Monday, November 11, 2013


One of my most vivid early childhood memories is sitting with my grandfather under a big tree in the centre of a village square on the island of Paros (Cyclades, Greece)on our summer hollidays. Large green pods are hanging off the tree and I ask my grandfather whether these are actually beans. "No, these are carobs, we have plenty of those in Greece", he replies, "They're sweet like sugar... they helped us survive the war, no one really eats them anymore". And I would be looking at them wondering how can these weird beans taste as sweet as sugar...?
Until a few years ago that is pretty much what I knew about carobs. Although I always came across the carob tree aroung Greece - even in the centre of Athens - I am ashamed to say that I had never even tried it! The Greeks fed it to the animals and most had stopped using it in cooking and baking, I guess carobs reminded them of the diffuclt days of war and starving, who knows...
With the organic food and health craze of the recent years, carob made its glorious return in the shelves of health foodstores and in the organic farmer's markets! People realised that this fruit actually saved the lives of starving people and children during the war not just because they ate something that tasted sweet and replaced many expensive and rare-to-find basic products like flour, coffee or sugar, but due to its great nutritional value. 

So what about the health benefits of the carob fruit?
Well, it is very high in protein (80%), it's very rich in calcium (100 gr of carob contain 350 mg of calcium, when 100 gr of milk only contain 130 mg of calcium). It is also very rich in phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. It also contains iron, manganese, barium, copper and it is high in vitamines A, D, B, B2 and B3.
It is anti-allergic, antiseptic, anti-varial, analgesic, anti-bacterial and an antioxidant! All of these qualities are mainly due to the Gallic acid in the tannins of the carob fruit, which also helps in the treatment of poliomyelitis in children (the polio desease). In addition, it fights osteoporosis (due to its high content in calcium and phosphorus), regulates the digestion process, and it magically cures diahrea both in children and adults.
And that's not just it... It regulates the blood glucose levels, which makes it especially beneficial for people with diabetes, it lowers harmful cholesterol levels, it may help to burn fat and calories in the body, it is effective against asthma and asthma caused by allergies and it helps in treating cough and flu.

Where does it grow?
Tradditionally the carob tree (Ceratonea siliqua) grows in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. The tree was known to the ancient Greeks, who planted the seeds in Greece and Italy.
In the Illustrated Botanical Dictionary, written by Demetrios Kavadas and published in 1956, the author counts 3,300.000 carob trees arround Greece!!! Back then, the estimated annual carob produce in Greece was about 37.000 tons!!!

How do you eat it?
You can eat it raw when it's fresh and ripe if you happen to find it or you can eat it dried (see photo above). You can use carob powder/flour (ground pods, see photo below), which is naturally sweet, in a number of recipes, replacing regular flour, like cakes, cookies and biscuits or even to make pasta...and it's gluten-free (just make sure regular flour with gluten hasn't been added to the carob flour during processing)!!! It can also successfully replace cocoa powder in several recipes and is also used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Ground pods may be boiled to make carob syrup or honey, which again can be used in several recipes, in salad dressings or as a sweetener.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stuffed Pumpkin

It's pumpkin season and what an amazing vegetable it is! It seems to me that it is one of those ingredients that once you add it to a dish it suddently turns more sofisticated. Its natural sweetness, creamy texture and warm color are an unbeatable combination that can work great both in savoury and sweet recipe ideas. 
Its sweetness and creamy texture also make it an ideal baby-food (steamed, boiled, or roasted and then mashed and mixed witha teaspoon of olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice).
And what about the health benefits? Well, its a low calorie vegetable and it is very rich in vitamin A, flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as leutin, xanthin, and carotenes. It is also a good source of vitamins C, E and B-complex and minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
I often add it in salads either raw or roasted (it tastes great with a honey dressing). The old time classic pumpkin soup is in my top ten list of "Favourite Comfort Foods". I also add it in my "winter savoury pies", combined with wild mushrooms, leeks, fresh seasonal herbs and a smoked cheese....yuuum!!! It tastes great with pasta or even better oven-baked lasagna and I recommend you add it in a frittata or just a simple omelette along with some grated feta cheese.
Well enough with all these ideas...time to share my recipe with you! The other day I found this great-shaped pumpkin. It really looked like it came out of Cinderella's fairytale...I really felt it would be a crime to cut it and chop it! So I had the perfect recipe to honor her shape and beauty: I decided to stuff it and roast it whole! I prepared a stuffing with aromatic basmati rice (you may replace it with quinoa if you prefer), some mushrooms, walnuts, raisins, linseeds, sesame seeds, tomatoes, ginger and fresh herbs.

