By Guest Writer: Sophia Lambrakis
You need to pay now to party later.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and The Holidays are just around the corner, and they each bring with them their own share of calorie-packed treats and gut-busting goodies. And while the uninhibited merry-making is certainly a pleasure for the soul, the body is a little bit less forgiving. By January 1st, most of us get on the scale with a gripping sense of panic and regret. The mirth and cheer are quickly replaced by retribution in the form of sobering resolutions. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
With a little preparation now, in early autumn, we can allow ourselves to give in to the approaching decadence, guilt free. You see, our systems don’t work that well on the principle of “enjoy now, pay later.” They respond much better to prepaid credit, if you will. Treat your body well ahead of time, and you will reap the benefits later, despite the occasional indulgence. The more credit you purchase in advance, the more permissive you can be, before it’s time to reload, again.
One of the best ways to recharge your system and give it the boost it needs to take you through the winter is body detoxification. What are the signs that you are ripe for a good detox? Well, do you often feel fatigued, heavy, achy, lethargic, ill, and/or forgetful? Then, chances are your body has accumulated more harmful toxins than it can reasonably process and eliminate. And that’s pretty easy in today’s world. Thanks to CO2 emissions in the air we breathe, heavy metals in our water, arsenic in our apples and rice, pesticides and dioxins in our fruits and vegetables, growth-hormones and antibiotics in our meats, and BPA in our food containers and homes –just to name a few of the culprits (!!!) – it’s no wonder we feel lousy!
Luckily, a good dose of detoxification is all it takes to ease your overworked liver, kidneys, gut and skin, and cleanse your system of a myriad of harmful contaminants. That way, when the holiday season begins, you can enjoy it with a clean body, a clear conscience, and a couple of extra ‘brownie points’.
There are a number of meal plans and rules you can follow to create a detox course that is best suited for your individual needs. But, generally speaking, a good cleansing plan should be carried out for at least two weeks and should include whole, organic, unprocessed, unrefined (animal-free) foods served in smaller than usual portions, and, no doubt, lots of filtered water. One of the dishes I often turn to during my autumn detox is a miso soup variation (*recipe below) that is as hearty as it is beneficial. A large pot (sans the miso paste and barley) will keep for several days in the fridge. Just warm a bowl, add miso and barley to your liking, and enjoy!
Hearty Miso Soup (with Pearl Barley)
NOTE: Miso is a thick, fermented paste that contains a significant amount of beneficial bacteria which help promote health by stimulating digestion and aiding the body to build resistance against disease. Since it is considered a living food, it’s important to never cook miso or allow it to come to a boil. Instead, be sure to add it to foods that are already prepared.
4 cups Dashi (see recipe below)
1 cup water
2 tsp oil (sesame or olive)
2 carrots (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
3-6 mushrooms (preferably shiitake, either fresh or reconstituted, and sliced thin)
1 cup spinach (fresh or frozen)
2 scallion (sliced thinly on the diagonal)
2- 3 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp shoyu or tamari
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Grated fresh ginger (optional)
½ cup cooked pearl barley (prepared in a separate pot according to package directions)
Sauté ginger, carrots and mushrooms in a large pot with 2 tsp oil. (About 3-4 minutes)
Add water to pot. Bring to a boil, then add dashi.
Allow to simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, then add spinach and simmer another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add scallions, miso that has been mixed with some water, and shoyu.
Season with red pepper flakes.
Enjoy soup plain or add cooked barley for a heartier meal.
Note: Makes 8 cups. Dashi is a basic Japanese stock used to make many soups including traditional Miso soup.
1 square piece kombu (3x3 inches)
8 cups water
1 loose cup bonito flakes
Put kombu in a large pot, cover with water and soak for 30 minutes.
Set the pot over medium heat until small bubbles form around the sides of the pan, 9 - 10 minutes.
Remove the kombu from the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito flakes. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes.
Store in an airtight container. Use within 1 week refrigerated or freeze for up to 1 month.
Sophia Lambrakis is a writer, a chef and a nutritional consultant. She lives and cooks in Salzburg, Austria.
P.S. I don't know about you guys, but I'm making this version of miso soup today and racking up some credit! Good luck and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. Thanks! (Love, Nathalie and Claire Berlin)