December 24, 2015

Mindful Cooking

During the fullness of life, sometimes it takes a little extra patience to relax and be present what we are doing - no distractions. 

Cooking provides the perfect opportunity to slow down and enjoy the moment. Try this practice as you are preparing food for your loved ones.

Perhaps you want to try it while making the kasha biscuits and herbed green gravy below. 

Slow Cooking


Begin from the very first moment you place the water on the heat, or pour the oil in the pan. Listen to the sounds, the smells and the sensations.

As you begin to cook the various foods, notice how the addition of each new ingredient affects the overall fragrance of the dish. Allow yourself to be present with the different senses, rather than being lost in thought. Each time the mind wanders, just gently bring the attention back to these sounds and smells.


Try to be aware of how your mood and thinking change throughout the cooking process. Do you find the heat oppressive? Do you find yourself getting anxious trying to keep all the different things going at once, or confident and in control? Don’t try and change any of these things for now –- simply building up a picture is enough.

As you observe the mind, use the physical senses as a safe place to come back to when you feel the emotions running off. For example, rather than feeling anxious about feeling anxious, come back to the smell of the food. Instead of getting increasingly frustrated at feeling frustrated, bring your attention back to the sounds of the food cooking.

As you become aware of these things, notice where your mind wants to travel. Does it drift off to memories past, perhaps associating the smells with previous meals? Or does it race ahead to the future, perhaps imagining what the food is going to taste like? 

This doesn’t require any thinking, it is simply a matter of being aware. Being aware of the thoughts in this way will help you to get much better at the exercise, which, for most people, means enjoying a more peaceful experience in the kitchen.

Simple Kasha


Place ½ cup dry kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) and 1 ½ cups water in a stock pot.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency.

Serve with scrambled eggs, roasted roots, or greens and beans.

Kasha Biscuits


You will need:
1 cup cooked kasha
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup ground sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Place ½ cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats) and 2 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.

In a bowl, mix olive oil, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Incorporate the cooled kasha and then the lemon juice.

Drop mix in heaping spoonfuls on a greased baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges have turned dark brown. Enjoy with butter or gravy.

Herbed Green Gravy


You will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each: dried rosemary and thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
1/4 cup oat flour
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup kale, chopped

Heat oil over medium in a medium pot. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened and translucent. Stir frequently. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and pepper.

Add the soy or Bragg’s then stir in the oat flour. Stir until a paste forms and let cook for about 1 minute.

Add a few splashes of the broth. Let cook for 2 minutes then pour in the rest of the broth.

Whisk until well combined.

Add the kale.

Bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat for about 5-8 minutes to further thicken. Stir before serving. For smooth gravy, pour into a blender and blend until fully smooth.


December 22, 2015

Birthday Cake Recipe from Morocco

My birthday is December 20th, which is very close to Winter Solstice. I honor this time of rest, darkness, short days and long nights. It feels like a privilege to be born at this time of year when so many cultures celebrate the little spark of light inside that keeps the soul alive and thriving throughout difficult times.

One thing that nourishes me during this time is preparing simple sweets that are both delicious and wholesome. This year, I made my own birthday cake, which was a delight.

I adapted this traditional North African recipe to include some Vermont ingredients. Try to make it at home! It would make a lovely addition to a holiday brunch or a New Year's party.

Lemon Rosewater Coconut Cake


For the cake:
2 eggs
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 can (7 ounces) organic, unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups rice flour

Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup shredded coconut

For the glaze:
1/2 can (7 ounces) organic, unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons rose water
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Oil a cake pan with olive oil.

Place all cake ingredients in a blender or food processor in the order listed. Omit the zest and shredded coconut.
Blend well.
Add in the zest and shredded coconut. Mix gently by hand.
Pour into cake pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife tests clean when inserted.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.
Place all ingredients in a small pot and heat to a simmer.
Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to half the volume.
This will take about five minutes.
Set aside and spread over cake once it comes out of the oven.

Cool the cake slightly before slicing. Divine!



December 7, 2015

Baked Latkes

In honor of Hanukkah's beginning at sun down last night, I offer a lighter version of latkes with a few variations.

This festival of the Jewish tradition lasts for 8 nights and 8 days. The word 'hanukkah' means 'to dedicate', and honors the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem.

Many light candles in the evening and welcome in the light during this time when nights grow dark so early. Bring light and delight into your home with this delicious traditional dish.


Latkes

You will need:
1 pound potatoes, grated
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon each: black pepper and salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Peel potatoes and grate coarsely.
You can either grate by hand or with the grater attachment of a food processor.

