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Foods of the Month 2014

January - Whole Grains    February - Cherries         March - Arame
April - White Beans & Kombu      May 2014 - Asparagus & Mochi
June 2014 - Onion      July 2014 - Peanuts       August 2014 - Amaranth
September 2014 - Marvelous Millet     October 2014 - Root Vegetables
November 2014 - Amazake       December 2014 -Tempeh


Foods of the Month 2009          Foods of the Month 2013

 

January 2014 - Whole Grains

This month's Food of the Month is a group of essential food called whole grains. There has been a lot of commercialization of whole grains. It has caused confusion about exactly what is and is not an actual whole grain.

Whole grains are food that has been eaten for tens of thousands of years. No matter where you are from, it is what all our ancient ancestors ate as a main source of food. They are the seeds of plants in which the main source of nutrition comes from the outer shell of the grain, called the bran and germ. These whole grains are what gives the body energy. When eaten, they release glucose very slowly into the body. This gives you long, sustainable energy to last all day long. Very high in fiber, also high in B vitamins, whole grains have also been studied for their anti cancer properties.

The human body is designed to eat and assimilate whole grains. In your mouth you have 32 teeth; 4 canine, 8 incisors and 20 molars. These molars are the majority of the teeth. Designed to grind whole grains, this indicates the majority of your food should consist of them.

There are three main sources of nutrition for the human body; carbohydrates, protein and fats. Only two of these gives you energy, carbohydrates and fat. The carbs need to be in their whole form or whole grains. Take the bran and germ away, which is all the nutritional value, and what you have left is simple carbohydrates. These simple carbs is what the majority of people are eating in our modern culture. This confusion as to what an actual whole grain is has become a dangerous trend of cutting out carbs from our diet. We can not cut out the complex carbs. To have a balanced diet and live a pain free, disease free life you have to eat all three important nutrients; carbs, protein, and fat.
Whole grains are not an ingredient in a box cereal, crackers, or a loaf of bread. They come in the bulk section of health food stores. They look like little seeds. To consume them in their whole form you will have to pot boil them. Flour made from whole grains can be a healthy part of your diet, but are not whole grains. Once you grind the grains they react differently in your digestive system. Here is a list of whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, kasha or buckwheat, whole wheat, spelt, oats, faro, corn, barley, and rye.

 

February - Cherries

February, the month we celebrate love through Valentine's Day. Because of their bright red color and sweet, juicy nature, cherries are the perfect 'Love' food. I do prefer the dark sweet cherries over the sour ones, only because you have to add an abundance of sweetener to overcome the strong sour flavor. Cherries are a seasonal fruit, so you will not find fresh ones in the store at this time. Look for frozen, organic cherries, they have the best flavor. If your cherries are not organic the pesticides not only can harm you, they can alter the taste of your pie. Pesticides have a bitter taste. That bitter taste can come through when creating desserts and not using organic fruit.

Cherries
Cherries are an excellent source of iron, contain vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. They can increase your vital energy and are considered a warming food. Therapeutic for gout and numbness in the extremities because they remove excess body acids and blood stagnation. Cherries are related to the plum, which has been eaten since prehistoric times.

When making a pie it usually is the crust that is the most challenging. This crust is a pressed crust, which means you do not have to roll it out with a rolling pin. Pressed crusts are much easier to make and work with and just as delicious. I use ground pecans in the crust to give it more moisture through the natural oils found in the nuts. Oat bran and oat flour are both gluten free, high in iron and can help reduce cholesterol. In the filling I have included 2 tsp. of dark miso. I have found when creating a pie with fruit, the miso has a way of bringing out the natural flavors of the fruit. If you do not have the dark miso you can substitute 1/4 tsp. sea salt. It is very important to always include a little salt in your desserts, it balances the sweetness and makes the dessert more flavorful.

 

March - Arame

Sea vegetables, or sea weeds, are the most nutrient dense food on the planet and arame is one that is tasty and easy to prepare. These plants that actually grow in the ocean have been eaten for hundred of thousands of years. There were ancient people preserved in a bog that were tens of thousands of years old and guess what they had in their carrying pouches? Yes, it was sea weed. Our ancient ancestors knew that once dried, sea vegetables are non perishable and can last forever. So they made excellent travel food. And their nutritional profile makes them an important part of any diet.

