Nostalgia and New Adventures

Have you ever had a nostalgic experience while enjoying a completely new adventure? Ah it is grand! Yesterday, I had a most delightful day that started with traveling to Connecticut with two of the loveliest women on Earth. We met while participating in the Macrobiotic Level 2A program at Kushi Institute earlier this month. The two on the right of the photo below were my traveling companions, Nandi from India, and Stefania from Italy.

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We were on our way to have acupuncture treatments with Dr. Shunyu Li, OMD, NCCAOM, L.Ac. whose practice just happens to be in Branford CT! http://acupuncturists.healthprofs.com/cam/name/Shunyu

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Now you might ask what the big deal is about Branford CT…and I would respond that I lived there for 5-6 years in my early 20s when I was studying pottery and herbal arts. It was a truly magical time in my life which I had not reflected on for many years until this trip. I was surprised how much things had changed in Branford, in fact, I could not find Bittersweet Farm where I studied pottery or my grandparents old home on Route 1 as it is so developed now. We did eventually find Dr Li’s office however, he was waiting at the door for us and greeted us warmly.

This was my first acupuncture treatment and so I found it very comforting to travel with women who had some insight into what I might expect. It was also wonderful to learn more about both Italy and India from the perspective of these wise women. We discussed food, of course, all we KI students talk incessantly about clean, healing foods.

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After our acupuncture treatment Stefania and brought Nandi to the train station in New Haven and then found our way to the Stony Creek town dock to have a little picnic looking out on The Thimble Islands and Long Island Sound. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the low 50s and we smiled at the contrast of the sound and the snow that met the water.

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We then took a drive from Stony Creek along route 146 to Guilford and found Tuttles Point where I was married and had lived with my former husband prior to moving to Vermont to start our family. Things had not changed much on the point and the house we lived in was still there!

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It wasn’t a fancy house by any means but the flooding of memories from that time in my life filled me with such joy. And to be sharing this excursion with Stefania who seemed to enjoy every stop we made was the joining of nostalgia and new adventure!

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Today I am filled with such peace and energy for cooking. I made this tofu stir fry this morning (I started out to make a scramble but this is where it wanted to go and so I followed). Dr. Li suggested no animal protein for at least 24 hours following my acupuncture treatment so my Sunday eggs are off the table.

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The stir fry was quite simple to make. Cut up firm tofu (I used Bridge tofu https://www.facebook.com/thebridgetofu which is local and delicious) because when traveling yesterday we stopped in Middletown CT where this tofu is made. Then marinate the tofu in shoyu, fresh ground ginger and lime juice while preparing the vegetable. I used carrot, daikon, burdock, red onion, shiitake mushrooms, green, red and yellow peppers, fresh ginger and broccoli.

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Then using safflower oil stir fry the tofu keeping aside the remaining shoyu for about 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove the tofu and add a little more oil to stir fry the vegetables until tender but not soft. Mix together with tofu add remaining shoyu and small amount of water and arrowroot to make clear glaze. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

Simple and delicious!

Peace and Brightest Blessings

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!

Kira the Wonderdog & the Cone of Shame

Well it has been quite a week for Kira dog. It seems she thought eating assorted debris when bored was a good idea. Let me tell you it did not work out so well in the end. I wish Kira would have consulted with me about choosing healthier options than burlap and plastic wrappers. These items are not digestible, big surprise there, and so they found their way into her small intestine and got stuck. Kira had major life saving surgery on Thursday. Her Vet, Keith Beebe, Dvm from Wahconah Veterinary Hospital is the best Vet I have ever worked with. His expertise identified a very small piece of metal in Kira’s xray which turned out to be 8 inches of debris lodged in her small intestine that would have been fatal if not removed. I am so grateful for his care and it is clear he loves taking care of animals!

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So she looked pretty good just coming out of the hospital considering what she had just been through. On her way home with the cone of shame, which she is really unhappy about, she sat with her head between the seats in a pain medicated drool. Getting her in and out of the car was a trip. I couldn’t lift her since her entire belly and stomach have been stitched or stapled and she was not having it. My daughter Kristen came along to help so we encouraged Kira to slowly climb into the back seat with me supporting her hind end and Kristen supporting her front end. Once home she refused to get out of the car and instead bared her teeth every time I attempted to gently pull on her cone collar. We used every trick in the doggie book including setting up a quasi stable ramp from the car. If Kira could talk she would have said are you for real. She did come out of the car after 30 minutes or so and slowly made her way to my bedroom where she has been ever since.

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This morning after her medication she began to whimper which was heart wrenching. She tried to get up but her legs went out from under her and she just collapsed onto the floor. She is picking her head up and wagging her tail when I give her love but she’s not trying to move now. I do 15 minute checks and today will be cooking up a storm as that is how I cope with stress.

This is the frist dish I plan to prepare today…I will go healthy unlike my dear Kira who eats anything that is not nailed down.

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme

1      tablespoon olive oil

1      large yellow onion, diced

1      large carrot, peeled and cut into fine dice

4      cloves garlic, minced

1      teaspoons dried tarragon

1      teaspoon dried thyme

1      teaspoon paprika (Hungarian if you’ve got it)

5      plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

6      cups water or vegetable broth

2      cups French lentils

2      bay leaves

1      1/2 teaspoons salt

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat a large pot over medium heat and add oil. Sauté the onion and carrots for      about 10 minutes, until onions have browned a bit. Add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, and paprika, and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and a little splash of water if necessary, and stir to deglaze the pot. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the water, lentils, bay      leaves, salt, and pepper, then cover and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If the soup looks too thin, uncover and simmer for a couple more minutes. If it looks too thick, add a  little more water. Serve with good, crusty bread.