Place grated potatoes in cold water until they are all grated.
Drain the water and mix potatoes with all the other ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease 2 cookie sheets with olive oil.

Place latkes on sheets and bake for 15 minutes.


Accompaniments: sour cream, sauerkraut, applesauce

Variations:
Use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes - in this case, omit the carrots.
Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped and 1 carrot, grated

November 30, 2015

Pears for Healthy Digestion

Dry weather and oily, rich winter foods can cause constipation, gas and bloating. If your digestion suffers in the winter because the air is so dry and the meals are heavier, pears are a perfect antidote.

Pears are loaded with flavonols, plant nutrients that provide anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant support. They are high in pectin, a sugar loaded with galacturonic acid, which coats and soothes the intestines to reduce symptoms of heartburn, ulcers, GERD, acid reflux, and colitis. Pear fibers bind with bile acid in the intestines, making them soothing and easily digestible. They are an important part of a low-allergy diet and. In my native Italy, they are one of the first foods given to infants.

These recipes also feature cardamom and olive oil, both of which support digestion in crucial ways.

Cardamom is a fragrant and floral spice native to Southeast Asia that reduces gas and bloating. Its warming and soothing quality makes it a perfect pairing to pears.

Olive oil is a polyunsaturated fat that hails from various parts of the world, including Greece, Syria, and Italy. First cold press olive oil is high in anti-inflammatory polyphenols, which reduce risk of heart disease, maintain a balanced cholesterol profile, and reduce the overgrowth of ulcer-inducing helicobacter pylori bacteria in the intestines. 

Pear, Almond, and Chocolate Muffins


These delicious muffins are more like dessert. They are gluten-free, (almost) dairy-free, and free of refined cane/beet sugar (adapted from the Five and Spice blog).

You will need:
2 cups almond flour (I like Bob's Red Mill brand or you can make your own in a food processor)
½ cup rolled oats (replace this with more almond flour if you want grain-free muffins)
a pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon each: nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup chopped dark chocolate
1 small pear, diced into little pieces

Heat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin pan with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, stir together the almond flour, oats, spices, and salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the maple, oil, coconut milk, vanilla, and egg. 

Whisk these together and then fold dry ingredients into wet until mostly smooth and fully combined.
Add the chopped chocolate and pear at the end. 

Spoon the batter into muffin tins, filling each cup almost to the top.

Bake until brown and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes. 
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing and serving.

These muffins are best eaten the day they are made.

Pear Almond Cake


This light, fluffy tart is a wonderful brunch addition or a simple treat to serve at the end of a holiday meal.

You will need:
2 cups almond flours
1/2 cup oat flour (buy flour or make it by grinding rolled oats in your blender or food processor)
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon and cardamom
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
1 pound Anjou pears
lemon juice and water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9 inch pie plate or cast iron skillet with olive oil.

Slice pears in half, core them, and then slice each half into about 3 smaller slices.
Place these slices them in a bowl of lemon juice and water to keep them from browning. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flours and spices. 
Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients, minus the pears. Whisk these together, then incorporate them with the dry ingredients. 

Pour batter into greased pan.
Pat pears dry and arrange them in a circle over the batter.

Bake for 25 minutes and cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Would you like to learn more about which foods are ideal for you? 

November 25, 2015

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Trust me, I am a lover of turkey. We have the honor of roasting a bird raised by our friends at Tangletown Farm. These turkeys are a heritage breed that only feeds on grass - they are delicious. 

However, it can be nice to have an alternative to the sedating effects of the tryptophan in turkey. Here are some protein-rich vegetarian ideas for the feast.

Lentil Millet Loaf


You will need:
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, ground
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, grated
2 celery ribs, diced
2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup cooked millet
1/4 cup vegetable broth, as needed
1/2 teaspoon each: sage, rosemary, thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a loaf pan or 8x8 square baking pan with olive oil.

Grind the sunflower seeds into a coarse meal using a food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sauté vegetables in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add to the large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix and mash together well, adding only as much liquid as needed to create a soft, moist loaf that holds together and is not runny. Add more ground sunflower seeds if the loaf seems too wet.

Press mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or platter and slice.

Leftover slices of make a great sandwich filling.

Lentil Squash Soup


You will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon
1 medium butternut squash, baked
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and boiled
1 cup kale or Swiss chard, chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Place the squash on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake it for 1 hour, or until it is soft when you cut through it with a knife.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and bring them to a boil in a sauce pot with 3 cups water. Reduce heat to simmer, skim off any foam that rises, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Rinse, drain, and set aside.