Arame

All sea vegetables are very high in iron and calcium. And the calcium in arame is readily available to be absorbed by your body, unlike the calcium from dairy. Also high in minerals and trace minerals, arame can help alleviate high blood pressure, build bones, and treat female disorders. Sea vegetables have the ability to help dissolve fat deposits that have accumulated in the body from high fat foods. Used frequently in Oriental medicine to successfully dissolve tumors. Sea vegetables also have natural iodine, which helps the thyroid function properly.

When cooking with sea vegetables, you have to know they expand when you cook them to about twice the size they are when dry. So remember to start with a small amount. Also all sea vegetables are bitter to the taste. When creating a dish with them, you have to pair them with naturally sweet vegetables such as; carrots, cooked onions, sweet potatos, parsnips, winter squash, and rutabaga. Arame does not need to be soaked, but you need to rinse it before cooking.

April - White Beans & Kombu for a Healthy Spring

Where does a vegetarian or vegan get their protein? From delicious and wonderful beans. Ranging from 17 to 25% in protein, beans can also help reduce cholesterol and are very high in fiber. They also contain many anti - cancer properties. Isoflavones help prevent heart disease and cancer. The phytochemical diosgenin, appears to inhibit caner cells from multiplying. Known for strengthening the kidneys and adrenal glands, beans promote physical strength.

To get the full health benefits of beans, you should always cook your beans with the sea vegetable kombu. Sea vegetables are the most nutrient dense food on the planet. Very high in minerals and trace minerals, several B vitamins, iron, calcium, iodine, and protein. But what makes kombu the special sea vegetables to cook with beans is its ability to help you digest the beans by strengthening your intestinal tract. This helps to eliminate gas when eating beans,

When cooking for spring remember to make your dish colorful. Spring is when we see many beautiful colors emerging in nature. And we eat first with out eyes. This soup has many colorful vegetables and the white beans.

 

May 2014 - Asparagus & Mochi

Spring is the season of asparagus. Their strong, green stalks are one of the first foods to start growing after our long cold winter. Asparagus, like many spring time foods has the natural ability to cleanse the body. Containing the amino acid, asparagine, asparagus acts as a diuretic and helps remove fluids and excess salts from the body. This is very good for people who suffer from edema, high blood pressure, and other heart related diseases. This delicate, slightly sweet vegetable is also high in fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K. Used in this soup recipe the asparagus imparts tremendous flavor. When shopping for asparagus, look for crisp stalks that are not wilted and the tips are not mushy. Most of the time the bottom inch has to be cut off and discarded because it is too fibrous.

One of my favorite foods, that most people have never heard of is mochi. It is a traditional food from the Orient. Made from sweet brown rice, it is sold in most health food stores. It comes in a square, wrapped in plastic. It is made when you pound the brown rice to get a sticky consistency. Then formed into the square cakes. My favorite way to use mochi is to grate it. I always keep grated mochi in my freezer so I always have it ready to use. It works great thickening a soup, like this recipe. Once the grated mochi is cooked it becomes sticky. It will thicken soups, make casseroles creamy, and when melted you can make a (mock) cheese sauce.

 

 

June 2014 - Onion

Onions are Mother Nature's flavor enhancer. Most people take these bulb vegetables for granted, not realizing how much they can impact the flavor of a dish. When added to a salad in raw form, they have a delightful pungent flavor. And when cooked they become deliciously sweet. To make them the sweetest they can be, you sauté them till they are soft and brown, as in this recipe.

Not only can they make any dish more flavorful, but they have many medicinal properties. They can help lower cholesterol, improve kidney function, and even help remove heavy metals and parasites from your body. Having a 90% water content, they have diuretic properties. Also containing high anti-inflammatory properties, onions help break down high fat foods to make them more digestible. Plus onions contain Vitamins A, B complex, and C.In the summer, grilling the onions is a great way to enjoy them. Also, stuffing them and then cooking them over an open fire will give you a wonderful dish.