Here is the recipe:

You will need:

1 large pumpkin around 5-5.5 kg + 400 gr extra for the stuffing (grated)
2 tablespoons olive oil
400 gr basmati rice
300 gr chopped portobello mushrooms
2 medium onions, chopped
4-5 chopped spring onions
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
4-5 plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup linseeds
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cardamom
2 tablespoons chopped fennel 
1/4 cup chopped dill
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1.2 litres hot vegetable stock or water 
salt and pepper
black pepper

Wash your pumpkin well. Slice the lid off the top and keep it aside for later. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and fibrous flesh from the inside. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/390ºF.
Heat a large saucepan and add the olive oil. Sauté the onions, spring onions, garlic and ginger. Add the mushrooms, walnuts, raisins, sesame seeds, linseeds, gtated pumpkin and allspice and stir. Add the rice and blend well. Add the diced tomatoes and about 1.2 litres of hot vegetable stock or water. Season with salt and pepper, put the heat down to low, cover and let it simmer for 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and mix in all the chopped herbs. The rice should not be completely soft by now but not too uncooked either. If you feel it needs to cook a bit longer just put the lid back on and let stand for another 10 minutes.

Stuff the pumpkin with the rice and put its lid back on top.
Cover the oven shelf with some foil and place the pumpkin on it. Put it in the oven and right underneath it place an oven tray filled with water (make sure the pumpkin doesn't touch the water).  Lower the heat to 150°C/gas mark 2/325°F and cook for about 2 hours until the pumpkin and rice are soft enough.

Invite your friends or family (too big just for one!) and enjoy!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Natural Easter Eggs

Easter is coming up and if you are planning to get into the season's spirit and dye some eggs just bare in mind that commercial dyes are quite toxic. Good news is you can beautifully dye your eggs with natural ingredients like cetrain fruit, vegetables or spices found in your kitchen, easy and with amazing results!!!
Here is the way:
One way to do it is to boil your eggs (hard-cooked), before you start preparing your different dyes and then wash them with warm water and a very small amount of soap (preferably a natural soap). Allow the eggs to cool down completely before you soak them in the dye. The more you let them soak, the sronger the colours (you may even let them soak in the refrigerator overnight).
Another way of doing it - and for more intense color results - is to wash the eggs and then boil them in the dye you have prepared.
Both ways work just fine.
You can experiment with different ingredients and even try to create patterns on the eggs by using a sponge or other materials.

Here are a few colour suggestions:
For blue eggs
1. Mix 1 cup frozen or canned blueberries in 2 cups water (if you wish to make them dark blue, just reduce the amount of water you use to boil the blueberries) and add 2 teaspoons white vinegar. Strain, bring to room temparature and dip your eggs in the dye. You may leave them soaking overnight in the fridge for more intense colour results.
2. Boil red cabbage leaves in water (1 cup of water for each handful of cabbage leaves) and add 2-3 teaspoons white vinegar. Strain and allow it to cool.

For brown/beige eggs
1. Strong coffee (add 2 teaspoons white vinegar for each cup of coffee)
2. Black tea (add 2 teaspoons white vinegar for each cup of tea)

For orange eggs
Mix 4 tablespoons paprika or chili powder in 2 cups boiling water. Add 4 teaspoons white vinegar.

For yellow eggs
1. Mix 4 tablespoons turmeric powder or saffron in 2 cups boiling water. Add 4 teaspoons white vinegar.
2. Boil 2 cups orange or lemon peels in 2 cups water. Add 4 teaspoons hite vinegar.
3. Boil 5-6 tablespoons chamomile in 1 cup water. Add 2 teaspoons white vinegar.
4. Boil 2 cups carrot tops in two cups water and add 4 teaspoons white vinegar.

