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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Kira the Wonder Dog’s Greatest Adventure

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On September 8th, Kira the Wonder Dog left this planet for her greatest adventure ever leaving a large hole in my heart. I trust that with time (and apparently a lot of cooking) my heart will mend. Kira brought a smile to so many over the years with her ridiculous antics, sweet smile and her loving loyalty. Her pal Poohger continues to look around the house and yard for her. and when we take our familiar walks through the neighborhood Poohgar stops at all the Kira spots looking around as if she expects her to jump out from the bushes. I must admit I haven’t quite adjusted to the routine of our lives without her. And so this blog post is in honor of our dear friend Kira who brought us all great joy and who is running those grand figure 8s in puppy heaven now.

As the crisp fall air, perfectly blue sky and shorter days become the daily experience I have been gathering the foods I planted this summer to store so the fresh tastes of summer are available during the winter months. This week I have made pesto and pickles…guess it has been a “P” week. There is nothing quite as nice as making a pesto dish in January to remind us that spring will come again before long. In fact I’m not waiting until January to eat some pesto. I found these delightful recipes in Eating Well Magazine and I’ll be making the arugula pesto tonight. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/healthy_pesto_recipes

pesto

I also put up about 16 pints of dill pickles, some the refrigerator variety and some the old fashioned canned variety. I like the uncooked version because the healthy bacteria don’t get cooked out of the pickles when you refrigerate them. This weekend I will be putting up several pints of red and green cabbage sauerkraut also without cooking out the healthful bacteria. This is an easy to follow recipe for homemade sauerkraut that I found to be very good: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipes/homemade-sauerkraut. There are many health benefits to eating traditional fermented foods which I have shared in previous blog posts. If you would like more information check out Dr. David Williams http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/traditional-fermented-foods-benefits/ and Dr Oz http://blog.doctoroz.com/oz-experts/fermented-foods-for-powerful-immunity. Starting with sauerkraut is easy but there are many wonderful quick pickle recipes out there as well. I’m adding a broccoli stem quick pickle I make and eat weekly:

Broccoli Stem Pickles

2 cups broccoli stems

2 tsps rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp fresh grated ginger

½ tsp coriander seeds crushed

½ tsp cumin seeds crushed

½ tsp sea salt

Using a sharp knife peel away the fibrous skin of the broccoli and then cut the pale inside trunk into matchsticks.

Blanch broccoli matchsticks for 1 minute in boiling water, rinse immediately with cold water. Then place in glass bowl.

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over broccoli matchsticks in glass bowl.

Refrigerate for 2 hours, serve.

Benefits of Broccoli from The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood

           Broccoli supports the liver, spleen, stomach and bladder and helps to regulate circulation. It treats the eyes and helps to reduce eye inflammation. Broccoli is slightly diuretic. It’s anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties are due in part to its immune boosting glusinolates (specifically indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane). Broccoli contains twice as much vitamin C as an orange and is a superior source of vitamin A and K. It has almost as much calcium as whole milk and its calcium is better absorbed. Broccoli contains selenium, is a modest source of alpha tocopherol vitamin E and has value as an antioxidant.

cherubs & pups 004kira snowKira Christmas Dog

So here’s to you Kira girl…we love you and hold you close in our hearts forever.

Take a moment this weekend to tell the people and pets in your life how much they matter to you. Share a meal together without the distraction of phones, TV or computers. Relish these simple times together sharing attention and love and you will be spreading the ripple of that love and appreciation into a world that can at times seem unkind.

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I send prayers of gratitude to all that has given of itself on this day.

The strong beans, and the hardy grains, the beautiful leafy green plants and the sweet juicy fruits.

I thank the sun that warmed and vitalized them, just as it does me,

And the Earth that held and nourished them, as it does me,

And the waters that bathed and refreshed them, as they do for me.

I thank the fire that transformed them, just as I wish to be transformed by the fire of Spirit.

I thank the hands that grew and prepared this food,

Just as I thank all those that have touched me in so many ways.

