Treat Time with this Delicious Dessert for Christmas

Christmas has arrived in my household. It was a little slow in appearing this year but the tree went up three days ago and now it feels more like Christmas time.

The Christmas Tree in the corner of my living room
The Christmas Tree in the corner of my living room

We always celebrate on the night before Christmas when we meet for the family dinner, and like most families there are long-held food traditions. One which my boys hold on to most vehemently is the inclusion of Summer Pudding in the menu. To them, Summer Pudding, a delicious, light, berry-bright dessert that celebrates the height of summer is synonymous with Christmas. This suits me fine as it is a breeze to make.

Christmas and New Year is a time when it is all too easy to overeat, or to eat poorly, when eating out more often means that keeping up your normal healthy food choices becomes very difficult, so it is great to find a festive dessert that is delicious as well as being reasonably healthy, as desserts go.

The other benefit for me, and no doubt many of you, in these times when so many people are on restricted diets is that it fits the bill for many of them. In our family, we have to cater to a wide range of diets from the ‘meat and potato’ eaters to Vegan, and include gluten-free and dairy-free along the way, which is quite a tall order. Summer Pudding can be very easily adapted to fit these as well as being suitable for nut-free and egg-free diets also. The only negatives are that it really does need refined white bread and some sweetening.

The recipe normally calls for fine wheat bread but I replace this with  gluten-free bread. Some gluten-free breads are still as heavy as rocks but increased public demand has forced manufacturers to improve their product and there are some around now that taste just fine.

I replace the white castor sugar normally used in the recipe with coconut palm sugar, although as I was out of it today I had to use Panela which is unrefined cane sugar. In addition I cut the sugar content dramatically, as too much makes the dessert taste sickly and overwhelms the slight tartness that sings fresh berries. Do not leave all the sugar out though as it needs a little.

So here is my Super- Easy Antioxidant Rich Delicious Summer Pudding recipe adapted to suit restricted diets.

Serves 6 – But you can increase the quantities as needed and use a cake tin instead of the bowl for larger quantities.

Don’t stress too much about the berries – sometimes I use more or less of one or another. But, strawberries and blueberries don’t work well so leave them out. Normally I go out to the hills a few days before Christmas to pick my berries but this year didn’t have time and used mostly frozen berries from my last ‘picking’ with a few fresh ones thrown in. As long as you don’t over heat them they are fine.

1 Loaf of stale white gluten-free bread (GF bread stales quite quickly and will do so if left out on the bench for an or so)

300g raspberries

125g redcurrants

100g blackberries

100g boysenberries

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar

Line a bowl with plastic wrap, letting it hang over the sides.

Let the edges of the plastic wrap hang generously over the edge
Let the edges of the plastic wrap hang generously over the edge

Place the fruit in a saucepan with the sugar, and gently heat until it just starts to boil. Remove from the heat. Put the raspberries on the top as they are softest and will break up the easiest.

The berries release lots of juice as soon as they are heated.
The berries release lots of juice as soon as they are heated.

While the fruit is heating, cut the crusts from the bread and  line the bottom and sides with it. I use triangles on the bottom (as this will become the top) and tightly fitting rectangles for the sides. Take some care to make sure it fits snugly.

Cut the bread pieces so they fit snugly together
Cut the bread pieces so they fit snugly together

When the fruit has heated fill the lined bowl with the fruit, and cover the fruit with a lid of bread. I usually pour some of

Cover the berries with a lid of bread pieces
Cover the berries with a lid of bread pieces

the remaining juice over the bread lid and trickle some down the edges between the bread and plastic. Save any left over juice.

Fold the overhanging plastic over the bread lid and place a plate on top and weigh it down. You can use a can to do this.

I use these gorgeous antique weights but a can of food will do the job perfectly
I use these gorgeous antique weights but a can of food will do the job perfectly

Place in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve, turn the pudding out on a plate. If there are patches that have not absorbed the juices and are not ‘berry-juice red’ pour the reserved juices over them to patch them. Slice the pudding just as you would a cake.

