C is for Cranberry

Cranberry Harvest

Uh oh. Woke up with a headache, the threat of a sore throat, eyes glued shut. Bones ached as I went to stand. A hot shower didn’t melt the congestion, and the fog ’round the brain just got thicker.

Stumbling  in the dark trying to get dressed, I couldn’t sense the time. Whatever time it is, I thought, it is absolutely time for one thing ~ a wake me up, shake this off, Vitamin C Blast!

Fortunately, once in the kitchen, I found lemons in the fruit basket, a bag of fresh cranberries in the refrigerator, and the usual dried cranberries we keep around for breakfast cereal or afternoon snacks. I put a pot of water on the stove and popped the cranberries in. They cooked over medium heat with a few spices until the skin of the fresh berries burst. Mmm… it smelled so good.

Once it was ready, I stirred in the the juice of one lemon, then ladled the cider into mugs, adding a drizzle of Maple Syrup. It didn’t need much syrup. It was already fairly sweet and I didn’t want to overwhelm the winter-grey-banishing alacrity of its sour taste.

This home-made cranberry concoction was delicious and energizing. More importantly, it completely eradicated all aforementioned symptoms of impending winter flu. The fog has cleared. Eyes wide open can now experience this bright full-color of this Red Blast day.

Warm Cranberry Cider

Try it yourself  and let me know what you think ~

RED BLAST CRANBERRY CIDER

2 handfuls of fresh/dried cranberries
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
5-6 dried clove buds
Sprinkle of cardamom
Maple Syrup

Put all the ingredients except the maple syrup into a pot and warm over medium heat. Bring it to a light boil, stir, and turn the heat to low. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and ladle into mugs, adding just enough syrup to cut slightly the mouth-puckering tart.

Drink warm.

Vaccinium oxycoccos, the cranberry shrub

Cranberries are a beautiful and warm reminder of  Thanksgiving and all that we have to be thankful for any time of the year. They are a great winter fruit, providing potent bursts of color, tart flavor and health-boosting intensity.

Cranberries and pomegranate are special food medicines in Ayurveda because of their unique “sour power” combined with astringent strength. According to Ayurveda’s great resource, the Charaka Samhita, these two sour foods “focus dispersed energy, bringing the spirit back to the heart.”

John Joseph Immel of Joyful Belly adds that cranberries are “valuable digestive tonics because 1) sourness aids digestion, 2) its cool quality soothes inflammation, and 3) astringency restores tone to distended tissues.”

In addition to its reputation as a useful agent for bladder infection, the tannins in cranberry make them beneficial in the case of diarrhea. Like most red fruits, cranberries strengthen the circulatory system, reduce heat in the blood and liver, are high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants, and promote good cholesterol. They have twice the polyphenols of red grapes, making them great combative forces against clotting, cancer, and the plaque that causes tooth decay.

Cranberries are also known to reduce the severity of asthma attacks, with chemical compounds similar to those in anti-asthma medications. Finally, new research suggests that cranberries help protect the brain from neurological damage.

As King George III, known for his own royal brand of neurological damage, famously repeated, “What? What?”  With all that going for it, I think I’ll have another glass.

Cranberry Bog


At my upcoming class on Ayurvedic Cooking for Winter Wellness, I will talk more specifically about the Six Tastes, including Sour and Astringent, and their impact on health. If you can’t make this class, the next one, “Spring Detox Cooking Class,” will be April 3rd.

Stay tuned, stay well and  stay wise ~ Namaste!


A Vegetarian Christmas

Vegetarian Christmas Menu
I wanted to share with you our Christmas Dinner Menu, in case you are still looking for ideas. Feel free to print out this menu – just double click on it for print version. I have attached links below to all the recipes.

Chestnut Porcini Soup is featured in Edible San Diego, and is the creation of Patrick Ponsaty, Chef de Cuisine at Mistral, the signature restaurant at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Sage Bread is from Delicious Living, the magazine for Real Food, Natural Health, Green Planet.

Brioche Stuffing With Chestnuts and Figs is from the New York Times Well Recipes, but I’ve adapted it and posted  my vegetarian version here. This Christmas I will add to it raisins, fresh cranberries and rosemary.

Roasted Root Vegetables: Red Beets, Indigo, Orange & Cream Colored Carrots, and White Parsnips ~ Nestled alongside the Stuffing, this will roast in a bit of olive and safflower oil tossed with rosemary, covered in foil for the first thirty minutes and left uncovered the final 10.

Oregon Blue

Vegetarian Gravy

Cranberry Chutney

Winter GreensRogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese

Buche de Noel

Egg Nog Lassi

Enjoy ~

I wish you a Holiday Season full of Love, Light and Peace.

