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Macrobiotics, Honduran Style

If you've been through Central America, you'll remember that the meals are pretty standard everywhere (at least in all the countries I've been): beans and rice...or if you're lucky, rice and beans (and if you eat meat, then add chicken to create the common menu: rice + beans + chicken). Lots of beans! I love them though, so lucky me!

This Macro Monday (which is actually on a Thursday...let's call it Island time?!?) is to give you a glance at what it was like to eat Dainty Pig Style while away on the island of Roatan, in Honduras.

Macrobiotic in Honduras

Eating Out

As I mentioned above, there are beans a plenty in Honduras, but chicken is usually a large part of the menu. Seafood is also easy to be found in most restaurants, so I've been enjoying snapper and shrimp. You can often get it grilled with nothing on it (my favourite is grilled with lemon or lime). but I've also had it cajun style served with spices, cooked tomatoes, peppers & onions. And I also had a delicious coconut & cilantro shrimp dish. The fish is often served whole & it's so SO flavourful.

Transient

They serve most dishes here with a side of mashed potatoes (!!?) or rice, so I choose rice (I've never liked mashed potatoes - but for the record, everyone who got them said they were absolutely delicious). Usually there are some steamed veggies - carrots & a kind of summer squash - that come with it too. And the plantains are definitely worth a try - so good!

Groceries

As far as groceries go, on Roatan we've been extremely lucky. There are all kinds of grains, beans, fruits, veggies, oils, hearty breads, muesli, tahini, peanut butter, coconut waters and milks, and almond, rice, or soymilk a plenty. These are all available at the big grocery chain on island called Eldons. And of course there are fruit & veggie stands every way you look selling delicious tropical fruits like guava & pineapple.

If you're curious about other foods & drinks from home you can get here too, you will easily be able to find all sorts of meats, eggs, cheese & yogurt, wine, pasta, chocolate, crackers, rice cakes etc. too. Most products are Central American or from the USA. There are also plenty of gluten free breads and products if that's what you're looking for (check out the shop called Bulk Gourmet). You could easily create an Italian, Mexican, or American style meal with ingredients from the grocery stores here.

Daily Eats

I've been enjoying fruit (oh my goodness, the papaya is insanely good!) and toast with peanut butter or oats for breakfast, along with some amazing Honduran shade grown coffee. It's been a delightful way to start the day.

We've been keeping pretty busy so lunch has often been some quick home made refried beans, salsa, avocado and either tortillas, home made tacos, or tortilla chips. Perfect for the weather here, and to munch on by the pool.

And dinner has usually been the fish I was talking about above, or the delicious coconut shrimp I had (pictured below).

Transient

I haven't gotten sick from any food whatsoever...but I did get a sinus cold (first cold I've had in years!) due to lack of sleep & some out of character indulgence in Island rum. I woke up the next morning without a hangover, but with a sinus cold. I managed it pretty well though, and felt better within a few days (minus the scuba diving...that didn't help so much). Other than that though, all has been well.

Now it's time to get into the Canadian Christmas Spirit.
Hope you have a lovely week!
xoxo J

 

Macro Monday Secret Ingredient

Happy Macro Monday everyone!
Today's post is about another secret macrobiotic ingredient. It's clear. It comes from the sea. You can buy it  in the form of bars, flakes, or powder.

AND, most importantly, you can make macrobiotic jello with it.

Classy, I know.

MM: Agar Agar

A bar of agar agar soaking.

A bar of agar agar soaking.

What is it?

It is a gelatenous substance that comes from a seaweed/red algae. It has been used for centuries in China & Japan. In Japan, is in known as kanten. It is commonly used as a vegan thickener and is completely odourless, colourless, and flavourless, making it a great substitute for gelatin.

Health Benefits

Agar is very high in fibre (80% fibre!), and is good source of iron & magnesium, and also is a source of calcium. Agar has been found to relieve certain digestive orders, as well as some liver conditions (it can absorb bile, which can lower cholesterol levels).

How do you use it?

Agar should be combined / soaked with liquid and then brought to a boil in order for it to completely dissolve. It will set as it cools down.

Eden-Foods-Agar-Agar-Sea-Vegetable-Flakes.jpg

There are a few different forms of agar agar. Agar powder is much more concentrated than the flakes, so you can use 1 tsp of powder in place of 1 Tbsp flakes. If you are using it in bar form, the instructions usually say to soak the bar in a bowl of water for about 30-60 minutes. Then drain and wring out the bars, rip into small pieces, and then bring to boil with whatever ingredients you are using in your recipe.

To thicken one cup of liquid, in general, you'll need 1 tsp agar powder / 1 TBSP agar flakes or about 1/3 of a typical bar. I find though that each brand can be different, so definitely read the instructions on the back of the package.