Sedonia Cahill

Blessed Be

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed.
Certified Holistic Health Coach @ Kira’s Kitchen

Back to School Basics

In some places children have already returned to school with the anticipation that the start of a new adventure brings. Locally we have another week to wind down our summer. Even though the private school where I’m employed as a counselor and nutrition consultant is a year round school I still get that beginning of the school year feeling. It’s something between excitement for all the possibilities and melancholy about the end of another summer season.
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In keeping with the beginning of the school year theme as it relates to my health coaching practice, I wanted to share some ideas for how to pack healthy, brain food for your child/ren that doesn’t set them apart from their peers. Let’s make eating healthy the cool thing to do this year and see if it can become the new cool. Something as simple as cream cheese (or Tofutti dairy free cream cheese) topped with fresh fruit is sure to grab kids attention.
back-to-school-snacks
Other ideas range from fruit kabobs to assorted wraps. Most fruit will keep in a lunchbox and when it’s as easy as sliding off a skewer into your mouth who can resist.
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http://www.chow.com/food-news/89934/27-healthy-snack-ideas-for-kids-lunch-boxes/
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http://www.mysporties.com/tuesday-tip-snacks-to-kick-off-the-school-year-with-a-healthy-start/
We can create so many variations of wraps that it’s limitless. In fact, in many schools they are slowly replacing white enriched bread with whole grain breads and wraps.
veggie-wrap-single
http://www.bodyenlightenment.me/blog/2013/08/how-to-put-healthy-back-into-school-lunches/
Wraps are an easy way to include vegetables in your child’s lunch in a way that they will eat them. If you can make the time to engage your child in the preparation of these beauties they are more likely not to trade them away for a snickers bar. My favorite wrap to teach children to make in my Cool Kids Cooking Class is the California wrap which includes avacado, sprouts, cucumber, carrots and cheese (if your child can tolerate dairy). It always makes me smile to see how quickly kids take to eating healthy when they are part of the preparation.
cali vege wrap
I also suggest getting to know the lunch ladies (and gents) who are preparing school breakfast and lunch. Be kind to these hard working people and let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Congratulate them when they have made something healthy and kid friendly. Offer your ideas about improving school meals in a way they can hear you. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people respond better when you are willing to walk with them on their journey than when we give the impression we know what’s best. lunch ladies
If you are involved in your child’s school you may want to get involved in changing school food programs so that all children enjoy a healthier meal. For some children these are the only meals they eat each day so keeping it nutritious means they can attend to learning and the other challenges school brings. One of the many challenges educators face is holding all children to a standard. When a child experiences food insecurity it can be nearly impossible for them to focus on English or math. Educators are all too aware of these challenges.
An example of what a couple moms did in Berkeley California to change the school lunch program in their children’s school is the movie “Two Angry Moms.” It outlines what isn’t working with school meal programs and shows how they went about dramatically creating the change in their school. It is one example of how to start thinking about the food we eat and provide to school children.
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“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
Mahatma Ghandi

Be Well
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. Holistic Health Coach @ Kira’s Kitchen

blog: http://kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

website: http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Microbiome…What Did You Say?

The first time I heard the term microbiome during my training to become a Certified Health Coach I looked it up to see what it meant. Here is what Wikipedia has to say: A microbiome is “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. The term comes from a Nobel Prize recipient, Joshua Lederberg (5/25/1925-2/2/2008), an American molecular biologist who among other things discovered that bacteria can mate and exchange genes. Pretty cool stuff huh!

gevers_cover_nature

https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/4199

The term I use as a Health Coach is “gut flora” which sounds just a little less scientific. The truth is our digestive system is important for us to understand if we wish to remain healthy. It often is not the first place we think to look when we’re not feeling well but it is the system that processes and absorbs nutrients so if it’s off we are not getting our nutritional needs met.

Microbiome comes up a lot in the work I do with people in my health coaching practice seeking to improve their health. What I have learned and pass along is that we can be healthy but if out gut flora is not balanced we run the risk of compromised immune or nervous systems and this can also create and imbalance in our hormones resulting in mood and in some cases more serious mental health issues. Let’s take a look at the digestive system to gain a little insight into what it does to keep us healthy.

