Think About Your Brain

Do you ever consider the health of your brain? If yes, what is it you consider. If no…you might want to take some time to do so for your brain’s health.

The brain according to Dr. Daniel Amen, is the “hardware of your soul.” It requires special attention and yet often receives the least, unless there is an issue such as stroke or Alzheimer’s Disease. The good news is we don’t have to wait to learn there is an issue with our brain, we can do many things right now to improve brain function and health….and it does not take a rocket scientist to make these changes.

Dr. Amen tells us that even if we are genetically predisposed to disease such as Alzheimer’s Disease it does not mean we will experience it. There are many things we can do each day to keep our brains healthy.

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http://mashable.com/2013/04/02/obama-brain/

The following 10 tips will greatly improve your memory, alertness and overall brain health:

1) Get that 8 hours of sleep you dream about

2) Keep to a great diet that includes fresh foods such as assorted vegetables and fruits, foods rich in omega 3 and whole grains while reducing sugar, processed foods and animal proteins.

3) Surround yourself with positive people who support you

4) Learn something new…often

5) Exercise for 20-30 minutes a day, (take a walk during lunch)

6) Maintain a healthy weight for your body

7) Drink green tea

8) Learn to manage and reduce your stress

9) Start and/or end your day with a moment of gratitude

10) Enjoy nature and fresh air often

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Here is a nice recipe for better brain health. Add some short grain brown rice and steamed kale to this and WOW!

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

 

Squeeze juice and place it in a small bowl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add lime juice and cilantro if desired.

 

Take time to take care of your brain and body for you!

 

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

California Dreaming

Over the years my friends have asked what brought me to New England from sunny California. I have the same answer though it’s been adjusted for age and audience. For the sake of my blog I will say it was a boy and the dream of becoming a potter. I did accomplish the pottery dream but the boy was another story for another time perhaps.

When I left California at 19 in my 1978 Datsun 610 loaded to the roof with my belongings I didn’t know I would not return to California to live. Honestly, I was just up for an adventure and a change of scene. My parents were as supportive as they could be considering their daughter was about to embark on a cross country trip in October when weather could be unpredictable. And then there was all the potential danger ahead. It was not easy to leave everyone I knew and loved and head east to the great unknown. I found humor in the fact that I was, as I’d always done, traveling my own path….head East young woman…head East was the mantra that evolved.

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Mom and Dad at the cabin in Dorrington California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains circa 1982

I must say that I have no regrets other than I have not been able to participate in my family’s life in the same way I would have had I stayed in California. I have gone home regularly through the years with my children and will continue to do so. My family is incredibly important to me and we truly enjoy spending time together. One such trip was in 2010 when my sister Patti, my brother Jim and sister in law Joanne all traveled to Reno, Nevada for our mom’s 86th birthday. It will be my dear mom’s birthday in 2 days…she would have been 91! The Reno trip was a TRIP and I’ll tell that story only with permission from those involved.

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Mom in Reno for her 86th birthday at a barbershop festival…don’t ask it was wild times for a wild woman!

So as winter holds on this year in Massachusetts, and continues to deliver more cold, snow and ice I am wondering again how I could have left sunny, warm California at 19. How did I travel across the country to Connecticut, without a good winter coat or boots I might add, and then stay all these years after? It will be a wonderment until it no longer is and I have to say I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of it. I have three of the most talented, creative, loving children (okay so they are no longer children) and feel blessed to have met all the people I have in this life. I have strong connections to my roots in California and to my childhood friends and my family and for all this I am truly blessed.

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And so Happy Birthday mom I hope you and dad are dancing your shoes off in heaven.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on Earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Blessed Be

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

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

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