For quick reference and an estimate based on the brands I've used:
To thicken 1 cup of liquid: 1 tsp agar powder = 1 tbsp agar flakes = 1/3 agar bar

Kinds of Foods you can make with it

Creamy Desserts

Agar agar is often used to create a creamy thick filling for pies, or in puddings (usually combined with kuzu).

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  • I use it in my favourite pumpkin pie recipe.
  • I have also used it to make a delicious tahini custard.
  • Easy Simple Pudding: You can make a very simple pudding that can be flavoured after, in whatever way you like by simply combining agar with your milk of choice, and cooking it, then letting it set up. The next day blend until soft like a pudding, adding in whatever you like: cocoa, vanilla, banana, peanut butter, cinnamon etc.

Lighter Fruit Jellies & Puddings.

You can make lighter dishes that are great for spring or summer, such as jelly or jello-like dishes combined with fruit. These are often referred to as kantens in Macrobiotic cooking.

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  • A Delicious Strawberry Kanten
  • I have also made a kanten like the strawberry one above using various fruits such as mixed berries, thin apple slices, and grapes. It's SO EASY! Just bring the soaked agar and liquid of choice (water, tea, juice, milk) to boil, let it dissolve, then pour overtop of fruit in a pyrex dish. Let it set, and enjoy!
  • I have also made a very simple kanten with no fruit, and just flavoured the agar itself by cooking it in apple juice and mint tea. Another delicious one is to cook it with your milk of choice and chai tea, along with your preferred liquid sweetener.  After it sets you can eat as is, or you can blend into a pudding texture. YUM! (In these cases I made some very strong tea first, using multiple teabags, and used this as the water to boil the agar in).

 

I'll leave you with a fun fact: agar is often used in science as a stable growth environment for bacteria in petri dishes. Cool :)

Have you ever cooked with agar agar? What's your favourite recipe using it?

 

Macro Monday: will the REAL cinnamon lovers please stand up

Hey friends,

Since you're reading, you've most likely encountered another post (or million) of mine where I proclaimed my love for cinnamon. It's a full-on kinda love. I enjoy it daily, often in oatmeal or porridge, in pretty much ANY baked good, cocoa or coffee or tea, sprinkled over some apple slices....

Yep. I love that stuff. But only when it's the good kind.

This Macro Monday, I want to chat about REAL Cinnamon vs. not-so-good-for-you cinnamon...

MM: True Cinnamon

I bet you're wondering what I'm talking about, huh?

Well, there are actually multiple kinds of cinnamon.

  1. The kind that most supermarkets here in Canada and the United States sell, Chinese Cinnamon, also known as Cassia
  2. Mexican or True Cinnamon, known as Ceylon Cinnamon.
  3. Indonesian Cinnamon
  4. Vietnamese Cinnamon, also known as Saigon Cinnamon.

You want the Ceylon. Here's why:

Cassia contains a toxic compound called coumarin, which can be harmful to the liver, potentially even causing complete liver failure.

Here's a link to some more info about liver problems and coumarin. And here.

Ummm. Yeah.

And before you get all Saigon and Indonesian Cinnamon up in my face...bad news, these both have higher levels of coumarin as well (in fact, Indonesian cinnamon is also known as Padang Cassia, and Saigon Cinnamon is also known as Vietnamese Cassia & it actually has the highest amounts of coumarin of all the types).

Cassia = not so great.

ONLY CEYLON Cinnamon has low enough levels of coumarin to be deemed safe.

Germany even banned Cassia at one point, due to this potential health risk.

This kind of worries me, because there are thousands of articles floating around out there from various doctors and experts describing how beneficial cinnamon can be. It is recommended for people with Diabetes and to help balance blood sugar levels along with many other things. Often these articles encourage a couple of spoons of cinnamon a day.

Great in theory...but this may be causing you liver problems (probably without you knowing it).

Why did I switch to using Ceylon? Well, the only reason I even know that there are multiple kinds of cinnamon, is because a few years ago I had a strange issue show up in my liver. My regular old doctor provided me no help, so my guy T & I took to the internet to begin investigating the foods I ate on a regular basis. We realized that the cinnamon I was ingesting, on a daily basis, was actually not true cinnamon, rather, it was Cassia which is known to affect the liver. Ugh. So yeah, I changed to Ceylon, and my liver test results came back normal a few months later. Coincidence? I think not.

YES, it's more expensive.

YES, you're worth it.

And bonus: ceylon cinnamon isn't just safe for your liver, it also has a wide variety of health benefits, such as lowering LDL cholesterol, and it is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. The verdict is still out on whether it too can act to help blood sugar levels; I've seen some sources saying that it does, and others that it doesn't. But this benefit from Cassia is not worth the potential liver problems, in my humble opinion.