Winter Greens

In Ayurveda, we seek to include all six tastes in our meals in an order that matches the process of digestion and ensures optimal breakdown, absorption, and wellness.  I have seen many clients and students overcome chronic digestive discomfort simply through the wise sequencing of the six tastes.

For balance and health, our meals begin with the sweet taste, include some salt, sour, pungent, and follow with astringent and bitter. Salad greens offer some combination of the astringent and bitter taste, so following your main course with a salad is not only trés European, it is trés Ayurveda!

Which brings me to Christmas. Our Christmas Dinner will include a Winter Greens Salad with a lovely mass of color, and delightful bursts of tangy astringent and woody bitter flavors. We will pair it with Rogue Creamery’s Oregon Blue Cheese made from raw milk drawn from grass-fed cows. It’s an update on tradition and a tasty delight.

WINTER GREENS

Mesclun of fresh Farmer’s Market Greens
4-5 Spring Onions, chopped
1 cup dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Pepitas
1/2 cup Pomegranate seeds

Toss ingredients together in a bowl and serve with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette.

WALNUT OIL VINAIGRETTE

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Olive oil
3 tablespoons Walnut oil

Whisk together vinegar, garlic, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then whisk in oils in a slow stream until emulsified. Toss greens with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Christmas Salad

Thanksgiving Revisited

Thanksgiving Dinner

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving dinner with its feast of flavorful comfort foods?

As a vegetarian I have been experimenting with healthy, delicious ways to update this traditional meal for many years now, without wanting to deviate much from its warm, grounding staples. At the same time, experimentation encourages us to explore the diversity and bounty of this season’s harvest, reminding us, in turn, of the true meaning of the holiday – to give thanks for the abundant nourishment of Nature.

A few delicious favorites ~

Sweet Potato Cloud

Sweet Potato Cloud on the Right of Plate

4 medium sized sweet potatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. ghee
ground cayenne pepper
ground turmeric
ground clove
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1½ cups organic coconut milk
1 tsp. sage, dried or fresh
1 cup broken pecan pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 425. Scrub the sweet potatoes clean and dice into large chunks. They do not need to be peeled.

Mix oil and ghee together with a dash each of cayenne, turmeric and clove in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Toss the sweet potatoes in the spice mixture to coat thoroughly and and lay them out evenly in a baking dish. Drip any remaining spicy oil over the potatoes in the pan.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and roast, stirring once or twice, for another 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove from oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. While cooling, spread pecans evenly across a small oven pan and roast at 425 for a few minutes, until just beginning to brown. Remove pecans from oven and allow to cool.

Transfer sweet potatoes back to the large bowl and mash while slowly adding the coconut milk. Season with sage, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, and stir well.

Toss toasted pecan pieces in the center, garnish with a sprig of fresh sage and serve warm.

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Sauce Chutney
Cranberry Sauce with spice!

1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp Ghee
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
½  small apple, cubed into small pieces
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp grated orange peel ~ optional

Melt the ghee in a saucepan on a low flame. Mix in the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, cooking for one minute. Stir in dried cranberries until they are thoroughly glazed with ghee.  Add water and bring to a light boil.

Once boiling, stir in fresh cranberries and apple pieces. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer on low flame until all the fruit is soft, about ten minutes. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over mixture, stir well and allow to simmer, covered, another minute.

Garnish with orange zest and serve warm.

Thanksgiving Harvest Stew

Sophia Lunch #AyurvedicSoup
Thanksgiving Harvest Stew for a crowd

2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp olive oil
½  tsp. ginger powder
½  tsp. garam masala
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic
1 potato, chopped into small pieces
3-4 carrots, diced into bite-size coins
2 celery stalks, diced
1 head cauliflower, bite size pieces
1 lb. french beans, cut in thirds
1 yellow pepper, chopped into small pieces, optional
1 cup vegetable broth
14 ounces organic coconut milk
8 ounces Korma sauce
1 cup fresh cranberries
½ cup pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or pecan pieces

Clean and prepare all the vegetables. Melt ghee in a large pot over medium low heat. Add olive oil and spices and sauté for one minute. Stir in onion and sauté. Once the onions turn golden, add potato and sauté until its edges begin moving towards translucence. Stir in carrots and celery, and sauté another couple of minutes. Add cauliflower, french beans, tomatoes and yellow pepper. Stir thoroughly to coat vegetables.

Add broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low for five to ten minutes. Stir in Korma sauce, coconut milk and cranberries. Allow to simmer a few minutes so the flavors merge.

Garnish with nuts or seeds, and serve warm with a fresh baked Rosemary Sage bread.