Well that’s all for now folks. Continue to follow the saga of Kira the Wonderdog, weekly here at Kira’s Kitchen, And remember to be the person your dog thinks you are!

Blessed Be

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.

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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

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

Rest and Renew

Is it hard for you to recognize when you are pushing yourself too much? Do you ever wonder why after running around all day you can’t seem to settle down and relax…do you often resort to having a drink to numb your mind and relax your body? Does this effect how well you sleep? If you answered yes to even one of these questions you need a time out….read on.

Resting : time-out

Most of us are hardwired to work until we drop. This mindset doesn’t seem to have boundaries and is found in most cultures and sadly at most ages. We believe that if we are not busy, working hard, playing hard, being social, taking care of business that we are not living up to our potential. Just exactly what is that potential?

Take just a minute here and consider a day recently when your whole body was screaming at you to just sit down or take a nap. Your mind was overwhelmed, your body tired and joints or muscles ached. But you had just a couple more things to get done before you could rest….Resting : Exhausted teen girl studying lying on a sofa Stock Photo   you were trying to stay alert and focused

Resting : tired woman sleeping at the PC but you couldn’t. How did that work out for you?

There is wisdom in this quote by Ovid “What is without periods of rest will not endure” If you are not getting the rest your body needs it almost doesn’t matter how well you eat. Your body in an exhausted state will not be able to think clearly and it will not be able to fight off illness.

In this Chinese Organ Clock you can see the corresponding organ and the time of day related to each organ. I love this visual and find I refer to this clock when I recognize that I’m out of balance in my life, when I’m way too busy for my own good. It reminds me to consider that all the parts of my body are trying to function at their best. If I’m not helping by eating right and resting when needed they are not able to do their job. It helps me consider how to work together with my body while attempting to fulfill the demands of my daily life.

http://eclecticarksageadvice.blogspot.com/2010/04/organ-clock.html This blogger has a wonderful explanation about how to interpret the Chinese organ clock if you’d like to learn more.

Resting : Photo of a great lion resting in the park

So I guess the message of this weeks blog is be like the big cool cats and rest when you need it. Pay attention to your body… you will be more alert and even more productive in the end. AND your body will thank you!

Be Well

Joyful Life

We came to the Earth as absolutely loving beings.

That is our basic nature. And all we want is to have a joyful life together…..

A peaceful, harmonious, laughter filled, song-filled kind of life together.

Brooke Medicine Eagle

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This photo was taken at South River Miso in Conway, MA

I awoke this morning feeling grateful for the sunshine and for my lovely life. It made me smile to think about what this life has given me and to reflect on what I hope I have given back. Of late, the opportunity I am enjoying of teaching others how to cook and eat in a more healthful way.

Yesterday I got to cook with a group of young girls who were curious and willing to try new foods. They reminded me to have fun and explore, and how much I enjoy doing that with my own children even now that they are adults. I was also reminded how much fun it is to come together with new people and see what we can learn.

We prepared several dishes and then shared a meal together with their adults. One commented on how cool it was to have a class where you get to eat together afterward. I smiled. And so I will share one of the recipes we made with you in the hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

Green Rolls

 4 cups water

Collard greens large leaves or other green of choice

Cucumber cut into match sticks

Carrot, parsnip or other root vegetable, blanched and cut into matchsticks

Sauerkraut

Sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds

Mustard or hummus

Brown rice (optional)

Preparation:

 Heat water in large open skillet to boil.

Lightly blanch collard or chosen greens, remove and place on cookie sheet to cool.

Lay our blanched greens onto sushi mat making sure to cover mat completely.

Layer the cucumber or root vegetable, sauerkraut and pumpkin seeds on the greens. Spread some mustard on the filling.

Carefully roll up the green in the sushi mats squeezing out extra water. Remove from mat and cut into 5-6 sushi style rolls.

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These are actually wrapped in nori which is another great way to introduce healthy greens and vegetables into a non vegetable lovers life…and we all need some vegetable to stay healthy 🙂

Next week I will be teaching a Cooking for Women’s Health class at Wild Oats Cooperative Market in Williamstown, MA as well as a Healthy Holiday Cooking class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield. Consider coming to join our fun!

Be well

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.

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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

Orange Pan Glazed Tempeh

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Mahatma Gandhi

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This dish has become one of my favorite tempeh recipes and it can be made in only 30 minutes…how’s that for fitting into a busy life? I added roasted kabocha squash, steamed kale and good old short grain brown rice. The pickle is “Crimson Kraut” a mild Kimchi made by Hosta Hill.  Hosta Hill also made the tempeh I used for this recipe. Learn more about them at this link

http://hostahill.com/tempeh/

So here is the recipe for Orange Pan Glazed Tempeh:

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 Teaspoons tamari (or shoyu)

1 ½ Tablespoon mirin

2 Teaspoons maple syrup

½ Teaspoon ground coriander

2 small cloves garlic, crushed

10 ounces tempeh (or extra firm tofu)

2 Tablespoons olive oil (use light as extra virgin will smoke)

½ lime

Optional – cilantro

1)      Squeeze juice and place it in a small bowl.

2)      Grate the ginger over the bowl making sure to add the juice.

3)      Mix together the tamari, mirin, maple syrup, ground coriander and garlic. Set aside this mixture.

4)      Cut the tempeh (or tofu) into bite size pieces (if working with tofu, pat dry and then cut up)

5)      Heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.

6)      Add the tempeh and sautee for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

7)      Pout the orange juice over the tempeh and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a nice glaze.

8)      Make sure to turn the tempeh while the sauce reduces to prevent sticking.

9)      Serve the tempeh with grain side dish. Drizzle the remaining tamari sauce mixture over the top.

10)  Add lime juice and cilantro if desired.

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Kira and Poohger send sloppy kisses from Kira’sKitchen

Eat healthy and be well!