You know those days when everything comes together in a cohesive, integrated way and you begin to trust that there are no coincidences in life, simply events that align, once we open up to the possibility of alignment?
Summer has been rushing by… until we arrived in the middle of Ontario, to the area close to where my husband spent his youth, what we call in Canada “Cottage Country.”
Here, life has finally seemed to slow down just a little bit.
We love popsicles around here in the summer.
What’s not to love?
But better than store bought popsicles, are the ones you can make at home.
Home made popsicles are delicious, bursting with freshness and best of all, they do not contain any nasty preservatives, toxic color or excess sugar that are replete in conventional store bought brands.
And while we are lucky that there are so many good organic, natural popsicle companies now out there, I love coming up with new and simple recipes that are easy ways to get summer fruit, bursting with vitamins, enzymes and goodness into my six year old.
Here are two of our favorite summer popsicles. They are easy to make than you think and so much better than buying store bought ones. Plus, they are full of seasonal, nutritious benefits that make sense from both an Ayurvedic as well as a western holistic nutrition point of view.
A few tips for success:
- Use really fresh and ripe, organic fruit. In fact, even fruit verging on the cusp of being over-ripe is good. It will be at the peak of its sweetness and you probably won’t have to add any additional sweetener. Also, organic fruit always tastes better – and it’s better for the environment – all lessons I want my son to take in at this prime, imprinting stage in his life.
- Use only a few ingredients, so you can let them shine. Plus this helps with digestibility. The simpler something is, says Ayurveda, the easier it is to digest.
- If you must use sweeteners, our favorite is maple syrup. Sugar won’t blend so well into a cold fruit mix.
- Don’t be afraid to use unusual flavors, even for kids. Tantalizing evolving tastebuds is a good thing. Plus complementary flavors, e.g. the rosewater in the watermelon popsicles below is a great example – helps to alleviate the need for sweetener and can even enhance the existing fruit’s flavor.
- Have fun, get creative. And savor these as a treat on a hot summer day. 🙂
Watermelon Rose Popsicles (RECIPE below)
These are a delicious blend of – oh so sweet you don’t need to add any sugar – watermelon and rose water, which adds a beautiful, mysterious and fragrant flavor with health benefits galore.
“Watermelon is a good source of vitamin C and A,” says Paula Blanchet, Holistic Nutritionist at Interplay Nutrition. “It’s high in potassium and magnesium, two minerals that often get depleted with the heat and activity of summertime. Somehow the foods that are in season are often the ones that provide us what we need most for the weather. Mother nature likes to take care of us that way.”
Ayurveda, ancient India’s healing system of wellness, concurs. Watermelon in Ayurvedic terms is summer’s quintessential fruit as it contains 90% water. It is cooling and hydrating and is a rich source of the amino acid citrulline which helps dilate our blood vessels. Dilated blood vessels increase blood flow to any injured tissues and hasten our healing process, and also cool us down when we are overheated. Watermelon’s fibre is also useful, helping to soothe the digestive tract.
Rosewater, the second ingredient, is cooling on the body, yet it also enhances our digestive fire, and balancing our digestion is always the first step to health in Ayurveda, which is why I’ve added it here. Traditionally rosewater is also linked to soothing the heart and balancing the hormones, all good things when it gets hot outside.
2 cups organic watermelon: seeded and diced
1 – 2 tbsp rosewater
Blend until liquid. Taste for sweetness. If absolutely needed, add 1 – 2 tsp raw honey and re-blend.
Pour into popsicle molds. Wait until ready.
ps. To make these really pretty you can even toss a few edible rose petals into the popsicle molds before pouring in the liquid. 🙂
Strawberry Coconut Popsicles (RECIPE below)
This recipe combines the sweetness of strawberries with the hydrating, cool nature of coconut water. And they are delicious to taste.
Says Paula, “Strawberries are the perfect summer treat. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, great for immune support through all the summer activities., and can also be helpful for kids that suffer from allergies as vitamin C helps to manage histamine production.”
Ayurvedically, strawberries can soothe an inflamed belly, cool the blood and help to restore the liver, all good things when we are over heated; which brings me to the next wonder ingredient: coconut water.
Brimming full of salts and minerals, sweet and cooling coconut water with its creamy taste, replenishes the body inside out, literally quenching our cellular thirst. It is also a restorative tonic for an inflamed gut and liver and we love that it transports us instantly to our time on many tropical shores.
“Yes,” agrees Paula, who adds, “Coconut water is like nature nature’s sports drink. It has an excellent balance of electrolytes including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and carbohydrates as well as iron and vitamins C and B6.”
So here’s that recipe. Simple and full of goodness. And be forewarned, it may take you on a tropical staycation (at least for the afternoon).
