Big Ideas or Big Trees?

I have always been a person who does things the hard way without asking for much help from those I love. I’m not sure why that is my reality but I have become a pretty fearless person living this way. I have learned to take great comfort in nature because it is authentic no matter it’s state. Nature provides an abundance of beauty, life sustaining foods and peace when the business of life overwhelms us.

Let’s consider the mighty Sequoia tree. This gigantic tree comes from a relatively small cone which must be exposed to extreme heat in order to open and germinate.

ImageThis small tightly packaged cone if exposed to the proper conditions will grow into one of the largest and most majestic trees in our world. So large, it is hard to capture it’s size on a camera without falling over backward from looking up into the sky so high!

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Perhaps a photo with my daughters standing at the base of this mighty beauty will give some perspective.

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So what is my point here? Well I liken the process of this tree germinating and growing to maturation to the process of starting something new. We must find our resources and expose them to the best circumstances in order to achieve what we desire.

I am in the process of launching a new business on health and wellness through nutrition. I am studying with people who are leading authorities in the relatively new science of nutrition. The Kushi Institute, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and tons of personal research are providing me with so much great information to share. I will also launch my website soon explaining in greater detail what I will be offering. I am taking the proverbial “leap of faith” that this adventure will provide support to those hoping to improve their health, while providing me an outlet for my passion for helping others. So far all indications are that this will be true as people at farmer’s markets, health food stores and in my cooking classes are also becoming passionate about how to eat well to gain or maintain their health. There seems to be a shift toward coming together to eat well and in some cases demanding that the foods we have available to us are the grown in the most healthful ways possible. It is a truly exciting time in the field of nutrition!

So the Sequoia trees are representative to me launching and growing my health and wellness practice. They stand together as I hope to with others looking for positive change in their health. It is my desire to provide the coaching people need to become mighty in their own way!

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I close with a dandy fall soup recipe that I think you will enjoy and guess what…it is oh so good for you!

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup

1 medium kabocha squash

1 yam

1 sweet onion

4 cloves garlic

2-3 carrots

salt/pepper to taste

cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (optional)

6 cups water

Cut the squash into quarters and scoop out seeds. Place on roasting dish and bake at 400 for 45 minutes or until tender. Prepare yam to be roasted at same time making sure to poke holes in it before placing in over.

While the squash and yam are roasting chop onion and carrots into small pieces and add to stock pot with minced garlic and some olive oil to saute 3-5 minutes. Add water and simmer for 30 minutes covered.

Once the yam and squash are roasted remove skin from squash and yam and cut into small bite size pieces. Add to stock pot and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 45 minutes covered.

Allow to cool or take great care placing hot mixture in blender. Blend to smooth consistency. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste this time of the year…simply delightful!

Happy cooking and remember:

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
Laurie Colwin

Be Well!

Food and Faith

Have you ever considered the role food has played in various faith traditions? Humans have for centuries used food in sacred meals and in some cases asked for a blessing at everyday meals. There is sacred fasting and sacred feasting in many faith traditions. Take for instance the Passover Seder, the Muslim tradition including both fasting and feasting of Ramadan, the Buddhist practice of Mindful Meals, the Christian Eucharist, the Sikh Langar and the Native American Corn Harvest Ceremony.

Food is the core of these and so many more faith traditions both for nourishment and for the symbolism of the foods. It is simply heavenly to prepare and offer meals to those we love whether for special occasions or for the joy of “breaking bread” together at sunrise or sunset.

ImageBreaking Bread with friends @ Michaum Point

I consider myself a spiritual person and so I love to read and research many things that involve our spirit, essence, soul or whatever term you’d like to attach to your deeper self. In fact, I have been invited to speak on this topic on Sunday October 6 at The Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield, MA. Since the invitation came I have thoroughly enjoyed researching various world religions and faith practices to learn more about how people celebrate their families, their lives and the beginning and end of the day. It is undeniable the power of food in our lives and it goes beyond nourishment.

I have also thought more about how I use food in my life as a means to speak to people and care for them. When my children were not feeling well my first impulse was to make them soup or tea so they would feel better. When a friend was sad I would invite them to come for a meal so we could spend time together and cooking something for someone who has touched my heart and I can’t find the right words to express what they have given me. The very practice of “breaking bread” is in my world sacred and loving. It is a time when we catch up with those we love and share our hearts.

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So as I rise and move through my day I am just taking note of how I interact with food and notice what purpose it plays beyond nourishment in my interactions with self and others. I invite you to do the same and to keep in your minds and hearts all those who lack food and other types of nourishment in their lives. How do we offer what we enjoy to those who have or experience less?

