Guest Post: Healthy Traveling — It Can Be Done!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for this blog (besides the chocolate mousse quest) was to make the blog more interactive by having six guest posts.  I had one guest earlier and it is now time for another, Cole Millen!

Cole Millen
Cole Millen

He introduced himself and offered me a post on eating well while traveling. Perfect for vacationers or business travelers!  Cole describes himself as an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.” Follow his blog at Cole’s Mill.

Thank you, Cole, for your contribution!

HEALTHY TRAVELING — IT CAN BE DONE!

The horizon is looking sunnier for the health-conscious traveler. Hotels and resorts are always looking for revenue-boosting schemes, especially as the traveling dollar of the average tourist becomes harder to get. They are designing more nutritious business banquets, restaurant fare, room service menus and min-bar options. The popularity of special diets is pushing much of this change as more people go paleo, gluten free and vegetarian. Smaller portions are becoming the norm on more hotel menus, and some hotel chains brand themselves around using locally sourced or organic foods.

When Flying

Flying has always been tricky for travelers watching their weight. The food options in airport terminals relied on coffee, pastries and chain burgers. Flyers trapped in the terminal faced few good options. Experienced travelers learned to eat a healthy meal prior to going to the airport, and packed their own healthy snacks for when they get a craving. Airports are doing a better job at offering healthy food options but it is still important to find the grilled chicken and salads whenever possible. Travelers intent on maintaining their weight and health should stay active during delays and layovers. Walk in the terminal, do some stair climbing or otherwise burn some calories. Avoiding alcohol in-flight is a good way to avoid calories. Drink water throughout the flight rather than soda or juices to curb hunger and dehydration. Skip the in-flight meal and pack a healthy meal of a sandwich, fresh veggies and a bottle of water instead.

Finding a healthy Hotel

Stay at a health friendly hotel if possible. A little online research during the trip planning stage saves calories and pounds. Read the hotel description on-line before booking a room. Usually the restaurant menus and other items are available on the website. Some also list nearby restaurants, so research the dining options that will be available. Often time’s hotels are misleading in their services and offerings. I recently found a great and informative site that made finding the right hotel easy. I was looking for hotels and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels called Gogobot. The site listed reviews regarding not only the hotels amenities and services, but also regarding the restaurants in the surrounding area as well as things to do. This made is so simple to not only find the right hotel but also to plan out the restaurants and things we could do and maintain our healthy lifestyle while away.

At your Hotel

Once at the hotel, travelers have the option of refusing the mini-bar key. This will help prevent those late night raids that are costly to the wallet and the waistline. Bring along packages of instant soup or oatmeal and plastic spoons. These meals can be made by heating water in the coffee maker and mixing the meal in a coffee cup.

If ordering room service, specify low fat or healthy cooking methods, and order the healthiest meal available on the menu. Select fruit, yogurt and whole grain cereal or toast at breakfast rather than a raspberry cheese Danish. Stay away from vending machines, unless they contain healthy food choices. Most hotels are surrounded by restaurants ranging from fast food to gourmet fare. Avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet and the fast food places. Pick somewhere with a varied menu to get a healthy meal. Utilize the hotel’s booklet of nearby restaurants and peruse the menus before leaving the room. Have healthy snacks such as fruit in the hotel room to take the edge off pre-meal hunger.

Finally, use the exercise room provided at the hotel. Take the stairs if it is reasonable to do so. Swim some laps in the hotel pool before taking a dip in the hot tub. Find the in-room yoga channel and complete a routine between the business meetings and the banquet meal. Take advantage of the exercise opportunities offered rather than using business or vacation travel as an excuse to leave the diet and exercise regimen behind.

Eating Out

At a restaurant, look for healthy words such as baked, boiled, broiled, fat free, fresh, grilled, high fiber, light, marinated, multi grain, roasted, steamed, stir fried, vegetarian, vinaigrette, and whole wheat in the menu descriptions. Avoid any food listed as stuffed, smothered, loaded, breaded or fried. Choose leaner cuts of meat and eat vegetables instead of simple carbohydrate side dishes. Use basic dieting and weight management knowledge at a restaurant and at home.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Beautifully restored 1950's kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Beautifully restored 1950’s kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Most of the time, I am looking forward. I’m looking at what future I will create and how I will create it. I’m looking at what I will do to improve conditions in my own life and in the lives of others. I am looking at what is needed in order to make things better on this planet. I am helped and inspired by the man whose home I had the opportunity to visit in Phoenix, Arizona—L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr. Hubbard lived in Phoenix in the 50’s and his home is meticulously restored down to every last detail.

I didn’t visit there just to see the kitchen, but when I did see it, I wanted to take a picture of it! My husband teased, “I see a blog post coming!” Does he know me or what?  How often would I see perfectly restored fifties kitchen stove, refrigerator and kitchen cabinetry? Imagine a 64 year-old stove with not one scratch, stain or stubborn burned spot on it! (The entire house was fantastic and I recommend you see it.)

Looking at this picture I began thinking about the food/cooking/health scene in that period of time. It was post WWII, so farmers were already being sold on the idea that chemicals left over from making bombs could be put into the soil to produce bumper crops. We won’t go down this road in detail right now. Let’s just say this led to weakened soil, the necessity for more chemicals, problems with livestock which then required antibiotics and hormones, more weakened soil attacked by more pests, more chemicals . . . .and look where we’re at now. Genetically modified foods created so they won’t die when huge amounts of pesticides–more toxic than ever before–are applied to them.