Now, chop vegetables.
Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add diced yellow onion and vinegar and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add diced carrots, celery, and spices. Sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.
Add cooked lentils and 3 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and cook, covered, while you peel and de-seed the squash.
Once it’s peeled and de-seeded, add the squash to the pot.

Add the kale or Swiss chard.
Simmer for 15 more minutes.

Pumpkin Cashew Soup


Watch this simple video to learn how to make it!

November 19, 2015

Healthy Eating Guide and Recipes

As the days grow shorter and we spend more time inside, it's important to focus on healthy eating as preventive care. This is also a great time to enjoy foods that promote mental health. Here are some healthy eating guidelines to keep in mind.

Healthy Eating Guidelines


Eat 90% of your food to nourish your body and 10% just for fun.
Your eating doesn't have to be perfect, just look for progress!

Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. Eat between 9 and 12 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients such as carotenoids and bioflavonoids that protect us from cancer, heart disease, and most other chronic degenerative illnesses. Fruits and vegetables also provide us with fiber.

Choose organic and/or local foods whenever possible. The average American eats a pound pesticides each year, which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Organic and pesticide-free foods have higher levels of nutrients because organic farmers pay more attention to their animals' health and to their soils. Also, the mineral levels in local and organic food are twice as high, on average, as commercially grown foods.

Try to eat foods that are in season. They usually have the highest nutrient content and the greatest enzyme activity. Eat foods that will spoil. This insures that the food still has life in it. Packaged foods lack this nutrient-rich vitality.

Increase high-fiber foods--if you can tolerate them. Try to consume 20-30 grams of fiber daily. Richest sources are whole grains (brown rice, bulghur, millet, buckwheat, rye, barley, spelt, oats, quinoa), legumes, vegetables and fruits. Fiber protects our colon health, and reduces our risk or colon and breast cancer.

Eat high quality fats. Fats found in avocados, fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), nuts and seeds, organic coconut oil and olive oil all provide essential fatty acids. These crucial nutrients reduce inflammation, calm the nervous system, and improve joint motility. 

Eat breakfast! This practice jump-starts your metabolism so you feel more energized, digest better, and use your calories for energy instead of storing them as fat.


Try these high fiber recipes.

Here are some delicious desserts made with high quality fats and alternative sweeteners.

Healthy Eating Program


This holiday season, treat yourself or a loved one to two weeks of clean eating with recipes, meal plans, shopping lists and nutritional recommendations tailored to your dietary needs and health goals. For $39, I will help you develop healthy cooking and eating habits to last a lifetime. Learn more here.

November 13, 2015

Freezable Meals

I so appreciate all who comment on these posts and make requests for more. Your feedback lets me know that this information is useful and allows me to learn how I can best be of service to you.
Thank you!

Based on requests, here are ideas for meals you can prepare in advance and freeze to have on hand in a pinch. Because we are pregnant, I am starting to freeze meals for the time after the birth. Whether or not you are expecting, this practice is a great way to incorporate healthy food into your diet no matter the circumstances.

Holiday time often gets full, and there's not always time to cook whole grains, mineral-rich vegetables, and nourishing proteins. By preparing this dishes ahead of time and enjoying them during the holidays, you will feel better, help ward off the cold and flu, and enjoy your down time more.

To start, get all the ingredients for two or three of these dishes. Have enough containers to store all the food in the freezer. Set aside two hours of time where you will not be interrupted, Invite a friend or a family member to cook with you if you like. Put on music and make it fun!

When you freeze, make appropriate portions. If a meal serves four and there are two of you, split it into two containers. Fill containers three quarters full so that they have room to expand once they freeze. Once you are done, label containers with the contents and date. I like using masking tape and a permanent marker.

Remember to make a list of what's in the freezer and tack it onto the fridge. This way, you will remember to eat these healthy delights! The night before you wan to eat them, remove from freezer and place in the fridge to thaw.

Chicken and Quinoa Soup


You will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 pound free-range chicken, with bones
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger root, chopped
2 cups chard or kale, chopped
1 teaspoon each: coriander, cumin, oregano and salt
4 cups water
1 cup quinoa
juice of 1 lemon to finish

In a soup pot, sauté onion and leek for 15 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown.

Splash with apple cider vinegar.

Add the chicken and sauté on medium high heat, stirring constantly with a metal spatula, until chicken is cooked through - about 25 minutes depending on the cut.

Add the celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, and spices. Stir well.
Add the chard, quinoa and water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer, cook for 15 minutes, and stir in lemon juice.

