Posts in Category: beverages

Noshed in a Book: Live or Die & The First Biography of Joan of Arc

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I added a surprise second selection for this particular Noshed in a Book post.  Most of the time, before I begin reading a book, I take some time to ponder the title and what it may or may not mean in relationship to the text.  Collections of poetry are no exception to this rule, and, I would have to say, heighten a stronger sense of my analytical self than prose.  Then of course there’s biographical books, which often–not always–follow a restrictive naming; the reader needs to grasp the purpose of the book immediately.  Oddly enough, reading Live or Die by Anne Sexton unfolded a series of poems that revealed the true meaning behind the title, but The First Biography of Joan of Arc–my surprise additional reading for this post–did not deliver on the title.  Titles are important, but maybe this was a lesson for me and us all that you can’t judge a book by its title, and if you do, expect to be surprised and don’t be disappointed if you’re not.  Let’s dive in!

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Live or Die by Anne Sexton

A series of poems that are organized chronologically, which for better or worse focus on our delicate relationship with not just death, but life as well.  My approach to poetry is one that is unpracticed because I tend to not read collection after collection, instead spreading out poetry collections over time.  Also, there’s a level of apprehension I have when reading poetry.  Each word is precisely chosen and I often fret about not giving due time to each poem and respecting its pacing and structure.  Anne Sexton’s writing is remarkable and flows and I didn’t once feel overwhelmed by the direction or pacing of her poems.  Just some of the topics Sexton touches on in this series are dreams, womanhood, death of love, death of literal life, mother and daughter confessions, and bones.  Here are a few excerpts that moved me.

 “Awake, I memorized dreams.

Dreams came into the ring

like third string fighters,

each one a bad bet

who might win

because there was no other.”


 

“I was tired of being a woman,

tired of the spoons and the pots,

tired of my mouth and my breasts,

tired of the cosmetics and the silks.

There were still men who sat at my table,

circled around the bowl I offered up.

The bowl was filled with purple grapes

and the flies hovered in for the scent

and even my father came with his white bone.

But I was tired of the gender of things.”


 

“Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,

to so delicately undo an old wound,

to empty my breath from its bad prison.”


 

“If I’m on fire they dance around it

and cook marshmallows.

And if I’m ice

they simply skate on me

in little ballet costumes.”

Additionally, I recommend checking out these particular poems in their entirety:  Mother and Jack and the Rain; Christmas Eve

The First Biography of Joan of Arc by Daniel Rankin and Claire Quintal

A book that is by no means a page turner, but by all accounts clear and concise in its diction, this text outlines the life of Joan of Arc–know as the “Maid”–a heroine of the fifteenth century who led and structured a siege in order to take back France from England during the Hundred Years War.  Only a teenager at the time of her leadership of the French Army–behind King Charles the VII–and at the time of her horrendous death–she was burned alive–Joan of Arc stands as a figure of bravery and as a trailblazing representative of the “YOLO” concept before it was ever a concept.  She lived her life for a purpose and broke through many class and gender barriers to be the figure she was for the people of her time and generations after.  This book, as I stated earlier, did not deliver on its title.  Maybe my expectation was too simplistic, but I wanted a straightforward description of her life up front with factual information pieced in categorically after this.  I feel like I have come to know more details about Joan from other sources over the years, but this book did a great job of outlining sources of materials and chronology.  Here are a few quotes from the texts that may intrigue you.

“You believe, gentlemen that because I am a woman, I do not know how to conceal a secret.  For your information I know every detail you have discussed.  Here I give you my pledge–I WILL NEVER REVEAL PLANS WHICH ARE TO BE KEPT SECRET.”


 

“The Maid has made use of magic and diabolic cunning.  She is a heretic.”


 

“For some time past it has been known to all and it is notorious that a woman who insisted on being called Joan the Maid, discarding the garb and vesture of the female sex, an act repugnant and forbidden by all law, a deed contrary to Divine Law and abhorrent to God, put on and wore men’s garments and likewise armed herself as a man.”


 

“As soon as her armor was made she put it on, went out into the fields of Poitiers with other armed combatants where she handled her lance as well or better than any man there.  She rode spirited chargers, the capricious ones that no one else dared mount without fear.”


 

“Without the presence of Joan of Arc it seems certain that the courage and stamina of the soldiers marching toward Reims would have dissolved into a speedy disaster.”

 

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Recipe Inspiration

As for edibles, I decided to make a piña collada smoothie.  This all started a few weeks ago, on a Friday evening, in the midst of pizza making.  All of a sudden I started thinking about piña colladas, and how I HAD to have one.  The Mr. and I started to scour the kitchen for all of the basic ingredients and had to improvise.  Let’s just say, after extra handfuls of ice and almond milk it was eventually edible. This culinary experimentation got me thinking about how I wanted to do this the right way, with or without the buzz.  Although it has been noted that Anne Sexton liked Dry Martinis and taking on the town with Sylvia Plath, I can’t help but feel she too would have loved the indulgence of a tropical treat every once in awhile, especially in the summer.  As for The First Biography of Joan of Arc, well, some of you may need something to liven up your day after this dry read and perhaps even have a lively discussion on women’s cultural icons with your gals.  Either way, enjoy the treat!

