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Foods of the Month 2013

January - Kasha       February - Black Beans       March - Tempeh
April - Cooking with Spring Time Barley
May - Sauerkraut     June - Asparagus      July - Blueberries
August - Amaranth      September - Rutabaga

October 2013 - Ginger & Lotus Root
November 2013 - Sweet Potato          December 2013 - Brown Rice Syrup

Foods of the Month 2009          Foods of the Month 2010 - 2012

 

January 2013 - Kasha

Kasha, also known as buckwheat, is the signature grain of winter. It is probably the most unknown and under rated of the whole grains. Having a creamy texture and a unique robust flavor it can be very satisfying used in a hearty winter meal. It is a staple food in the very cold Siberia, also where it originated. Even though it has ‘wheat’ in it’s name, it is not in the wheat family and it is completely gluten free. Containing the bioflavonoid rutin makes it medicinal for the capillaries and blood vessels, thus increasing circulation to the hands and feet. In Oriental medicine it is said to feed and nurture the kidneys, adrenals, and reproductive organs.

Some other wonderful things about kasha:
- high proportions of all eight essential amino acids
- contains almost the entire range of B-complex vitamins
- 100% more calcium than other grains
- stabilizes blood sugar levels.

You will have a couple of options when buying kasha. The toasted variety has been toasted already. It has a nutty taste and cooks quicker than the untoasted. Kasha that is not toasted is sometimes called ‘raw’. Both are very delicious and can be used to make a morning porridge, casseroles, soups, stir fries, and patties like the ones in my recipe. Kasha that is ground into flour is then called buckwheat, which makes great pancakes. The next time you are at the store pick some up and try it, it will help keep you warm during the cold winter months.

 

February 2013 - Black Beans

February, the month of love. A great time to strengthen the most important muscle in our bodies, the heart. To keep our muscles strong we need to eat protein. The purpose of protein in our diet is to build muscles and tissue. Beans, which are an excellent source of a plant based protein, come in a large variety to choose from. Black beans are slightly sweet, easy to prepare, native to Mexico, and can be used in soups, casseroles, salads, and they make excellent refried beans. According to Oriental medicine, they feed and nurture the kidneys and adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are very important. They are little glands that sit on top or your kidneys. Their function is to help you deal with stress. They get weakened by being too stressed out and consuming too much caffeine and sugar in our diets.

Some other health benefits of beans are:

-Contain isoflavones, can help prevent cancer and heart disease
-Contain phytochemical diosgenin, appears to inhibit cancer cells from
multiplying
-Contains calcium, potassium, iron and zinc
-Contains several B vitamins

If you have the time, cooking beans from scratch is great. You have to soak the beans before cooking. I always soak my beans overnight. That way I know they have soaked for a good 8 hours or more. Then get rid of the soaking water, that is where the gas from the beans is located. Start with fresh water and cover the beans. If you pot boil them they still take a long time, an hour for most, sometimes longer. A quicker way is to pressure cook them. Once up to pressure, most beans will only take 15 to 20 minutes to cook. When you cook your beans always use a little piece of the sea vegetable kombu. It will help you digest the protein in the beans, which will help eliminate the gas some people experience.

To help make things quicker I use canned beans in some recipes. If you wanted to convert, a half cup of dried beans equals 1 (15 oz.) can beans. Eden brand
beans are the only brand that cook their beans with kombu.

March 2013 - Tempeh

An excellent plant base protein, tempeh has a mild flavor and a great chewy texture. It originates form Indonesia and they have been enjoying it for centuries. It is made by covering soybeans with boiling water and letting them sit over night. Then the soybeans are hulled and partially cooked. Once the soybeans have cooled they are incubated with a starter culture so they can ferment. This fermenting process is important because the beans are bonded together with the mold mycelium, which provides a natural antibiotic which supports your immune system. Also being a fermented food, tempeh is easier to digest than some other beans. Tempeh by itself has no flavor, it takes on whatever flavor you choose by how you season the dish you are making. Many vegetarians use tempeh as a meat substitute because you can season and brown it similar to meat.

