This blue marble

– and yet it spins


Leave a comment

Blueberries, goodberries

blueberriesBlueberries and bilberries are the same, right? Wrong. Blueberries found in our European supermarkets all-year round are cultivated highbush blueberries, juicy and light or green inside. The blue berries found in the Northern European forests are bilberries. These are the ones that stain your fingers and tongue when you eat them straight from the bush.

And it is the European bilberry which (as far as I know) is the superior superfood of the two: loads of antioxidants, minerals, and great taste, unbeatable by the North American blueberry.

But when it is April and the Finnish forests are only waking up one takes what one finds (in the supermarket). And so today granma’s old sugar bowl is filled with cultivated blueberries.

(Loviisa, Finland; April 2019)


Leave a comment

Time for a winter reset

kitchariWinter detoxes and spring cleanses never seem to go out of mode. To be honest, as a scientist I do not believe in quick “detoxing” (I also do not believe one can “wring toxins out of the liver” while squeezing into certain yoga poses). But I do believe in resetting metabolism: resetting energy intake and resetting cravings for salt, sugar, fat, pickles, candy – you name your own craving.

And so, nearly my entire adult life I have taken a timeout of one to three weeks, early on in the year, and focused on clean, healthy, often light food. I have tried a version of the “heart surgery diet” or the “cabbage soup diet” – mainly for excess fluid loss and carb reset, not weight loss. I have also tried three or four different Goop detoxes and found them insanely expensive, adventurous, and delicious.

The past few years I have used a version of an ayurvedic kitchari detox. My ayurvedic dosha is pitta – except for that some of it, and especially my digestive system, is kapha. The combination of mung bean dhal, lots of spices, pickled ginger, and a little rice just works. Especially if you have a slow metabolism or kapha imbalance, or just feel tired during the winter time you might want to give this a go.

The catch with this winter reset, first published on Oh Holy Basil, is that you really must like this dish because it is all you eat. Every day. The recommendation is a three-day diet but I throw in a light almond milk based smoothie every morning and combine that with the kitchari for seven days. Why on earth?? Because it gives my stomach a well-deserved rest. No surprises. No difficult-to-digest raw vegetables, bloating short carbs and sugars, and no chemical additives or caffeine or alcohol. Just highly nutritious, easy-to-digest, clean foods. Every day. And this dish is delicious, especially with the condiments of pickled ginger, shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and fresh cilantro.

My week-long simple reset is as follows:

Morning: Half a lemon squeezed into a glass of warm water, with a dash of cayenne pepper stirred through (to wake up my kapha belly). Followed by a 4 dl smoothie blended from a banana, almond milk, super green powder (think spirulina, wheat shoots, nettle), and maca powder.

Lunch and dinner: Kitchari with rice and condiments, as much as you feel like having. Have some more in-between meals if you feel hungry. If you go for an entire week, make sure you go plenty on the ghee or coconut oil, and cook the mung beans well. I prefer to sprout them for up to 36 hours in a bowl of water in room-temperature prior to cooking, to aid my digestion. I also add up to twice as much spices than in the recipe below (and go even heavier on the turmeric).

To drink: No alcohol, of course. No caffeine also means no black or green tea. Only that glass of fresh lemon water in the morning, followed by herbal teas and water. There are lots of gently and tastily spiced herbal teas out there. Not sure how much good they actually do, but for example the Pukka brand is good for exploration during a reset.

This is not a diet to lose weight; it is a diet for feeling good. You might end up losing some fluid and weight if you go for an entire week. If you do not feel your stomach, even after a heavy meal, this diet is probably working for you. You also do not need expensive adaptogens and Moon Dust (google it if you don’t know what it is) but I like to throw in the things I normally take: holy basil, maca, ashwagandha if I am under pressure at work, and vitamin D + calcium as well as vitamin B12 (as I am vegetarian).

An actual reset is also about resetting one’s mind. Try yoga, meditation, or just sitting in stillness, listening to sounds around you and to your own body. Read, go for walks in Nature, or take a bath. Try to spend less time consuming anything in your life that is not either bringing you a sense of calm or a sense of self-improvement (and that includes dramatic tabloid news, Facebook, and cat videos on Youtube).