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Piña Collada Smoothie with  Mango (animal-product-free, gluten-free, soy-free)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk (from a can)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 heaping cup fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks
  • 1/4 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup ice cubes
  • 1 full dropper of liquid stevia (or to taste)
  • Cherries(frozen or fresh) and dried coconut for garnish

Instructions

  1.  Pour liquid ingredients into blender first, then add frozen fruit, vanilla extract, ice cubes and the sweetener
  2. Blend well until creamy
  3. Garnish with cherries and dried coconut
  4. Enjoy in your favorite glass

Notes:

  • Spike at will with your choice of rum, or if you’re my husband and there’s not rum around, use whiskey (don’t get me started, haha)

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Poetry and history have a differing tone that’s unmistakable, but reading the voice of a strong woman followed up by reading about the voice of another strong woman, was both inspiring and empowering.   When you read these books, what tasty treats come to mind and what are some of your favorite Anne Sexton poems or excerpts?  Know any special factoids about Joan of Arc?  I can’t wait to hear from you all.  Share your #noshedinabook pics and thoughts and check out more Noshed in a Book posts.  Join me in my next reading selection, The First Bad Man by Miranda July.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM

 

 

 

Noshed in a Book: The Second Sex [part 1]

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Each book that I have read this year has been a firm or gentle exploration of the philosophical ideas underlying race, gender, human rights, and more. In The Second Sex (part 1) by Simone de Beauvoir, we focus on women and their role as human beings first and functioning members of society second.  Realistically, my expectation of this text was that it would be dense and a slower read for me, and I was right.  That’s not to say that reading at a steadier pace connotes a boring read, but the subject matter was one for which I felt the need to draw in as much as I could, instead of reading in a rush.

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The Second Sex (part 1) by Simone de Beauvoir

Simply put, The Second Sex acts as a detailed examination of the state of being a woman and interpreting woman as “other.” Simone de Beauvoir was an existentialist, and her view on the separation between a human’s ‘essence’ and their ‘being’ is exposed early on as she refers to the female as prey.

“The female is the prey of the species; for one or two seasons, depending on the case, her whole life is regulated by a sexual cycle–the estrous cycle–whose length and periodicity vary from one species to another.”

This situated the rest of part one to focus on the idea of defense, a role women have been playing for centuries.  Through her explorations of biological, historical and literary analysis, de Beauvoir begins to unravel the depths of the figure that is woman and her treatment both by external figures and herself.  I deem this twentieth-century book as a primary resource in juxtaposition to the clouded view our twenty-first century continues to have about feminism and women’s rights. Women throughout history have been subjected to explicit and corroding subordination, which de Beauvoir comments upon, as well as how women’s subservience was a manipulation and form of slavery.  She also discusses how woman is deeply rooted in art and thinking, yet she is on the fringes, and in order for their to be real, lasting changes in the women’s movement, woman must be at the center of society, deeply immersed.  Simone de Beauvoir’s confidence in the subject matter, factual declarations and intimacy with the subject–for which she spent fourteen months researching–captured me.  Additionally, I’m inspired and in awe of de Beauvoir herself, as this book was written and published in the late 1940s, a time period in which feminism was just blinking its eyes again for change.  She was and continues to be a spearhead for the feminist movement and an exceptional figure of strength.

“There is no way to directly oblige a woman to give birth:  all that can be done is to enclose her in situations where motherhood is her only option:  laws or customs impose marriage on her, anti-conception measures and abortion are banned, divorce is forbidden.  These old patriarchal constraints are exactly the ones the U.S.S.R. has brought back to life today; it has revived paternalistic theories about marriage; and in doing so, it has asked woman to become an erotic object again:  a recent speech (late 1940s) asked Soviet women citizens to pay attention to their clothes, to use makeup, and to become flirtatious to hold on to their husbands and stimulate their desire.”

Now at the precipice of change, men and women must decide if their strengths combined can create a unified front for equality among sexes. Solidarity.

Some facts and extra commentaries from the text:

  • Antifeminism strikes in the early 17th century.
  • “In 1906, 42 percent of working-age women (between eighteen and sixty) worked in farming, industry, business, banks, insurance, offices, and liberal professions.  This movement spread to the whole world because of the 1914-18 labor crisis and the world war.”
  • “The most oppressed minorities in a society are readily used by the oppressors as a weapon against the class they belong to; thus they at first become enemies, and a deeper consciousness of the situation is necessary to that blacks and whites, women and male workers, form coalitions rather than opposition.”

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As for edibles, I decided before finishing the first part of this book that a delightful cup of calming tea would be best.  After taking in such heavy material, there could be nothing better than calming your mind and relaxing with a cup of tea.  I searched my tea drawers and discovered that though I have many calming blends, I wanted to make one of my own that spoke to what my palette was yearning for.  Many chamomile tea blends are mixed with hibiscus flower, lemongrass or other citrus notes, but I wanted to create something smooth, sweet and with a hint of vanilla.  I took inventory of what I had on hand and stocked up on what I needed–thanks to the Mr. for doing some last-minute shopping for me while I scurried around trying to get everything together.  I made dried chamomile flower the base of the tea, accented it with rooibos, and the rest is tea history.  When you’re digesting the wrappings of de Beauvoir’s ideas, sip on this tea to enhance the educational and enlightening experience.

