Puzzling Out Health

I love a good puzzle or maze especially if it challenges me to think or see things differently. I love how patterns, textures and colors emerges to create a larger picture from the smaller pieces.


I have been working on a puzzle which is a picture of many, many fancy doors from around the world. As I sit quietly searching for the perfect piece to complete a section of the puzzle it occurs to me that our lives and our health are puzzles as well. Now this is not anything Earth shattering but it inspired me to think more about how our emotions, our eating and our relationships are all so closely interwoven into the web of our health.

In my work as a Health Coach I carefully listen to stories of how people use food not only to sustain them but also to fulfill them. Some people struggle with finding the time to eat healthy, some with weight gain, and many struggle with body image. I lovingly try to guide people to their health through examining what they eat, how it makes them feel both physically and emotionally and how it brings joy to their lives.  It is my hope that in working this complex puzzle we can come to a place where the picture emerges more clearly and they can experience what they eat as joyful as well as life sustaining.

I like how Geneen Roth speaks about food and feeling. She suggests that limiting what and how we eat through diets doesn’t work. She offers what seem to be simple guidelines to becoming healthier and more spiritual in our approach to food. http://www.oprah.com/contributor/geneen-roth. While I agree in general with what she practices, I am also keenly aware that as with a challenging jigsaw puzzle finding the pieces that fit with your particular needs takes time and a great deal of patience.

Be kind to yourself and remember you are love!

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”

Mary Oliver

Health Coach Meets Coopers Hawk

I was driving behind a school bus this week heading to work, engaged in my morning breathing and chanting when I witnessed a Coopers Hawk fly under the bus. He was rolled over a before flying out to the side of the road. I quickly pulled over and put my hazard lights on the see if he was alive and needed care. As I approached I saw that the hawk was alive but clearly stunned…I mean who wouldn’t be after rolling under a school bus.

I wasn’t thinking about anything except can I help this beautiful creature. My daughter had witnessed a similar bird of prey, car encounter a couple weeks ago and found that a beautiful Bard Owl had not been as fortunate as this smaller Coopers Hawk. I gently smoothed his wings and picked him up to warm him a bit and assess his need. He looked directly at me as I picked him up and did not try to fly or bite…he was just assessing me in the same way I was assessing him. After holding him close and sensing he was stable I set him down on the ground. He looked a bit frazzled like this picture below (which is a juvenile Coopers Hawk) and was lifting each foot as if to see they were still attached. He shook out his wings and then looked at me again as I was crouched down next to him talking softly.

I was trying to determine if I should let him be or attempt to bring him to a bird of prey rescue center such as VINS in Woodstock Vermont. It was at that point that I said to him can you fly and like a fool showed this hawk what I meant by raising my arms as if to fly. He looked again at me and then flew from the roadside into the woods where he had a rather clumsy landing. I knew there was nothing else I could do as he had returned to his world…so I got back into my car and said a little prayer that he would be okay. I also said a prayer of gratitude for having received this beautiful gift to encounter so closely and intimately this bird of prey that I admire often in it’s natural habitat where I live.

What does the Hawk teach us as a spiritual guide?

“When you have the hawk as a spirit animal, you may have an inclination towards using the power of vision and intuition in your daily life. The hawk totem provides wisdom about seeing situations from a higher perspective, using the power of observation, and focusing on the task at hand. It’s a good companion to develop spiritual awareness.”

“Hawks teach us to look at a situation from a different perspective.  Hawk holds the key to higher consciousness and trying to bring certain things into your circle of awareness. Know that enlightenment is imminent.

Hawk often represents the ability to see meaning in ordinary experiences if you choose to become more observant.”

I encourage you to explore what you can do to help preserve these and other birds or prey. I love going to sanctuaries to see them and learn more. Vermont Institute of Natural Science http://www.vinsweb.org/ is one place I love to promote.

I am grateful for the experience and hopeful that my encounter with this beautiful hawk will inspire others to take great care in how we live with our animal brothers and sisters. We are guests in their world and are wise to tread lightly on this Earth.

Blessed Be

Thought for the Day


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 away from you…

Nancy Wood

Peace and Brightest Blessings

Gratitude for Grains

It’s one of those days when everything technical seems to be at odds with me. This is a common theme but one I’ve learned to just laugh about. The smart phones and smart cars sometimes are just smarter than me. So between the tech hurdles and the fact that it is raining here in New England where it should be snowing, I’ve decided to get out my favorite grains and start cooking.Image


I love millet and it is my favorite grain for breakfast. I made this very simple millet and corn recipe this morning and even though all things technological have failed me, my millet and corn did not. When cooking millet remember a little goes a long way. 1 cup uncooked millet will yield you about 3 cups of cooked grain. Though corn is difficult to find in a non GMO variety It is out there. The link below is one potential place to find it but also ask your grocery store or whole foods market to find it for you.