For pink eggs
1. Boil beets in water, strain and add 2 teaspoons white vinegar for each cup of dye liquid. Alternatively, you may use the juice of pickled beets.
2. Mix 1 cup frozen or canned cranberries/raspberries in 1 cup water and add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar.

For red eggs 
Boil lots of red onion skins the less water, the more intense the colour. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar for every cup of water.

For violet eggs
1. Mix red wine with white vinegar (2 teaspoons for every cup).
2. Mix 2 tablespoons hibiscus tea and 2 teaspoons white vinegar in every cup of boiling water.

For green eggs:
1. Boil plenty of spinach leaves in water (the less water you use the darker the colour), sieve  and add white vinegar (two teaspoons for every cup of green liquid).    
2. Simmer the skin of 6 yellow apples in 1-1/2 cups water for 20 minutes, strain and add 2 teaspoons white vinegar.
3. Dip the eggs in liquid chlorophyll (you'll find it at natural food stores).

Make sure the whole egg is soaking in the dye and every now and then rotate the egg with a spoon for an even colour result. After you've dyed your eggs, let them dry well and then polish them using a cloth and some vegetable oil.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

12 Natural Home-Remedies for Teeth Whitening

Who wants a smile that reveals stained or yellow teeth? The one thing you must feel free to show off is your smile, so you better do something about it if you’re in trouble!
Coffee, tea, tobacco, colas, red wine and certain antibiotics can stain the teeth (in particular the antibiotics tetracycline  and doxycycline  are known to discolor teeth when given to children before the age of 8, when their teeth are still developing). 

A way to prevent your teeth from getting stained is to brush them immediately after drinking one of the above or smoking.
Before you decide to go the dentist to whiten already stained teeth, you may want to try some of the natural remedies listed below. 

1. Baking soda & lemon juice
Baking soda will help brighten your smile!  You may have noticed that many toothpastes designated for whitening your teeth contain baking soda. This is an easy remedy that really works! Mix baking soda and lemon juice into a paste. Brush the paste onto your teeth with a toothbrush, wait a minute, then brush thoroughly to remove. The baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, will help remove surface stains from your tooth enamel while the citric acid in the lemon juice has a bleaching effect. 

Important note: This whitening method can be abrasive, which means it may damage your tooth's enamel if you aren't careful. Apply on your teeth no more than once a week, and don't let the mixture sit on your teeth for more than one minute at a time.

2.  Baking soda, salt & water
If you have sensitive teeth and gums, you may just add a small amount of baking soda to your regular toothpaste or it can be mixed with salt and a little bit of water to form a paste and do its stain-removing trick. Again don’t leave it for too long and don’t repeat it too often.

3. Lemon Juice & salt

You can get similar results swapping the baking soda  with a paste made with lemon juice and salt. Again be sure to rinse well after applying that.

4. Vinegar & water
Mix some water and vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar), keeping the quantity of vinegar lower. Stir for 2 to 3 seconds until both of them mix well. Rinse your mouth with the solution for positive results!

5. Strawberries
Strawberries can be very helpful in whitening your teeth. The vitamin C they contain  will help whisk away plaque build-up, while the malic acid, a natural astringent in the berries, will help to remove surface stains on teeth.
Just crush strawberries into a pulp and apply that to your teeth with a toothbrush. Let it sit for five minutes and then rinse your mouth well with water.

6. Sesame oil
It seems to work for some people and it’s definitely safe! Take a tablespoon or two of sesame oil in your mouth. Gargle it thoroughly in the entire mouth for 15-20 minutes. Make sure you cover every part of your mouth as you 'swish and swirl' the oil. 
Keep gargling throughout the process(you may need to rest in between), but make sure you don't let the oil go down your throat. 
Once you are done, spit it out, and if you have done it right, you will notice that the oil has become whitish in color. 
Wash your mouth thoroughly with warm water. 

The best time to do it is early in the morning, after brushing, when you're still on an empty stomach. This method (when done first thing in the morning)
will also help to remove toxins from your body! 

7. Olive oil
Rub some virgin olive oil on your teeth after brushing. Repeat regularly. 

8. Clove oil
Clove oil is very beneficial for your oral health and it has been used in dentistry for over a century. It’s a great pain killer (even for babies when growing teeth) and it is also used for teeth whitening. Rub a small quantity on your teeth after brushing. 

