December 19, 2011

Lymph-cleansing foods

As winter sets in, it can be helpful to support healthy lymphatic function. Lymph is the colorless fluid containing white blood cells that bathes the tissues and releases toxins via the lymphatic system. 

Lymphatic circulation enhances immunity by: draining waste associated with blood and cellular metabolism; reducing inflammation due to build-up in our connective tissues. 

Simplifying your diet and increasing your intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables will support lymphatic renewal. Spices and vegetables that cleanse the lymphatic system include fennel, coriander, fenugreek, kombu or kelp seaweed (Laminaria family), burdock, turnips, mustard, and horseradish. 

Turnip soup with fennel and coriander
Cover the bottom of a soup pot with olive oil and slowly heat the oil as you are chopping onions.

Chop off top and bottom of two onions. Peel skin and slice in half width-wise.
Place two halves flat on cutting board and slice each one into thin crescent moons. Follow the ridges of the onion when chopping.

When oil is hot, add onions, stir briefly with spatula, turn burner down to medium-low, and cover.

Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons coriander powder
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds

Simmer for 15 more minutes.
Meanwhile, chop 4 turnips into small chunks.
Add turnips and 1 Tablespoon whole ground brown mustard.

Add enough water to cover vegetables. Bring both to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook with the lid on until vegetables are soft.

With an immersion blender or in an upright blender, puree soup. Taste for salt.

Pour soup into bowls and enjoy! You can garnish with fresh-chopped scallions.

Millet Fenugreek Bread
Fenugreek, Trigonella foeniculum graecum, is actually a legume native to Egypt and the Horn of Africa. Its bitter and pungent taste lends itself to the gentle sweetness of millet to create a delicious bread that also helps clear lymphatic congestion.

Dry toast 2 Tablespoons fenugreek seeds in a skillet.

In a mixing bowl, combine:
3 cups millet, freshly ground in a spice/coffee bean grinder OR 3 cups millet flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Add fenugreek seeds. 

Make a well in the center and add:
            1 egg OR 2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
            ¼ cup olive oil
            1 cup water

Whisk these ingredients together briefly, then incorporate with dry ones and mix until you achieve dough-like consistency. Knead with your hands for a few minutes then set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease 1 large baking sheet with vegetable oil.

Flour a large cutting board. Divide dough into eight parts.
Shape each piece of dough into a 2-inch disc. Place on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
Enjoy with soup for dinner or with scrambled eggs for breakfast. 

Horseradish Carrot Spread
Chop two large carrots into ¼ inch rounds.
Place in stock pot, cover with water, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil.
Boil for 10 minutes or until carrots are tender when poked with a fork.
Drain water and place boiled carrots in blender.
            ¼ cup olive oil
           1 Tablespoon horseradish root (freshly chopped or preserved in vinegar)
            2 teaspoons salt
Blend at highest speed for 2 minutes.
Enjoy as a spread or dip for steamed vegetables.

Nori Rolls
These seaweed-wrapped creations are excellent appetizers and serve as a fun group project.

Wash and peel 3 long pieces of fresh burdock root. You can substitute celery, scallions, turnips, zucchini or daikon radish.

Slice each root in half length-wise.
Cover the bottom of a skillet with 2 inches water. Bring to a boil, add burdock, and cover. 
Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, or until burdock is tender.

Open a package of nori wrappers. 

Distribute a thin layer of carrot spread over 3/4 of a wrapper. Place a piece of burdock inside and roll: start with the burdock at one end and finish with the part that has no spread. Wet this end so that it will stick to the roll. 

Slice each roll in half and enjoy!

If you like, you can make a dipping sauce by mixing:
2 Tablespoons tahini, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and a bit of salt in a bowl.

November 28, 2011

Recipes for Peaceful Holidays

Simplify your diet and ground yourself by cooking food ahead to have ready for yourself and your loved ones when you come home.

