Muffin Mindfulness

If you are anything like me you enjoy a nice sweet, yet light muffin in the morning. I created what I’m calling my “Spring into Spring” muffin this week to share with the team of gifted clinicians I have the great pleasure of working with. My little muffin is hearty and it provides the energy for hard working people to get through their morning without that late-morning drop in energy that sneaks up on us. 

You know what I’m talking about…you are suddenly aware that you want to take a nap, you are shaky and find it hard to concentrate. Everyone around is now irritating and it is challenging to be calm or kind. A little Hypoglycemic maybe? If there is a snack bar or vending machine nearby you are contemplating heading that way. WAIT! You can head that off with this little “Spring into Spring” muffin. Simply pull it out of your lunchbox, (yes that’s what I said…lunchbox…I’ll be doing a blog post in the near future about packing your healthy lunch/snack for work) grab a cup of green tea with a little honey and experience a moment of sheer pleasure!

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Spring into Spring Muffin Mix: remember to use organic non GMO whenever you can. This is a vegan recipe but you can add 2 eggs if you’d like to make these muffins a bit more fluffy. You can also substitute the brown sugar with maple syrup for a less sugar option.

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup flax meal

2 teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)

½ cup Greek yogurt

½ cup coconut oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups grated carrot

½ cup grated coconut

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup raisins

¾ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup whole oats

Prepare a muffin pan with Spectrum organic butter flavored shortening.

In a medium bowl mix together the dry ingredients: flour, flax meal, baking soda, spices.

I a separate small bowl mix together the grated carrot, coconut, cranberries, raisins and walnuts.

In a larger bowl mix together the coconut oil, maple syrup and brown sugar (add eggs if you are including them) and the applesauce. Mix until blended. The mixture will be chunky but don’t worry. Add vanilla.

Slowly add the dry ingredients blending completely until mixture if light and fluffy.

Fold in the carrot mixture and blend completely by hand.

Sprinkle the whole oats in the bottom of the prepared muffin tin, and on top of the muffins before placing in the oven to bake.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.

Find your peaceful place and enjoy a muffin.

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Tu Vein Kim Son Buddhist Monastery, Watsonville, CA

 

Health is the greatest possession.

Contentment is the greatest treasure.

Confidence is the greatest friend.

Non-being is the greatest joy.

                        Lao Tzu, Father of Taoism

Blessed Be

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

Health Coach Meets Coopers Hawk

I was driving behind a school bus this week heading to work, engaged in my morning breathing and chanting when I witnessed a Coopers Hawk fly under the bus. He was rolled over a before flying out to the side of the road. I quickly pulled over and put my hazard lights on the see if he was alive and needed care. As I approached I saw that the hawk was alive but clearly stunned…I mean who wouldn’t be after rolling under a school bus.

I wasn’t thinking about anything except can I help this beautiful creature. My daughter had witnessed a similar bird of prey, car encounter a couple weeks ago and found that a beautiful Bard Owl had not been as fortunate as this smaller Coopers Hawk. I gently smoothed his wings and picked him up to warm him a bit and assess his need. He looked directly at me as I picked him up and did not try to fly or bite…he was just assessing me in the same way I was assessing him. After holding him close and sensing he was stable I set him down on the ground. He looked a bit frazzled like this picture below (which is a juvenile Coopers Hawk) and was lifting each foot as if to see they were still attached. He shook out his wings and then looked at me again as I was crouched down next to him talking softly.

I was trying to determine if I should let him be or attempt to bring him to a bird of prey rescue center such as VINS in Woodstock Vermont. It was at that point that I said to him can you fly and like a fool showed this hawk what I meant by raising my arms as if to fly. He looked again at me and then flew from the roadside into the woods where he had a rather clumsy landing. I knew there was nothing else I could do as he had returned to his world…so I got back into my car and said a little prayer that he would be okay. I also said a prayer of gratitude for having received this beautiful gift to encounter so closely and intimately this bird of prey that I admire often in it’s natural habitat where I live.

What does the Hawk teach us as a spiritual guide?

“When you have the hawk as a spirit animal, you may have an inclination towards using the power of vision and intuition in your daily life. The hawk totem provides wisdom about seeing situations from a higher perspective, using the power of observation, and focusing on the task at hand. It’s a good companion to develop spiritual awareness.”

“Hawks teach us to look at a situation from a different perspective.  Hawk holds the key to higher consciousness and trying to bring certain things into your circle of awareness. Know that enlightenment is imminent.

Hawk often represents the ability to see meaning in ordinary experiences if you choose to become more observant.”

I encourage you to explore what you can do to help preserve these and other birds or prey. I love going to sanctuaries to see them and learn more. Vermont Institute of Natural Science http://www.vinsweb.org/ is one place I love to promote.

I am grateful for the experience and hopeful that my encounter with this beautiful hawk will inspire others to take great care in how we live with our animal brothers and sisters. We are guests in their world and are wise to tread lightly on this Earth.

Blessed Be

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!

Winter Blessings

I love waking to a snow covered landscape which was the case this morning. I’m not sure what it is that makes me so happy when it snows but I do know it brings the kid out in me. I couldn’t wait to get outside with the dogs and play. Thankfully, my daughter came to help shovel so that task also became fun!

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We could hear others in the neighborhood talking as they were shoveling. In the distance someone had a snow blower running and it sounded like it was in a box because the snow covered ground absorbed the harshness of the machine. It was time for lunch when we finished and I realized there was nothing quick to make so I had some hummus while planning what to make for dinner. Kristen came in and had some of the gluten free ginger cookies I had and checked out my nearly completed kitchen renovation that is awaiting the counter top and appliances!

I can’t wait to be cooking in my kitchen again. When preparing meals these past few months I have gathered ingredients from my storage jars in the upstairs bedroom, brought them to the small table in my living room where I prepared them for cooking and once prepped brought everything to the range we moved into the basement. I have certainly got my exercise running up and down the stairs while cooking. it will seem so easy to make meals when it is all in one space on one floor.

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The gas range will fit into this space

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AND the refrigerator will go here.

Those ginger cookies were really good but I ate too much sugar today so I made a wonderful Shiitake Mushroom Soup for dinner to help rid my body of all the sugar. It was delightful and a perfect way to end this very busy winter day full of blessings.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup

 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin, white and green parts separated

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

8 cups water

2 inch piece kombu

1/4 cup bonito flakes

3 oz dried shiitake, rinsed and soaked for 5 minutes or 10-12 fresh shiitake

½ cup sweet white miso

1 pound baby bok choy, cut in quarters
8 oz firm tofu cut into small cubes

 1)      In a large soup pot over medium heat add the scallion white parts, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.

2)      Cook for 1 minute and add 8 cups water.

3)      Rinse the kombu and soak it for 5 minutes, add it to the pot along with the bonito flakes.

4)      Bring it to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes – do not let it boil.

5)      Remove the kombu and set it aside.

6)      Add the shiitake mushrooms and miso to the pot and let it simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are hydrated and tender.

7)      Add the bok choy and simmer until it is tender, about 10 minutes.

8)      Add the tofu and cook for another 5 minutes.

9)      Ladle into bowls and garnish with the reserved green parts of scallions.

I am counting my many blessings this evening including my wonderful children, my warm home in this beautiful part of the world and my health.

That’s all for this week.

Brightest Blessings