Spice Up Your Life

It’s no secret that spices have wonderful flavor, adding much to our culinary palette. But did you know that spices have more to offer than taste, in fact in some cultures spices are highly valued for their medicinal benefits. With cold and flu season approaching it seems like a good time to explore spices for flavor and for health.

spices-market

Indian, Chinese and many Indigenous people use herbs and spices for various health needs. Turmeric (Curcuma Langa) for instance, is touted as a super food with multiple health benefits. A member of the ginger family, it is native to Asia and used in Pakistani and Indian recipes as a staple spice. Along with its delightful taste, turmeric is one of the highest sources for beta-carotene due to its curcumin content. Its also noted with containing strong antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory qualities and is known to strengthen the nervous system. There is a great deal of interest among cancer researchers as to turmeric’s ability to reduce cancer cells. This article is worth reading http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/turmeric. As with any health aid it is wise to note potential adverse reactions related to particular conditions. Turmeric can be taken as a tea, added to recipes or in capsule/tincture or oil form.

tumeric bulb

http://www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=49363;  http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03001/Three-Reasons-to-Eat-Turmeric.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric

Cinnamon is a spice most of us are familiar with and use on a regular basis. There are actually two types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon commonly used in the western world and cassis cinnamon from Southern China. Some studies have had positive outcomes showing cassis cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

cinnamon_fe

http://www.scottsdalefitnessandhealth.com/natural-remedies-for-blood-sugar-control.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20924865http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php

Cumin originated in Egypt and is a spice not as widely known in western cooking as cinnamon, though it is widely used in Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian cooking. Cumin’s health benefits are similar to cinnamon in reducing blood sugar and new research has it showing some promise as an anti-carcinogenic spice. It can be found in seed or ground spice form most often in cooking and in oils, tinctures and elixirs for medicinal purposes.

cumin-seed

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=91; http://www.livestrong.com/article/415653-ground-cumin-health-benefits/

Many of us have strong associations to the holidays when we smell cloves. Its strong fragrance reminds us of favorite baked goods, mulled cider or a baked ham. Some of us have clove extract to address tooth pain. Cloves are used in ground form most often in cooking/baking but are also used whole in drinks or to season meats.

oranges-cloves

I like to make orange, clove pomanders like these ones to hang on my Christmas tree.

Clove is most commonly used medicinally as an expectorant and so it is often found in teas and oils. It comes in gum form to address bad breath and to aid digestion. Cloves contain eugenol, a component that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory qualities as well as its ability to remove toxins from the body. Clove oil is used widely for its antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic and aphrodisiac properties. Similar to cinnamon and cumin, clove also contains a good amount of nutrients such as iron, magnesium and calcium.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/251.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=69

Cayenne pepper is another spice used widely in spicy cooking and can be found in in dishes from all over the world. Chili originated in Central and South America, but the cayenne pepper is named for the city of Cayenne, in French Guiana. Along with its spicy addition to a favorite dish it has many health benefits including inhibiting cancer cell growth, increasing blood flow, anti-inflammatory properties and is used in some cases for weight reduction.

cayenne-pepper-592x444

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2013/07/22/the-incredible-health-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper/;http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267248.php; http://one-vibration.com/group/selfhealth/forum/topics/cayenne-pepper-the-wonder-drug#.VF00zjYo4dU

Finally, ginger. I use fresh ginger daily in recipes and in tea. It is a wonderful digestive aid and adds spice to an array of dishes. It also is known as an anti-inflammatory food as a result of a compound (gingerols) which acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Ginger is the object of a good deal of research related to cancer as well. Research in several cancer studies have shown the potential that ginger actually inhibits the growth of cancer cells.

ginger

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=72; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19833188

Here’s a pretty effective elixir to boost immune function and help with congestion due to a cold: From Kim Erikson

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, juiced or minced
1/2 lemon juiced
1 Tbs fresh ginger juice or finely grated ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
mix all ingredients and take at once as a shot
Happy Health!
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. @ Kira’s Kitchen
Board Certified Holistic Health Coach

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

Water

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!

The Beauty of Chocolate

Chocolate makes me smile! It’s just that simple. And when I am smiling the world is a better place. I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite poets and Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

One reason to smile is this delightful Pistachio Chocolate Mousse. The recipe below comes from Eric Lechasseur and Sanae Suzuki’s vegan macrobiotic cookbook Love, Eric & Sanae. When I prepare this mousse people think I’ve spent hours fussing to create it and that also brings a smile to my face. Both because they enjoy it and because it is truly a simple dessert to make.

Image

Pistachio Chocolate Mousse

Love,Eric  Sanae

Here’s the recipe:

24 ounces of silken firm tofu, well drained.

½ cup maple sugar

1 pinch sea salt

½ cup soy milk (unsweetened)

9 ounces grain-sweetened chocolate chips – semi sweet also works

½ cup ground pistachios

Combine maple sugar, tofu and sea salt in a food processor and process for approximately 5 minutes until creamy.

Combine soy milk and chocolate chips in a saucepan, heat at medium. Stir constantly until the chocolate has melted than transfer to the food processor.

Add vanilla extract and continue to blend for a few minutes.

Add ½ cup pistachios and process until well combined.

Transfer mixture to glass or ceramic container and chill for a few hours.

Serve in individual serving bowls topped with crushed pistachios.

YUMMY!

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As you go along your path remember….

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Health, Peace and Brightest Blessing