Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Denny and I would like to thank our families, friends and all of life's challenges.

We would also like to thank those of your for your continued support of us and SHI. It is through you that we are able to continue the growth of sharing and advancing health.

We wish you health, happiness and prosperity in the coming year!

In the photo, Denny and I are getting into the holiday spirit. Ichi is probably dreaming of white anchovies (or sardines and sweet potatoes, his favorite food). 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday I would like to take the time to mention just a few simple things that I am thankful for and to acknowledge all the things that have touched my life and helped me to be the person I am.
  1. I am thankful for good parents who have always loved and supported me, who have taught me good manners and have encouraged me to always try to do my best. 
  2. I am thankful for my husband whose love and passion inspires me. Your dream is big and I am happy to share it with you. 
  3. I am thankful to all of my friends and family members who also have shown me great love, patience and kindness. I appreciate your loyalty and the many ways you have helped me through many endeavors. 
  4. I am thankful to all of my teachers who have shared their knowledge and the openness for creative thinking. 
  5. I am thankful for my kitty, Ichi who brings me great joy. 
  6. I am thankful for good health and the ability to teach and help others. 
  7. I am thankful for each and everyone who supports a higher dream of living in a peaceful, sustainable world and the work they do to help make this possible.

In appreciation to all of my readers here is a recipe for a holiday dessert. I hope you all have a great holiday and enjoy some good food with your family and friends.

Pumpkin Custard
3.75 cups of cooked pumpkin (2 15 oz. cans)
1-½ cups of water
1 1/2 to 2 cups of brown rice syrup (depending on the sweetness of the pumpkin)
1/4 cup of maple syrup
9 – 10 teaspoons of agar-agar (kanten flakes) Hint, if you are using more liquid in this dessert, than you will need to use more of the agar.

Optional ingredients: cinnamon, nutmeg
and of course my Grandmother’s secret ingredient, a splash of good whiskey!

Mix the cooked pumpkin and water together and place in a pot.
Begin to gently heat the mixture.
Add the kanten flakes and gently cook until the flakes are completely dissolved.
Add the rice and maple syrup and stir to blend thoroughly with the pumpkin.
Season with your favorite combination of spice and of course, remember to add the whiskey!

Serving ideas:
Place the cooked pumpkin in a nice dish and garnish with chopped toasted pecans or walnuts. And/or almond cream.
Use as a topping for a couscous or teff cake.
Use as a pie filling with a prepared crust.

Delicious and gluten free!

Please come join me for a Holiday Cooking Class and learn how to prepare delicious, colorful vegan specialties. For more information please contact The Strengthening Health Institute.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Trick or Treat 2, Kitty Litter

Stop the Monsanto Boogie Men and vote YES to label foods as non-GMO. GMO’s are a serious threat that touches many aspects of our lives. While there is an increased awareness of GMO’s, we are still far too unclear about whether or not many foods contain GMO’s. For example:

Denny and I recently welcomed the cutest little kitty, Ichi, into our home. So, what do I feed him? I researched natural ways of feeding cats, and came up with some useful information. Cats are carnivorous, and it is better to feed them a diet that is lower in carbohydrates. I decided against buying cat food that has refined grains in it because I want him to remain sleek and stealth. However, what about protein? Many cat foods have squid, chickens livers, and other creatures in it. When was the last-time you saw a cat jump into the ocean and fish out a squid? More importantly, what are the chickens who eventually end up as cat food eating? Are they being fed GMO-free grains? My answer to this dilemma is to feed Ichi wild fish, along with sharing some of my organic grain, bean and vegetable dishes with him.

I have had the same issue with finding good-quality cat litter. There is a natural kitty litter that is made up of only corn kernels, and does not include dust. However, when I called up the company to see if the corn kernels used are GMO-free, they were not able to give me a straight answer. This is why it is so important for there to be specific labels to inform consumers of whether or not a food contains GMO’s. It is important to know the quality of the products we buy for our selves and our families, as well as for our pets. My friends out there, please shop consciously and do your research before going to the store.
He's Purrrrrfect!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sweet Potatoes: The Other Orange Vegetable

The sweet potato has been a part of my diet since childhood. Who doesn’t remember at least one Thanksgiving dinner with candied sweet potatoes (marshmallow topping optional!). Sweet potatoes are often given to babies as their first taste of solid food. These earthy beauties are universally appealing with their stunning color, luscious texture, and sweet taste.

