The Pre-Dinner Apéritif (aka, “Digestive Primer”)

I’ve always enjoyed the concept of the pre-dinner apéritif.

Perhaps not quite to the same degree as what’s traditionally meant by the word, but more so as a primer for setting the stage for optimal digestion.

By definition, (and there are a few) an apéritif is typically a small alcoholic drink taken before a meal as a means to stimulate digestion and prepare the body for the meal to follow. Often the drink has bitter qualities that helps to awaken the digestive process and perk up the appetite.

Apéritif is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open”.

And as one French woman puts it, “The Apéritif is to a French meal, what foreplay is to sex. A taste, a tease, to awaken you to know the people you are sharing it with and make you want to engage in the main course.”

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? ;)

And while there’s a whole culture devoted to this almost ceremonial ritual, what I’m personally extrapolating from it is this…

I consider the apéritif to be a reprieve of sorts between your busy day and your evening meal. The line that separates the two. A “pause”, if you will.

And it doesn’t have to involve alcohol at all.

In fact, I’ll explain some of my favorite non-alcoholic apéritifs that you can make at home in just a moment.

But before I get to the drinks…

You may be familiar with the saying, “Hunger is the Best Sauce”.

Well another way to put this would be to say, “Hunger is the Best Apéritif“. In fact, I’m pretty sure I once read that somewhere as well (likely in a French cookbook, no doubt).

Hunger is the Best Apéritif Click To Tweet

In both cases, I’d have to agree.

Hunger signals our body to begin the process of digestion. Just the sight, smell, and anticipation of eating is enough to trigger the flow of digestive juices, hormones, and saliva that prime our body to digest the food we’re about to enjoy.

Ideally we want to experience the sensation of light hunger before eating, and not just eat at a specific time out of habit.

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a beautiful plate of food with no appetite because you’ve been snacking on a bunch of almonds (or what have you) an hour before.

And we also know that our emotions heavily influence the digestive process, so it’s important to get into a calm and receptive mode before sitting down at the table.

I personally love doing something active to separate my work day from dinnertime, and for me, this is often the time I get a workout in, or go to a class at the gym. This awakens my appetite even more – plus I prefer to work out on an empty stomach. (In case you haven’t concluded, I take the pleasure of eating pretty seriously, particularly dinner time when it’s a little more relaxed and marks the time to unwind after the day).

Going for a nice long walk is also another great way to stimulate digestion, although at the moment where I live, it’s the dead of winter and negative 15 degrees Celsius, so not as appealing.

Other ways to take a pause before dinner could be taking a bath, doing some reading, or just chilling out with a loved one and conversing about your day.

Now this is where the apéritif, in the traditional sense of the word, comes into play.

Here are a few of my favorite sips before dinner:

 

Apéritifs (sans alcohol)

Mix any of the following with sparkling water. If the carbonation is an issue for you (i.e. causes gas and bloating) you can forgo it for flat water, or do a combo of flat and a little bit of sparkling just for the bubbles and refreshing factor.

1) Herbal Bitters

The bitters that I use typically come from the health food store and contain a variation of bitter herbs and botanicals such as dandelion, artichoke leaf, burdock, gentian, and ginger. A few of my favorite brands are St. Francis Herb Farm: Canadian Bitters, Botanica: Digestive Bitters Compound, and Harmonic Arts: Herbal Bitters – there are many others but it will depend what’s available near you. I also like Dillions Small Batch Distiller’s Bitters found at the LCBO. Here’s a snap I took earlier this year over on Instagram for reference.

2) Lemon/Lime Juice

Mix the juice of half the fruit into your water. Basic and simple!

3) Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Mix 1-2 tbsp. into your water. Be sure to buy an ACV that’s raw and contains the “mother”. A few common brands that I often buy are Filsingers and Bragg’s.

Of course you can also do any of these straight up as a way to stimulate digestion, but that kind of takes away the enjoyment of sipping on something.

 

Apéritifs (with alcohol)

While this definitely isn’t the case every night, this is more likely to happen at the end of the week or perhaps on the weekend.

