September 26, 2014
Coffee wrecks havoc with your adrenals, and, being an irritant, it is not very gentle on the digestive system – it can cause abdominal pain and an upset tummy.
Oh but it tastes so good, right? I have a recipe today for a caffeine free alternative – Dandelion Latte, made from roast dandelion herbal ‘coffee’, nut milk and coconut oil.
I like to buy a brand of dandelion coffee called Bonvit – it’s a blend of roasted dandelion and chicory. The perks are, it doesn’t perk you up, and actually gives your liver a bit of love. It can taste a bit bitter, but if you follow this recipe, you will get a super frothy, creamy delicious latte – almost (if not better than) the real thing.
1 teaspoon Bovit dandelion coffee
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup plant-based milk (hemp is extra creamy)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon coconut sugar or a pinch of stevia
Add the dandelion coffee to hot water and stir till it dissolves, then add everything else to the blender for 30 seconds.
You will get a hot, frothy latte. Dust with cinnamon and enjoy.
September 20, 2014
I’ve been posting on this blog for about two years now, and just realised that I have actually never shared my personal story with you. I tried to write it over a year ago, but when I read it back, it sounded like a giant bunch of unglamorous dribble, so I trashed it thinking no one would be interested and that was the end of it. Except now, I’m about to launch my second app, and more than ever it seems fitting to share a bit about myself, to give context as to why I do what I do, and what fuels the passion I have for it. Maybe it’s time to have another crack at that story…
Just as I was thinking this, I got side tracked as I normally do, and picked up my angel cards to ask a study related question. I only drew one card, and it was ‘Come Out of the Closet.’ At first I went pffft. You angels are on something. What relevance does that have?! Until I remembered my previous train of thought. The message, of course, was to share. So, if you feel like grabbing a hot chai and getting comfy, I’ll do just that.
Where it all started
Three years ago, I left a decade long career in Advertising. It was simultaneously the most exciting yet scary thing I have ever done. I left partly because I needed to heal, and partly because it was time to fulfil my soul purpose.
Time to heal
About six years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disorder – Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In the medical tradition, there is no reason, rhyme or cure, and harsh steroids and/or surgeries are the standard form of treatment. Since that diagnosis, I have been on a winding path to healing – as naturally as I can. Inflammatory Bowel is one of those nasty’s where you look fine from the outside, yet you can literally be burning up on the inside. Stress greatly exacerbates the condition, and many foods are incredibly problematic – wheat, gluten, dairy, oily foods and refined sugars.
Towards the last few years of my advertising career, I wasn’t able to manage the stress as well as I used to, especially when we were really put under the pump with tight deadlines, working weekends or till early hours of the morning. I ended up with Adrenal Fatigue, and yet another nasty autoimmune condition – Interstitial Cystitis – a chronic and very painful inflammation of the bladder and urethra – something I would not wish on anyone, that’s for sure (this is an entirely different thing to cystitis/a bladder infection by the way).
The things I tried
In my quest to heal, I tried all kinds of alternative therapies, and worked with many, many healers. I tried Chinese Herbalism, Western Herbalism, Acupuncture, Energy Healing, Rife Therapy, Intravenous Vitamin C and Mineral Therapy, Bowen Therapy, and some truly radical diets (to name but a few). Of course, I also went from specialist to specialst (and had many an invasive procedure), trying to find missing bits of the puzzle, and truthfully, collecting nothing but frustration and bills.
I experimented with raw foods, and a very simple diet specifically for healing the gut, and found some improvement. However, it still wasn’t enough to make me feel comfortable. I somehow found myself at a fasting clinic – a pure water fasting clinic – and went on to do a therapeutic 17 day long medically supervised fast, in the hope of allowing all the compromised parts of my body to repair and renew themselves. It was so incredibly hard, as I don’t think I had the right mental headspace for it at that time.
I had so many low vibrating thoughts and feelings rattling through my mind, and felt really down and out that I was here fading away while my friends were out enjoying carefree Sunday Sessions at cool new bars in Sydney. On top of this, sadly, the moment I started eating again, my symptoms returned, and I was heart broken.
The things I learned
It did teach me one thing however, and in the end, I realised that if I truly wanted to heal, I had to remove the biggest stressor in my life – work. Time for a career change that would both fulfil my true purpose and enable me space to really heal. Thankfully, this had been in the wiring for me for a long time, and I had already enrolled to study Natural Medicine a couple of years prior (I just hadn’t completed any papers – thanks to too many late nights and weekends spent in the office). Time to actually roll my sleeves up and go back to study. Yes, yes, yes went my heart.
