Pizzoccheri, in their springtime dress

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If we have to choose a cereal suitable for spring time that would definitely be buckwheat. Don’t be misled by the name, it doesn’t have anything in common with wheat and actually to be precise it is not even 100% correct to name it cereal for the general (non-botanical) convention of cereals being just the monocotyledons plants of the Graminaceae family. Buckwheat belongs instead to dicotyledons, to the family of Polygonaceae (like rhubarb) and moreover it doesn’t contain gluten.

But why is buckwheat good in spring-time? Apart from being cool in energy it drains Dampness and purifies Fire giving relief to Heat-Dampness syndrome. Acting mainly on Spleen and Stomach, and on Large Intestine and Heart, it can help in case of digestive disorders and strengthen blood-vessels.

As a dressing of this Italian traditional pasta we have chosen the most typical one, which goes in the same energetic direction as buckwheat. Swiss chards (cool in energy and sweet/ bitter in taste) fight against Heat-Dampness and potatoes (neutral in energy and sweet in taste) tone up Spleen and QI. The final touch of Parmigiano and onions, which are warm in energy, enhances the flavors of this dish, but remember not to exceed with them otherwise you may “lose” the over-listed properties of the dish.

Final remark: this recipe contain also wheat flour so it is not suitable for people with gluten intolerance…

PS: by experience, we can tell you that this is also not indicated for “not patient” people, as kneading this pasta can be a challenge, due to the low amount of gluten  😉

Serves 6 –Medium –Prep time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

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You will need:

  • 400 g buckwheat flour;
  • 100 g white flour;
  • 350 ml water;
  • 4 potatoes;
  • a head of Swiss chard;
  • 1 onion;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • parmigiano;
  • salt.

How to:

  1. Mix the two flours in a bowl with a pinch of salt;
  2. add the water and start kneading with your hands until you get a smooth dough. If you feel it crumbling or too dry, just add more water;
  3. transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll it out to a thickness of 3-4 mm;
  4. cut the dough into strips and then into smaller pieces, to obtain pasta of a size about 4×1 cm;
  5. bring water to boll in a large pot;
  6. peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes;
  7. Clean the chard, cut the stems into pieces about 1 cm and the leaves a little bigger;
  8. add salt to the boiling water, then throw in the potatoes and the Swiss chard;
  9. after 10 minutes,  add the pizzocheri to the water with vegetables and let cook for 10 more minutes;
  10. Meanwhile, cut the onion and cook it on a low fire for about 5 minutes in a large pan, until transparent;
  11. drain the pizzocheri and the vegetables, then pass them in the pan with the onion for couple of minutes on a high fire;
  12. serve hot, finshing off with some greated parmigiano.

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We are listening to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5gQidrzojU

Falafel time!

A nice exception to the rule “Fast food = junk food”

Falafel are a traditional dish of Middle-Eastern countries, which are encountering a great success nowadays all over the world. They are delicious treats, a boom of  tasty crunchiness, and represent a healthy vegetarian option to the common and widespread kebab sandwiches. Not convinced yet? Add some extra points for practical reasons: they are quick to eat (wrapped in pita bread) and usually quite cheap!

Let’s now give a look to the nutritional properties of this delicious street-food before learning how easy is to prepare them yourself at home!

Pulses, chickpeas (in our version) and/or fava beans, are the main ingredients of this recipe. Remember they are a good source of vegetal proteins, usually (and unfortunately) lacking in our diet, better if combined with products from cereals (in this case pita bread will make up for it!). From the TCM point of view pulses are considered to be a good toner of the digestive system with a mild diuretic function, being therefore very useful to give Energy and at the same time to fight Dampness. In particular chickpeas for their neutral/ fresh energy and their actions on Spleen/ Stomach but also Liver are perfect in spring time. The spices and herbs used here are overall warm/hot in energy, so in case of Fire you better limit them a bit.

One more thing to be noticed: watch out for people with favism as falafel could sometimes contain fava beans!

Ready? Steady? Go for your falafel and break the rule!

