Ah, the holidays. All glitz and tinsel, cookies and cheer! Right? Well, yes, there is so much beauty in this time of year, especially in its simplest meaning. And yet, it seems the expectations keep rising higher and higher to an intoxicating level. It can be overwhelming to anyone, especially those in recovery, those facing a loss or a trauma, and those that are simply sensitive to the things that come with this time.
Let me introduce you to Liv, from Liv's Recovery Kitchen. Like myself, Liv has a passion for food. Not just any passion, but also making recipes as delicious and they are nourishing. She and I both are in recovery and because of our own struggles, we have really come to appreciate healing not just with food, but also paying attention to our stress levels, our needs and our emotions as we experience life as it happens.
One more thing about Liv – she’s from England (but now moving to the U.S.) - Welcome! So, you might get a hint of England in her writing and recipes. But now to the point of all of this.
Liv and I have put together a list of ten recipes (mostly food, but a few other "recipes", because whole health isn’t all about food) to help make it the best season possible. So, while we don't have all the answers (although we are always searching), we can offer some tips that help us during this time of year.
Below are ten recipes of all kinds to help nourish your mind, body and soul this holiday season (and beyond). We wish the best for you and your families!
*** From Liv's Recovery Kitchen ***
1.) Try not to eat the candy, sugar can make you feel more stressed.
It is not news that sugar is bad for you; it is terrible and provides no essential nutrients. What this means for you is that it has some serious negative impacts on your health (your liver, teeth, metabolism, heart, brain), but in terms of how it will affect you at Christmas: it will make you more tired. This is because when you eat sugar, you get a jolt of energy and feel good hormones and then within 30 minutes have an energy crash. This spike and crash sets you up for craving more. At Christmas, when demands on your energy are high, stick with foods that provide a sustained level of energy, such as these pumpkin spiced energy balls.
Pumpkin Spiced Energy Balls
1 can (about 500g) pumpkin puree
2 packs creamed coconut, broken up with a little hot water added to make a thick cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple/rice syrup
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
For the chocolate coating
3 tablespoons Cacao (or cocoa powder)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1. In a large bowl mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, spread out over large baking trays lined with parchment and flatten out.
2. Refrigerate until hard enough, cut into small sections and roll into balls – overnight works best.
For chocolate covering:
1. Mix equal parts (in volume) coconut oil, cocoa powder, maple syrup until a smooth sauce is formed.
2. Coat balls in the chocolate sauce.
2.) Relieve stress by asking family members to help picking a dish.
So often the pressure of preparing food falls on one person in the household and this can be quite overwhelming. Why not take the pressure off and include others in the preparation, by asking the family to pick their favorite side dish and ask them to help you make it on the day? If they need suggestions, or you want to provide inspiration, why not try this sprout, chestnut and bacon dish, it is delicious.
Shredded Sprouts with Chestnuts and Bacon
5 cups Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 cups pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts
1/2 cup of chopped pancetta, or 6 rashers (slices) of bacon
1. Clean the sprouts and finely slice.
2. In a frying pan, fry the bacon or pancetta until crispy and set aside.
3. In a non-stick pan, add the chestnuts and sprouts and a dash of water and cook with the lid on for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the partially cooked sprouts and chestnuts to the bacon and gently fry until cooked through. Serve.
3.) Take time out for tea.
Christmas is a stressful time; too much pressure to get everything done in time, everyone demanding your time and more people in your home that usual. It can take its toll on the senses. Tea, particularly chai tea is very good for and tea is known to calm your nerves.
The basic ingredients of chai include black tea, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom and black pepper. While each of these ingredients has its own powerful health benefits, their synergy creates a potent tea that may help support digestion, prevent cancer, lower blood sugar and promote cardiovascular health.
Here is a recipe for a Christmas Chai.
2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
6 cups cold water
6 bags of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)
2 cups whole milk or milk alternative
3 tbsp maple syrup
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan. Using the back of large spoon, lightly crush or bruise spices.
2. Add 6 cups water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Discard tea bags.
4. Add milk and maple syrup. Whisk and then strain chai into teapot and serve hot.
4.) Make a great start with a calming nourishing breakfast, keeping you fueled for the day.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This recipe provides nourishing oats, which will provide a sustained level of energy throughout the morning. The Greek yoghurt is really filling and the walnuts help support brain health. Try this apple, cinnamon walnut overnight oats, with Greek yoghurt.
