FOOD | HEALTH | SPIRITUALITY

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Sweet Relief for the Blues 

Photos by Ingrid Beckman

 

I’ve come out of hiding today to share a blueberry cobbler recipe that is simply too delicious to keep to myself! In keeping with my 2020 theme of healthy comfort food, this is scrumptious enough to chase your blues away. I’ve found cooking delicious food to be a respite from the anxieties of these perilous and sometimes lonely times. On the other hand, if you’re feeling hopeful, as I am, then a dessert that’s made with fresh berries and unrefined sugar can offer guilt-free pleasure that reminds us of life’s inherent sweetness.

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Notice to Readers: Taking a Hiatus

Photo by Roger Winstead

 

Dear readers:

Have you ever felt so off kilter that you had to put your foot on the brake to stop the world from spinning so fast? I’m in the middle of just this kind of experience, making a conscious effort to SLOW down and unwind from my habitual hectic pace.

As I begin my period of unwinding, I want to check in with loyal fans and new readers to explain why I won’t be generating new content for Sacred & Delicious for the next… let’s say several months. I feel that I need to take a hiatus.

My mother died recently, and the years leading up to her death were challenging for me, as well as for her. Mom had profound dementia along with numerous other health conditions that demanded medical attention and required my support for more than a decade.

Of course, my situation is commonplace. Millions of others around the globe help loved ones as they age.

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Healthy Comfort Food

Comfort food was definitely going to be on our table one night last week, when I was in a bit of a funk. These easy Gluten-Free Vegan Pancakes were calling my name!

Truth be told, I was in a funk after meeting my 93-year-old mother at the emergency room because she had gashed a leg during a fall. I dreaded being in a hospital ER during the Covid-19 outbreak here in North Carolina, but no way was I going to let her be in that situation alone. So, I went, wearing a mask and repeating my mantra. Ten days later, her leg is mending well and, happily, I’m still symptom free. I count both of us as among the lucky ones that day.

These are certainly perilous time we are living in. No one is immune from the cascading impact of Covid-19, and this is a time for us to be kind to ourselves. I am not suggesting that we stuff our feelings with comfort food. Not at all. I am, however, acknowledging that, besides providing sustenance, food brings us comfort. And, I’m using this recipe today to demonstrate at least one way to succumb to your comfort food cravings deliciously—without undermining your precious health.

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Don’t panic. Be smart. Stay vigilant. 

Dear Ones,

If you’re walking around with a pervasive feeling of concern or fear about COVID-19, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review the tips I’m sharing today for protecting your health and the health of your loved ones. I haven’t seen many of these recommendations promoted by the media, government officials, and the dozens of blogs now streaming into my inbox.

Please understand, I am not hitting the panic button. Although there is legitimate cause for concern about the coronavirus, there are many ways to boost your immune system—including the way you manage your food and your use of effective botanical medicines.

Do follow all the CDC guidelines and stay current with their updates. Following these disciplines is the smart thing to do, and the simple act of doing so will help you stay centered. You can’t be too vigilant about washing hands thoroughly and often. Be intelligent about social distancing. Beyond this, we all need to eat, and since that’s my passion, let me add my two cents about how to stay safe when it comes to food.

Food Tips for the Pandemic …

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A Chocolate Lover’s Confession

Dear Readers,

I have a confession. I’d never read about the horrible working conditions of cacao farmers who provide cacao beans as a commodity crop to the largest industrial chocolate manufacturers. Until today.

This essay is not meant to be a downer just before Valentine’s Day, when so many of us revel in all things chocolate! I am, however, sharing my personal wake-up call, and I was inspired to save you some time searching for the best chocolates that are guilt-free.

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A Sweet & Savory Vegetarian (or Vegan) Valentine’s Day

As you plan an alluring vegetarian or vegan meal for Valentine’s Day, I invite you to sample this unique Savory Sweet Potato Soup with Mushrooms & Chocolate Swirl!  I owe its inspiration to one of my very favorite and utterly charming movies: Chocolat.

In the movie, the main character, Vianne (Juliette Binoche) opens a chocolate shop that is considered too great a temptation in a conservative French village. If you watch the movie, you’ll see amazing delicacies that will have you lusting after chocolate! One of the movie’s more memorable and talked-about scenes features a chocolate-themed luncheon that Vianne hosts for a friend’s birthday in which chocolate sauces accompany every dish. Her menu features a large turkey and a pork roast, though I’ve often wondered what that meal might look like for a vegetarian feast. Today’s sweet and savory soup is my attempt at the first course!

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Chocolate Indulgence for Valentine’s Day

Today’s joyful offering is a recipe for vegan and gluten-free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies. With this dish, I offer my salutations to the Goddess of Chocolate and my gratitude to the chocolatiers of yore who infused an ancient pagan holiday with the chocolate tradition!

Who doesn’t love an excuse to revel in Mother Nature’s finest flavor? Whether you prefer extra dark, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate, February 14th gives you full permission to indulge your chocolate fix—yes even on the Ayurvedic path. Made with almond and oat flours, and sweetened with unrefined coconut sugar and dark chocolate chips, these cookies fit my guilt-free version of desserts…when eaten in moderation, of course!