How to Tell Ceylon from Cassia

Here's a cool video talking about the different kinds of cinnamon.

Ceylon looks softer, and more crumbly (easiest distinguishing feature), and is a lighter brown. It's on the right.

Cassia (all varieties) look like what is is: bark. It's harder and tougher and darker.

Flavour Comparison

And in case you aren't convinced: there is also a flavour bonus. Ceylon cinnamon has a softer, gentler, slightly sweeter warming flavour. It is GREAT in baking. Cassia can be quite strong in comparison. I used to really enjoy Saigon Cinnamon, as it's a bit spicier, but after becoming accustomed to Ceylon, I much prefer it. I have read that traditional Mexican & European recipes that call for cinnamon were all originally referring to Ceylon cinnamon, as it adds a softer more subtle depth to the recipe. If you made those same recipes using Saigon, the flavour would take over and ruin it.

Sometimes, okay, pretty much ALL the time, T has a 6th sense about these things. He could never stand the smell or taste of Saigon cinnamon and thought it was too potent to consume. But he sure does love the flavour of Ceylon cinnamon.

I buy Ceylon Cinnamon here, either this one or this one.  Iherb has the greatest price. And if you decide to get it from there, feel free to use (only if you like, no pressure) coupon code ROP008 to get a discount on your first shipping, and to give me some points too. Thanks friends.

***And soak in the lesson here: herbs & spices are nature's medicine...they are POWERFUL, and are not to be consumed with no control. Read up, and make sure that all is well before you start including something into your daily diet.

♥♥♥Now go enjoy a big (ceylon) cinnamon bun ♥♥♥

Macro Monday: Vitamin D & Macrobiotics

So I got a call from my doctor last week, saying that they took a look at my regular checkup blood test results, and that I was alarmingly low in Vitamin D... 

Hrmph. 

I suppose I have  been feeling not very rested & a bit lethargic lately.  {I attributed that to the change of seasons...afterall, Autumn is a time for slowing down}.

And I suppose I may have  lost track of that bottle of vitamin D I used to take, somewhere in my move. 

And I also suppose, that I have not been regularly eating fish. 

And lastly, I suppose , I do NOT live in the tropics in a nudist colony.

Hrmph.  So there you have it - a big 'ol vitamin D deficiency. 

So I've been doing a bit of research, and decided to post about Vitamin D this lovely Macro Monday, in hopes that some of you will also have suggestions of your own for me, for how to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D on a Macrobiotic Diet.

MM: Vitamin D & a Macrobiotic Diet

Google Image: http://tinyurl.com/oeql8rc

Google Image: http://tinyurl.com/oeql8rc

So obviously, laying naked in the tropical sun daily, would be best.
I'd totally do it if I could. The experts recommend 15 minutes of sunshine daily, with exposure to UVB rays. But the quality of this sunshine varies drastically with how far North you are. In the Northern hemisphere, because of the angle of the atmosphere, we do not get much UVB from the sun. I live for sunshine... But I also live in Canada. So that settles that. No one here gets enough sunshine to create enough Vitamin D (says my doctor, and many other doctors).

I'm always inclined to look at diet and natural methods first: 

Top Food Sources of Vitamin D

From all my research, I've gathered that really, Vitamin D is mostly found in animal fats / products, seafood or in fortified foods. There are surprisingly few sources of naturally occurring Vitamin D. The top dietary sources, in no particular order, are:

Naturally Occurring 

  • Fatty fish such as wild salmon & sardines, and other seafood like oysters
  • Eggs
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Grass-fed Dairy
  • Some mushrooms, particularly Shitake

 Foods That Have Vitamin D Added
  • Fortified Dairy products
  • Fortified grain products, such as breakfast cereal
  • Fortified juices, like orange juice
  • Fortified Soy Products

Macrobiotic Food Sources of Vitamin D

Okay, so as you may already know, the traditional Macrobiotic Diet does not include eggs or dairy. I don't necessarily agree that this will work best for everyone - some people do very well & feel their best on a vegetarian diet. But I  personally, happen to have an allergy to both cow dairy & eggs...so these things are never present in my diet anyways. 

I eat fish occasionally, and plan to do more so seeing as I now have the Ocean as my backyard. But I also don't feel the best eating a ton of seafood - and in all likelihood will not have it more than 1-2 times/week.

I LOVE mushrooms - particularly shitake. But I'm pretty sure you'd need to eat waaaaaayyyy too may of them to satisfy your daily Vitamin D requirements.

Do you know about any other Macrobiotic Dietary Sources of Vitamin D? 

Vitamin D3 vs. Vitamin D2

Vitamin D2 is known as "ergocalciferol"  & vitamin D3 is known as "cholecalciferol."