1 mug (cup) of whole oats
1 mug (cup) of Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoon raisins or sultanas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1. Combine all of the ingredients, mixing thoroughly and ensuring the oats are combine. The mixture should be quite liquid, so you can add extra milk or water. Leave in the fridge overnight. Serve in the morning.
5.) Schedule relaxing time
Unwinding is just as important as ensuring your body is fueled with the right nutrition. Calming the senses is vital to your nervous system and relaxes you ready for a restful night’s sleep. Try this Epsom bath soak.
Epsom Bath Soak
2 handfuls of Epsom salts
3 drops of either juniper or lavender essential oil (or one of your own choice)
2 tbsp almond oil or other bath oil.
Add the salts, essential oils and oil to the tub whilst the water is running. When the right temperature, light candles and soak for at least 20 minutes.
*** From Sarah at The Nourished Seedling ***
6. Offer to bring a dish that is in line with what what you feel comfortable eating.
Bringing a known dish (or drink) can bring many benefits from being aware of the ingredients (especially if you have triggers or allergies) to even knowing how your body will react can be a huge comfort. As a bonus, it may even help alleviate stress for the host knowing any allergy concerns are taken care of by those that need the extra care.
Additionally, keeping a dish on the lighter side also helps your body digest it a bit easier, as foods heavy in fat and simple carbohydrates can wreak havoc on the digestive system.
These Oven Roasted Garlic Green Beans are a simple, allergen friendly recipe that is a crowd-pleaser. It's vegetarian (even vegan), gluten free, dairy free and incredibly simple. Green beans are high in fiber, vitamins A, C and K, as well as folic acid.
1 pound fresh green beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash beans and trim stems off the end of the beans (if they still have remnants of the stems).
3. Finely dice garlic.
4. Lay beans out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and toss beans with diced garlic, olive oil and coat evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
7.) Keep a snack handy
A healthy snack that is low in simple carbohydrates and sugar can be a great way to calm nerves, satiate a craving and balance blood sugar levels. These Toasted Tamari Almonds are full of healthy fats, are gluten free, vegan and pack a whollup of nutrients from vitamin E and copper to magnesium and protein, as well as beneficial fats. Adding tamari to raw almonds brings out the naturally deep flavor of the almonds with a bit of savory salt to quench any craving, and therefore help with the tendency to overeat. They are easy to make and can be carried anywhere without worry of spoilage.
Toasted Tamari Almonds
2 cups raw almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari (can specify gluten free if necessary)
1 teaspoon avocado oil (or preferred oil)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour the almonds in a medium sized mixing bowl.
3. Mix the oil and tamari in a small bowl and pour over the almonds, mixing them together and covering completely.
4. Spread out on parchment paper on a baking tray.
5. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Turn almonds half way through baking. Timing depends on oven heat. The longer the almonds are in the oven, the crunchier (drier) they will be. Too long, and the sugars in the tamari will burn.
6. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
8.) Pack in fruits and veggies before the party or starting in the beginning of the day
I always pack my kids (and myself) with fruits and veggies before the parties. It seems to get the day off to a healthy start and set the stage for the rest of the day. Call me crazy, but when we start off with sugar-laden cinnamon rolls, I already start feeling icky, and seem to crave more fat and sugar. And I just feel an overall lack of energy.
Fruits and vegetables also have a lot of nutrients that help balance hormones and emotions. This Strawberry and Beet Tropical Smoothie is a go-to smoothie on our list. The pink hue of this smoothie alludes to the rich levels of antioxidants and plant power. It is full of beets, strawberries, pineapple and coconut butter and is rich in antioxidants, iron, and healthy fats! Plus, it boasts a taste that brings you right into warmer weather (regardless of the temperature outside)!
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup raw beets, peeled and diced
1/2 cup frozen pineapple pieces
2 cups water
2 tablespoons raw coconut butter
1. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until pureed.*
*If you are concerned about the power of your blender, use 1/2 warmer water to help warm the frozen fruit.
**Another option is to let the frozen fruit sit in a colander for 15 minutes or so before using so they can thaw a bit and are not as hard to puree.
9.) Remember to breathe
Our whole family (well, I think I may have gotten my husband to do a few one year or something...) has benefited from deep breathing techniques. Here are some easy breathing techniques to help keep calm and included are the benefits of the techniques. The best part, is they can be done anywhere, from the car or even the restroom!