Cool and store in portion-sized containers. This soup is a complete meal and serves four. 

Chicken Breasts Baked in Rosemary Lemon Sauce


You will need:
6 medium chicken breasts with skin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each: black pepper and salt
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup almond or cow milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place chicken in an oiled baking dish.

Whisk all ingredients together. Pour over chicken.

Bake skin side up 25- 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Freeze with wild rice pilaf in labeled, portion-sized containers.

Wild Rice Pilaf with Onions, Almonds and Peas


You will need:
1 cup wild rice blend
1 ½ cups long grain brown rice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon each: black pepper and salt
1 onion, chopped
1 ½ cups peas, fresh or frozen
½ cup organic almonds

Cook rice in 5 cups water or stock. Add a pinch of salt as rice cooks.

Meanwhile, chop onion and cook in olive oil in a deep skillet. Add water to prevent sticking.

Add salt, pepper, coriander and mustard. Stir well, close with a lid, and cook on medium low heat for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Once rice is cooked and onion is golden, mix them together. Add peas and almonds.
Stir well to incorporate. 

Freeze with chicken breasts.

Aloo Saag - India-Inspired Potatoes and Spinach


You will need:
4 medium white or red potatoes, boiled until just fork tender
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
5 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
1 pound fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Boil the potatoes whole. Run them under cold water once they are cooked.

Then, cut the potatoes into small wedges.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
When hot, add the potatoes and fry until they are golden brown, gently stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices.
Stir in the spinach a few handfuls at a time, until each handful is slightly wilted.

Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, stir in the salt and cook for another 5 minutes or until most of the liquid from the spinach has evaporated.

Serve with red lentils but freeze separately.

Red Lentils in a Spiced Sauce


You will need:
2 cups cooked red lentils
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch kale or collards, chopped
1/3 cup olive or sunflower oil
2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 teaspoon each: turmeric, cumin and coriander powders
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste

Bring lentils to a boil with 4 cups water. 

Skim off any foam that rises to the top and then cook for 30 minutes, or until they are reduced to a soft paste.

Meanwhile, chop onions.
Heat olive oil in large skillet.

Add the spices, stir and sauté on low heat for 2 minutes.
Add onions, stir, and raise heat to high for 2 minutes.
Add lime juice, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Chop greens and ginger. Add to skillet. Add water if onions are sticking to the bottom.

Add the cooked red lentils and ½ cup water. Cover and cook for ½ hour more. 
Freeze separately from aloo saag. Reheat separately and serve together.

November 4, 2015

Coconut Milk Brownies

Last night, I attended a pot luck and, as usual, decided to create an experimental dessert without following a recipe. I love the mystery and delight that arise through this creative process.

I knew that some of the potluck attendees are gluten-free and dairy-free. Others prefer not to eat any refined beet / cane sugar. I wanted to keep the ingredients list simple, so I created this recipe.

The more you cook without recipes, the more you will understand which ingredients combine best. Keep experimenting! Try these brownies and let me know what you think. The beauty is that they only contain 5 ingredients, most of which you may already have in your pantry.

Coconut Milk Brownies


You will need:
1 can organic coconut milk, full fat
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
2 eggs
1 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend all ingredients with an immersion or upright blender.
Oil a glass baking dish or pie plate with coconut or sunflower oil.
Pour batter into it and bake for 35 minutes.
Cool, slice, and enjoy!



October 15, 2015

Recharge and Simplify

As the first frosts decorate Vermont's gorgeous foliage with silvery lace, I am preparing for the colder months to come. This is the time to simplify your diet, walk in nature, and make sure that you are restoring the body's electrolyte balance.

As the weather gets colder, the air becomes more dry. This simple drink, a Gatorade replacement, helps keep me hydrated and boosts immunity, too.

Home-made Electrolyte Drink


You will need:
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons raw honey 

Mix everything together in the blender and store in the fridge for up to a week. Drink one to two glasses daily and enjoy after a workout. If you are pregnant, this is a great drink for labor. 

Why it works: salt rehydrates, honey nourishes and boosts immunity, and lemon and lime juice cleanse and open the tissues to absorb water.


Support Your Cleanse


A cleanse depends on your condition and constitution. You can learn more about tailoring your cleanse to your needs and dietary goals. 

Whether you eliminate caffeine, sugar, alcohol and gluten for two weeks or engage in an even simpler diet, it's important to support the nourishment process with lifestyle changes. If you are cleansing and simplifying your diet, create a soothing environment for yourself. 

Try to take time off of work at least 2 afternoons per week. Rest, practice mindfulness, drink a cup of tea, or write in a journal.