Vitamin D2 is a fungus or yeast derived product, as is the form that you will find in any vitamin D supplement that is vegan. 

Vitamin D3 in supplements comes from animal sources: either from lanolin (sheeps wool) or fish/seafood.

Most doctors & health practitioners recommend D3 for many reasons, including these: 

  • Humans naturally make Vitamin D3 when UVB strikes our skin: we synthesize it ourselves...on the other hand, we do NOT synthesize Vitamin D2 ourselves. 
  • Vitamin D3 is thought to be the more potent form as it binds better to our tissue receptors, and it is also therefore potentially less toxic, as Vitamin D2 ends up circulating through our blood stream in higher concentrations, as it is not absorbed as easily
  • You would therefore need to take more Vitamin D2 for it to be just as effective
  • {Info from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/589256_4

I am positive you can find good quality sources of Vitamin D2, and if you are a strict vegan, I wouldn't try to dissuade you from taking it. Getting enough Vitamin D is really important, whatever your source may be.

As for myself, I eat fish already, and do not have a problem with taking D3 either from sheep's wool, or from fish sources. 

Vitamin D Supplements

The doctor has ordered me to take quite a large dose of Vitamin D3 supplements daily for at least 3 months, and then to continue on taking the supplements daily after that, at a lower dosage. 

Here are some things I came across in my research, to consider when taking Vitamin D supplements: 

  • Having proper amounts of Vitamin D can assist in sleeping...but if you take your Vitamin D at night, or in the evening, it can actually interfere  with sleep. So take them in the morning.
  • Vitamin D is best and most easily absorbed with fat. So either take a Vitamin D gel capsule that includes fat (i've seen plenty that have EFAs and/or fish oil in the gel caps) , or take the pills with a meal that includes fat (preferably breakfast, as per the info in the bullet above).
  • The daily intake from NIH is 200 IU for adults under 50, and 400 IU for adults over 50. But many respected health pracititioners consider this to be MUCH too low, and recommend 1000 IU or more. Dr. Weil, who gives pretty solid advice in my opinion, is currently recommending 2000 IUs of Vitamin D3 per day. I've seen other doctors recommend up to 10000 IU daily. But please talk to your doctor first. 

Other Considerations When Taking Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it stays in your body in your fat cells, rather than water soluble vitamins where you pee out the excess you don't need. So, you also have to be careful about getting TOO MUCH Vitamin D as it will stay in your body, & also because Vitamin D increases the body's requirement for Vitamin A & magnesium. And also, Vitamin D is most beneficial when it interacts with other vitamins & minerals, such as Vitamin K, zinc & boron. Gah - so complex!

I am by no means an expert on any of this, but I do know that Vitamin A is very easy to get through your diet (anything orange: carrots, squash etc. have very high vitamin A levels, as do some leafy greens). In fact, people more often get too much Vitamin A, which can cause serious problems. So in my humble opinion, I wouldn't worry too much about taking added Vitamin A, especially if you eat a good amount of colourful veggies in your diet.

Magnesium can also be acquired through diet (legumes, nuts/seeds, real cacao & greens), but is also, on the other hand, a fairly common mineral to take as a supplement. I take a magnesium supplement occasionally (Natural Calm), as it is very beneficial for stress amongst other things.

As for Vitamin D's interaction with Vitamin K, again, I think simply making sure you get Vitamin K from dietary sources are best: Vitamin K1 is found in most leafy greens, and K2 in fermented foods like natto & kimchee (also in organ meats & cheeses).

Zinc & Boron also interact with Vitamin D to make it more effective, but again, can be found in the diet. Zinc is common in oysters, beans, nuts & meat. Boron is found in peanut butter, raisins, avocado, wine, beer, nuts & leafy greens. 

But again, please remember, I'm not a doctor or healthcare professional in anyway, so before you become your own science experiment, I'd recommend talking to someone qualified, like a doctor. :)

*I spent hours reading & compiling all of this info from different sites including: this one, this one, this one, this one, & this one.

So...

For now I will follow my doctor's orders, and take my vitamin D3 pills daily. 

I will also enjoy fish & seafood more often, and continue cooking up mushrooms in my daily meals.And of course, goat cheese is a delicious & delightful treat every once in awhile.

And I am also very grateful for INPUT FROM YOU: advice / suggestions on maintaining & acquiring Vitamin D3 in your diet, or suggestions about supplements. 

Sending you all a giant sunshiney hug, 

Jess

Macrobiotic Pumpkin Pudding / Custard

On Monday, I talked about KUZU - Macrobiotics' secret thickening ingredient that is also very useful when prepared medicinally for healing and helping many conditions. I promised you a recipe using this ingredient.