ImageBlessed Be!

 

Other places I will be this fall include:

The Pittsfield Farmers Market on 9/28 and again on 10/12 from 9am-1pm

Wild Oats Food Coop on 10/26 12:30-2:00pm “Cooking for Women’s Health”

Unitarian Universalist Church Sunday service “Food and Faith” 10/6 starting at 10am

Private cooking class at the Unitarian Universalist Church on 10/19 from 3-6:30 “Cool Kids Cooking Class”

Private cooking class at the Unitarian Universalist Church 3 Saturdays from 10/26 to 11/9 4pm-7:30pm “Healthy Holiday Cooking Class”

Wild Oats Food Coop on 11/16 1pm-3pm Healthy Holiday Cooking

for more information contact me at Leeyinger@yahoo.com

 

On Grace and Enlightenment

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Our true home is in the present moment.

To live in the present moment is a miracle.

The miracle is not to walk on water.

The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment,

to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.

Peace is all around us…

in the world and in nature…

and within us…

in our bodies and our spirits.

Once we learn to touch this peace,

we will be healed and transformed.

It is not a matter of faith;

It is a matter of practice.

                                                     Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

Pathways, Rivers, The Journey

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Just beyond this point across The San Francisco Bay on a clear day you can see The Golden Gate Bridge in all it’s glory.

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It is a chilly but sunny morning here in Western Massachusetts. Thoughts of beautiful pathways and flowing rivers were the first thing that came to mind as I lazily awoke to the crisp air this morning. These images were not of the local natural world but from past hikes in California. Muir Woods, Land’s End in San Francisco and The Bay Area are very much on my mind. That may have something to do with the fact that I am missing my youngest daughter, Hannah who lives currently in The Bay Area and possibly because I spent the day yesterday at a delightful wedding party of my dear friend’s son who also lives in The Bay Area. What ever the reason it is a nice way to wake!

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With the crisp air I find myself searching for one of those comfy long cooking meals that you smell all afternoon while it simmers. So I am planning to make an heirloom mixed bean stew with barley and loads of vegetables for dinner. I love making stews and soups that cook for long periods of time so we get to smell the mixed foods and anticipate the flavors. And there is always plenty left over for another meal on another day.

My heirloom bean stew will be cooking this afternoon while I pack my kitchen for the upcoming demolition and remodel that starts the end of this month. I am anxiously excited about this project which has been in the planning stages for over 2 years. Once the kitchen is complete I imagine spending time cooking wonderful new foods, enjoying lively conversations with family and friends, and embarking on adventures far from my soon to be cozy kitchen.

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Let me share the recipe so you too can explore one of those long cooked meals.

Heirloom Mixed Bean and Barley Stew

 1 diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced carrot

½ cup each of any other vegetable you choose

2 Tbsp olive oil

8 cups vegetable broth

1 cup uncooked barley (washed and pre-soaked overnight)

1 ½ cups mixed heirloom beans (washed and pre-soaked overnight)

1/3 cup crushed tomatoes

¼ tsp sea salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp each of following herbs: basil, oregano and thyme

Sautee the vegetable in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add broth and remaining ingredients bring to boil then reduce and simmer for 1 ½ hours or until the beans and barley are tender.

 These meals are like a big hug from an old friend or like when your heart just swells with joy at seeing someone you adore.

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Ahhh… such a nice way to start the day!

 

 

 

Fall Food and Beauty

The trees are beginning to change from the vibrant green of summer to the golds and reds of the fall in New England. I’ve come to find these visual changes in nature bring about a time of introspection for me. Maybe it has to do with the weather cooling, the crisp air or beautiful blue sky or maybe it is just the reminder that another year has come and is now going. Not sure but it is familiar and in some ways comforting…kind of like that wonderful soft afghan you wrap yourself in on a chilly night. What ever it is I am welcoming the change.

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I woke up this morning thinking about cooking a nice fall meal and I remembered that I picked about 2 pounds of green beans yesterday. So I’ll share a favorite green bean recipe with you.

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

1 lb green beans

¼ cup slivered almonds

1 tblsp olive oil

¼ tsp oregano

¼ tsp thyme

¼ tsp sage

1 clove garlic crushed

1 pinch sea salt to taste

Wash and trim green beans, then steam for about 3-5 minutes. Toast almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden stirring constantly so they don’t burn. Add the herbs and oil to the skillet and toss well. Then add your green beans to mix.

Green beans contain vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and calcium and potassium. And garlic is antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-fungal. It is good for respiratory problems and ear aches as well as acting to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Along with the green beans I plan to make a brown rice and red wheat berries and adzuki beans with squash since I have some beautiful winter squash to use. The last time I prepared the brown rice and wheat berries my daughter came home with photos of our resident eagle. He had landed along the shore of the lake and was watching her as she photographed him.