Quinoa “Stuffing”
You will need:
1 Cup Quinoa, Cooked 
1 Cup Celery, Finely Chopped (about 4 stalks)
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Minced
2 Carrots, Finely Chopped
1 Teaspoon each Salt and Black Pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 egg
1 Tablespoon stone-ground brown mustard


Prepare quinoa: rinse well through a fine-mesh strainer. Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, add salt and black pepper. Cook for 15 minutes or until the water is gone. Set aside.

As quinoa cooks, chop vegetables. Add olive oil to skillet. Add onions and sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes.

Add carrots and celery. Sauté for 5 more minutes.

Turn off heat. Add quinoa, minced parsley, and vinegar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil.

Whisk egg, mustard and 1/4 cup water together.

Place quinoa in baking dish. Pour egg mixture over it and bake for 15 minutes.

White bean or turkey stew with root vegetables 
You will need:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 stalks celery OR 1 small celeriac root, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 yellow potato, chopped
1/2 pound grass-fed ground turkey OR one 12 oz. can organic, salt-free canellini beans
1 teaspoon each: rosemary, thyme, black pepper
4 cups beef OR vegetable stock
sea salt to taste
In a soup pot, sauté onion and garlic 1-2 minutes on medium heat.

Add celeriac/celery, turnip, carrots and potato and continue cooking 2-3 minutes.

In a separate frying pan, heat a small amount of oil and sauté the beans or ground turkey until lightly browned. Season with spices and sea salt.

Add to the soup pot with stock and salt.

Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Savory Pumpkin Oatmeal Soup
You will need:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large pumpkin OR 1 can pumpkin puree
1 large onion, loosely diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp. each: cinnamon, cumin, coriander
1/4 tsp. each: nutmeg, cloves, allspice
3 c. water or broth
1 Tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame butter)
1 cup rolled oats
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop pumpkin into 6-8 sections. Scoop out the seeds and set them aside.
Place in a soup pot with 3 inches water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and steam until soft.
Run cold water over it. Peel off the skin. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep sautee pan.  
Add onion and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat until onion is clear and soft.
Add steamed pumpkin. Sauté for 7-8 minutes or until ingredients turn golden brown.  
Reduce heat to low, add garlic, and cook 10 more minutes, until vegetables are a caramel color.

In a separate soup pot, add 1 Tbsp. oil, ginger, and the spices.  Sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat, until the spices are fragrant.  
Add broth/water and vegetables to soup pot. Add tahini. Add oats.

Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered, until the pumpkin is tender.

Meanwhile, rinse pumpkin seeds and toast in a skillet with olive oil, cumin and coriander. Set aside.

Puree soup with immersion blender or mash with a potato masher.   
Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.


November 6, 2011

Drinking Chocolate and Breakfast Spice

Santa Fe is a food destination, and its pioneers are constantly inventing delightful combinations based on traditional ingredients. While walking the sunny city streets, watching locust leaves turn golden and clouds roll off the snow-capped Sangre De Cristo mountains, I noticed a shop I have never visited before: Kakawa Chocolate House

Guadalupe Church
in Santa Fe
Stepping inside was like walking through time into a colorful and richly scented landscape in Oaxaca, Mexico. Altars honoring ancestors covered the mantle above the adobe fire place; purple, turquoise and gold depictions of the Virgen de Guadalupe made from thin silver adorned the white stucco walls. Without a moment of hesitation, I stepped up to the counter and started sampling their chocolate "elixirs", from pre-Colombian blends to modern European ones. Needless to say, cacao's unique flavor transported me to a euphoric place. 

Drinking chocolate is simple to prepare as long as you have the correct ingredients. For a simple version, you will need 85 to 100% bitter dark chocolate and sweetner. These chocolatiers use agave nectar. You can choose maple syrup or honey if you prefer.

