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Matcha Maca Latte


I want to preface this post: I love coffee. Each morning, I look forward to my cup o’ jo, brimming with coconut oil and black liquid goodness. I don’t rely on coffee to get me moving, however, I just simply enjoy the taste and feeling I get while drinking it (ok, maybe I do like the caffeine perk).

Viewing coffee consumption from a health standpoint sparks much debate and conflicting evidence. Among the varying opinions, there are some facts that cannot be argued. The caffeine in coffee will certainly give you energy, mental focus, and may help you burn fat. Because coffee is brewed from a bean, the resulting cup contains riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin. Coffee is also loaded with antioxidants, and we all known those are good. Some experts argue that all these benefits are cancelled out when considering the diuretic and stimulant side effects of coffee consumption. Adding sugary flavored syrups, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel syrup to the ever popular designer drink does, without a doubt, leech any benefit from the coffee itself. Enjoyed in moderation, without added sugar, and sourced responsibly, I am able to savor my morning cup.

Now, as with many other wonderful things, it is hard to stop after just one cup. We run into trouble when we find ourselves downing the entire pot of coffee ourselves and relying on it as an afternoon pick-me-up. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety, agitation, GI upset, dehydration, and insomnia. I, for one, have certainly been guilty of sipping coffee all day long in the past. I came to believe that my caffeine tolerance was sky high because I was able to drink two cups and take a nap. Oye. Since then, I enjoy my drink sensibly and regularly swap my jo for something a little less stimulating and a little more fabulous. My matcha maca latte.

Matcha

It has long been accepted that green tea has an impressive polyphenol, antioxidant, and flavonoid content. The catechin Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG ) has brought fame to green tea and its extract has become a popular supplement. Multiple diseases are believed to be impacted by ingesting EGCG. Studies have suggested there to be a cancer preventative effect from drinking green tea. Problem is, you need to drink 10+ cups a day to get anywhere near the amount that is suggested to have a therapeutic effect.
Enter matcha. Matcha is a Japanese type of green tea made from high quality shade grown green tea leaves. The leaves have undergone a special process which results in minimal oxidation, therefore preserving their potent antioxidant power. The leaves are essentially ground into a very fine powder that, when whisked with hot water or milk, creates a creamy, silky tea drink. Unlike steeped tea where the leaves are discarded, matcha tea actually involves ingesting the finely ground leaves. Because of this, the EGCG and antioxidant power of matcha is over three times that of regular steeped green tea. We know that blueberries have lots of antioxidants but to put it in perspective, matcha, by weight, has dozens more antioxidants than blueberries (> 1000mmol/100g vs. 9mmol/100g, respectively). Matcha also has a bit of caffeine, just the right amount to be beneficial while giving you a boost.

Gelatinized Maca

Maca root powder, hailing from the Andes Mountains of Peru, has long been recognized by indigenous Andean societies for its healing and nutritive powers. You can find it in both raw and gelatinized (still a powder) form. Some argue that raw is the way to go but it is also known that raw maca root can make people violently ill. Because of this, I can’t in good conscious recommend the raw version. The gelatinized maca has undergone a process in which the starch has been removed, therefore making it more easily digestible and eliminating the risk of stomach upset.
Maca has been found to have a hormone balancing effect in both men and women. It may even make you a little randy. Sustained energy without the jitters or crash, reduced stress, and mental clarity have been said to result from the hormone balancing effect of gelatinized maca. In addition to making your hormones happy, maca also contains impressive amounts of amino acids, essential minerals, fiber, alkaloids, plant sterols, phytonutrients, vitamins, and fatty acids. Oh, and it has a subtle butterscotch flavor. Everyone wins.

 
Matcha Maca Latte

1 teaspoon matcha powder (A little goes a long way! Plus, it is kind of spendy.)
2 teaspoons gelatinized maca
1 mug’s worth of vanilla unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk) *For a less creamy drink, use ½ water.
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
1 Tablespoon organic, raw, unfiltered honey (to taste)
1 Tablespoon organic, cold pressed, extra virgin coconut oil (optional)
Serves: 1
In a small saucepan, gently heat almond milk (and water, if using) over medium heat.
Add vanilla, matcha powder, and maca powder. Whisk continuously to prevent any clumps.
Add honey and coconut oil (if using) and continue whisking.
The mixture is ready when it becomes slightly fragrant, with a hint of steam, but does NOT boil. You do not want to scald the matcha.
Pour into a mug and enjoy.