Important note: Clove oil can be toxic in large amounts, so be cautious of the amount you are using at a time. 

9. Chewing crunchy raw fruit and vegetable
Foods that are high in cellulose--a strong starchlike compound found in celery, carrots, and apples--act as natural abrasives, cleansing teeth and removing surface stains naturally.  In addition to that, greens such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce contain mineral compounds that form a film over the teeth, so pigments from other foods can't stain.

10. Banana peel 

This method may take a couple days to see any results. 
Take a banana peel cut a small piece of it and rub the white inside part on your teeth. Leave it on for no more than 15 minutes, twice a day. The minerals inside the peel such as potassium and bromine will naturally whiten your teeth! 

11. Bay leaves & orange peel powder 
A mixture of dried bay leaves and orange peel is one of the best remedies for teeth discoloration! Grind dried bay leaves and orange peel (it’s best to use organic oranges) until powdered. Apply the powder to your toothbrush and brush your teeth with it.

12. Cheese and yogurt
Eating cheese after a meal may help prevent cavities and may promote enamel remineralization. It's the casein, a milk protein, that's in cheese (and milk and yogurt) along with calcium and phosphate that are at work here, making enamel stronger.
Enamel is the outermost layer of a tooth, and it protects the layer called dentin. While enamel can become stained, it's the dentin that determines the color of your tooth. Eating things or using products that replenish calcium and phosphate is important to keeping enamel strong and healthy. While there are at-home remedies for removing stains from enamel, only your dentist can help with dentin discoloration. Keep enamel strong and keep your smile bright!
Dairy products made of goat milk are easier to digest.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

More Remedies on Treating Colds

Here are a few more natural cold relief remedies that I came across. I hope they will help those of you in need! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hemp Milk

Hemp seeds are one of the only plant-based complete proteins. They contain all eight essential amino acids, those that your body cannot make and must be ingested. The protein provided by shelled hemp seeds is proportional to both egg whites and soy beans with higher levels of arginine and histidine. It is easily digested and is often used to treat malnourishment. 

Hemp seeds are also a great source of polyunsaturated fat as well as essential fatty acids.  Omega 3 and Omega 6 and contain a high level of antioxidant tocopherols. In addition, they contain adequate levels of vitamins B1 and B2 and are a good source of phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc and copper. 
As a part of a daily diet, hemp seeds are also associated withlowering colesterol levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

You may add them in your salads, just like flaxseeds, but I would suggest you to try hemp milk, which you may drink plain, add it in smoothies or mix it with some oats and nuts just like I did this morning!! 

So here is the recipe:

1/2 cup shelled hemp seeds, soaked overnight in 1/2 cup mineral water
1 1/2 cups mIneral water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla or cinnamon (optional)

Put the hemp seeds with their water in a blender and add the rest of your ingredients as well. Blend really well and strain using a very fine sieve, or a nut milk bag (or just a piece of voile or cheesecloth).

This morning I had it with some oat flakes, walnuts, goji berries and cranberries and added some cinnamon on top... it was delicious!!!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Start Your Day With a Smile: Banana and Coconut Milk Smoothie

Did you know that bananas contain tryptophan that our bodies convert into serotonin? In other words, bananas can make you relax, feel happier and really improve your mood! 
I love to start my day with this mood-uplifter smoothie! Its creamy texture and delicious taste guarantee a satisfaction beyond words!
I prefer to use either the small Greek bananas, a variety that is cultivated in the island of Crete or organic ones. The large, perfect-looking commercial bananas are usually full of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and nematocides, such as Aldicarb (a chemical that is really-really toxic). So if you want to put a smile on your face... better do it in the right way!!!
Coconut milk again can be full of preservatives that you can just avoid if you choose an organic one and preferably not one in a can.
Cinnamon is pretty far as I know!!!

So here is the recipe:

2 small or 1 regular banana (you may freeze it ahead for a more ice-cream/milk shake effect)
350 ml coconut milk
1 full teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon honey (optional) 

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend really well. You may also blend it with a bit ice if you like.
Enjoy right away and keep smiling!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk and Coriander

An easy-going dish that everybody loves (well...except those of you that hate coriander, but that goes on top anyway so you may skip it or replace it with parsley). Sometimes I add carrots along with the pumpkin, but that really isn't necessary. If you've got the vegetable broth ready, then it really takes 15 minutes to make. It's worth the try!

