March 27, 2014

Exercise For Well-Being

Exercise as is as good for your mind as it is for your body. When we exercise, we take the mind off of worries and concerns and gain a feeling of satisfaction.

Physiologically, exercise releases a whole cascade of mood-elevating processes in the brain. As soon as we increase our heart rate, endorphins—stress hormones that calm the brain and relieve stress—are released. Over time, exercise actually stimulates the birth of new brain cells and promotes their linkage to existing brain cell networks. By stimulating that new growth, exercise helps counteract the corrosive effect of stress and helps the brain to continually re-wire itself and adapt to changing life circumstances.

There are hundreds of ways to exercise. Find what you enjoy and make it a consistent part of your life. Whatever exercise you choose, whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or something else, enjoy it. Don’t force yourself to stick with an activity that seems like drudgery. Move on until you find something you love.

If you have chores to do around the house or homestead, consider this your exercise. Feel your heart pounding as you run up and down the stairs or carry wood inside. Know that you are healing yourself and fueling your metabolism with every step.

When we eat after exercise, food tastes more savory and we digest better because we are less stressed.

March 25, 2014

Shitake, Cabbage and Lentil Stew

Spring is coming! Until we can see the gardens from beneath the three feet of late season Vermont snow, we use the last of the root cellar and pantry stock to make soup that warms the soup. Try cooking it on the wood stove if you have one. Shitake mushrooms lend an extra hand to helping our immune systems stay healthy through this slow transition into spring.

Shitake, Lentil and Cabbage Stew
You will need:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium yellow or red onion, chopped
1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut in ½-inch dice
Salt to taste
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
½ medium cabbage, cored and chopped

a handful of shitake mushrooms, brushed free of dirt and chopped
1 teaspoon each: thyme, oregano, cumin, coriander
½ pound lentils (about 1⅛ cups), picked over and rinsed
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just about tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, shitakes, and cabbage, along with another generous pinch of salt. 

Cook, stirring, just until the garlic smells fragrant and the cabbage has begun to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add spices and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the lentils and water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, season to taste with salt, about 2 teaspoons to begin with (you will probably add more), cover and simmer 1 hour, until the lentils are tender and the broth fragrant.

Add pepper to the soup and stir in rice, or just add rice to each bowl when you serve the soup. Taste. Is there enough salt? Garlic? Adjust seasonings. Stir in the parsley. Serve, topping each bowlful with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

March 16, 2014

Cacao for Health

Drinking Chocolate at Kakawa in Santa Fe, NM
When I think of chocolate, I picture rich and creamy dark chocolate bars from Equatorial climates all over the world. Chocolate makes a great addition to savory dishes as well, such as the mole poblano sauce I enjoyed at Jardin Escondido in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. 

As this precious fermented food becomes more globally available, I remember my grandfather, who only enjoyed chocolate once a year on Christmas day. When I savor cacao, I try to honor its source and all the work required to get it into my kitchen.

Mole Poblano 
Cacao beans, once harvested, fermented, and roasted, are a particularly potent source of healing antioxidants. Georgetown University studies have also shown that flavonols, antioxidants found in chocolate, help lower your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and boost "good" HDL cholesterol. They ease inflammation and help prevent clotting and arterial plaque formation.

Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest level of cocoa flavonols and is the healthiest form of chocolate. Try to buy organic, Fair Trade–certified cocoa powder. Fair Trade certification aims to protect farmers in developing countries from exploitation by large corporations or from price fluctuations for commodity crops. In order to be Fair Trade–certified, companies are required to pay farmers a fair price for crops, enabling farmers to pay their workers a living wage, avoid using child labor and practice environmentally friendly farming methods.

Adding cocoa to savory dishes is a great way to get the benefits of chocolate without all the fat and sugar usually found in sweet chocolate-based treats.
Chocolate Chile Bread

Email lisa[at] for recipes such as: Black Bean Cocoa Soup with Lime Zest; Mole; Chipotle Chicken Stew; Chocolate Chile Bread; Slow Cooker Posole.

March 13, 2014

Millet Magic

As you may know, I am quite fond of millet. 

Cultivated in central Asia and West Africa for thousands of years, millet is a small-seeded cereal in the Poaceae family, the largest grass family, which gains its name from the Greek poa, or grass. This family includes all grasses grown for their edible seeds, such as rice, wheat, rye, oats and corn.
Click here for a millet 'polenta' recipe.

Although many of these cereals have become annual crops, researchers like Wes Jackson of the Kansas-based Land Institute are working to develop an agricultural system of perennial cereal grasses “with a yield similar to that from annual crops” (

Millet is a nutrient dense, hypo-allergenic, complex carbohydrate; offers a balance of B vitamins and magnesium to support digestion and balance blood sugar. It is useful in countering the mucus-forming effects of bread/cereal. 
Click here for an apple onion tart recipe with millet.

Some nutritional philosophies, such as Chinese Five Element Theory, tout it as ‘the queen of grains’. Indeed, millet is light, bright, and easy to digest. Incorporate this grain in your summer dishes to dispel heat and rejuvenate the digestive system.


You will need:
1 cup milk (almond, rice, or cow)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 cups finely chopped kale
1 cup finely chopped dandelion leaves 
2 cups cooked millet
3 large eggs
To cook the millet: 
Combine 1 cup dry millet with 3-4 pinches of salt and 3 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until water is almost absorbed. Stir vigorously for a few minutes to start making a porridge, as you would with oatmeal. Once all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and cover until ready to use (or serve).

To prepare the fritters:
In a large saucepan, combine the milk, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon of the oil, shallot, and sea salt. 
Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and whisk in cornmeal. 
Stir until combined, add the kale and dandelion, return to medium heat and stir for about 5 minutes until cornmeal thickens.
Remove from heat and stir in the millet. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt if needed. Allow this mixture to cool for at least 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to release heat.

Meanwhile, oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together eggs and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.
Add a pinch of salt.
Whisk into cooled millet/cornmeal mixture.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Serve with kimchi or other lacto-fermented vegetables and enjoy spring's coming.

March 4, 2014

Women in Food

March is Women's History Month, and I invite you to honor the role of women in food. How do you see this role in your life, family, and community?

Here are some accounts of women in food history from historian Alice Ross.

It has been suggested that the division of food responsibility was a consequence of women's limited mobility, resulting from childbearing and extended periods of childcare. In any case, their familiarity with plants and their own identification with creating new life (the male role having been as yet unrecognized) were undoubtedly factors in their monumental innovation, the formation of the first organized agriculture (c. 8000 B.C.E.). Women often cooked grains and vegetables, singing songs about the food as they prepared it as a way to bind family and community as well as pass on food preparation methods to children.

Evidence of the high regard women earned is reflected cross culturally in the stories of universal origin even up to and including subsequent patriarchal systems. For example, in ancient Greco-Roman mythology, the story of Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture and fertility, and her daughter Persephone (Proserpina) acknowledge women's responsibility for developing agriculture, the origin of growing seasons, and the agrarian skills that they taught people. In distant Mexico people worshipped Ceres' counterpart, the pre-Aztec Great Corn Mother known as Chicomecoatl; variants of her story abound. She is Earth Goddess who teaches how to grow food from her body. Often her body was sacrificed, as she demanded, so that her children could grow food on it. This is a constant reminder to her descendants to treat the land as their Mother.

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