Seeing as how it's Autumn, almost Canadian Thanksgiving, and there are as many beautiful colours of leaves as there are beautiful pumpkins, I thought I'd stick with the theme. I've had pumpkin pudding on the brain since my Pumpkin Pie Showdown last Thanksgiving. I've made quite a few different variations and random throw-together quick puddings in the kitchen, but this time I sat down and wrote it all out, so I'd remember it for next time. The extra filling from one of my pumpkin pies last year, that I ate the next day pudding style, was my inspiration behind this recipe.

pumpkinpudding07.JPG

Macrobiotic Pumpkin Pudding / Custard

Dainty Pig Style

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of pumpkin (398ml or 14 fl oz.) 
  • 1 cup of almond milk (or your choice of milk - coconut or soy would make it a bit creamier) 
  • 4 TBSP maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (this amount is for cinnamon lovers, so reduce to 1 or 2 tsp. if you'd like it a bit more subtle)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/3 cup (6 TBSP) Kuzu diluted in 1/3 cup water.  *** Edited to add: I tried this again, and you can totally get away with 4 TBSP Kuzu diluted in 1/4c water
  • Maple flakes, cookie, cinnamon, pecans! as an optional garnish
pumpkinpudding03.JPG

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan combine the pumpkin and almond milk (I used a fork, but you could also whisk it together). 
  2. Add in your sweetener - I used maple syrup - and mix it in. 
  3. Heat it up, stirring often, over medium-low heat.  Mixture will begin to bubble a bit, so be careful of splatters.
  4. Stir in the vanilla and spices. 
  5. Prepare the kuzu: in a small bowl or mug: add 1/3 cup water to 6 TBSP kuzu, and stir until liquidy and combined. 
  6. Add kuzu mixture to the pumpkin mixture on the stove, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. 
  7. Continue stirring until mixture thickens - maybe 3 minutes or so, and then simmer for 1-2 more minutes (it may get a bit translucent, depending on the kind of milk you used).
  8. Pour into 4 separate bowls or ramekins. 
  9. Enjoy warm, or leave (covered) overnight in the fridge to thicken and for the flavour to develop.  {I had a bit warm & it was delicious, but then I left the rest in the fridge overnight to see what it was like the next day}

Enjoy! 

If you eat it right away it has more of a pudding texture (my favourite). If you wait until the next day it is thicker, like a custard. I topped mine with a store-bought macro friendly ginger cookie, and a few sprinkles of maple flakes and cinnamon. I recommend serving it with a nice cup of chai tea. Divine!

***This makes a lightly sweetened pudding, so if you're planning on serving this to regular eaters, you might want to consider adding in a bit more maple syrup :) 

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I'd love to know what your favourite pumpkin recipe is! 

Macro Monday: Macrobiotics' Secret Ingredient

How do you thicken gravy, make a pudding, pie filling or fruit sauce, and also help relieve indigestion using Macrobiotic friendly ingredients?

Well, get yourself a big bag of magical white powdery stuff...NO, I don't mean THIS KIND of white stuff. :)

I mean the kind of white powder that you'll find in the "odds & ends & weird ingredients" aisle at your health foods store. It's called Kuzu!

MM: All About Kuzu (Kudzu)

 Macrobiotics' Secret Ingredient:

kuzu.JPG

What is it?

Kuzu (Kudzu) is a vine that grows in Asia, and is also known as Japanese Arrowroot. Thanks to Wikipedia, I finally understand why there are multiple spellings of the same word: The Japanese word for the plant is kuzu (クズ or 葛), but when the word was first put into latin script (romanized) it appeared as kudzu. Same plant, same meaning, two ways to spell it: I'll go with kuzu.

Traditional & Medicinal Qualities & Uses

Both the roots & the flowers of this vine have been used for centuries in Chinese Medicine & in Japan to treat many health ailments, including but not limited to:  headaches, diarrhea, colds, rashes, migraines, stomach problems & indigestion, the flu, hangovers and even hayfever!

Because of the isoflavones (especially isoflavone puerarin) and other plant compounds in Kuzu, it can help relieve many other complaints, such as undesirable menopausal issues & hormone imbalances. Kuzu also appears to have cardiovascular benefits: it decreases blood pressure, and can even assist with circulation within the heart itself.

Kuzu has been used historically in the treatment of alcoholism (it can suppress alcohol cravings) and irregular heartbeat, and in China it has been used when giving treatment for strokes. It is even said to have antioxidant & anti-viral activity, and can help with blood sugar levels & insulin resistance.

Um....Wowza!

I have read about Macrobiotic remedies using Kuzu, but I did not know the full extent of its powers. The sources where I read about all these mind boggling health benefits are here & here  .

