Wine Casa & Delicious Taipei Raw Nut Cheese and Wine Tasting

Nothing beats a mid-week wine and cheese tasting with three wonderful, vivacious women as my collaborators. Wine Casa is a local, women-run wine company in Taipei. We met each other at the Spring Bazaar luncheon at the Regent Hotel in Taipei where we were both part of the exquisite 30+ boutique businesses represented.

Wine Casa’s wine is mainly imported from France and the US. Wine Casa’s wines range from fruit wines to more mature, deeper richer wine, thus pleasing the palates of both local and international wine appreciators.

People came in from all parts of Taipei to the hilly area of Beitou to sample on our wine and raw nut cheese selection. As usual, everyone was delighted that raw, vegan cheeses are around and that they have such a similar flavour to regular dairy cheese.

We had a wonderful time, meeting new people and sharing our wares and hope to do it again soon.

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onion and garlic

onion and garlic

preserved meyer lemon and fresh rosemary

preserved meyer lemon and fresh rosemary

cashew sundried tomato and olive

cashew sundried tomato and olive

cashew original

cashew original

Springtime Juice Cleanse!

Breakfast, lunch and supper for the next few days

I’ve made a habit out of doing a serious cleanse once a year. The cleanse of choice was always the lymph system cleanse followed by the master cleanse. I don’t care what some people say about the master cleanse. It works. I know this because I saw it working on my liver and digestive system. What makes a cleanse fail is what you do or don’t do after you get off it. If you break your cleanse with a candy bar, you deserve to have your head checked. Ok, that was an exaggerated example but I know people who do similar such things. Sustaining your diet after the cleanse is of empirical importance. Cleanses to sustaining diets is like yoga asanas is to pranayama. The asanas are practiced to arrive at the breath. The asanas are the cleanses and the pranayama is the sustaining diet.

This time, I got back from a month-long trip in South Africa and shortly thereafter a whirlwind long weekend in Shanghai. I needed to cleanse not only my body but also my mind. My body was in shock from a particularly traumatising experience with someone close to me and my mind was unsettled. All the comfort food I ate at home was weighing me down. And Shanghai, well…you know how it goes. Please understand that I love the food at home and will always return to it when I go back home, but it is no longer the sustaining diet that I enjoy at this point in my life.

When cleansing, it is really important to make sure your body can support the cleanse. It is very dangerous to go from eating steak on Sunday to going directly onto a fast on Monday. It is shocking for the body. It is not equipped to make that sudden switch so quickly. Above that, the lymph system, which drains the body of toxins, may suffer from an overload of toxins streaming out of your body and will itself, not be cleansed and prepared to assist that release. It’s like trying to pour dirty bath water out of a clogged drain hole. Makes no sense and causes more damage. This is why I prepare my body to fast or cleanse by doing a pre-cleanse.

A pre-cleanse usually spanning four days, which includes a mono-diet, slows down digestion, quietens your internal state and prepares the digestive system for a period of deeper rest with no food. Why does the digestive system need to rest in the first place? So that it can go into cellular repair and rejuvenation. So it can heal. Believe me when I say I feel like I can fly after a cleanse or fast.

The pre-cleanse I choose to do is the lymph system cleanse created by Dr. John Douillard. It is an Ayurvedic  4-day cleanse which kicks my butt every time I do it. The cleanse involves a mono-diet of kitcheree for breakfast, lunch and supper and the taking of Ayurvedic powders to clean and replenish the blood, drain the lymphatic system (can you say Ooooow! Pretty painful the first time) and keep the digestive fires burning. Then there’s the daily 20 minute epsom salt bath (heaven) and the lymph massage oil (hell). It’s four days and you’re eating breakfast, lunch and supper but it’s more challenging than a ten-day no-food master cleanse. Why is that? It’s because emotions are stored in fat cells and you are purging those cells so if you have any monsters in the closet, they’re going to come out and play. Let them. They’ll be gone in four days and you will feel amazing. If your relationship survives, all the more power to you. Ha!

Read about the lymph system cleanse and if you need any help, let me know. http://lifespa.com/short-home-cleanse/

So, after these four days of lymph-cleansing, my Beloved and I continued on to our juice cleanse. This was the first time we did it and to be honest, I wasn’t very happy about it because I did not want to be consuming anything at all. The master cleanse does a clean, thorough strip so I thought ingesting juices was going to take away from that.

