Festive Fizzy Drinks: Alcohol Alternatives

Star Fruit Fizz

When I began my Bikram yoga practice, I gave up alcohol. The yoga room is 105 degrees and requires hydration. There is no way around it. You either come to class hydrated or suffer. One time I practiced after drinking 1 glass of wine the night before. My head was spinning and I thought I was going to suffocate most of the class. I choose hydration.

I also choose health over a little drink that can set me back. My fitness level has always been important to me, but for many years I wasn’t willing to commit a hundred percent. I’d give into the peer pressure, drink the glass of wine and suffer the consequences. My alcohol tolerances fall way below the average and my body takes twice as long to recover. When my friends could put back four or five beers, I’d black out after my third and spend the next day nursing my upset stomach and throbbing head. College got the best of me. I spent many nights in the ER with excruciating stomach pain triggered by alcohol and the stress I was attempting to manage with intoxication.

Unfortunately it would be six more years until I gave up the stuff completely. My yoga practice became more important than any cocktail. I enjoy being in control of my body and I don’t miss the social aspect of drinking either. The majority of my friends are not big drinkers and alcohol becomes less the focus as I get older.

In terms of health and alcohol’s reaction in the body, it’s no surprise that the few possible health benefits are vastly outweighed by the negative effects. According to Sarah Ballantyne of thePaleoMom.com, alcohol increases leaky gut by feeding the bad bacteria in our gut, causing more damage to an already sensitive system. This explains my frequent hospital visits in college. I was literally feeding my disease, causing immense damage to my digestive tract each night I binged on vodka tonics. When alcohol enters your system, your liver’s primary goal is to detoxify the alcohol first, ignoring it’s other functions. Alcohol can inhibit the breakdown of nutrients and impair their absorption.

Festive, fun drinks are still a part of my life. I toast with fancy sparkling waters flavored with a splash of fruit juice or squeeze of citrus. I put together some fabulous combinations. Ring in the New Year with a glass of bubbly that will have you feeling your best on the first day of the year.

Cheers!

Star Fruit Clementine Fizz
Star Fruit Clementine Fizz

Starfruit Clementine Fizz
Makes 2 servings.

1 starfuit – sliced
2 clementines
18 oz sparkling water – chilled 

►Juice the clementines and add 1 oz to each glass. Place two slices of star fruit at bottom of glasses. Fill with 9 oz of sparkling water and slide a star fruit slice onto the glass.

Blackberry Persimmon Spritzer
Blackberry Persimmon Spritzer
Blackberry Persimmon Spritzer
Blackberry Persimmon Spritzer

Makes 2 servings.

½ cup frozen blackberries
1 persimmon – sliced
18 oz sparkling water – chilled

►Muddle ¼ cup berries in each glass. Place three slices of persimmon in each and add 9 oz of sparkling water.

Pear Pomegranate Ginger Sparklers
Pear Pomegranate Ginger Sparklers
Pear Pomegranate Ginger Sparklers
Pear Pomegranate Ginger Sparklers

Makes 2 servings.

½ pear – thinly sliced
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 tsp fresh ginger – grated
½ cup Gingerade Kombucha – I use GTs organic brand
18 oz sparkling water – chilled

►Place 3 pear slices, ½ tbsp pomegranate seeds, 1/2 tsp ginger and ¼ cup Gingerade Kombucha in each glass. Then fill each with 9 oz of sparkling water.

Resources:
The WHYs behind the Autoimmune Protocol: Alcohol by Sarah Ballantyne
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/11/the-whys-behind-the-autoimmune-protocol-alcohol.html

Alcohol, fat loss, and your liver, by Diane Sanfilippo.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy6sX1lkq4I&list=UUWAb83pi_eVEzDIWkZuQHcQ

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism No. 22 PH 346 October 1993
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa22.htm

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Three more days until Christmas! Joy is officially in the air. I can even smell it. It’s a combination of pine, bonfire, cold air, cloves and fresh baked sugar cookies. Christmas has a distinctive scent that can’t be bottled into a candle. I did try to replicate it in this cake though.