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Thoughtful Dreamy Tea

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp dried German chamomile flower [or any type of dried chamomile flower]
  • 1 tbsp loose rooibos tea
  • 1 tsp dried lavender flower
  • 2 inch piece of vanilla bean [seeds scooped out]
  • 1 tbsp dried currants
  • 1 gram powdered stevia [about 1 individual package]

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl
  2. Bring filtered or spring water to a boil
  3. Measure about 3 tsp of the tea mixture into a tea infuser [I used a biodegradable tea bag and stapled the top]
  4. Place the infusing device or tea bag in your teapot
  5. Pour water (12 oz) over tea bag and cover
  6. Let steep for 5 minutes
  7. Pour tea in your favorite cup, sip and enjoy a thoughtful, dreamy night’s sleep or afternoon nap.

Notes:

  • Feel free to reuse the tea mixture 2 or 3 times (flavor will change with each brew)
  • Use a higher tea-to-water ratio for a stronger tea
  • 1 1/2 tsp tea mix per 6 oz water
  • I enjoyed this tea hot, but you could brew the tea and chill

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“To say that woman was the Other is  to say that a relationship of reciprocity between the sexes did not exist:  whether Earth, Mother, or Goddess, she was never a peer for man; her power asserted itself beyond human rule:  she was thus outside of this rule.” [about the Golden age of Woman being a myth]

 

The Second Sex (part 1) imbues an intellectual sturdiness and prowess that challenges both men and women to recognize patriarchy’s role in history and asserts that women’s rights are human rights to be addressed by all.  I’m very happy to have finally read this book (at least the first part) and I’m looking forward to jumping into the second part at a later date.  Let me know how your tea concoctions turn out and what you think of the recipe.  It’s my first time experimenting with making my very own tea combination and I look forward to hearing your opinions and critiques.  Join me in my next reading selection, Blankets by Craig Thompson, for a trip down the graphic road once again.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM

 

 

Noshed in a Book: Intruder in the Dust

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“Which proves again how no man can cause more grief than that one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors.”

My grandmother has been an avid reader most of her life and though she doesn’t read the type of books I fancy, she’s said something to me before on multiple occasions; “I like a book to grab me in the first few pages,”. It’s not a novel idea–no pun intended–but an idea I think is often overlooked for the mere intellectual grip of a book.  Going off of this idea, I cannot say that Intruder in the Dust (by William Faulkner) grabbed me within the first few pages. I wouldn’t even say it came close.  I was about forty pages into the book before I could get into the flow of the writing and truly grasp Faulkner’s structure and approach to the characters.  That being said, there’s definitely room in my literary heap for his writing and writing that is similar.  It emboldened me to find new ways of expressing myself in my own creative writing and vanquished the idea that all narrative needs to be tidy.

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Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner

A stark telling and examination of what happens to a respected, elderly black man upon accusation of the murdering of a white man,  Intruder in the Dust takes place in the deep south of the United States in a fictional town called Yoknapatawpha County.  Throughout the novel, Faulkner manages to use a form of writing that is simultaneously advertent and stream-of-consciousness, leading to sections of the text where it is as if Faulkner himself is speaking directly to the reader as the omniscient narrator.  I was about a third of the way through the novel before I was able to grasp the difficult cadence in the book’s structure and the utilitarian nature of the characters.  I respect the structure, but I also felt as though life is not as neatly packed as Faulkner made this story out to be.  Somehow, within this form and with these characters, a parable is depicted, but again, Faulkner doesn’t waste words.  There will be pages of very little dialogue and then a speech will subtly feature political views and commentary on civil rights.  These speeches and moments where I could truly see the author’s voice were the best to me.  Faulkner found a way, explicitly, to indite truth and critical thinking into his story without proselytizing, and for this I respect his craft despite my difficulty with the text.

“We are defending not actually our politics or beliefs or even our way of life, but simply our homogeneity from a federal government to which in simple desperation the rest of this country has had to surrender voluntarily more and more of its personal and private liberty in order to continue to afford the United States.  And of course we will continue to defend it.”

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“Just remember that they can stand anything, accept any fact (it’s only men who burk at facts) provided they don’t have to face it; can assimilate it with their heads turned away and one hand extended behind them as the politician accepts the bribe.  Look at her:  who will spend a long contented happy life never abating one jot of her refusal to forgive you for being able to button your own pants.”

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As for edibles, I’ve mulled over a few ideas that arose during the reading and I have decided on a good ol’ cup of coffee.  Let me state for the record that, shortly after drinking this coffee, I was–and this is by no exaggeration of the mind–fully activated in productive human mode, sweating, mood boosted, followed by a bit of hangry and finished with a “damn, I’m happy to be eating this meal” kind of feeling.  Coffee is a consistency in the book, and if you all don’t know by now, this woman likes consistency and continuity.  Coffee, though it plays this role in many lives, is used as a comfort and is an added bystander thoughtfully placed to absorb any shift or change in tone in the text.  Thus, I say, don’t complete this book without a couple of sips of a big ol’ cup of coffee.

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French Press Coffee

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (32 fl oz) filtered or spring water
  • 5 1/2  tbsp coffee [coarsely ground | 2 tbsp coffee/ 6 oz water]

Instructions

  1. Using kettle, bring water to a boil and then let sit about 45 to 60 seconds to cool water to approx.  195-200°F.
  2. In coffee grinder, place beans and grind on a coarse setting.
  3. Place ground beans at the bottom of your press and pour water over beans.  Stir.
  4. Place lid with plunger on top and spin lid so that slits are facing in and away from spout.  Do NOT plunge yet.
  5. Allow coffee to steep for about 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Gently plunge water and coffee.
  7. Sip and enjoy.

