Thoughts On Health

It is snowing again today in the Berkshires and very beautiful. We got about 2 feet of snow this past week. It reminds me of the fantastic snow storms we got when I was a kid in the high Sierra’s of California that dumped many feet of snow in one storm and literally snowed you in. This picture is before the storms from this week but you get the idea of how pretty things are covered in winter white.

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So I’ve been a bit under the weather this week and find it makes me a little depressed when my body is not well. I was thinking about how challenging it must be for people who are seriously ill to maintain a level of peace and happiness when trying to regain their health. I think it takes a very strong person to remain positive when faced with a serious health condition. It certainly puts things in perspective for me to stop my pouting about missing work and my life for a few days as there is a clear end in sight for my little health issue. As I grow older I know many more people who are facing serious health challenges. The experience of these beloved folks in my life is the motivation for me to become a health coach and learn all I can about improving health through diet.

I was blessed to spend a week back at Kushi Institute recently, learning more about the health benefits of foods and the styles of preparing these foods. I met a delightful group of people from around the world and learned more about cooking for health beyond the boundaries of the United States.

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These dishes are meant to be prepared during summer for optimal health. While I loved all the dishes we prepared I was especially happy with the Burdock and Sesame Dressing recipe (front left in small bowl). I will share a Burdock recipe here that is more appropriate for this colder time of the year. I do hope you enjoy it! Burdock is a wonderfully strengthening root vegetable and anyone living in New England knows it can withstand pretty much any attempt to extinguish it.

Kinpira Burdock and Carrots (this is a recipe found at Kushi Institute)

1 cup burdock root cut into matchsticks

1 cup carrot cut into matchsticks

1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds, soaked and the pan toasted

1 Tblsp toasted sesame seed oil

Scrub carrot and burdock root with a vegetable scrubber until all dirt is gone. Trim the carrot top leaving the seed by cleaning around the top.

Rinse soaked sesame seeds and place in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Toast the seeds constantly moving them with a bamboo spatula until the no longer stick to the spatula.

Cut carrot and burdock root in diagonal circles, fan out the circles to cut into matchsticks.

Place sesame oil in heavy skillet on medium – high heat.

Add burdock and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add carrots to burdock and continue to sauté for another 3-5 minutes until vegetables are soft but not overcooked.

Add the toasted sesame seeds and stir until well blended.

Kinpira style vegetables provide us with quick energy and this particular combination of carrot and burdock helps to build good quality blood and is strengthening. In macrobiotics this dish is often used in a healing diet, at times using water to sauté rather than oil for particular conditions. This dish, with oil sauté, is good for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. When oil is used in this dish it helps the minerals get deeper into the bones.

Benefits of Carrots *

Carrots nourish almost every system in the body. They are most helpful with lung, liver and stomach function. Carrots are considered anti carcinogenic as they act to dispel toxins while moving energy in the body. They are mostly carbohydrate (89 percent) which helps to explain their sweetness. Carrots counteract intestinal gas, help to prevent constipation, stabilize blood sugar and reduce indigestion.

Carrots are the best source of antioxidant vitamin A which is a precursor to beta-carotene and they improve night vision and help to prevent senile cataracts. Carrots are rich in silicon and so aid calcium metabolism. Their potassium salts give them diuretic properties.

See attached article about benefits of cooking carrots to assure the most healthful benefits they offer.

Benefits of Burdock Root *

Burdock is familiar to most folks living in the Northeast. It is that pesky herb (weed) that deposits burrs on our clothing and our pets. The leaf of burdock is toxic but the root is full of health benefits. Burdock is classified as an herb.

Burdock stimulates bile secretions and is a good source of blood sugar insulin making it very beneficial for diabetic conditions. Burdock has the ability to restore the body to normal health by cleansing and purifying the blood, supporting digestion and the elimination of toxins, and helping to restore normal body function.

In herbal medicine Burdock is used widely in European and Asian formulas as an anti-carcinogen, to treat arthritis, for liver detoxification and for general kidney support. It also contains more protein, calcium and phosphorous than carrots and is a good source of potassium.

* Information provided from The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood.

Be Well

Winter Returns to The Berkshires- SNOWDAY KIDS

Winter is reminding us that there is still plenty of time to enjoy some fun in the snow! The view from my front porch this morning is simply beautiful…and it is so quiet when it is snowing like this.

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Last week I was talking with one of my colleagues about how much I love the snow, it has a way of making me feel 12 again. In this cynical world we could all use a return to simpler, more joyful times in our lives. When was the last time you played a game or were just plain silly for the sheer joy of it, not worrying about what anyone thought about you?

I have been given the gift of taking this week off from a job I love to participate in The Macrobitoitc Leadership Program level2A module at Kushi Institute in Becket, MA. When I woke at 5:30 this morning, as I do every morning I heard the snow plows and starting hoping for a snow day.  It was an automatic response to when I worked in the public schools and we had snow days. I chuckled and then ran (well more like shuffled so I didn’t bump into Kira the Wonderdog and her cone of shame) to the window to see just how much snow had fallen. I really didn’t want to miss my classes at Kushi Institute, but as Mother Nature would have it I’m home bound at least for the morning. The snow plow guy told me to go back inside…no travel unless we absolutely have to…POOH! I will miss Shiatsu class this morning but I’m still holding out the hope I can make it up the mountain to Kushi Institute for my afternoon classes.

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Kushi Institute main house on a sunnier snow day!

