Finding Food in the Desert

BY NANCY HALA

At some point during our week-long fast in the desert, the creamy vanilla body lotion on my bedside table started looking really good. Lying in my bed at night I’d pick up the jar and take big, long whiffs and at least once I had to talk myself out of trying a taste.

I have an interesting relationship with food, a relationship I was invited to explore during the six days that I was not eating at We Care Resort and Spa — a spiritual retreat and juice fast designed to cleanse your body, clear your mind, and restore your spirit.

We Care is a transformative experience. Built on holy land in the middle of a California desert, the place is alive with energy. Every sunrise and sunset feels like a message. Even the wind at night seems to carry some spiritual heartbeat. But the core of the experience is fasting. A chance to fundamentally change your approach to food. For me that means developing very different habits around food, like eating because I’m hungry, not because I’m bored or eating because I want to, not because it’s time to. It means thinking about the fact that each ingredient that goes into a dish goes into my body. Importantly, and I think we can all relate to this, it means eating the amount of food my body actually needs; in other words, less.

The thing about fasting is that anything you do put in your mouth – green juice, detox tea – is downright thrilling. It’s as if your taste buds had been deadened by all the salt, sugar, fat, alcohol, caffeine you’ve been guzzling, and the minute they have a chance to reset, even the humblest dish – a soup made of zucchini and water – is vibrating with flavor.

Every night at We Care, after a day of only juice and tea, we were given a cup of pureed vegetable soup. Believe me when I tell you it was a very exciting moment when the soup appeared. Back at home, I came up with two versions of it, with just a little more flavor and kick, but still – whole, simple and clean. A big bowl of this will leave you feeling satisfied, but light. It’s not a cleanse in and of itself, but it’s a good component of mindful eating.

Cauliflower Soup with Chives

SERVES: 4

TOTAL TIME: 30 min.

INGREDIENTS

2 large or three small heads of cauliflower, rinsed and chopped

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 stalks of celery

1 bunch of chives, diced

1 box of low sodium vegetable broth, or 4 cups of homemade broth

½ cup of nutritional yeast

DIRECTIONS

In a medium pot, boil the cauliflower, onion, garlic and celery together in the vegetable broth.

Add a bit of water if needed to cover.

Boil until you can insert a fork easily into the vegetables, about 10 minutes.

Scoop out the vegetables, and whir them up in a Vitamix or high-speed blender, adding broth from the pot as needed for consistency.

Once you have a batch that’s creamed, transfer it back to the soup pot and scoop out more boiled veg and broth to blend. You’ll do this a few times to get everything creamy.

Once all the creamed soup is back in the pot, add the nutritional yeast.

Stir slowly on low heat to dissolve and incorporate.

Stir in the chives last (and leave a bit to sprinkle on top of each serving).

Salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

SERVES: 4

TOTAL TIME: 30 min.

INGREDIENTS

2 heads of broccoli, rinsed and chopped

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

4 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 box of low sodium vegetable broth, or 4 cups of homemade broth

1 handful (about ¾ cup) of raw cashews

2 tablespoons white miso

DIRECTIONS

In a medium pot, boil the broccoli, onion, garlic and cashews together in the vegetable broth.

Add a bit of water if needed to cover.

Boil until you can insert a fork easily into the vegetables, about 10 minutes.

Scoop out the vegetables and nuts, and whir them up in a Vitamix or high-speed blender, adding broth from the pot as needed for consistency.

Once you have a batch that’s creamed, transfer it back to the soup pot and scoop out more boiled veg and broth to blend. You’ll do this a few times to get everything creamy.

Once all the creamed soup is back in the pot, add the miso.

Stir slowly on low heat to dissolve and incorporate.

Salt and pepper to taste.

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NANCY HALA

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