2 cups ripe, organic strawberries
1/2 cup coconut water*
Blend well. Taste for sweetness. The coconut water may alleviate the need for additional sugar, and if your strawberries are sweet and ripe as well. If needed, add some maple syrup. Optional. Add a squeeze of lime if you’d like.
Pour into popsicle molds. Wait and enjoy. Sit down beside some pretty summer flowers and savor your treat.
- IF you have access to fresh young coconut water, that is obviously the best option, but if like many of us, you live where no coconuts grow, try to find a brand you like at the grocery store. Look for one with no additives.
A note about popsicle molds.
My girlfriend Anna introduced us to the ZOKU quick pop maker a few years ago. I finally purchased one and it has made popsicle making fun and fast. Basically it’s a gadget that allows you to pour in the mix and the popsicles are ready in about 8 minutes, which makes even a last minute idea doable. I love that they are BPA and Phthalate free and the sticks are re-usable, which makes for less waste, because even though I love the look of paletas these are in the long run, more sustainable for our family. ps. This post is not a plug for ZOKU, I just wanted to share what we use at home.
For other options, I recommend the stainless steel molds, which are better for the environment and more long-lasting than anything plastic.
Happy Summer and if you enjoy these recipes, please take a picture and tag us on Instagram with #yogue. Also, if you have some favorite healthy popsicle recipes of your own, please do post them in the comments below!
Ayurvedic Immunity Tea… mmmm delicious
Hello from Santa Cruz, California, where my husband, son and I have now been living for over a year. If you’ve followed my travels at all over the fledgling course of this blog you will know that this is a milestone in what has been our peripatetic gypsy life of the past seven or eight years, or ever since we got hitched!
So far, Santa Cruz is treating to surf, sunshine and an embracing yoga community – plus our son loves it here – especially our little beach house and his constant joy at being able play with his toys in one place, vs. taking only a few in a suitcase! – and most importantly (I think) – he has a little band of friends and loves both them and his school.
Yet even in this land of golden sunshine, Fall has arrived with even a few, short rainstorms, which prompted me to share some thoughts – inspired by a wisdom tradition I study: Ayurveda – on the changing season and how we can best sustain our immunity during these months of turning toward greater darkness.
According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian philosophy of life, health and healing, Fall or Autumn is a time when the force of the Vata dosha (or bio-energy) – Vata translates as wind/air or space; is at its highest. To understand the quality of Vata, consider the quickness and coolness of autumn wind, the drying out quality of Fall, the leaves which start to lose their green vitality and juiciness and begin to prepare for a winter of sleep. You can also feel it in swift temperature changes throughout the day – the mornings and nights are cold here while during the middle of the day the sun is strident. The quickness of these changes can destabilise our physiology say the Ayurvedic sages and doctors – which is why – fall is traditionally seen as a time when it is easy for us to fall ill. If you think about the onset of winter cold and flu season, it generally begins right now and in Ayurvedic terms, this happens when we allow the instability and erratic-ness of Vata to destabilise us.
How can we allay the effects of this season and stay healthy? It’s more simple than you think. Since Vata is all about change-ability – we can counter that with it’s opposite: routine. This is a time when we both need to and can detoxify our bodies and minds by following a routine of gentle, sustained exercise such as yoga, healthful, whole foods and a regular sleep schedule. The more routine we can establish, the easier it will be for our bodies and minds to regulate and sustain our immunity as we make way for the cooler months to come. Plus if you look after yourself now, you can enjoy the festive season so much more. For more on a daily Ayurvedic routine, check this post out here on Dinacharya.
Detoxifying the liver is ideal now – as the liver has been working hard for us all year and needs some extra love. Here’s a simple recipe containing three powerful, immune superstar herbs that act together to support liver detoxification. According to traditional chinese medicine, the liver is most active between 1 and 3 a.m. and so it’s beneficial to drink this tea before bedtime. Honestly, I love it in the mornings also! Turmeric is known as both an anti-carcinogen and an anti-inflammatory; and works closely with black pepper which stimulates digestion and cleanses the body of excess kapha dosha (the watery/heaviness that can cause colds and excess mucous in our bodies). Ginger with its pungent kick is wonderful for improving circulation and warming the body. And the lemon and maple syrup add a delicious lift.
This recipe is adapted from Get it Ripe, a wonderful vegan cookbook by Toronto/Montreal based holistic nutritionist Jae Steele. My lovely friend Jen from Centre Luna Yoga in Montreal, shared the book with me and it is definitely one of my kitchen staples. This recipe is common in Ayurvedic cuisine. Turmeric, black pepper and ginger were essential ingredients in my grandmother’s, mother’s and any Indian/ Ayurvedic kitchen!
