What the Garden taught me


Today my grandma and I sat down and began the process of harvesting pomegranate seeds for juicing and dehydrating. I really need to show you the amazing tree she has growing in her front yard. The pomegranates started falling from the tree about a month ago, so we started taking them down. We filled up an entire barrel with pomegranates.

I have to say that I am way more connected with the earth these days, and maybe that’s why I am where I am. Since my grandma is too old to bend down and take care of her garden, I’ve taken on the responsibility and it’s been absoultely amazing and I am grateful for every moment I get to spend tending to the kale, mint, basil, orange, lemon, and avocado trees. We are actually planning on planting some new leafy greens for the upcoming winter season. This would be my first time ever planting something in 30 years. Oh, yea. I turned 30 this past weekend, so I’m a freaking adult now. My trial and error phase is over and I’m really glad for some reason. I don’t feel like a kid anymore. I haven’t felt like a kid for the past three years or so, but now it’s official. I’m not a young adult anymore. Couldn’t have happened at a better time that I get into gardening because I’ve learned so much about how to live and what caring for life means.

Gardening really is life teaching. It’s funny because for the longest time I was watering weeds in my grandma’s garden. I wasn’t actually sure what I was doing. I knew it was summer and the plants and veggies needed watering often, so I would go out there everyday and water, but I didn’t know how to decipher weeds from plants until I asked my grandma to show me what was what. She laid it down and told me. We both laughed as I told her I had been watering weeds all summer. But it was okay, I pulled them out and started tending to the soil underneath that wasn’t getting watered as much due to the weeds.

I learned that we need our elders to show us the way and sometimes we can be caring and giving attention to things that go out of control and won’t give us any sustenance, like weeds. I’ll be honest. I have cared for weeds for a long time like ugly thoughts or negative people and they had gone out of control. But what’s cool is that you can always start over. You can pull out the weeds, air out the soil, and start again. It’s never too late. All we need is a little help and a wise voice from an experienced gardener to help us tend to our own soil. Sometimes weeds have DEEP roots, but you can always pull them out with a strong hand and make sure that every day, every week, we tend to the garden or it will die or get out of control.

That’s life right there. Simple. I couldn’t be more grateful to be here with my grandma, harvesting pomegranate seeds and making plans to keep the garden alive and prosperous. Sometimes we don’t always know what we are doing on the earth but all of the sudden something clicks. The garden helped me sort through weeds in my life and gave me hope and reassurance that I’m in the right place because I needed to learn how to garden.


Lemon Water “High”-dration

A month or so ago, my grandmother plopped a huge refrigerator container filled with lemons on the kitchen counter and said she was going to make some kind of standard sugary lemonade since she didn’t want the lemons to go bad. I told her I wanted to use them for my Master Cleanse, so she let me have them but as I tried to muster up the courage to do the cleanse again, I started juicing lemons and slicing them to make “skinny water,” which is basically water infused with lemon and other herbs such as mint or basil or even cucumber slices.

I decided that I would use the lemons to make a pitcher of skinny water every day that everybody could share rather than use them for my solo Master Cleanse journey. This turned into making various concoctions of lemon infused drinks, such as blueberry mint lemon water. SDC11867.

Drinking lemon water is really refreshing. It makes you feel clean and clear.

Today, for example, I was at a friend’s since I’ve been sort of half crashing there. Before I left, I made sure to juice a lemon and throw it into my half gallon little pink water jugSDC11872.
As I drove down the hill, I started hydrating. I let the lemon surge through me and bubble my stomach. I could almost “see” what the lemon was doing to my body in terms of hydration and purification. It was amazing almost like an immediate endorphin. I felt giddy, excited to go about the day.

I remember experiencing a water-high like this once when I was in Europe after three days of backpacking and train sleeping. I drank carbonated water for the first time in my life and it was like my jet lag disappeared and my body was adjusted to the 12-hour time difference.

Water is cool.

The best kind of high can be experienced through proper, clean, tasty hydration. Maybe since our bodies are mostly water and when we give ourselves the right amount of water, we become balanced. One with our true nature and we then feel full, complete, “high” on life.

Watermelon Obsession

My grandma bought a package of pre-cut watermelon from the store last week and I practically used it all to make morning shakes, so I bought a huge one from Costco to replace it and that guy is pretty much gone now. Being back in Cali, living with my gran, I’ve been making smoothies for her every morning. I bought Spirulina two weeks ago, and I’ve been sneaking it in the smoothies. Heh heh heh. You can’t really sneak spirulina into anything because it’s so green and it pretty much changes the color of whatever you use it in into dark green or brown. I told my grandma the first time I made her a green smoothie, It might look funny but it’s going to taste sweet and good. I think after you get over the look of a green smoothie, you are more open to greens altogether.