When I first began studying macrobiotic cooking, I was shocked to discover that potatoes, America’s “perfect” food, where considered among the worst foods for health. Potatoes are stem tubers, so technically speaking we cannot even call them the “root of all evil".  All joking aside, they are one of most acidifying plant foods and for optimum health it is better not to include them as a regular or even semi-regular part of your diet. Being the young enthusiastic macrobiotic student I was, I took this information to heart and pretty much avoided all kinds of potatoes, white, orange, and even purple, for many years.

Missing the wonderful, comforting texture of potatoes, and a favorite veggie bar snack (the french fry), I decided to occasionally include sweet potatoes in my diet. Sweet potatoes are very relaxing, and sweet potato fries make a delicious (but rare!) treat. Fortunately, for all of us who like to indulge, they are classified as tuberous root vegetables and besides being delicious have a number of health benefits. 
I encourage you to enjoy “the other orange vegetable”, a less-dense alternative to the winter squash. 

Today I am going to share my recipe for candied sweet potatoes. While they don’t have marshmallow fluff on top, you are sure to appreciate them even more than the original, sugar-filled recipe. You will also feel great after eating them! 
Sweet, orange and delicious!

Candied Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes- Peeled and cut lengthwise into 2 inch thick slices
2 Tablespoons of Brown rice syrup
1 Tablespoon of Barley Malt
1 teaspoon of Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 inch of water to cover the bottom of the pot
A small pinch of Sea salt - 1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon

*Note: this works best using a wide, saucepan; ideally a cast iron pan with a lid.
Place Sweet potatoes in the pan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
Lower the flame and steam on low heat for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and drizzle a little olive oil over the sweet potatoes.
Add a pinch of salt, cover and continue to steam for 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl mix all of the sweet ingredients together.
Pour the sweet mixture overtop of the sweet potatoes and continue to
cook until they become tender.
As the potatoes cook the sauce will reduce forming a sweet glaze.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dry It, You'll Like It!

The benefits of dried mushrooms - Shitake, Maitake, Porcini, Oyster and Chanterelles,
just to name a few.

I love a number of cultivated and wild mushrooms. I like them sautéed with vegetables, in soups, in pastas, on sandwiches, and, of course, risotto. In addition to being delicious, mushrooms offer us a wealth of health benefits and are an excellent non-fortified, plant source of Vitamin D.

While mushrooms are yummy when fresh, drying mushrooms lowers their acidity, increases their levels of Vitamin D, and intensifies their taste. Unfortunately, dried mushrooms can be quite costly. Purchasing them from a cheap source is not a good idea
because you do not know the method used in the drying process and often they are treated with chemicals which is not good for anyone. In order to reap the nutritional benefits of this food, the mushrooms need to be sun-dried. My solution for quality control and cost effectiveness is to do it yourself!

Here’s a simple way to create your own sun-dried mushrooms at home. Be sure to use the best
quality mushrooms you can find. Once dried, mushrooms will keep indefinite when stored in a jar in a cool, dry place.

      To Dry Your Own Mushrooms: 
Fresh Oyster mushrooms, check out the gills!
  • Find a nice spot that gets a lot of direct sun. I did this on my back porch. 
  • Use a dish with sides (so the mushrooms do not blow away!) 
  • Line the dish with a bamboo sushi mat. The mat is more natural and it allows more air to help in the drying process and prevent spoilage. 
  • Next, place the mushrooms on the mat with the gills facing up toward the sun. 
  • Cover the mushrooms with a second sushi mat. The mat allows the sun to seep through the cracks and keeps the bugs, birds and debris out. Covering the mushrooms also also helps to prevent them from blowing away.
  •  Leave the mushrooms in the sun for at least 6 hours. 
If the mushrooms are not completely dried at the end of the day, bring them inside and leave on the counter overnight, then return to direct sun the next day. Depending on the thickness of your mushrooms, the drying process will take anywhere from one day to several days.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fall Foods For Endurance and Flexibility

Now that labor day has come and gone autumn is upon us. We often think of the abundance of harvest vegetables available at the farmer’s market at this time of year. However, “fall abundance” can also include the many activities that we participate in such as: hiking, football, field hockey, lacrosse, cross country, rugby, soccer. Not to mention, of course, the abundance of dried leaves to be picked up in the yard!

One of my friends is a marathoner and triathlete. Since she is training for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, she asked me about foods that are good for endurance and flexibility. I decided to share my recommendations I gave her on the blog, given the abundance of physical activities and work that we do during this season.

Regardless of whether you are trying to keep up with your yard work, your children's’ activities, or you are training for a marathon yourself, including these foods in your diet will give you the endurance and flexibility you need to enjoy your fall season.