 

This is a great alternative for those wishing to cut back on their coffee habit. Because it has some caffeine, it will prevent the withdrawal headaches associated with kicking the habit, while still providing sustained energy. The monks were certainly on to something with this stuff.
*Matcha powder is not cheap. I order mine online and because a little goes a long way, it will last a really long time, if stored properly (air tight, away from light). This powder can also be used in baking or in banana ice cream to infuse a green tea flavor and color.

Cheers.

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100 Percent Pure Fruit-dyed Mascara


mascara

If someone were to ask me what my staple cosmetics item would be, it would be mascara.  Before switching to all natural companies,  I would always be on the hunt for the best way to get the lush lashes I have always wanted.  I have decent lashes, they are just blonde and pretty much invisible.  L’Oreal and Maybellinel were typically my go to brands when it came to mascara (any other L’Oreal Voluminous or Maybelline One-by-One lovers out there??).  While they were effective, they did flake and smudge.  I hate waterproof mascaras and because I wear contacts, flakes of coal falling in my eyes is a pain in the butt.  My eyes were always slightly irritated from the crunchy feel of my lashes but that’s the price we pay right? Eh nah.  I began doing some research and truth is, there are some down right sketchy things added to mascara in particular that I bet if you knew about them, you would think twice.  Sure, makeup is not a necessity and of course it would be easiest to just stop wearing it but you don’t have to.

Mercury

Tuna is not the only thing you need to be concerned about when it comes to mercury; the FDA and the European Union still allow the use of mercury in mascaras as a preservative (small amounts).   You probably won’t find it on the ingredients label because unlike food, the FDA does not require cosmetic companies to list all ingredients to their products.  The cosmetics industry is overall very loosely regulated but I will go into that another time.  Mercury is known to do nasty things to our bodies and placing it directly around the delicate eye area seems…..risky?

Beryllium

Another heavy metal which is common in conventional mascaras.  Oh, and it is a known carcinogen that is able to penetrate our skin.

Arsenic

Pretty sure you know what this one is.  Again, a common little addition to conventional cosmetics, especially those claiming to be mineral-based.

Cadmium

If you aren’t familiar with cadmium, I suggest you do a quick Google search for “cadmium poisoning.”  Nasty stuff, and it only takes exposure to trace amounts to begin developing flu-like symptoms.  This toxic metal is what, in 2010, caused Wal-Mart to stop selling Miley Cyrus jewelry; it all contained cadmium (maybe that explains her twerking…).  But, it is still allowed in your mascara.

Formaldehyde

This is particularly common in many cosmetic and personal care items.  It is a preservative, and a darn good one (high-school biology, anyone?).  And no, it will not preserve your lashes.  But it can give you cancer.

The list goes on, not to mention animal cruelty and environmental damage.  We love the “feel” of conventional products because of all the chemical additives, fragrances, and silicons but those things are only potentially hurting our bodies.  We are so used to the artificial qualities of these products that when we try natural alternatives, we are less than impressed.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  This mascara I am about to share with you is proof of that.   Another day, I will go more in depth about what ingredients people should have on their radar.  Always researching and learning.

I have to add, I am simply sharing this information because I found it alarming and I do not think enough people are aware of what they are putting ON their bodies.  (Our skin is quite permeable, contrary to what we once thought.)  So this is just that, information, which you can take or leave.  I hope I encourage you to take the power into your own hands and to do a little research yourself.  Check out PubMed or PMC for some peer reviewed research and evidence that elaborates on what I have said here.  Don’t just take my word for it, educate yourself and be mindful. ♥

Now, on to the all natural mascara.