The recipe for the actual dish follows below, with a grateful nod to Dillon at Oh Holy Basil. If you have tried this, or another “detox” / cleanse / reset you absolutely recommend, please drop me a line as I do like to experiment and improve.

INGREDIENTS

The dal:
  • 1 cup yellow split mung beans (not the whole green ones she says, but I’ve never found yellow ones anywhere), washed and soaked at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, see note
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seed
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • pinch asafetida, if available, otherwise omit it
  • 6 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 cups turnips, sunchokes or other mild root vegetables, thinly sliced into half moons
  • ½ bunch of kale or the reserved turnip greens from the turnips, sliced very thin
  • 1 lime, juiced
The best rice ever:
  • 1 cup basmati rice, preferably soaked for one hour, otherwise rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
Garnishes:
  • cilantro leaves
  • lime
  • shredded coconut
  • sesame seeds
  • melted ghee
  • ginger tonic, recipe follows

INSTRUCTIONS

For the dal:
  1. Drain and rinse the mung beans in a fine mesh sieve and leave them to drain of their excess water.
  2. In a medium pot, heat the ghee or coconut oil, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick over medium heat until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Immediately add the turmeric, asafetida and mung beans and cook, stirring frequently for about a minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, partially covered and cook for about 45 minutes or until the mung beans have broken down, loosing their district form. Add the root vegetables and salt and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until they are quite soft. Add the greens and cook about five minutes more. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice. While the dal is cooking, make the rice.
For the best rice ever:
  1. Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse a couple of times.
  2. Heat the ghee or coconut oil, cumin seeds and cardamom pods over medium heat and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently for a minute or two more, until the rice is well toasted but not yet browning. Add the boiling water and boil the rice, uncovered for five minutes. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  3. To serve put some rice into a bowl and ladle the dal over top of it. Garnish with cilantro, a hearty squeeze of lime juice, the coconut, sesame seeds and melted ghee, if using. Top with a couple of teaspoons of the ginger tonic.

NOTES

If you forget to soak your mung beans overnight, do not dismay. You can do a quick soak by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak for just one hour.

GINGER TONIC

This digestive tonic can be taken before meals to aid digestion and stimulate the agni. I also put some on top of my kitchari.
INGREDIENTS
  • a large piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into tiny cubes
  • lime juice
  • sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the ginger in a small bowl and coat with a liberal squeeze of lime juice. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and set aside to let marinate for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

 

(Brande, Denmark; February 2019)


Leave a comment

Remote office in the remote countryside

takkaI am working from the cottage this week, surrounded by snow. There is no wi-fi but the invention of an iPhone hotspot can do wonders for work-life balance if one lets it. Everything but video conferencing works, and who needs video conferencing anyway when snuggling up behind the laptop in woollen socks and a thick homely sweater? Output quality trumps appearance and sense of style in my job.

And just because I feel like it: here is a repost of the wonderful poem “January” by John Updike.

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

(Loviisa, Finland; January 2019)


Leave a comment

The little house in the great woods

snowhouse-3That little house in the great woods is actually a sauna. Traditionally, a sauna has always been a separate building, standing apart from the main house. Possibly due to the risk of fire. Saunas used to burn down from time to time.

The two elements of a sauna are fire and water. For thousands of years they brought babies into life and guided dying ones in their last moments of this life. A flu is still often cured in the sauna, and hearts are kept strong by alternating between hot air baths and cold winter water baths. Saunas alleviate any kind of muscle ache, even women’s own kind of deep muscle ache.

And (in contrast to many American saunas) in a Finnish sauna there are no warning signs: no doctor’s consultation needed, no advice against entering if one is old, pregnant, or if one suffers of a weak heart or low blood pressure. Because there is no need: a sauna is not a dangerous place, quite the opposite. The combination of sauna and some common sense and listening to one’s body is beneficial for everybody.

(Loviisa, Finland; December 2018)