Soft cooked Millet with Corn – 4-6 servings

1 cup millet, washed and soaked 4-6 hours

½ – 1 cup fresh or frozen corn (I find a non GMO organic variety)

3 ½ cups spring water

Pinch of sea salt

 Place millet in a heavy pot, add water and salt.

Cover and bring to a boil

Place a flame deflector under the pot, reduce flame to medium-low and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

Add corn to pot and simmer for an additional 10 minutes until most water has cooked out.

Check the pot to make sure the millet is not sticking to the bottom or burning. Adjust flame as needed.

Benefits of Millet

Millet supports kidney, liver. stomach and spleen function. It is used for gastrointestinal irregularities and cooking it with winter squash increases its medicinal value. Millet is very helpful in regulating blood sugar and has been effective when used to treat thrush. Millet is also helpful in reducing inflammation and pain related to rheumatic and arthritic conditions.

            Millet contains all the necessary amino acids we need, it is high in protein, iron, phosphorus and B vitamins especially niacin. It is also gluten free and due to its high alkaline ash content it is the easiest grain to digest.


Picture above are at the far left Hato Mugi or Job’s Tears; top grain is Quinoa; right grain is Farro; bottom grain is Millet.

Another favorite grain for me is quinoa. Although it is technically a seed, quinoa is a fantastic side dish and can be used as a grain. Last night I made a very simple quinoa as a side for my maple glazed salmon. As with all grains I recommend rinsing well and in most cases soaking grains overnight. Quinoa does not have to be soaked overnight, but be sure to rinse it well and soak for about 20 minutes then re-rinse to assure all the bitter saponins are rinsed away.

I simply used 1/2 cup of tri-color (red, white and brown) quinoa to 1 cup organic non GMO vegetable broth. Place the quinoa in broth, bring to a boil, cook for no more than 5 minutes and then let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Allowing it to rest in a lidded pan brings out it’s nutty flavor and also makes it fluffy rather than sticky.

Other delightful and healing grains include Hato Mugi, from Asian which is also a seed, and Farro an ancient grain originating in Italy.

Hato Mugi is said to aid in reducing bloating, lowers blood sugar levels, enhances beautiful skin and has been used as a cancer fighting food. If you are pregnant or breast feeding it is not advised to eat Hato Mugi.

Farro is high in fiber and mineral rich. It can be used in the same way as rice and is often used by Italian cooks in their risotto dishes.

Here are some additional resources:

for Hato Mugi – http://www.kushistore.com/Japanese-Hato-Mugi-Jobs-Tears-GR002.htm

for Farro – http://www.npr.org/2013/10/02/227838385/farro-an-ancient-if-complicated-grain-worth-figuring-out

for Millet – http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-perfect-millet-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-185974

for Quinoa – http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=142

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”  Thich’ Nhat Hanh

Be Well and Enjoy

Warmth for Supper

My training in The Macrobiotic Leadership Program at Kushi Institute taught me about cooking for the seasons using local foods and the yin/yang qualities of those foods. My favorite meal continues to be Adzuki Beans and Squash with Polenta. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I’m Italian and Polenta is a staple grain in many Italian homes. I think it may be that the chefs at Kushi Institute just know how to make this meal taste wonderful!

polenta 2I plan to have baby bok choy along with the polenta which will be pan fried as described below. Let me share the recipe and some of the health benefits of eating this meal.

Azuki Beans and Squash – From Changing Seasons Cookbook by Aveline Kushi

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

1 cup good quality organic winter squash such as butternut or Hokkaido pumpkin, washed with seeds removed cubed with skin left on.

¼ sea salt

1-2 inch piece kombu


Soak kombu in ¼ cup water 5 minutes

Cube squash and set aside.

Place soaked kombu in bottom of heavy pot.

Add presoaked beans with soaking water on top of kombu, try to keep the kombu under the beans.

Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

Add the cubed squash on top of beans and make sure the water is covering just the beans so squash is steamed while cooking.

Continue to cook over low heat for 45 minutes checking often to assure the beans are no burning on bottom of pot.

Benefits of Azuki Beans * From The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia 

Adzuki beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps to keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. Lower cholesterol is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They also contain folate, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential for a healthy heart.
The fiber in adzuki beans helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly, prevents constipation and may help to prevent colon cancer.

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels also help to prevent and treat diabetes. Being diagnosed with diabetes means that your body cannot keep blood sugar levels in balance – the fiber and nutrients in beans helps to keep them at normal levels. The fiber in adzuki beans fills your stomach and keeps you feeling satiated longer. They are also high in protein which helps to keep blood sugar levels low and which, in turn, may help to keep weight off.

Adzuki beans are a good way to get B vitamins, including B6, B2, B1, B3, and folic acid.