I was wrong.

orange, green and red

orange, green and red

One of the sinking feelings that I anticipate when being on a cleanse is feeling deprived of food. Mentally, that is the toughest challenge for anyone going on a fast or cleanse, especially for me who works with food. But on the juice cleanse, I did not once feel deprived of food because the raw juice that I filled myself with for breakfast, lunch and supper was giving me MORE than the food I would have eaten would have given me. I felt energized, focused, happy, filled with gratitude for everything and everyone in my life and also – really able to let go of that painful situation I referred to in the first paragraph.

I don’t know about you but for me when I go away on long holidays, it takes a really long time for my mind to switch back into gear when I return. So much of what I do work-wise depends on my own creative energy, thoughts and actions. When I come back, I feel like a baby hippo learning to swim but not quite getting it, kinda wading haphazardly and flopping about in the mud rather inelegantly. That is me when I get back from holiday. My Beloved is very patient and kind and never frowns at me when I loll in said “mud” (our bed) until 9:30 in the morning bellowing for my almond milk. Ah, but this in itself deserves a whole other blog entry. Going on the juice cleanse soon after returning, saved me from that pathetic, lethargic period. I became focused and driven.

Ok, yeah, yeah, yeah I know I’m starting to sound like Mary Poppins. What’s the pain-in-the-butt part of this cleanse? THE JUICING! It is a pain in the butt. Well, it WAS, until we bought a Breville juicer. The Breville was the juicer of choice featured in the perspective-shifting documentary, “Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead” about morbidly obese Australian, Joe Cross who sick with a debilitating disease, on 15 different pills  day, drops his meds and road trips across The USA, talking to people about health, illness and juicing. It is a must-watch.

Breville, the beast

pulp container on the left and 1.2 litre juice jug on the right. The chute is large enough to pulverize a whole, large apple and a large English cucumber

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The juice extractor on the right extracts juice. The froojie on the left makes smoothies out of soft fruits like mango and strawberry

The amount of juiced vegetables you consume in one day is huge. I think we were spending between NT600 -NT800 on vegetables and fruit per day. For breakfast, lunch and supper for two people, that is awfully cheap but if you think of volume and mass – we had cabbages on our couches, beets on the coffee table, lemons near the pot plants and apples coming out of our ears! But, it had to be done. No way could we go shopping every, single day. It was fun, running through different parts of the apartment to get our goods for juicing. I used the opportunity to pretend I was on Masterchef with Gordon Ramsey saying, “Your 5 minutes in the pantry starts…NOW!”

The Breville is something of a beast but a very elegant one. It swallows whole vegetables and fruits down its extra-large chute and as you gently push the whole vegetables and fruits down, it spins juice into its 1.2 litre jug and collects the pulp in a 3 litre jug.

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In goes a whole, large apple

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Now, a Taiwan-size carrot

It also comes with a handy booklet of recipes for the pulp.Very thoughtful. Cleaning it is a cinch, too. You can imagine how happy I was tossing whole apples, carrots, cucumbers and large chunks of ginger into the chute.

So, what recipes did we follow? Some amazing ones from a site called “What’s Gaby Cooking?” In her post,Juice Cleanse 101, she suggested 6 to 7 drinks a day of:

  • GREEN JUICE
  • ORANGE JUICE
  • GREEN JUICE
  • RED JUICE
  • GREEN JUICE
  • ORANGE JUICE
  • GREEN JUICE

That sounds like a lot of juice and going on the size of vegetables available in Taiwan, I only needed 2 to 3 drinks a day. Water supplemented a lot as well and actually made me feel so good. If your other half has facial hair, then he/ she (haha) may need more.

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The green drink has spinach, kale, romaine (I used bok choy instead), parsley, cucumber, apple and ginger

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The orange drink has carrots (LOTS), an orange, an apple (I left this out), tumeric root (I used powder) and I added ginger because I don’t like it sweet

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The red drink has beets, an apple a bunch of spinach, oranges and ginger. This was my least favourite one because it is overwhelmingly sweet. I like to drink my beets with balsamic only. You can just drink more green in place of the beets.

The best juices are the simplest ones without too many components in it. Green is green, orange is orange and red is red and they each intelligently focus on different areas of the body. You give it time to do its thing by waiting at least two hours between each drink and chugging down as much water as you can. Drinking water is crucial. It washes toxins always, moves vitamins and nutrients where they need to be moved and energises and hydrates you.