mascara
100 Percent Pure is an amazing company with great cosmetics and skin care products.  As the name suggests, everything is 100% natural, vegan, and cruelty free.   The products are all pigmented with fruit, no joke.  This mascara is dyed with black tea and berry pigments; actually smells like blueberries!  I got the Black Tea color because black is just classic for mascara.  They also have Dark Chocolate, Blackberry, and Blueberry.
Fruit Pigmented Mascara- Black Tea ingredient list from 100PercentPure.com
  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Organic Green Tea), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Cera Alba (Honey Beeswax), Rubus Fruticosus Fruit Extract (Blackberry Extract), Ribes Nigrum Fruit Extract (Blackcurrant Extract), Rubus Idaeus Fruit Extract (Raspberry Extract), Hydrolyzed Oat Protein (Oat Protein), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (Wheat Protein), Pantothenic Acid (Pro-vitamin B5), Fucus Vesiculosus Extract (Seaweed Powder), Coconut Stearic Acid (Coconut Acid), Mica, Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter (Cocoa Butter), Pearl Powder, Oryza Sativa Germ Powder (Rice Powder), Theobroma Cacao Extract (Cocoa Powder), Coffea Arabica Seed Extract (Powdered Coffee Beans), Mel (Lavender Honey), Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract (Oregano Extract), Thymus Vulgaris Flower/Leaf Extract (Thyme Extract), Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract (Rosemary Extract), Lavandula Angustifolia Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (Lavender Extract), Hydrastis Canadensis Extract (Goldenseal Extract)
According to their website, this mascara is nourishing as well.  It contains vitamin B5, vitamin E, and oat and wheat proteins.  It claims to lengthen, separate, thicken, and gloss your lashes.  I don’t know how they do it but I love it.  It contains no preservatives so of course it needs to be used up, which makes it perfect for daily use. Yes, it is spendy but I find that I actually need less, really only one coat, to get the effect I like.  I think the price is nearly justified given all the yummy ingredients.   Below, the first picture is me with no makeup, next picture is with one coat of the mascara, and the last picture is with two coats.
No makeup, 1 coat, 2 coats
I don’t really know why one eye looks better  than the other, snaggle clump, but that is just operator error.  I think it is great for daytime use and it does not irritate my eyes.  I imagine it would layer well for a more dramatic nighttime sexay look, if that’s your fancy.
Where to buy it
Of course, you can go through their website directly (they will give you free samples), but I like to try White Rabbit Beauty first because they are committed to selling only truly cruelty-free product brands.
Try it out!
*I am not sponsored nor did I receive compensation for mentioning this product.  I purchased it with my own money and just wanted to share my experience.

 

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Chana Masala


chana masala

Oddly enough, for as long as I have followed a vegetarian diet, I had never really dabbled in the world of Indian cuisine.  It was not until I moved to Korea that I experienced this culinary wonder, thanks to my good friend Jenna.  She shared with me her love of Indian food and boy do I owe her.  I guess I had always been intimidated by the spice combinations and I was convinced that I could never get it “right.”  Truth is, once you get the staples, you can’t really mess it up.  And the result is truly epic.

Chana masala has become my go to choice when I find myself in an Indian dining establishment.  Accompanied with basmati rice, some ghee slathered naan, and a thick glass of mango juice; too good for words.  The, uhhh… “unique” smells of Indian cuisine are entirely forgivable once your taste buds experience the depth and delight of flavors.

Aside from the fried options, Indian cuisine is overall fairly healthy.  Spices, vegetables, beans and lentils, and ghee (clarified butter) all do a body good.  Don’t fear the fats!  I use coconut oil in my version, simply because I have that on hand more often than ghee.  But either is essential to the recipe and should not be omitted.  Our bodies need healthy fats to keep our cells happy and our brain healthy.

Cinnamon is the rock-star of this recipe.  I prefer Ceylon or “true” cinnamon, which hails from Sri Lanka and southwest India but the Cassia variety (Chinese) is awesome as well.  The aromatic, sweet, and warming properties of cinnamon make it a wonderful food enhancer during the winter months.   Some of the scientifically confirmed effects of cinnamon include stimulation of the circulatory system, digestion aid, anti-ulcerative properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and antibiotic properties [1].   A more recent study even suggests positive health implications for those with type 2 diabetes.  Benefits of cinnamon can be attributed to its cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alchol content present in the essential oil [1].  It smells good, tastes good, and is good for you; it’s no wonder this ancient spice was at one time considered more precious than gold.

spices

This is the ultimate one-pot-wonder that will give you a flavorful, satisfying, and complete meal. After looking up the basic spice profile for masala, I created my own take on Chana Masala (like chicken Tikka Masala but with chickpeas).    The lycopene and antioxidant power from the tomato sauce, healing properties from fragrant spices, nourishing fats, and protein from the chickpeas (or chicken) make this a fantastic go-to meal.  It freezes well too.  My husband likes his with cubed organic chicken breast.  We probably eat this at least twice a week because it is easy, warming, and outrageously delicious.   This batch is about 8 servings, possibly 12 if you stretch it.  My husband and I usually get 6-8 servings; our portions are generous.