There are five thousand year old texts that describe soybeans as being one of the most important crops. Our ancestors knew what a great food they had. Soybeans contain many B vitamins, have easily absorbable iron, improve circulation, and support detoxification. They also contain many anti cancer properties: Genistein may stop the spread of some forms of cancer at an early stage, Protease Inhibitors may block the action of cancer causing enzymes and Phytic acids which inhibit the growth of tumors. Soybeans contain phyto-estrogen or isoflavones. There has been much confusion about this substance in soybeans. Isoflavones help to balance your estrogen levels in your body, they do not disrupt them. In China, where they have been eating soy foods for thousands of years, until recently, they did not even have a word for hot flashes. These isoflavones also have been credited with slowing the effects of osteoporosis, relieving some side effects of menopause, alleviating some side effects of cance,r and can dramatically lower undesirable L.D.L. cholesterol.

Once soybeans have been made into tempeh, it is 19.5% protein. And it is a
complete protein, containing all eight essential amino acids. When buying tempeh and other soy products, always buy organic. It is , right now, our only way to have some kind of insurance that the soybeans have not been genetically altered. You will find tempeh in the refrigerator or freezer section of the grocery or health food store.

April 2013 - Cooking with Spring Time Barley

According to The Five Transformations of Energy (the ancient study of the energy of nature and how it relates to us), we are entering the Spring - Tree energy phase. This is the time of year when we become more active, go outside, and reawaken after the more sedentary winter energy phase. Our bodies go through a natural cleansing at this time of year. It is easy to see how the organs associated with this phase are the liver, gallbladder, and nervous system, the organs that are associated with detoxing the body. The liver and gallbladder are primarily responsible for purifying the blood. When these organs are working properly they neutralize poisons and toxins and remove them from the blood. The liver also regulates the release of sugars into the body for fuel. If the liver is overtaxed from the over consumption of dense fatty foods such as dairy, it can not properly give the body energy. To make sure these important organs are working properly we can incorporate the signature foods for this energy phase.

The signature grains for spring are barley, wheat, rye, and oats. If you have gluten sensitivities you might have an imbalance in this energy phase. You can concentrate on the gluten free foods of this phase; green lentils, split peas, black eyed peas, peanuts, parsley, lettuces, green beans, and green peas. The signature flavor of spring is sour. You can get this flavor in your diet by eating naturally fermented foods, sauerkraut, sour dough breads, and using lemons or limes to flavor dishes. This sour flavor lightens up our energy and awakens our taste buds, that have spent the winter enjoying more salty foods.

If you have an imbalance in this energy phase it can show itself in your physical body as well as your emotional body. If you have excess or aggravated tree energy, you may have anger issues. It could show up in sharp hand gestures, having a loud voice, or being easily irritated by others. If you feel very creative but are frustrated about your inability to express yourself, you may want to start incorporating these foods in your diet. They will uplift your energy and clean out the stored frustrations (toxins) that have accumulated in your body over time. Less common, but still a condition is deficient tree energy, you may experience lack of decision making skills, move slowly, and experience a loss of initiative.

Barley is the whole grain known for cleansing the body. It is one of the oldest grains originating in Southwest Asia around 8500 B.C. Roasted barley was one of the main food of the gladiators because it gives tremendous strength when eaten. Known for strengthening the blood and intestines, barley contains potassium, iron, calcium, protein, and fiber. When buying barley, look for whole barley. Pearl barley has the bran polished off, which loses the fiber and other nutrients. Barley is excellent for soups, stews, salads, and added to vegetable dishes. It has a chewy, creamy texture, and a nice sweet taste. If you have gluten sensitivities, substitute brown rice for any recipe using barley.

May 2013 - Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a form of naturally fermented food. All of our ancestors, wherever they came from, ate some kind of naturally fermented foods. It was the way they preserved their food. Archeologists have even found evidence that during our hunter/gatherer stage of development, people fermented a plant similar to cabbage. The Chinese have been fermenting cabbage for 6000 years and using the sauerkraut juice to treat various medical aliments. To create sauerkraut or any other naturally fermented food, you need three things; salt, pressure, and time. When you have these three things and cabbage you create enzymes, amino acids, and lactic acid. Having a harmonizing effect on the stomach, this lactic acid bacteria prevents decay in the food and also in your bowels. Acetylcholine is also created in fermentation, which stimulates the peristaltic movement of the intestines. Which is why sauerkraut is such a great food for your digestion.