Why the different colours?

Read about the Benefits Of Green Food

Read about orange foods: Orange Equals Healthy

Read about 10 Healthiest Red Foods

A few days into the cleanse and I was feeling pretty amazing. Now that I have finished, my Beloved and I are sure to have a green, red or orange drink every, single day. As the weather warms up and reaches boiling point in Taipei, I am sure we will be having more than one drink in place of food. I urge you to try it. I would say try it for a minimum of 14 days to see real changes. I did a total of ten days with the lymph cleanse but next time I will do all 14 days on juice.

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If you can understand that this time of cleansing is not a sacrifice but a gift that you are giving to yourself, if you can appreciate the rewards, if you can see the long-term benefits, do it! But if you enter into it with a state of suffering and deprivation in your mind, it will be a job half done, a gift half-received.

Raw Asparagus Pâté with Marinated Mushrooms and Shaved Fennel

raw asparagus pate

Continuing on the theme of asparagus, here we have a raw asparagus pâté  with marinated shiitake mushrooms and shaved fennel with greens. 

Absolutely gorgeously delicious, satisfying and with a beautiful complement of acidic and sweet with the weight of nuts and delicacy of asparagus, this dish is easy to make but sumptuous to eat.  

Eat it on brown rice crackers, fresh bread or just by itself. 

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NOTE: Some pre-prep time is required

Recipe:

1/2 cup mushrooms

1 tablespoon liquid amino

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon agave nectar

Combine agave, olive oil and liquid amino in a bowl. Add chopped mushrooms. leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. 

Pâté:

1 bunch of large asparagus

a large handful of fresh thyme

a small handful of cashew nuts

1 clove of garlic

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

freshly crushed black pepper

salt to taste 

Peel the asparagus, chop into pieces then blend until smooth with the rest of the pâté  ingredients. Set in a mould in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. If you don’t have a ring mold, use a bowl which you should line with cling wrap before you pour the ingredients in. 

Fennel/ Greens (you should do this only when ready to serve)

Finely shave some fennel and roughly chop some greens of your choice (arugula would be best). If you can’t find fennel, substitute with a crunchy green apple rubbed with fresh lemon juice. 

In a bowl, sprinkle the shaved fennel and greens with a bit of salt and olive oil. Mix lightly. You don’t want to bruise the leaves or leave them too limp or they won’t stand.  

Assembly:

After the pâté  has set, unmold onto a serving plate then top with the greens. Strain the mushrooms. Rinse well and pat dry with a kitchen towel.Place a handful of mushrooms on top of the greens.

Serve.  

 

Raw Asparagus with Saffron Chili Cheese Sauce (dairy-free)

Creamy, cheesy spicy goodness, raw and delicious!

Creamy, cheesy spicy goodness, raw and delicious!

It’s Springtime in Taiwan and with asparagus being the vegetable of the season, the relevance is poetic. Spring is a time for well, spring cleaning and asparagus is a cleansing, detoxifying vegetable. It’s packed with minerals and vitamins A, K, E and the B’s (to a lesser degree). Don’t let the health benefits distract you from the gorgeous, nutty, earthiness of the vegetable.

Paying a visit to the infamous Binjiang Market (my temple, I swear), each vendor actually specializes in particular vegetables. So, the asparagus vendor had many varieties to choose from and they all looked amazing.

I settled on the giant asparagus (sorry, forgot to take a picture) since I would be shaving them for this salad. 

Here’s the recipe:

5 giant asparagus stalks

1 tablespoon of salt

Dressing

1 cup of soaked (12-24 hours) cashew nuts (soaking removed digestive inhibitors)

1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (start with less than half and taste as you go along to reach the cheesiness level you find palatable)

a generous pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon of chili oil (you can substitute with paprika/ black pepper)

a splash of water (depends on how thick you like your dressing)

salt to taste

Peel the asparagus then continue to shave, using the peeler. Place in a bowl with the tablespoon of salt. The salt softens the asparagus making it easier to work with. Let it sit for no more than ten minutes then rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel.

Blend the rest of the ingredients together then in a mixing bowl, work it into the shaved asparagus gently, then carefully place on a serving dish.

Garnish with a pinch of saffron.

Binjiang Market Address: No. 336 Minzu East Rd.

Closest subway stop is Xingtian Temple, then a short, 5-minute cab ride to the market