Benefits of Squash * From The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia 

                 Squash is naturally sweet and is a good source of beta-carotene and complex carbohydrates. Eating winter squash improves our digestion, provides more energy and balances sugar intake healthfully. It is considered to be a chi tonic that is medicinal to the spleen, stomach and pancreas in some healing traditions. 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.

Pan Fried Polenta with Kuzu Mushroom Gravy – A favorite lunch at Kushi Institute

1 cup yellow corn grits

3 cups spring or well water

Pinch sea salt

Toasted sesame oil

Place 3 cups water in pot with a pinch of sea salt, cover and bring to a boil.

Add corn grits stirring constantly to prevent grits from lumping and bring to boil again.

Cover and reduce flame to medium low and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

Remove from flame and pour polenta into a pyrex baking dish.

Allow the polenta to cool until it is firm to the touch. Cut into 3 x 3 inch squares or if using pie plate 8 equal pie shaped pieces.

Add toasted sesame oil to a skillet add polenta squares and fry them until golden.

Serve warm with Kuzu mushroom gravy. (see recipe below)

IMG_0025Manor House at Kushi Institute where student are housed during their programs.

Kuzu Mushroom Gravy

 4 cups spring water

6 tsp. shoyu

1 tsp sesame oil

3 Shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, soaked and thinly sliced

¾ cup leeks, washed and thinly sliced

7 Tblsp parsley, scallion or chives finely chopped

5 tsp kuzu

Heat oil in skillet and sauté leeks for 2-3 minutes.

Add shiitake mushrooms and continue to sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce flame to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Reduce flame to very low and add diluted kuzu stirring it constantly until the sauce becomes thick. Add shoyu and continue to cook for 2 minutes.

Turn off flame and add parsley or chives, serve over polenta.

Benefits of Kudzu – Kuzu * From The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia 

Kudzu root is a very vigorous plant that was originally grown for its fast growing, soil erosion protective qualities in southern United States. It is seen as an invasive plant in the United States but in other parts of the world it has been highly valued for its medicinal benefits for centuries. Kuzu is a tonifying herb that has been used topically to relieve acute pain, stiff neck and shoulders. It is also taken to aid intestinal and digestive disorders, food allergies, headaches, fever, vertigo, diarrhea and hangovers. Kuzu assists in cleansing the intestinal villi thus aiding in better absorption of nutrients.

Kuzu contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent daidzein. Daidzein helps to prevent cancer and its genistein helps counter leukemia. Research done recently confirms that regular use of Kuzu suppresses the desire for alcohol.

Kuzu is used as a thickener in place of arrowroot and cornstarch. To use Kuzu put it into a small amount of water to liquefy then add to recipe as thickener.

Benefits of Corn * From The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia 

Though it has become more difficult to find non GMO corn in the US it is worth to search. Corn is a chi tonic that strengthens overall energy and supports the stomach, kidneys and large intestine. Corn can also be used to treat heart disease and loss of appetite.  It stimulates bile flow, prevents the formation of urinary stones, lowers blood sugar and is used to treat cases of difficult urination or edema.

Corn is the only grain to contain vitamin A with yellow corn containing a higher level than white corn. Corn’s natural sweetness satisfies sugar cravings.

Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms * From The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia 

Shiitake mushrooms support the spleen, stomach and liver functions and are a blood and chi tonic. They are restorative in that they detoxify the digestive system and related organs and help to rid the body of excess phlegm and mucus. Shiitake contain two potent substances with proven pharmacological effects as immune regulators and antiviral and antitumor agents; they also positively affect the cardiovascular system. Shiitake is used in eastern medicine to treat diseases involving depressed immune function inclusive of cancer, AIDS and flu. They are rich in vitamin D, B2 and B12 and are a good source of minerals when grown in a mineral rich medium.

I hope you enjoy this meal. cherubs & pups 002Kira, Pooh and me all wish you happy healthy eating!

Happy New Year!

I want to offer warm wishes to you all for this New Year! I truly hope that this year will be filled with loving memories, exciting adventures and a sense of peace in who each of you are…just as you are.

I am so grateful for the loving family I was raised in and for the loving family I have had the delightful pleasure of raising. I wake each morning and acknowledge my blessings. My three children are the first to come to mind. I am proud of their accomplishments and the people they have become. AND they have chosen partners who are equally as wonderful as they are…what a treat!


Taking a walk after brunch at Haven in Lenox MA. They took me out for brunch and to see Shakespeare and Company’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”



Brunch was fantastic complete with a mimosa not my mid day norm.


 And the play, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is my favorite holiday show and this production was enchanting. After the show I asked a complete stranger to take a photo of us all together. She obliged enthusiastically as did my children and their partners (Hannah’s sweetheart, Matt not pictured here, was in California).

This life is a gift so live it as if you are the star of your own play. Be strong when needed, be kind every day, be loving in all that you do,  eat healthy, be well and then know it is good. 

Peace and Brightest Blessings to you all!