It goes without saying, if alcohol is an issue for you in any way (or you don’t enjoy it), then clearly avoid it. I find that most people though can have at least 1 serving without any issues (ideally around food) unless your gut is ultra-sensitive or you’re prone to reflux. Also, if you’re in the midst of unpleasant digestive symptoms or a flare-up, it’s best to avoid.

When it comes to alcohol, you can mix any of your favorite spirits with the herbal bitters I mentioned above. If I were to personally mix anything with the first option, it would likely be Gin.

Typically though my (alcoholic) apéritifs of choice would be:

1) A glass of white wine (something on the drier side)

2) A coupe of champagne (or let’s be honest, sparkling wine such as prosecco or cava – I’m definitely not cracking open the Veuve every night ;))

3) Lillet Blanc with a splash of sparkling water (a more recent discovery)

Keep in mind these are just small servings –  enough to stimulate the digestive process and NOT blunt the appetite. Also, don’t confuse the apéritif with “Happy Hour” or getting sloshed before dinner.

There you have it!

Do you have a favorite apéritif or digestive concoction that you enjoy pre-dinner? Or perhaps just a favorite way to separate your work day from your evening meal?

Let me know in the comments below. I always love hearing from you!

xo Elaine

 

Super Easy Cashew Butter Cookie Recipe

Yes, sometimes the nutritionist eats cookies.

But not just any old cookies.

These ones are packed with healthy fats, protein, and are relatively low in sugar when compared to your typical cookie, or even “healthier” cookie recipe.

They’re sweetened with coconut palm sugar, and are flourless and gluten-free.

And yes (in case you were wondering), they actually do taste good. In fact, they’re downright delicious.

I’ve had my fair share of “healthy” cookie recipe failures and I’m confident to say that these ones will please the health conscious and not so health conscious alike.

Bring them to your next potluck, girl’s night gathering, or office party.

What I love about these cookies is that they contain minimal ingredients and they aren’t sickly sweet.

I also find them really digestible…although I can’t vouch for that if you decide to eat the whole plate at once ;)

Cashew Butter Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small jar of smooth cashew butter (250 grams)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Dark chocolate chips (optional) – if using these I recommend scaling the coconut palm sugar back to 1/3 of a cup since the chocolate chips will add their own sweetness

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl
  3. Scoop out mixture onto parchment paper into small cookie shapes (they will expand so leave room in between each one)
  4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Makes approx 12 cookies

Do you have any favorite cookie recipes that use healthier ingredients?

Go ahead and share in the comment box below!

Gentle Winter Cleanse (aka Digestive Reboot)

Feeling sluggish? Low energy? Bloated? Digestion not up to par? Trapped in a cycle of overeating?

If you feel like you need a little help in this area I’ve got just the prescription!

I call this a gentle winter cleanse, however, it’s really more of a digestive reboot or reset.

While cleansing is something that’s recognized as a great tool for the change of season, particularly spring and early autumn, you can still support your body’s natural built-in detox mechanisms all throughout the year by paying attention to what you’re eating, along with other lifestyle choices.

What I’m offering today though is a simple little protocol that you can put into action anytime or place whether you’re feeling sluggish or low on energy, or feeling like your digestion isn’t running as smoothly as it could be (i.e. you’re experiencing indigestion or bloating), or maybe you’ve found yourself in a pattern of overeating less than ideal foods and you’re having a hard time breaking the cycle.

This protocol can help you get back on the right track and give your digestion a rest, all while still providing your body nourishment.

You can follow this plan for as little as one day, but I suggest following it for at least 2 (or even 3) days for best results. This will depend on your current health status, lifestyle, and the intensity of the plan you wish to follow.

It’s really quite simple and you have full control over the menu.

Basic Guidelines

1) Consume any of the following during the protocol. Herbal teas, fresh vegetable juices, green-based smoothies, veggie broths, bone broths, and blended soups. You can pick and choose based on your preference. Unsweetened dairy alternatives are okay, as are seasonings for soup (i.e. sea salt, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil). You’re taking a break from: alcohol, flour, grain, meat, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and added sugar (with the exception of the optional raw honey I noted in the menu below), along with most other solid food.