Notes:

  • I don’t add any milks or sugar to coffee if I drink it. Black is best for my buds, but steaming a bit of almond milk and whisking it for a bit of foam might be tasty on top.
  • If you like your coffee EXTRA strong, which is actually how I made it for the pictures displayed, I used 8 tbsp to about 30 fl oz.

 

“Maybe I better go to work.  Somebody’ll have to earn a little bread around here while the rest of you are playing cops and robbers:’ and went out and apparently the coffee had done something to what he called his thinking processes or anyway the processes of what people called thinking…”

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Intruder in the Dust‘s subject matter is not easy to approach, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.  Nearing almost seventy years after the publication of this novel, though some has changed as far as race relations and civil rights are concerned, much remains static.  Although a fictional mystery, the essence of Faulkner’s words are pervasive on the issue of race relations, and that is what makes this novel worth reading. Have you seen the film?  I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, but let me know what you think if you have.  I’m happy to continue writing for this series, Noshed in a Book, and let me know your thoughts both literary and political–though I didn’t touch on this here–on this novel with the hashtag #noshedinabook.  Join me in reading my next selection, The Second Sex (Vol.1) by Simone de Beauvoir.  I’m splitting this one up over time as it’s quite a beast and I don’t want to exhaust her words or the mood of the writing.  Have a lovely tomorrow and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

p.s. It may have occurred to you that I rarely humor a long review of each book, and you’re not wrong.  I’ve chosen to not use Connect a Bite as a source for in-depth literary review as I don’t think it suites the tone and message of this source.  On that note, depending on the message, I would be happy to entertain a conversation in the comments section of each post if you would like to start a dialogue. Just know that each post’s goal is to help inspire you to find other sources in your life where you can connect with food, even if it’s just a cop of coffee.

 

Noshed in a Book: The Complete Persepolis

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As the visual medium excites me, graphic novels share a cozy, aromatic and mood-lit spot in my heart.  That’s not to say that I haven’t the imagination to incorporate my own visions of circumstance from a narrative, but the artistry and dark contrasting lines of Marjane Satrapi’s images in The Complete Persepolis are like a secret key into a world I admittedly know little about.  I don’t say this with a proud grin or a disdainful glower, but with an honest and mild expression.  The truth is, I can’t wait to re-read this graphic memoir as it moved me in the way that ocean waves do, sometimes gently nudging and other times forcefully shoving into different depths.

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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

[spoiler alert]

An earnest, but honest depiction of Marjane Satrapi’s life as a young, rebellious girl and coming-of-age within the incredible and repressive nation of Iran “Persia”.  This visual tonic explores the Iranian revolution in parallel to important markers of growth in Satrapi’s life; the destructive disparity between her and her families’ life behind doors and their public lives; the basic human struggle of falling to a low, sad place before finding yourself; the beautiful and emotional triumph of accepting yourself.  There were moments while reading this book when I took pause to close the book and hug it, as I didn’t want the story to end.  At times, I felt as though I was inside of Marjane’s skin, infuriated by others acceptance of mediocrity and humored by the commodities of art.  This book has helped me re-examine what it means to live in the first world and have first-world problems.  Dwelling in and finding a need to express the petty and inane aspects of our life restrain us and stunt our growth.  Satrapi explores the turmoil she experienced when first discovering class differences.  The importance of education was a theme throughout the book.  Satrapi grew up in a time when there wasn’t access to the internet and yet she flourished by seeking out knowledge in books.  Books, in many ways, were her refuge and greatest friend during the tumultuous times of her up-bringing; this was the most heartening aspect of the book for me.

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As for edibles, tea, pasta and hot cocoa stuck out to me.

  • Tea was a marker of regularity and routine in Satrapi’s life and it’s obvious and endearing that it is a point of pride for Marjane’s family.  Often served from a samovar–which is a self-boiling decorative basin or urn for hot liquid–tea is consumed throughout the day in Persian culture and is not for the faint of heart.
  • Pasta was independence.  When Marjane settled into her first boarding school, pasta was one of the few things she could find to prepare and it became her staple food.  It was convenient to find and she could prepare it with ease.
  • Hot chocolate became a symbol of comfort in Marjane’s life.  She served hot cocoa when she would stay into the late hours of the night talking with her father or uncle.  She would serve hot chocolate to a family friend’s children during a time of crisis.  Hot chocolate meant a moment away from all the destruction around her and her family; a repose in times when food was scarce and pampering the pallet was the clearest path to sanity.  I decided to make a type of Persian hot chocolate, and for those of you out there who are Persian, if you have any thoughts or comments as to the validity of this recipe, please let me know.  This is not my recipe, but one I came across in a thoughtful search on the web.  It was made on a not so chilly evening, yet still coziness in a cup.

Try out Persian Spiced Dark Hot Chocolate by Venus Kalami

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What is your take-away from The Complete Persepolis and what food or foods were brought to your mind while you read and experienced it?  I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and what you noshed on while reading, feel free to use the hash-tag #noshedinabook .  Check out previous Noshed in a Book posts and join me in reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and Happy Reading Regards,

RAM

Kitchen Letters #9: Mindfulness and Mint Tea

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Dear morning muffins,

What’s new with you this week?  As I’m sure you have already noticed, this week I write to you about mint tea and a special state of mind.  It stands to reason that there is always space in our hearts and minds to discuss a refreshing cup of tea and to transcend whatever is ailing us currently, but somehow this space can become crammed with doubt and judgement.  In all honesty, I cannot say that the stronger, more meditative moments always overwhelm the weaker.