Drinking Chocolate:
On medium heat, melt 1 ounce of darkest chocolate in a small pot with 6 ounces of water.
Once chocolate is melted, whisk it briefly. Add 3 Tablespoons sweetener and a pinch of salt.
Altar at Kakawa

Kakawa crafts combinations such as: red chile and rose; damiana and cacao nibs; caramel and nutmeg.

I can't help but think that this incredible drink would combine well with the sweet and spicy flavors of Northern New Mexico. I am proven correct when I take local ingredients to bake a chile cornmeal muffin. I visit the farmers market, where bakers are making delicious breakfast treats while signing up visitors for cooking classes. I gather some simple staples: roasted green chiles, mesquite honey from the hills above Dixon, New Mexico, and cornmeal from the nearby town of Chimayo. When combined and transformed through the oven's alchemy, these foods create a delicious breakfast or snack. Try them with drinking chocolate to warm your soul on a chilly winter day.

Green Chile Cornmeal Muffins

Dry ingredients:
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1 cup flour (rice, spelt, or whole wheat)
1 teaspoon each: baking powder and baking soda
pinch salt

Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup peeled, seeded and chopped green chiles (look for Hatch Green Chiles in a can if you cannot find fresh ones)
1/4 cup local honey
1 egg (or 2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds for a vegan version)
1/4 cup milk (almond, goat or cow milk)
1/2 cup oil (sunflower or olive oil)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
Make a well in the center, add the wet ingredients, and whisk them briefly.
Incorporate dry into wet and mix until just barely blended.

Pour into greased muffin tins or a loaf pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until edges are golden.

Take a deep breath and savor the scent of your food before you taste it. Imagine how you can taste with your sense of sight and smell before you sample a dish with your tongue. This practice will help refine your palate to choose your own personal flavor combinations.

October 31, 2011

Pinto Beans, Chicos and Roasted Chiles

Fall in New Mexico offers a delicious harvest. In this arid climate, local people have been growing beans and corn for centuries. The abundant desert sun also allows chile peppers, sweet yellow, mild green, and spicy red, to grow bountifully. Every Saturday, vendors from the nineteen Northern New Mexican Pueblos come the the Santa Fe Farmers Market to sell their produce. 

I had the opportunity to talk with a farmer who had just threshed his crop of pinto beans, sweet corn, and chiles. As I sifted my fingers through the bushel basket of beans, he shared his wisdom about ways to cook the pintos so that they grow soft and digestible while maintaining their shape. 

Here is my interpretation of his recipe for cooked pinto beans:
Chiles with chicos (left)
and pintos (right)
In a stockpot, place 1 cup of beans in 5 cups of boiling water; boil for 2–3 minutes, cover and set aside overnight. The next day, most of the indigestible sugars will have dissolved into the soaking water. Drain, and then rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking. Cook fresh beans for 30 minutes or dry beans for 50 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.

"We cook these beans with chicos", he told me, while opening a bag of smoked sweet corn for me to smell. The aroma, earthy and rich, tantalized my senses. I listened to his stories about the importance of preserving corn so that it lasts for the whole winter. First he described making chicos, sweet corn kernels smoked in their husks and dried in the sun. 

Then, he detailed the way to make posole, corn soaked in lime water and ash. This process, known as nixtamalization, is essential for producing whole grain dishes such as posole and hominy as well as masa harina, the corn flour from which tortillas and tamales are made.
Soaking the corn keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts B vitamins into a form that the body can easily absorb. It also makes amino acids and calcium more readily available.

Both forms of alchemy allow the corn to last for many months while creating a flavorful and digestible variation on this starchy vegetable.

Even though you may not be able to find chicos outside of New Mexico, posole is more readily available. When you have a winter day to spend at home, try this recipe for Posole Stew. It will take about 6 hours to cook and the final flavor is well worth the wait.

1 pound prepared posole corn, well-rinsed         
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 cups water
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 cups water, approximately
3-6 dried red chile pods, rinsed and crumbled
2 tablespoons salt                     

Place posole and 10 cups water in large stewing pot. Bring mixture to a boil at high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer posole for 5 hours. Add the remaining ngredients to posole and simmer for 1 hour. 

