Saturday, February 15, 2014

Loving the Artichoke

My Lovely Valentine Meal:
Garlic, tomato and button mushrooms sauteed with whole grain pasta.
Artichoke steamed with lemon wedges and orange peel--
I had an orange before preparing this meal and just when I
was about to throw the peel out I thought...wait a minute...
and threw it into the pot! Voila, artichokes has a beautiful
but very subtle citrus-y quality.  

Made a big deal about Valentine's Day this year. It's the first time I've been single on this date for a long time. This is something I am celebrating at the moment. Being able to spend time with myself, choosing to do what I like, learning to not be so self-sacrificing is a whole new adventure for me. And yesterday was an exercise in loving myself in all ways possible.

And one of the ways I treated myself yesterday was with food. I prepared a nice picnic for one, a couple of lovely spelt bread sandwiches with creamy peanut butter, tomato, cucumber and avocado which I enjoyed along with a thermos of anise tea up in Monserrat during the day.

Later, as I made my way back to Barcelona, I thought about taking myself to a restaurant but then recalled the fresh organic artichokes I had bought the day before. Coming from an Asian household, artichoke is not something we prepared at home. Ever. And I always think of it as a specialty food, one usually ordered in an Italian restaurant during a special occasion. In my head, it was a complicated to make. Then, last weekend during a workshop, I was reminded how easy it was to prepare artichokes. And right now, in all the veg stalls and markets here in Barcelona, the vegetable (really it's a flower bud) is pretty much everywhere.

It could not have been an easier meal to prepare: I cut the two artichokes in half. Cut up part of a lemon into wedges. Looked at the rinds of the Valencian orange I had just eaten and threw it in there as well. As it steamed in the pot, I put a smaller pot to boil for pasta. And prepared a simple sauce. The pasta and artichokes were done practically at the same time.

Artichoke hearts for Valentine's. All for me too. Quite fitting. It was a pretty satisfying meal, pairing the artichoke with pasta, and having the meal with a glass of red wine. I put on a movie, and savored each delicious leaf with the local organic cold-pressed olive oil that made up my pasta sauce.

I had made something delicious, special and simple. And I was eating something very good for me. Artichoke is thought of to have more antioxidants than any other vegetable. It helps the liver cleanse, aiding in the creation of more bile, which then helps the body break down foods as well as absorb nutrients easier.

So yesterday the artichoke helped me love myself just a little bit more than usual! 

Intelligent Eating: La Inteligencia Organica en Sistema de Desintoxicaccion

Last weekend was a special treat here in Barcelona as I attended a day-long workshop that two friends run combining the deep energetic cleansing of Life Alignment therapy, which is facilitated by Juliana Simoes, with intelligent eating, which is made possible by cook and nutritionist Gara Benitez.

Having had a deep emotional release during the workshop, there is heaps to say about Life Alignment and the work that Juliana does--one that I hope to write more about in on(e)love. The Life Alignment process goes beautifully and practically with the presentation of how our body can absorb energy and cleanse itself based on the kinds of foods we eat. Juliana and Gara make a beautiful pair and a strong argument for developing healthy eating and drinking (water, lots and lots of clean and also positively charged water) habits into our day to day life. 

The workshop takes a slightly more esoteric turn when coming into the particulars of Life Alignment (a truly powerful healing system), but it's made accessible by the practicality of that which is a normal everyday part of our life: eating and drinking water, which really grounds the essential message, that we have the power to heal our bodies. Food and water is as good as any medicine; that by simply eating consciously, making smart decisions about what we eat, eating the right combinations of food, we, in essence, maintain good health and promote self-healing. 

What was interesting for me, as well, is that the lunch menu was a detox meal. And yet resembled not anything that I would have imagined as a detox meal at all.

Now, I've been on some detox-centric retreats. The benefits are awesome, I always enjoy the end results. But I must be honest, fasting is not my favorite. I have a slight build, a fast metabolism and usually am engaged in a lot of activity. Like most people, I get hungry when I don't eat. And light eating is a little like not eating, for me anyways. Most detox diets I've come across include raw food, juices and green smoothies--more or less liquid or solid salad, leafy or chunky, but a salad is still a salad!

What Gara prepared was a hearty combination of raw and cooked food. Fresh herbed cabbage leaves were served with artichokes steamed with lemon and possibly garlic. Brown rice and wild rice was reheated in the artichoke broth. Fresh orange with cinnamon was a delicious sauce for the cabbage and artichoke. Adzouki bean, unpasteurized miso and agua del mar made the tasty protein paste. Gomazio (ground toasted sesame with sea salt), fresh sprouts, endive leaves and one delish turnip-like root veg that I can't seem to remember but was so crispy and slightly sweet added different layers to the meal. Detox food has never been so good. All ingredients were organic. 

     What's more is that all of the dishes are so brilliantly simple that any of us participants regardless of cooking ability could replicate the meal--though, perhaps not quite so delicately flavored. I went home a little more inspired to cook healthy. It was an important reminder that eating healthy and creatively doesn't have to be a laborious process, but one that required most of all love: love of the food which gives us so much, love of the creative process of cooking, and the love for eating!

Thank you Juliana Simoes and Gara Benitez for a truly delicious experience. Compliments to the chef! The photos below say it all...

Also rich in antioxidants, cabbage is high in Vitamin C and is a
good source of fiber. Though technically a flower bud, artichokes
are supposed to have more antioxidants than any other vegetable. 
Orane sauce. Adzouki bean paste. 

Gomazio! Yummm. I can sprinkle this just about on anything.
Tasty, sesame seeds are also good antioxidants.  

My plate! I was a happy bunny!