Fruit cake is the butt of every holiday joke. Typically weighing almost ten pounds, filled with every fruit and nut imaginable and said to last forever, they are loathed by most. This cake is my attempt to change that. How can dried fruits and chocolate in a cake not be delicious? I was inspired by watching Nigella Lawson bake her famous Christmas Cake. She makes the holiday magical and it’s easy to fall under her cooking spell. The tiny, twinkle lights covering her kitchen will entrance you. Nigella calls her cake a trifecta of aromas, with fruits, cinnamon and cloves. Fruit cake is edible Christmas.

The tart cherry juice in this recipe intensifies each dried fruit. You can substitute apple, orange or pineapple juice if cherry isn’t your favorite. Coconut flour can be crumbly so be extra careful when removing the finished cake from the pan.

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake
Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Makes 1 9” cake.

1 cup tart cherry juice for soaking fruit – I used Cheribundi brand.
1 cup currants
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup dates – about 10 dates – chopped
½ cup dried peaches – chopped
½ cup dried apricots – chopped
2 ½ tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ cup coconut flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
4 tbsp cacao powder or good quality cocoa powder
1 cup mashed banana – overly-ripe
5 eggs
1 tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil – melted

►Combine cherry juice, currants, blueberries, dates, peaches, apricots, lemon zest and ginger in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Then remove from heat and cover until all juice is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

►Grease a springform cake pan with coconut oil and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper too. Set aside.
►Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
►In a large mixing bowl, stir together coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and cacao powder. Set aside.
►In a separate mixing bowl, whisk eggs and banana with a hand mixer. Add in maple syrup and melted coconut oil.
►Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix well. Add in all fruit and stir until well combined.
►Bake 45 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
►Allow to cool for 1 hour before serving. Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

Stacked Pear Salad

Stacked Pear Salad

Christmas came early this year. We had a pre-Christmas celebration with my family in south Florida last week. It was 75 degrees and clear, blue skies everyday. My body soaked up the sun, the humid sea salt air and the therapeutic beach sounds. The hubby and I were grateful to be out of the winter chill and have a peaceful place to relax.

I spent a few Christmases down there as a kid, yet it’s still odd to see palm trees decorated like candy canes. Going from the northeast to the tropics numbs the holiday spirit a bit. We managed to keep the Christmas music playing as a reminder that it’s still December. I was so disoriented until I heard “White Christmas” playing.

The highlight was our special Christmas dinner, surf and turf style. We stood in line for over an hour to buy the perfect lobster tails. The guy selling them had a solo operation in a parking lot. Fresh caught in the morning and selling it all by noon. Word spread fast that he had the freshest seafood in town and we were willing to wait.

It was just four of us for dinner so I wanted to make this Stacked Pear Salad for a showstopper dish. We needed a light salad to begin our heavy meal. The tangy dressing matches perfectly with the pear’s sweetness. I baked the pears slightly to soften them a bit. Otherwise, I think they’re too hard to enjoy. Everyone loved it and it may have stolen the spotlight from the lobsters.

Stacked Pear Salad
Stacked Pear Salad
Makes 4 servings.

4 ripe Bosc pears
2 cups arugula
½ cup sweet onion – thinly sliced
optional: ½ cup Maytag blue cheese or goat cheese

Red Wine Vinaigrette
3 tsp raw honey
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

►Combine all vinaigrette ingredients except the olive oil. Allow to sit for a minute. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk together.

►Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
►Using a paring knife, core each pear from the bottom. Make sure to remove all seeds. You may need to cut a flat bottom to ensure the pear stands upright without falling. Slice each vertically into four sections. Then stack back together and place in a baking dish. Bake 7 minutes until just slightly soft.

►To assemble, place the bottom pear slice onto a salad plate. Top with arugula, onion and drizzle with dressing. Repeat until all sections are stacked. If you include cheese, you can use it like a glue to keep the sections together.
►Serve immediately.

Stacked Pear Salad