Recipe: Spiced Lemon Ginger Tea

The other day I woke up with a massive headache, which I suspect mostly likely occurred as the result of a long train ride and sugar overdose the day before. The latter involved a certain moist, lemony German secret-family-recipe cake with special powers over me, what could I do? And did I mention chocolate? There was chocolate. Verdammt.

I decided a powerful antidote was in order to frighten this bad boy away. It was certainly no time for messing around. So I came up with this wholesome, zingy, energizing tea to deliver the punch. It contains four ingredients– ginger root, lemon, anise seed, and cinnamon–each possessing an array of excellent health benefits. I can’t say definitively whether due to the tea or not, but the headache vanished within an hour.

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Ginger

Traditional medicine and modern scientific research have revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, direct anti-inflammatory effects, and the ability to sooth menstrual pain, nausea, and pain from arthritis (WHFoods and WebMD).

Lemon

Several research studies on the healing properties of citrus fruits such as lemons and limes have shown that they contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and antibiotic properties. In addition, lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, which neutralizes free radicals and reduces inflammation in the body. Vitamin C has also been shown to prevent rheumatoid arthritis (WHFoods).

Anise seed

Anise seed has been used for centuries by the Greeks (see ouzo, possibly my favorite alcoholic beverage ever) for both flavoring and medicinal purposes. Besides its lovely, warming, black licorice-esque flavor, modern research shows anise seed to have aphrodisiac properties, relieve gas and muscular cramping, stimulate the pancreas, act as an expectorant, and relax the body (Herbco.com). Fun.

Cinnamon

I grew amazed when reading about cinnamon’s manifold health benefits–who is this guy? Studies have shown that cinnamon helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets, controls blood sugar, boosts brain function, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, demonstrates antimicrobial properties, and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure (WHFoods and McCormick Science Institute). That’ll do.

Spiced Lemon Ginger Tea

Ingredients:

1.5 tablespoons grated fresh ginger or 3-4 thin slices (I keep a piece of the root in a plastic bag in the freezer so I can always have fresh, easy-to-grate ginger on hand)

1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed or grated star anise

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cups water (more or less depending on how strong you like it)

Directions: Put water in a pot or kettle to boil. Meanwhile, measure the ginger, anise, and cinnamon into a large measuring cup or teapot. Pour boiled water over the tea mixture, stir, and let steep for about 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and stir. Then, pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer into a mug.  I enjoyed this unsweetened, but feel free to sweeten the tea with honey, agave, or sugar to taste. Makes two servings.

I’ve added this warming, rejuvenating, cleansing tea to my waking up ritual–perfect for chilly winter mornings. Zing, zing, zing!

How to be Good

Brought three books with me to Germany. Finished them within a few weeks. Watched way too many TV shows. Found city library, located English section. Came away with four novels to read over the next month. Scrumptious. Oddly enough, the first one I chose, How to be Good by the clever and hilarious Nick Hornby, actually ties in well with this whole simplicity thing.

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Synopsis from back of book:

Katie Carr, doctor (and self-declared ‘good person’), has just had an affair. It’s not really her fault–she is, after all, married to David: angry, cynical, negative (though undeniably funny) and a real pain to live with. But then David meets DJ GoodNews, astonishingly effective faith healer and do-gooder of the unbearably smug kind. And now David is good. Too good, actually–‘a liberal’s worst nightmare’, he starts to put theory into practice, giving away all their kids’ toys, reaching out to the hopeless and homeless in a very personal and, for Katie, disturbing way. It seems to her that if charity begins at home, it may be time to move…

I’m about halfway through, and one of the story’s many poignant observations is the fact that so many of us live with way more than we really need–extra computers and TVs, multiple cars, spare rooms, etc.–when there are people who have very little or none of those things a few blocks or miles away. Why not put these ‘extras’ to better use and give them to someone who really needs them? In the book, David starts a campaign on his own street where he invites all his neighbors to have a homeless person live in their spare bedrooms for one year. It’s extreme, but it’s actually pretty logical. You don’t need it, someone else does, give it to them.

So my questions today: How can we help people in need during this process of simplifying our lives? Do we really need that extra car, TV, coat, microwave, computer, bed, set of sheets, bike…… bedroom? Do you know or have you heard about someone who could benefit from something you own? Ask around. Search Craigslist ‘wanted’ ads. Contact local shelters and charities. Start small today and give away some things you don’t use much anyway. Then raise the stakes and give away something you love but could live without. You never know what it may mean to someone else. Instead of thinking in terms of losing your belongings, if that makes you nervous, it might help to think in terms of how many ways you can improves the lives of others.

A few quotes from the book:

“It seems to me now that the plain state of being human is dramatic enough for anyone; you don’t need to be a heroin addict or a performance poet to experience extremity. You just have to love someone.”

“We don’t care enough. We look after ourselves and ignore the weak and the poor. We despise our politicians for doing nothing, and think that this is somehow enough to show we care, and meanwhile we live in centrally heated houses that are too big for us… We have a spare bedroom, and a study, and meanwhile people are sleeping outside on pavements. We scrape perfectly edible food into our compost maker, and meanwhile people at the end of our road are begging for the price of a cup of tea and a bag of chips.”

“Sometimes we have to be judged by our one-offs.”

“Love, it turns out, is as undemocratic as money, so it accumulates around people who have plenty of it already.”

A Minimalist Approach to Diet

P1050346This week, I discuss seven ideas that I feel are essential in helping me to keep a healthy minimalist diet. A few of these are principles I’ve been following for a while now, and a couple are ideas I’d like to implement more fully starting now (denoted by asterisk). Let’s get right to it:

1. Practice the art of eating in. Cook my own meals 99% of the time, and make one brand new dish per week. This way, I know exactly what’s in my food and can tailor it to my specific tastes.  Also, making delicious food for myself and others is much more gratifying than paying someone else to do it.

2. Avoid all animal products (meat, dairy, eggs). After doing tons research on the animal farming industry, I concluded that in order to feel peaceful about what I ate, I needed to withdraw my support of the cruel exploitation and killing of animals. Although I’ve chosen this primarily for ethical reasons, others may adopt a vegan diet for health or environmental reasons, both of which are equally valid. I’ve been following this plan since May of last year and have never had to sacrifice taste or pleasure in eating. I think people can adapt to pretty much anything as long as they have conviction and a good plan.

*3. Every day, aim to eat: five different vegetables/fruits (always include dark leafy greens); lots of protein (legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains), especially around training; and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, nut butter, coconut, oils).

4. Give everything a chance, but dump foods that don’t make me happy. For some reason, I spent way too many years trying to like certain foods that everyone else seemed to like, but I just couldn’t get into. I realized that was insane. It’s only in the last few months that I’ve given myself permission to cut that out. As a result, I’ve now abolished beer, most wines, soda, raw onions of any type, and candy (not chocolate!) from my life. Anyone else, or is this just my weird thing?

 *5. Limit or avoid unnecessary crap: processed/refined foods, sugar, caffeine, artificial ingredients, simple carbohydrates.

 6. Indulge regularly in a little treat (usually dark chocolate or hard liquor). Don’t mind if I do.

*7. Eat only when actually hungry. Seriously.

I encourage you to create a simple, healthy diet plan of your own this week! Write it down. Naturally I think you should try the ideas above, but what works for me may not work for everyone. Develop a plan that feels right to you and suits your individual needs. As always, I am open to other ideas and opinions I may never have considered. Guten Appetit!