When creating sauerkraut use good quality sea salt. There is a huge difference in taste and how it reacts in your body. Whether you buy sauerkraut or make it, there should never be vinegar in the ingredients. Vinegar speeds up the fermentation process. Only cabbage, sea salt, and maybe some other vegetables, but nothing else, in the ingredients. It is made by first shredding the cabbage. You then place the cabbage a large crock and pound the cabbage with a wooden mallet. This releases the natural juices from the cabbage. You add sea salt and continue to create layers this way until the crock is almost full. A weight has to be put on top of the cabbage to give pressure. The liquid must cover the cabbage in order for it to ferment correctly. If you decide to make it at home, you will need a cool place for it to sit for 4 to 6 weeks. I suggest you take a class on how to properly make sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut also has the unique ability to satisfy four of the five tastes. You have five tastes; sweet, salty, bitter, pungent, and sour. When you sit down to eat, if you satisfy all five tastes, you can eliminate cravings. Sauerkraut is sour, pungent, bitter, and salty. The only one it is not is sweet. And the sweet taste is the easiest to satisfy. All whole grains and vegetables are sweet. You should have a little sauerkraut or naturally fermented food at every meal to help satisfy all five tastes.

June 2013 - Asparagus

It’s summer time and time to grill! Grilling can be a part of a healthy lifestyle and you can enjoy all the great taste without any guilt. By choosing to grill vegetables you have a great variety to choose from and your dish will be colorful, flavorful and fun to eat. My favorite and one of the most popular to grill is asparagus. An ancient plant, it can be dated back to the reptile age when ferns were the dominate plants. It is very unique in that it has two distinct types, male and female. The male spears are skinny and the female plump. Taste does not depend on the sex of the plant, rather on the freshness. Look for green shoots that are firm and not wilted. When cooking with asparagus, you will have to cut the bottom 2 inches off of the spears. They are usually fibrous and not appealing to eat. The correct way to know how much to get rid of at the end of the spear is to hold the stalk by each end and bend until it breaks. You can use the fibrous part to make soup stocks.

Known for its energetic healing properties for the female reproductive system, asparagus can help increase lactation, relieve menstrual pains, promote fertility and strengthen female hormones. According to the National Cancer Institute, asparagus is highest in a strong anticarcinogen known as glutathione. Also containing rutin, this power packed green spear, can help small blood vessels from rupturing and is an antidote against X rays and radiation. It contains a good amount of vitamins A, B-complex, C and E, potassium and zinc.

When grilling vegetables I use a large cast iron skillet on my grill. The skillet
makes it easier to cook the vegetables without having to worry about losing some of them through the grill. Also as the vegetables are being grilled you can add some of the marinade as it cooks to add more flavor to the dish.

July 2013 - Blueberries

July, my favorite month of the year. It is sunny, hot, the month we celebrate our independence, the month I was born, and the month blueberries are ripe. By far my favorite fruit, blueberries are packed full of sweet flavor and nutrition. If you want to experience a little gift from heaven, eat wild blueberries. While enjoying the beautiful Upper Peninsula (which I go to as often as possible) you can find them growing all over the place in sandy areas. They are smaller then the cultivated variety and they grow very close to the ground, but are they full of flavor. I made this recipe with wild blueberries one year and I am still dreaming about the incredible flavor.

If you are not fortunate enough to get the wild kind, the next best thing is organic blueberries. The ones sprayed with chemicals can have a bitter taste. Most stores carry frozen organic ones all year. The fresh ones are available during the summer months. Look for plump, firm berries without mashed or moldy ones in the bunch. Blueberries are abundant in vitamin C, a natural anti-oxidant. Containing manganese and vitamin A, they are medicinal for the blood and liver. They contain bacteria fighting capabilities, useful in countering urinary-tract infections.

When celebrating my birthday in July, I like to make my favorite dessert,
Blueberry Pie. The most challenging thing about making a pie is creating the perfect crust.

First, the crust has to be cold to roll out properly. Give yourself enough time to refrigerate the dough before rolling out the crust.

Second, you have to choose the correct flour. I prefer spelt flour. It has a nice smooth texture and moisture content and not as heavy as whole wheat flour. Spelt being in the wheat family does have gluten. However, some people with gluten sensitivities have no problem with spelt because it is an ancient type of wheat. If you want a gluten free crust you can use oat flour.

