Baked, Stuffed Apples

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The aroma of spiced baked apples wafts thru the house: conjuring up images of sharing, comfort and connection in my mind.


Certain varieties of apples are used primarily for cooking and baking. Cooking apples are generally larger, and can be tarter than apple varieties for raw consumption. Granny Smith, Cortland, Braeburn, Jonagold, Pink Lady or Honeycrips generally work well in this recipe.

4 large apples 

2 – 3 tablespoons of sunflower seeds or ¼ cup walnuts, washed, roasted and chopped or a mixture of both

3 – 6 tablespoons of raisins

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch of allspice or cloves

2 – 3 teaspoons of barley miso

8 tablespoons of tahini or a nut butter of your choice

Water

  1. Mix all of the ingredients – except for the apples – in a bowl.

  2. Hollow out the apples and stuff them with the mixture.

  3. Place the stuffed apples into a shallow baking dish with a very small amount of water in the bottom of the baking dish.

  4. Bake at 375 degrees Farenheit for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are tender.


Leek Potato Soup or Leek-Rutabaga Soup

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This soup was a staple in our house when I grew up - served particularly for special gatherings or parties. A creamy, rich soup, that was served with sour cream and freshly baked baguette - everybody loved it. Substituting tofu sour cream for the regular sour cream can turn this soup into a delicious vegan alternative.

1 leek, finely sliced

2 large potatoes or an equal amount of rutabaga, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 - 3 cups of water (or unsweetened almond milk)

Sea Salt to taste

Minced scallions for garnish

Optional: oregano, basil and/or thyme to taste

Tofu sour cream (scroll down for recipe)

  1. Sauté the sliced leeks in the olive oil and a pinch of salt until the leeks are wilted, then add potato or rutabaga cubes and sauté for another 2 - 3 minutes. If you are adding herbs, add them at this time. 

  2. Add water (or almond milk) and simmer until all the vegetables are soft (approximately 20 - 25 minutes). 

  3. Blend the ingredients in a blender. 

  4. Serve with scallion garnish and optional tofu sour cream topping.

Tofu Sour Cream Topping

½ lb tofu

1/8 to 1/4 cup pickling juice from natural cucumber dill pickles (like ‘Bubbies’ brand) or Kalamata olive pickling brine

1/2 teaspoon of mustard

1 - 2 teaspoons of sesame oil or olive oil

1 teaspoons ume vinegar (optional)

1 scallion, minced

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. This dressing can be kept for several days in the refrigerator. 

Late Summer Cooking

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad

Late summer means a true bounty of fresh vegetables, fruits and other produce at your fingertips. The produce is generally peak-ripe, delicious and bursting with flavor.

This time of year is a magic time of year to visit Farmer’s Markets - early mornings are the best times to go; no crowds, freshly picked produce, with little bits of dirt hanging in places here and there. You never know what you will come across that looks exceptionally gorgeous and ripe on any particular morning. Food looks and tastes amazing when you use ingredients at their peak! So, choose the best looking produce and that means less coaxing to make it good - meaning you don’t have to use strong seasonings or dressings or cooking methods like roasting to make it flavorful.

Noodles with Basil Pesto

Noodles with Basil Pesto

In my opinion, one of the most important things about shopping at the farmers market is to have fun: it involves all your senses: sight, smell, touching and tasting.

Talk to the farmers and find out what they are excited about. Or ask any chefs picking up their produce at the market what they are going to do with it. Allow yourself to get creative and inspired and perhaps pick an item you have never used before.

And if you are not sure what to do with a particularly good looking specimen - ask the farmer - they in most instances can point you in the right direction in terms of what preparation works well to bring out the intrinsic characteristics of a particular food - to let the flavor shine forth from within.

How to begin healing from Asthma

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Asthma, a disease that affects the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, makes the airways very sensitive because the inside walls of the airways become inflamed and swollen. The inflammation causes the tissues to react strongly to various triggers - causing allergic and irritation reactions. These triggers may be physiological, psychological, body internal or external. When the airways react, they get narrower and less air flows through to the lung tissues. This causes symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and general trouble breathing.

