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.

P1050562

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!

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!

Simplicity Project: Week 2

Two areas I’ve honed in on this week were health & nutrition and online activity, since these are parts of the project I can easily make progress on while abroad.

FITNESS:

Weight training is one aspect of physical fitness that has often bored me in the past, but lately I’ve learned too much about its importance to neglect it without feeling like a dummy. Therefore, a two-month membership to the 24/7 gym franchise here, amusingly called McFit, was a very welcome gift for Christmas from my German family. I’ve visited thrice already, and this week I focused on challenging my muscles and really upping the weight. I also began doing the clean and press with free weights, an exercise that supposedly makes all your dreams come true.

I’ve continued my semi-daily routine of running up and down the eight flights of stairs in the apartment building and have progressed to four trips in a row. My aim is to make my heart beat so fast I think I’ll pass out. Also buns of steel would be great.

NUTRITION:

Since overeating is a common temptation while staying indoors most of the day during this cold and snowy month in the land of Fleisch, Kuchen, Kartoffeln, and Käse, I’ve begun an experiment that includes eating a small breakfast of fruit and müsli or toast within an hour of waking, a king-sized lunch around 1-2pm (preferably after a workout), a small dinner of mostly protein and vegetables, then hot tea and a chocolate treat later on. It’s working extremely well so far. I think the big lunch is key.

ONLINE ACTIVITY:

Let’s just say I’ve got some habits to break. Due to the internet being pretty much the sole way I’m able to connect with friends and family back home, it’s difficult not to check social media more than once a day, you know, just to make sure no one’s having too much fun without me. But 99% of the time, I close the website feeling no happier nor more enlightened than before. On the contrary, it usually leaves me quite bored and like I just wasted 5 minutes of my life. Since I believe there’s more value in sending personal emails, I’d like to make that more of a focus. This week it’s been difficult to break the Facebook compulsion, but I’m hoping to make online activity more purposeful and worthwhile in the weeks to come. Anyone have suggestions for strategies to implement this?

-I finished a book this week that has been remarkably influential in my thinking about minimalism, consumerism, and financial independence this year, and I would highly recommend it to all those looking to have their minds blown about these topics. It’s Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence. You can get it here for less than 10 bucks. Or ask me and I might let you borrow it. This guy is extreme, as the title suggests, and I love him for it. His book and blog have inspired many of the changes I discuss here.

-As for entertainment, I’d rather not discuss.

I hope you all have seen success with the project this week! What are some areas you’ve decided to focus on? Tell me about your progress so far.