Third, you have to make sure the dough is wet enough to hold together but not so dry it falls apart. Pie crust dough can be very particular. You can use the same recipe, one day it is too dry and the next it is too wet. I have found the dough is forgiving, in that you can add more flour or water when needed to create the perfect consistency. The best way to roll out the crust is in between two pieces of plastic wrap. That way you can see how the crust looks as you roll it out and it does not stick to the wrap. Also you can pick the crust up, making it easier to get it into the pie shell.

 

August 2013 - Amaranth

“What should I eat for breakfast?” a question I am asked all the time. My answer is always the same, soup. I usually get strange looks for my answer because in our culture is seems foreign. Our culture is use to sweet foods for breakfast, sugar cereal, muffins or donuts. Although these choices can be an occasional treat, a staple breakfast should be more nutritional. Traditional cultures eat leftovers, soups, or a whole grain gruel for the first meal of the day. It is easy to make soups and you can put all kind of different vegetables, whole grains and beans in a breakfast soup. All the foods you need to get you started on a healthy day.

Amaranth is a good whole grain to put in your soups because it will help thicken the soup. And being one of the signature whole grains of the summer time it will not impart heat when eaten every day. Amaranth was the sacred food of the Aztecs. It is so nutrient dense wherever it is consumed there is no malnutrition. Very high in calcium and protein, it is classified as a whole grain which means it gives you energy by releasing glucose very slowly into your system. Amaranth is a member of the goosefoot family related to quinoa.
It is the smallest of the whole grains and one plant can produce up to 50 thousand seeds. Because it is so small it can be difficult to cook and be enjoyed. I find it combines very well with other grains, quinoa in particular. When amaranth cooks up it becomes very creamy, almost gummy, and tends to have a thick consistency. When you put it in soups it thicken the soup and adds a sweet nutty taste. I suggest you make a big pot of soup one day a week when you have time and then you will have it made for breakfast all week.

September 2013 - Rutabaga

Rutabaga, such a funny vegetable. It looks weird and the name sounds weird. But do not let it’s strangeness deter you from enjoying this wonderful root vegetable. If you are like me, most of us are familiar with the conventionally grown version of rutabaga. The one that is large, hard to cut, and has a thick coating of wax over the whole thing. But that is not the rutabaga I am talking about here. I tell people, if you have never had an organic rutabaga, then you have never truly had a rutabaga. The difference in taste and texture is dramatic. Organic rutabagas are sweet and creamy when cooked. They are round, with a yellowish color with a purple top to them. Similar looking to a turnip. however organic rutabagas are sweeter than turnips.

The rutabaga belongs in a category of food that is very important in your diet called root vegetables. These root vegetables, just as the name implies, are the root of the plant. Energetically this is very important. The more denser root part of the plant is compact and has a downward movement, considered yang energy. The yang energy is your strengthening energy. It helps build your core to be strong. I observe that many people miss this category of strengthening, yang energy foods in their diets. Most people like the more yin, grows on top of the ground vegetables. (Lettuces, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and tomatoes.) To create health and longevity in the body we need to consume both yin and yang energy foods. Balance is the key to health.

Rutabagas are high in anticarcinogenic properties, vitamins, A, B, C, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. They help aid in digestion and help detoxify the body. Rutabagas also feed and nurture the spleen, pancreas and stomach.

October 2013 - Ginger & Lotus Root

Fall with all its magical colors is here. According to the Five Transformations Of Energy (the ancient study of how nature related to us) this is the time of year when we feed and nurture our lungs and large intestines. These organs represent the seat of our strength. Without being able to breath and assimilate our food we could not live. The signature whole grain for this season is brown rice. And the bean is soybeans, which are mostly eaten in the form of tofu, tempeh, and miso. And the signature flavor is pungent. Any food that has a pungent flavor feeds the lungs and large intestines. Some examples of pungent foods would be; garlic, raw onions, radishes, daikon, and ginger. The emotions that are associated with this energy phase are optimism and self discipline. Let's look at two foods associated with this energy phase, ginger root and lotus root.

