DIY

Salad Rolls for the World

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Everyone who knows me knows I can’t go to a Asian establishment and not order salad rolls. They’re one of my absolute favorite foods — crispy, fresh, colorful, and fun to eat, all at once. I’ve tried hundreds and hundreds of salad rolls in my life (okay, probably not quite that many). But not until yesterday did I concoct a plan to make them myself. I don’t know what took me so long — I guess I just thought the labor and art of salad-roll making was out of my league. Newsflash: it is. They may look pretty in the picture, but I’m not going to judge anyone for making some jacked up salad rolls because this is hard!

As a dietitian (and a human being) I really identify with the the principles of flexibility and whimsy. Salad rolls are totally in line with these ideas because you can fill them with whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. There are so many flavors in the world, and ALL of them have the potential to fit into salad rolls! Ah, life is magical.

IMG_1637So there I was — I had all my ingredients prepped and in the assembly line (read: sitting in multiple bowl sizes haphazardly on my stove top), the big bowl of water ready to rehydrate my rice paper, and a supremely determined mindset. When I pulled the first paper out of the water and it immediately ripped and folded over on itself, I just laughed. Okay, take two!

The trick is to take the paper out of the water at about 15 seconds (not twenty) when it’s still got some stiffness in it and you can actually work with it. It’s like taking a cake out of the oven right before it’s actually cooked all the way through, because it’ll keep cooking (and the rice paper will keep absorbing the water as you’re filling it).

saladrolls2After you’ve readied your roll, simply tuck the sides in and roll it up like a tiny Asian burrito.

Yoga, Level: Cats -- "Now, take both legs and simply toss them around your neck . . . like a scarf."
No, I’m just kidding…it takes a little more finesse than that. But each roll I made was better-looking than the one before, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to have fun with it! And remember — no matter what they look like, they’re going to taste insanely phenomenal. I could live off this stuff.

As for the sauce, experiment. We’re all different and I don’t expect you to like the same amount of spice or sweetness that I do. Much like every restaurant will serve their own version of a peanut sauce, all of ours will probably be tailored to our taste.

I really hope you do try to make these bad boys. Some recipes require a lot of repetition and help me to zone out in the kitchen, and this is one of them. It was a treat to spend my morning making these. And it was an even bigger treat to eat them.

And that, my friends….is a wrap. (ba dun dun.)

Peanut Sauce
* 1 tbsp peanut butter (I use natural crunchy)
* 1 tsp soy or tamari sauce (tamari for gluten-free folks)
* 1 tbsp thai chili paste (it’s not that spicy, but taste-check as needed)

Marinated Tofu
* 2 tbsp brown sugar
* 1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
* 1 tbsp curry powder
* juice of a lime
* 1 tbsp minced garlic
* 1 tsp sesame oil

1. Mix all the ingredients together, and then throw in a package of tofu (16 oz).

2. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has left the tofu. Take off the burner & set aside.

Pad Thai Noodles
1. Boil water. Insert noodles (a good handful). Boil for 8-10 minutes. Take out of water and set aside.

Salad Roll Recipe
* Pad thai noodles (or vermicelli, or thin rice noodles) – 1.5 cups
* Marinated tofu — 1.5 cups
* Raw red onion, sliced thinly (1/2 of one)
* Raw red pepper, sliced thinly (1/2 of one)
* Baby spinach (bunch)
* Raw avocado, sliced thinly (1/2 of one)
* Optional — cilantro or thai basil to taste (or both!)

Remember that this is YOUR food — sub in and sub out ingredients as you wish!

1. Insert rice paper into a bowl of water. Take it out (carefully) after about 15 seconds (it will be really thin and hard to work with). Lay it on a tea towel or a thick paper towel.
2. Arrange your filling as you want — I found it helpful to lay down the spinach/lettuce first, and then try to put the other ingredients on top of it.
3. Fold the sides over, and then either the bottom or top. Finagle. Roll into a tiny burrito.
4. Eat the delicious salad rolls.