July 2014 - Peanuts

July, my favorite month of the year. Not only do I get to celebrate my birthday, I also love summer and the hot temperatures, enjoying the outdoors and making frozen desserts. So to celebrate in the month of July, I am sharing one of my favorite desserts. My favorite dessert combo is chocolate and peanut butter. There is just something about the bitter, sweetness of chocolate, combined with rich, creamy peanut butter that makes the perfect dessert.

 

Peanuts have been eaten for over 7,600 years. They originated in Peru and spread throughout the world by Spanish explorers. Peanuts are actually a legume, which means they are high in protein. They are an excellent source of resveratrol, an antioxidant that has shown to help protect against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer's disease, viral and fungal infections, and reduces stroke risk. If that is not enough, these little power packed legumes also are high in pantothenic acid, B vitamins, iron, manganese, and Vitamin E.

There is a known natural remedy for weakened kidneys, boiled peanuts. If you have ever been down in the southern states you know they eat boiled peanuts in abundance. They have stands on the side of the road selling them. They have big cast iron pots with a fire underneath boiling the peanuts. Seasoned with salt, they taste very good.

Peanut butter is probably the most widely used form of peanuts in our diets. When buying peanut butter it is always best to find organic. But natural peanut butter is a good choice also. Most commercial peanut butter have added sugar and hydrogenated oils. The natural peanut butter will separate in the jar, so you will have to stir it once you get it home.

August 2014 - Amaranth

Amaranth is one of the signature whole grains of the summer. It is very small and that makes it challenging to cook. I have found it is most flavorful if you cook it with other grains. It also has a tendency to be thick and gewey when cooked. This makes it ideal to add to oatmeal and make a breakfast porridge.

Amaranth was the sacred food of the Aztecs. Wherever this whole grain is consumed there is little or no mal-nutrition. One plant will yield 50 thousand seeds. It is related to quinoa, the other signature grain of summer. But unlike quinoa that falls apart after it is cooked, which makes it great for salads, amaranth remains thick and creamy making it good for other things, such as porridges.

Amaranth is in a group of plants known as photosynthetic superformers. This makes it above normal in efficiently converting soil, sunlight, and water into plant tissue. Making it have extradornary nutritional value. High in Vit. A, B6, K, C, Folate and riboflavin. Rich in minerals, iron, calcium, potassium, and manganese. Amaranth is very high in protein, fiber and amino acids.

Remember if you want to try amaranth to cook it with other grains. I have found quinoa and millet work best with a quarter ratio, one quarter as much amaranth as the other grain. It can also be added to soups to thicken them. My favorite way to eat amaranth is in this porridge. I use amazake to sweeten the porridge. It is a whole grain sweetener made form brown rice and will not spike your blood sugar levels. You can find it in the freezer section of a local health food store.

September 2014 - Marvelous Millet

So many people ask me about millet. They want to start eating it , but are unfamiliar with how to cook and use this nutritional, whole grain. I want to share with you one of my favorite ways to cook and prepare millet to take the mystery out of this creamy and slightly sweet food.

Older then any other grain, millet has been eaten since at least 10,000 years ago. It is the main food source of the Hunza people, known for their longevity, and living in Asia. You have probably seen millet most often in bird seed. It is a small, round, yellow whole grain. Very high in fiber, making it a heart healthy food and can help lower cholesterol. Also has a good amount of iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium. Interesting to note, millet has the highest protein content of the whole grains, 15%. Energetically, millet feeds and nurtures your spleen, pancreas and stomach. The main organs that help you deal with stress, so millet is your anti- stress grain.

The best way to cook millet is to pot boil it. Put 1 cup millet plus 2 cups water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to lowest possible temperature and simmer for 20 minutes. Water should have been absorbed at end of cooking time. It should be creamy and sweet, not crunchy. Once it is cooked, my favorite way to prepare it is to form it in to cubes. While still hot, season with a little sea salt and press in to a casserole dish. Press it hard so it will be firm later. Put in refrigerator until cold. Cut in to cubes and you can eat it just like that as a snack or add more ingredients and make a salad with the cubes, such as my recipe here. Try millet next time you are looking for a new food to try, I think you will really enjoy the taste and texture.

