can find chai in tea bags) but I must say it has been worth it. Not only is it delicious, I’ve noticed less bloating in the evenings. Hoorah! In fact, I think I’ll put some on the stove right now. Here’s my process:

I bought a chai mix in the loose tea section at our local PCC, near the bulk coffee section. If you do not have that option, there are plenty of recipes online which you can modify to your own specific tastes. Here’s one page I found with several recipes: chai.

First I fill my mug with water and then pour it into a small sauce pan, put the chai into a tea ball, and bring to a slow boil. It is actually better to do this part loosely, with no tea ball, but I find pouring it too difficult without a lip on this pan, so for now I’m sticking to the tea ball for ease of pouring. Also I end up getting two uses out of the chai in the tea ball, putting more water on to boil almost as soon as I finish the first cup.

Chai

Some water evaporates in the boiling so there is enough room to add milk to warm up at the end of the process. I use vanilla coconut milk, but use whatever you wish, or none at all!

Chai with vanilla coconut milk

Be sure to look at the ingredients of chai blends because they can have large amounts of sugar, especially the ones that are in a concentrate form. (If it’s the first or second ingredient, find another brand!) You can add honey or sugar to sweeten if you like, but if you are interested in the most healing blend for your digestive system, stay away from the sugar.

Chai while I type

Enjoy! It’s always nice when something delicious also happens to be nutritious. And who couldn’t use more spice in their life? Well, maybe quite a few people, but as for me…I’ll take it.