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Cashew Cream: Never miss a parfait again

I enjoyed a truly delectable vegan parfait the other morning, and I went home to replicate it right afterwards so I could  share it here! The life of a dietitian, folks. Now, there’s an ever-growing number of vegan yogurts on the market, including Nancy’s, So Delicious, Almond Dream, and the Trader Joe’s brand (ps, check out their list of vegan foods from the link!). I’ve tried a few, liked a few, and found some that have left a pretty icky taste in my mouth. So if you’re looking for a simple creamy yogurt substitute that you can make in minutes to go with granola or fruit (or both!) look no further than a simple cashew cream.

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Nuts are finally getting their due recognition for protecting heart health, brain health, and staving off weight gain and even cancer. Yes, nuts are largely composed of fats, but the kind of fats found in nuts like walnuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, etc. are not something I would ever counsel someone to avoid. Nuts are high in fiber, which promotes gut health and lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. Choose nuts that are unsalted, though, to avoid excess sodium consumption.

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Nuts are a super filling snack, which makes a cashew cream parfait likely to stick with you up until lunch (or even past it). When I get hungry at work, I always reach for almonds or mixed nuts, because I know just a handful will do the trick.

You can use a couple dollops of this delicious treat, or mix it with a non-dairy milk for a thinner consistency to make it more of a “yogurt.” I made a simple parfait consisting of low-fat/low-sugar granola found at Whole Paycheck (the berry kind in the bulk section), cashew cream, frozen pineapple and raspberries, cinnamon, and some chia seeds, and then poured unsweetened soy milk over it all. What a light and refreshing way to start the day.

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What’s your favorite parfait combination?

Vegan Brownie in a Mug. You’re welcome.

It’s late at night. You’re watching Lord of the Rings. Things are getting emotional. You need chocolate.

Enter…the mug brownie.

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Now, I know this recipe is nothing new. But I had no idea what I was missing until, by some stroke of genius the other night, I remembered that I had all the ingredients necessary to make myself a brownie in a mug in under five minutes. That’s right — there’s no waiting around for the oven to preheat with this recipe. You don’t even need measuring cups! With some basic ingredients and a microwave, you can get back to your movie in no time.

Short and sweet, just like this post.

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So go ahead and treat yourself tonight. And stay tuned for my next post; a spotlight on Portland’s own Nike Run Club!  I’m really excited to get the word out about this fantastic group.

Make Your Own at Home: Ultra Hydrating Face Exfoliant and Mask

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I don’t know about you, but I have unruly skin. It’s started to settle down as I get older, but  I still battle with uneven texture and tone, and a combination of dry and oily patches. Ugh! As you can imagine, I’m a sucker for trying different facial cleansers, moisturizers, and masks. But not one product I’ve ever tried has delivered on its promise of smooth, dewy skin. On top of that, each product usually puts me back $7 – $20 a pop!

I decided to see if I could make my own exfoliant and face mask with simple home ingredients, and I was shocked at how cheap, easy and effective this at-home treatment  has been for keeping my skin hydrated in the dry wintertime.

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Let’s start with the exfoliant. It could not be easier to throw this together. Grab some used coffee grounds and blend with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of coconut oil. (If you need the benefits of fresh caffeine — reduction of swelling and puffy eyes — toss a bit of unused coffee grounds into the mix. Better yet, grind fresh from whole beans.) Try to make the blended mixture as fine as possible — after all, you don’t want to assault your skin! The end result is naturally exfoliated skin and deeply hydrated skin.

If your face needs an extra boost — and whose doesn’t, really — supplement this treatment with an avocado-based citrus mask. I tossed 1 whole avocado fruit (minus skin and pit), a kiwi (with skin), the juice of half a lemon, and some more coconut oil into the blender. Voilà, a naturally enzymatic and antioxidant-rich mask!

This mask is full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that can promote collagen production when applied topically. Make sure you have exfoliated first with the coffee ground exfoliant so that the vitamin C has the best chance of being absorbed. Keep out of the sunlight when you’re wearing this mask as the UV rays will destroy the vitamin C compound. Vitamin E, found in the avocado, lends its antioxidant properties to skin when applied topically as well.  Again, stay out of the sun while you’re wearing this mask, since UV rays can destroy vitamin E. The coconut oil contains lauric acid, which may have anti-acne properties. The lemon juice tightens skin and reduces pore size, but make sure to moisturize properly afterwards to avoid too-tight skin.