In an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten up, making the airway openings even narrower and less air will flow through. The cells in the airways also create more mucus than usual. This causes more difficulty to breathe. In a severe asthma attack, the airways can close so drastically that not enough oxygen gets to vital organs. In this case it is essential to seek medical help immediately.

According to oriental systems the large intestine and the lung function are a complementary opposite pair of organs, both are part of the excretory function. If the septic system (the large intestine) is not working properly, lung function is often negatively impacted, as well.

A long history of constipation, diarrhea and/or other digestive issues is often preceding lung function problems. Constipation is allowing toxins destined for expulsion to be reabsorbed into the body tissues. This process weakens the whole body. Diarrhea is preventing the necessary nutrients from being absorbed into the body, also weakening the whole body. Other conditions, such as inflammation in the intestines will cause severe disruption, as well.

Thus any preventative or healing measures would do well to address improving our septic system  - primarily the large intestine – along with addressing the lung condition.

One of the easiest ways to begin to improve our digestive system is by chewing well. Digestion begins in the mouth –neither stomach nor intestines are lined with teeth. Chewing breaks down the physical structure of the food. This results in better nutrient absorption into our body and adding beneficial enzymes from our saliva to our food. The various kinds of enzymes in our saliva break down complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins, as well as alkalizing the foods we chew and in turn alkalizing our blood quality. Diseases thrive in an acidic environment, and they disappear when our system becomes slightly more alkaline. 

Choosing our foods wisely: choosing good quality, unrefined, whole foods with lots of fiber will also benefit our digestive system and our body as a whole.

Digestive trouble may be apparent through tight shoulders, as well as skin troubles, like pimples or acne or melanoma. In terms of asthma the main contributing cause for inflammation are regular and excess consumption of foods that have an expansive and mucus producing effect in the intestines and the airways - like fried potatoes, tomatoes, ice-cream, all dairy, sodas, yoghurts, sweets, excess fruits, lack of fiber, refined flour products, sweet baked flour products, fatty and greasy foods, chocolate, fruit juices, heavy animal food consumption, along with constant snacking and late night eating.

Foods that are particularly helpful for lung and large intestine function are brown rice, daikon radish, cauliflower, lotus root, lotus seeds, plenty of short cooked leafy greens, kuzu, naturally fermented foods like miso and sauerkraut, hijiki (sea vegetable), white beans, azuki beans and sesame seeds among others. All of these foods taken in balanced proportion on a regular basis, will reduce inflammation and mucus in the airways.

Lungs are twin organs. Metaphysically twin organs indicate the aspect of dialogue of oneself with the outside world. The lungs, governing our throat and voice box, are all about speaking our truth and communication between the inside and outside world. Being mindful of our communication with others  - or the lack thereof - as well as our internal ‘dialogue’ can be the first step in changing towards a healthier relationship with our body.

Stress is a known trigger to bring on asthma attacks. What is stress? Stress is experienced as strain, pressure, nervous tension, trouble, anxiety, and difficulty. It is a state of mental, emotional or physical tension resulting from (seemingly) adverse circumstances. 

And stress can be described physiologically as a link between hormones, nervous system and inflammation anywhere in the body. 

Foods like sugar, sweets, chocolate, strong spices and greasy, oily foods, animal foods, and others tend to create more inflammation in an already weakened digestive system. And as inflammation spreads quickly in the body from the digestive system via the highway called the vagus nerve upwards in the body, inflammatory substances spread throughout the body, causing damage to the cells of the lungs and other systems. In the brain inflammation favors the production of anxiety provoking chemicals, which may become the trigger for an asthma attack and a variety of other symptoms like lethargy, depression, sleep disturbance, decreased learning ability, etc. 

Changing one’s diet towards a balanced plant based diet including whole grains, vegetables, beans, bean products, sea vegetables, seeds and other natural, supplemental foods will create more stable mental and emotional states along with a strong, healthy body.

Examining ourselves to assess where we may wish to change our perspective on life for allowing more joy and healing into our life is also very beneficial. 

As every person is an individual, it will be most effective for the healing journey to monitor the condition with your physician and seek advice from an experienced counselor to adjust your diet and lifestyle properly.

