Friday, January 20, 2012

Words as Nourishment: The Importance of Saying "Thank You"

Food nourishes us on both a physical level and a spiritual level. Expressing our gratitude for the food we eat provides us with sustenance on many levels. It is a spiritual exercise to show our appreciation for the nourishment which we are about to receive. Showing appreciation is nourishment for ourselves and others. Giving thanks allows us to connect with the food on a spiritual level because it puts our intentions out into the world, strengthening our connection to both our own selves and to things on a larger level.

Saying thank you helps you to be mindful of who you are and what you have within the greater context of things. If you are a parent, I urge you to practice the expression of gratitude with your children so that they will develop a sense of appreciation for the blessings that life has offered them.

Expressing gratitude gives us a chance to slow down and calm our minds before a meal, preparing our bodies to receive nourishment. When you are calm, you will feel more satisfied after your meal and your digestion will be better.

Here’s a thank you to all the farmers, the distributors, the stores and the cook who prepares the meal. And a very special thank you to those who do the clean-up!

Isaiah gives thanks.
Isaiah is the son of Nora and Joseph Waxman. Isaiah was born and raised on grains and vegetables, no meat and no dairy! He is our first Grandson and has the face of an angel.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Finding The Magic and Recipe for Pasta Fagioli

As I sit with my computer I think, what should I write about? It’s cold and damp. I am not quite as active, and I do not feel as inspired with creativity. Well, maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. Winter time is more quiet. It is the season to be still and reflective. Especially after all the holiday chaos, I welcome the quiet and gather my energy to break out in the Spring.

Here’s a nice warming variation on pasta fagioli to help you break that post-holiday daze. Even better, this thick and filling stew is a great way to make use of leftover pasta
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Note: When you read this recipe you will notice a range for the amount of beans and pasta. If you like a heartier dish, use the larger amount.

2 cups of diced onions (feel free to add more onions for a sweeter taste)
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 - 3 cups of escarole, chopped into 1” by 1” pieces
1 1/2 - 2 cups of pre-cooked white beans (I used canned Eden brand cannellini beans)
1 1/2 - 2 cups of leftover pasta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces. I like to use fusilli. If you are using fresh pasta, it needs to be cooked really al dente. You would want to make 2 cups of dry pasta. For a more rich flavor you can use some of the cooking water from the pasta.
6 - 7 cups of water (total amount of liquid)
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt (This is the range for the recommended salt use)
Black pepper (optional)
Red pepper flakes (optional, but this really brings the flavor to life.
Pasta Fagioli, yummy!

For variation, try adding some fried sourdough bread crumbs for an even richer dish.

Gently heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot over low heat.
Add the onions and begin to sauté.
Add about 1 cup of water to the pot, then add the garlic and a pinch of sea salt.
Add a shake or two of red pepper flakes (be careful, these can be hot!).
Continue to sauté the onions until they become translucent.
Add additional water as needed to keep the onions from sticking.
Add the white beans and about 5  cups of water to the pot.
Next, add 1.5 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
Increase the flame and bring the mixture to a subtle boil. Once the mixture is bubbling, lower the flame and place a flame deflector under the pot.  Simmer on low for 7 minutes or so.
Add the chopped escarole and cook for another 5 minutes.
Finally, add the pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and a nice crack of black pepper. If you doing the bread crumb variation, add them at this point. Let cook for another minute or two.

I like to serve this hearty soup with lighter grain dishes, such as polenta or a couscous salad or brown rice. To complete the meal, don’t forget to include a light vegetable side dish!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

More About Susan

My interest in plant-based foods began in my early 20’s when I adopted a vegetarian diet. My reasons were both self-serving and ethical. I did not like the idea of animals having to suffer. On a personal level, there was a history of diabetes and high blood pressure in my family. On a superficial level, I wanted to keep a nice figure as I matured.  The new life was not too difficult for me because I really did not enjoy eating meat. The main hurdle to overcome was my love for cheese. 
In my late 20’s I was introduced to macrobiotics by my good friend and martial arts Sense. At the time I was at a crossroads, trying to decide “what I wanted to be”. He invited me to a lecture on the health benefits of macrobiotics that later proved to be a life-changing event. The content of this lecture made perfect sense to me- I was already eating whole foods, but it was the philosophy that captured my interest. I was so inspired by this lecture that a light went off in my head and I decided right then and there that I would become a macrobiotic teacher and counselor.
My Transition from a Vegetarian Diet to a Whole Foods, Macrobiotic Approach
The transition from a vegetarian diet to a macrobiotic diet was not difficult for me, as I was already eating grains and vegetables. I began studying on my own, reading lots of books and trying to implement the ideas gradually. After I read a chapter on digestion and the importance of chewing your food well I had another epiphany while munching on a slice of pizza. Since the first step of digestion takes place in the mouth, I decided to chew my pizza really well. George Ohsawa, the modern day founder of macrobiotics, said you can neutralize just about anything by chewing it thoroughly. As I sat there and diligently chewed, the bit of cheese in my mouth did not get any smaller, but in fact grew in size. I continued to chew and the cheese ball continued to grow, now reaching the size of a huge wad of bubble gum. At this point I gave up and simply spit it out. I thought, that if the cheese is clogging up my mouth what is doing to my digestive system? I was cured and today if I even think that a piece of cheese looks good I remember the hard ball in my mouth and am immediately turned off.
Susan and Denny Waxman at Ringing Rocks 
I began my formal studies at the Kushi Institute. Early on I was encouraged to begin teaching cooking classes. After graduating from the Kushi Institute, I continued my studies with Denny Waxman in Philadelphia. In 1997, Denny founded the Strengthening Health Institute, a school for macrobiotic teachers and counselors, where I was a member of the first graduating class. The following year I began teaching cooking and do-in at the SHI. 
I am now the co-director and executive chef at the Strengthening Health Institute, where I continue to teach. I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and abroad, teaching at macrobiotic institutes, international conferences and really cool places like the Ritz Carlton Hotel. I have had the pleasure of cooking for the cast and crew of a Hollywood film as well as for Barbra Streisand and James Brolin.
I also offer private cooking classes, personal menu planning and health consultations.