The finished Summer Pudding
The finished Summer Pudding

Even if you are not celebrating Christmas, or your menu is already planned, try out this yummy treat, I am sure you will love it as much as we do.

Optimise Your Digestion With These Juicy Options

Juices can deliver a whopping great punch of valuable nutrients and enzymes into your body quickly and easily
Juices can deliver a whopping great punch of valuable nutrients and enzymes into your body quickly and easily

I am really excited tonight and feel like all-my-Christmases-have-come-at-once, as this afternoon I picked up my new slow juicer. I have been waiting quite a while for the shipment to arrive as it has sat in a container on the docks for a while. But today it is here. And no, it is not a Christmas gift, it just happens that it has arrived right at this time. The juicer I have chosen is a cold-press masticating type.

There is plenty of evidence about the benefits of juicing, provided the juice is prepared in a way that does not destroy the nutrients and enzymes. Juicing plays an important role in detoxing the body, and in facts underpins many natural health plans for the treatment of a wide range of diseases including cancer. But it also makes sense to include it in any plan for healthy living.

One if the main reasons to add home-made juice to your diet is that it can deliver a whopping great punch of valuable nutrients and enzymes quickly and easily, although this depends on the type of juicer it is made in.

You’ve heard this before but micronutrients are quickly damaged or destroyed by heating and cooking. In an ideal world we would all totally avoid processed foods and eat only fresh organic fruit and vegetables. But this is not always possible for lots of reasons. Most of us also make the choice to indulge in foods and drinks that are not health-wise, especially at this time of the year when it can become very difficult to make consistently good food choices.

So why juice?

Dr Mercola sums it up nicely in three points:

Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables

Juicing allows you to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner

You can add a wider variety of vegetables in your diet

And to this I would add that juicing encourages people to eat breakfast. One of the big battles I frequently encounter at work is to get people to reverse their practice of not eating before they leave for work or school – the body is an engine and needs fuel to function!

Most people have poor or impaired digestion, whether they recognize it or not, as a result of prolonged regular poor food choices. For some this is obvious in indigestion, bloating, gas, cramping, or IBS, but for many more the effects are not so apparent. But poor digestion always equates with poor health. Over time it leads to many chronic health problems that range from fatigue to lung and heart problems and include a diverse range of many more. If you are not absorbing nutrients – vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates – your body will simply not function properly. You need each of these nutrients to some degree, and some part of your body will suffer if you are deficient in any one of them.

Poor and impaired digestion results in poor and impaired immune function.

If you do suffer from poor digestion it is well worth taking fresh home-made juice before eating a meal, about twenty to thirty minutes, because the enzymes in the juice will actually act as an aid to help with your digestion. When taken on an empty stomach the juice is assimilated immediately, the nutrients absorbed, and the enzymes able to work efficiently.

The quantity of raw vegetables that we should optimally eat is big. Even the relatively modest amounts recommended by Government bodies are more than most people who come to see me for health advice and treatment regularly eat. Many of these people are in tune with good health requirements (to varying degrees), and eat more vegetables and fruit than most of the rest of the population, but still are not eating enough. Juicing allows you to increase the amount of raw vegetables and fruit that you consume substantially.

If you take a moment to work out what vegetables and fruits you eat you will almost certainly find that you are eating the same ones every day, with a variation thrown in only occasionally. Very few people actually manage to sustain a good rotation of the vegetables they consume. This may lead to a preponderance of some nutrients and deficiency of others in your diet. But one result that is not often appreciated is that it can also be responsible for the development of food allergies and intolerances. When you juice you can create a far more diverse diet because you can add in those vegetables and fruits that you don’t particularly like and so would not normally consume.

I mentioned before that the quality of the juice depends very much on the type of juicer used. The cheaper versions all use a centrifugal action. They are cheap to buy and quick to use. The problem is that their action heats the juice and causes significant nutrient loss. Juice made in these machines oxidizes quickly (in the same way that cut apple turns brown as it oxidizes) leading to free radical damage in your body. If you leave these juices sitting they will turn brown fairly quickly. I guess that if all you want juice for is the taste with no awareness or consideration for the consequence of consuming poor and damaging food then that would not be an issue!