Susan’s dishes for Flexibility and Physical endurance:
Umm, the energy we get from of whole grains and vegetables!
  • Vegetable fried rice 
  • Beans cooked with sautéed vegetable
  • Udon or Soba noodles with fried tofu and vegetables 
  • Quick oil sautéed leafy greens, especially bok choy, collard greens, kale, broccoli and napa cabbage 
  • Sautéed and simmered root vegetables (carrots and burdock or carrot, burdock and lotus root)
  • Long steamed root and round vegetables (such as winter squash and cabbage)
  • Quick steamed un-yeasted sourdough bread with nut or seed butter served with sauerkraut or pickles
PS: These dishes are tried and true as I have used them cooking for two of my male clients to enhance 
       boost their athletic performance.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Did you know that the food choices you make can help make balance with the season?

I’d like to say a big hello to all my friends. It has been a busy summer filled with rewards of work and play. Now that we are at the end of the summer, we begin to notice a subtle change in the weather as we welcome a little cooler temperatures. This just may be my favorite time of the year where we have nice warm days with comfortable slightly cooler nights. Perfect for a good night’s sleep.

All this being said, it is definitely time to make a few changes in your food choices in preparation for the cooler weather to come. We may find ourselves craving more sweets during this time of year. The weather, as it cools, has a contracting effect. A perfect example is apparent in nature as the leaves on the trees change color, dry up, and eventually fall to the ground. Our bodies also experience a similar contracting effect which often results in feeling more hungry, tired in the afternoon, and slightly more pressured. Eating a variety of good-quality sweets will help balance out this contracting process and make us feel more relaxed. When we align our food choices with the environment, it helps us to feel more comfortable and we are able to experience better health.

Here are some ideas of what to include in your diet during this transitional time and as the temperature continues to drop.
Chunky cabbage, onions and carrots, perfect for long steaming and stews!

  • Start your day with a nice bowl of warm porridge. My  favorites this time of year are steel-cut oats with pure maple syrup, soft millet cooked with sweet vegetables or soft polenta with fresh sweet corn (GMO free of course).
  • Start including some millet into your diet. Although millet is not so commonly known it works with all of the sweet vegetables and happens to be delicious with any meal. As an added bonus, the leftovers are easily incorporated into a puréed sweet vegetable soup, or formed into cakes and fried for a tasty entrée. 
  • Emphasize sweet vegetables in your cooking such as onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, leeks, and carrots. As the weather grows colder, winter squash comes into season which is both delicious and versatile.
  • Regularly use cooking styles that enhance the sweet quality of your vegetables, such as long steaming, or sautéing and simmering. These cooking styles help bring out the natural sweet taste of the vegetables and offer longer lasting, more substantial energy which is important for the cooler weather to come.
  • Finally, continue to enjoy seasonal fruit, but consider cooking it a few times a week. The rich flavor of poached peaches, baked apples, or even a fruit crunch are all perfect at this time of year and will satisfy almost any sweet craving.

Kabocha squash, onions and green cabbage, all sweet and delicious!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hello, and update

Some of you may be wondering where I have been these past few weeks. My schedule took off in late spring and I haven’t had a chance to stop and post until this week. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to. In addition to teaching the Strengthening Health Institute’s regular seminars, I taught a hands-on sushi making class. Despite the meltingly hot weather, we had a packed house, and I think that a great time was had by all. I’ll be doing more cooking classes like this one at The Strengthening Health Institute,   so be sure to check out our websites for updates and please register early because space is limited and the classes fill quickly!

In June, Denny and I went to the West Coast to teach and counsel. Our first stop was in San Diego, where we had 2 lectures and a cooking class held at Casa de Luz, a vegan community dining and educational center. Our classes were a big hit. We were fortunate to also have a little play time which we spent connecting with some good friends and having fun with our family members who live in San Diego. Next we headed north to Seattle,WA, where we had a weekend seminar of lectures and cooking classes. Seattle in the summer is beautiful! The weather could not have been any more perfect with cool nights and warm days. The seminar was held at a sustainable farm called 21 Acres. The building is "green" with a market on the first floor and a commercial kitchen, dining area and conference space on the second floor. It was the perfect place for macrobiotic cooking classes. I must say I was very impressed with the whole concept and even excited about the self-cleaning toilet! The people in Seattle are both hip and receptive to our teaching which makes for an overall great experience. And, since all work and no play makes Susan a dull girl, we did get to spend some fun time with our friends and have a quick tour of downtown Seattle.

When we returned to Philadelphia, we had Strengthening Health Intensive
and the June session of our CCP seminars. I was lucky to fit in a Phillies’ game
over the Fourth of July weekend.