 

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We actually start digesting food the minute we come into contact with it. In fact smelling food starts our salivary glands working even before the food enters our mouth. When we take the time to chew our food (chewing until food becomes fairly liquid is best) it enters the next leg of the journey pre-digested helping the process along. The food then travels to our stomach where it mixes with acids before going onto our small intestine where the nutrients are absorbed and then to our large intestine where water is absorbed. The health of our gut flora is most critical at this point as the villi in the small intestine absorb our nutrients. If the villi have been damaged by too much unhealthy fats, chemicals and sugars they are unable to gather nutrients from the food we eat.

 

Our liver works to process the toxins that travel with our foods. Some of these toxins are excess sugars and fats, pesticides, heavy metals and other foreign substances.

 

digestive system

My mother was always saying “chew your food” while my father would say “where’s the fire slow down”. As a rather hyper kid mealtime was one more thing that got in the way of being outside running around which helped me manage all that energy. I was fortunate to have had an abundance of fresh real foods available to me as a kid growing up in northern California, pre Silicon Valley Santa Clara County. There were small farms and ranches all around me so fresh produce, nuts and fruit was available at farm stands and in the grocery stores year round. We ate wild meats most often such as venison, wild fowl and fish so the possibility of hormones or antibiotics that are so commonly in meats we find in the store now was not there.

I grew up in a generation where healthier food options were the norm. I can remember when McDonalds opened in Gilroy and fast food became available. Children since the 1970s have increasingly been exposed to more fast foods, processed foods, chemicals and GMOs in their food supply. Food production standards claim to be higher but they are not taking into account the fact that so much of what most people eat is not live food. The most important thing I can teach the people who come to me seeking improved health is to eat real, fresh food free from chemicals and GMOs. Skip the processed, fast foods and beverages that provide nearly zero nutritional value and wreck havoc on our digestive systems.

bonsai

It’s in our control to begin to eat healthier and to treat our bodies well. If we assume our body will withstand the unhealthy foods and drinks we consume without adverse effects over time we will find ourselves with health issues at some point.

Visit a local farm or farmer’s market this week and find some real food.

Be Well

http://leanne_yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Summer’s Bounty

It is the first day of summer which means that our gardens will start to swell with yummy fresh vegetables soon. I love tending gardens even when they get away from me and start growing plants that were not invited. I tend to be one of those gardeners that likes the organic nature of how things grow so neat rows really don’t matter to me. Some of my neighbors might wish I was less of a cottage type gardener but they are kind and marvel at how much produce I can pull out of my tiny little patch of ground.

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 My garden looks more like this one…

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Than it does like this,,, though I truly appreciate all forms of gardening and love browsing catalogs and online to see what creative ideas are out there. I value each individual plant and try to understand it’s purpose even if it is considered a weed. Prior to cultivation many of these so called weeds were staple foods in tribal peoples diets so I think it wise to consider and honor them. This honoring of “weeds” is not an excuse for not keeping my garden weed free…I gave up on that many years ago and still have great fresh vegetables each year.

So the snow peas in my wild little garden are setting flowers now and the baby kale is so tender you can eat it right off the plant…no preparation. I will try to plant my second harvest of snow peas again today since the resident chipmunks decided they liked the pea seeds this year and neatly removed all of them promptly after I planted them.

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I’ll also get the zucchini plants under my form of control (move them off the grass I plan to mow) and then mow the wild lawn before getting into the canoe for a leisurely paddle on the lake with friends. There will soon be more zucchini than can be eaten so hello friends and neighbors welcome to zucchini harvest!

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I guess what I’m trying to say here is that gardens are not meant to be perfect or orderly. Life is not, so why try to create that order in our gardens. Seek the beauty in each plant no matter how seemingly unimportant it appears to be. This coming from someone who knows. Get outside and play on this first day of summer!

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“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere: the dew is never all dried at once: a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round Earth rolls.”         John Muir

Blessed Be

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http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/events

 

 

 

Didn’t Your Parents Tell You Not To Waste Food?

As you probably know by now I am a foodie. I love everything about food. I love thinking about it, growing it, teaching others about it, preparing it and definitely eating it. food is powerful in every way. We are emotionally and physically connected to food and we all know we can’t live without it. So I write this blog post today with reverence for and passion about food.