Leave the mask on for 10-20 minutes and then gently wipe off with warm water. Pat skin dry and moisturize as needed, and enjoy your beautiful skin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast Muffins for Mornings on the Go

I’m pretty sure that waking up before the sun rises should be illegal. When you’re morally obligated to stay up late watching Homeland, it becomes a bit of a struggle to wake up at 6 am the next day to go work in a hospital for nine hours! To stay chipper and fuel up in the morning without wasting any time, I concocted an easy breakfast muffin recipe that is packed protein and fiber to help keep me full and focused until lunch time.
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Each of these muffins has 3.5 g of protein and 3.3 g of fiber. I usually grab two in the morning because they’re not massive like the ones you see in supermarkets. You can top them with peanut butter, honey, or just eat ’em plain!
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I used flax meal, oat bran, and hemp protein powder to provide some protein and fiber. Hemp is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids humans needs to survive and thrive! Ground flax seed has a substantial amount of fiber, which can help to lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The fiber helps to promote normal digestion and relieve constipation (aim for about 25-35 grams a day). Flax seed is also noted for its omega-3 content, and is an alternative to fatty fish. Oat bran is simply the outside of oat grains, and is a great source of fiber, protein, and selenium, an antioxidant. It also contains iron and B vitamins that will improve your energy levels.
I also added a fruit “sauce” for even more fiber and some natural sweetness. Simply toss a pear or an apple and 1 tbsp of olive oil (or any oil) in the blender and blend away. Add 1/2 a cup to your mixture.
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I personally don’t like sweet foods in the morning, but if you need a bit more sweetness try adding 1/4 cup of maple syrup to this mix or simply add some berries into the batter.
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This recipe will make about 12 muffins.
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Try this recipe out and let me know what you think!

Compassionate Gift Ideas for Anxious Gifters

I have gift anxiety.

I’m not a natural gifter, unlike my best friend or my dear mom. More often than not I cringe when someone opens my gift to them, expecting obvious disappointment to show up on their faces once they open up whatever I’ve hastily assembled for them. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t usually turn out to be that depressing.)

That is why I absolutely love gift guides! I stumbled across the Leaping Bunny‘s interactive cornucopia of compassionate gifting ideas and had to share it with all of you. If you’re struggling to find that last person on your list’s gift, this might be the answer for you. Every ornament on the trees will display a special deal or discount the company is offering. Take a look!

Featured companies include:

  • Andalou Naturals (I’ve recently sampled their products and really enjoy the fruit peels)
  • CommonGood
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • Mineral Fusion
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (I live by their counter spray!)
  • South of France

…and many more!

I also have to rep VeganCuts. It’s true what they say: ’tis the season for cruelty-free gifting! VeganCuts offers beauty boxes and snack boxes that can be gifted one-time, or set up for monthly doorstep deliveries. Who doesn’t love getting a box of new goodies every month?

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Feed them — with food or words. Treats and cookbooks are always a good option. But how about both of those combined into one fantastic book? That’s right: Vegan Food Gifts (Joni Marie Newman) will inspire your crafty friend to make treats all year long.

Donate in someone’s name. Most people have a favorite cause, whether it’s animal rights, community development, green initiatives, or supporting the local economy. You know your friends and family better than I do! For that person who has everything, a credited donation can be a fantastic and thoughtful gift.

Know a self-professed gourmand? Peruse foranima‘s Food & Kitchen section. From baked goods to biodegradable plateware, there’s bound to be something for a classy someone in your life.

Support a local business and set up a couple months’ worth of produce delivery for someone important to you. Believe me, they’ll appreciate the time you saved them shopping for fruits and veggies! In Portland I like to rep Organics to You, a company I’ve been using for a year. They always surprise me with something new to cook with, and it couldn’t be easier to eat my fruits and vegetables.

