Springtime and EMDR

It is a lovely sunny day here in Massachusetts with the temperature promising to reach the mid 30s. It makes me smile when I think how fixated we New Englanders are on the weather…but when you manage to smile through the winter here I think you earn some bragging rights. We have seen many days this year when the temperature did not make it out of the single digits. That kind of prolonged cold can take the pep out of your walk. Winter carries a quiet beauty I would not want to miss but it is time for warmer weather now.

I had the blessing this past weekend of attending an EMDR part 1 (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training in Hamden CT. with two of my dear colleagues. (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. It requires the practitioner to use intuitive skills along with traditional practice. It speaks to me as a healer. http://emdria2.affiniscape.com/index.cfm.

Being so close to Long Island Sound made me wish for Spring even more. The training was fantastic and my brain is literally full to bursting with new information to help others. When we return for the part 2 training it will be late April and Spring will be fully sharing her gifts.

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It’s time to start thinking about how my menu will begin to shift from the colder, quieter winter to vibrant, lively spring foods. This daylily is one of my favorite to show her pretty face in the late spring. I am so looking forward to spring and the new life she brings. My yard is beckoning to me to come play in the soil and return the Koi to the pond for the warmer season. It’s time to plan what will be planted in the vegetable garden and dream about which perennials will show their pretty faces first.

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One dish that I plan to prepare with some of my Health Coaching clients this weekend will be:

Bitter Greens with Shallots.

Particularly good in the spring when young greens can be found in abundance, this quick broth-sauté is cleansing for the lymph system and liver. It is blood building and a great overall tonic for the digestive system as well. Try using mustard, dandelion, arugula,  turnip, broccoli rabe, baby kale or baby collards. Serve as a side dish or toss with whole wheat pasta or soba noodles. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare and cook this dish and there are many health benefits.
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 large shallot, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ pound young greens, cut into 1-inch strips

½ cup vegetable stock

2 teaspoons tamari

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.Add greens, and toss gently to begin wilting them.

Add stock and tamari. Continue cooking until broth has reduced by about half and greens are tender, another 4 minutes.

Serve with remaining liquid drizzled over greens.

I may even serve some of my homemade organic Dandelion Wine with the meal. I can’t wait to get cooking!

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Peace is Every Step

Peace is every step

The shining red sun is my heart.

Each flower smiles with me.

How green, how fresh all that grows.

How cool the wind blows.

Peace is every step.

It turns the endless path to joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Be Well

  

A Winter’s Afternoon

ice cycles

White-Eyes

In winter

 all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.
So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.
I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—
which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—
thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.
Mary Oliver
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Spring is coming. The light is changing and the days are slowly lengthening. Stay warm as this cold descends upon us again and remember it will soon be spring! Make a delightful soup or stew to stay warm and feed your whole being. This is a real comfort food soup and so easy to make.

Buckwheat Soba Noodles in Broth

1 lb buckwheat soba noodles

½ cup shoyu

½ teaspoon ginger

1 cup finely chopped leak

2 cups water

2 cardomon pods

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

½ cup shredded nori

In a medium saucepan, fry the leeks until they are tender.

Combine water, shoyu, ginger, cardomon in pot with leeks and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, bring to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

Add buckwheat soba noodles and cook until noodles are tender – about 5-7 minutes.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds and nori over top of soup and serve immediately

 

Peace and Brightest Blessings

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!

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

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!