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Foods of the Month 2010 - 2012

January - Kasha or Buckwheat      February - Cookies
August - Carrots      September - Kale      October - Delicata Squash
November - Shiitake Mushrooms         December - Pecans
Foods of the Month 2009          Foods of the Month 2013


January 2010 - Kasha or Buckwheat

Although it has two names, it is essentially the same. In the stores, usually kasha is the grain in its whole form, while buckwheat is in a flour form. Although not a true cereal grain, it is used like a grain and has similar properties of grains. And even though it is in the name, it is not a wheat at all, in fact it is gluten free. Many people with food allergies get confused and stay away from buckwheat, however they will find it is an excellent grain to start including in their diets.

Because it is a good blood building food, it can neutralize toxic acidic wastes. In Chinese Medicine it is known for feeding and nurturing the kidneys and reproductive organs. Also known as the signature grain of the winter time, it is medicinal to capillaries and blood vessels and can increase circulation to the hands and feet. Buckwheat has the longest transit time in the gut which makes it excellent to stabilize blood sugar levels. Also rich in vitamin E, very high in vitamin C, and contains almost the whole range of B-complex vitamins.

When cooking kasha, it is best to pot boil it using a two to one ratio (one part grain, two parts water). Some people like to pan roast it before pot boiling it. You do this by simply putting the grain in a skillet and cooking it until in starts to brown. Then pot boil it for about 25 minutes or until the water has all been absorbed. I hope you try this wonderful grain and here is a recipe for you to make.

This grain was a topic of The Dr. Oz Show!
For more info on kasha, see January 2013 food of the month.


February 2010 - Cookies

Cookies, one of my favorite desserts, maybe not a food category but lets devout the whole month to cookies. Is there anything better than a warm cookie just out of the oven? They are still kind of doughy and gooey and just melt in your mouth. I have been making cookies since I was a little kid, with my mom’s help, and I never grow tired of them or creating a new kind. Growing up I was taught to make them using the traditional ingredients; butter, sugar and white flour. When I started eating healthy I had to convert my favorite cookie recipes to use better ingredients. I am proud to say I have successfully converted almost all my favorite childhood cookie recipes to a healthier version and along the way created many more new and interesting cookies.

My preferred and favorite sweetener to use in dessert recipes is brown rice syrup. It is made from whole grain brown rice that is cooked down to create a thick syrup. Being that it is predominately maltose, the least reactive sugar there is, it does not spike your blood sugar level. Regular sugar is sucrose, the most disruptive sugar, that wrecks havoc with your whole system. White sugar has no nutritional value and it spikes your blood sugar level, eaten over time this is detrimental to your health. It has been linked to such diseases as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, tooth decay,
hypertension, digestive diseases and many more.

Most people ask "Is there a one to one conversion to substitute brown rice syrup for sugar in a regular recipe?" The answer is no. Brown rice syrup is a liquid, white sugar is a dry ingredient, so in order to substitute you have to make many changes to the recipe. Most of my childhood favorite cookie recipes I took and changed a lot. And it took a few tries to get the taste and texture similar to the original.


August - Carrots

We use carrots all the time and they are our favorite vegetable on the veggie tray, but do we realize they are power packed, medicinal roots? I think maybe we are drawn to them because of their beautiful color or their signature sweet taste. Old varieties came in dark red, white, purple and yellow colors. If lucky, sometimes you can find the multi-colored variety at the store, make sure you buy them when you see them, they are extremely delicious.

Carrots have anti-carcinogen properties and help improve night vision. They contain B vitamins, high in vitamin A, phosphorus and calcium. They contain the phenol coumarin, which helps prevent blood clotting and has anticancer properties. Carrots tonify the kidneys, support the spleen, pancreas, liver and lungs. They help treat indigestion, lower blood sugar levels, purify the blood and support the elimination of waste.

When buying carrots, always buy organic, they are so much more sweeter and flavorful. Also leave the skin on them, most of the vitamin and minerals are located just below the skin. Look for carrots that still have the greens on them if at all possible, that means they are the freshest. Try to get the ones that are not too big in size, the bigger they are the less taste they have.

One of my favorite ways to cook carrots is with parsnips, they complement each other’s tastes. A soup is made so much sweeter by adding carrots, and no stir fry is complete without colorful carrots. Another way carrots can be used is in desserts such as carrot cake. I can think of no better dessert at Easter time than a moist, sweet carrot cake.

September - Kale

Kale is a hardy plant in the cabbage family. It is easy to grow and can even survive in your garden after a frost. Recognized by its dark green leafy appearance, kale is lightly sweet and bitter to the taste. Known for its high protein and iron content, kale also contains calcium, vitamin A and C and chlorophyll. It helps ease lung congestion, heals the liver and immune system and benefits that stomach. Energetically it feeds and nurtures the heart, brain, small intestines and blood.