In Macrobiotics

In my understanding, Macrobiotics would classify kuzu as having a YANG effect: a downward & inwards moving energy --> perfect for helping the lower intestine and strengthening digestion!

Kuzu root is also an extremely alkalizing food. Outside of cooking (see section below), kuzu is most often used in Macrobiotics as an alkalizing remedy for health issues that are caused by over-acidity, such as indigestion caused by over-consumption of acidic foods and/or overeating, and even cancer as it is a highly acidic condition.

In most Macrobiotic books you'll find a recipe for some sort of an umeboshi & kuzu healing drink. Sometimes it is made with teas, sometimes with shoyu (soy sauce), and sometimes with ginger! I haven't personally tried it myself yet, but I do recommend consulting a qualified health care practitioner before undertaking any new remedy.

But, if you are curious, Here's a simple recipe for ume-sho-kuzu with cute pictures!
**please note: I have more commonly seen this recipe with a smaller amount of umeboshi, such as this one, but I just loved the pics with the first link.

Culinary Uses

Kuzu starch (powder / rock chunks) is used in cooking to thicken liquids! You can use it like you would cornstarch or arrowroot powder. But, unlike corn starch that may thin if the liquid cools, kuzu just keeps getting thicker & thicker. I like it because it's a more natural alternative that has undergone much less processing than regular ol' starches. It is the perfect ingredient to use when making gravy, soups & dessert!

Here are the directions on the back of the package: 

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I have used kuzu as a thickener in many dishes, including:

And one of the most delicious treats I tried in Japan was Kudzu Mochi.

YUM! 

 

Expect a delicious new dessert recipe that uses kuzu up on the blog mid-week, so please check back soon <3

Have you ever tried Kuzu in cooking, or in a remedy?
I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Macro Monday: All About Winter Squash

If you know me, you know I love pumpkin. And Kabocha. And pretty much all winter squash. I find them to be THE single most comforting whole food (other than oats, perhaps) out there. They are sweet & decadent and pair so well with cinnamon & nutmeg, but also taste great when made with savory spices, or dipped into a delicious tahini-lemon dressing. You can roast, steam, and mash them. Squash tastes amazing spread onto sandwiches, served with wholegrains, and cooked into soups and stews. Winter squash is very health-giving & nourishing during the cooler seasons, and every year around this time I start to crave it.

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In honour of the Autumn Equinox yesterday, on this Macrobiotic Monday, let's focus on everything to do with Winter Squash, including a recipe for my favourite way to cook it!

Different Kinds of Winter Squash:

  • Butternut - beige colour, and they come in many fun interesting shapes. A sweet, slightly dense squash.
  • Acorn - dark green skin, and shaped like an acorn (they have ridges). They are a bit watery and less dense.
  • Red Kuri - bright red and orange *look for a photo below
  • Kabocha - dark green with some orangey patches, and a sort of squashed-round shape. Very dense & sweet. *look for photo below
  • Pumpkins (and all other pie-making variety of pumpkins) - there are too many varieties of these big orange guys to count. You know the ones :)
  • Buttercup - like kabocha in colouring, but generally a bit more square-ish shaped, with higher edges with kind of a ridge. Similar to kabocha, but a bit more watery
  • Spaghetti Squash - large round & oval in shape, yellow in colour. Once it's cooked when you scrape the flesh, it comes off in strings like spaghetti. 

How to Choose a Good Squash

There might be nothing more disappointing than selecting what looks like a beauty of a squash at the store, and then getting home, cutting it open, and finding out that it's super watery or very light coloured on the inside with a spongy texture. Boo! 

Here's how to avoid this catastrophe: 

  • Get up close & personal with the squashes: pick them up, and feel their weight (I transfer them back and forth between my hands to get an idea of how much they weight). The heavier the better.  If you have 2 equally sized squashes, choose the heavier one. Always.  If a squash seems too light for it's size, place it back in the bin and keep looking. 
  • Smell your squash: if you get a whiff of mold, place it back. 
  • If you can, choose a squash with it's stem still in place

Best Places to Buy Squash

Kabocha &amp; Red Kuri Squash from the Pumpkin Guys on Moss Street

Kabocha & Red Kuri Squash from the Pumpkin Guys on Moss Street

My favourite place to buy squash is at markets or food stands. I find that the grocery store winter squashes are often hit or miss...and recently, they've been more of a miss (often moldy). Local farmers & gardeners have the best selection, and high quality.

This Saturday I was lucky enough to come across Winter Squash heaven. A beautiful table and buckets filled with all kinds of squashes, and a super cute sign at the end of the block. If you're in Victoria, I recommend checking out the Pumpkin Guys on Moss Street (between McKenzie & Fairfield Rd)! They'll be there every Saturday until the end of October!

