healthy drinks

Strawberry Lassi

Growing up, my relationship with my mother was far from harmonious.  We seemed to clash about everything: anything from curfew, clothes to taking summer school, piano – and oh yes, food.  From a young age I’d remember my mother telling me “You cannot eat candy or potato chips, they are bad for you and make you fat.”  So what would I do?  That’s right.  Eat candy and potato chips behind her back.

She was always nervous about my weight – I am a rather big-boned girl for an Asian but while I learned to embrace it, it completely geeked my mom out.  “You must watch what you eat, you big bone you get fat.” As she would scoot the fried dish away from me and smoothly replaced it with something steamed or boiled – “See, you mostly eat this and not that.”

I’d hate her for it.  I wanted to eat what I wanted, when I wanted without the pestering voice over my shoulder asking “SHOULD YOU EAT THIS XIN-XIN?”  Damn it, yes I should!  So from as early as I can remember until I was 18, my mom controlled nearly every meal I ate except for the occasional outing with friends and family.  She made sure I ate mostly vegetables that were both low in oil and flavor, we never had juices or sodas, and pizza night?  Forget about it, I never even experienced “delivery food” until my first sleepover in 3rd grade.  It drove me crazy and as I reached adolescence I started to take her pestering personally and began the downhill cycle of an eating disorder.

A lot of things were going on back then; my parents were fighting, I was still trying to figure out where I fit in at school, oh and the whole awkward puberty thing didn’t make matters any better.  My mother’s pestering soon became hurtful and her once “suggestions” became “attacks” to me – the only words I heard were “You’re fat.”   Combine that with the influx of magazines I’d read with the gorgeous leggy models and soon enough it became true: I’m fat.

I obsessed over every little thing I ate, or lack thereof.  I desperately wanted to be a size where my mom wouldn’t give me suggestions anymore – week after week, pound after pound, and before I knew it I was struggling to keep a pair of size 0 jeans on.  It’s the lightest I’ve ever weighed: 103.5 pounds yet it had to be one of the lowest points in my life.  I didn’t feel good, look good and was constantly tired.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I went into my mom’s room one night and screamed “I’ll never be good enough for you! No matter what I do it’s never good enough.  You think I’m stupid, you think I’m fat! WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?”  She looked so confused – “When I say you stupid?  When I say you fat?”  I didn’t realize it at the time but she really didn’t say those things, or mean them rather.  But her reaction made me angry; I couldn’t believe she didn’t know what I was talking about.  I left it at that.  I eventually got over trying to please her and with the help of friends I eventually maintained a weight of 130 pounds by the end of my senior year in high school.

Going to college away from home was a huge milestone for me.  It forced me to make my own decisions without the constant watchful eyes of my parents.  Most importantly I was free to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, wherever I wanted.  Think of it like a kid and his very first time at a candy store – I didn’t even know how to handle it.  Late night snacks at 2 am, breakfast and lunch buffets at the cafeteria, deliveries to your dorm room, my mother would’ve been appalled.

By sophomore year, I had gained a whopping 35 pounds -- my mother’s worst nightmare had come true.  I was officially fat.  What the hell?  How did it happen so fast?  Just yesterday I was fitting into my size 4 jeans and looking fabulous and suddenly I find myself trying to hide my muffin top as best as I could under the fold of my size 10 pants.  Freaking lame, all the pesky suggestions I use to hate hearing from my mother were suddenly ringing in my head again – “Do not eat those fried things!  Oh tsk tsk, fast food Sooooo bad for you.”  Okay mother, you win.

It wasn’t until I went back home to visit her a couple years ago when I finally understood why she always pestered me.  By then, I’ve reached a comfortable weight of 135, worked out 4-5 times a week and ate a healthy balanced diet with the occasional treat.  For the first time in my life she said “Xin-xin, you look good.  Mommy no worry about you anymore, you take care of yourself.”  I lifted my shirt to show her my abs – “What do you think of those apples ma?”  She shook her head and laughed.  She sat down next to a box of pictures she was organizing “Sit down, I show you something.”

She handed me a thin, worn down tiny album – I opened it and gasped: there I saw my mom, FAT.  Mind you, my mom has maintained her weight of 130-133 pounds from age 30 to 55.  She has never fluctuated outside of that range in 25 years.  THAT my friend is called magic.

“You see why mommy always worry about you now?”

I couldn’t help it, I had to laugh “Mom, you can’t even see your eyes.”

“I KNOW!  I so fat back then, I embarrassing. I don’t even like to show these pictures, soooo ugly.”