Go for a walk. Spending time in nature helps our body, mind, and spirit to release stress and appreciate the joy of life.

Surround yourself with peaceful, nourishing people and settings. We are extra sensitive while cleansing. Try to keep your evening activities to a minimum. You will sleep much better.

Minimize stress. Here are five ways to de-stress in daily life.

Please be in touch with any questions you have. Be well and enjoy this day!


October 7, 2015

Firey Cider

I first read about fire cider in Rosemary Gladstar’s book, Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health.
Since this recipe has generated much controversy recently, I am inspired by friend and herbalist Sandra Lory to call it "firey cider".

Regardless of recipe variations, this healing brew needs to be free for all to prepare and enjoy!
Its antimicrobial benefits are vast. Take a few spoonfuls of it when you feel cold or flu symptoms coming on. Use it during acute infection to treat the cold or flu, and enjoy it as a salad dressing if you like. Be well and stay healthy with food as medicine.

Firey Cider
Please try to choose organic ingredients whenever possible.

You will need:
½ cup diced ginger root
½ cup diced turmeric root or 2 tablespoons turmeric power
½ cup onion, chopped
¼ cup minced or crushed garlic
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
Raw apple cider vinegar
Raw honey to taste
Sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

Add the ginger, onion, garlic, jalapeno and lemon juice/zest to a quart-sized jar. Pack them down lightly so that the jar is about three quarters full.

Use a fermenting weight to hold down the veggies/roots, or place heavy roots at the top so that they will weigh down the herbs (which float).

Pour a generous amount apple cider vinegar over the everything. 

Cover jar with waxed paper to prevent corrosion, screw on the metal lid, and place in a bowl on top of the fridge for at least two weeks. Be sure to shake it once a day!

When the cider is ready, shake well once again and then strain the roots/veggies using fine mesh sieve. Add honey to taste and store in the fridge.

Feel free to cook the strained veggies in a stir fry.

September 27, 2015

Fall Meal Plans

In honor of tomorrow's full moon, which will be very close to the earth and undergoing an eclipse, I invite you to simplify your diet.

Choose foods that gently cleanse the blood, like cilantro.
Focus on foods that support immunity, like cinnamon and garlic.

This shift, which you can make for 3 days, will set you on a good path to be well all winter long.
Here is a recipe to inspire you.
Click this link for a complete 3 day meal plan with recipes.

Quinoa Black Bean Bowl with Avocado Sauce


For the quinoa bowl:
2 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each: cumin and cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cooked black beans* (or 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained – I like Eden organics)
1 packed cup arugula
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

For the sauce:
One ripe avocado
4 tablespoons tahini
½ cup water
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
1 small clove of garlic
½ teaspoon salt
Lime juice

*To cook the black beans:
I like to do this after dinner to prepare for the next day's meal.
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 dry beans for 50 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.

To prepare the bowl:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with spices and toss with olive oil.
Roast for 10 minutes, stir, and roast for another 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take 1 cup quinoa, rinse it well, and cook it in 2 cups of water in a small stock pot.
Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until all water is consumed. 
Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt as it cooks.

Then, pulse all the dressing ingredients in a food processor / blender until smooth.

Toss the beans, quinoa, arugula, and sweet potatoes with the dressing. Enjoy!


September 14, 2015

Healthy Fats for Well-Being

Did you know that fat doesn't make you fat?

Weight gain occurs when we eat hydrogenated fats or consume carbohydrates without fat.

Fats are crucial nutrients that provide up to 10 kilocalories per gram of energy, compared with four kilocalories per gram from carbohydrates and proteins. Fats are not taken up directly by any tissue, but must be hydrolyzed outside the cell first.

When metabolizing fats, the body must use energy, primarily from carbohydrates, to produce energy.

One of our essential digestive enzymes, lipase, breaks down fat and helps us use it as energy. Lipases are produced in the pancreas and help digest and transport fats throughout the systems of most living organisms.

Fats come from food, adipocytes (fat cells), and some amino acids. Lipolysis, or fat breakdown, occurs in the mitochondria. Next, lipogenesis, or fat synthesis, takes place the liver, adipose tissue, and intestinal mucosa. The fatty acids derived from this process are essential for metabolizing carbohydrates and using them as energy.

When we support our pacreatic enzyme production by eating whole grains instead of processed ones (bread, chips, baked goods) and consuming high quality fats, we also help our bodies use fat for energy and neuro-endocrine balance.

