Creating

While every other food blogger was posting their Thanksgiving masterpieces earlier this month, I was busy refreshing my repertoire by digging into my older cookbooks and looking online. I came across an old favorite called, “Whole World Cookbook.” It features international macrobiotic cuisine and the book comes from the editors of the now defunct East West Journal.”

Every Thanksgiving I make the cranberry relish from that book. In my humble opinion, it is perfect.

There is a plethora of recipes out there! One might think there is nothing new that can be created. That is not so. When you make the recipe it is yours. Not talking about copyrights–obviously you can’t copy a recipe and say it is yours now. But originality is closely linked with imagination. When you imagine how you will make a dish, it is your original dish. It is your personal touch, your presentation, your seasoning, your judgment that makes the dish yours.

For me cooking is an art.  It is my outlet for creativity. Even if the recipe came from someone else’s repertoire.

The simplest thing, created by you, can be amazing!

For a Thanksgiving event, I signed up for Maple Glazed Carrots. At the time, I did not know exactly what Maple Glazed Carrots would be. It just sounded good. As it turned out, they were ridiculously simple and came out so so delicious. This was my original.

How will you make it yours?

Maple Glazed Carrots

6 large organic carrots, washed and scrubbed

3 inch piece of kombu seaweed

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of maple syrup

2 Tsps arrowroot mixed in a little cold water

Umeboshi vinegar

1/4 cup rough chopped Italian parsely

Cut the carrots by slicing the carrot on a diagonal to make a chunk about 1 inch long. Rotate the carrot 1/4 around and slice diagonally again. Rotate 1/4 and slice. Keep going. This method allows you to adjust for variations in the size of the root vegetable so all your pieces are about the same size and will cook in the same amount of time.

Brush off a 3-inch piece of kombu seaweed and put it in the bottom of 3 quart pan and add the water. Let the kombu rehydrate and then add the carrots and sprinkle with sea salt. Use a lid on the pan. Heat up over medium heat until the carrots start to steam and then turn the heat down to low and continue cooking until the carrots are tender but not falling apart. Keep an eye on the water and add more if needed.

When the carrots are tender remove them from the pan. Set aside the kombu to use in another dish.

In the pan, there should still be some liquid left. If there isn’t, put about 4 tablespoons of water in it. Add maple syrup. Add arrowroot that was mixed with cold water and heat it up stirring constantly until everything thickens to a nice glaze consistency. You can adjust the amounts of liquid and arrowroot as needed. Turn off the heat and add a splash of umeboshi vinegar into it. A little bit of this brings out all the flavors and cuts the sweetness just a little.

Mix the glaze into the carrots and garnish with parsely.

MGC 3

 

 

 

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How to do the Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey

How do you have your body trained?  Is it trained to be overweight? To want lots of bread, pasta and sweets?  What about what most people call, “comfort food,” which is generally soft, sometimes gooey, and often sweet?  Like Mac n’ Cheese or Pot Pie?

There is a term I learned in fifth grade science — “homeostasis.”  Dictionary.com defines it as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.”  That’s about right.

Did you ever go on some kind of diet, actually lose a lot of weight, and think you had it made only to find out that your body weight crept back up over time. My friend Kate reminded me of this just a few weeks ago.

It’s because of homeostasis.

Especially if you try to lose the weight fast and/or with dramatically different dietary choices.  Your body is trained to be a certain way and is not going to easily be persuaded to make and maintain a sudden big change.  So you get cravings and thoughts that you “need” to eat something you may have been trying to avoid.

It works the other way around, too, if you trained your body to do something good or healthy.  For instance when I was younger, I worked out in a gym very regularly for many years. I was used to weight training and did it most of my adult life.  Then along came a period of time (years)  when I didn’t belong to a gym and didn’t work out at all. One day I got myself a new gym membership and signed up for a personal trainer to refresh my weight-training skills.

Almost from the beginning—once I got over being “sore” — it was as if my muscles remembered how it used to be. I got back into the workout routine incredibly fast and got very fast results. I was back to homeostasis.

I believe understanding the body’s need to maintain homeostasis is the key to making healthy changes. I do not support “fast” weight loss plans. I already know they will fail because they violate the survival drive of the body to maintain the status quo.

There are some times when someone needs to make very drastic and complete changes to their diet for health reasons. Such as they are trying to save their life! This takes extraordinary, long-term determination.

It is possible to make drastic, complete changes and do well with them even if you aren’t trying to save your own life. I’ve done it. I made a complete, turn-around, change-everything, 180 on my dietary habits when I started macrobiotics in the late ’70’s. How did I make that kind of change so successfully?  I moved into a house owned by two extremely experienced macrobiotic teachers, one of whom was a highly trained macrobiotic cook. She not only knew superb macrobiotic cooking—how to balance the diet, how to make the most delicious food in the world—she knew how to take one look at any one of us living there and understand what one ingredient or dish we needed if we were starting to crave our old ways or getting off balance in any way.

I ate her food/cooking every day for about two years while I learned to do it myself.  By the time I was done and living in my own house, my body had achieved a new training in how to “be” and what foods now represented “homeostasis.”

There are places you can go to learn how to cook this way, meaning the cooking, the balance, the understanding at a glance what food would help at any given time. There are schools and individual cooking teachers around the world who teach this.

So what do the rest of us do who aren’t going to live in someone else’s house and be fed every day while studying how to completely makeover our lifestyle?

Do the Hokey Pokey and, (you know the words)!