 

Ramp filled Pierogi (Dumplings)

Pierogies
Basic Pierogi Dough

1 cup of whole wheat bread flour, sifted

1 cup of unbleached white flour

¾ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup of cold water

Sesame or sunflower seed oil for frying the stuffed pierogies (optional)

Place the flour and salt in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Slowly pour in the water and form into a spongy dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough has the consistency of an earlobe. Let it stand for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Then roll the dough, stretching it a little more with each roll until it is almost paper-thin.

Cut out square or round pieces and add filling into the center of each square or circle, fold the dough around the filling and firmly seal the dough. Then steam or boil the pierogi for 5 – 7 minutes. Serve immediately or fry the steamed/boiled pierogi in a small amount of oil until golden brown and serve warm. 

Ramp Filling 

4 cups ramps, finely sliced

1 lb seitan, minced (or: minced tempeh marinated in soysauce/tamari, raw onions, shiitake and water)

1 cup napa cabbage, finely shredded

½ cup mushrooms, diced (optional)

3 - 4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 

pinch of sea salt

soy sauce or tamari to taste (optional)

2 - 3 teaspoons ginger, finely minced (optional)

Sautee the ramps, Napa cabbage and mushrooms in a small amount of oil with a pinch of salt. Simmer until soft, then mix the seitan in. Depending on how well or strong the seitan is seasoned, you may or may not wish to add soy sauce or tamari and ginger juice towards the end of cooking. 

If the pierogi are served with a dipping sauce or in broth, the filling may be mild to moderate in taste.

Noodles with Pesto for Spring

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Noodles with Pesto

4 servings

 

Ingredients:

·       8 - 10 oz. jovial brown rice pasta (spiral noodles)

·       water

·       sea salt

Pesto:

·       1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed or ½ cup basil leaves and ½ cup parsley or watercress

·       2 tablespoons raw cashews, lightly roasted (or 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds, or 2 tablespoons pecans and 2 teaspoons sesame seeds)

·       1 small clove garlic

·       ¼ teaspoon sea salt or to taste

·       6 tablespoons olive oil

·       water if needed

 

Instructions:

Boil the noodles with plenty of water and sea salt until ‘al dente’. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Blend all ingredients of pesto until creamy, add water if needed.

Mix the pasta with the pesto and serve.

Permission to be who you truly are

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The approaching equinox is an excellent time to re-assess and realign for more harmonious balance: give yourself permission to be who you truly are - to express your truth. All of us have experienced at some point in our lives how freeing and simultaneously impactful it can be to be yourself and not hide behind a mask.

In our world where we are surrounded by images of unattainable perfection of body, material goods, wealth, etc. it may seem at times the best solution to present a personae to the world that fits this ‘standard’. This mask usually hides our less secure parts and would try to make others believe we are more perfect, more powerful, more in control, more interesting etc. than we truly feel we are. Unfortunately this usually backfires on us: in an attempt to impersonate something we are not, we often come across as aloof, unapproachable, even arrogant. It is then that we loose our sense of belonging, connection and feeling like we have a place in the world.

This also ties in with the recent school shootings: expression to be real is denied to the point where the only expression left is resorting to extreme measures: trying to break out of the self created mask of protection, which other people reinforce unfortunately. The mask becomes a tight fitting armor that can seemingly only be moved beyond via explosive behavior – in some cases resorting to shooting.

In my own life I remember a time when my father wished me to continue playing tennis as a teenager, which I hated. Tennis was considered a status symbol and I was expected to continue playing tennis to keep up our family status in the community. I threw a tantrum to finally make my father understand that tennis didn’t fit my idea of fun, enjoyment and that I didn’t care about status. I took up Judo instead, which I pursued for many years: I had fun and made wonderful friends.

Every time we are true to ourselves we are at ease, relaxed, we can easily get inspired, be spontaneous, have fun, even laugh at our own shortcomings. When we allow ourselves to be real, we give others permission to let go of the masquerade as well.

Allow the harmonious energy of the equinox (equal measure of day and night) to carry you to new expressions of truth and honesty – if not outwardly, then at least acknowledging truth within self.