Serves 4 -Easy– Prep time: 50 minutes (plus overnight to soak chickpeas)

You will need:

  • 250 g of dry chickpeas;
  • 1 and ½ onion;
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley;
  • ¼ cup of chopped cilantro;
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic;
  • ¼  tsp of  cumin in powder;
  • ½  tbsp of backing soda;
  • a pinch of black pepper;
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs;
  • a pinch of cinnamon.

For the sauce:

  • 125 g thick yogurt;
  • ½ lemon juice;
  • 7-8 leaves of fresh mint;
  • 2 teaspoons of tahini;
  • 1 teaspoon of chilly pepper.

How to:

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight;
  2. wash the chickpeas and put them in a food processor  together with the onions, garlic, parsley and cilantro;
  3. add the spices (salt, cumin, black papper, cinammon y backing soda) and mix everything;
  4. let the mix sit for 30 minutes;
  5. shape the mix into small balls a bit flat (as big as a ping pong ball);
  6. If you feel the mix is too watery, add the breadcrumbs;
  7. heat the sunflower oil, then add the falafel and cook for 5-7 minutes, until brounish;
  8. in the meanwhile prepare the sauce just mixing together all the required ingredients;
  9. Serve warm.

We are listening to:

Cooking in maximum security

“…cooking in prison becomes a means to find dignity and a social space among the prison community and, inevitably, also triggers a repositioning within the family of origin.”

“Cooking in maximum security” is a book that certainly doesn’t leave you any indifferent. It’s a collection of recipes from the collective MoCa, which involves inmates from different High Security Italian prisons.

For each recipe in the book before getting to the list of ingredients, you get introduced to the tools needed to realize it accompanied by simple yet accurate illustrations from the artist Mario Trudu. One of the main objectives of the collective is in fact not to teach how to cook, but to give ideas and importance to the most ordinary objects, which can be transformed and used for unusual porpoises: the TV, for example, will be perfect to help rise the dough for the bread, and a grater can be made with the bottom of the camp stove. The name of the collective, which stands for “Mondo Carcerario”  (Prisons’ World) actually revokes one very precious object: the Moka. The classic italian coffee maker is not only valuable because the ritual of making a coffee in such a depersonalizing environment gains an extra importance, but also because it can be used for many other unusual purposes.

This book, as his curator says, develops as a “story about the attitude to put our efforts and value the things we have, facing the hard structure and rules of the prisons, and gaining strength from these restrictions. These people are every day challenged to a complex set of operations, just to establish a personal relationship with food”.

From this work, obviously, many ethical issues surface concerning the conditions to which inmates are exposed. Still, the main message that it carries and leave us regards how cooking is not only an act we do to survive, but how it represents a more intimate and deep ritual that we seek also in the most inhuman situations, with the final goal to not only feed our body but also our soul.

If you want to know more about this project, check out the website:

https://www.cookinginmaximumsecurity.com/

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Illustration: Mario Trudu 

Mind the fish (+ potatoes)

[button link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YN1JoJcRvJg” color=”blue”]We are listening to: Bob Marley and The Wailers-Fussing And Fighting (1973)[/button]

We don’t generally talk about food in terms of Western medicine and nutritional facts, but this dish makes us willing to make a small exception and give you a small overview of the health benefits of fish.

As you may know the general advice is to include 2-3 portions of it a week, for many different reasons. As simple as it goes, living in an aquatic environment, fish don’t have such a strong connective tissue and this makes its flesh softer in comparison to meat and its digestion much easier for us.  Fish is therefore a precious source of proteins and stands out for its high bioavailability of iron (this can be increased by vit.C, i.e. by squeezing some fresh lemon juice on top of it). Plus it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (essential oils usually missing in our diet), fat-soluble vitamins (vit.A, vit.D) and minerals (such as selenium, phosphor, iodine).

Now, after having pointed out some of the positive sides, we must be aware there are many ecological issues concerning fish like the extinction of species due to uncontrolled fishing and the high contamination risk. Our suggestion is to give a look to the updated lists before buying it and make a more conscious choice! Check it out here

Eating consciously and be aware about what you are eating are the first steps to be healthy.