The big career change
When I walked away from my career, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I travelled to Bali on an impulse for six weeks, to complete intensive Raw Foods training, which further strengthened the love affair I’d had with these beautiful natural foods over the last few years. I became a certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, and completed an amazing Shamanic Herbal Apprenticeship, learning to tune into and work with the energies of these incredibly generous and healing plants. Today, I am studying full time, still working toward my degree in Natural Medicine. I love, love, love every second of it.
Where I’ve ended up
During this time of re training, I’ve managed to tame that pretty wild inflammation in my body (most of the time – with autoimmune conditions, it’s about management). I’ve learnt to seek balance, and to nourish my body with pure, unadulterated foods. I’ve also cultivated a strong meditation and self love practice. And, I’ve also had to work my way to accepting that this is my chosen path now, and even though its been a hard road and incredibly humbling being a student again with no money, it is ultimately serving me (and later, others) at such a higher level.
Throughout this process, I have been sharing my learnings and discoveries on my blog here at Ascension Kitchen. Going back to basics (and nature!), and stepping out of the fast lane have taught me much, and this is the message I now hope to share with others. When I think of what’s to come, I get excited now, not panicky like I did working in the corporate world (can you relate to this – Holy Sh*t!! How the hell am I going to meet that deadline! Looks like it will be an all nighter! ).
Food, herbs and thoughts as medicine are my passion, and I’m really enjoying and looking forward to refining my new craft of Herbalism. I adore the magic and alchemy it brings to the table, literally.
I also have a lot to be grateful for – mostly – you. I’ve been extracted from an environment where it’s very competitive and linear, and repositioned in this beautiful space where there is community and connection with like minded souls. I’ve also had the privilege of coaching some amazing people on their own path to health and wellness.
Thank you for reading this, I feel happy now that you can understand better what I’m about and why I do what I do and create what I create.
Love, peace, health & beyond,
24 Responses to “My Story”
September 17, 2014
Oh so I am hopeless at keeping secrets. The Raw Desserts App I have been working on – for the last eight months – has finally been submitted to Apple! Whoop whoop! In the meantime, I’ve already been preparing new recipes to add as updates after the initial launch. This is one of them. I totally had to share it because it was so yummy I kept sneaking back to the fridge for more. It literally melts in your mouth. Hope you enjoy x
Raw Maqui Berry & White Chocolate Fudge
This white chocolate and maqui berry fudge is packed with antioxidants – in fact, maqui is said to have three times the antioxidants than our friend açai berry. Like other black, red and purple coloured fruits (açai berry, black grapes, black currants, blackberries, black plums, black cherries, pomegranates), the maqui berry contains a pigment called anthocyanins – which contribute to its antioxidant capacity, and are also powerfully anti-inflammatory. Anthocyanins may enhance heart health and protect against cancer. The berries also help strengthen the immune system, protect against free radical damage, and are anti aging. The little berries come from an evergreen tree in Chile and Argentina, they have an incredible flavour, and a little goes a long way. Cut into small squares and serve with a cup of yerba mate herbal tea – a South American favourite!
1½ cups cashews
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup cacao butter, liquefied
½ cup 100% pure maple syrup
½ cup coconut butter, liquefied
2 heaped tablespoons maqui berry powder
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 good pinch of fine Himalayan rock salt
1. Blend the cashews in a high speed blender till they powder into a fine flour.
2. If your cacao butter and/or coconut butter are firm, set them in a glass jug and rest over a bath of hot water to liquefy.
3. Add all ingredients to a food processor, and whiz till the mixture is very smooth.
4. Pour into an 8 inch square cake tin lined with baking paper, and pop in the fridge or freezer to set. Remove from the fridge or freezer while it is still a little bit soft, so that you can easily cut into equal sized squares.
Make sure you sign up at rawdessertsapp.com to be the first to know when the app goes live! You’ll also get the heads up every time a new recipe is added.
August 7, 2014
I have just recently completed my six month Shamanic Herbal Apprenticeship here in the beautiful West Coast Bush of Piha in New Zealand. We learnt how to connect with native trees, herbs and weeds, and then work with them to prepare a variety of healing remedies. We covered a bit of plant identification, wildcrafting, Materia Medica, herbal nutrition and cooking, plant essences, ointments, creams, tinctures, shampoos, eye drops and even learnt about the best herbs to use in smudgesticks. It was just divine.