My dear friend Marty, who passed away this last year was one of those people who could find joy in just about anything. He loved sharing stories about his escapades, and it always made me laugh. One such story was when he went to the grocery store in Maine where his family had a summer cottage and he jumped on back of the shopping cart and rode it around the store, much to the chagrin of people who didn’t know him. I laughed so hard at his tales because they were authentic and because he could pull it off. Marty loved snow days, he had several rituals surrounding whether the weather would cause school to be closed. So today I am thinking about Marty, who is no doubt having his own version of a joyful snow day (though he was much more of a tropical weather sorta guy) as the schools in The Berkshires call a snow day. I hope at least some of the kids are going to find their way outside into the snow to be just plain silly today.

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Silliness is good for the heart and the soul….grab a sled and try it today!

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!

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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.”

 

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

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 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!

Cooking with Family and Friends

My kitchen remodel is nearly done and it’s looking great! We have had a ton of fun cooing together this past week and learning where things are as we go. The contractors will return after the New Year but for now it is just my kitchen. Sharing it here with my daughters, Hannah who flew in from California and Kristen who came over to bake.

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I hope you all are enjoying this season of family and friends. It has been quite busy in my kitchen and I’d like to share a couple recipes with you that we like to make. The first is so delicious and yet so simple and comes from The Kind Diet Cookbook by alicia silverstone.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups:

 ½ cup Earth Balance butter

¾ cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)

¾ cup almond meal

¼ cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener (I used regular sugar and it was fine)

1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips

¼ cup soy, rice, or nut milk

¼ cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts

  •  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
  • Melt the Earth Balance butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the peanut butter, almond meal and maple syrup and mix well.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
  • Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.
  • Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture. Top with chopped nuts.
  • Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving.

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The refrigerator in the background which is my living room is going to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store soon!

Chestnut Tarts:

1 cup (5ounces) whole peeled chestnuts roasted or bottled dry chestnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup maple syrup

2 large egg whites (free range, organic or egg substitute)

¼ tsp salt

2 packages 15 count phyllo pastry tarts

½ cup fresh whipped cream

  • Reconstitute chestnuts if dried, pulse in food processor until finely ground. Remove to a  medium bowl, stir in vanilla and maple syrup.
  • Beat together egg white, salt in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the chestnut mixture.
  • Place phyllo tarts into mini muffin pan and fill each with the chestnut mixture.
  • Bake at 375 for 10 minutes until golden.
  • Allow to cool and pipe a whipped cream star on top of each cooled tart.

Off to see Shakespeare and Company It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play with all my Children. Photos and story to follow.

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Kira and her pal Pooh approve of the kitchen remodel mostly because they can see out the new back door.

Be Well and Enjoy!

Healthy, Happy Holidays Ahead

When you think about the word healthy. what comes up for you? Do you believe it is attainable for you? If you could change anything about the way you live, work, play and eat what would it be?

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Simple questions that may not be so simple to articulate but they are certainly worth exploring particularly with the holidays quickly approaching. The addition of the expectations that go along with the holidays can sometimes upset the very careful balance we create to be more fully present in our lives. Some of us become overwhelmed by the prospect of adding holiday planning into our already hectic lives. I hope to offer a few strategies and at least one easy recipe to reduce stress and allow you to enjoy your holidays however you choose to spend them.

First, remember what it is you love so much about the holidays. Focus on that and make it the priority of what you plan. Next, make a task list of what needs to be accomplished and set up a time to share with others so you don’t feel alone in making things happen. If you share the tasks not only do you feel less pressure but those you love feel needed as you are all in it together….it can be really fun! And finally, keep it simple. Some of the finest memories come from the most delightfully simple things.

The recipe I offer up today is just that sort of dish…simple but truly memorable.

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White Bean, Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 15oz can white beans drained or 1 cup prepared cannellini beans (see directions below)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry/gluten free
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds

1) Preheat oven to 425, coat 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray/oil

2) Toss the Brussels sprouts with 1 Tbsp. olive oil season with salt and pepper if desired and appropriate. Roast Brussels sprouts for 10 minutes turning once, or until browned set aside and reduce heat to 400.

3) Puree beans with remaining olive oil in a food processor until smooth.

4) Roll puff pastry into 12inch square and press into pie plate allowing edges to hang over the pie plate ½ inch or so. Prick bottom with fork and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

5) Spread the bean mixture onto hot crust, top with beans Brussels sprouts and sprinkle pomegranate seeds over top.

And only about 300 calories per serving for those of us counting calories.

I recommend using organic bulk, whole grains and beans whenever possible as it is healthier and in fact more cost effective to do so. If you chose to prepare dried cannellini beans first rinse them and then soak overnight of for at least 6 hours. This removes the enzyme inhibitors that are on all dried unprocessed whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds which can upset our digestion. Soaking beans helps break down the oligosaccharides, the indigestible sugars that cause gas in beans, as well as removing tannins, phytic acid and tryspin inhibitors.

Add about a 1 inch piece of Kombu to the beans (you will need to rehydrate the Kombu soaking it for about 5 minutes before you add it to the pot) as well to further help in making them easier to digest and to add in minerals from this sea vegetable. First place the rehydrated Kombu in the pot along with the soaking water, place soaked beans on top and cover with about 1 inch of water. They will cook from between 50 to 90 minutes depending on the bean and the texture you are seeking. Skim off the foam that gathers on top of the beans when they first start to cook as that contains the tannins and phytic acid that create digestive issues.

see photo of Kombu below: I recommend buying Maine Coast or Atlantic Sea Vegetables.

 You can find kombu in Asian markets, at Whole Foods and in many health food markets.

Be Well

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!