July is another exciting and busy month for us as Denny and I are off to Taiwan. We were invited by some new friends to explore the local, traditional foods and offer insight on the best ways to adapt a macrobiotic practice to the local environment. I am looking forward to exploring the Taiwanese cuisine. My goal is to learn a few new recipes and adapt them to plant-based cooking. I’ll be back in Philadelphia briefly at the end of July, to teach the July session of our CCP seminar, before heading off to the Kushi Summer Conference. I am going to try to post a few times during my travels this month, so stay tuned...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Strengthen Your Digestion with Naturally Fermented Foods

In honor of Philadelphia Beer Week (which is happening this week), and as a continuation of last week’s discussion about the link between healthy breasts and good digestion, I would like to talk about natural fermentation today. Making naturally fermented, plant-based foods a regular part of your diet will help strengthen and activate your digestion, and will build healthy intestinal flora. The macrobiotic diet is abundant in naturally fermented plant-based foods. You might already be familiar with miso, shoyu (also known as soy sauce), tamari, and pickles. You might not be as familiar with tempeh and natto, but they are naturally fermented bean products (and excellent protein sources). Umeboshi plums and umeboshi vinegar (a savory vinegar) are other fermented treats from Japan that are highly prized for their alkalizing abilities. Of course good-quality, micro-brewed beer also is a great source of natural fermentation!

I recommend that my clients have miso soup almost daily to help strengthen and activate their digestion. I also recommend that my clients have a small portion of naturally-fermented pickles on a regular basis. However, don’t overdo it on the pickles and the miso-- both are salty, so go easy! Luckily, you only need to consume a small amount of these foods in order to reap their amazing digestive benefits. I would like to add that it is important to distinguish between naturally-fermented pickles made with vegetables and sea salt (lactic acid fermentation) and pickles made with vinegar and sugar. While dill pickles might be tasty on your sandwich, they do not have the same health benefits as lactic-acid fermented pickles. You can read more about natural fermentation on the Real Pickles website. Real Pickles makes excellent pickles-- I highly recommend their sauerkraut and their red cabbage pickles! All this being said, sauerkraut is probably the easiest pickle to incorporate into your diet. If you are feeling adventurous you can make it at home, or you can purchase it at your local health food store. My two favorite sauerkrauts are Real Pickles and Goldmine.

Recipe for Quick Umeboshi vinegar Pickles

*This recipe can be used to pickle vegetables or tofu.

1 part of umeboshi vinegar
3 1/2 to 7 parts of water  
*Some brands of umeboshi vinegar are more salty than others. This is the range I would recommend
 and can be adjusted to taste.

Preparation for pickled vegetables:
Cut vegetables and place in a pyrex bowl or glass jar. Pour the liquid overtop and
allow the vegetables to sit for a minimum of 3 hours or longer. Keep the pickles with the liquid, refrigerated in an air tight glass container.
*Note: Harder vegetables will keep longer, while softer vegetables need to be consumed more quickly.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Healthy Breasts

In response to the recent news of Angelina Jolie undergoing a double mastectomy as a “preventative measure” for breast cancer, I would like to offer an alternative solution to a problem and fear faced by many women. The thought of getting breast cancer or any other cancer for that matter can be
devastating for women and their families. However, there is a solution that allows us to feel empowered, pro-active, and fearless. 

The key point I would like to make is that our diet and lifestyle is the best preventative medicine. Hippocrates, the founder of Western medicine, said “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food". I believe this quote to be true, as people who are not as excessive with their intake of food tend to live healthier lives. The scientific proof of this is well-documented in T. Colin Campbell‘s book The China Study. It is undeniable that our diet and lifestyle have a direct impact on our health.

In my field of Diet and Lifestyle Counseling, I use a means of Oriental Diagnosis, which uses physiognomy and acupuncture meridians as a way to assess a person’s overall condition. While this type of diagnosis does not use fancy equipment, it is quite accurate. A skilled practitioner is able to detect a potential problem long before it is detected by medical testing. Thanks to this type of diagnosis, my clients are able to make dietary and lifestyle adjustments to cleanse their bodies, strengthen their blood and immune system, and restore their condition back to balance. Many of our clients have had complete success in recovering their health naturally, while others choose to combine medical treatment with a dietary approach to healing. Macrobiotics is not opposed to Western medical treatment when needed. It is my experience that that the two approaches to health can be complimentary. My clients who have had medical treatment heal and recover more quickly when they eat well.