I begin this way to emphasize that sometimes, I find, it’s helpful to look outside of ourselves to gain temporary peace, even if for a moment.  I’m learning to stratify my best moments and allow them to germinate, and maybe, just maybe, a cup of mint tea is the catalyst in this experiment called life.  Too heavy?  Another thought then.

For over two years I’ve written about our connection to food and why this connection is significant for each person.  Our connection to food should not, at any time, be jettisoned.  Apathy is not the answer.  During a recent visit to a thoughtful and well-informed massage therapist, I was reminded of this.  Throughout my healing session, she and I began discussing Connect a Bite, but more importantly, what it means to connect to your food and be conscious and aware of what you’re eating and how it will affect not only you, but the environment, and other creatures therein.  She told me of the small farming town she grew up in, and how disconnected from what they ate most of the people in the town were.  She said, though many of the farmers within the community sold fresh produce, they ate very little of it, and that there was generally a “tough shit” mentality when it came to food.  What does this gruff and pithy idiom mean in relation to food?  I don’t think I can say what it meant to the members of her hometown, but I can tell you how I perceive this statement in relationship to the public at large.  The idea, eat what you’re given–no matter what it is–and be grateful. Another blatant aphorism that aligns with this thought, “beggars can’t be choosers”, essentially.  Perhaps this is a Southern mentality, but encouraging the stunting of one’s ability to be inquisitive is something I cannot abide.  Soon, our conversation became more about the present and our personal regard for what we’re eating.

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The truth.  It’s easy to allow the consciousness regarding your comestible choices to become a burden.  I’m sure there are times when many of you want to eject yourself from your aware minds and just be.  This I can sympathize with and very much relate.  However, I wouldn’t trade what many would classify as food neurosis for anything.  Maybe this is a burden I’m supposed to carry and maybe writing about and finding a way to connect you all to food is a part of my life path.  Maybe, I shouldn’t say “maybe”.  With mindfulness, it is within my best intentions to just be.

Why mint tea?

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Drinking tea is a state of mind.  It is with this thought I would like to share a cup of mint tea with you.  A truly clarifying experience that will brighten your mind, calm your heart, and enliven your spirit.  If you can’t get on board with any of that, at the very least it will help you slow down, even for just a moment.

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 Fresh Mint Tea

~full pot

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 sprigs of mint (decrease or increase the amount based on the weakness or strength you prefer)
  • 2 to 3 cups hot, nearly boiling spring or filtered water (depending on your teapot size and how many sprigs you choose)

Instructions

  1. With a sieve handy, pull mint leaves from each sprig and place them into the sieve.  Rinse with cool water to remove any dirt
  2. Muddle leaves just enough to allow essential oils to release and then place the leaves into teapot strainer (take care not to demolish the leaves, as this could release the chlorophyll and introduce a bitter taste to your tea, not very pleasant)
  3. Bring water to a boil and pour over leaves making sure to quickly cover the teapot (this traps the essential oils in the tea rather than escaping into the air)
  4. Allow leaves to steep for approximately 8 to 10 minutes
  5. If teapot strainer is housed within teapot, your choice of allowing leaves to remain (what I did) or removing them.
  6. Pour and serve.  Enjoy with a friend, partner or in solitude.

For more thoughts on mint, check out The Mint and Food and Oral Hygiene.  Here’s more on Kitchen Letters.

I hope you enjoy this cup of tea and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and Mindful Regards,

RAM

Kitchen Letters #3: A Big Bowl of Winter Veggies & a Grapefruit Fizzy

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Dear world,

There are many reasons to look forward to certain days of the week, but Thursday’s are special around our house because we pick up our packed CSA box–and I mean packed–with an array of veggies and fruits to kick-start new ideas for recipes.  This winter we have been fortunate to receive some of my favorite veggies and fruits all in one box, and I thought I could share our abundance of yummies with you–in recipe form–in this fleeting winter season.

My favorite meals usually involve a bowl.  There is something incredibly comforting about food in a bowl to me.  Perhaps I channel back to the feeling of being a child and picking the biggest concave basin to eat my cereal from, with loads of milk and never the worry of a spill or splash.  In my opinion, bowls are where it’s at!  With this dish, I decided to work with layers, which I feel gives more depth to the flavors and textures touching your palette.  Like I previously mentioned, I was working with veggies directly from our CSA box, thus it did most of the menu planning for me.

I get in a bit of a rut with root veggies, and though I know there are a myriad of things to do with them, I typically end up preparing one or two variations because I’m in a time bind, but this week I wanted to mix it up a hint.  I decided to make a sauce with the beets to create a colorful backdrop to the remainder of the dish.  I allowed myself the joy of slowing down.

What’s wonderful about this recipe is that it’s an ‘everyday’ kind of meal.  It’s not as sexy as some of the gourmet delicacies you’ll find out there, but what it is, is realistic and relative to the time and availability of what you might have hanging out in your fridge or produce baskets this time of year (at least in the states).

You could eat the dish in layers or mix it all together, but this is not a dish for the faint of heart as it’s bursting with lively flavor and swimming in immaculate texture.

I suggest eating this meal with friends or a loved one, that way you can share in the bounty and casual nature of the dish.  Kick back with little prep and effort for table arrangement and enjoy it with your favorite record or even this Songza playlist –> An Ipanema of the Mind.  Yes, I’m hooked on Songza.

