A Toast to Your Health This Holiday Season

Free-range advice for skipping the sugarplums

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Shannon Wianecki | Photography by Jason Moore

holiday recipeThe holidays are often viewed as an excuse to indulge, but there’s no reason to sacrifice health for a good time. We’ve asked two local health gurus to share their nutritious secrets with us. They replied with fresh takes on holiday traditions: brilliant organic greens, cranberry-orange relish, vegan nut loaf and a heavenly fig tart. If staying fit can be this delicious, why wait for New Year’s resolutions?

Simple & Organic

Joy White, the chef/owner of Joy’s Place, has been dishing up healthy feasts for a decade. Her small café across the street from Kihei’s Cove Park buzzes with activity—particularly during the holidays, when customers come to fetch nutritious take-home feasts. You can order a Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings from Joy’s Place.

“I like all of the normal holiday food,” says White. “I just like it to be organic and fresh.” Holiday dinner from Joy’s Place includes organic free-range turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, fresh orange-cranberry relish, and wild greens salad with lemon-tarragon dressing. For vegetarians, a vegan nut loaf with mushrooms, almonds, and tofu substitutes for the turkey.

“The meal feels really homemade,” says White, who cooks around one hundred holiday dinners each year.

“Many people have done this for years. It’s nice to be a part of their holidays.”

Year-round, the café’s emphasis is on simple, organic meals. “Our recipes are prepared with a light hand,” reads the menu. White cooks with water rather than oil, preferring to steam or simmer vegetables lightly. “It’s tricky to sauté in oil without altering the flavors,” says White. “We cook our vegetables very gently—just enough so that the potatoes are soft. Our soups aren’t in the back on a roll.” The soup specials at Joy’s Place are a favorite—made daily and without heavy dairy products. “If we want creaminess, we’ll add a little olive oil at the end,” says White.

When preparing a feast for family and friends, White additionally recommends involving guests in meal preparation. “Everybody likes to contribute now. It’s more fun,” she says, not like in the 1950s, when housewives cooked for hours behind closed doors. “Before, I’d pull out a Julia Childs recipe. I’d pick the one that had sixteen pages. I’d miss Christmas!” she laughs. “Simplicity is much better. Simplicity and freshness . . . that’s where the life is.”

Vibrating Nutrients

Western nutritionists are finally catching on to what India has known for 3,000 years: fresh vegetables retain more vitamins than their stale counterparts, and colorful veggies are the most beneficial of all. Ayurveda, India’s ancient “science of life,” additionally tells us that fresh veggies retain more prana, or life force.

“Color tells us about vibration,” says Myra Lewin, a local Ayurveda practitioner, yoga teacher, organic farmer and chef. Brighter colors have higher vibration and thus more prana. Again, ancient wisdom mirrors modern science: bright vegetables usually contain high concentrations of antioxidants.

Lewin counsels people around dietary issues and addictions, and is currently writing a book about the spirituality of consumption. While many people might not draw a connection between spirituality and eating, Ayurveda suggests the two are intertwined.

In the Ayurvedic tradition, foods are classified into three categories, according to their energy qualities. Sattvic foods have the most prana. They are easy to digest and provide strength and vitality. This category includes lightly cooked or raw vegetables, fruits, whole or sprouted grains, legumes, nuts, ghee (clarified butter), and fresh yogurt. Rajasic foods—garlic, salt, sugar, and chocolate, for example—overexcite the body and mind and should be consumed in moderation. Tamasic foods have the lowest energy, and are thought to make a person dull and lethargic. This includes meat, alcohol, packaged foods, and foods that are fermented, burned, fried, reheated, or contain preservatives.

When preparing food for the holidays, says Lewin, “mostly what I pay attention to is the color, and the time of year—what vegetables are available. Especially as we go into wintertime, it’s nice to work with the root vegetables, like sweet potatoes and yams. And sweets can be made without refined sugar. For example, figs, which come in early autumn, are very good on their own or pureed and put into a simple crust.”

Bringing consciousness to each step of creating and consuming a meal, from selecting bright, seasonal foods to preparing them with a sense of gratefulness, is important.

“Digestion,” says Lewin, “begins the moment you pause to honor the source of the food and all the hands that went into bringing it to you—maybe even your own.” Hmmm . . . sounds like a fitting concept for a Thanksgiving feast.

 

Fig Tart

Fresh, ripe figs*
Chopped raw pecans or macadamia nuts
2 cups whole-wheat or barley flour,
or mixture of both
1/2 tsp. natural mineral salt or rock salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
8 tbsp. coconut oil (alternatives are ghee or almond oil)
6–8 tbsp. cold water

Place figs in blender and grind to a puree. Stir salt and cinnamon into flour. Add to coconut oil and mix with your clean hand or utensil until thoroughly absorbed.
With your hand or a fork, stir in just enough cold water to hold the dough together in a ball. Cover the bowl and chill for 1⁄2 hour. Preheat oven to 375°. Remove and press into a 9-inch glass pan using your fingers. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the crust and bake for five minutes at 375°. Remove and add fig puree. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°.

* If fresh figs are not available, reconstitute dried figs by soaking in water for 1 to 8 hours, depending on how dry the figs are. Once the figs are soft, grind them in the blender with the soaking water. This may be done the night before and stored in the refrigerator.

Organic Cranberry-Orange Relish

6 cups fresh organic cranberries
2 organic oranges
2 organic apples
3/4 cup organic raw cane sugar
or maple syrup

Wash cranberries, setting aside one cup. Pulse remaining cranberries in food processor with “S” blade until coarsely chopped. Set aside in large bowl. Grate peel from the orange, leaving the bitter white skin. Add peel to cranberries. Cut off and discard outside white skin of orange. Section orange, removing pith and seeds. Pulse in processor with the remaining cup of cranberries until all is coarsely chopped. Add to bowl of cranberries. Core and seed apples. Chop coarsely in processor and add to bowl. Mix all ingredients well, adding cane sugar or maple syrup to taste. Relish is best after sitting overnight and will keep 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Roots and Greens

1 large bunch of kale, collard
greens, or mixture of the two
2 large carrots
1 large beet
2 tbsp. ghee (or coconut oil, olive oil)
1/2  tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. asafoetida (hing)
2 tbsp. hijiki (optional)
1/2 cup water

Wash greens well and chop or tear by hand into 1⁄2-inch slices. Grate carrots and beet. Bring ghee, cumin, turmeric, coriander, asafoetida, and hijiki to a simmer in a medium to large pan with lid. Add the chopped greens and simmer with closed lid for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring once. Then add water and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Add carrot and beets and let sit with lid on for 3 to 5 minutes.


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