If you look close, you can see a few ladies checking out the pumpkins halfway up the block :)&nbsp;

If you look close, you can see a few ladies checking out the pumpkins halfway up the block :) 

How to Cook Winter Squash

 Steamed

  • Wash & Scrub the outside of the squash
  • cut in half vertically  
  • Scrape out insides
  • peel if you like, then cut into 1" chunks
  • Place in a vegetable steamer over water, and steam for 7-10 minutes

Boiled 

  • Wash & scrub the outside of the squash
  • Peel & cut in half  
  • scoop out all the seeds and insides
  • dice into chunks
  • place in a pan with water and boil away until nice and soft (you can start with not so much water, and just add more as necessary) 
  • { you can boil spaghetti squash whole: pierce a few holes before with a knife on all sides before boiling. Boil for about 30 minutes in a large pot. Be very careful when removing from the pot - it will be really hot and will release steam when you cut it open}

Mashed 

  • Wash & Scrub the squash
  • Either boil, steam or bake the squash
  • Scoop out the cooked flesh, and using a potato masher, or a good fork, place in a bowl and mash away
  • Add in good quality oil and seasonings of choice. For savory I recommend some herbal sea salt, or perhaps some rosemary and sea salt. For a sweet treat, add in some maple syrup or honey and some cinnamon & nutmeg. 

 Roasted Squash Fries

  • Set oven to 400F
  • Wash & Scrub the squash
  • cut into half vertically, and scoop out the insides
  • Slice into 1/2" thick crescent moons (my fav), or sticks (like fries) or peel & dice  
  • Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and seasonings (i.e., rosemary, herbal salt, sage)  or if you prefer the sweet variety: your liquid sweetener of choice, some cinnamon & nutmeg
  • Spread out on a cookie sheet or baking dish and bake for 35-40 mins. 
  • *My favourite is to make this variety savory, using butternut squash. They make delicious fries! 

 ***My Favourite way: Steam Baked  (see directions below)

How to Bake A Squash Dainty Pig Style

  • Set oven to 350F
  • Wash/ scrub your squash
  • Cut it in half vertically
  • Scrape out all the seeds/guts with a sturdy spoon
Halved &amp; insides scooped out Red Kuri Squash, ready for the oven. 

Halved & insides scooped out Red Kuri Squash, ready for the oven. 

  • Rub a bit of sea salt on the flesh, with your fingers {optional, but for a delicious and richer taste, rub a bit of sesame or olive oil onto the flesh first, then rub in the salt}
  • Place halves flesh side down in a pyrex dish
  • Add in about 1" of water, making sure it goes inside the squash halves too (sometimes it can form a seal with the glass)
  • Bake for 30 minutes (optional, you can cover the whole squash & pan with foil)
  • Carefully take pan out, holding onto squash with oven mitts (it's hot!!), pour out the water
  • Flip the squash over, so they now rest flesh side up
  • Put them back in and bake for another 20-30 minutes uncovered
  • Remove from oven, and carefully slice or cut into chunks. Devour!
Red Kuri Squash Ready to Eat - from the Moss Street Pumpkin Guys {it was outta-this-world delicious, some of the best squash ever btw}

Red Kuri Squash Ready to Eat - from the Moss Street Pumpkin Guys {it was outta-this-world delicious, some of the best squash ever btw}

Leftover cooked squash can be frozen, or put into the refrigerator. One of my favourite things it to use the leftovers to make a pudding (puree it, add in some cinnamon and a tiny bit of sweetener), or to cook into my oatmeal.

Some Dainty Pig Recipes That Use Squash:

*And a fun fact about winter squash: You can eat the skin on most of them - I have, with kabocha, butternut & red kuri squash. It is full of good things for you, and has a nice texture. Just make sure you don't eat the parts of the skin that have some of those bumpy markings.

We enjoyed our red kuri squash with a big salad full of fresh market vegetables, and the most delicious baguette I have ever tasted in my life, dipped in some olive oil. So good :)

What's your favourite way to eat squash?? 

Happy Autumn Everyone! xoxo


 

MM: How to Succeed When Making a Change

Macro Monday: the only tip you need to know when making any dietary or lifestyle change...

 

**It's easier to ADD IN than take out.**

 

Again: it's easier to ADD IN "good foods" than take out "bad foods".
Or ADD IN "good behaviours" than cold turkey take out negative ones.

When contemplating any lifestyle change, think about what you could add in, instead of what you "need to" take out. Pretty soon the good will take up so much space in your life, that there isn't any room left for the other stuff.


Want a sweet treat?

ADD IN some new treats: fresh summer fruit, some peanut butter & brown rice syrup on a rice cake, or make a fresh baked pumpkin pie, a fresh summer berry tart, or perhaps some macro-friendly cookies. They taste good, I promise. 