Serves 3/4 -Easy-Prep time: 45 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 large (or 2 medium) sea breams;
  • 2 kg cooking salt;
  • 3-4 medium potatoes;
  • 1 clove of garlic;
  • a handful of rosemary;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • salt.

For the sauce (to accompany the fish):

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil;
  • parsley;
  • juice of ½ lemon;
  • 1 tsp of chili pepper, chopped.

How to:

– prepare the fish

  1. Clean the sea bream, removing the entrails and fins. Leave the whole fish without removing head and tail. (The fish must be fresh. It should have a rather hard texture, a smell that reminds you of the sea more then “fish”, and inside should be showing a bright color!);
  2. place a layer of cooking salt about 1 cm tick on a baking trail (big enough to fit the fish);
  3. rinse the fish and lay it on the salt;
  4. cover the fish completely with the remaining salt, leaving out the eye uncovered (it will be helping you understand when the fish is cooked!);
  5. bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes. Cooking time will be depending on the size of the fish. When the eye becomes completely white it means your fish is ready!

– prepare the potatoes :

  1. Peel the potatoes, wash them and cut them in slices;
  2. place the potatoes in a baking tin together with the garlic. drizzle with olive oil;
  3. sprinkle the potatoes with rosemary and salt;
  4. bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes. Allow the potatoes to brown a little.

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to prepare the sauce:

  1. Wash and cut finely the parsley;
  2. mix together the olive oil and the juice of half a lemon;
  3. add the red pepper and chopped parsley, mix well.

Final touches:

  1. Once the fish is cooked, carefully break the crust of salt, then and fillet the fish, getting rid of the spines and avoiding contact with the salt;
  2. Place the fish fillets in a dish and drizzle with the sauce. Serve together with the baked potatoes.

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Popeye salad+Artichokes lazy sunday quiche

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No time, always on the run. Please have a slice of this cake, relax and share it with your friends. It is easy to do, tastes good (the day after possibly even better) and you can bring it as a lunch box or to a Sunday picnic. The hidden ingredient here is definitely white wine, which makes the dough crunchier and flavorful. The filling of artichokes is perfect in this season and sheep cheese adds some salty flavour, apart from heating a bit and nourishing Blood and Yin (as milk products always do). The overall flavour of this dish is well-balanced being a good mixture of sweet (dough), bitter (artichokes) and salty (cheese). Perhaps we miss something. Could it be the pungent flavour of a glass of wine? Stretch your legs and have a sip.

Spinach is such an appealing ingredient in spring, so if you are so lucky to find them fresh you’d better buy them straight away! Here we combine them with carrots and sesame seeds to get an easy and crunchy salad. Let’s see why the overall energetic effect of this dish is interesting in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Spinach are cool in energy, sweet in flavor and can purify Fire. This action is amplified here by raw carrots and fresh olive oil. Spinach is also a very good Blood tonic, as well as sesame seeds are. In particular black sesame seeds have a deep action on Kidney and Liver and nourish Yin very well. If you want to know more about the beneficial effects of spinach, here on Well-being Secrets you’ll find a pretty great, comprehensive overview!  Here we go with a nice example of how a refreshing dish can give you strength and good vibes!

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For few friends -Medium– Prep time: 30 minutes+30 minutes to cook

You will need:

  • 450 g  flour;
  • 200 ml sunflower seeds oil;
  • 200 ml white wine;
  • 150 g sheep mature cheese;
  • bread crumbs;
  • 6 artichokes;
  • 2 lemons;
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

How to:

  1. Fill a bowl with cold water and the juice of two lemons;
  2. clean well the artichokes, removing the hard external leaves, and taking away any internal beard. Remember, after cutting and peeling, to always rub them well with a lemon to avoid oxidization;
  3. cut the artichokes into strips and leave them in the bowl with water and lemon until you are done cleaning all of them;
  4. put in a pan two tablespoons of olive oil to heat, then add the artichokes;
  5. let cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the juice of a whole lemon and continue to cook over medium heat;
  6. when the liquid will be gone, add a little bit of water and cover;
  7. let it cook until the artichokes are soft and fully cooked ( about 5-10 minutes);
  8. start preparing the dough for the cake. Pour the oil and the wine into a bowl, add half of the flour and a pinch of salt;
  9. mix with a fork until everything comes together , then add the other half of the flour;
  10. finish kneading with your hands on a surface sprinkled with flour or on a sheet of baking paper (it will not take long to have the dough ready!);
  11. place the dough between two sheets of baking paper to prevent sticking, start to roll it out with a rolling pin until you get a dough that is thin, and a little bigger than the tin you’ll be using;
  12. lay the rolled dough (within the paper sheets) over the baking tin, then remove the upper sheet;
  13. cut the cheese into thin slices, and place them to cover the bottom of the cake;
  14. add the artichokes, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil;
  15. preheat the oven to 200°C and bake for 30 minutes.

For the salad:

  • 200 g fresh spinach;
  • 2 carrots;
  • black and white sesame;
  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil;
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar;
  • half a teaspoon mustard;
  • salt.

How to:

  1. Wash the spinach, peel the carrots and grate them;
  2. place the spinach, carrots and sesame in a bowl;
  3. prepare the dressing, mixing in a glass jar the olive oil, the vinegar, mustard and salt;
  4. season the salad just before serving.

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We are listening to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7H0X3lMcus 

Bloody salad

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We said bloody, not boring! Here we go with a fancy version of beetroots salad that warms you a little bit up and nourishes Blood. Wondering why?

First, the sweet and neutral beetroots have a strong action on Blood and promote movements downwards (therefore helpful for women in case of weak menstruation).

Second, carrots enhance digestion by acting on Spleen and Stomach, giving a push to QI and also to sight function.

Third, onions work both on Stomach and Lung, have a warm energy and sweet-pungent flavour that again is good to support digestion and downward movements.

Last but not least, sesame seeds, like all seeds in general, are a powerful tonic of QI, Blood and Yin and if toasted gain also a bit of Yang energy…not bad.

Serves 2 –Easy– Prep time: 30 minutes

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You will need:

  • 2 beetroots;
  • 2 carrots;
  • ½ glass of vinegar;
  • ½ glass of water
  • ½ onion;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • sesame seeds whole and toasted;
  • a pinch of salt.

How to:

  1. Boil the beetroots, then peel them;
  2. cut the ½ onion into rings and marinate it with the vinegar and water mixed together for al least 20 minutes;
  3.  Cut the beetroots and the carrots à la julienne (a grater with big holes will do!);
  4.  mix the salad into a bowl and add the marinated onion rings;
  5. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

https://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8a4iiOnzsc&feature=kp

Comfy artichokes rigatoni

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We can’t help our Italian blood to drive our cooking instinct – it’s pasta time! We guess this will be just one of MANY more tasty pasta recipes, because pasta is generally an EASY dish: QUICK to cook and so GOOD that you can use (almost) everything for the sauce. Of course first thing is to always make sure you have chosen a high quality pasta (keeping in mind to use only that made by durum wheat) and cook it always “al dente”.

Let’s see also how does this dish sound according to the TCM point of view. As almost all the cereals, wheat is considered sweet in flavour and a good tonic of QI. Being cool in energy, it can purify Heat, nourishes the YIN and calms down the Shen (“the spirit”, i.e. the aspect more related to our emotions and thoughts). Just watch out in case of excess of Dampness because this cereal can enhance it. Here you’ll find a spring rigatoni with artichokes and ricotta cheese. Artichokes are neutral/cool in energy and bitter in flavour; they explicit a strong draining action on Liver and Gallbladder, being therefore indicated in case of headache, digestive troubles and red eyes. Ricotta cheese is also cool in energy but sweet/sour in flavour and can nourish Blood, Liquids and Yin really well. The touch of black pepper, as usual spices do, moves energy up a bit and makes a nice contrast with the other flavours. Buon appetito!