  • Consider finding a teacher who’s right for what you want to do and take a few cooking classes!  I taught cooking for over 35 years and have gotten many people off to a great start in pursuing healthier cooking and eating. For some people, taking ANY kind of cooking class would be good because many people are way, way too dependent on the short order cook at the fast food restaurant, or the factory production manager at the frozen food plant, or the good folks at the pizza delivery outlet. Go on! pick up a knife and a carrot and see what you can accomplish!
  • Do read up. Books and blogs are full of all kinds of food and dietary advice. I know—this is difficult because there is so much out there. How do you know what’s right? (I’d love to say, “gut feelings.”  Is that a funny joke?) A lot of the advice out there is pure nonsense but one thing I do know is that whatever route you take, YOU have to be interested. YOU have to decide it sounds good.  YOU have to invest your time and attention in something that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t turn out to be so great, you can always change your direction!
  • There are some really basic things that should be present no matter what kind of dietary advice you decide to try.
  1. Quality of food is extremely important. It should be organic and not have any genetically modified ingredients in it. (Non-GMO)
  2. Do not try to eliminate a whole major food group such as “carbohydrates.” That’s ridiculous because just about everything has carbohydrates just like nearly all food has protein to a greater or lesser degree. Worried about so-called “carbs?” Educate yourself to know the difference between a whole grain and a doughnut. All “carbs” are not the same and not bad.
  3. Until you learn how to balance your meals for optimum benefit, think “Variety.” Variety of colors, cooking styles, veggies, fruits, whatever it is. Variety will actually take you a long way toward your goal to eat healthier.
  4. Chew. Whatever it is you’ve decided to eat, whether right or wrong, it has got to be chewed very, very well. More info on that in my previous post.

Realize that unless you have an emergency health condition requiring immediate, drastic and extraordinary change, the healthy changes you decide to make amount to re-training your body so it becomes accustomed to a new state of homeostasis that can be maintained.

 

Under De-Construction

Nothing like moving your household to disrupt things thoroughly! Not that I’m complaining. This is a move I’ve been waiting for a long, long time! My husband and I have finally decided to put apartment life in the past and we are buying a home of our own. (WAIT
’til I show you my new kitchen!!!)

Christmas packages have been replaced with boxes. Cupboards and drawers are starting to be emptied. Blogging time is mostly replaced with dekludging time. And more dekludging time, and still more . . . Nothing better than moving to take the opportunity to get rid of some of the burden!

With my schedule, there is only less than a day each week to get everything done. Cooking has become fast and minimal. Nothing fancy, just something to eat. Not exactly your gourmet, unique, photo-worthy delicacies. Not the kind of thing you blog about.

Or is it? Last fall I started to write a post that I called, “What you don’t see.” It was going to be about our day to day fare that isn’t special or unusual—just all the things that are made and eaten in between the masterpieces.

Now seems like the perfect time to share these with you while I pack and tape and label my material life. Cookbooks are in a box and shortly so will be most of the utensils and dishes. Life and menus are literally under deconstruction. But we still have to eat, don’t we?

BASIC MISO SOUP PAINT

Miso soup—the breakfast of healthy champions! This is absolutely one of the rock solid foundations of our daily fare. Alkalizing, loaded with beneficial bacteria from naturally fermented miso (as long as you don’t boil this soup), and a great way to use up bits of veggies you have in your refrigerator. This one has some red radishes that needed using. Takes just a few minutes and I usually make enough for the next few mornings. I’ve given the recipe for Miso Soup before, so I’ll just post the link here.

Basics: Slicing Vegetables

One of the things I enjoy about cooking is using my excellent knives and slicing my vegetables and other ingredients myself. I am not one to rely on food processors, mandolins or other gadgets much.

It’s a beautiful thing to skillfully slice cucumbers and have them come out evenly thin or to master paper-thin onion slices or to perfectly shred a head of cabbage. And when I’m through, I only have to wash my knife!

Another thing I like about hand-slicing vegetables is that I can control how they cook better by how I cut them. If I want the vegetables to finish cooking at the same rate and in the same amount of time, then they must be about the same size. But what if the carrot is thick at the top and skinny at the bottom?

If you cut this carrot in horizontal slices you are going to wind up with big slices and tiny slices. When you cook them, the big ones may be underdone and the little ones overdone. But if you cut them in slices at an angle, you can adjust your angle so you end up with pieces that are about the same thickness and size and they will cook pretty much at the same rate and in the same amount of time. This makes for more perfect and more aesthetic-looking dishes.

Here is a picture of a carrot that has been sliced at an angle from top to bottom to make all the pieces more even in size. Then the slices were cut julienne-style.  This is also called “matchstick.”

The carrot was sliced at an angle to even out the size throughout and then cut into matchsticks.

Notice how the matchsticks are all about the same length? This is because the carrots was sliced at an angle making them even throughout. The angle was adjusted as the carrot got bigger toward the top.

Sometimes you just have to look at what you’re cooking and think about how you will be cooking it and what you want it to look like; you just figure out how to prep the food to get what you’re going for.

Today I picked up some baby bok choy. It was fresh and lovely and I wanted to lightly steam it with sliced mushrooms. I didn’t want to cut the beautiful leaves up very much but I knew I had to do something to get the thicker stem ends to cook in the same amount of time the more delicate leaves would cook.

I decided to separate the stems from the leaves and make the stem pieces small enough to steam with the leaves.  This is what I came up with.

This way of cutting my baby bok choy worked out very well!

This way of slicing my baby bok choy worked out very well! The bigger stem pieces were cut into more than two pieces.

The way to learn how to slice vegetables so they are attractive and will cook consistently is practice, practice, practice!