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 Food

I love the way snow and sunlight interact to create brilliant sparkles and the quiet of a walk when snow is falling.

http://www.tnpsc.com/winterdreams.htm

 
Winter is here with brisk air and shorter days reminding us to slow down and pull in for a bit. With this season comes the need for us to make meals that will warm and sustain us when we interact with father winter. One of my favorite hearty soups is just the dish for a cold winter day. It is so simple and yet so delicious.
 
Cannellini Bean and Barley Soup:

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (or 15oz canned)
  • 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup barley
  • 4 cups fresh kale

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over  medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic, and basil; cook, stirring frequently, until tender and just beginning to brown, 5-6 minutes.
  2. Mash 1/2 cup of the beans. Stir the mashed and whole beans, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in Kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Enjoy!
 
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”  
Lewis Carroll
 
Peace and Brightest Blessings

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

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!

 

 

 

Everything I think I’m Missing

My dear friend shared the poem below with me today and I am so moved by it that I am now sharing it with you! I’m not sure who wrote it so if any of you know please do tell.

Tonight, I am grateful that in this life I am blessed with the love of family and friends, good health, the joyful laughter of children, the playfulness of my dogs, the beauty that is abundant all around me and the hope of more to come.

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Sunset’s Silver Sidewalk (it is more golden tonight) on Pontoosac lake a stone’s throw from my front door.

The Poem:

I am struggling. There’s who I believe I ought to be, and who I really am.

It’s humbling, isn’t it? This being, this mystery, this me sits here radiating energy, yet I’m gripped by a nameless fear that I’m missing exactly what I came here to experience.

I am suffering, telling myself stories of what life should look like. And then I get the message like a meteor, like the power coming back on after hours in a storm.

This life, this extraordinary imperfection, this moment just as it is, this is all I’m here to receive. This infuriating, limitless simplicity of day-to-day living holds everything I think I’m missing.

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BLESSED BE