Lately, I have been eating my feelings…and am not even ashamed to admit it. Work has been a bit stressful, we have company over the house almost every week, and a restful sleep has been exceptionally hard to come by.
A little TLC is surely in order, but I am tired of feeling guilty for eating comfort foods. Yes, I may have a very tempting pint of chocolate ice cream in the freezer…but I want a comfort food that will elevate my mood, not my weight and feelings of shame. Which brings to me the humble blueberry:
Blueberries are a summer favorite of mine. I add them to my breakfast smoothies, sprinkle them in my yogurt, and pop them like candy during the afternoon stretch at the office. They are sweet and tangy and perfectly juicy, not to mention they are packed with glorious free radical-fighting antioxidants that keep our cells healthy. As if we didn’t need another reason to love this jewel of a fruit, there is increasing evidence that blueberries actually increase feelings of well-being and improve our mood. If this isn’t Super-food, I don’t know what is!
As incredible as these fruits are, though, I felt as if eating them raw at my cubicle with a plastic fork was not allowing me to get the full physical and emotional benefit as possible. How could I prepare blueberries in a way that would boost my mood while also being healthy enough to prevent regret and shamefulness and obligatory comfort food-burning exercise later? Blueberry pie was a no go. Blueberries and yogurt was not inspired enough, and I was in the mood for something warm…of course! My go-too comfort-and-happiness-boosting tool: tea!
The soothing warmth of tea already boosts the blues-busting power of this recipe: add sweet cancer-fighting blueberries, and you get something physically, mentally, and emotionally healing. Exactly what I needed. I have never been a been fan of tea bags. Growing up in an Indian house, we made Chai from robust loose black tea, fresh herbs and spices, and milk, and rarely used ready-made flavored tea from the supermarket. Now I use my wonderful loose tea brewer from Teavana to make herbal brews at home, but I have never before created a new flavor, or bothered to think too much about the flavored tea industry (apart from how awful mass-produced flavored tea is).
I wanted this to be more than blueberry-flavored hot water. With the heart-warming flavors of blueberry cobbler in mind, I added vanilla and spice to this recipe to give it a calming, therapeutic aroma as well as a dessert-like taste.
Recipe: Blueberry Bliss Tea
1 cup water
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon honey
Fresh lemon to taste
Start by tasting your blueberries (fresh or frozen will work). There are so many varieties, and each batch will taste different so it’s important to get an idea of how sweet or sour your pick is.
Next combine 1/2 cup of blueberries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. With a fork, mash the blueberries until the water is a violet color (see above). You don’t need to totally pulverize them because once the water starts boiling it will work on the punctures you make.
Add a splinter of a cinnamon stick (about the size of a paper clip) and the vanilla.
Once the water reached a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until the tea is a dark purple color, almost like red wine.
Strain and tea with a small tea or pasta strainer (note: the fiber of the blueberry pulp may get caught in the strainer slow down the process.
Stir in a spoon of honey, and if you’re blueberries aren’t too sour feel free to add some fresh lemon or orange juice. If the tea is too strong or potent, just dilute it with some plain hot water.
This tea has everything the best comfort food needs: nutrition, sweetness, an aroma that will make you think it’s Christmas morning, and of course…SCIENCE. While it is unsure whether blueberries themselves will be replacing Valium any time soon, the creamy vanilla scent and the zest of cinnamon enhance all the beautiful happiness juices of the berries.
I hope this recipe brightens your day and your mind!