In Oriental medicine there is an up-down correlation between different organs in the body. Each organ system is seen in pairs. For example, the lungs are paired with the large intestines. The breasts, while not exactly part of the lungs happen to rest on top of the lung area so there is also a correlation, which simply means that the key to healthy breasts is having a healthy digestive system. When we eat excessive foods, such as meat and dairy, combine it with sugar and other refined sweets it is just a disaster waiting to happen. If a problem does not develop in the breasts, sooner or later, a problem is likely to manifest in another part of the body. This being said, having a mastectomy is not the cure to prevent cancer, rather it is a set up for a problem to develop elsewhere. I would like to send a message to all women and say, let’s take care of our breasts and our entire body by eating a plant-based diet, or at the very least, by eating more grains and vegetables.

For healthy breasts (and a healthy body) here are my top “Power Breast” foods:

1.Whole grains, especially brown rice, millet and barley.
   *Grains strengthen the digestive system and are low in fat. 
2. Have a bowl of homemade miso soup 5 to 7 times a week.
   *Miso soup is very easy to make, it takes about 10 minutes to
     make and is very strengthening to the digestive system.
     Miso soup helps to build good intestinal flora and cleans the intestinal villi.        
     A small bowl a day helps keep the doctor away!
3. Eat one serving of quick steamed leafy green vegetables 5 to 7 times a week.
    *Quick steamed greens are rich in minerals and fiber which helps the overall functioning of the
     digestive system by keeping it clean and active to do its job eliminating excess.
     Just remember, do not overcook your greens, they need to be crunchy!

Below is a recipe for millet cooked with sweet vegetables.
This is a miso soup recipe from a previous post.

Millet with Sweet Vegetables
Millet is a whole grain with overall “settling” qualities. Energetically it is very helpful for breast problems because it helps to draw excess from the upper body and allows it to discharge naturally through the digestive system. As an added bonus, it is also very balancing for the central organs and especially helpful in stabilizing blood sugar.
1/3-cup of diced onion
1/3-cup of diced cabbage
1/3-cup of diced carrots
1 cup millet; washed several times to remove any debris
3 1/4 to 4 cups of water -When serving millet as a breakfast porridge use 5 cups of water
A small pinch o sea salt - about 1/16 of a teaspoon

* Place onions on the bottom of the pot with just enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Add a tiny   
   pinch of sea salt (literally a few grains) and cook 5 minutes or until the water begins to evaporate.
* Layer cabbage, then carrot and millet on top of the onions.
* Add water and another tiny pinch of sea salt.
* Cover and bring to a boil on a medium flame.
* Place a flame deflector underneath the pot and simmer on low for 40 minutes.
* Remove grain from the pot, place in serving dish and cover with a sushi mat.
* The texture and consistency should be slightly moist and fluffy.

Here are some of my favorite Millet and sweet vegetable combinations:
Onion and cauliflower
Onion, leeks, parsnips
Onion, sweet potato
Onion, cabbage, parsnip

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Farmers' Market; buy fresh, local and seasonal!

For me, one of the best parts of spring is the start of the farmers’ markets. Here in Philadelphia, they are becoming more popular every year. I think this is wonderful, because the ubiquity of farmers’ markets indicates a social awareness of the benefits of fresh, locally-grown food. For me, going to the farmers’ market is foreplay for my creativity! I feel so alive surrounded by an assortment of healthy, organic, fresh, locally-grown vegetables and fruits. Their colors are brilliant. You find unique varieties that you have never seen before. These vegetables have vitality. They whet my appetite. They appeal to my sense of beauty and inspire me to get creative in the kitchen. George Ohsawa, the founder of modern day macrobiotics, said that we are to marvel at nature. Beautifully grown vegetables are a physical manifestation of nature’s energy. We can share an intimate part of this energy when we eat fresh vegetables.

Denny and I recommend having vegetables with every meal. Doing your shopping at the farmers’ market makes eating lots of vegetables easy, because there is such an abundant variety of produce to choose from. The farmers’ market also facilitates menu planning, because, unlike the grocery store, everything at the farmers’ market is local and in season. Even better, freshly-picked vegetables stay fresh longer. From an economical standpoint, shopping at the farmers’ market will also save you a considerable amount of money on your weekly grocery bill. To sum it up, you can’t go wrong with a weekly visit to your local farmers’ market! To sample one of my inspired creations, try my recipe for Arugula and Wild Mushroom Salad, yum!

Arugula and Wild Mushroom Salad
This was so delicious I just had to take a picture!

Fresh Arugula - rinse well to remove any debris
Wild mushrooms - I used Beech and Maitake
Half moon slices of red onion
Tofu Cheese - seasoned to taste with umeboshi vinegar (See earlier posts for a description of this ingredient).
Organic Extra virgin Olive oil
Sea Salt (Just a pinch, about 1/16 of a teaspoon)
Shoyu - 1/4 teaspoon
Mirin - 3 to 4 drops

Place the washed arugula in a bowl.
Add the tofu cheese on top of the arugula.