Add in those yummies, and you'll soon realize there's no space left in your daily eats for out-of-the-box processed treats from the convenience store.

Need Chocolate? 

Try these brownies with tofu whipped cream. 

Or this spicy hot cocoa! 

Or try some high quality dark chocolate - there are now plenty made with good ingredients. 

Want something salty & crunchy to snack on?

Try some Tamari Roasted Nuts & Seeds  {you can also roast the almonds in the over at 350F, until they slightly brown and smell delicious, stirring around every few minutes, then add in the tamari and stir}.

One of my favourites is popcorn with flax/olive oil, sea salt, and dulse flakes.  

Or perhaps some Hummus and crunchy veggies, or Brown Rice Chips from the store. 

Want something hearty, comforting and warming?

Try making this delicious lentil stew, and serve with fresh warm sourdough bread.

Want something cool on a summer day? 

Brew a nice herbal tea extra strong, add a bit of apple juice, maple syrup or brown rice syrup while hot. Throw in some lemon & ice and call it a happy day. 

Or how about some 2 minute raspberry icecream? 

Want a caffeine boost?

Try green tea. Or a green tea latte with soy, rice, almond milk, or coconut milk.

Or keep the coffee & use one of the milks listed above, and swap out the sugar with maple syrup. 

Or try some yerba mate. 

Want some spice in your food? 

Make a 10 minute Mexican Feast. 

Or go out for Thai Food: ask to be sure, but most Thai curries that I've come across are vegan friendly, and there are usually plenty of fresh veggies involved.

Craving a sandwich?

Make it a good one, by using good ingredients, and be very very pleased with the results. You can even enjoy it with a good quality macrobiotic pickle! :)

...You get my drift: Focus on adding in the new. 

Fill your day up with the good, and "the bad" will be pushed out! 

I hoped you enjoyed these ideas for making a transition towards Macrobiotic based foods. 

And If there's something you're having difficulty replacing or ADDING IN and want some help, please let me know, and I'll have a go at it :)

BIG LOVE to you all! 

 

Macro Monday: Macro Diet & Supplements

I was just emailed this by a friend, and thought it was really interesting: 

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/snake-oil-supplements/

And that got me thinking about the place of supplements within the Macrobiotic Diet, and how to discern what are high quality supplements.

MM: Supplements in a Macro World

In Macrobiotics, generally speaking, the fewer supplements the better. We let food do it's work, and be the medicine we need. Properly chewed, nutrient dense food, that is.

But, sometimes, we may need a bit of extra help with specific remedies & treatments -- & these are usually food based too.

That being said, I'm an experimental person by nature, always reading health articles etc. & I have taken some supplements in the past for specific reasons, & still do take a  few supplements occasionally. I definitely believe that the fewer things the better, and I prefer to find a food alternative if possible. At the moment, I am currently taking a probiotic, some vitamin D every now & then (as Canada is quite north), a magnesium supplement and some vitamin B12 a few times a week.

I am very very picky about which supplements I will take, and read many reviews etc. before I'll try something. I'm also very aware of how each one affects my body. And once again, If possible, I prefer to get something I feel I'm missing from foods first.

What do I take & where do I get it? 

I am not here to recommend any specific supplements for you. That is a very personal decision, that only you should make! If you are considering taking them, I'd recommend researching, taking to people you know etc. This is just my experience .

My go to place for the best price & delivery rates on supplements & specialty foods/teas is:  iHerb.

I used this company while in Japan, and use it here in Canada now. The link above will take you to "my page" where I have listed some of the products I have tried. As you can see, many of the items I buy from iHerb are actually macrobiotic foods, teas, and bodycare products. Feel free to search around for anything your heart desires on the site...I bet they have it!

**{Please note: the links, or the coupon code ROP008 , are linked to my account, which also gives you $10 off your first order, and gives me some points to use as well--feel free to use it (thanks!) or not!}.

Here are links to the supplements I have taken /or do take:

Here are some natural foods that are powerful like supplements! : 

  • Ume Extract  - This is an amazing blood alkalizer (think amped up lemon water)
  • Dulse  - See my Macro Monday post on dulse for all it's amazing health benefits
  • Miso - natural probiotics! 
  • Natural Pickled Radish - again, probiotic power!
  • Greens Powder  - cleansing, detoxifying

Here are some natural & macrobiotic foods/teas: 

Some natural body care products that are awesome:

 

I really go through phases with supplements, and try to listen to my body to find out if I'm in need of anything. If I don't feel drawn to taking something, I don't. 

 

What kind of supplements do you take?  

Any thoughts on how supplements fit into Macrobiotics?