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

 

 

 

Smile in this Moment

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~ “It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.” ~

Thich Nhat Hanh

mom, Kristen & Hannah

An abundance of natural beauty surrounds us every day…..take time to notice and honor natures gifts.

Pat Stacy 17 mile drive

AND…..in this sweet life we are blessed with many lovely people to love, who make us smile…..remember to cherish them

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AND if you love to eat well you will be even happier…of this I am sure! Try this recipe for an uplifting experience.

French Lentils with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Ingredients: 6 servings – very easy recipe from the Food Channel, http://www.foodnetwork.com/healthy/packages/healthy-every-week.html with some of my adjustments – only 300 calories per serving!

1 cup du Puy Lentils, rinsed and soaked for 4-6 hours

1.5 cups vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots thinly sliced

2 stalks celery thinly sliced

Teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Pinch sea salt

¼ cup toasted walnuts

4 ounces goat cheese

2 inch piece kombu soaked for 5 minutes

Place kombu in a saucepan and cover with the lentils. Add the vegetable broth to cover lentils. If you need to add a bit more during cooking that is fine. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer, cook for 30 – 40 minutes until all liquid is cooked out and the lentils are tender.

While the lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in large skillet and saute the onion, carrots and celery until the onions are translucent, and the carrots and celery are crisp. Add the minced garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar to vegetable at the end of cooking and blend for about 1 minute.

When the lentils are cooked toss them with the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle the lentil mixture with chopped toasted walnuts and goat cheese and serve.

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Take a moment each day to simply be present in your body and smile sweetly…..it is very good for you and everyone around you!

Be well

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

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

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

Thought for the Day

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Hold on to what is good

Even if it is a handful of Earth.

Hold on to what you believe

Even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do

Even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life

Even if it is easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand

Even when I have gone away from you…

Nancy Wood

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

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

Fall Food and Beauty

The trees are beginning to change from the vibrant green of summer to the golds and reds of the fall in New England. I’ve come to find these visual changes in nature bring about a time of introspection for me. Maybe it has to do with the weather cooling, the crisp air or beautiful blue sky or maybe it is just the reminder that another year has come and is now going. Not sure but it is familiar and in some ways comforting…kind of like that wonderful soft afghan you wrap yourself in on a chilly night. What ever it is I am welcoming the change.

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I woke up this morning thinking about cooking a nice fall meal and I remembered that I picked about 2 pounds of green beans yesterday. So I’ll share a favorite green bean recipe with you.

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

1 lb green beans

¼ cup slivered almonds

1 tblsp olive oil

¼ tsp oregano

¼ tsp thyme

¼ tsp sage

1 clove garlic crushed

1 pinch sea salt to taste

Wash and trim green beans, then steam for about 3-5 minutes. Toast almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden stirring constantly so they don’t burn. Add the herbs and oil to the skillet and toss well. Then add your green beans to mix.

Green beans contain vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and calcium and potassium. And garlic is antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-fungal. It is good for respiratory problems and ear aches as well as acting to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Along with the green beans I plan to make a brown rice and red wheat berries and adzuki beans with squash since I have some beautiful winter squash to use. The last time I prepared the brown rice and wheat berries my daughter came home with photos of our resident eagle. He had landed along the shore of the lake and was watching her as she photographed him.

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Here are the recipes for the other dishes I mentioned in this blog.

Brown Rice and Wheat Berries

 2 cups short grain brown rice, rinsed and soaked 6-8 hours

½ cup wheat berries, rinsed and soaked 6-8 hours (red winter variety)

3-3 ½ cups water

Pinch of sea salt per cup of grain

Place washed/soaked rice in pressure cooker, mix in the wheat berries.
Add the water and cook over low flame for 15-20 minutes
Add salt and cover pressure cooker.
Bring up to pressure, then lower flame to medium-low and cook for 50 minutes.
Remove from flame, and release steam from pressure cooker or allow it to release on its own.
Open cooker and let rice sit for 4-5 minutes before serving.

Brown rice is high in vitamin B which helps to reduce depressive symptoms. It is also a good source of minerals and healthy fat. Great for we New England residents who will begin to see less sun as fall brings in winter. Whole wheat berries contain 12 B vitamins, vitamin E, protein, essential fatty acids and important trace minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. If you are sensitive to wheat make the rice it stands alone.

Azuki Beans and Squash – Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook

1 cup Azuki Beans, washed and soaked at least 6-8 hours

1 cup good quality organic Butternut, Buttercup squash 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 until pliable (5-10 minutes)
Cube squash and set aside.
Place soaked kombu in bottom of heavy pot.
Add soaked beans with soaking water on top of kombu carefully so kombu remains on bottom of pot.
Make sure there is enough water to just cover the beans.
Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
Add the cubed squash on top of beans making sure the water is covering just the beans to set up steamer effect for squash.
Continue to cook over low heat for 45 minutes checking often to assure the beans are no burning on bottom of pot.
Once the squash and beans are soft remove from heat and serve.

Adzuki beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps to keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. They also contain folate, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential for a healthy heart. Adzuki beans are a good way to get B vitamins, including B6, B2, B1, B3, and folic acid.
Squash is naturally sweet and is a good source of beta-carotene and complex carbohydrates. 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.

So what are we waiting for…let’s get cooking!

Quote for this glorious day by Nancy Wood

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of Earth.

Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life even if it is easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand even when I have gone far away from you…

AND as my great nephew Cooper says….Peace Out!