Watermelon is awesome in smoothies. It’s sweet, hydrating, rich in lycophene (cancer prevention), and L-citrulline (helps treat muscle soreness). Things we need, especially my gran who is always experiencing cramps and muscle soreness.

She seems to be doing better, more active, and more energetic. I’m just going to keep making her my spirulina and watermelon smoothies, until we get sick of them. One combination that has been working well is:

2-3 cups watermelon,

1 cup frozen banana,

2 cups spinach,

1-2 tsp spirulina (depending on how much fruit you have used).

water as needed

This recipe is AMAZING, really refreshing and smooth. My grandma likes this one better than some of the other spirulina smoothies I’ve tried, probably because she loves watermelon and since it’s getting hotter we can all appreciate delicious, hydrating drinks.

Since I run and do Bikram, I crave watermelon after exercise. It really helps me to re-fuel and re-hydrate, and I find myself eating fruit so much more rather than drinking water, although I still get my water on. I’m going to Costco later to get another big watermelon, since we are almost out.

Ani Phyo has this good cocktail recipe that includes white wine, lime, and agave, in addition to frozen watermelon. I made that this morning minus the white wine and agave, and it was just as good. I’m looking for some good watermelon recipes that include lime. That’s the search for the next few days. Any suggestions?


Psyllium Husk cleansing bread

My dehydrator is out from the shadows and making a nice reappearance in my life once again. I never used it when I was in Arizona for some reason but lately I’ve been making a few nice goodies–crackers, veggie patties, and I recently found this recipe for bread that includes an ingredient called “Psyllium Husk” that I never heard of before.

Last weekend I went into one of my favorite stores in East Los Angeles called “Yerbas de Mexico” or “Herbs of Mexico” in English and found the Psyllium Husk. I was looking for Spirulina and right next to the bin with Spirulina was the Psyllium husk. I figured it had to be destiny. I had been thinking about making the bread but had never heard of Psyllium husk. I have a friend who works in this store so she told me what she knew about it.

She was like, yea there’s nothing like taking a good “Psyllium sh**” because the this thing sticks to your intestines and cleans them out. My boyfriend and I were like, “OOOO Cool but gross…” We both bought a bag of it. I read some stuff online about how to take it and they say to take it around 30 minutes before a meal so it expands in your stomach and you eat less.

The stuff really works, at least with cleaning you out anyway and it’s very gentle.

We read stuff saying that you have to be careful drinking the psyllium husk because it could expand in your throat or chest if it gets stuck. I suppose that could happen, but we create our reality. If I think it would happen, yea, maybe it would, otherwise, it’s all good. Hasn’t happened and it’s not a concern.

This week I made the bread using the psyllium and it’s awesome. It’s very moist and soft yet held together just like a regular bread. Can’t wait to use the psyllium in other recipes.

Raw Chocolate Frozen Shake

SDC11746There are few who don’t love chocolate, but nobody likes pimples. Regular chocolate often includes sugar, butter, and milk, which is why it tastes so good. I now look at little chocolate chip morsels and feel betrayed. I once trusted them, thinking they were just plain old chocolate, but we have to be smart and look at the freaking labels! The truth lies in the label. Regular chocolate chips just aren’t cool because they are non-dairy and will make you break out from all the sugar packed into them. Every time I eat chocolate chips, it never fails, and a big whopping pimple appears somewhere on my face the next morning.

So today, I got home and was thinking about having some chocolate, but I decided I wasn’t going to go the easy route and eat chocolate chips. I wanted something more.

In the spirit of using on-hand ingredients, I decided to make a frozen chocolate shake using some raw ingredients.

I used
1 1/2 cups almond milk,
2 cups of ice,
2 tbs cacao powder,
1 tbs cacao nibs,
1 tbs almond butter
1 tsp agave

Blend together, and there is this beautiful concoction that is refreshing, low calorie, dairy-free, and raw with a wonderful chocolate flavor.
It’s all I needed this afternoon after a day of work and yoga.

Some cool things about cacao nibs and cacao powder is that they are high in antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and fiber. They are also good for improving mood, and they won’t make you break out!

Spanish Quinoa “Rice” with Mushrooms

I accidentally made healthy Spanish “rice” this week by experimenting with a can of tomato sauce I had on hand. Something cool always happens when I use what I have in my refrigerator and follow my instincts rather than a recipe.

So the other day I wanted to make some quinoa risotto. I use this method of cooking mushrooms, onions, and garlic in coconut oil for a few minutes, then adding sage, thyme, and 1/2 cup of white wine. This really gives the mushrooms and onions a great flavor. So then what you do is add your quinoa, let it toast, and then add your vegetable broth. But what I did this time, was add tomato sauce. It took longer to cook until I covered the pan with a lid. Duh! Once I did that, the steam went to work and cooked the quinoa fully.