Masticating juicers on the other hand, deliver a cold-pressed product which has not been damaged by being heated.

Bearing in mind that a juicer is an investment – an investment in your health what do you need to look for when purchasing a juicer?

Well firstly you want one that will deliver a high quality juice which is loaded with nutrients and enzymes

Another important factor is how easy it will be to clean, as if this is difficult you simply won’t use it.

A good warranty will ensure that the juicer can handle seeds, skins and cores without burning out.

The factor that really sets the best juicers apart is how much juice they can extract, as in the long run a machine that produces more juice from the same quantity of produce will save you money

Lastly make sure the engine is going to be strong enough to deal with juicing for the family.

One bonus you get from juicers is that you can also use them to make smoothies which are often a great way to retrain your body to eat breakfast. I often get clients to start slowly at reintroducing the practice as once their body gets used to eating in the morning they find they want to eat sufficient and can’t do without. Many who say they can’t eat in the morning find they are ok with a smoothie to start off the ‘re-training’. Another bonus is that it so easy to add superfoods like Spiulina or Chlorella powder, or wheat or barleygrass to the smoothie to really powerhouse your breakfast and get your body fired for the day.

You can add Superfoods to a basic green smoothie to give a power start to your day
You can add Superfoods to a basic green smoothie to power start your day

When you choose your vegetables for juicing it is important to remember that any pesticide residues will be concentrated. Choose organic produce wherever you can, but if you need to restrict the amount of organic foods you buy then make sure you select only organic versions of any of the foods that appear on the “Dirty Dozen®” http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary   list which is a guide to pesticides in produce for shoppers. There is also a list of the fifteen ‘cleanest’ veges and fruits on that link.

If you, like many parents, are worried about the amount of fruits and vegetables that your kids are eating try them on home made juices from a wide variety of organic vegetables and fruits and know that they are probably getting the nutrients they require.

One drawback from lots of juice in your diet rather than whole fruit and vegetables, is that the fibre contained in the produce is discarded. Insufficient fibre is a common problem in western diets and leads to digestive health problems. Fibre also helps you to feel full and satisfied. In order to stop the development or exacerbation of the very health problems you are trying to fix you need to add the fibre back into your diet via the juice, or else by adding it to soups, stews or salads.

Juicers range in price from very cheap to thousands of dollars. My new masticating juicer cost a few hundred dollars. I know it won’t be as good as the ones I have dreamed of owning but it is quite sufficient to get my family started on this yummy health practice and to get them away from commercial juices.

There are lots of juicing recipes about but you don’t need them as it is good to experiment with your own creativity. Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

Here are some great tips for juicing, including juicing for a large family.

And here is one last hint – Chew your juice, never gulp it down! You will absorb it better when it is mixed with saliva.

Have fun trying out juicing for your household. I’m off to stock up on some fresh organic produce so I can get going.

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

 

Source articles:

http://greensmoothierevolution.com/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/13/benefits-of-juicing.aspx

http://www.livestrong.com/article/535545-the-disadvantages-of-juicing/

Soak Away Stress In Your Own Home Spa

reduce stress with DIY home bath products

 

I choose to practice gratitude every day. But no matter how hard I try I still regret that I don’t have a bath in my home.  Soaking in a bath with essential oils is an excellent way to reduce stress.

I love bath products and make a small range of beautiful natural skin care products. They’re simple and fun to make. It’s wonderful to be able to play with aromatic essential oils, beautiful cold-pressed vegetable oils, Himalayan salts and nut butters.

But I still long for a deep tub, candles, oils and salts in the bath, maybe a crystal in the water, music …well you know the scene. So whenever I go on holidays I always pack these goodies and book hotel rooms with a big bath.

Because this is the ‘Stressful-Season’ I’d like to share with you five wonderful super-simple home-made recipes for your Home Spa that sound easy and delicious. I hope you decide to practice a little self-love and steal an hour from your busy life to try them out.