2) You control the intensity. For example, consuming only fresh veggie juices and broths will be more cleansing (and intense) than blended smoothies and soups.

3) Drink plenty of pure water. Although this protocol is very hydrating already, be sure to drink pure water throughout the day. You can also sip on herbal teas and broths.

FAQ

Q. Can I still drink coffee?

A. This is the most commonly asked question! Ideally you will stick to herbal teas but I know that this one factor alone is one of the biggest excuses people give for not following it, or the reason why they will put it off for a more “convenient” time (I’ve fallen into this category many times too). So with that said you can still have one cup of coffee if you really want it (either taken black or with a splash of milk/cream or dairy alternative – NO sugar though). Although there may be many other reasons to take a break from coffee, since it’s technically a liquid you can still enjoy the digestive rest aspect of the protocol (unless of course it contributes towards digestive-related symptoms that you’re aware of – then avoid it).

Other Logistics

  • I personally stop taking all supplements during this protocol with the exception of a probiotic. You’ll have to decide what’s right for you. This does NOT apply to doctor prescribed medications.
  • Take into account your lifestyle and modify as necessary. For example, the last time I followed this I went for 5 days while keeping up with my regular busy work schedule, and workout routine (i.e. spinning classes and heavy weight-lifting). For this reason I added in some protein powder to my smoothie that I had post-workout. If you’re only following the protocol for one day this likely doesn’t apply to you – and if this is your first time following something similar then I would suggest more gentle exercise like walking and yoga.

Sample Menu

* Use all organic ingredients where possible

** Make quantities suitable for you (i.e. for soups you can always make bigger batches and store in the fridge)

Morning

Ginger tea with fresh lemon

Breakfast

Green Smoothie (2 handfuls of baby spinach, 1 chopped ripened Bosc pear, ½ ripened banana, ¼ avocado, ¼ tsp of grated ginger, a few sprigs of fresh mint + water for blending. Optional: add some lemon juice.)

Lunch

Broccoli Soup (Directions: steam broccoli florets until soft and then blend with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Dinner

Leek and Potato Soup (Directions: simmer chopped up leek and potato in some water until soft, drain and transfer to blender. Blend with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Night

Warm Golden Milk (1 cup of dairy alternative whisked w/ ½ tsp of turmeric powder. Heat on stove until hot but not boiling. Optional: small drizzle of raw honey is okay)

This sample menu is simply to give you some direction and inspiration. Follow a menu that suits your tastes and lifestyle using the allowable foods/liquids noted under the guidelines above.

Here’s an easy recipe for veggie broth that I posted on Instagram.

Here’s a link to homemade bone broth. You can make it in a slow cooker or stove top.

Here’s a recent juice recipe I made that’s nice for the wintertime (if you have a juicer!)

This is how I store my soups and broths.

Have questions?

Write them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

xo Elaine

 

How to Make Your Own Ghee (Recipe)

Today I’m going to share with you how to make your very own supply of “liquid gold” – aka – Ghee.

What is Ghee?

Ghee, also commonly referred to as clarified butter, is a dietary source of fat that’s traditionally used in Indian cooking. It’s also used as a medicinal and healing food in Ayurvedic medicine, where it’s known as ghrita.

Ghee is essentially butter with the water and milk solids removed, that also has a rich, nutty, and caramel-like flavour and smell that distinguishes it from butter.

It’s almost like butter upgraded.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love butter! But apart from its caramelized appeal, ghee also has a few other notable and unique advantages that set it apart from butter.

Benefits of Ghee vs Regular Butter

Ghee shares a similar nutrient profile with butter, although it’s slightly more concentrated in fat – since the milk solids and water are removed.

Ghee has the distinct advantage over butter in two key areas:

1) It contains zero to nominal amounts of the milk protein casein and milk sugar lactose. For people who have sensitivities or intolerances to these components of dairy, ghee is the clear choice.

