Our Morning Tonic

Changing a daily routine is difficult. We’re still in the process of changing ours (up earlier, taking time to meditate, read and breathe), but as more and more time goes by the things that we try here and there have become more habitual. Our morning tonic was one of the first changes to our daily routine, and the benefits have surprised us. It is warming, hydrating and refreshing. It is the perfect fast-breaker and prelude to breakfast and coffee.

Last year, we started our day with simple warm lemon water.  After only a few days, the morning desire to have something fresh and easy on the tummy grew to something that felt more like a need. It was the sort of change we needed.

This year, we upped our game with the addition of freshly grated turmeric and ginger, along with  crushed cardamom seeds and a pinch of cayenne pepper. All of these ingredients alone are powerful antioxidants, but together they create a super punch of nutrition and flavor.

This warmly inviting tonic gently wakes us without the jitteriness that comes from coffee on an empty stomach. As the tonic steeps, we spend the time in quiet reading, meditating, and journaling before starting our day. The tea itself is refreshing, comforting, and spicy first thing in the morning. It’s also great anytime you feel under the weather or hungover. The concoction gently wakes the body and senses. We feel more awake after a mug of tonic then we would had we gone straight to a cup of coffee right out of bed. Of course, coffee comes next in our daily routine, (the preparation for a cup of coffee is worthy of its own post).

If you can’t find fresh turmeric root in your local market, there is no shame in using the dried variety. But be sure to use fresh squeezed lemon juice and fresh grated ginger root. Both are easily sourced from your local supermarket. The processed stuff will never taste as good, or offer as soothing a start to your day, as the fresh stuff!

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Our morning tonic

  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1-3 teaspoons freshly grated turmeric
  • 1-3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • Small pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cardamom pod, gently crushed
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (optional)

Add all the ingredients to the mug and with hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes before enjoying.

Cardamom Ice Cream

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Ice Cream w/ Pistachios

There are flavors that defy description because they are so unique to a single source and so unlike anything else that it’s virtually impossible to draw a comparison to anything. Cardamom is one of those flavors for me. Any attempt to describe it as tasting like anything else seems futile. I’ve read descriptors like “camphor” and “eucalyptus” and “lemon” and I suppose I can taste the eucalyptus in cardamom. It’s a sweet spice like cinnamon with the cool of mint but it tastes like neither. Cardamom is warm and intensely satisfying in its uses in both sweet and savory dishes. From chai tea to curry, basmati rice to ice cream, cardamom rocks whatever it touches.

Green Cardamom Pods

We had some heavy cream that needed to be used before it went bad and Jason suggested we make ice cream. I love vanilla ice cream but I wanted a little something more. Cardamom came to mind almost immediately. I found a recipe at thespicehouse.com that included both green cardamom pods and a vanilla bean – perfect! With a sprinkle of chopped pistachios, this beautifully flavored ice cream satisfies a craving for the exotic.

Cheers, Steve

Cardamom Ice Cream Recipe

2 cups whole milk or light cream

1 vanilla bean

8 whole green cardamom pods, cracked

¾ cup sugar

4 egg yolks

¾ cup heavy cream

Heat milk or light cream in a saucepan with the cardamom pods and vanilla bean. Bring to a gentle boil. Remove pan from heat and cover, allowing cardamom and vanilla to steep for approximately 20 minutes. Remove cardamom pods, split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into heated milk.

Beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow. Reheat the milk. While continuing to slowly beat the sugar/egg mixture, gradually add about ½ cup of the milk, enough to thin and temper the egg mixture, then scrape the egg mixture back into the milk and heat slowly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Don’t let the custard come to a boil. If it gets too hot too quickly the egg in the mixture will cook into lumps and the custard will “break.” Once the custard has thickened, take the pan off the heat and set the pan into an ice bath and continue stirring until the custard cools.

Beat the remaining heavy cream until just beginning to thicken and fold into the cooled custard. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is finished it will look like soft-serve ice cream. Scoop it into a freezer-safe container and freeze for another 2+ hours to allow it to harden before serving. Scoop and enjoy!