To Prepare the mushrooms:
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.
Add the red onion and begin to sauté.
Add a little water, a pinch of sea salt and 2 to 3 drops of umeboshi vinegar.
Add the Beech mushrooms, cover the pot and simmer for 1 minute.
Add the Maitake mushrooms and lightly season with shoyu and mirin.
Continue to sauté for another minute to cook the mushrooms and blend the seasonings together.
Pour the warm mushrooms and onions over the arugula and lightly toss.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Suffering from Allergies?

Spring is in full bloom. Pussy willows, cherry blossoms, forsythia and magnolia trees offer a vibrant collage of color. Spring is just bursting with beauty and after the cold, damp rains that precede the flowers, I am finding that I want to spend as much time as possible outside.

However, if you suffer from allergies it can put a real damper on your outdoor activities. 
What can you do to ease your seasonal  suffering? 

There are several changes you can make to your diet to alleviate allergy symptoms.
Try eliminating foods that cause stagnation and mucus build-up in your body.
Animal and dairy foods are at the top of this list, as is refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.
If you consume these foods on a regular basis, try leaving them out of your diet for a few
days and see how you feel. I bet that you will notice a reduction in your allergy symptoms. 

For those of you who already eat a plant-based diet, there are many other dietary adjustments that 
you can make to reduce allergy symptoms. Foods that are dry, hard, baked, flaky or salty will exacerbate your allergies. Reducing your intake of fruit and fruit juices will help to curtail the itchy, watery eye symptoms. Tropical fruits are much more acidic and should be avoided completely due to their acidic nature. Sweeteners such as agave, honey, high fructose corn syrup or the more cleverly disguised “corn sugar” are highly acidifying and contribute to many allergies. Plant-based “dairy-like” substitutes should be avoided due to the thick, creamy consistency which contributes to mucus build up and is stagnating to the lymph system. Consuming cold foods and beverages can harden mucus causing more stagnation and making the excess more difficult to eliminate. In addition many of the above foods will make your condition acidic, which weakens your blood and immune system.

The key to feeling better is to eat more grains and vegetables. In addition, including foods such as miso soup and good quality pickles will improve your digestion, strengthen and alkalize your blood quality and make your body more resistant to allergic reactions.

For those of you who are not familiar with the above foods, the easiest pickle to incorporate into your diet is sauerkraut. Many health food stores sell natural, unpasteurized sauerkraut, often made with sea salt. Miso soup has long been used in Japan and has numerous health benefits..

Recipe for basic miso soup
Wakame or alaria sea vegetable - Use about 1 inch per cup of water.
One to two thin slices of root and/or round vegetables per cup of liquid used.
Leafy greens
Aged barley or Brown rice miso - Use 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of miso per cup of liquid
Finely chopped scallions for garnish

Soak the sea veggies in water until it is soft enough to cut into even pieces.
Discard the soaking water.
Measure the desired amount of water and pour it into a stainless steel pot.
Add the sea vegetables, turn on the flame and bring the water to a boil.
Add the root, and/or round vegetables and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, measure the miso and place it in a small bowl.
Take a little of the stock and dilute the miso, then use a wooden utensil to dissolve the miso.
Add the leafy greens to the soup.
Add the diluted miso to the boiling water. Note: the water needs to be boiling when you add the miso. The boiling water activates the miso. After you add the miso the water will stop boiling. Immediately lower the flame and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Garnish with finely chopped scallion before serving,

Note: You want to use Naturally fermented miso from a reputable source, either a good quality Natural Food store or from a Natural food Mail order company. Good quality sea vegetables may also be purchased in the health food store.

Types of miso recommended:
Aged Barley miso or “Mugi” miso
Brown rice or Sweet tasting Brown rice miso
White Miso
Or Try a combination of aged barley together with younger white miso.

                            Make your health strong and enjoy the full beauty of the season!
Photo taken by Chef Ralph

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peace On Earth Day

When I heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I was shocked, saddened, and deeply disturbed. It seems that there are more and more acts of violence every day in our society. What disturbs me the most about the Boston bombings is that they targeted a global family event. The Boston Marathon attracts spectators and athletes from all over the world: people of all ages, races, and walks 
of life come to participate in or watch this annual event. Because such a global event was targeted, 
I see these attacks as a crime against humanity.