Ginger is native to South Eastern Asia. There are ancient texts that mention ginger from China and India. Well known for it being effective in treating motion sickness and nausea, it can also relieve heart burn. Most interesting is ginger's strong anti-inflammatory properties. It contains a compound called gingerols which can help relieve the pain from arthritis. Recently there have been some studies about ginger's effectiveness with treating both overian and colon cancer. When buying ginger, look for pieces that are not dried out. Once you have brought it home, the best way to store it is in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator.

Lotus root is a rhizome that grows in the mud of tropical ponds. It is the root of the pink flower that is the Buddhist symbol of enlightenment. When you buy it in the store, if fresh, it has a brown skin and is white inside. To cook with it you need to peel the lotus root. Fresh is sometimes hard to find, you can get it packed in water also. The skin has been removed when packed, and it looks like a fat, white cucumber. What makes lotus root so unique is inside the root it has hollow chambers that run the length of the root. When you cut it open it looks like lace. In Chinese medicine they say if a food that you eat looks like a particular organ of the body, it feeds that organ. The lotus root resembles the lungs. Lotus has been used for thousands of years to treat lung problems. It is high in fiber, contains vitamins C and B complex. Lotus root also increases energy and neutralizes toxins so your body can flush them out.

Ginger

 

 

 

Lotus Root

November 2013 - Sweet Potato

Ahhh, the holiday time. Time for some festive decorations, family get together's, and, of course, great desserts! We all crave the sweet taste and smell of our favorite holiday dessert. Just because you are now eating healthier, it does not mean you can not enjoy the sweets at this time of year. Sweet potato has a natural sweetness that helps create a mouth watering dessert. Most people do not know this, but the white potato, the sweet potato, and the yam are three completely different plants, not related. White potatoes are nightshade vegetables and not recommended for people with arthritis and fibormayalgia. Yams are native to Africa and are white, ivory, cream, pink or purple, while sweet potatoes are yellow, reddish, or orange. Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants, calcium, vitamins A and C. Known for feeding and nurturing the spleen, pancreas, and stomach, they also help quench thirst and lubricate dry conditions.

The trickiest part of making holiday pies is the crust. To make a good crust it should be flaky, light, and moist. For those who are gluten sensitive, I have chosen to use oat flour. Another flour that works very well is spelt. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat. It does contain gluten, but has not been tampered with like the wheat berry. Another great tip is to use ground nuts in your crust. It adds a layer of moistness without adding more liquid fat. To ensure that you can roll out your crust, it must be cold. Attempting to roll out a warm crust is like putting peanut butter on your hands and not having it stick. When the crust dough is cold it will not stick to the plastic wrap and it will hold together so you can pick it up and put it in the pie shell.

An ingredient you may not be familiar with is the amasake. A natural sweetener that will not spike you blood sugar level. It is made from fermented brown rice and sold in the frozen section of health food store. It is thick like a shake, good right out of the container, and adds another layer of creamy sweetness to the pie. Enjoy and Happy Holiday!

December 2013 - Brown Rice Syrup

When asked what is my favorite sweetener to use I always answer, brown rice syrup. Unfortunately most people have not heard of it, which makes it the best kept, health food secret. I make all kinds of desserts with brown rice syrup, from cookies, cakes, and pies, to candies, fudge, jams, and so much more. As the name implies, it is made from brown rice, which is a whole grain, complex carbohydrate, a staple in all of our ancestor's diet. The brown rice syrup is produced when naturally occurring enzymes convert the starch in the grain to sugar. The process retains the vitamin and mineral content of the brown rice. And being made from a complex carbohydrate, the sugar that is produced is maltose. Maltose is the least reactive sugar there is, it releases slowly into your blood stream. Unlike white sugar or sucrose which releases very quickly into the blood stream and reeks havoc with all the organs in your body. Brown rice syrup and the maltose in the syrup will not spike your blood sugar. For that reason it is considered the healthiest sweetener.

It has a mild sweet taste that is satisfying. However, if you have been using sweeteners that are very sweet, it may not be sweet enough for you at first. If you stick with the brown rice syrup, it will taste sweet after you give up all those intensely sweet foods that are not good for you. You will find it in a jar at you local health food store, or even some main stream grocery stores now carry it. It is thick and sticky like honey.

When measuring it, coat your measuring cup and spatula with a little oil and the syrup will slid right off instead of sticking.

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