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Here are the recipes for the other dishes I mentioned in this blog.

Brown Rice and Wheat Berries

 2 cups short grain brown rice, rinsed and soaked 6-8 hours

½ cup wheat berries, rinsed and soaked 6-8 hours (red winter variety)

3-3 ½ cups water

Pinch of sea salt per cup of grain

Place washed/soaked rice in pressure cooker, mix in the wheat berries.
Add the water and cook over low flame for 15-20 minutes
Add salt and cover pressure cooker.
Bring up to pressure, then lower flame to medium-low and cook for 50 minutes.
Remove from flame, and release steam from pressure cooker or allow it to release on its own.
Open cooker and let rice sit for 4-5 minutes before serving.

Brown rice is high in vitamin B which helps to reduce depressive symptoms. It is also a good source of minerals and healthy fat. Great for we New England residents who will begin to see less sun as fall brings in winter. Whole wheat berries contain 12 B vitamins, vitamin E, protein, essential fatty acids and important trace minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. If you are sensitive to wheat make the rice it stands alone.

Azuki Beans and Squash – Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook

1 cup Azuki Beans, washed and soaked at least 6-8 hours

1 cup good quality organic Butternut, Buttercup squash or Hokkaido pumpkin, washed with seeds removed cubed with skin left on.

¼ sea salt

1-2 inch piece kombu

Water

Soak kombu in ¼ cup water until pliable (5-10 minutes)
Cube squash and set aside.
Place soaked kombu in bottom of heavy pot.
Add soaked beans with soaking water on top of kombu carefully so kombu remains on bottom of pot.
Make sure there is enough water to just cover the beans.
Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
Add the cubed squash on top of beans making sure the water is covering just the beans to set up steamer effect for squash.
Continue to cook over low heat for 45 minutes checking often to assure the beans are no burning on bottom of pot.
Once the squash and beans are soft remove from heat and serve.

Adzuki beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps to keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. They also contain folate, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential for a healthy heart. Adzuki beans are a good way to get B vitamins, including B6, B2, B1, B3, and folic acid.
Squash is naturally sweet and is a good source of beta-carotene and complex carbohydrates. Squash contains vitamins A and C, potassium and magnesium. It has anti-carcinogenic properties due to containing high amounts of pre-vitamin A and carotenoids.

So what are we waiting for…let’s get cooking!

Quote for this glorious day by Nancy Wood

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of Earth.

Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life even if it is easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand even when I have gone far away from you…

AND as my great nephew Cooper says….Peace Out!

On Nature…

On Nature

“To see things in the seed, that is genius.”
                                                               Lao Tzu

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
                                                               Rachel Carson

“Let my words be bright with animals,
images the flash of a gulls wing.
If we pretend that we are at the center,
that moles and kingfishers,
eels and coyotes are at the edge of grace,
then we circle, dead moons about a cold sun.
This morning I ask only the blessing of the crayfish,
the beautitude of the birds:
to wear the skin of the bear in my songs:
to work like a man with my hands.”
                                                               Joseph Bruchac

“The Earth is all that lasts.
The Earth is what I speak to when
I do not understand my life
Nor why I am not heard.
The Earth answers me with the same song
That it sang for my fathers when
Their tears covered up the sun.
The Earth sings a song of gladness.
The Earth sings a song of praise.
The Earth rises up and laughs at me
Each time that I forget
How spring begins with winter
And death begins with birth.”
                                                              Nancy Wood

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”
                                                               Maori Proverb

“In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
                                                               John Muir

“The Wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.”
                                                               Nancy Newhall

FIRE: the power of creation and destruction

The Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, a place of my heart and much of my youth are on fire again. Yosemite, and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir which provides most of the water for The San Francisco Bay Area are at risk of being badly damaged. People are being forced from their homes and the loss of wildlife is not measurable. Many very brave firefighters are providing round the clock efforts to tame this wildfire risking life and limb to do so.

This week I am compelled to dedicate my blog to the beauty of this region of the world. I ask that we all consider how we impact this planet every day…what care do we take to honor all that surrounds us?

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Valley floor Yosemite

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Mom and me atop Yosemite Valley with Half Dome as a back drop

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Hannah with one of the many water falls of Yosemite as a back drop

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Nature is mysterious, beautiful and wise. We are blessed to be included in the great web of all life and have a responsibility to be stewards of these gifts we have been given. We cannot live without them but they can live without us…humbling and true.

Walk gently and leave things better than you found them as you go