 

1.  YULE RECIPE

So much alcohol goes in through the mouth over the holidays. Do yourself a favour and put that glass of red wine or champagne in your bath instead. Red wine is full of antioxidants which are simply awesome anti-ageing tools. If you feel a little decadent a glass of champagne in the water helps reduce discolouration of your skin as well as fine lines. The bonus is that the champagne needs to be flat! So have a drink first. Instead of throwing the leftover down the sink, throw it into the running water of your bath instead. Then hop in and soak for twenty minutes.

 

2. DETOX RECIPE

This is a great detox bath and my guess is you’ll probably need a couple of these after a dose of holiday partying.

Regular readers know I love Himalayan salt. It has so many health benefits as well as being relaxing and soothing. Unlike table salt it contains 84 minerals which give it the gorgeous pink colour. For it to be an effective detox you must have the right proportion of salt to water. In a tub of 100 litres you need 1200 grams of Himalayan salt.

Don’t use any soap, shampoo or oil with this as the salt cleanses perfectly. Soak for 30 minutes, towel off and then rinse with clean water. The salt leaves your skin beautifully silky smooth.

 

3. DIY BATH SALTS

Bath Salts are really easy to make at home. Try out this one.

Mix 50% epsom salts, 25% sea salt and 25% bi-carb soda (baking soda). Don’t use the stuff labeled “Lectric Soda” as it’s not Epsom salts. You need true Epsom Salts to get the benefits. Use about 2 tablespoons (40mL) of the mix in each bath. You can store any leftover in an airtight jar.

You can also add 7 – 10 drops (0.3 – 0.5 grams) of your favourite essential oil to each tablespoons of salt. I love Sandalwood mixed with Rose Geranium and Lavender. This mix smells amazing and these particular oils have a great nourishing and moisturising effect for my dry skin.

 

4.  GODDESS BATH

Cleopatra was spot on when she added camel milk to her baths. I don’t do dairy so wouldn’t use this. But if you’re not allergic to dairy products milk makes a fantastic mild exfoliant. You can use full cream milk or milk powder, or goats milk to the bath salts mix. Or even camel milk if you have some.

First add 5 drops of essential oils of your choice to the milk. Mix well. Add equal quantities of each mix to the bath (two tablespoons of the salt mix and two of the milk mix). Then soak for 20 minutes.

 

5. BEAUTIFUL BATH OIL

Bath oils are the easiest of all to make and very luxurious.

Use a good quality vegetable oil like Sweet Almond or peach as the base. I choose cold-pressed oils and make my own blend which includes hemp seed, avocado and macadamia oil. For every tablespoon of vegetable oil add 8-10 drops of a single essential oil or a blend that you love. Float a tablespoon of the mix on the water.

You can also add botanicals to the water for their aromatic bliss and health benefits. Be sure to use organic flowers, not sprayed with pest control.

Lavender blossom is a wonderful relaxant. Rose petals have beautiful skin softening properties and their scent is intoxicating. In fact even the water gets softer when you add rose petals. Sprinkle a handful in the gushing water and remember to breathe in the aroma as you relax.

 

MAN SPA

Many men have learnt to love spas too. Lose the candles, music and rose petals, and look for less flowery essential oils.

Grapefruit and orange oils create a feeling of wellbeing. Orange is cheering and uplifting, and the fresh citrus smell appeals to men (as well as women).

Relaxing sandalwood is another good choice and helps with balancing all skin types.

Juniper is a great rejuvenating oil with a smoky note that works really well with citrus oils.

Frankincense, marjoram, cedarwood, orange, sandalwood and vetiver are some relaxants with a less girly tone. Patchouli is another oil suitable for men, that I also love. But it’s definitely one you need to be sure he likes before using.

Use the recipes above as your base and choose oils that suit his emotional state. If he’s a bit reluctant encourage him to try it out just once for at least twenty minutes. With a good magazine to read it’s a much better way to unwind than the television and he’ll surely get hooked.

 

QUALITY OILS

One important thing to note. I’m really fussy about the oils I use and will only use top quality ‘Therapeutic Grade’ oils and you should too.  The effectiveness of aromatherapy is directly dependent on the quality of essential oils employed.

