Desert healing with Dessert Medicine! Joshua Tree is home to many artists and visionaries, out in the vast landscape full of little creatures and interesting plants. Angela de la Agua has made her home here, in serene beauty and simplicity. I was blessed to spend a few days in her home and share in healing foods prepared with love, like fresh pressed juices, superfood cookies and simple and fresh veggie based meals. The food was delicious, and so full of nutrition. Thank you to Angela!!!
Food prepared with love is medicine for the soul. This is what keeps you feeling truly nourished and alive! Angela is the pure embodiment of this practice, and she shares her insights below with a nourishing sweet recipe.
:: What does 'Dessert Medicine' mean to you?
We live on this beautiful planet where there are an abundance of healing foods available to us. Every time we eat anything at all, it is an opportunity to nourish our bodies with the power of nutrient-rich foods that are loving gifts from the earth offered to us so that we can thrive. Dessert, which culturally has a deeply negative association in terms of being unhealthful or even ‘sinful’, can and should be an experience that brings both joy to the senses and joy to your body and spirit. What a wonderful discovery that dessert as we’ve come to know it can be made in a way so that every ingredient used is doing something beneficial for your body.
Dessert as medicine is a reminder that food heals. Sometimes we forget that we have a choice. We don’t ever need to put anything into our bodies that will bring harm within. If we know something will upset the stomach, why do we eat it anyway? There are ways to create celebratory sweets that not only bring a smile to your face, but create a peaceful, healing environment within. A true treat should be something that does your entire being good. Dessert Medicine is an awakening for people who experience it for the first time. Dessert (yes, dessert!) can indeed be good for you.
:: Why you are inspired to share Juice & desserts? And what is the Cycle of the Moon Cleanse?
When I moved to the desert five years ago, I surrendered myself completely to Spirit. I had no plans, no expectations, and knew only that it was time to let go of everything I thought I knew about myself at that point, and be open to the possibilities of life as they came to me. This openness guided me down the path of deep exploration of healing foods, raw foods, and juice fasting. I experienced (and continue to experience) profound healing in ways I didn’t know I even needed, which resulted in seeing my life purpose through my work with healing foods. I live this path with devotion, and it effortlessly comes through in all of my interactions with others. People are naturally drawn to my energy and ask for guidance, which is how I began to offer juice cleanse guidance in the beginning. I didn’t set out with a plan to do this work, it organically evolved as a result of staying present, staying true to my path, and by keeping my heart, mind, ears and eyes open always for guidance from Spirit.
I am able to easily relate to others in their search for the right foods to eat for healing, and offer a lot of compassion and patience with where they are at in their present journeys. I grew up eating the standard American diet, and all I’ve come to know has been self-taught and self-discovered over a course of 17 years. It’s taken my entire adult life to get to where I’m at now with food, which is a place of simplicity, peace, presence, and joy. I am in a constant state of gratitude, and this gratitude constantly moves me to share with others. I often take juices or raw treats or cacao beans with me when I leave my home, even if just an afternoon of errands, given the opportunity to share with someone. Those who come to visit me leave feeling nourished and restored. It is my joyful responsibility to be a source of nourishment for others whether it be through food or conversation or simply energy. Every interaction is an opportunity to share about the power of healing through food and juices. It is my intention to share what I learn about food so that others can become sources of nourishment for themselves and others.
Cycle of the Moon Cleanse is simply a practice of juice cleansing in accordance to the moon cycles. By navigating a juice cleanse that begins on the New Moon or the Full Moon, a direct connection is made between the body and nature. And by attuning the healing needs of body with the cycles of nature, we are able to dive deeper into the healing work, we are able to open more to communication from the divine.
By setting an intention around juice cleansing, and looking to the phases of the moon to determine when the moon energies will best support the healing work, many powerful forces come together, creating a harmonious container for self-healing. The deepest healing happens when we are connected to nature, still, quiet, and listening. This was one of my first and greatest teachings in my early days as a desert dweller. As my body fell into the natural rhythms, I felt how I was connected to nature, and understood how deeply nature supports and heals when you surrender to this great force.
This is a beautiful practice, and anyone can do this anywhere in the world. The nurturing Moon is the guide. Any kind of cleanse work will be supported, it doesn’t need to be just juices. I have intentionally navigated my own periodic juice cleanses with the New Moon for nearly four years now, and even when I’m not intending to cleanse, I notice how I suddenly have less interest in eating food on a New Moon. My body has adapted to this practice of cleansing and stillness, and knows when the Moon is dark even if I’m not consciously paying attention.
:: Can you share your daily rituals with us, and how you maintain balance while living in the desert environment?