Serves 2 -Medium (cleaning the artichokes is the hardest part)- Prep time: 40 minutes

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You will need:

  • 4 artichokes;
  • 200 g ricotta, preferably handcrafted;
  • 200 g rigatoni;
  • 2 cloves of garlic;
  • pepper;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • a pinch of salt.

How to:

  1. Clean the artichokes by removing the tough outer leaves and cutting off the edges;
  2. cut the artichokes into 4 pieces, if they are big remove the internal “beard”, and soak them in water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation;
  3. saute 2 cloves of garlic in a pan with extra virgin olive oil for a minute, with low fire;
  4. cut the artichokes into think stripes and put them in the pan with the garlics, leave 1 minute to release the flavour, then add a cup of water and cover;
  5. let the artichokes cook for 10 minutes, or until soft;
  6. take half of the cooked artichokes, add a cup of water and blend them with an immersion blender until creamy;
  7. add the ricotta to the blended artichokes, add it back to the pan and cook for 3 minutes mixing thoroughly;
  8. bring cold water to boil in a large pot, add a tablespoon of salt ;
  9. put the pasta into the boiling water and cook for the time indicated in the pack;
  10. drain the pasta and then pass it quickly in the pan with the sauce over high heat to mix well;
  11. season with a little pepper and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

We are listening to: 

Sputnik salad

[button link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9zl2wWcfb4″ color=”blue”]We are listening to: The Dig-lready Forgot Everything You Said[/button]

They look weird but they taste just great – let us introduce you to kohlrabi! The name comes from German, where for Kohl stays for “cabbage” and rabi (Rüben) for “turnip”, because their shapes are resembling. Kohlrabi is an artificial selected variety of wild cabbage that can be eaten both cooked and raw (but needs to be peeled!). They have a high detoxifying power and act primarily on Spleen and Stomach, thanks to their neutral energy. Being at the same time bitter, sweet and pungent in flavor, they are particularly useful to move up QI and Blood and draining Dampness and Heat, direction downward, thus helping also in case of food stasis. Try them with a yogurt and turmeric sauce to enhance their properties and give an extra-boost to the Liver functions of depuration.

Serves 4 -Really Eas– Prep time: 10 minutes

DSC_0499 copyYou will need:

  • 1 Kohlrabi;
  • 200 ml yogurt (like Greek-think one);
  • 1 tsp turmeric;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • a pinch of salt.

How to:

  1. Peel the Kohlrabi with the help of a potato peeler or a knife;
  2. Grate it or cut it with a knife in very thin slices (a la julienne);
  3. mix the yogurt with a tbsp of olive oil, a pinch of salt and the turmeric;
  4. serve the salad with the yogurt dressing on the side.

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Green love fettuccine

When we walk through the greengrocer’s and we happen to see asparaguses on the shelves, then we know spring has definitely arrived. No wonder why! These vegetables, which are the tender buds of asparagus plant, belong to the lily family– the same of romantic tulips, but also of onions and garlic. According to TCM, asparaguses have a warm energy directed mainly to Kidney and Liver, combining together both a strong diuretic and detoxifying action, perfect in this season. In the recipe a touch of lime, the sweet and oriental version of lemon, is able to purify Fire and prawns add a Yang energy again orientated to Kidney. Watch out with cayenne peppers, a tiny bit just to move up the flavor, and garlic, good to help digestion in small amounts. That’s it, a nice simple recipe to enjoy heart-warming fettuccine in the season of love.

Serves 2 –Easy– Prep time: 30 minutes+30′ to make the pasta 

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You will need:

for the fettuccine:

  • 2 eggs;
  • 100 g plain flour;
  • 100 g Semola (if you don’t have it, just replace it with plain flour but your pasta will be less strong);
  • pinch of salt.