The Boston Marathon bombings are just another sign of how unhealthy our society has become. 
The real question is, what is fueling these violent actions and thoughts? Has the health of our society deteriorated to such an extent that people are becoming disconnected to their brothers and sisters, 
losing control of their humanity, and acting out their aggression on innocent people?

When people are not physically and mentally well, can they be helped?
I believe that the way we choose to “fuel” ourselves through the food we eat has a direct effect not only on our physical health but also our emotional and spiritual health. You cannot separate these three aspects of health: our physical health is reliant upon our emotional and spiritual health; our emotional health is reliant upon our physical and spiritual health; and our spiritual health is reliant upon our physical and emotional health.

Many of us live on fast foods that produce extreme energetic effects on our bodies.
A perfect example can be seen in all the problems related to blood sugar, such as hypoglycemia and diabetes. To make matters worse, our food sources have become unnatural and good-quality food is becoming scarce. Many foods contain harmful preservatives, additives, and GMO’s, and this is but a short list. For those who choose to eat animal and dairy foods, the situation is far worse. Most animals raised for food consumption live in sordid, unhealthy conditions and are not fed food that is conducive to their health. Can you imagine what energetic effect such living and eating conditions has on these animals and on the people who consume these animal products? If we make the connection between diet and health, then we are able to see more clearly that by making poor food choices it is not just our physical and emotional health that is at risk, but the spirit that makes us human.

The offers of help, prayers, and thoughts that I’ve heard and read about about in the past few days give this tragedy a slight silver lining. These acts give me hope for our society. Moving forward in order for our society to improve its health and heal, we need to look at the bigger picture and re-examine what creates peaceful people. I believe we need to take the initiative to improve our food quality and educate people on the importance of how food choices effect every aspect of our lives, including our behavior towards other human beings. Healthy people create healthy societies, and healthy societies create a healthier planet. Since we are just a few days away from Earth Day (Monday April 22nd), I would like to invite you to join me in celebrating “Peace On Earth Day.” On April 22nd, take a minute to do something for someone else, sit down to a balanced meal of whole grains and vegetables, or better yet, share a meal with someone else. Take a moment to remember that we are all in this world together!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Beat the Bloat

Now that Spring is here, we are all thinking about flip-flops, groovy sunglasses, and how to get rid of that spare tire we might be carrying (you know, the one around the middle). Perhaps you are looking in the mirror and feeling a little winter-weary when you see puffy eyes, or notice that your skin could use some TLC. All of these symptoms are often caused by and/or perpetuated by consuming too much salt or a combination of salty, hard, dry, baked foods.

Enter my "Beat the Bloat Approach”! 
Here are my favorite foods to put a spring in your step and help reduce bloating. However, please keep in mind that these are all quick fixes, and do not replace a balanced diet. In the long run, it is important to cut back on the amount of salt you use and the number of hard, baked foods you consume. Regarding exercise, the best and simplest thing to do is to walk outside as often as you can. Walking outside is naturally balancing, and will strengthen your digestion. Walking is also a great way to enjoy the warm spring weather!

Beat the Bloat Quick Fixes:

  • Cucumbers: light and refreshing; also a natural diuretic.
  • Asparagus with fresh lemon: although asparagus can be acidfying (too much can lead to mineral loss) bloating is often caused by too much salt. It can be helpful to eat a little asparagus to help take out any extra salt and relieve your bloat. 
  • Vegetable Juice: please see my post on fresh veggie juice, "Green Cocktails Anyone" [April 2012.]
  • Dried Shitake Mushroom Tea: this mild tea will help rid your body of excess salt. 
  • Good-Quality Green Tea 
  • Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice 
  • Good-Quality Micro-Brewed Beer: serve at cellar temperature--not too cold!
  • Eat plenty of quick-steamed greens with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Top Ten Reasons to Go Green (Vegetables, that is)

  1. They are high in fiber and rich in minerals. 
  2. They are a good source of calcium. 
  3. They go great with any meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner. 
  4. They can be sautéed, steamed or blanched. 
  5. They can be cooked in grain and pasta dishes. 
  6. Some of them can be cooked with their roots, very dynamic! 
  7. They can be sautéed and added to beans dishes. 
  8. You can roll them up and smoke them (don’t worry, just kidding!) 
  9. They can be used in salads. 
  10. They can be grown in a backyard garden or on your back porch. 

Here is a list of my favorite greens that also just happen to be the most beneficial for your health. 