Whether cooking beans with chicos or posole, many New Mexicans add freshly roasted green and red chiles. Their spicy sweetness lends even more depth to these traditional foods. 

Beyond being staple foods of the pueblos in Northern New Mexico, beans and corn are both food and seed. Every time we save a kernel of corn or a bean, we create the possibility for another crop to grow next year. Beyond their capacity to nourish us with a balance of protein and carbohydrates, these delicious seeds also feed the soil with their bio-available abundance of nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium.

No wonder each pueblo offers gratitude for beans and corn in its traditional dances and speaks of their meaning in their creation stories. Make time to cook and savor the simple richness of these foods for yourself.
Roasted Chiles

Roasting Chiles

October 12, 2011

Harvest Moon Recipes

This full moon also known as harvest moon, the hunters' moon, blood moon, and moon of first frost. The last squashes and hardy greens are coming from the garden as crimson and gold leaves cover the beds, mulching the soil as they decay.Take time to cook simple, warm, and nourishing soups and whole grains. Choose as few ingredients as possible. Let them speak for themselves as you savor their simplicity with each bite.  

Pumpkin Paprika Soup
1 two-pound cooking pumpkin or Kabocha squash to yield 3 cups roasted pumpkin OR two cans of pumpkin purée
4 Tablespoons coconut oil OR butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
¼ cup cream OR ½ can coconut milk

To make pumpkin purée, cut a Kabocha squash or pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds* (an ice cream scoop works well), and place face down on a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees until soft, about 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then scoop out the flesh.
Freeze whatever you don't use for future use.

*You can save the seeds, rinse them, coat them in salt, olive oil, cumin and coriander and toast them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes. They are a delicious snack or a lovely soup garnish.

Meanwhile, chop vegetables for the soup.
When pumpkin/squash is ready, melt butter or coconut oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add all spices and stir briefly.
Add pumpkin purée. Add broth and water. 

Mix well with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender or a food processor. Blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. 
If you have an immersion blender, you can blend directly into the soup pot.

With soup on low heat, slowly add the cream or coconut milk, stirring to incorporate. Add salt to taste. 

Serve with biscuits or cornbread. 

Pumpkin: high in Vitamin A and fiber, this sweet, satisfying winter vegetable has a high carotenoid content, which lends an orange color and provides zinc to strengthen immunity and lutein to stave off free radicals that contribute to macular degeneration.

Kasha Biscuits
¾ cup cooked kasha (buckwheat groats)

¼ cup coconut oil OR butter
¼ cup ground flax seeds

¼ cup ground sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon each: baking powder, baking soda, salt

Place ½ cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats) and 1 ½ cups water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Grind flax seeds then sunflower seeds in a spice/espresso bean grinder until they reach a flour-like consistency.

Place in a mixing bowl and add the coconut oil OR butter, cut into chunks.

Add spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Incorporate the cooled kasha and then the lemon juice.

Drop mix in heaping spoonfuls on a greased glad baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges have turned dark brown.

Kasha: also known as roasted buckwheat groats, this gluten-free whole grain contains all essential amino acids (eight proteins that the body cannot manufacture), provides a complete protein source, and soothes the nervous system.

Millet Cauliflower Casserole
Pour 1 cup millet into a cooking pot with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and add 1 teaspoon each: turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt. 

Cook with the lid askew, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop one large yellow onion into crescents.

Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with olive oil, heat the oil, and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and saute for 10 minutes, or until onions are translucent.

Rinse and chop 1 head cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. 

Push onions to the edges of the skillet and add cauliflower.

Splash 2 Tablespoons lemon juice or white wine over the cauliflower, cover, and sauté for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and add a splash of water if vegetables are sticking to the skillet.