1.) DOUBLE EXHALE BREATH
Benefits: calms the nervous system, slows down racing thoughts, slows heart rate, brings focus to breath
How to do it: With eyes closed, inhale deeply and slowly for 4 breaths, and then slowly inhaling for 8 (whatever the inhale, double the number for exhales). Sometimes, it's best to start small, with 2 inhales and 4 exhales, then slowly increase the amount. Inhales and exhales are done through the nose, if possible. Otherwise, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
2.) BALLOON BELLY BREATH
Benefits: calms the nervous system, helps release tightness in stomach (especially related to fears and worry), helps with digestion, brings focus to breath
How to do it: While lying on the back with eyes closed, place both hands together or separately on the stomach. On the inhale, push out the belly, visualizing a balloon. The “balloon” (belly) slowly fills up on the inhale, and slowly releases on the exhale. Just as you slowly blow up a balloon, you slowly blow up the belly. Slow and steady is key. Can be done standing, but the preference is lying down for all muscles to be completely relaxed.
3.) LION’S ROAR BREATH
Benefits: helps release frustration and anger, assists in reducing tension in the jaw and neck
How to do it: Take a deep inhale, puffing up the chest and raising the head (looking straight ahead). On the exhale, open the mouth as wide as possible, stick out the tongue (flat out in front) and roar (or give a hearty breath). On the exhale, release the shoulders and chest down as the breath comes out. Repeat at least 3 times, but can continue if you find it beneficial.
For full link, and uses for children, see here.
10.) Keep intake of healthy fats going to help mood and satiate your appetite.
These Vegan Chocolate and Coconut Peppermint Creams are a sweet treat, but a great source of healthy fat. In fact, coconut has an incredible amount of health benefits. Coconut oil (a component of coconut butter) is a saturated fat, solid at room temperature. Although, it has a unique chemical structure that separates it from other saturated fats.
Coconut oil is composed primarily of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), whereas most other saturated fats known to contribute to health concerns, are long chain fatty acids. If not used as an immediate fuel source, most fats in the foods we eat are stored in our bodies. However, MCFA, such as those in coconut oil, are used immediately for energy production and don’t often end up in fat stores. It is believed by many researchers that MCFA do not have a negative effect on blood cholesterol and can actually help guard against heart disease. See more.
1 cup coconut butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure peppermint oil
1 cup chocolate chips (can be dairy and gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure peppermint oil*
* *The difference between peppermint flavor and peppermint oil is that pure peppermint oil is simply the oil of peppermint. Peppermint flavor is the essential oil mixed with sunflower oil to appropriate dilute for consumption.
1. Prepare silicone candy trays (or whatever you are using to hold creams). If the molds are floppy, I like to put them on baking try to keep the shape of the candies as they harden.
2. In a saucepan on LOW heat, melt the coconut butter, sugar and peppermint oil until a paste forms.
3. Fill the candy molds half-way full. Let rest while you prepare the chocolate mixture.
4. In a saucepan (I just cleaned and reused the previous one), on VERY LOW heat, melt chocolate chips, coconut oil, and peppermint oil until melted.
5. Fill the other half of the candy molds with the chocolate mixture.
6. Place in freezer for about 15 minutes until the peppermint creams harden. Store in refrigerator or at room temperature, as long as it’s not incredibly warm outside. To store without concern of melting, just keep in a container in the refrigerator.
A bonus "recipe" that is really the most important to me is to remember gratitude - it can make all the difference!
Excerpt below from "How Gratitude Keeps Me Present"
"Being grateful isn’t just about being thankful for what we have. It is also a daily reminder that we are given one shot at life and to always look for the good, despite how trying the times may be. Being grateful allows us to stay humble, no matter how much or how little we have. It’s all in perspective to something or someone else, so the determination line is simply an ever changing line in the sand.
We never know the struggles of others, and we get an idea through empathy, if we have gone through something similar. I know there are people who are facing daily tribulations of finding food, shelter and clothing. Even now, when things seemingly fall into place most days, I find myself remembering how grateful I am. This comes from knowing harder times, and no matter what, it could always be worse. I have a glimpse as to what life could be like, and today, I am grateful for the struggles, for the hard times, as I can appreciate what is in front of me today."
Hope your holiday season is nourished!