Because the plant is so hardy, when you eat this food you impart the strength into your body. Indole-3-carbinol, which may protect against colon cancer, is found in kale. Along with the nutraceuticals lutein and zeaxanthin which protects the eyes from macular degeneration.

Kale is so wonderful you can see why everyone is saying to get more into your diet. I use kale often in my cooking but one of my students, Jane, asked if I could incorporate even more in my dishes, so I created what I now call the ‘Jane Technique’. Buy a bunch of organic kale at the store. Look for a firm stalk and dark green color. You do not want any yellow color on the kale, that means it is old. Get it home and wash it really good. Fill a dish pan full of water, soak the kale and swish it around. Remove kale and check to see how much dirt has come off. Sometimes you have to wash it two or three times to get all the dirt off. Then let dry. Put into a food processor and puree until the kale is cut up in very small pieces. Add a little of the minced kale to everything you eat. Just a pinch here and there, and you are getting all the health benefits from the kale everyday in your diet.

October - Delicata Squash

Out of all the winter squashes, one stands out as being the sweetest, most tender and delectable, delicata squash. It is my favorite and after you taste one, I hope it will be yours too. Not familiar with it? It is the smallest of the winter squashes. It looks like a large, oblong cucumber that is yellow with green stripes. It is in stores only for a short period of time, usually starting in September. By late November it is hard to find. To enjoy this wonderfully sweet squash, I would highly recommend when you see them in the store, buy them.

Winter squashes, like delicata, feed and nurture the spleen, pancreas and stomach. They impart warmth into your body and improve energy circulation. High in complex carbohydrates which helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and aids in digestion. Also very high in carotenoids which gives it anti-carcinogenic properties. Squashes provide potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, iron and vitamin A and C.

The easiest way to enjoy delicata’s sweetness is to bake them. Cut the squash in half, length wise, place flat side down on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a fork goes into the flesh easily. Scoop the seeds out and discard them. Serve as is, or season with some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. The squash will melt in your mouth. It is as creamy as butter and as sweet as a dessert. The skin is so soft you can eat it as well.

November - Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most flavorful mushrooms. They have a robust, earthy, slightly bitter flavor and a chewy texture. They come fresh or dried. I prefer to use the dried ones because the soaking water has a tremendous amount of flavor. The most important thing about cooking dried Shiitake’s is that they have to cook for at least 15 minutes. If not cooked enough they are tough. You can use them in soups, stir frys, bean dishes, and cooked along with your grains.

All mushrooms have healing properties, in nature they have the ability to grow and find life from dead decaying things. They will do the same thing in your body. The power packed shiitakes are one of the most medicinal. They contain the most active compound found in mushrooms called complex immunopotentiating polysaccharide. This compound gives the shiitake anti-cancer effects, anti-tumor benefits, and can improve resistance to bacterial, viral and parasitic infections. These superior mushrooms also contain a substance called eritadenin, which can quickly lower serum cholesterol levels and breaks down fats, cists, and tumors. Here are some more wonderful things found in shiitake’s :

-Numerous fatty acids, such as linoleic acid
-Enzymes and Vitamins that do not appear in other plants
-All 8 essential amino acids
-High in leucine and lysine amino acids
-Vitamins B1, B2, B12, D, niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium
-Immune regulating effects
-Helps protect the liver
-Positive cardiovascular effects

December - Pecans

Native to North America, the pecan is one power packed, great tasting nut. Energetically they are warming for your body, which makes them a good food to consume at this time of year. They contain good quality fats and omega 3 fatty acids. Pecans are known in Oriental medicine to feed and nurture the brain. They are high in Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, that promotes heart health, neurological protection, and can decrease L.D.L., bad cholesterol. Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals such as; Vitamin A, several B, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus. Their natural sweet flavor lends them to be ideal for candies, cookies, cakes and pies.

Pecan pie is one of my favorites. A traditional one made many years ago would have either brown sugar, corn syrup, or molasses. Because pecans grow abundantly in the south, it is no surprise the pecan pie originated there. I offer for you here my healthy version of a classic recipe. I use whole grain sweeteners, brown rice syrup and barley malt, instead of sugar. Made by malting the whole grains, they are not refined and a healthier choice. Both brown rice syrup and barley malt have high components of complex sugars which means they have a slower, gentler, more balanced effect on the bodies metabolism. The kind of sugar in whole grain sweeteners is maltose. Maltose is the least reactive of all the sugars on your body. It does not spike your blood sugar levels. Brown rice syrup and barley malt come in jars and have a thick, sticky consistency. Amazake, also in the recipe, is another whole grain sweetener, maltose. It is made from fermented brown rice. You can find it in the freezer section of your health food store. It is thick, like a malt. There are
different flavors. For the pie you can use the original, vanilla pecan, or almond flavors.

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