strawberry cardamom lassi

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The dining room in our house is in a large room off the kitchen with taller, exposed beam ceilings in what is the converted garage.  Being on the south side of the house, all the plants grow prolifically here and this time of year, that combined with the shrubs and trees outside make the room private and my own personal plant sanctuary. In this room being surrounded by soothing, green life, I can palpably feel all my routinely wound up nerves and muscles relax.

With each passing term in my nutrition program, the interlink between stress and dis-ease comes up. In this last week, like so many others, my digestive health professor discussed a recommendation for a client with many digestive imbalances to take at least an hour of complete downtime twice each day, during daylight. With something like every other post here relating to my own stress in some way, I guess you can say each term, these sorts of recommendations hit home.

Beyond plants or downtime, technology breaks and soothing music, there’s a lot to do with food and nutrition that can reset our symptoms (whether physical or mental), since so much of the body’s mood-regulating transmitters like serotonin are manufactured and reside in our gut. The Recipe Redux theme this month calls for Probiotic Cocktails and Gut-Health Mocktails since they’re apparently popping up on trendy drink menus. I’m not particularly up on or following trends at this point in my life, but I do appreciate that I can request locally brewed kombucha in lieu of alcohol at basically every drinking establishment here in Eugene, and drinking that instead of alcohol helps me feel a lot better afterwards since the over-stimulation of going out, eating perhaps a little too much, and socializing for hours can definitely distress my system, even before sugary and alcoholic drinks are involved.

And beyond the sometimes necessity and enjoyment of going out to do all the above, often I simply would rather invite friends over for an intimate tea or lassi party in my plant room. I just need slightly cushier chairs and a gauzy curtain transitioning it to the main house and the space will be ready. For sure, I’ve got the gut-health friendly drinks all prepped.

 

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For the occasion, I’ve made strawberry lassi, amped up with hints of cardamom. Lassi is a traditionally Indian drink, and though I can’t say for sure, it’s base of yogurt makes me believe it originated to soothe and balance the digestive system. Beyond yogurt, foods with probiotics — those that contain live beneficial microbes — and prebiotics — those that feed those beneficial microbes, can do so much for our health including enhancing how we utilize nutrients, preventing infections and regulating the immune system, balancing or modulating metabolism,  regulating inflammation, appetite, cravings, mood, and bowel movement, and much, much more. Basically all the things that are off in us in our modern society can be significantly restored by rebalancing and feeding our beneficial gut bacteria.

In this drink, I started with a base of plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt. Cultured non-dairy yogurt is not only a live, fermented food which directly contributes healthy bacteria to our gut ecosystem, but it is also an exceptional alternative to dairy yogurt for those of us that have digestive health complaints, since both dairy’s protein and sugar (lactose) are highly problematic and inflammatory for large populations of individuals. It’s important to start with unsweetened yogurt too, since refined sugar is one of the best foods to enhance all the problematic microbes that also live in our systems.

Then I added cardamom, because it’s been calling my name, and cardamom is a spice that acts in many ways similar to ginger. It is mildly pungent and anti-inflammatory and in addition to adding a lovely taste to these lassi, it can help the digestion wake up, utilize digestive enzymes better, and combat bloat and nausea. Whereas ginger is a very heating spice, cardamom is more cooling for this warmer season we’re transitioning into.

Lastly, chia seeds and honey both contain non-digestible carbohydrates which serve as food for our gut bacteria, i.e. they’re known as pre-biotics. And raw unheated honey, used in small amounts, can be dually beneficial, since it contains over 1 billion colony forming units of 13 unique strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, making it both a probiotic and prebiotic, and containing nearly as many beneficial microbes as commercial yogurt!

 

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If you’re in the neighborhood and can use a little reprieve in my plant room with a glass of strawberry lassi in hand, let me know. I might just let you in. Or perhaps, I’ve given you food for thought on creating your own gut-healthy drink and sipping sanctuary situation.

 

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strawberry cardamom lassi
, makes 4 small glasses
1 pint whole strawberries, rinsed and halved
2 cups unsweetened plain coconut yogurt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
1 Tbs. chia seeds
2 tsp. honey, use more or less to taste
a good squeeze from about 1/4 of a fresh lime

  • Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender and puree until evenly mixed. Start with a little less honey and add to taste.
  • Pour into glasses and enjoy right away. The longer it sits, the thicker it will get due to the chia, making it a little more spoonable rather than sippable.

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Strawberry Tabbouleh Salad + an early summer catch up

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It has been a while since I rounded up all the inspirations that are lifting me and the last couple of months, there has been much. I enjoy going back and reading my previous posts of these types, so in the off-chance you’ll enjoy any of these as much as I have, I’m bringing them to you here.

Otherwise, this strawberry tabbouleh salad is so absolutely delicious that I’m going to make it on repeat until the strawberries slow down. It just might be my new favorite spring meal.


Reading
:
Tender: a cook and his vegetable patch

Iron and the Female Athlete: This review article was an assigned reading from my micronutrients class this term. I am learning so much and I really appreciated delving more into the research on select micronutrients that I (and many others) struggle with.

When Times Are Tough

Sick, Again: This perspective on living with an invisible and life-changing disease is one I resonate with. I love how Tessa was able to write about her experience and ultimately perspective on living with Crohn’s Disease.