How to:

  1. Place the flour on a surface (better wooden), make a hole (like a volcano) and break the eggs in the middle;
  2. start beating the eggs with a fork, then continue working with your hands;
  3. knead the dough for about 5 to 10 minutes: the movement is like “stretching” the dough, keeping it with one hand and pulling with the palm of the other; roll then the dough back to the start, and stretch again. It is quite hard at the beginning, the dough will look “broken” and dry, but it will become softer and elastic as you knead it, and will stop sticking to your hands. If needed you can add a little bit of cold water
  4. let the dough rest for about 30 minutes;
  5. start rolling and stretching the dough with a rolling pin and a pasta maker until it gets really thin;
  6. if you are using the pasta maker, just use the roll to cut the fettuccine;
  7. if you were using a rolling pin, spread some flour over your thin pasta layer, then roll the dough over itslef and cut thin stripes.

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for the sauce:

  • 10 prawns;
  • 12-14 asparagi;
  • one lime;
  • 2 cloves of garlic;
  • 3-4 cayenne pepper;
  • two tbs of extra virgin olive oil.

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How to:

  1. Clean the prawns. Keep the heads and the flesh (the meaty part of the tails-the edible one);
  2. warm up the olive oil in a pan;
  3. peel the garlic cloves, add them to the pan together with the cayenne pepper. Let it cook for a minute being careful to not burn them;
  4. remove the first woody white part of the asparagus, then cut it into 0.5 cm slices, keeping the tips intact;
  5. put the cut asparagus in the pan, and let cook for about couple of minutes;
  6. add the heads of the prawns, press them a bit to let some liquid come out;
  7. add the juice of the lime and keep cooking for couple of more minutes. If it becomes too dry, add a little bit of hot water;
  8. remove the heads of the prawns from the pan and add the meaty tails;
  9. pour the fettuccine in boiling water, add 2 tbs of salt and let cook for 2-3 minutes. keep a glass of cooking water;
  10. drain the pasta, and pass it in the pan to make it get better the taste of the sauce. If you notice the pasta too dry, add the glass of water in the pan with the fettuccine and the sauce and let cook until it is all evaporated;
  11. serve warm. Possibly drink one (or more) cold glass of white wine along with it!

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We are listening to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf_NTcngdjg

Shake-them!

[button link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBKx8PyE5qQ” color=”blue”]We are listening to:Mayer Hawthorne-Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out[/button]

Today it is smoothies day- Italian style! Fashionable, colourful and here we show you how they can be useful too! Hangovered? Bored? Pretending to be fit and trendy? Follow this 3 step cleansing cure and get an extra boost of energy. As for the preparation…just blend everything together, but do it finely! veggies are tougher than fruits!

Phase 1: soak up

You will need:

  • Banana;
  • coconut milk;
  • ice cubes.

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Nice start, sweet and thick, it gives you a comfortable feeling of fulfilment. Bananas are cold in energy and can help fighting dryness of Large Intestine and Stomach burning. Here their thirst-quenching effect is empowered by coconut milk, which has also a strong capability to produce fluids and detox (also useful in case of intestinal parasites).

Phase 2: cleanse

You will need:

  • Celery;
  • spinach;
  • green apple;
  • lemon;
  • mint;
  • ice cubes.

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Let’s go with the green’n’sour to clean up a bit! Starting from celery – the best for a “naughty Liver”- that can purify its excess of Fire, move up the Qi in case of stasis and at the same time nourishes the Blood. Following up with spinaches, loyal companions in purifying Heat and nourishing Fluids and Blood. The sour taste of green apples and lemon reinforces the direction of this drink on the Liver while the final touch of mint moves everything up and can help us get rid of headache.

Phase 3: refill

You will need:

  • Beetroot;
  • carrots;
  • strawberries;
  • cinnamon;
  • ice cubes.

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Ending with beetroots and carrots which are neutral in energy and sweet in flavour and bring us back to the Center and tone up the QI. The gentle taste of strawberries give a final detoxing action to this drink while cinnamon reminds us that Balance is the key. It warms up this overall refreshing cure and tonify the Yang, that can be easily damaged by so much raw food.

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