Many oils are promoted as being 100% pure and natural but are adulterated or simply ‘lifestyle products’ using the concept of aromatherapy. These are low quality ‘essential oils’ and ‘aromatherapy oils’ often leave a nasty residue after burning.

I hate the way that advertising loopholes again allow manufacturers to mislead the buyer. Look for therapeutic claims on the oils you use and you’ll then be sure they’re going to actually do you good.

 

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Choose your favourite recipe, mix yourself up a batch of ‘relaxation’ in your kitchen and schedule a ‘recovery hour’ in your calendar.

Then light a beautiful scented candle, especially the ones with multiple wicks, and put on some soothing music. If you have an amethyst or rose quartz crystal put it in the bottom of the bath. Just be sure not to sit down on it. Lock the bathroom door and relax back for half an hour.

After your bath lavish your favourite moisturiser on your skin and emerge rejuvenated and able to face the next holiday challenge.

 

salt detox for bath
Photo credit: Dennis Wong

 

And  here is a little trivia to end with – today 12/12/12 is the very last date that will have all three digits the same until the twenty second century, so almost certainly the last you will encounter.

Enjoy!
Do you have a favourite bath-time recipe? Please share it with us in the comments below

 

 

 

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Coasting to Christmas on the Silly Season Tsunami

With the end of the year racing towards us it is very easy to succumb to overwhelm, and here in Australia I believe that we actually do this season much harder than we need to, and perhaps harder than they do overseas. The festivities of Christmas, or whichever of the Holidays  you celebrate, coincides here with the end of the school year, the end of the working year, and the end of the calender year, all in one short week.

coasting to christmas-1386235586MYq

Trying to juggle a myriad of  ‘end-of-year’ school activities, dance concerts, exam study, shopping for the festivities ahead and socialising, together with having so many businesses closing down for at least a few weeks and preparations for the mass post-Christmas exodus to various idyllic beachy places, it is very easy to get caught up in a sense of “approaching the end”. Easy to get that nagging feeling that you need to finish absolutely everything, to tie up all the loose ends in your life.

It seems that the whole nation drives itself into an absolute feverpitch of stress through December and then shifts to the opposite extreme and shuts down totally after Christmas Eve. It is no wonder everyone races around with a sense of impending doom if everything isn’t done and finalized on time.

Perhaps this Australian ‘end-is-nigh’ approach to December actually fuels the stressful emotions that are experienced.

Are You Driving Yourself Too Hard?

How many times do you say to people ‘we must catch up before Christmas’? How much do you drive yourself at work to finalise jobs that realistically might wait a week or two? How many parties do you attend? How many late nights do you have? How much fattening, sugary, or rich food do you eat? How often are you driven to do or buy something which could wait, without really knowing what drives you to do it right now? And these are only what you are actually doing – they don’t even start to address the emotions that get stirred up at this time.

This last part of the year can be a time of escalating stress for so many during the build-up to Christmas with ‘so much to get done’, loneliness, increasingly tired children as they approach the end of the school year, the pressures of self-run businesses to cover added end of year costs such as holiday pay for staff, a calendar that seems to overflow, loss of a job and financial constraints, plus many more difficulties.

Loneliness and Grief

This part of the year is also the time of tremendous emotional stress for many. It is the time when the loss of loved family members, whether through separation or their passing, comes home and strikes with almost paralyzing force. For some people the whole season is wrapped in a tight mantle of grief that draws in around and stifles them.

It can also be the time when singles feel the most lonely, when isolation from family and friends or an abscence of them in your life strikes most intensely.

Family Tensions

For others the experience of returning into a family where everyone is suddenly thrown back into the role they played as a youngster and the family dynamics that played out when they were children, is too difficult to deal with.This is in spite of the fact that in their real everyday life they are responsible and competent parents, partners, employees or employers with wide and admirable skills and abilities.

In this scenario is it any wonder that the anxieties of childhood rear their ugly heads. Is it any wonder that behaviour reverts and childish tantrums or bickering, petulant unhappiness or resentment and various other actions that arise from the uncertain and fearful child that is still living deep within, start to occur.

But whatever the reason the ability to engage in the Christmas spirit eludes many and the season is anything but bright.