- 1 tsp grated turmeric root or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp grated ginger root or 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger
- 2 – 3 twists of black pepper (from a pepper mill)
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tsp maple syrup or to taste (you can use raw honey also, but be sure to let the tea cool a little bit before adding the honey)
Combine turmeric, ginger, black pepper and water in a saucepan on medium-high heat. (If you use turmeric powder, you can also toast the powder on a dry skillet for 30 seconds to a minute and allow it to get toasty and warm before you add it to the pot of water). Allow the mixture of herbs to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes; be careful not to boil. Strain and pour into a mug, add lemon juice and maple syrup to taste, stir and enjoy.
* ps. Turmeric stains a bright yellow so be careful with your countertops, clothing, dishtowels etc. I once had a security deposit deducted from a rent check as I left a turmeric stain on a kitchen countertop! 🙁 In fact turmeric is also used as a natural dye. If you have a glass saucepan, and a glass mug, use them as the colour won’t stain the glass.
** Be sure to use organic ingredients and non-irradiated spices.
Namaste + enjoy.
“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” Craig Claiborne
If you don’t “cook” daily or often, cooking can often seem so laborious. Yet if you look at it as a way of creating nourishment for yourself and those you love, it becomes an act of mindfulness.
Here’s what I love about cooking.
It’s focused alchemy. You take a few ingredients, you add heat, or some other force, a lot of LOVE – and magic (usually) happens. And you know what, it’s grounding.
If you follow my instagram feed, you may notice that I often post pictures of some of my cold-pressed juice and smoothie concoctions. What you may also know about me is that I study Ayurveda, the ancient philosophy of healing from India, which offers practical advice on every aspect of our lives, but specifically how we can be well so that we can live fulfilled, happy lives.
What does this have to do with green smoothies? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that green smoothies and green juices and juice cleanses are trendy and seen as the ultimate hip and skinny card everywhere from LA to Mumbai. Now, you may, by their very virtue of being green, consider green smoothies to be healthy. And I don’t blame you. I would. After all, they are jam-packed with fibrous green veggies, fresh fruit and immune boosting, antioxidant super foods. And all in a delicious blend of drinkable goodness. How on earth could your body not want to down that?
Well, according to Ayurveda, green smoothies may actually be impairing your health, not enhancing it. Here are a couple of things you may want to consider before you down your next green drink.
1. While your green smoothie may be full of nutrients, your body may not be able to absorb them.
This is partly dependent on the “quality” of the ingredients as well as the strength of your internal digestive fire or agni. Green smoothies tend to be served and drunk cold – many recipes call for chilled water, frozen fruit and ice, so they are cold in quality. Also, fibrous vegetables such as celery or broccoli as well as leafy greens such as kale and spinach can be dry and rough on the digestive system – they require more moistness to be digested – think about how delicious kale sautéed in olive or coconut oil is and how different it feels in your belly vs eating a piece of raw, fresh from the fridge kale. Further, fruit is sweet, and sweet things according to Ayurveda especially when cold, can also dampen our Agni or digestive fire. over time, if you have a weak digestive system to begin with, drinking cold, sweet green smoothies will impair your digestion and you will feel an increase of the cold, dry vata quality or dosha, which as it promotes a sense of unevenness or variability, can lead to a feeling of gas, bloating;as well as dryness of the skin, hair, brittleness of the nails and cracking of the joints.
2. Too much raw food can decrease your vitality or OJAS:
Many raw food enthusiasts can attest to the vitalising, energetic effects of eating only raw foods. It’s almost euphoric and to be honest, when I tried to “go raw” for some time, I felt some of that clarity and lightness. But over time, this can deplete not just our fat tissues but also deeper tissues that provide structure and stability to our bodies and minds from the inside out. In Ayurveda, we call this rooted sense of vitality Ojas. We’re talking literally about the marrow in our bones, our reproductive/ sexual tissue and our nerves. And we definitely don’t want to deplete our Ojas. We want to nourish it.
3. Green smoothies confuse our digestive system:
Our Agni likes simplicity, especially in a complicated world. Ayurvedic cleanses suggest that we go on a mono-diet of a simple rice/lentil soupy stew called khichadi. Meanwhile green smoothies are often chock full of various ingredients and fortified with super foods. Dense, heavy foods are hard for our bodies to make sense of. While the blending action does help with “pre-digestion” it is not the same as cooking fresh vegetables together in a light soup with warming spices, where they actually have time to meld their disparate qualities together and offer a more cohesive, nourishing meal for our bodies.
So, have I turned you off from green smoothies? That is not my intention! I love a green smoothie now and then, especially in the summer and also as a way to get in a dose of greens into my toddler.
Here are some Ayurvedic inspired tips to make your next green smoothie delicious, nutritious and digestible so that your unique body and mind feels alive, vital and grounded. I’ve also shared a recipe for my current favourite summer green smoothie.