Spend time. When all else fails and your gifts just aren’t working out, fall back to the real point of the holidays: spending time with the people in your life.

What kinds of gifts are you giving this holiday season?

How to replenish your gut flora after taking antibiotics

Well, it’s been a couple weeks since I updated, mainly due to a nasty bout with a kidney infection. Luckily for all of you, my experience made me realize that I should talk about how to replenish your healthy gut flora after it’s been decimated by antibiotics!

Don’t get me wrong–I’m happy that I live in a time where I have quick and easy access to antibiotics when I really, really need them. After all, penicillin was one of the most important discoveries in the history of humankind, and became a modern-day miracle elixir. (Although penicillin is now much less effective than it was in 1928.)

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A kidney infection isn’t something to mess with, and refusing to take antibiotics quickly can cause permanent kidney damage. And hey, I like my kidneys. They do lots of important things for me, like control my blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep my bones strong, and remove waste and fluid that I don’t need. So yeah, I’d like to keep them.

But after two weeks of antibiotics, I was feeling the effects. For whatever reason — regular physical activity, daily coffee, a vegan diet high in fiber — I am fairly, ahem, regular. But all that went right down the proverbial toilet.

Antibiotics are just what they sound like: prescribed killers of the biological agents known as bacteria. And while I had to get rid of the bad bacteria in my kidneys, taking them meant that I killed the good gut flora in my digestive tract, too.

There’s some fascinating work being done on why a healthy gut flora balance is so crucial to health. It’s said that beneficial bacteria make up three pounds of our total body weight, so you know they’ve got to be important! A healthy microbiome:

  • Ferments (breaks down) undigested carbohydrates, forming short chain fatty acids that can be used as an energy source
  • Protects against leaky gut syndrome, a widely misunderstood condition in modern-day medicine
  • Synthesizes vitamins B and K
  • Protects the body from disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella
  • Strengthens the immune system

But how and why gut flora is important still largely remains a mystery to researchers. Some scientists have speculated that being born without a healthy gut flora store, or not maintaining a balanced microbiome throughout life, might cause autism spectrum disorders, obesity, allergies and asthma, and even Parkinson’s disease. The research is so important that Michael Pollan himself wrote an op-ed detailing the his voluntary biomapping of his own gut flora, a piece that went viral via the NY Times this year.

Few of the scientists I interviewed had much doubt that the Western diet was altering our gut microbiome in troubling ways. Some…are concerned about the antimicrobials we’re ingesting with our meals; others with the sterility of processed food. Most agreed that the lack of fiber in the Western diet was deleterious to the microbiome, and still others voiced concerns about the additives in processed foods, few of which have ever been studied for their specific effects on the microbiota.

— “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs”

Some hospitals have started to jump on board the beneficial bacteria bandwagon. During my internship at OHSU, I learned that dietitians at OHSU and several other hospitals in the area will automatically order kefir or Nancy’s Yogurt for a patient who is taking antibiotics, as a way to replenish their healthy bacteria. As a dietitian, that’s pretty fascinating to me!

But what about replenishing gut flora by way of vegan foods? Don’t worry, kefir isn’t the only solution for a bare digestive tract. In fact, there are lots of ways to help your gut grow back some of its little helpers.

1. Eat fiber. Any kind. All kinds. Soluble fiber (fresh fruits and veggies, legumes, seeds, oatmeal, psyllium, flax, etc.) will be fermented by bacteria in the colon and synthesized into vitamin K and some B vitamins, and short chain fatty acids. The SCFA will nourish the walls of the colon and may prevent colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, and diverticular disease. Fiber can also decrease triglycerides and cholesterol.

Soluble fiber is what’s known as a prebiotic — the stuff that nourishes the probiotics, or the healthy bacteria. Some prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, tomatoes, asparagus, whole wheat, and bananas.

2. Enjoy fermented foods. Tempeh, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, miso soup, and kombucha and Kevita are fantastic alternatives to dairy probiotics. Even wine and beer have some probiotics in them (but I would recommend a hearty tempeh stir-fry in addition!). Try namu shoyu, a Japanese soy sauce, drizzled over tempeh and broccoli.