I added some salt and pepper and it was golden. As I tasted the quinoa, I realized that I’d basically used all the ingredients to make Spanish rice but used Quinoa instead of white or brown rice.
This was really exciting for me since I LOVE Spanish Rice but you may not always want to be eating starchy, high carb foods like rice, so the Quinoa gives a lighter touch on the recipe, with almost the same consistency.

I would’ve put up a picture but that stuff didn’t last long. It’s exciting to make Mexican food healthy because I’m Mexican and I know how fattening the food can be. My friend’s grandma makes the best Spanish rice and even though the rice turns orange, it was once just plain old white rice a.k.a sugar. Quinoa is a great replacement for white rice (sugar) since it’s high in protein and provides a similar consistency to rice.

Here’s my recipe:

1 tbs sage
1 tbs thyme
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 onion chopped
3-6 garlic cloves (however you like it, for me the more the better)
1 cup quinoa
vegetable broth
1 can tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Add white wine, sage, and thyme and cook until white wine disappears. Add vegetable broth and tomato sauce, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.

A Giada dinner

I love Giada de Laurentis because she’s one of the only cooks featured on the Food Network who prepares healthy dishes, in addition to her Italian specialties. So she has a new cookbook that came out called “Giada’s Feel Good Food.” Many of the dishes have weird food combinations, like an omelet with strawberries in it! I’m sorry but that’s a recipe for fermentation if I ever heard of one, although there are some real gems in this cookbook, like the “Soba Noodle Salad” I made tonight. I am very pleased with the results.

This dish only involves cooking the soba noodles. The rest of the ingredients include fresh shredded cabbage, sliced red peppers, scallions, cucumber, slivered almonds, and sesame seeds. The dressing is very tasty with ingredients such as soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, olive oil, honey, wasabi paste, and a whole 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice.

Amazing, light, savory, satisfying. This is a great salad.

I also love her desserts, so I found a good recipe for “Chocolate muffins.” Simple enough but it’s nearly vegan, except that it asked for two eggs. Eeee. I find that I get more of a stomach reaction from consuming milk rather than eggs, so I thought I could make an exception this time, for this recipe. When I was baking over Christmas, I used a vegan egg replacement using chia seeds that didn’t come out so well. I thought, well, I can make this recipe one time by the book, and give it a shot another time with the vegan egg replacement and see how it goes. This recipe asked for brown rice flour! I was very excited to buy and use this since I’ve never used it before. Instead of using butter or milk, you use safflower oil and applesauce and maple syrup instead of sugar. I also used vegan chocolate chips because I was breaking out by eating regular chocolate chips that of course include more than just chocolate or cocoa.

So I had a Giada dinner and dessert and I’ve very happy with how everything came out. I look forward to trying more of the recipes from her new book.

Holiday cleansing and weekend baking

There’s nothing like a nice pair of jeans to keep you in shape during the holidays. Since it’s been cold, I’ve been wearing leggings and tights to fit into my boots, so I hadn’t noticed that I’d gained weight until I put on my jeans a few weeks ago. So I did what I know best to stabilize my weight and went raw. Today marks my eleventh day of eating a raw food diet. At first it was torture, because I was so used to having oatmeal and toast for breakfast and making warm, vegetable and carb soup for dinner.

I ain’t gonna lie. I love carbs, especially when I’m cold. But what I love better is the feeling I have right now. During the first three days of my raw food cleanse, I thought…why is this so hard this time around? Well, I have never done a cleanse during the holidays because this is the time I usually put on weight and don’t care because it’s almost socially acceptable to get fat during this season. One of my yoga teachers told us before Halloween that the average American gains 10 lbs during the holidays. She’s like, “that’s the size of a baby! That’s not gonna happen to us, okay?”

Going raw put me in control during the holiday season. After eleven days of cleansing I feel so much better and really inspired to keep it going during Christmas. This holiday is traditionally centered around presents, people, and food. Thanksgiving is over but I am determined to keep the thanks and gratitude going by making healthy raw and vegan food next week. This seems to be one of the only ways you can stay raw and keep healthy during the holidays. I’d rather be loaded up on veggies, fruits, and grains first rather than get stuffed on bread or whatever else and be done for the night feeling all bloated and gross.

I was watching one of my favorite raw foodists on youtube–fully Raw Kristina. She made a video of all these raw food platters she was bringing to a holiday meal and some of them seemed nice but really unrealistic. Who’s gonna be salivating over a platter of apples or persimmons or a vegetable platter in the shape of a turkey? One thing she made that seems really cool is her recipe for pumpkin pie brownies.