 

Natural Optimism: Forget about your problems and they will disappear?

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This sounds like the rambling of a child or an idiot, like a pipe-dream fantasy or romanticism—this is definitely not a method for the intelligent and sophisticated of our society according to our regular standards.

We have the impression that worrying about the world and our personal problems can lead to a logical solution and perhaps save our planet and resolve personal crises—or so it seems.

Not worrying about the world is considered uncaring and insensitive, whereas worrying is an acceptable way of showing concern and empathy for private and public matters.

Consensus holds that it is unreasonable to assume that the world can take care of itself, or even sort out whatever damage it seems man has done to it. 

It is generally accepted that worrying will take us somewhere and lead us further. And it does: it provides the thrust to make things happen: MORE PROBLEMS. Ooops….

Ironically, the best thing you can do for yourself, or your loved ones, or the world, is to stop worrying, and let go of all of the negative thoughts. Thoughts have an electromagnetic viability and will attract more of the same. Hence worry will attract more worry, and similarly joy will attract more joy. 

Imagine that the problem at hand no longer exists, or pretend that it will disappear, because it is not as bad as it could possibly be.

It always helps to focus our attention on something joyful. And when we are looking for the positive events and joys in our everyday life, they will certainly come to our attention as they are always present.

And while this mindset seems child-like, it will not turn us back into children (unless we have never grown up—but that is another story). Rather, it helps to utilize the biologically innate natural optimism that is ingrained in our natural make up. This positive force—the natural optimism—is an impetus that allows for unanticipated, wonderful surprises, to come our way, and it gives rise to unexpected solutions and joyful circumstances and events.

Sharing a life with someone who always expects the worst outcome and is always worrying can become exhausting.

In my experience, people who employ worry as their modus operandi are motivating themselves from incessant fear. They find this way of acting and being more thrilling and exciting than having peace, joy, and happiness in their lives.

So, unburden yourself of your problems and a whole new set of possibilities can come into focus in your life! As the song goes, “Let it be.”

 

LemonCream Curd - Happy New Year!

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This is a special holiday or birthday dessert - too rich and too cooling for regular use in the winter time in the NorthEast of the US. However, it it is cheery and very delicious dessert or topping for other baked goods.

Ingredients

•   5.4 oz can coconut cream (unsweetened, organic coconut cream from Native Forest)

•   ½ - ¾ cup organic unsweetened soymilk or almond milk

•   1 Tablespoon lemon zest

•   3 – 4 Tablespoons lemon juice

•   2 - 3 Tablespoons kuzu (diluted in 3 – 4 Tablespoons cold water)

•   1-4 Tablespoons organic maple syrup

 

Instructions

Place coconut cream and lemon zest in a small saucepan and whisk to combine while heating on medium heat.

Add maple syrup (starting with 1 Tablespoon) and whisk again until well combined. Add more if desired, according to your taste.

Add diluted kuzu to coconut cream mixture and keep stirring until the mixture has come to a boil and has begun to thicken to desired consistency.

Lastly, add lemon juice and lemon zest.

Remove from heat and taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more lemon zest for acidity/brightness, or maple syrup for sweetness.

Fill into individual dessert cups and let cool to set for at least 30 minutes to several hours.

It may be served as is, or with berry topping or roasted nuts or seeds and it makes a delicious topping for waffles, mocha, pancakes and other baked goods.

Matcha Green Tea Star Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups organic unbleached white flour or 1 cup whole spelt flour and 1 1/2 unbleached white flour or 2 1/2 cups of your favorite gluten free flour mix
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp matcha green tea
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl and mix all wet ingredients together in another bowl. Combine dry and wet ingredients, and mix thoroughly.

Place parchment paper on 2 cookie sheets. Roll out cookie dough to approximately 1/8 inch thickness and use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out the shape of your choice. Place the cookies on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.

Optional: you may wish to sprinkle a little shredded coconut or cocoa powder or ginger powder on top of the cookies. Or sprinkle a little match green tea powder on the cookies after baking.

Bake 8 to 15 minutes. Remove immediately and allow to cool.