Watch out for fermented foods with vinegar: oftentimes, the vinegar ends up killing the good bacteria. Lacto-fermented products are a better choice.

3. If you’re really worried, try a supplement. GoodBelly, Garden of Life, and RawGreen Organics are just a few of the vegan options I found. However, these supplements tend to be pricey, as most supplements are. A balanced diet with the aforementioned foods should do the trick.

Be aware: the strain of bacteria known as lactobacillus is vegan in and of itself, but is often grown using a dairy food source. Knowing this, I would choose a supplement that does not list lactobacillus in its probiotic arsenal.

Here in Portland, lots of people try their hand at fermenting their own kombucha and pickling vegetables. It’s really not that hard, and making your own food is quite empowering! There are lots of references out there for trying your hand at fermenting foods and beverages safely and effectively. Try this guide!

If you already enjoy a balanced microbiome but are considering having a baby, listen up: as it pertains to healthy gut flora, researchers have found that breastfeeding will promote a more diverse bacterial landscape compared to formula-fed babies. These bacteria work to protect your baby against toxins and other intruders that might cause illness such as colic. These bacteria can influence your baby’s immune system for life, and might mean the difference between allergies, asthma, and other auto-immune conditions.

I hope this brief overview was helpful. I know I’ll be trying my hand at fermenting more of my own foods, especially now that fall is rolling in. I mean, who doesn’t love miso soup on a rainy day? Feel free to comment on this post with questions or comments! And remember to keep growing that garden of gut flora 🙂

Snack Time: Kale Chips with a Kick

I know, I know–kale chips have been done. But I got a huge bunch from my local produce service, and figured it was time to spice things up a little bit around here…can you tell by the site’s new look? 🙂

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Kale chips are super easy to make and take just about 20 minutes to crisp up in the oven. But I like them the best because they are a perfect reflection of your personality! I guess I was feeling spicy when I made these because I was pretty liberal with my chili powder and nutritional yeast. Talk about an afternoon pick-me-up!

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So go ahead and put your own spin on these! Minced garlic? Sriracha? A pinch of paprika? It’s your food, and you do what you want.

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As I noted in the recipe card, it’s best to eat these as soon as you make them. Storing them is tricky and they tend to get a bit soggy in a container if you haven’t used a dehydrator (something I haven’t invested in). Also, be sure to flip them a couple times during the baking process to ensure an even texture.

Kale is a powerhouse ingredient in my diet because it’s full of vitamins and minerals that my body needs to function. It’s a great source of that non-heme (non-animal source) iron, vitamin C (this helps the iron to be absorbed in your body), vitamin A, and calcium. Like most vegetables and fruits, kale will help keep you regular and acts as a natural detoxifying agent because it’s packed with fiber.

A lot of people ask me what nutritional yeast is all about. This delicious product is a flaky add-on to anything that needs a  boost of (vegan) cheesy goodness. In fact, it’s used often in vegan cheeses and sauces to mimic that cheese flavor. If you’re vegan, make sure you pick up a nutritional yeast that is fortified with B12! This can be a difficult nutrient for us to obtain since it comes almost exclusively from animal sources (exception: algae, yeast). I like Bragg’s. At just about $6 a bottle, it’s a real bargain.

So if you’ve got half an hour to spare and a head of kale waiting to be munched on, go ahead and try these chips! You won’t be disappointed.

Weekend BBQ: Charred Chickpea Burgers with Chipotle Mayo Aioli!

Sometimes you just gotta have a burger.

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My friend Ashley Klees, RD over at Healthy.Easy.Yum! knows that just as well as I do, so she came over to help round out my burgers with a side of cole slaw and sweet potato chips! Check out her page to learn how to make these oh-so-delicious sides! Ashley and I went through our dietetic internship at OHSU together and she kept a smile on my face the whole time!

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These burgers were really easy to make. I ran into a problem with keeping them from falling apart, but throwing some breadcrumbs into the “batter” fixed them right up. Try them at home! They’re easy, fun, and bursting with flavor. I topped my burgers with a drizzle of the aioli (it packs quite a punch–you’ve been warned!) and some sliced avocado for a creamy texture and pop of color.