October 2014 - Root Vegetables

Parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, daikon, turnips. Do you know what all these vegetables have in common? They are all root vegetables. Just like the name implies, it is the root of the plant. This is the strong, constrictive, downward moving energy of the plant, what we refer to as yang. These root vegetables have the strong grounding energy that many of us are missing.

Most people who consume the average American diet are consuming many overly sweet foods, desserts, sodas, smoothies, and tropical fruits. All of these foods are considered yin. And most people only consume vegetables that grow on top of the ground; lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, and kale. And where these foods from Mother Earth are nutritious for you, we need to consider the energy of all the foods we are consuming. We need a balance between both the yin and yang energy foods. Unfortunately many people are not familiar with the more grounding, yang energy root vegetables.

Parsnips are mildly sweet and creamy when cooked. They are high in silicon, fiber, calcium, potassium, Vitamins A and C. Carrots have a wonderful sweet taste and are high in calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin A, and B vitamins. Daikon is in the radish family. When eaten raw it is pungent, but when cooked it becomes slightly sweet. It is great for digestion, and contains a substance that inhibits the formation of carcinogens in the body. Turnips are in the cabbage family and have high anticarcinogenic properties. Sweet potatoes are rich and creamy, and the sweetest of the bunch. They are high in vitamins A and C, and calcium.

All these naturally sweet, root vegetables also feed and nurture the spleen, pancreas, and stomach. Here is a simple stew that highlights the individual flavors of these root vegetables.

November 2014 -Amazake

The holidays can be a challenging time for some people who deal with healthy issues such as blood sugar imbalances. Trying to find delicious desserts that will not spike your blood sugar and are not filled with chemical sweeteners can be frustrating. Twenty years ago when I changed my eating habits and decided to love myself enough to stop putting refined sugar in my body, I thought I would never be able to have desserts again. Then I discovered whole grain sweeteners. Brown rice syrup, which is now my favorite, I thought was a gift from Heaven. And Amazake, which is also made with brown rice, is the rays of sunshine that shines down from Heaven. Both are featured in my holiday recipe, Walnut Pie.

Amazake was invented by monks who wanted a sweet drink before going to bed, that would not keep them up all night from a sugar high. Amazake literally means Sweet Sake. It is made from brown rice that is fermented with koji. It is what is produced in the first fermentation process of making Sake. It has a thick, creamy consistency. It is nutrient dense, with vitamins and minerals. The sugar that is in Amazake and brown rice syrup, is maltose. Maltose is the least re-active sugar there is in the food chain. White sugar is sucrose, it will spike your blood sugar levels. And fruit and fruit juices is fructose, and it will spike your blood sugar as well. Only maltose will not spike your blood sugar levels.
You can find Amazake in health food stores in the freezer. It comes in different flavors. The original one is the most versatile to use in recipes. The almond one is the most commonly found and works good in pie recipes.

December 2014 -Tempeh

Protein food, it is all the buzz in the food industry. Protein is one part of a healthy diet. There are three essential nutrients that the human body needs to maintain health and longevity. Protein is one of them, as is carbohydrates and fats. We as humans need all three, in a balance way, in our diets or we will deal with the consequences later. We should have carbohydrates in their complex form, or what is, whole grains. Fats in healthy, unsaturated fats. And protein in good quality, complete protein.

Protein is what builds our tissues and is the building block of our muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Protein is the food that feeds and nurtures the largest muscle in your body, your heart. But protein will never give you energy. You get energy from your food in the complex carbohydrates and fats.
Being a vegetarian or vegan, one excellent protein food choice for you is tempeh. Tempeh is a complete protein. It contains all the amino acids gained from eating meat. It is 19.5% protein.

Tempeh is made from soybeans. The soybeans are covered with boiling water and soaked over night. Then hulled and partially cooked. Next they are cooled to room temperature. A started culture grown on hibiscus leaves is then added to start the fermentation process. It is left in a humid environment until it becomes tightly bond by firm, white mold that holds the tempeh together. Being that tempeh is fermented, it is very easy to digest.

© 2009-2016 MacroVal

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