I smiled and kissed her – “You’re not ugly mom, you’re beautiful.”

“NOOOooo...” She giggled as she playfully pushed me away – “But seriously!  You see why I tell you you cannot get fat???”

It all made sense now.  She just didn’t want her daughter to be her old chubby shadow, why didn’t she just say so?  In every dark cloud there’s a silver lining, without this experience I would’ve never learned to be creative when it came to cooking healthy.  I would’ve never learned to allow myself to eat what I wanted in moderation.  I would’ve never learned the negative effects of being underweight and overweight.  Most importantly I would’ve never learned to just love my body for what it is: big boned, curvy, beautiful.  So what if I’m not “petite” like the other Asian girls?  So what if my arms are kinda big?  I can still strut my stuff like Beyonce in some 4-inch heels any night and feel just as sexy as Adriana Lima (of course with the help of my Victoria’s Secret Miracle Bra!).

Embrace your body for what it is, love yourself because you’re fabulous, and if you want a piece of chocolate cake at the end of a long hard work day, treat yourself -- but to a small piece instead of the whole dang cake.  I love this Strawberry Lassi because it’s not as decadent as a strawberry milkshake, but just as satisfying.  The tartness of the yogurt immersed with the floral cardamom notes and fresh strawberries, makes this the perfect, healthy drink to welcome the simply beautiful Spring weather we’ve been having here in Texas.  So enjoy this recipe, sit back and relax and think about the importance of living a healthy life through food, exercise and spirit.   You only have one life to live, let’s make it a good one.

Ingredients for Strawberry Lassi (serves 4-6):

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Total Cooking Time: 10 Minutes

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (whole-milk or low-fat)
  • 1 1/4 cup ice cubes
Purée strawberries with honey, cardamom, and a pinch of salt in a blender or hand held immersion blender until smooth. Add yogurt and ice, then purée until smooth again.  Serve immediately.  Feel free to garnish with honey, cardamom seeds or fresh strawberries. 

Spicy Hot Chocolate

The very first cups of hot chocolate was drank by the Mayans over 2000 years ago.  They ground cocoa seeds into a paste and mixed it with water, cornmeal, chile peppers and other ingredients.  The drink was also said to have magical healing powers and was heavily popular amongst the Oltecs, Mayans and Aztecs*.

For this recipe, I used the a fine quality cocoa powder called Valrhona --this cocoa powder is among the richest, darkest "dutched" cocoa you can find.  It is considered by many chefs and gourmands around the world to produce the finest chocolate that contains no added fat or butter oil, resulting in less calories than most chocolate.*
The best part about this hot chocolate recipe is that it's healthy for you (minus the whipped cream). With no added sugar or minimal fats, this deep-bodied rich chocolate drink will excite your senses and leave you feeling happily satisfied.  With cocoa being richer in antioxidants than even red wine and green tea, you'll feel anything but guilty for enjoying a hot mug of this hot chocolate.
For thousands of years cocoa has been used to treat fatigue, fever, diarrhea, chest ailments and several stomach disorders. Cocoa beans is especially rich in antioxidants called Flavonoids -- which are beneficial to arterial health by reducing blood platelet buildup and shielding blood vessels from free radical damage*.  It is said by heating the chocolate, more antioxidants are released and makes absoprtion easier for the body.  According to the American Assoication for Advancement of Science, drinking hot chocolate helps you think better too by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
Ingredients for Spicy Hot Chocolate: Serves 4; prep time: 5 minutes total cooking time: 10 minutes
  • 4 cups organic skim milk
  • 1/4 cup Valrhona cocoa
  • 4 77% Dark cocoa discs
  • 1 teasponn cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • cocoa nibs and whipped cream for garnish

Heat the milk in a medium suacepan at medium high heat.  Heat until milk is scalded or almost boiling, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the cocoa powder, spices and chocolate discs and let it sit for 1 minute.  Using a whisk or hand blender, whisk the mixture until frothy.  Serve hot and top with whipped cream and sprinkle generously with cocoa nibs.  Garnish with hot chiles if desired.

I love this recipe, I could drink endless cups of this hot chocolate -- the richness of the cocoa, the tiny bite that settles on your tongue at the end, and the cocoa nibs...YOU GOTTA ADD THE COCOA NIBS!  (I found all of my ingredients at Central Market).   So there you have it, I've found the magical drinks of the gods and it's healthy, packed full of antioxidants and ridiculously fantastically DELICIOUS.  Yep.  You're welcome :)