Makeover your Green Smoothie:
1. Warm it up:
Keep ingredients at room temperature, or even use warm water, or a slightly warmed nut milk or whatever liquid you are using as a base.
2. Use fresh produce,
or as close to fresh ingredients as possible. (And ideally, of course, organic).
3. Spice it up:
Add lemon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom or cinnamon, all of which are warming in their quality and will help to “heat” up the other ingredients and so make them more digestible.
4. Minimize the sugar:
Use less fruit so you avoid the added dampening effects of the sweet taste. You’ll be surprised at how little sweet you need, when the ingredients are simple and delicious. FYI, raw honey is considered to have a “warming effect” according to ayurveda and if you do need a little bit of sweetness, this is the sweet I would recommend. I also like vanilla bean, and cinnamon both of which add a sweet flavour.
5. Keep it simple.
Use just a few veggies, maybe one type of fruit, and instead of filling up on the super foods, choose one and see how your body feels with it. Also notice how much more flavourful and interesting things taste when you don’t combine too much.
6. Get fatty:
Use a good fats for digestibility and slow absorption of the nutrients. Cold pressed coconut oil and avocado are nice options.
7. Become besties with your digestive system:
Get to know it intimately. Is it strong and fiery, or variable, or is it slow and consistent? If you have a fiery, fast digestion, chances are that you will be able to digest a green smoothie pretty easily. If your digestion however is slower, or more variable, you may need to amp up the warming herbs and also make a lighter, simpler concoction. Also, alternating warming, herbal teas, or just warm water, when you sip a smoothie, even in the summer may be a good thing for you to do to balance your system out more.
8. Consider the when and the where:
Everything in Ayurveda is connected to our larger environment. For example, would drinking a cool smoothie be better for you in the heat of the summer or on a wintry cold day? In the tropics or in rainy Ireland? Early in the morning, or later in the day, when the sun is stronger? You probably figured out the answer. Yes, summer in the tropics and later in the morning is probably the best time and place to drink a cool, green smoothie and to have more raw vegetables in our diet.
I have had to work hard to cultivate a stronger digestive fire or agni, which is why I pay such stringent attention to what and how I drink and eat. It’s pretty much essential for me to stay healthy.
On that note, here is my current favourite summer smoothie. I’ve also offered variations so you can switch it up. It is a delicious blend of mostly greens with some lemon / lime to help with digestion, ginger, and pear which is such a lovely summer fruit. You could also substitute with green apple, or other seasonal fruit of your choice. I chose spirulina as an additional “superfood” as it has amazing detoxifying and antioxidant benefits and is a good, easily absorbable source of iron. I also love how a little bit in a smoothie adds a nice ocean seaweed-y taste. Feel free to vary this recipe by cutting out the avocado if you find it to be too thick, using water instead of coconut water and even adding cinnamon or fresh mint leaves. Mostly, enjoy it, taste it and see how it feels in your belly.
Wave Rider: An Ayurvedic Summer Green Smoothie.
- 1 organic pear (or green apple, or even a delicious summer nectarine): sliced or diced
- 1 organic lime or lemon: peeled / squeeze in the juice
- 1/2 organic avocado: sliced or diced
- 6 – 8 organic spinach or 4 – 5 kale leaves
- 1 to 2 tsp spirulina 1 cup water or coconut water: in Canada, i use the Cocos Pure cans as i like their clean taste.
- 1 tsp cold pressed organic coconut oil
- 1/4″ grated organic ginger or ginger chunk (if you need a little more heat, add a bit more to taste)
- Optional: a pinch of cardamom powder and some bee pollen to sprinkle on top before drinking.
Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Add some more water if it is a bit too thick. Taste for sweetness, if needed, add a tiny bit of honey and enjoy this deliciousness a little later in the morning, when the sun is high. Namaste + Happy Summer and I hope you’ve had a wonderful start to the week. Insiya
ps. I found 2 great posts on the blogosphere discussing the same topic with a similar viewpoint and i wanted to share them. Check them out especially the first one as they provide some valuable background info.
From Mudita Institute in Byron Bay, Australia:
From Daily Ayurveda
I love almond milk.
I find it to be the perfect base for smoothies, to pour over home made granola and to use as a base in raw desserts and soups. However, I decided a few years ago that store bought almond milk just wasn’t cutting it. It was bland; when you drank it just by itself you realised that it didn’t even taste like almonds; plus the “original” or “vanilla” flavours are super high in sugar. All this made sense when I looked at the ingredient list and saw that actual almonds amounted to less than 8% of the “almond milk,” while a bunch of unpronounceable preservatives and added synthetic vitamins constituted the rest.