I have always known that there is a certain amount of waste that goes along with the food chain from farm to table, but did you know that one third of the food produced globally is wasted. In North America it is closer to half the food we grow that is wasted. In some cases it is to keep the cost of the product at what is considered fair market value. A phenomenal amount of food does not even make it onto grocery store shelves because it doesn’t meet the standards for sale. Up to 90% of food waste is due to expiration dates.

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http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/food-waste-in-america-a-weeks-worth-of-produce-for-free/

So where does all this wasted food go you might ask? With all the people in our world who have no food, who are literally starving to death, we in North American alone, throw away nearly half of the food we grow. How does that make any sense? 

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Now imagine if we all decided that the food that was not initially perfect so would not be purchased could be given to a local food pantry. Imagine that all expired food stuff was quickly offered to people who can’t afford to buy it. Some markets have policies to do just that. At some Trader Joes you can find the expired food stuff at a greatly reduced rate in fact up to 75% off retail price. In addition, the Ex President of Trader Joes has created The Daily Table Project which essentially takes expired food stuff and makes low cost grab and go meals that can compete with fast food chain prices for people living in urban food deserts such as Dorchester, MA. Now that is good use of what would otherwise be wasted.

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=222082247&m=224715908.

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There are many documentaries about our food supply and the little known secrets about the politics of food, but the one I find most disturbing currently is “Just Eat It A Food Waste Story.”  Catch the trailer @ http://foodwastemovie.com/ or follow the film makers on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Justeatitmovie. The film is making the film festival run so is not yet available for popular viewing. This film reveals just how much food is wasted in North America by following a couple who are vowing to eat only salvaged food stuff. What their experience uncovers will shock and I hope inspire you to do something about the waste!

To learn more about the politics of food I recommend reading one of the many books written by Marion Nestle, the most relevant to this topic being “Food Politics: How The Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She is a Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. You can also follow her blog @ http://www.foodpolitics.com/.
My children just bought me a membership in a new local all organic CSA, https://www.facebook.com/bradleyfarmma for my birthday. It is the best gift I have ever received! I can see where the food is grown and I know the people tending the farm. I will share what I can’t eat with family and friends and should any of it go bad I will compost it to use in my gardens. This is my small contribution to reduce food waste and my carbon footprint on the planet. What will you do to spread the abundance that exists all around us with those who are not a fortunate as we are?

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“Change like healing takes time.” Veronica Roth

Blessed Be

 

 

Time to Garden

I am inspired with the warming weather and the Flower Moon we had this week. Driving home on Wednesday night that beautiful moon was just beginning to peak over the Green Mountains in Bennington Vermont and it was breathtaking. This is a borrowed photo as my iphone couldn’t do the moon justice. It now truly feels like spring is here and so we can begin to plant our vegetable and flower gardens.

flower moon

http://shewhodreams.weebly.com/uploads/6/8/3/0/6830014/5473872.jpg?419

To inspire me even more this week I found this beauty growing in the window at the Vermont Arts Exchange http://www.vtartxchange.org/. Being a native Californian, I am accustomed to seeing fresh produce year round in some form. But to find a fully ripe tomato in Vermont in mid May is such a gift. After all we had snow on the ground less than a month ago!

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I’m telling you the truth, right in Vermont, right now mid May there are these lovely tomatoes ready to eat! Planted in large buckets along the back wall of the multiuse art room at the Arts Exchange are growing 10 foot high tomato plants like these. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow since February.

tomato plants

So now I have to find my organic seeds and plants at various farmer’s markets and gardening shops. I like High Mowing Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ they have come through for me in past years and are fairly local in Wolcott, Vermont. So far I’ve planted my first round of snow peas which is my favorite to grow (and eat). I also plan to grow green beans, kale, summer and zucchini squash, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. My garden is small but it manages to produce a good amount of produce each year. This is an example of one of my recent harvests.

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So with all the fresh produce to look forward to I am searching for new recipes to add to my website. I made this one last night and it was delightful.

6 cups baby spring greens

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup toasted walnuts

1 shallot minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ olive oil

Salt/pepper to taste

Well I’m heading outside to see what kind of gardening I can get done before the three days of rain arrive.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the Earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” Kate Morton author of The Forgotten Garden.

Blessed Be