So here is the recipe:

1 kg pumpkin (or squash), peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
2 onions, cut into chunks
A 2 cm piece ginger root, peeled and roughly choped
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil (you may also use olive oil if you prefer)
700 ml vegetable broth
Salt and pepper
250 ml coconut milk (or more if you like it creamier)
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and genlty cook the onions and ginger until soft. Add The pumpkin and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly soft. Add the turmeric and stir well and then add the vegetable stock, some salt and pepper. Put the heat down to low, cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is really soft. Purée with a hand blender until smooth and creamy. Mix in the coconut milk and serve with chopped coriander on top.

Friday, February 8, 2013

An Onion Remedy for Fever

The onion (Allium cepa) was highly regarded by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol of the many-layered universe. They saw eternal life in the anatomy of the onion because of its circle-within-a-circle structure. Depictions of onions appear on the walls of the pyramids and in the tombs of both the Old and New Kingdom. Not only did they use them as a currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids, but they also placed them in the tombs of kings as a symbol of eternity.

Two unfinished depictions from "The Bird Tomb" of Neferherenptah at Saqqara, which have been sketched out in red orchre and finished in charcoal. The first one depicts  the watering of onions and the second one the harvesting of onions. 

Onions have been aknowledged for thousands of years for their medicinal value. The physicians of ancient Egypt prescribed onions in various diseases, they numbered over 8000 onion-alleviated ailments. Hippocrates prescribed onions as a diuretic, wound healer and pneumonia fighter in the 5th century BC and gave a comprehensive description of its medicinal properties. The ancient Greeks also used onions to fortify athletes for the Olympic Games. Before competition, athletes would consume pounds of onions, drink onion juice and rub onions on their bodies. They ate large quantities of onion because they believed it lightened the balance of blood. Roman gladiators were rubbed down with onion to firm up their muscles.  In India as early as the sixth century BC, the medical treatise Charaka - Sanhita acknowledged the onion as a diuretic, good for digestion, the heart, the eyes and joints. In the Middle Ages, onions were such an important food that people would pay their rent with onions, and even give them as gifts. Doctors were known to prescribe onions to facilitate bowel movements and erections, and also to relieve headaches, coughs,snakebite and hair loss.

A natural way to reduce a fever without the use of any medication is to drink an onion juice mixed with honey. The way to make it is really simple:
Put a large onion in a preheated oven and let it bake for about 40 minutes. When ready and soft, press it thoroughly through a sieve to collect all its juices and, then, mix in the juice about two tablespoons of good quality honey. Drink 2 teaspoons of this every 2-3 hours until the fever goes down.
It also recommended to put sliced onions in a bowl by the bed. As they have pacity to absorb viruses! The drawing of infection, congestion and colds out of the ear is also remarkable. 


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Liver-Boost Winter Salad Recipe

This tasteful salad is a great way to tone your liver. A blend of beautiful seasonal vegetables - all raw -, flaxseeds, and a simple turmeric dressing! I try to eat it daily or as often as I can. Full of antioxidant vitamines A, E and C, rich in folic acid - necessary for pregnant women or women that plan to get pregnant -, it also contains iron, potassium, selenium, sulfur, chlorophyll, organic calcium, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, omega 3, fiber, lignants, B-complex vitamins, vitamin K, manganese, copper and magnesium! Great, right?! I often add a couple of hard boiled organic eggs on top of it and just get everything I need for the day and it's delicious, I promise!
Feel free to improvise and add any other seasonal vegetable you fancy!