Fat maintains cell regulatory signals (essential to combating auto-immune conditions), supple skin, balanced hormonal function, and healthy nervous system response. Without the presence of fat in the system, the body stores carbohydrates as fat because it does not know when it will next gain this essential nutrient.

As the days move towards fall equinox and we prepare for winter, healthy fats are essential to our mental, immune, and digestive health. They are also anti-inflammatory and aid in soft tissue recovery.

Here are some of the health benefits of high quality, cold-pressed organic fats:

Olive oil: monounsaturated and liquid at room temperature, first cold press olive oil is high in anti-inflammatory  polyphenols, which reduce risk of heart disease, maintain a balanced cholesterol profile, and reduce the overgrowth of ulcer-inducing helicobacter pylori bacteria in the intestines. It improves calcium levels in the blood and enhances memory function by oxygenating blood.

Sunflower oil: this polyunsaturated oil is rich in vitamin E, which stimulates the liver rejuvenation and aids in nutrient absorption; its high magnesium content soothes nerves and muscles, acts as a diuretic to counter-act water retention, and lubricates the digestive system to aid elimination.

Coconut oil: saturated fat, solid at room temperature, is a plant-based alternative to saturated animal fats. It stimulates brain function and promotes intestinal motility; its anti-bacterial benefits make it an important fat to choose during times of illness or infection and is specifically indicated for combating intestinal parasites. Try these recipes using coconut oil.

Most of all, take time out this coming weekend to appreciate the balance point of fall equinox and rest easy in the knowledge that you are preparing your body, mind and spirit for winter with food as medicine.

August 6, 2015

Zucchini!

By popular demand, here is a compendium of zucchini recipes to fulfill the summer abundance of this
amazing food.

When I have too much zucchini, I shred it, put it in freezer bags, and freeze it for winter soups and breads.

Zucchini is a member of the cucurbitaceae family (along with pumpkins, melons, and summer squash). It provides a very good amount of dietary fiber (2.5 grams per cup); rich in pectin fibers to help regulate blood sugar; reduces inflammation in the cardio-vascular system and gastro-intestinal tract; rich in B vitamins.

Savory Zucchini Cakes


You will need:

1 teaspoon each: turmeric, coriander, salt
2 cups zucchini, shredded
3 Tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
2 eggs
1 minced garlic clove
½ cup cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a cookie sheet with olive or sunflower oil.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well.
With a soup spoon, scoop out cakes and place them cookie sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, flip with spatula, bake for 15 more minutes, and savor the results. Try these with quinoa pilaf.

Grain-Free Zucchini Blueberry Bread


You will need:
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup blueberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
4 tablespoons coconut flour

1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a pinch of sea salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Oil a loaf pan with sunflower oil.
Blend all ingredients in the order listed.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

This is great for breakfast topped with poached eggs or almond butter.

Classic Zucchini Walnut Bread


You will need:
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a pinch of sea salt


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Oil a loaf pan with sunflower oil.
Blend all ingredients in the order listed.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Delicious. Freezes well.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


You will need:
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/4 cups whole wheat, spelt flour, or brown rice flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Oil a cake pan with sunflower oil.
Blend all ingredients in the order listed.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

These make great cupcakes, too! Just place the batter in muffin tins instead of a cake pan. Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes instead.

July 29, 2015

Summer Meal: Quinoa, Grapefruit, Fennel, Avocado

Summer is here. Relax, enjoy cool, colorful meals, and take in the brilliance of the moon as it grows to fullness. This is the thunder moon, time of dramatic skies, electric lightning, and brilliant sunsets.
Enjoy these recipes and be well.

Quinoa Pilaf


You will need:


1 cup quinoa
½ teaspoon each: salt, turmeric, and cinnamon
1 cup fresh peas
1 bunch spinach
2 handfuls fresh basil, minced
5 medium radishes, chopped
1 bulk fennel, sliced
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

Rinse, drain, and cook quinoa in 2 cups water with turmeric, cinnamon, and salt.
Add peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, chop / mince all other ingredients and mix together in a large bowl.
Add cooked quinoa, mix well to incorporate, and enjoy!


Coleslaw



You will need:

½ head green or Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh dill, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced
1 bunch fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons brown mustard
¼ cup olive oil

Slice cabbage.
Mince the fresh herbs.
Place in a large bowl.
Wisk all other ingredients together. Pour them over the cabbage and herbs.
With a wooden spoon, bruise the cabbage until it becomes watery and all the juices from the sauce are incorporated.
Set aside in the refrigerator overnight for best results.

This dish is wonderful for a picnic along with hard-boiled egg salad and cornbread.