Baby bok choy
Belgian Endive
Bok choy
Broccoli Rabe
Carrot greens
Daikon radish greens
Dandelion greens
Kale, such as Lacinto, Red Russian, Green Curly
Lettuce greens, such as Iceberg, Romaine, Red Leaf, and Bibb
Mizuna (a kind of green that can often be found in an Asian market)
Mustard greens
Napa cabbage
Red radish greens
Turnip greens
Wild Watercress

I wish you all good health and good luck! Also, érinn go brách!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sweet Seduction

Entice your tastebuds (and your lover(s)...) with my Caramel Rice Pudding this Valentine’s Day. 
For an extra sensorial pleasure I use risotto rice for its creamy texture. My first preference is the Carnaroli variety because I find it to be lighter in consistency than other types of risotto rice. 
Grain-based sweeteners combined with a touch of maple syrup yield a rich caramel flavor, and high-quality olive oil creates a decadent, buttery richness. Garnish with your favorite fresh berries and a sprig of mint to enhance the refreshing quality and balance the sweetness. This dessert is both beautiful and delicious but will not give you a sugar headache-- definitely something to celebrate! I have served this dessert at dinner parties to my non-macro, non-vegan, sugar eating friends and it was even a hit with them. To me, this is the ultimate compliment.

Happy Valentine's Day, I love you all!

Mini desserts served at our New Years Party

Caramel Rice Pudding
This recipe is similar to traditional rice puddings which are usually made with milk or cream. By using the risotto rice I achieve a creamy texture without the use of any dairy or dairy-like substitutes.
Please note that the success of your pudding depends upon using quality ingredients and taking the time to cook the rice properly. If you have a special bottle of olive oil hiding in your pantry, break it out to use in this recipe. 

1 cup organic carnaroli risotto rice
5 cups water
1 cup apple juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon organic olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of fresh squeezed orange juice

Heat the apple juice and water together in a stainless steel stockpot (to cook the risotto).

Heat a little olive oil in a heavier style pot. Add the risotto rice and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
Ladle the warm liquid over the rice; add the sea salt and stir. Allow the liquid to begin to absorb into the rice almost completely before adding additional liquid.
Continue to ladle the liquid into the rice and stir after each ladle is added. You will be cooking the rice slowly over a low flame. When you reach the consistency and texture you desire turn off the flame and add the fresh orange juice. Gently fold to blend all the ingredients together.

Note: If you want a more creamy texture use the entire amount of liquid. If you like the rice to have more texture use a little less liquid.

Caramel topping :
½ cup brown rice syrup
½ cup barley malt
1 Tablespoon of water
2 -3 drops of Umeboshi vinegar
1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed orange juice

Put the water, rice syrup, and barley malt in a saucepan.
Add the umeboshi vinegar and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Gently heat the mixture until it begins to boil around the edges of the pan.
Turn the flame off. Add the fresh orange juice and mix well.

To serve:
Add a small amount of the "caramel sauce" into a serving dish.
Add the rice, then top off with a little more sauce.
Add some fresh berries and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy 2013! A new year always brings a sense of promise.We often make promises to ourselves
during this time by making resolutions for the upcoming year. I have learned that one of the best promises that you can make is to take better care of yourself. This can be through improved dietary practice, more exercise, or organizing certain aspects of your life, among many other possibilities.  
I am finding that it is vital to find time to do the things that you love in both your work and your play,
and to recognize when things get overwhelming and adjust accordingly.

The Mummers Parade, a unique Philadelphia tradition!
 Oftentimes it can be too easy to do nothing but work in anticipation of future successes. However, by not creating personal time for enjoying ourselves, we sometimes ignore the basic joys of life. When we take time to nurture ourselves, we actually become more productive in our work. 

For example, I love to cook and teach. However, when I do too much cooking or teaching, I sometimes start to ignore other parts of my life that are important to me (such as personal projects, having fun with my friends and family, or cultivating my hobbies). In the long run, not making time for personal enjoyment actually hinders my productivity and enjoyment in my work. Taking the time for some self-care, such as going to a yoga class, swapping massages with a friend, or giving myself a facial makes me a better chef and teacher. Making the time for small personal pleasures brings a sense of satisfaction and joy in my life, and ultimately  makes me more relaxed and productive in my work.

One of my favorite daily personal pleasures is the body rub. Doing the body rub each day is a great way to incorporate some self-care on a daily basis. It only takes about ten minutes of your time, and you always feel alert, refreshed, and relaxed afterwards. If you want to learn how to do a daily body rub, check out Denny Waxman’s book “The Great Life Diet,” which has detailed instructions, or order the DVD “The Art of Skin Rejuvenation.”

And, for the ultimate in self-care, come spend a week at the Strengthening Health Institute! Check our website for upcoming seminars and events.

Broad and Washington New Years Day, 2013
I hope this year brings many good things your way,