Dr. Japa K. Khalsa


Travelers have the opportunity to sample the unique local foods of an area and indulge while vacationing. We often hear people say, “I need a vacation from my vacation” when they come back from a trip because they’ve put on a few pounds and have worn themselves out in different ways. Why not try a lighter approach, and strengthen and fortify oneself with the power crops from the region you have visited? Instead of pigging out, just sample the unique foods and stock up on the actual crop instead of the “chocolate-dipped” version of a specialty food. New Mexico’s crops that appeal to tourists (and locals) are a great example of healing foods that nurture the body and mind, and usually come chile-dipped instead of chocolate-dipped. The magic of chiles, pistachios and piñónes comes from the wide variety of ways they can be served and the special invigorating properties of these unique foods from the heart of the desert.

Spicy Salsas for Happiness and Healing; Chiles

A tourist picking up a jar of red salsa to bring home to friends is also bringing a dose of happiness from capsaicin, the active ingredient in red pepper. This is such a hot substance that it has been known to help unblock depression and has been proven to help stimulate the metabolism. Weight Watchers lists chile as one of the best foods to eat for weight loss. There is also so much vitamin C in chile peppers (both red and green) that they are considered a superfood and give some people a “high” similar to exercising. Curanderas (traditional healers) in the area say that green chile is the antidote to chocolate cravings; so be sure to get both red and green (Christmas) salsas.

Pistachios: Crack Some for Nutrition

This specialty crop of New Mexico is a plentiful source of B6 vitamins that help with nerves, skin and amino acid formation. They are a trustworthy snack, especially if you choose the unsalted kind, or even better, a New Mexico chile-roasted pistachio. Full of fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants, they hold a place in recent studies as a heart-disease preventative. Pistachios can serve as a protein replacement on top of a salad or with pasta. They can also be blended into an amazing pesto to serve on lean meats, fish or pasta.

Pistachio pesto

1/2 cup of shelled pistachios

2 cups of basil leaves

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon of lime juice

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 pinch of sea salt (to taste)

1 pinch of black pepper (to taste)

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Add more olive oil if needed to blend.

Piñón Nuts: The Hiker’s Friend

The New Mexico hard-shelled nut from the piñón tree grows encased inside pine cones, and is a treasure trove of healing nutrients. Take a friend to a piñón forest in the fall and open up a pine cone to cull some of these potent and tasty yummies. It’s easy to hike for hours when these nuts are fueling the journey. Eating foods like this with plenty of monounsaturated (plant) fats can help satisfy the body and cut back on cravings for junky or processed foods. Piñónes supply amino acids, phosphorous and healthy fats. Eating fresh and buttery New Mexico piñón nuts is a far cry from purchasing grocery chain peeled piñónes shipped from China. The New Mexico piñón has a harder shell than other varieties but is worth the effort, as the taste is crisp and rich. Know your grower and purchase from a sustainable and local piñón harvester. A great contact is Piñón Penny, who has been working for 20 years to preserve piñón forests. Nuts from this company (www.pinenut.com) are so fres, they can be sprouted to grow into trees.

New Mexico Piñón or Pistachio Dip

1 cup of pistachios or piñónes

Juice of ¼ lemon

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon chopped green onions

Soak the pistachios or piñónes for 4 to 12 hours. Drain the water and combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth, adding fresh water as needed until creamy. Serve on top of crackers or thinly sliced zucchini, daikon radish or beets.

Raw Ravioli Pillows with New Mexico Piñón or Pistachio filling

Cut a zucchini, daikon radish or beet with a mandolin slicer or vegetable slicer into thin rounds. Marinate in lemon juice and olive oil for an hour or two, then place a tiny bit of filling on top of each round. Cover with a similar sized piece of vegetable and serve these “raw”-violis with a lemon and olive oil pasta sauce.


Dr. Japa K. Khalsa received a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University and completed her Master of Oriental Medicine at Midwest College of Medicine. She is a board-certified and licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and practices in Española, NM. 505.747.3368, drjapa@gmail.com, http://www.drjapa.com



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