Beet and Grapefruit Salad


You will need:

1 pound red and golden beets
Beet greens

1 large grapefruit
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado

Chop and steam the beets.
Add beet greens on top during the last 5 minutes of steaming.
Meanwhile, peel and chop grapefruit and avocado.
Place in a large bowl with olive oil and salt.
Set aside.

Once the beets are soft enough to poke through with a fork, remove them from the heat, rinse under cold water, and place in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

Toss well and enjoy immediately!

July 17, 2015

Foods For Mental Health

At some point in our lives, most of us experience anxiety and / or depression. Here are some foods that can help soothe those responses and bring balance to the body, mind, and spirit.


Herbs and Spices



Chamomile Tea: Sip on this natural anti-anxiety medicine for its natural calming effect. This soothing, mild tea helps decrease anxiety symptoms in just a few weeks. Drink a cup after dinner. Sweeten with a bit of raw honey if you like.


Dark Chocolate: It’s true! The Journal of Psychopharmacology has published a study revealing that people who eat about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate (75% or more) per day, feel more calm than those who do not. Just be aware that chocolate does contain caffeine. Be sure to eat it before 3 p.m. to avoid it affecting your sleep.


Turmeric (pictured to the right): Curcuminoids, the antioxidants in turmeric, have a neuro-protective quality and help enhance your mood. These antioxidants are an effective option for major depressive disorder, which is closely linked to anxiety disorders. Cook with turmeric powder when you can and take a supplement to support your dietary intake.


Whole Grains



Oats: Oats are high in fiber to lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease. They ease digestive stress and support healthy transit time; enhance immune response to infection and stabilize blood sugar; calm and soothe the nervous system to alleviate mild depression.

Brown Rice: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recommends choosing whole grains such as brown rice rather than refined grain like white rice or flour to maintain a healthy body weight; high in fiber and selenium to ensure healthy digestion and mental clarity; contains phenolics, antioxidants that work to prevent disease and soothe the nervous system.


High Quality Meat and Fermented Dairy



Full-Fat Kefir & Yogurt: The gut is considered the "second brain" because it's home to 95% of your "feel good" hormone seratonin. With more than 100 million neurons, a healthy gut helps manage stress and reduce depression and anxiety. Bacterial imbalances in your gut can alter brain chemistry. Kefir, an fermented dairy drink much like liquid yogurt, is a powerful pro-biotic, which contains fat soluble vitamins A, D and K for brain health. If you prefer yogurt, choose the full-fat, unsweetened kind (I like Butter Works Farm or Brown Cow Brand). Add maple syrup and home-made granola for a delicious breakfast.

Turkey: this delicious meat is rich in tryptophan, a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which
helps you to feel calm. Tryptophan in the form of meat has been proven to reduce anxiety. Choose antibiotic-free turkey whenever possible.

Grass-Fed Organ Meats: If you eat meat, grass-fed, organic organ meats are some of the best sources of nutrients (like zinc and Vitamin D) needed to reduce anxiety. Liver is also abundant in B vitamins, which are needed for methylation, a metabolic process in the body that is responsible for balancing the hormones that regulate mood. Cook chicken or beef liver with onions and purée it in the blender to make a delicious spread.


Vegetables



Asparagus: This sulfur-rich vegetable also contains the specifically beneficial B vitamin, folic acid. Low levels of folic acid can lead to neurotransmitter impairment and cause anxiety. A 5.3-ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid! It also contains moderate amounts of potassium, which can lower blood pressure.


Avocados: These fruits are wonderful for maintaining balanced brain health, thus reducing the stress
that leads to anxiety and depression. They contain potassium, which helps naturally lower blood pressure. Avocados are also rich in beneficial B vitamins and monounsaturated fats that are essential for the health of the nervous system. 

Leafy Greens: Those who feel stress and anxiety can increase intake of dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale, and collard greens. These plant foods are rich in magnesium, which helps us relax. It also regulates the connection between the brain and endocrine system so that we go out of ‘fight or flight’ mode and into relaxation mode.


Fats



Inflammation is one factor when it comes to brain health and anxiety. Omega-3 fats decrease anxiety. Omega-rich foods like Alaskan salmon, grass-fed beef, chia and flax seeds, and winter squash can also help decrease inflammation and help cortisol and adrenaline from spiking.

Olive oil: monounsaturated and liquid at room temp., first cold press olive oil is high in anti-
inflammatory polyphenols, which reduce risk of heart disease, maintain a balanced cholesterol profile, and reduce the overgrowth of ulcer-inducing helicobacter pylori bacteria in the intestines. It improves calcium levels in the blood and enhances memory function by oxygenating blood.