The one thing we did, with every single day, was drink nourishing mineral rich herbal infusions. So today I am sharing a little about the importance of having minerals in the diet, and how to increase your intake simply by making these simple and tasty herbal preparations.
We regularly drunk infusions prepared with nettle, oatstraw, peppermint, hawthorn berries, red clover, licorice, damiana, comfrey and kawakawa (a New Zealand native). Herbs are able to gain access to all the wonderful minerals in the soil they grow in, then pass them on to us when we eat or drink them.
An infusion is simply a tea steeped for a lot longer, typically overnight. Water acts as a solvent and draws the minerals out of the plant and into the water. If your water turns a deep green colour after this process, then you know there are minerals in there! So drink them up!
I got into a nice habit of preparing a herbal infusion before bed, then straining the liquid out in the morning and using it as a base for my smoothie. My usual berry, greens and superfood spiked smoothies got taken to the next level with the addition of these herbs – nettle makes the water turn such a lush deep emerald green, and is a fantastic source of iron. Interestingly, a strong brew of oatstraw infusion has more calcium than milk. I keep a big pot of oatstraw on the stove and sip on it throughout the day.
Most health food or organic stores should stock dried nettle, oatstraw or red clover if you don’t have access to an unsprayed area to harvest them from. I live in the city so have to buy them dried like this. There is a great company called Austral Herbs that sell them bulk, organic, and I find this the cheapest way of purchasing. Of course, if you are lucky and have a wild garden, dig in!
Why we need minerals
“In the human body, minerals act as catalysts, participating in enzyme systems that allow the transformation of the food and air we breathe into energy, vibrant health, and consciousness.”
– Paul Bergner, The Healing Power of Minerals.
Minerals are important to wellbeing, and a deficiency in any of them can result in fatigue, mood swings, depression and a severely weakened immune system. A great analogy for their importance is that of the spark plugs in your car. Without them, it won’t be going in a hurry. This is just how they work in the human body.
Minerals are important as they;
• provide structural support for the body (bones and connective tissue)
• act as catalysts or co factors for enzyme reactions in the body
• allow electrical impulses to be conducted along the nerves
We cannot make them in our bodies so we need to be careful to get them from our diets. Today, it is increasingly hard to obtain minerals from the diet, as modern agriculture has depleted the soil of her stores. Chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and lack of crop rotation are to blame. I could not believe this fact when I read it, apples, in the United States in 1914, contained nearly half the minimum recommended daily amount of iron. Today, we would be lucky to find one-fiftieth (The Healing Power of Minerals, Paul Berger).
Where to get minerals from
Most minerals are found in rocks, soil, and the sea – which is simply a solution containing many of the minerals that make up the crust of the earth below. Not surprisingly then, sea vegetables (and seafood) are one of the best sources of minerals available to us, as they concentrate what is available in the sea.
Fun fact: the extracellular fluid in our bodies is of a very similar composition to that of sea water. The minerals from the earth’s crust are made available to us as they are eventually broken down into smaller particles by weather, geologically changes, or bacteria. From here, they become part of the soil that nourishes the plants, which then nourish us. Plants are a far richer source than animals are so eating sea vegetables and plants are our best bet at getting our quota.
To summarise, the best sources of minerals are;
– Wild plants grown in mineral rich soils
– Sea vegetables
There are two types of minerals needed for health, macro and micro (also known as trace) minerals. Both are vitally important – the macro minerals are named so simply because they are present, and are needed, in larger amounts in the body. The micro, or trace minerals, are needed in only very small amounts.
The macro (major) minerals include:
The micro/trace minerals are:
Toxic minerals include:
Most minerals can be toxic if you have too much of them. The good thing about minerals is that they are inorganic elements. This means, unlike vitamins, they are not heat sensitive, so we can heat or cook our mineral rich foods and still retain these precious elements.
Mineral Rich Herbs
Nettle, oatstraw and red clover are relatively easy to get a hold of, and are very rich in minerals.
Nettle makes a lovely, dark green infusion, it’s the one I have photographed above. It is a great healing support for the urinary tract and digestive tract. It is a great blood tonic. It is also beneficial for healthy hair – you can massage the infusion directly onto the scalp for hair loss. Nettle contains iron, calcium and magnesium, and many of the trace minerals. It nourishes the adrenals, balances the endocrine system and boosts immunity.