From a before dinner drink to the entrée, I hope you enjoy!

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Grapefruit Ginger Fizzy

Ingredients

  • 1 25.4 fl. oz Topo Chico or any mineral water
  • 1 inch grated ginger
  • 1 to 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • juice of 4 grapefruits
  • 3 or 4 drops liquid stevia (if you want it sweeter, I prefer mine more tart so I leave this out)

Instructions

  1. After juicing your grapefruits, pour the liquid through a sieve and catch the liquid in a wide-mouth container–this will catch any extra pulp or seeds that may have slipped through into the juice (or leave it behind if you like pulpy juice)
  2. Now, pour the juice into a large pitcher
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir
  4. Now, add the mineral water
  5. Stir or shake if you have a lid
  6. Chill and sip in your favorite glass before and after your big bowl of veggies!

I have always enjoyed grapefruit, it is one of my favorite citrus fruits and I am always very happy when it comes in season because it adds a nice addition to my daily eats!  Fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice would be ideal to start your days or begin your meals in the winter as it helps to detoxify your liver, alkalize your body and give your metabolism a boost.  Additionally, it is loaded with vitamins and minerals and will help with reducing and preventing fevers.

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Bountiful Winter Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed & soaked)
  • 2 cups water
  • generous pinch of salt
  • small bundle of beets – about 4 (cleaned, peeled and boiled until tender; reserve beet greens for another time)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp annatto powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (optional)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic (more if you’re a garlic hound like me)
  • handful of parsley (flat leaf or curly; minced)
  • 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 bundle of your favorite greens in season (I’m using curly kale; pull leaves off stem, massage and rip into small pieces, soak and rinse, then salad spin to remove excess water)
  • 1/2 yellow onion (thinly sliced into strips)
  • 2 or 3 glugs of grapeseed oil (2 or 3 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or to taste, in ‘pours’)
  • splash or 2 of red wine (whatever kind you have on hand, the higher quality the better the taste)
  • 2 hefty pinches of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (cleaned and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons; cut off the dimples or where dirt has sunken in)
  • 5 or 6 small to medium carrots (cleaned and cut into half-moons)
  • 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Toppings (optional)

  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces (there will be some leftover)
  • 1 avocado (one half for each person you’re serving; thin slices)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF
  2. Place the cut sweet potatoes and carrots into a medium mixing bowl and cover with a couple of glugs of olive oil, salt and black pepper; mix well with clean hands
  3. Spread mixture over two baking sheets so the veggies are not touching; bake for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping half-way through
  4. Once veggies are in the oven, after rinsing and soaking, pour the quinoa into a medium saucepan and add water and a pinch of salt
  5. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 or 20 minutes
  6. Fluff quinoa with fork
  7. While quinoa is cooking, in another saucepan, place beets in water to boil until they are tender to a fork (15-20 minutes)
  8. Place beets, paprika, onion powder, annatto powder, lemon juice, 2 or 3 garlic cloves, olive oil and salt into blender and blend until smooth
  9.  Cover quinoa with beet sauce and distribute throughout; add minced parsley and feel free to add unsweetened almond milk for a creamier sauce or add water or more olive oil if mixture becomes dry; re-heat on low and cover to keep warm until remainder of dish is prepared
  10. In deep skillet over medium heat, add 2 or 3 glugs of olive oil until it flows like water over the bottom of the pan
  11. Add onion strips and cook until browned but not fully caramelized (7 or 8 minutes)
  12. Begin to place handfuls of kale into skillet and stir with tongs until greens are bright but not soggy (1 or 2 minutes)
  13. Now, add your splashes of apple cider vinegar and red wine until you hear a crashing and cracking sound–it should be a loud roar; continue to mix greens making sure to not burn, and then sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes and remove from heat
  14. In a dry skillet, over medium heat, place walnuts and toast until a light golden brown; take care not to burn
  15. NOW, to assemble the delicious bowl, in this order bottom to top:  wilted kale and caramelized onion mixture, quinoa with beet sauce, roasted veggies, toasted walnuts (by eye), avocado slices
  16. Enjoy every bite!

*This should serve approximately 2 to 4 people depending on portion sizes

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Quinoa, no longer the ‘It’ grain, is still ‘It’ at our abode.  It’s a full-source protein with a delightful nutty flavor and a fluffy light texture that absorbs flavor well.  The perfect grain to use for heavier sauces like this one, the semi-bitter undertones of quinoa are offset by the sweet and mildly tangy flavor of the beets and the umami of the garlic.  There are many exceptional qualities about this meal nutritionally, but take care in knowing you’ll be very satisfied and sated afterward.

Let me know what you think of the recipes and what type of creations you’re coming up with at the close of this season.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Yummy and grateful regards,

RAM

Check out more kitchen letters here!

An herbal tea treat – Rooibos Tea Latte

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Good morning everyone and happy Friday!

Most days, there is nothing I enjoy more than a hot cup of tea–this even includes hot summer days–and the beauty of tea is, it’s really what you make it.  There are many varieties and variations and that’s part of what is so exciting to me; the diversity.  Much to my surprise, I found out that January is National Hot Tea Month, which is both frivolous and exciting at the same time.  A month entirely devoted, for those interested, to tea… how lovely!

Here is the tea latte I’ve been hooked on lately. This warm beverage will delight your palate for sure.