2) It has a higher smoke point than butter, and is shelf-stable. Ghee has a smoke point of 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C), so it’s more suitable for higher temperature cooking without oxidizing and creating toxic by-products. Furthermore, it can sit on the shelf for at least a month (if not longer) in an airtight jar, and stores much longer in the refrigerator.

Similarly to butter, ghee tastes great over roasted veggies, potatoes, spread on toast, or atop any grain dish. Basically you can use ghee in place of oil for almost any of your cooking needs, including stir-fried and sautéed dishes.

(Side note: I also recently used it in place of coconut oil in my chocolate bark recipe that literally made it taste like a Skor Bar – a favorite as a kid!)

Homemade Ghee vs Store-bought

You can find ghee in most health food stores and specialty food stores and/or sections of the grocery store, however, there are a few factors to keep in mind before purchasing.

1) Price. Good quality ghee can be quite expensive to buy and by comparison is much less expensive to make at home yourself, especially when you also factor in quantity.

2) Quality. Lower-priced ghee usually isn’t made with high quality organic, and/or grass-fed butter, so it won’t be as nutrient-rich and may contain pesticides and other residues. Lower quality ghee can also contain additives like flavouring or colours. Always check the label and be sure that the only ingredient listed is butter!

Homemade Ghee Recipe

Once you make your own homemade ghee for the first time and realize how easy it is to prepare, you’ll likely kick yourself for not having made it sooner (*slowly raising my hand over here*).

Note: When it comes to quantity you can start with one or two pounds of butter, or however big of a slab you already have on hand. Case in point, this last time I made it I only used about 1/2 a pound of butter since that’s what I had on-hand and it made the exact amount you see in the image above. Usually though I’ll make about one pound at a time.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A small to medium saucepan (depending on quantity you’re making)
  • A large spoon for stirring
  • A fine meshed sieve
  • Several layers of cheese cloth (a nut milk bag works too!) to line the sieve
  • A large bowel or measuring cup (one with a poring sprout can make things easier especially if you’re making a larger amount. The rebel in me always just uses a bowl, mind you I don’t own a measuring cup with a sprout)
  • 1 -2 glass jars with lids for storing your ghee

 Ingredients:

  • High quality, unsalted butter (ideally organic and/or grass-fed). You can make as much as you want but I suggest starting with half a pound or 1 pound your first time in case you burn it – not hard to do!

Instructions:

The whole cooking process takes about 10-15 minutes.

  1. Cut butter into small cubes. This allows for the butter to melt faster and more evenly.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat and once it starts to foam and bubble reduce the heat to low.
  3. Gently stir it from time to time as it goes through this foaming and bubbling process. This process will eventually almost slow down to a simmer and you’ll notice that the foam becomes thinner while the bubbles actually get bigger and clearer.
  4. Soon you’ll notice the milk solids start to curdle and separate from the liquid. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent the solids from sticking and to encourage them to sink to the bottom. Notice your butter taking on a more golden colour. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure that the milk solids don’t burn (important!)
  5. Eventually the butter will start to foam for a second time (like it did in step #2). This is your indication that the ghee is ready and should be removed from the heat. At this point you may want to let it sit for a few minutes and let the foam settle.
  6. Next, line your sieve with the cheese cloth (or nut bag!) and set over a large bowel or measuring cup.
  7. Pour your ghee in. You’ll notice little reddish-brown milk solids left behind. You can discard these solids but if you’re curious feel free to taste them. Apparently some people use them to make sweets.
  8. Transfer your filtered ghee into a glass jar. Notice its beautiful gold colour and delicious caramel aroma!
  9. Let it cool and set at room temperature. It will eventually turn into a solid, creamier consistency that you can easily spoon out or spread. If you store it in the fridge it will harden.

If you’re buying store-bought ghee you might notice on the jar that it says it’s shelf stable for 2-3 months.

I tend to error on the side of caution when making it myself. I usually let it sit on the counter for 2-3 weeks max before transferring to the fridge – just to be safe. Many other websites reference one month, so that may be a safe bet as well.

There you have it – the perfect staple to add to your repertoire!

As always, I love hearing from you. Have you ever made ghee before? Do you have any tips for using it? Share your thoughts in the comment below!