Chana Masala

  • ¼ cup organic, cold pressed coconut oil (or ghee, if you have it)
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt (depending on if your tomato sauce has added salt)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (add more or less, depending on how spicy you want it. We like it medium.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Hot Madras Curry powder (any curry powder will work, Hot Madras just has an extra kick)
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans of organic, low-salt tomato sauce (make sure it’s BPA free; Muir Glen is a great brand)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar/stevia/lucuma powder
  • 2 cans organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed

*Optional

  • 4 organic chicken breasts, cubed

 Yield: 8-12 servings

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan or sauce pan (I prefer the sauté pan).  Once melted, add onion and cook until translucent.  About 5 minutes.

Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute.

Add cumin, sea salt, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and Hot Madras curry powder.  Fry to about 2 minutes, until very fragrant.

Add tomato sauce and bring to boil.  Then reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add almond milk, paprika, and sweetener of choice.  Simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened.  Stir.  Add chickpeas and simmer another 5 minutes or until chickpeas are heated through.

*If adding chicken, heat some coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add cubed chicken and coat with curry powder.  Sear until just the outer part of the chicken is cooked.  Transfer chicken and any remaining juices to the masala sauce and simmer another 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

 

masala

Simmering times are important so don’t skimp.  This allows the masala to develop complex flavors from all the spices.  Serve over basmati rice, quinoa, or broccoli rice (my favorite) with a side of naan.  Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt to cool down the cayenne, if you wish.   I make large batches and freeze it.  That way, I can have dinner in a hurry by just heating it up and pouring over some rice.  Done and done.  I love this stuff.

 

 

[1] Murray, M. T., Pizzorno, J. E., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York: Atria Books.

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Caramelized Sweet Potato Pierogi


perogies

Funny name, but damn good dumplings.  If you have not heard of the pierogi, you are in for a treat.  This Polish delight is the definition of comfort food, conveniently wrapped in perfectly portioned pockets of love.  My US East coast readers are probably well acquainted with the pierogi, seeing as Pittsburgh has more shops making the pockets than anywhere else in the states.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the pierogi is the Polish version of a handmade dumpling.  Traditionally, the unleavened white flour dough is filled with mashed potatoes, cheese, onion, and/or sauerkraut.   It wouldn’t be Eastern European without the mighty kraut now would it?  The dumplings are typically boiled and then fried in onion and butter to form a nice little crust.  Top with sour cream, creme frache, or even apple sauce and you are well on your way to Polish paradise, culinary speaking.

As a kid, I was convinced that Grandma’s pierogies were ears from some animal (pig ears?).  Appetizing?  Odd, Grandma never struck me as the butchering type… I knew they weren’t ears but I just couldn’t get over their appearance.   Fleshy, shaped like little… I refused to eat them.  One Christmas, I finally gave them a try and oh boy, I immediately knew I had been terribly mistaken.  Pierogies were awesome!  Especially in all their buttery glory.

With this recipe, I wanted to trim down the rich traditional pierogi and make it a little more nourishing.  It’s what I do.  This is my adaptation from a post on FOOD52. In my recipe, I replaced the all-purpose white flour with organic whole wheal flour.  I bet whole-wheat pastry flour would perform even better.  I swapped the mashed white potato and cheese filling for sweet potato, apple, and sage.  Sliced apples and red onion, both caramelized to gooey perfection made the topping for these Polish pockets of greatness.  I should mention, these are still a little more decadent but totally worth it.

Sweet Potato Pierogi

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Filling

  • 4 cups peeled, cubed, raw sweet potato
  • 1/2 organic apple, cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon dried, rubbed sage
  • 4 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon organic maple syrup or agave (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Topping

  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 apple, sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (or dried)
  • olive oil

Yieldabout 20 pierogies, depending on how big they are made

Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.

Filling

In a large bowl, toss cubed sweet potato and cubed apple with healthy pinches of salt and pepper and drizzle enough olive oil to coat.  Arrange in a single layer on a non-stick or foil lined baking sheet and roast about 40 minutes.  The edges of the apple and sweet potato should be nice and caramelized.

Once caramelized, put the cooled apples and sweet potato in a high speed blender or food processor.  Add unsalted butter/coconut oil, dried sage, and maple syrup/agave.  Blend until smooth.  Careful as the contents will warm.   Place in the refrigerator to cool.

Dough

While the filling cools, combine the flour and sea salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add one egg at a time to the center and slowly swirl in the flour. Repeat with the second egg and swirl until combined.  Add olive oil and sour cream and kneed the dough a few times until it comes together in a ball.  The sour cream creates a more tender dough but you can omit it if you wish.  Just add a third egg.  The gluten in the dough will become elastic.  Do not overwork the dough or else it will become very tough.  You may need to lightly flour your kneading surface. Place the ball aside in a bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Let the dough settle for about 15 minutes.