Rooibus Tea Latte

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp loose-leaf rooibos tea/8 oz liquid or 1 tea bag  (if preparing for one person)
  • 2 or 3 drops liquid stevia or 1/2 bag of powdered stevia or another sweetener as you see fit
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Measure out loose-leaf tea into infusion ball or biodegradable tea bag and place at the bottom of your favorite mug
  2. Drip stevia over the top of bag or, if using powder, hold
  3. Heat up a kettle with hot water
  4. While water begins the boiling process, begin to heat almond milk in a small sauce pan over medium heat
  5. Add vanilla extract to milk
  6. Begin whisking milk constantly until a light foam has been created (whisk longer if you want a more airy drink– like a cappuccino)
  7. When the kettle whistles, pour a small amount of hot water over the rooibos tea, just enough to barely submerge tea bag and cover for 4 or 5 minutes
  8. Once milk is hot and tea has steeped, remove the tea bag and quickly pour steamy, foamy milk over tea
  9. At this point, stir in the powdered sweetener if this is the alternative you’re using
  10. Sip and enjoy!
tea bag, spoon, tea

tea bag, spoon, tea

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Definition of Tea (Merriam-Webster)

tea

noun ˈtē

: a drink that is made by soaking the dried leaves of an Asian plant in hot water

: a similar drink that is made by using the dried leaves of another kind of plant

: the dried leaves that are used in making tea

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The scoop on Rooibos tea

  • Hails from a South African bush
  • Truly an herb, not ‘tea’
  • Low in ‘tanins’.  Tanins are the compounds in the plant that lend to the bitter or astringent taste that often is accompanied with tea and can negatively affect digestion.
  • Aids in headaches
  • Caffeine-free
  • Helps relieve stomach cramps
  • Boosts immune system
  • No oxalic acid, therefore suitable for those with kidney stone issues
  • Packed with minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, copper, fluoride, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid
  • Helps to quench sweet tooth as it is naturally very sweet
  • Many more qualities, see some of the sources below.

The tea I used:

Shaman’s Secret Organic Tea by Serengeti Teas And Spices – A shop in Harlem, New York

Ingredients:  rooibos, hibiscus, lemon peel, strawberry, almond, pineapple, rose petals, lotus flower petals, white peppercorns, lemon verbena, elderflower, milk thistle, nettle

Today, I wanted to engage you all and ask what are your favorite teas?  What could you not go a day or couple of days without?  Do you create your own tea blends?  Do you only use loose leaf or do you simplify with boxes of tea in an assortment of types?  Do you drink mainly decaf herbal or caffineated and herbal?  What’s your tea personality? I want to know!

And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM

sources:  Cornell University

Organic Facts

The Mint

Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of peppermint is winter holidays growing up.  Once a year, I could open the freezer and  I knew there would be peppermint ice-cream in the freezer, something that I used to enjoy exclusively with my mother.  It would be green with lovely red and white chucks of peppermint candy crammed in every crevice like little glaciers –once in your bowl–waiting for discovery.  Why I like eating something this cold in cold weather, I will never entirely understand, but there are some things in life I think we shouldn’t question or over analyze, and this for me, is an embossed moment, not to be tampered with.  Granted, I don’t eat the conventional types of ice-cream any more, for obvious reasons, but this idea still remains a nostalgic strong-hold in my mind.  I’ve yet to experience another ice-cream quite like this one.

I’m also reminded of a conversation I had with my oldest brother just a twinkle ago, about how peppermint candy came to be.  Why would something that started out so herbal and green transform at some point into a delightful symbol of a season, a feeling, a moment?  I’ve dug into this idea and here is what I’ve discovered.  One beginning of the peppermint candy started in the US with the ‘Peppermint Kings‘ (illustrious growers), that has such a regal ring to it, doesn’t it? Skip past numerous inventions of mint gums (Wrigley falls into this bracket), in the early 20th century, came the invention of the first mint hard candy by Clarence Crane.  It was supposed to resemble a life saving device with red and white stripes.  The popularity of mint or peppermint candy rose until the 195os when the crops were jeopardized by verticillium wilt.  However, the origin of the peppermint cane or stick that we now know dates back to Europe in the 17th century.  A choirmaster in the 1670s was noted for bending her mint candy sticks at the tip to resemble a shepherd’s staff, and they were handed out to the children.  Later, the red stripes were added sometime before the 1900s but nobody seems to know where this tradition exactly started.  What does this tell me?  Mint, something so simple, has spread globally for one main reason, its pure flavor and reach.  I hope you’re reading this brotha!

Now, it’s thought that the peppermint herb originated in England and gained more commercial insight as time passed.  My interest at this point is to refocus on the non-candy use of mint and how it plays a role in my life in could in yours.

What’s Up Peppermint, What Do You Do?