The Power of a Letter: I’ve been saving this story about Obama’s mailroom for months. Just thinking about it lifts me up when the politics/media cloud threatens to take over.

Listening To:
Let it Out Podcast with Jessamyn Olivia Stanley and my one of my favorite ladies in food, Sarah Britton.

Connie Chapman’s Podcast about Ditching the Victim mentality (ep #69): Find Someone to Call You Out on Your Bullshit.(!)

The Rich Roll Podcast with John Mackey: Whole Foods Market opened in our city about eight months ago and I still haven’t been as I try to shop at the locally owned natural foods stores as much as I can. I didn’t expect to enjoy so much of this episode, especially Whole Foods’ founder John Mackey’s perspective on business.

And also, the episode with David Clark. I think I listened to this one about four times over in the space of three days this last week.

Self Care:
Inspiration from Claire

Self Care, Two Ways

Let it Out: I bought this journaling book last year, also authored by Let It Out podcast host, Katie Dalebout. I’ve been returning to its helpful prompts lately as there is so much good stuff here.

Into the Woods: I’ve followed Aran’s beautiful blog, Cannelle et Vanille, for as long as I knew food blogs existed. I love that she shared this video of her experience with food, as a therapy to heal and where she was able to find community and connection. So much of this resonates with my experience.

Lastly, Pia’s beautiful wisdom on a postcard from my younger self:
Ten years on again, as I look back at my younger self…I remember asking myself at the time, when everything seemed so chaotic in my life… Would I be bold enough to pursue my own dreams? To live away from my family? To live differently to my family? Will I be ok when my mother dies? Will I become a mother?
Trust. Because, yes. I need to remember this every time I ask myself heart questions in times of messiness and chaos. “Trust. Because, yes.” 

 

Strawberry Millet Tabbouleh, serves 3-5
I am a big fan of combining cooked grains, beans, and whatever seasonal vegetables are on hand to make main-dish style salads that can also double as potluck or celebratory sides. This salad, though a complete deviation from the traditional middle eastern tabbouleh, was a recent favorite in our house. The addition of strawberries really takes it to the next level.

1 cup millet
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each cumin and coriander
2 cups water
3-4 green onions
1 pint strawberries
½ a bunch of radishes
2 cups cooked lima beans
A small handful of mint leaves, finely minced
A slightly larger handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice from one small lemon
½ to ¾ teaspoon sea salt and black pepper
1/4 cup dukkah seasoning, as desired

  1. Place the millet in a small saucepan and then add the spices and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and then cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed, and then set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Thinly slice the green onions, strawberries, and radishes and add them to a large mixing bowl. Then add the cooked and cooled millet, beans, mint, parsley, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Taste as you go and adjust seasonings as needed. Top with dukkah seasoning if desired.
  3. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

strawberry, asparagus + radish flatbread

strawberry, asparagus + radish flatbread

 

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It started with my annual, have you tried asparagus before? questioning at the high school garden. To all the new students who told me they won’t eat asparagus, I brought them over to the plants, cut off a few stalks, snapped them into smallish pieces, and handed them over.

This always works.

I love converting asparagus haters. Fresh-off-the-plant raw asparagus is the epitome of what spring tastes like. It’s not tough or bitter or slightly limp like some of us have grown used to. It’s alive and green and has a flavor that even vegetable-avoiding high school students can get behind.

 

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Since then, we’ve been eating a few asparagus-filled meals on repeat.

 

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The first is this strawberry, asparagus + radish flatbread. It is perfect for a light meal or can be paired with others for more of a tapa-style selection. The Recipe Redux theme this month is tapas and small bites, so check out the link-up below for more ideas, if you’ve the mind. William and I have tended to make two of these flatbreads at a time, eat one for dinner, and then the other for lunch leftovers the next day. I like mine drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar and he leaves his as is. We love them.

 

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The other asparagus dinners we’ve been enjoying and sharing with friends this spring include a quick sauté of asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, and peas over Lindsey’s chickpea mash and then again with her vegan chickpea alfredo pasta, which we serve with asparagus, peas, and any number of other spring vegetables.

 

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Strawberry, Asparagus + Radish Flatbread, makes 2

1 1/3 cups garbanzo bean flour

2/3 cups brown rice flour, plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2-2/3 cup water

1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces

1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

juice from 1/2 lemon, or more to taste

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. raw honey

1 lb. strawberries, sliced

1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

balsamic vinegar, to drizzle, optional

  • Mix the flours, oil, baking powder, salt, and water. Add enough water to make a dough that can be handled and rolled. Then allow the mixture to rest for about 10 minutes. Divide it in two, and roll out one of the flatbreads on a floured work surface. Transfer to a baking pan or pizza dish and with a pastry brush or your fingers, coat the dough with a small amount of olive oil.
  • In a large bowl, toss the asparagus, radish slices, lemon juice, and garlic.
  • Then top the dough with half the asparagus mixture and bake at 400 degrees F for about 16 minutes. Without removing from the oven, add half the sliced strawberries, a handful of parsley, and a drizzle of honey, and then bake for an additional 3-4 minutes, just to warm the ingredients.
  • Remove from the oven, drizzle with a small amount of balsamic, if desired, slice and serve.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough and ingredients.