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10 Ways to Celebrate the Healing Power of Spices

Looking for a soup to warm you, body and soul? Then look no further than this Curried Cauliflower Soup, which serves as a great introduction to the healing power of spices.

After a week of frigid weather in North Carolina, we’re definitely craving hot soup for dinner. Although the cherry trees in our neighborhood were already starting to bloom, as they were apparently confused by a few weeks of 65 to 70 degrees!

To many readers, nothing says “hot” quite like “curry,” but if you don’t enjoy heavily spiced foods—because, like me, you avoid cayenne pepper—you may be pleasantly surprised how much you’ll love this cauliflower soup. Why? Because this recipe has built-in flexibility from delicately flavored to spicy hot. Although “curry” usually signals fiery hot, when I cook, I leave the cayenne out altogetherbut you can certainly add as much as you enjoy. A curry is simply any Indian-spiced dish with a mélange of spices that are cooked in water and fat to create a gravy, or in this case, a soup.

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QUICK VEGAN MEALS: Introducing Mung Pasta

Whenever you need to make a quick vegan meal, pasta with vegetables is a good choice—and even better if you use a pasta that’s high in protein content. Today’s new recipe, Gluten-Free Pasta with Broccoli and Vegan Cream Sauce, features mung pasta so I can introduce readers to this healthy gluten-free option. Of course, if you don’t have mung pasta on hand, you can also use red lentil, chickpea, or your pasta of choice.

I know that mung pasta does not make for the prettiest photo, but as my readers know by now, Ayurveda is all about ease of digestion, and pasta made from mung bean flour fits the Ayurvedic way.

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Five Holiday Self-Care Tips for People with Special Dietary Needs

As someone who is gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian, have you ever been invited to a festive occasion where the table was laden with food—yet you went home hungry because there was nothing you could eat?

I have!

With this in mind, I am now giving you permission to speak up about your special dietary needs—something that can be especially challenging to do during the holidays.

This is the opposite of the “good manners” I learned from my mother, who bade me always to eat whatever was put before me. Despite my traditional upbringing, I’ve come to understand that those of us who have made dietary choices for reasons of health or ethics should not have to wait for our host to intuit or inquire about our needs. We received an invitation to dinner because our good company was being sought and, since we are clearly loved, we should feel free to speak up!

Here are some practical tips to help you avoid suffering and sustain vibrant health during the holidays, while you enjoy yourself … deliciously:

1. Start by making a commitment to yourself. Be fastidious about avoiding foods that make you sick. If you’re gluten intolerant, dairy intolerant, allergic to nuts, or fill-in-the-blank intolerant, quietly eating what’s before you is not worth the price you’ll pay. Case in point: I was 100 percent gluten-free for three years when, dining out with some friends, I decided to eat eggplant parmesan served over spaghetti. The eggplant had been dredged in wheat flour, and I also ate a few bites of the pasta. Guess what? I had indigestion and a recurrence of joint pain for the next six weeks. That’s six weeks! My advice: if you want to splurge, make sure it’s something that won’t do you in—like, maybe, a gluten-free dessert!

2. Bring up your special dietary needs to your host. Few people outside the special needs group are aware of the short- and long-term consequences of eating foods that trigger an inflammatory response. You don’t need to feel embarrassed or hide your requirements that protect your health. It’s really OK when you respond to an invitation to let your host know you will get sick if you eat certain foods. I’ve had to do this time and again, going to out-of-town weddings, bar mitzvahs, and every kind of potluck, or I would have needed to leave the event to get food. My hosts have always responded graciously.

3. Be a generous potluck participant. When you RSVP and ask for special consideration, also offer to take a couple of delectable dishes for everyone to enjoy. That way, you’ll ensure you don’t go away hungry. You’ll also showcase some of your favorite foods, which could expand others’ food horizons. They may even become more supportive of your needs at the next event. This has been my happy experience.

4. Host the holiday dinner yourself—if not this year, then next. In this way you can state your intention about the food parameters and model polite inclusion: “We’d love to have you join us for a joyful holiday potluck, and we’d be so grateful if you would avoid cooking with the following foods. Please let us know if you have additional dietary needs.” Cook an entrée and a couple of sides that showcase some of your favorite holiday dishes. Let the meal send the message that food can easily be delicious and healthy!

5. If you can bear it, be flexible! Some years my husband and I host a Thanksgiving meal with a long-standing dinner group. While my husband and I don’t eat turkey, I’m not offended that my friends bring a cooked bird to the house. I make some tofu for Tom and me and my now-famous holiday sides. I was an omnivore for much of my life, and I’m not trying to impose my current food choices on anyone. Over time, however, it’s clear that I’ve influenced my close friends, who now think about us when cooking! They’re also eating more vegetarian and vegan meals themselves. It goes to show that being tolerant and accepting is much more influential than condemning others’ choices.

Wishing you vibrant health and delicious memories this holiday season!

 

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