Once cauliflower is browned, incorporate with onions, turn off the burner and set aside.

Tend to your millet. Stir it as though you were cooking oatmeal. Add 3 Tablespoons olive oil.

Cook on low heat and stir occasionally until millet reaches thick consistency. Cook it long enough so that the grains break down but the mixture maintains a batter-like consistency. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Grease a 9x9 square glass baking dish. Assemble the casserole by starting and ending with a layer of millet. Alternate layers of millet and vegetables.

Bake for 20 minutes, until top has started to brown. Enjoy with grilled tempeh, chicken, or white beans and a bowl of soup.

Millet: gluten-free whole grain, rich in B vitamins and iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus; ideal for blood glucose control and weight management.

October 2, 2011

Warming Fall Foods

Celebrate the creative order of autumn. This season offers an opportunity to simplify our busy lives, strengthen our bodies with warming foods, and tap into the creative flow that arises from grounding and centering ourselves.

Try to take three deep breaths, in and out, before you eat a meal. Let go. Embrace the present moment. I try to remind myself that 'I am here, nourishing my whole being'.

Fall foods are sweet, earthy, and cooked longer. Focus on soups, roasted root vegetables, rice, and your favorite fats such as butter, olive oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil.

Try these recipes to strengthen your body and warm your spirit. Both recipes include immune boosting herbs.

Spiced Tea - based on a chai recipe
Tea Spices
Spice measurements can be approximated.
1/2 gallon water
12 whole cloves
20 cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
4 cinnamon sticks
6 inches fresh ginger root, chopped
pinch salt
Astragalus root slices

2 Tablespoons astragalus root 
4 reishi mushroom slices

Boil spices in water for 10-15 minutes. You can save some of this tea in the freezer if you like.

If you are ready to serve it, add 1/3 cup milk (cow, almond, or rice) and raw honey to taste. For a caffeinated version, add 2-3 Tablespoons black tea or 4 tea bags (try English Breakfast). Enjoy!

Chicken Stock

Place leftover bones and skin from a chicken into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. 

Coarsely chop and add vegetables: 2-3 stalks celery, 1-2 onions, 2-3 carrots. Add 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

You can also add 2 inches fresh ginger root to make a warming, spicy stock.

Reishi mushrooms
Feel free to add 2 Tablespoons each astragalus root and reishi mushroom slices to enhance the immune boosting properties of the stock.

Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours or so. 

Remove the bones and strain the stock.

Save the vegetables, puree them in a blender with olive oil and artichoke hearts, and eat as a spread on bread.

You can store the stock in the refrigerator for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Use the stock to cook rice, kale, or make soup.

September 19, 2011

Another Recipe from Sage Mountain

As Autumn Equinox approaches, I have the privilege of spending days at Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center to cook for herbalism students.
Last night's meal culminated in a spontaneous dessert creation. A student brought a beautiful winter squash from her garden to share with everyone. We cooked it into a squash custard. The simple richness of its fall flavors delighted everyone! Give it a try.

Squash Custard

Choose pumpkin or butternut squash. 
Chop it, scoop out the seeds and save some if you would like to plant them next spring.

Place chopped pieces, skin on, in a metal steamer. Fill the bottom of the steamer with water, bring to a boil, reduce to low, and steam for 15 minutes or until squash is soft.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch round or square glass baking pan with oil.

Once squash is soft, remove from steamer and rinse quickly in cold water.
Remove outer skin, and place in a bowl.

Use about 3 cups of cooked squash and add:
1 can whole fat organic coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cardamom, allspice
1/4 teaspoon each: nutmeg, cloves
pinch salt

Mash everything together with a potato masher until all is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk 4 eggs.

Add eggs to squash mixture, mix together, and pour into baking dish.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until custard has set.
Yum! Serve as is or topped with toasted pine nuts or pecans.

You can also use this as a pie filling. Just be sure to bake your pie crust half-way before adding custard mix.

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