IMG_0513 IMG_0521Pro tip: don’t be shy with the olive oil! It’ll help to get the outside of your burgers rich and crispy.IMG_0546 IMG_0553

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The finished product! PS — I used Dave’s Killer Bread whole grain burger buns because they’re free of additives and other junk. They also make sliced bread and other goodies and you can find it at your local Safeway, Whole Foods, etc!

Thanks Ashley for letting me collaborate with you on this delicious, easy, and FUN summertime meal!

Do it Yourself: Turmeric & Raspberry “Detox” Iced Tea

I’ve been hearing a lot about the health benefits of turmeric (aka curcumin), and wanted to experiment with it in the kitchen. Since it’s summertime and I really love an ice-cold, fresh beverage after a walk outside or sweating in the sun, a hot meal wasn’t going to work! So instead, I present to you…my original turmeric & raspberry detox iced tea!

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As a Registered Dietitian, I’m obligated to say that your liver, kidneys, and intestines do a stellar job of clearing out the waste that comes from your food and environment. So any kind of “detox” program that you might want to try probably won’t be worth your money, and you might just end up spending lots of quality time on the porcelain throne.

Ahem.

However….it’s definitely true that consuming certain foods will keep you regular and help you to avoid bloat, gas, and water retention. There’s no need to take supplements or choke down any nasty concoctions. Fiber-rich, whole foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), combined with spices that have a functional benefit, can have a big impact on your intestinal, er, movement.

So what’s the deal with turmeric? It’s been a hot topic in natural health news, and has been credited with preventing cancer, detoxifying the liver, aiding in digestion, and relieving arthritic pain. The literature doesn’t show any concrete connection between turmeric and these sorts of health claims, but there haven’t been many studies conducted. Preliminary research has shown that turmeric might act as an anti-inflammatory agent. In other words, it might have some fantastic benefits, but we don’t have scientific proof yet. In any case, most people have nothing to worry about from adding turmeric to their cooking! (Check with your doctor if you have a health condition like gallbladder disease.)

You can make this refreshing summer drink as long as you have a blender! With just five natural and whole ingredients, this delicious drink is just waiting to get in your belly and start hydratin’ you from the inside out.

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Turmeric & Raspberry “Detox” Iced Tea

1. Assemble your ingredients: 1/2 cucumber, 2 cups red raspberries, 1-2 tsp. turmeric powder, and 2-3 tea bags of your choice.

I’m obsessed with the Pukka “Love” right now, since it’s delicious but mild. You can choose a caffeinated or non-caffeinated tea, based on your preference. Caffeine is a mild diuretic and can help to promote digestion.

2. Brew the tea and let it steep for 3-5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add turmeric. Blend.

All that yellow is from 1 tsp. of turmeric!

All that yellow is from 1 tsp. of turmeric!

*Pro tip: TASTE TEST this recipe as you go. I don’t find the turmeric to be overpowering, but you might. Add 1/2 teaspoons at a time to make sure you don’t overpower your drink!

3. Add the raspberries and cucumber. Blend. (Your choice to peel the cucumber or not — if you have a high-powered blender, leaving the skin on shouldn’t make a difference in taste or texture, and it adds lots of vitamins.)

Refreshing and hydrating beverage? or tequila sunrise? You tell me.

Refreshing & hydrating beverage, or tequila sunrise? You tell me.

4. Pour the mixture into a carafe and stick it in the fridge to cool it down.

5. Serve with a straw over ice. Add agave and a tiny squeeze of lemon for added flavor. Lemon is also a mild diuretic and can help with getting rid of water weight if you’re feeling bloated, but it can easily overpower the fruit and zest in this drink.

The raspberries serve as a great source of fiber (8 g per cup!), and the cucumber is a fabulously hydrating vegetable with B vegetables to start your morning off with some zing, or act as an afternoon pick-me-up! I hope to see more research about turmeric in the future and will definitely be incorporating it into my diet more often.

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