A small banch of fresh spinach leaves 
4-5 lettuce leaves
A small banch of dandelion leaves
A small banch of swiss chard leaves
A small banch of beetroot leaves
A small banch of arugula leaves
3 spring onions, cut lenghtwise and roughly chopped
3-4 stalks of celery with their leaves, roughly chopped 
A banch of fresh parsley
A banch of cilantro leaves
1/2 cup sliced fennel root
4-5 radishes, sliced
3-4 carrots, peeled and grated
a thick piece of kohlrabi, peeled and grated
3-4 beetroots, peeled and grated
4-5 Greek-style black wrinckled olives (throumbes
2 tablespoons flaxseeds (can be replaced with sesame or other seeds, or you can use a mix of seeds)

For the dressing:
1 small lemon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 small garlic clove mashed (optional)
Approximately 1/4 cup olive oil (might take a bit more, depending on how sour you like your dressing)
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper (optional)

Wash all your vegetables really well and let them dry. I use my hands or a pair of seasors to roughly cut all the leafy vegetables. Don't try to chop them, as you will lose most their their nutritional value. In a separate bowl prepare your dressing. Add first the lemon juice, vinegar, turmeric and garlic (if using) and whisk well. Gradually add in the olive oil, while stirring, and season with salt and pepper.
Place the leafy vegetables with the spring onions, the sliced fennel root and radishes in a large salad bowl and mix in most of the dressing. Spoon the grated kohlrabi, carrots and beetroots on top. Sprinkle with flaxseeds, add the olives and pour the remaining dressing on top!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Why buy a ready-made curry paste when it's so easy to make it yourself?! I was recently asked to give a lesson on how to prepare a home-made Thai-style curry paste and yuuum (...!!!) it reminded me of how much I love Thai cuisine and it's main ingredients; fresh lemongrass, galangal root, ginger, corriander, kaffir lime leaves, spicy chilies, limes, coconut milk... so aromatic and tasteful! 
Curry is a blend of spices and is primarily used in the South and Southeast Asian cooking. The spices included vary from region to region and you can always give your own twist to it according to your mood and taste. Curry paste in particular is most often associated with Thai cuisine and there are three types of curry pastes: yellow, red, and green. Their differerence has to do with certain key ingredients. Green curry paste includes fresh corriander, kaffir lime leaves and those really spicy small green chilies, which actually makes it the hottest choice of the three. Red curry paste, also quite spicy, depending on the variety of red chilies used in it, includes a lot of chili powder as well and tastes great with seafood (especially shrimps). Yellow curry paste, which is usually the mildest one, may include yellow chilies (although I use red, as it is quite hard to get hold of the yellow ones) and turmeric.

So here is my recipe, but please feel free to experiment with your curry pastes and, why not share them with us!

4-7 yellow or red chilies (if you like it less spicy you may remove the seeds)
140 gr shallots (you may use red onion if you can’t get hold of shallots), cut into chunks
2 stalks lemongrass, sliced crossways and chopped
5 garlic cloves (if small, use 10)
2 ½ cm ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thick slice galangal root, peeled
½ teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons curry
1 tablespoon grounded cumin
1 tablespoon grounded coriander
½ teaspoon grounded cinnamon
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice

If you are using dried chilies, soak them in 5 tablespoons water for 1-2 hours and preserve the water as you will need it for the curry paste (the fresh ones don't need soaking!).
In a food processor (alternatively you may use a mortar and pestle) add the first 4 ingredients listed with half the chili water and process really well (if later on your curry paste turns out dry you may add the rest of the chili water, so put it aside). Add the ginger and galangal and process again. Now add all the spices and process once more until it forms a thick paste. Last, add the sugar (if using), fish sauce and lime juice and blend well for another couple of minutes. If too dry add the chili water or a couple of tablespoons chicken stock. Curry pastes last long both in the fridge and freezer, so you can make quite a lot of it a store it for later use.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

15 Foods that Benefit Your Liver

My last post was about the liver and how certain herbs can benefit or ever cure certain liver conditions. The liver is truly the master organ of the immune system, the detox "powerhouse" of our body, producing chemicals to combat viruses (including the HIV virus) and bacteria and producing antihistamines to neutralize substances that promote the growth of cancer. When the liver is not functioning properly - and is over-blocked by toxins - the body's immune system is severely weakened leading to chronic illness.
Because the liver is responsible for at least 500 functions within your body, keeping it in optimal condition can help you in a number of ways. The American Liver Foundation indicates that keeping it strong and unpolluted can increase your energy level, boost your immune system and regulate your system's natural metabolic process. According to The New York Times, a healthy liver can even affect your mood, making you less agitated and more focused. According to Dr Leo Roy MD, "No disease, especially degenerative diseases including cancer and AIDS, could survive longer than a few weeks in the presence of a healthy liver." 