  • In my purest form, I help your digestive tract.  Rip off a few of my leaves (1 to 2 teaspoons) and steep me in some hot water (not boiling), cover me up quickly and I will become a lovely sipping tea.  [It is important to cover me up so that I don’t lose my volatile oils.]  I soothe your digestive issues and help ease IBS and other troublesome, garbledy goop involving your tum tum.
  • How?  There are volatile oils in me that make me smell fresh and sweet, and these oil help slow churning in your digestive tract that causes all those rumbles.
  • Bacteria and fungus overload?  My oils also help with hampering dangerous bacteria that is hoarding itself in your digestive tract, contributing to a number of issues you may be experiencing.  Consult a natural practitioner about peppermint oil treatment.
  • Grow me easily at home.  I’m a perennial (year round) herb that will run wild if you let me.  I require mild conditions and some shadow, and a damp/moist soil.
  • Use my extracted oil as aroma therapy for when you’re experiencing headaches, anxiety or under stress.  My scent combines well with lavender, another relaxing oil.  Also, I am great as a scalp stimulant and help with overly dry or oily hair by balancing the pH.  You’ll be tingling.

http://mytinyplot.com/recipes/how-to-make-mint-tea/

Personally, I’m hooked to mint! I think I’m going to make a cup o’ tea myself very soon. 😀
ENJOY, and let me know some different uses you’ve discovered.  And remember…bite responsibly!
Healthy Regards,
~RAM~

 

 

Eat Your Way to Stronger Immune System

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Although it is still hot here in Austin and in general the weather seems to be tumultuous across the states and I gather that with the onset of September comes a cooler breeze and a change in the season.  In an office, work-place, classroom or otherwise, a change in weather is a red flag to me that a large majority of your cohorts and peers could end up sick or convince themselves that they are sick.  Although I’m not a doctor nor a natural practitioner, I have some hints and tips about how I keep myself ‘up and running’ during the worst of times and the best of times.  I am of the opinion that we are (individuals) totally capable of NOT living in fear every time someone comes up with a cold or some other common illness. Our bodies shut down sometimes, but this is a sign they need to.  However, for the most part, we’re capable of keeping ourselves strong and able with a whole foods diet and few pick-me-ups.
(In no particular order.)
  • Kick-butt tea!  I make this mixture in the evenings mostly, but I double up in the mornings when I am feeling a hint of ick or a significant weather change overnight.
           Peel about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of ginger and cut it into manageable chunks.
           Place these pieces at the bottom of your favorite mug or tea-cup.
           Put the kettle on and just before the water begins to boil.
           Pour it over your chunks of peeled ginger root.
           Add  the juice from 1/2 a lemon  and stir.
           Next, add some stevia and as many shakes of cayenne pepper that you can handle.
           Swirl it all together and drink.
  • GAAAALIC.  Garlic is easily one of my favorite things to eat.  Bonus for me and all of you of course, it’s loaded with bacterial fighting goodness and it doesn’t injure or disrupt our bodies’ natural flora like otc stuff .  Additionally it’s anti-inflammatory, which is helpful for times of stress, exposure to radiation (possibly cancer patients) and for women during their menstrual cycle.  I like to mince a clove or two (or three) up and put it on top of basically anything savory that I’m eating.  Raw, lovely and potent.  I also discovered this method recently.
  • Greens galore!  Our bodies’ function best in an alkaline state, and greens are about as alkaline as you can get.  Drinking greencentric smoothies and juices along with green bedded dishes and salads of verde splendor; you will be on your way to a strong and healthy body.  Just remember to chew it up, even if it’s in liquid form.  Producing saliva in your mouth will aid digestion where it starts, in your mouth.
  • Almond me up.  Fights inflammation and works to ward off mean bacteria, almonds should be on your radar.  I like them raw, soaked and eaten over foods, made into dips and sauces and best of all ground up into almond butter.
  • Orange foods.  I knew there was a reason that many orange and dark-yellow tinted veggies pop up during the fall and winter seasons.  The beta-carotene in sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash (to name a few) helps protect our most aesthetic organ, our skin.  Without healthy skin and a properly functioning way to excrete toxins through our skin, we’d be in bad shape.  I love to roast carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin with aromatic herbs and spices.  Pumpkin purée is also extra tasty over some breakfast grains like oats, quinoa, amaranth or millet.  Sweet potatoes also taste great mashed and served with a bit of cinnamon, walnuts and coconut oil.  Try eating these lovely orange veggies with a fat source for proper absorption.
No direct correlation with food, but these remedies are more connected to what you eat than you think:
  • LAUGH and laugh often and with full heart.  Comedic Moments and Films I recommend:
Buster Keaton  – Balloonatic (1923)

Woody Allen – Sleeper (1973)

Maria Bamford – Paula Dean skit (2012)

Lazy Sunday 1 – SNL

Lazy Sunday 2 – SNL

 

  • Liquify!  Drink plenty of water daily–I would recommend an amount, but I believe going off of one’s thirst is the best method, unless your thirst drives you to anything but water–because water helps to flush out excessive waste cells and gunk that builds up in your body.  Water also helps to carry oxygen throughout your body, which will in turn allow you to work at full capacity. H2O works to keep your mouth clean so extra harmful particles and bacteria don’t fester.  There are many more splendid benefits of drinking water for your immune system
  • Sleepy time.  Amongst sleep’s many wonderful attributes, among mammalian species, sleep helps to increase white blood cell count, which equates to a better functioning immune system.  I say, the more we rest, the less stressed we are apt to become.  Stress can lower our body’s ability to defend itself.  It’s all tied together.

I hope some of this will be helpful to some of you in the coming days, weeks, months and years to come.  Remember, all of our bodies are different  If you have any additions to what I’ve stated, please let me know, I would enjoy hearing from you.  Understand that keeping our body strong is something that should and easily can be an ongoing process.  Respecting those around you, the source of your food in connection to its proper season and the quality of its nutrients is an optimum way to keep your body and mind aligned with the earth and its effects on you and those you love.

And remember…bite responsibly…especially right now. ^____-

 

Healthy Regards,

~RAM~