Topping

topping

While the dough settles and the filling cools, you can begin on the topping.  Heat a hefty drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over very low heat.  Add thinly sliced red onion and apple, along with fresh thyme leaves (or dried).  Cook low and slow, stirring occasionally, until the apples and onions become very soft and caramelized.  

pierogies

Assembly

Split the dough in two and set one half aside and cover with a tea towel.  Lay out a piece of parchment paper and lightly dust with flour.  Roll out the dough on the parchment to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Using a biscuit cutter, large mouth mason jar, cookie cutter, or pierogi cutter, begin in the center and punch out circles of dough.  Take care to eliminate as much scrap dough as possible.  You will not want to regather the scraps of the dough and re-roll multiple times because it will become super tough and rubbery.  Place just less than 1 Tablespoon of cooled sweet potato and apple filling into the middle and use your finger to dab a bit of water around the edges. Fold in half (this dough stretches nicely over the filling to take advantage of that) and seal the edges with your fingers or a fork.  Keep the finished pierogies covered with a tea towel.  Repeat the process with the second half of dough.

This is a great time to have someone help.  It’s a great activity to plotka over with a friend to pass the time. You will want to work quickly so that the dough does not dry out.  My husband rolls and cuts the dough as I fill and seal.

If not eating right away, place pierogies in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze.  You can layer with parchment paper. Once frozen solid, you can place the raw pierogies in freezer plastic bags and they will keep for a couple months.

Cooking

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.  Gently add a few pierogies at a time, either fresh or frozen.  When the pierogies float to the top, they are done (make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan).  Then quickly pan fry the pierogies in a bit of olive oil or butter in a skillet.  This forms a nice, golden crust on the outside while the inside remains pillowy soft.  Top with the caramelized onions and apples.

pierogies

 

I love pairing these with an arugula salad with goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette.   Swiety Jacek z pierogami!

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Spiced Quinoa + Millet Porridge


quinoa + millet porridge

Autumn is on its way so I decided to share a super simple, but wonderful, spiced porridge.  Ok, all porridge is simple and the name itself sounds un-glamorous and frumpy.  Goldie Locks (who in the original tale is a crusty old woman) felt the need to risk breaking and entering for a bowl of the stuff.  Really though, can you imagine the old, neighborhood nut-job lady sneaking into your place to eat your food, smash some furniture, and crash in your baby’s crib?  Who thinks of this shit?

Anyway, I bring you the first post of many quinoa-based delights.  This little pseudo-grain is everywhere and I briefly described its awesomeness in my seed crackers post here.  Today, I will introduce you to the teeny, yellow spheres known as millet.  I stuck with just quinoa and millet as the main ingredients for this recipe but amaranth, steel cut oats, farrow, brown rice, or barley would be splendid.

Millet is not just used in birdseed (I hear stories of another little something that used to be found in birdseed back in the day….).   Millet hails from South Africa and spread through India, China, and Russia.  The clever Egyptians mixed it with beer to make fluffy bread.  This grain was a staple thanks to its versatility and nutrient value.  The protein content is far superior when compared to other historic staples; corn, rice, and wheat [1].  On average, millet is made up of about 10-12 percent protein, while also providing phosphorus, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and B6 [1].  Hypoallergenic and gluten-free, these little beads are usually well tolerated by those with sensitivities (millet is not in the grass family, yet it might have some components similar to the alpha-gliadin found in wheat.  If you have celiac disease, proceed with caution).

Spiced Quinoa + Millet Porridge

  • 2/3 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1/3 cup rinsed millet
  • 3 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (Or any milk of your choosing.  Water works.)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scrapings
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or 1/4 inch grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 apple, thinly sliced
  • honey
  • any seeds, nuts, or dried fruits for toppings

Yield: about 4 servings

Rinse quinoa and millet under cool water thoroughly and add to a medium sauce pan with the almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, nutmeg, and apple slices.  Bring to boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer covered, for 15-20 minutes.  The quinoa and millet are done when all the milk is evaporated and you can fluff the mix with a fork. Remove cinnamon stick, if using.

Mix and serve warm.  Top with a generous dizzle of honey, a splash more of almond milk, raw apples slices, pumpkin seeds and a dash of cinnamon.  Actually, top it with whatever you want.  This is just what I did and let me tell you, the pretty little bowl above only lasted 5 minutes; 4 minutes while I took the photo and 1 minute while I devoured it.

Pair with a mug of strong, black coffee and the day is yours.

[1] Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York: Atria Books.