Anyway, I’m just going to be baking this weekend, making vegan cookies and biscuits to give as gifts. Holiday shopping confuses me because I don’t like getting people random crap, so I’m just going to make some healthy good tasting items wrapped really cute. Oh, and I’m super excited to try baking with chia as a vegan egg replacement. Should be a nice cooking adventure this weekend. I’ll share more later.

Cashews as Natural Cure for Depression

Today I was craving cashews and after cuddling up with one of my favorite raw food books, I read that cashews can help naturally cure depression. I thought that was pretty interesting since I’ve known people who used to take anti-depressant pills that didn’t seem to help much. I always say try something natural before you drug yourself up, and reading this was exciting especially during holiday time.

I think some people tend to get depressed during the cold months because they might be too cold or lazy to exercise off all the sweets and indulgent treats they may be eating and also, holiday time tends to be tailored for family and relationships. What do you do if you don’t have a good relationship with your family? This is the time where it’s harder to hide it. Many would say that life is too short and you just gotta suck it up and release resentments because they only make you sick, but what if you aren’t ready to do that? That’s okay too but in the meantime you just have to make yourself happy and do things that make you happy, eat things that make you feel good but that doesn’t always mean eating a pumpkin pie or turkey leg.
So how do cashews cure depression I wondered? I did some research and found that cashews are high in tryptophan, the amino acid that is the primary building block of serotonin, the neurotransmitter believed to responsible for making us feel good, for enabling us to relax, helping to stabilize the nervous system and prevent anxiety and depression.

Cashews might be one of the most favored nuts out there because they are buttery and many raw food recipes use them to replace savory and rich dairy ingredients such as butter, cheese, or even milk. People say don’t eat nuts if you want to lose weight or aren’t trying to gain weight, but we need to eat a little bit of fat. I often find people who don’t agree with eating nuts favor heart clogging meats and mucus forming dairy. So who’s right? What makes more sense? I say make your own decisions. Do your own research.
Yea, nuts are fatty but so is meat. A nut is easier to digest and won’t stay in your system for a long time like meat would. We only gain weight when we eat like pigs, don’t exercise and feel unsafe. Don’t blame the nuts.

Recipes using cashews:
1) Throw 1/4 cup of cashews in a smoothie with 1 cup strawberries, 1 tbs coconut oil, 1 tbs vanilla, pinch of stevia, 1 cup water.
2) Cashew ice kream (Ani Phyo recipe: 1 cup cashew, 1/4 cup agave, 4-6 tbs water thrown into a blender)
3) Maple walnut bars (Stephanie Tourles recipe: 1 cup cashews, 10 dates, 1/2 cup raw oats, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, pinch sea salt, coconut oil. Put ingredients in food processor. Coat 8-inch square pan with coconut oil, spread mixture in pan 1/2 inch thick. Cover and freeze for 4 hours. Store in freezer)

Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars

SDC11728 I have to create every single day, especially during the Fall season when I get really lazy because it’s darker and colder. I really have to work on being active, creating, and keeping my endorphins and energy up.

So the other day I was at work and I was feeling the itch to cook something using the pistachios I just bought from Fresh and Easy because they were a bonus point item. I found this recipe on a website that I can’t even remember the name of. I wrote it down on a scrap paper and I now want to throw the scrap paper away because I was in a cleaning mode today and I already have too many scrap papers.

Anyway, I made the “Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars” and was very pleased. I love that they have chia in them because the chia has helped me poop good. I also really love this recipe because it utilized wax paper to help bind together the raw dough. This task can be hard because you usually have to press raw dough mixtures together with your hands and you may end up losing the mixture when it sticks to your hands or utensils. This recipe was brilliant because it asked you to throw the dough right onto a flour dusted parchment paper and form it into a square using the sides of the parchment paper. You just stick it in the refrigerator like that and it stays together well. It’s not messy and it really helps.

So here’s the recipe.

1.5 cups pitted dates
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Carob)
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional but it adds nice flavor profile)
1 cup raw almonds or raw shelled pistachios

1) Place dates in food processor. Puree until thick paste forms. Add cocoa powder, chia seeds and vanilla and almond extracts. Pulse until all ingredients are well combined. Add nuts, pulse until finely chopped and well distributed through date mixture.

2) Spread large sheet of wax paper on work surface and dust with oat flour (or whatever flour you have). Transfer date mixture to wax paper and use paper to press mixture into 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Wrap tightly and chill overnight.

3) Unwrap block and cut into eight bars. Dust edges and sides with flour to prevent sticking. Wrap each bar in wax paper, or don’t and just place in a container that stays refrigerated.

Okay, that’s the recipe. It’s tasty, light, and so good looking if you use pistachios. The green hints of pistachio are so pretty.