Oatstraw is the green tips found on oats. It has a pleasant mild, slightly sweet taste, and is particular good for the nervous system. It has more calcium than milk, and is a great source of B vitamins – which are the co factors for enzyme activity in the body. The B vitamins help us manage stress and give us energy. Oatstraw gives us beautiful hair and nails, and boosts libido.
Red clover can be seen growing all over grassy verges up and down your street – you will definitely have noticed it. I wouldn’t pick or use these though as they would have been exposed to so many car fumes. Red clover has an affinity for us ladies, and is particularly helpful for balancing the endocrine system, it is useful in menopause and for hot flushes. It has anti tumor and anti cancer properties. Red Clover has the B vitamins, calcium, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, potassium and more.
How to Make a Mineral Rich Herbal Infusion
This could quite simply be the easiest recipe in the world.
Fresh or dried herb
1 litre glass jar with a tight fitting lid
Fine mesh bag to strain the plant material through
- Fill a one litre glass jar ¼ full of your chosen dried or fresh herb (nettle, oatstraw, red clover)
- Pour boiling water into the jar, and fill it right to the very top.
- Screw the lid on tightly.
- Leave it overnight to infuse.
- In the morning, pour the liquid out, and strain the plant material. Give the plant material back to the soil – it will still have some beneficial minerals in there.
How to take your Mineral Rich Herbal Infusion
Drink your infusion chilled or heat it again on the stove – you can even use it as a base for your smoothies like I do. Keep any left over in the fridge for a few days, any longer and it may start to ferment. One last note, oatstraw is a bit tougher than the soft nettle leaves and red clover flowers. Once you have made your infusion, you can re use it by boiling it up in some hot water and preparing a tea, this way you will squeeze out as much of those minerals as possible.
July 30, 2014
Continuing on with last week’s theme of natural remedies in your own kitchen – today I have prepared a simple recipe that uses a common plant from the garden – Calendula. Calendula is that happy, bright yellow orange flower also known as pot marigold. It is often planted to help attract the bees as well as deter pests. Calendula has her own special healing powers, a well known remedy for all kinds of problems associated with the skin, and it’s for this reason that calendula is a popular ingredient in many herbal creams.
Calendula helps to soothe inflammation of the skin, and is helpful for eczema, psoriasis and acne. It is also good for wounds and physical injuries, as it has antiseptic and astringent qualities. You can steep some of the freshly picked petals in hot water to make a tea/infusion, then once cooled, pour over a cloth and use topically as a compress. If you have a sore throat, you can gargle with the tea instead. You can even help rid yourself of a wart by crushing the petals and rubbing the juice in. Clever little calendula!
Finally, not skin related but useful to know all the same, calendula can be used for gastro-intestinal problems. The plant’s astringent qualities enable it to draw skin and tissue together, making it great for ulcers, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea.
Carrots and Goji Berries for extra beautifying
All things bright red, orange and yellow tend to be good for the skin, they are rich in beta carotenes, the pigment in the plant that gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps protect your eyes, can reduce wrinkles, improve wound healing, and soothe skin conditions. The carrots and goji berries in this recipe give us all of the above.
I wanted to keep this recipe as low GI as possible, because a friend I intend to enjoy them with is highly sensitive to sugars at the moment. I used rice malt syrup to sweeten the recipe, but you easily sub it out for coconut nectar or pure maple syrup – Manuka honey would also be great (another good one for the skin!). White miso is in there because it sneaks in a little good bacteria, and lends a subtle salty taste. You could also run with the flower theme and sprinkle in some flower essences for some extra magic.
Happy beauty bar making, beauties!
Calendula Beauty Bars
1 heaped cup calendula petals
¾ cup grated carrot
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup almond meal
1 cup almonds
¼ cup goji berries
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla paste/essence
½ cup coconut butter
¼ cup rice malt syrup
1 teaspoon white miso
1 tablespoon orange zest
- Place the coconut butter and rice malt syrup in a jug, and rest it over a bath of hot water to soften or liquefy.
- Roughly blitz the whole almonds in the food processor, just a little – we want to have a few chunks in there.
- Add all other dry ingredients, except the flower petals and goji berries, and pulse till combined.
- Pour the coconut butter and rice malt syrup into the mixture, and add the vanilla paste, pulse again till combined.
- Add the flower petals and goji berries at the end for one final quick pulse.
- Transfer mixture to an 8 inch square cake tin lined with baking paper, use the back of a spoon to flatten the surface. Press slivered almonds over the top to decorate, and perhaps some extra orange zest.
- Freeze to set, cut into 8 large bars to serve.