We are what we eat! What we choose to put in our bodies determines to a level our health condition (emotional and psychological factors play a huge role in that too!). I am not the kind of person that would support anything extreme as far as food is concerned; “never eat sugar”, “never eat fried food”, “never eat white flour”, “never drink alcohol and coffee” etc, etc. It’s important to be aware of what’s good for you or not, know how your body works and learn to listen to its needs and yes, sometimes it might need a rich chocolate mousse, for emotional support! Always remember that your emotional, psychological and sociological needs are as equally important. And the key to all that is nothing but humble B A L A N C E! 

Along with the herbs listed in the previous post, there are certain foods that really aid and detoxify your liver. When eating for a healthy liver, the most vital thing to remember is to include variety in your daily diet. Consuming plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds is the best way to provide your body with the nutrients you need to keep all of your organs healthy. It is also important to remember to use alcohol and coffee in moderation, as these items do not offer nutritional benefits to the body, but do put stress on the liver.

Liver is the only organ that can actually regenerate! So, give it a chance! As Hippocrates nicely  put it “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”!

1. Carrots
Scientists in India have discovered that carrots afford significant protection for the liver, at least experimentally in laboratory animals. When liver cell injury was induced experimentally with chemicals, paralleling the liver damage inflicted by chemical pollutants, experiments showed that lab animals could recover with the help of carrot extracts. These extracts increase the activity of several enzymes that speed up detoxification of the liver and other organs.

2. Beetroots
Packed with iron, calcium, betaine, B vitamins and antioxidants, beets are one of the liver's best resources for maintaining optimum health. They detoxify the liver and spleen, they are great for toning and rebuilding the liver, they are suitable in cases of anemia, and help to treat many liver ailments, including jaundice, cirrhosis and other liver diseases. Some herbalists use it to treat liver problems induced by alcoholism. Emily A. Kane, N.D., Lac, explains that "Beets improve liver function largely by thinning the bile, allowing it to flow more freely through the liver and into the small intestine." Check out this tasty juice recipe, recommended for a liver cleanse & boost: Detoxing and Nourishing Juice with Beetroots, Carrots, Radishes, Parsley and Lemon

3. Lemons
The Ancient Egyptians believed that eating lemons and drinking lemon juice was an effective protection against a variety of poisons. Lemon juice is often called the liver's best friend. It is one of the only foods on the planet that has an atomic structure similar to that of digestive juices. As a result, putting lemon juice in your water can provide your liver with some relief as it filters toxins and processes nutrients.
Lemon juice supports liver function by strengthening liver enzymes, regulating blood carbohydrate levels and serving as the basis for new enzyme creation. According to A.F. Beddoe, author of "Biological Ionization in Human Nutrition," fresh lemon juice works better at helping your liver make more enzymes than any other food. In addition, lemon is a natural antiseptic that kills harmful bacteria. 

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (cold pressed)
In a study conducted  at the University of Monastir in Tunisia and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, researchers discovered that extra virgin olive oil provides powerful antioxidant protection against toxins that cause oxidative stress (the physiological stress on the body caused by free radical damage, which is linked to a host of health problems as well as agingand damage to the liver.
When we combine extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice together, they act as a potent liver and gallbladder flush, detoxifying the liver, lowering biliruben levels, removing heavy metals, increasing the production of bile from the liver, stimulating lymphatic flow, and restoring the pH of your saliva, which in turn helps you to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. 
Olive oil with lemon helps the body by providing a lipid base that can suck up harmful toxins in the body. In this way, it takes some of the burden off the liver in terms of the toxic overload that many people suffer from. 
Just make sure that it's good quality and always remember you must consume it raw!

5. Artichokes
A member of the milk thistle family that helps control blood sugar levels, the artichoke is a fibrous, green veggie containing cynarin. Cynarin is a phenolic acid compound that experts believe is responsible for its cholagogue and choleretic properties:
•    Cholagogue – a medicinal agent, which promotes the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.
•    Choleretic – a substance that stimulates the production of bile in the liver.
if the bile is not transported adequately to the gallbladder, the liver has an increased risk of being damaged.
Clinical studies indicate its benefits to the liver ranging from protecting it from damage, lowering the risk of liver fat accumulation to hindering liver cancer cell growth. Thus, those with chronic liver disease have every reason to choose artichokes as their number one vegetable pick.