Sunflower oil: this polyunsaturated oil is rich in vitamin E, which stimulates the liver rejuvenation and aids in nutrient absorption; its high magnesium content soothes nerves and muscles, acts as a diuretic to counter-act water retention, and lubricates the digestive system to aid elimination.

Coconut oil: saturated fat, solid at room temperature, is a plant-based alternative to saturated animal fats. It stimulates brain function and promotes intestinal motility; its anti-bacterial benefits make it an important fat to choose during times of illness or infection and is specifically indicated for combating intestinal parasites.


Recipes


Coconut Avocado Smoothie


Place these ingredients in a blender:
½ teaspoon each: cinnamon and cardamom
a pinch salt
½ can unsweetened, full-fat organic coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 avocado

Blend well and enjoy!



Vegetable Walnut Cobbler


For the cobbler:
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 medium zucchini, chopped
1 packed cups of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon each: salt and pepper

For the topping:
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: coriander, cumin, and paprika
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
5 tablespoons butter OR coconut oil
1 cup milk (rice or cow)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly oil a baking dish and set aside.

Pour the olive oil into a skillet and add chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add zucchini, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 more minutes Add spinach, turn off heat, stir well, and spread into baking dish.

Bake the vegetables for 10 minutes while you prepare the topping.

For the topping, mix all ingredients together except butter / oil.
Cut butter / oil into chunks in the mixture and gently fold together.
Add milk, mix briefly to incorporate, and set aside.

Remove vegetables from oven, top with clumps of topping mixture, and bake for 20 minutes more.
Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and enjoy!

GET CREATIVE: Use collards and sweet potatoes instead of spinach and zucchini.

June 13, 2015

Compassion, Mindfulness, and True Nourishment

We practice many things in our lives. From brushing teeth ans driving cars 
to getting dressed and feeding ourselves, life is a practice.

Some practices feel more practical. Others, like dance, music, meditation, photography, or art, feel more creative.
 
A practice starts with internal motivation to achieve excellence both for oneself and for the well-being of others. At its best, a practice generates compassion, love, healing and nourishment.

Choosing, cooking, eating, and appreciating food are deeply emotional practices. Be present with them to honor your heart.

Even masters who practice every day can gain new skills to engage with sources of nourishment and deepen their connection to present moment awareness and the satisfaction that arises from it.

How much time do you devote each day to taking care of yourself and accepting yourself, just as you are, without judgement?

What are the daily practices to which you devote your energy? 

I encourage you to lean into your daily practices with present moment awareness. 

When brushing teeth, be with that practice. You can even say internally, "I am brushing my teeth". This mindfulness practice settles the mind, lets thoughts be at rest, and helps us see that we are not actually more effective when we rush or multi-task.

When cooking, be with your ingredient. Appreciate it. Notice its qualities.
As you eat, pause between bites. Take a breath in and out.

Allow space to be curious about your experience. This inquiry will allow you to develop awareness and compassion for others, their mindsets, and their experiences.

It's a simple practice that can take you far in your own self-care.
Be well and stay in touch.

June 9, 2015

Defining a Healthy, Resilient Food System

This is my definition:

Health is a changing state of balance.

A healthy food system is a living network, non-hierarchical and springing from mutual agreements to cultivate health, diversity, equity, and economic balance.

Because everyone must eat to live, it must adapt to environmental, social, and political changes while stewarding the well-being of land, workers, production, and eaters. This food system is grounded in gastronomic traditions, small-scale farming practices, and the need to provide for future generations. 

Its respect for diversity of people, eco-systems, and choices ensures the best practices for cultivation and production in accordance with local need and capacity.

Connected enough to sustain local bio-diversity, cultural identity, nourishment, and sense of purpose, this system provides equal access to whole, contaminant-free ingredients.

When change occurs, the community-minded system, where everyone has a voice, can collaborate to make decisions based on the health of people and planet. 

How does the media define a healthy, resilient food system?

Mother Earth News shapes its definition around goals:
  1. Focus on community empowerment to grow food and seek out natural remedies to heal friends and family;
  2. Promote research in the field of agro-ecology in order to influence congressional farm policy;
  3. Sell publications and subscriptions to educate privileged members of the food system about gardening, natural health, and consumption.
Through their primary strategy of publishing research and education, this media outlet works to catalyze change among its readers.

I will be working to shape this definition for the Northeast bioregion during the upcoming Food Solutions New England Summit. Follow the efforts at #fsne2015

How do you define a healthy food system?

Please leave your comments here.

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