Tuesday, June 12, 2018

soul food: brainberry ice cream

i heavily relied on nutrition to support my recovery from panic attacks, insomnia, and severe anxiety.  and while i moderately enjoy tolerate my morning green smoothie with kale and mushroom powder, i wanted to find ways i could boost the mood power of yummy comfort food too.  as serendipity would have it, this daydream coincided with blueberry season.

so i concocted a mental health-boosting ice cream.

we all know that blueberries are the o.g. superfood: high in vitamins, low in calories, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant.  turns out that antioxidant mojo can actually clean our mental pathways, sweeping away debris that would otherwise interfere with healthy brain functioning.  blueberries have also been shown to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain which may help alleviate depression, especially in trauma survivors.  blueberries are also an excellent food to help lower high blood pressure, which for some can co-occur with or be a precursor for anxiety.

three brain-friendly plants provide extra emotional support here.  lemon balm calms the mind and helps relieve stress and anxiety.  holy basil (or tulsi) is an adaptogenic herb that can help regulate cortisol levels (adaptogens act differently in humans, depending on the need).  the scent of lavender is well-known for its ability to help us relax.

raw honey is used in place of sugar in this recipe.  in ayurvedic medicine honey is used to increase feelings of emotional and mental balance.

if you add chopped walnuts (either in the ice cream itself or as a topping), your brain is supported even more by the nuts' magnesium and omega 3 fat.

i'm not a nutritionist so i have no idea if the amount of these foods in the ice cream reach therapeutic levels, and i don't even care because it is just so good. it is sweet and tart and floral and delicious.   

any time i make homemade ice cream i'm reminded of summer cookouts with my family and friends.  it takes me right back to being perched on the edge of the pool, wrapped in a towel, feet dangling in the water, eating the amazing vanilla homemade ice cream my mom and dad used to make.  it makes me feel better.  i am a believer that food can help us heal from all sorts of human maladies.

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brainberry ice cream
makes roughly 6 servings

1 1/3 cups organic whole milk
1 1/3 cups organic heavy cream
3/4 cups local raw honey
2 tbsp. lavender blossoms
1 tbsp. lemon balm leaves
1 tbsp. holy basil (tulsi) leaves
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
small pinch of salt
1 egg, separated
1 cup blueberries (fresh or roasted--fresh will give you an icy bite, roasting for a few minutes will soften the berries and give you a purple-blue ice cream)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

1. in a medium saucepan combine the milk, heavy cream, and honey. heat until well combined and warmed through. remove from heat and toss in the lavender, lemon balm, holy basil, and lemon zest to steep. stir in vanilla and the pinch of salt.
2. chill the base for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
3. when you are ready to complete the recipe, strain the cream base.  separate the egg and beat egg white until stiff. gently fold into the egg yolk, then fold this into the (strained) cream base. churn according to your machine's instructions.  add the blueberries (allow to chill if roasted) and the walnuts (if you are mixing them in the ice cream) in the last five minutes of the churn.
4. transfer into a freezer-safe container, and allow to freeze  for 2-4 hours.

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i hope you make this ice cream and it makes you feel better.  please don't confuse this post and recipe with good, sound medical advice.  if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other mental or emotional challenge, please consult your doctor, naturopath, therapist, or nutritionist.