My daily life is determined by my rituals. From the moment I wake at dawn, until the last moments before I fall asleep, I am in a state of ceremony, fluidly moving from one act of intention to the next. These late winter mornings, before the sun has even risen, I’ve already tended the fire, scraped my tongue, made the bed, had a glass of warm sole (saltwater infusion), and written down my dreams. My rituals consist of the more mystical (meditation, sun-gazing, smudging) to the mundane (dish-washing, drinking juice, feeding my cat, stacking wood). I have come to a place of intentionally engaging with all the needs of the day in a way that is always beautiful, peaceful, and purposeful.
I have specified places I enjoy my array of elixirs (sole, juice, cacao, teas) and my foods. I am intentional about moving the energy around my home inside and out, so that I am engaging with all parts of my space throughout the day. I create altars to honor many of my daily rituals, as a way to be fully present with these acts that nourish me. For example, I make herbal infusions every day, therefore honor that act with an altar just for this ritual. I have separate altars for my juice-press, for my cacao-making, for my bowls of fruit, for my teeth cleaning, for my fire-making tools…
Life is ceremony. There is no separation of the mundane and the mystical in my days.
Balance comes from being constantly aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle changes to each day as it comes. My life of ceremony is in constant flux, and I continuously refine the way I do everything. This prevents stagnant energy, and keeps me in deep communication with Spirit. I am always asking where to focus my energy for the day, I am always listening for guidance. The weather changes, the seasons change, some days I am home alone, other times I need to go into town or I have visitors staying with me. The energy in the sky changes everyday, planetary aspects affect me deeply. My body changes. Foods come into season, they fall out of season. I have learned the wisdom of letting go, releasing attachment to beloved rituals as is called for the present moment. Balance comes when instead of fighting change, it is embraced.
For the last three months one of my favorite rituals during the afternoon was the time I’d sit down at my small dining table where a candle flickered beside two wooden bowls: One large bowl filled with ripe persimmons to enjoy, and one small bowl that was empty. Quietly, gazing out through the giant window in front of me into the far-reaching desert landscape that is my home, I’d eat the persimmons one by one, always in a deep state of gratitude and joy. I would pluck off the dry four-leaf stem after each one was complete, then placing the stem in the small wooden bowl. By the end of my persimmon ceremony, the big bowl would be empty of the glorious light-filled fruit, and the small bowl would be filled with the detached stems. The closure of this afternoon ritual was marked by placing each individual stem mindfully upon the growing mound of stems planted upon one of my many altars. I kept nearly every stem from all the persimmons I ate this past winter.
When the precious persimmons disappeared from the farmer’s market, the precious ritual disappeared from my days. Suddenly space opened for a new ritual to come into my daily flow, which took time and listening to discover. And so it goes.
:: Are there any raw cake stories you can share with us, maybe your favorite flavor you've ever made and the process of making it? What made it so special?
My favorite raw cake recipe thus far is my raw Golden Milk Pie. It truly reflects my intentions surrounding food as a source of nourishment, healing, and divine deliciousness. Inspired by the traditional Ayurvedic tonic Golden Milk, I simply created a raw dessert using a similar anti-inflammatory spice profile, with a gentle cashew milk base. I keep it very simple, and use a nut + seed free crust so as not to overwhelm the body with too many dense ingredients commonly found in raw desserts. I believe these healthy ingredients should be honored by mindful use, as my intention with every juice and food creation is that it will bring the body healing, not to create distress on the digestive system. I have shared the Golden Milk Pie with many people who have sensitive digestive systems, and the feedback has been astoundingly positive. This is what I work towards, a dessert that makes people feel nourished, cared for, and happy. A dessert that digests well, that is joyfully received by the body.
Everybody has different needs, and I strive to make delicious, loving food that can bring happiness and healing to those with even the most challenging of food limitations. It is a great gift for me to witness someone glowing after experiencing the Golden Milk Pie, who previously hadn’t been able to comfortably enjoy a dessert in a long time. This gift is what nourishes me in return.
:: What is your creative process, how do you stay inspired?
I need only open myself to the beauty of the daily desert life for inspiration.
I feel the warmth of the rising Sun on my skin and it fuels my creative growth. I see the tiniest of spring flowers begin to grow through the desert sand and they catch my creative breath. I walk through the weekly farmer’s market in town and the vibration of joyful foods stokes the creative fire. I hear the gentle crackling of burning logs in my wood-burning stove and their song stirs the creative waters. I touch the scar left from a cactus spine on my hand and it speaks to my creative spirit.
:: What one word best describes your relationship to self?