6. Garlic 
This superfood, known for its ability to fight infections and cancer, is also among the many great liver cleansing foods as it is very useful in repairing a compromised liver. The main reason for its superior effects on the liver have to do with the fact that garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that are known to activate the liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body. In addition, garlic contains both allicin - an antioxidant - and the mineral selenium, both of which are important for the protection of the liver and assist in the removal of heavy metals from the liver.

7. Onions
Onions contain sulphur compounds, which are important for aiding the liver in its detoxification process.More specifically, these are called methionine and cystine and, among other things, they are good at detoxifying the body from heavy metals, like mercury and cadmium. The vitamine C also found in onions is excellent at detoxifying the body and is effective in moving lead, arsenic and cadmium. So increasing consumption of onions can help the body to get rid of these harmful metals. 

8. Grapefruit
Phytonutrients in grapefruit called limonoids inhibit tumor formation by promoting the formation of glutathione-S-transferase, a detoxifying enzyme. This enzyme sparks a reaction in the liver that helps to make toxic compounds more water soluble for excretion from the body. Grapefruit, like other citrus fruit, provide an excellent source of vitamin C, an important antioxidant nutrient that protects our liver cells from free radical damage.

9. Leafy Dark Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables
Among the most powerful allies in cleansing the liver. They can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Extremely high in plant chlorophylls, greens literally suck up environmental toxins from the blood stream. With their distinct ability to nuetralize heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides, these cleansing foods offer a powerful protective mechanism for the liver. Broccoli and spinach contain B-complex vitamins which improve liver function and promote liver decongestion. Vitamin B12 helps to metabolize fats and improves liver health. Enrich your salads with bitter greens (which are even more effective) like arugula, fresh dandelion leaves, chicory, endive, mustard greens, and watercress. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, brussel sprouts cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and cabbage also increase the amount of glucosinolate (organic compounds) in our bodies that helps create enzyme production for digestion.

10. Radishes

Radish juice helps to soothe the digestive system and detoxify the body. The leaves are also edible and very nutricius indeed!
Radishes are beneficial for both the gallbladder and liver functions, as they act as a cleanser. they contain sulphur based chemicals, which regulate the production and flow of bilirubin and bile, enzymes and acids and also helps remove excess bilirubin from the blood. This makes them an excellent detoxifying agent for the body. They protect and soothe the gallbladder and liver, while protecting them from infections.
They are also highly effective in treating jaundice, as they halt the destruction of red blood cells and increase the supply of oxygen to the blood. For this treatment however, the black radish is preferred.

11. Nuts, legumes and seeds
Beans, soy beans, lentils and peas, raw nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds (especially flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds), should be included in your daily diet. These are detox foods that help the liver to flush out unwanted toxins. Walnuts, are high in glutathione (like avocados) and omega-3 fatty acids, which help support our liver through its cleansing process.

12. Avocados

Researchers in Japan have discovered that avocados contain potent chemicals that may reduce liver damage. According to the same research, avocado extracts may be especially promising for the treatment of viral hepatitis.
Avocados can help your body produce a type of antioxidant called glutathione, which is needed for our livers to filter out harmful materials. In addition, they contain essential fatty acids, which are absolutely necessary for healthy cell membranes. The liver requires abundant amounts of essential fatty acids to function properly. 

13. Apples
Apples prevent the formation of gallstones. In addition, they provide an excellent source of pectin, a type of fiber which binds with toxins and heavy metals, aiding their excretion from the body. This helps to reduce the amount of detoxification that is needed to be completed by the liver. When on a liver detox, the malic acid in apple juice will help to open the bile ducts that run through your liver and will begin to soften and release the stones.

14. Red Grapes
Grapes activate liver to glycogenic functions and bile secretions and are highly beneficial for all types of liver disorders.

15. Berries
A daily diet rich in berries may reduce an enzyme called alanine aminotransferase (ALAT), a well-established marker of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and metabolic syndrome by 23%, according to new research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.