There are natural treatments that can help you cope as the Holiday Season gets nearer and stress levels increase
There are natural treatments that can help you cope as the Holiday Season gets nearer and stress levels increase

WHAT YOU CAN DO

There are a number of natural strategies that you can adopt to help deal with these issues. Rather than go into each of them in detail I will give you a link to some that I think are sound and effective. You can have a look and try a few out and then use any that suit you the best.

Even making a little time to get some exercise or relaxation is a good way to start. When we start to rush both exercise and relaxation space often go by the wayside. Schedule the time in your calendar and then stick to it.

Remember that a massage can work wonders especially if you carry your stress in your neck and shoulders, and it will be even more effective if it includes aromatherapy essential oils for relaxation.

Emotions respond beautifully to any of the varied forms of energetic medicine. Medicine delivered in an energetic form can be very effective in ‘re-balancing and re-setting you’ so that you are able to deal with whatever it is you have to face. Hear are a few.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy offers some great remedies for many of the issues such as stress, overwork, grief, over-excitement, anxiety, guilt, exhaustion and so on.

Homeopathic Coffea helps with getting over-excited children off to sleep on ChristmasEve. Ignatia is often a first choice for grieving. Nux vomica can work wonders if you are driving yourself towards burnout with overwork.

Homeopathic remedies need to be matched to your own idiosyncratic symptoms, the particular way you manifest the stress so unless you are familiar with self-prescribing for acute situations, or if your stress is long-standing you should consult with a fully trained and registered Homeopath.

Learn how to choose the best Homeopathic remedies for acute illnesses
Learn how to choose the best Homeopathic remedies for acute illnesses

Acupuncture

Visiting an Acupuncturist is a great way to deal with the stress, but even better, you can do Acupressure yourself anytime and anywhere, and it works along the same lines as acupuncture. Here is a good demonstration of one way to relieve stress by Donna Eden, an expert at using acupressure in her energy medicine work.

This advice and demonstration of acupressure points to use for hangovers could be useful if you are partying hard. And here are some acupressure points to help with feelings of anxiety felt throughout the holiday season.

Flower Essences

Flower essences can have a great benefit when trying to deal with grief. They work very gently, but effectively on the emotions.

The basic Bach Rescue Remedy or Australian Bush Flower Emergency Essence are both good ‘all-purpose’ mixes for dealing with stressful situations but there are a number of others that can be tailored to each individuals requirements. FES Five Flower Formula is similar to Bach Rescue Remedy.

Perhaps my favourite for this time of the year would be the Australian Bush Flower ‘Calm & Clear’ essence – the name says it all.

There are flower essences to help relieve all the other stressful emotional responses to the holidays and they are well worth investigating.

For information about each of the Bach remedies look here, for Australian Bush Flower Remedies look here and Californian Flower Essences here.   And this blogger describes her response to flower remedies which is interesting if you have had no experience of them before

Calm_Clear_Th

Difficult Families

Here are some useful strategies for those who have to deal with intensified extended family tensions. They give you the opportunity to plan ahead and devise strategies for you as well as your family.

Importantly it is all about taking back the reigns and getting back your sense of control. If you are able to clearly identify where your stress is coming from then you have a better chance of achieving this control. If there is a tradition in your festivities that causes more stress than joy, then it is time to give yourself permission to change things. Maybe 2012 is the year to make changes, after all you cannot help others if you are not really coping yourself.

Don’t forget, it is not all about the ‘Big Day’. The stress of the lead up through December can be just as bad or worse, and the significant health effect that prolonged stress can have on your whole system is often not recognized or acknowledged until it gets serious.

Remember to check in with situations and ask yourself whether they are of joy or of stress right through the whole Month of December.

Make this the year where you decide to be a bit kinder to yourself. Sure there are always going to be pressures, but maybe by being aware of the extent of the manufactured pressures you embrace, you can let a few slide, and in easing up your obligations you will be able to deal with those stresses you really cannot avoid.

It is time to allow yourself the gift of self-love and self-care.

It is time to allow yourself the gift of self-love and self-care

 

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.