>> Words from Angela on the Desert & Her Recipe <<
Dessert in the Desert
The desert nourishes us with its wide-open space, abundant sunshine, clean air, sacred stillness, starry skies, and grounding energy. This land has many gifts to offer, and contrary to the belief that the desert is barren and desolate, an abundance of plants, flowers, and trees grow through the sand, many with medicinal properties. Desert dwellers are blessed with the infinite healing energy available to us every single day. Simply a barefoot walk in the sand is grounding desert medicine. There is much to be grateful for here in my desert home.
This dessert is inspired by the gifts of the desert, using ingredients mostly found in Joshua Tree and surrounding areas. Chia plants and mesquite trees grow here (just outside my window in fact). Robust rosemary is an herb commonly grown by desert people. Many visitors are surprised at the variety of foods grown in desert gardens, and gifted lemons from neighbors’ trees are just one type of fruit that appears on my doorstep every so often. Just an hour away, an abundance of date farms generously produce incredibly fresh, juicy dates. A local beekeeper provides honey that he sources within a couple of hours of Joshua Tree while his own bees are not producing enough to share. The delicious sunflower seeds I use are lovingly sprouted and roasted by a dear friend who lives nearby, available for sale in our local health foods store. And tahini, the earthy base for this nourishing treat, though not from this desert originates from the Middle Eastern desert.
The desert nourishes our minds, hearts, and souls, and this dessert nourishes our bodies with the healing medicine of the desert, no matter where you are on this planet. These treats will ground you, and bring you peace within. They even look like the desert landscape, held in the palm of your hand. Enjoy the ceremony of creation, and afterwards find a quiet place to sit and partake of the sacred desert medicine.
Desert Medicine Balls
(makes approx 16 balls)
Measuring cups + spoons
Glass or ceramic container
1 cup Tahini
2 tbsp Chia Seeds
2 tbsp Raw Mesquite Powder
2 tsp Fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/8 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
1 tbsp Raw Local Honey
1 drop of food-grade Lemon Essential Oil
1 cup Medjool Dates (approx 9-10), soft and pitted (soak in water for an hour if not soft)
1/2 cup Sprouted Sunflower Seeds*
Before beginning any food-making ritual, take a moment to close your eyes and inhale deeply, grounding yourself in the present moment. Exhale. Open your eyes and look around your kitchen with fresh eyes. Clear the space of clutter, tidying up and creating a clean counter space for your work. Pull together al l of the ingredients you’ll need on the counter. Light a candle and place it within sight of your work-space, and burn some sage to clear the energy before making your creation. Once both you and the kitchen feel clear and relaxed, then you are ready to begin the ceremony of food-making.
(It is helpful to measure out the ingredients first, so as you go, you can easily add ingredients without needing to stop and wash sticky hands to open various containers.)
In a mixing bowl, combine the tahini, honey, chia seeds, mesquite powder, minced rosemary, pink salt, and the single drop of lemon essential oil. Mix well with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Set the bowl aside, and prepare your dates by draining them (if being soaked), and pitting them.
After pitting your dates, form a hand-made date paste simply by kneading the dates together in your hands until a thick, sticky paste forms. (It might help to roughly chop the dates first before kneading them together.)
Add the date paste to the mixing bowl, and get your hands into the desert medicine batter, mixing it all together. Continuously move the batter through your fingers incorporating the ingredients together well. Your hands will be sticky, your heart will be happy, your face will be smiling. It’s good medicine to connect with food in such a basic and intimate way. This is the optimal time to infuse your creation with loving intentions. Think of the beauty of the desert, think of the nourishment these nutrient-dense foods will bring you and your loved ones. Once the dates are well-immersed, add in the sunflower seeds. Continue to mix with your hands until the sunflower seeds are held tightly by the desert earth mixture.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture and roll it into a ball in your hands, about 1.5 inches in diameter. Place the balls onto a glass or ceramic dish as you go. Once the balls are complete, you can either enjoy the grounding desert medicine right away, or cover the dish and place into the freezer to set for about half an hour or more. (You might need to set them first if your mixture is on the wetter side.) You should be able to enjoy these right out of the freezer. Store the Desert Medicine Balls covered in the fridge (short term) or freezer (long term).
After you’ve finished, take another deep inhalation, and exhale. Smile at the mess made on the counter, and joyfully begin the ritual of washing the dishes. Be grateful for this gift of food, this gift of creation. Be grateful for the beautiful mess made from your ceremony. Wash the dishes lovingly and promptly, as a way to honor the closure of your time immersed in connection with nourishing foods of the desert.
* My favorite sprouted sunflower seeds are Ceremonial Seeds de Cielito, made with love by my dear friend Kristen here in Joshua Tree. You can order from her directly at email@example.com, or make your own by soaking raw sunflower seeds for 2 hours, then dehydrating until dry, or roasted in your oven at the lowest temperature.