In decades past, you could not buy foods from across the globe so readily because shipping was slower and much less efficient. It was easier to maintain a diet that followed the seasons of the year and it encouraged us to eat the foods that were indigenous to our own climate—at least somewhat. Why would we want to do that? It promotes natural balance and harmony with our environment.

For some time now, we’ve been able to get just about any food from anywhere. Many of the so-called “miracle foods” come from environments far outside of my own, such as coconut products that are so popular now.

What were some of the new health and diet developments in the fifties?

Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The four food groups including dairy food were promoted in the early fifties (an idea forwarded by, you guessed it, the dairy industry!)
  • TV dinners and a myriad of other frozen foods were touted as convenient
  • White Castle and A&W fast food had already existed for decades, but in the fifties “Insta-Burger King” later to be renamed as Burger King showed up.
  • Nutritionist and author Adelle Davis was becoming popular. She was known as much for her anti-processing stand on foods and her criticizm of the food industry as much as she was for her ideas on vitamins and diet.
  • Jack LaLanne became America’s first fitness and exercise guru.
  • Microwave ovens—one of the worst, health-destroying inventions in my opinion—came out.

I grew up in the fifties and I well remember many of these things. I watched Jack La Lanne on television doing his isometrics. We ate TV dinners and just about any other new thing that came out. My mother was facinated by all the new food products. I learned the four food groups in school and I remember the first Burger King that opened in our town.

My own history regarding food is likely only interesting to just me so we can skip the details and list out: heavy meat and dairy as a child, learning about the problems being confronted by the United Farm Workers Union and joining the organization as a kid, getting totally hooked on “working out” at the gym coupled with a LOT of protein supplementation, taking a complete 180 and going all vegetarian. Staying vegetarian for thirty plus years and then temporarily going back to animal foods while still eating all the grains and veggies. Gaining a LOT of weight. Losing the weight with a very individualized diet. Realizing I paid a price health-wise while “dieting,” and now, coming to my own conclusions about what I need to eat and what I don’t want to consume any more which pretty much brought me back full circle to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

And cooking, cooking, cooking all the while!

I’ve learned so very much over the years!

  • You don’t need to eat meat, eggs and dairy food in order to have protein.
  • Children can thrive wonderfully well on a vegetarian diet as long as it is balanced.
  • You cannot leave out an entire category of foods, such as “carbohydrates,” for very long and stay healthy.
  • You gain weight by indulging in too many refined foods, whether they are vegetarian or not, and eating more food than you can easily use.
  • The body requires daily exercise.
  • You do not need to focus on individual vitamins or nutrients if you are eating organic, mineral-rich food.
  • By the same token, even the best organic-quality food today is weakened and you can assist yourself without “losing balance” with something like wild-harvested whole  micoalgae such as Super Blue Green Algae.

And here’s the most important point, which is difficult to totally define but vital for each of us to strive to understand:

  • The way I have learned what “balanced diet” means, is by studying the effects of various foods, observing these effects, and getting into and maintaining a dietary balance for a long period of time. I used the eastern viewpoint of balance (yin and yang) to understand this. Now, no matter how far and wide I’ve gone food-wise, I definitely know when I’ve lost my balance and I know how to regain it quickly. Further, we can be very much at cause over our environment food-wise by how we choose to eat. Cooking is a beautiful example of that because there is a myriad of food preparations and techniques with which we can change our foods into what we want and need. 

Where does this all lead? It leads to my own phraseology, “Free Eating.” It means that when one has a basic understanding of foods and their effects, of how to prepare foods in order to change them and create the effects you want, you have less rules, not more. Less intense focus on diet and food, not more. Less living to eat and much much more eating to live!

My own approach is that I want to eat real food, not fake, chemicalized food. Naturally occuring food is what I want. Whole food is what I want. And I want my food to be colorful, beautiful and the most delicious in the world.

Where have you been and what have you learned? Where are you headed and what do you want?

Your Right to the Health You Created

WordPress Daily Prompt asks:

Daily Prompt: Right to Health. Is access to medical care something that governments should provide, or is it better left to the private sector? Are there drawbacks to your choice?

As usual, my viewpoint on the subject at hand starts out way over in some other galaxy which means I may not really answer that question in the sense in which it was asked. That’s me!

My "pharmacy" at sunset.

Restocking at my “pharmacy” at sunset. Maybe our government should pay for these! (Photo by Patty Allread)

You see my viewpoint of what “health” is has nothing whatsoever to do with the medical establishment. If you are “healthy,” you are not involved with the medical establishment. The medical establishment is where we turn when we have forfeited our claim to health–having worked very long and hard on destroying it–in the hopes they will have some answer to our dilemma.

This is the group that fixes symptoms, not causes. This is the group that for the most part knows very little about how to develop good health. This is also the group that participates in doling out mind-altering drugs to our children, the elderly and everyone in between because they and our lovely government have bought into the idea that life’s every little problem is a mental illness.

The exception, I would say, is the area of emergency medicine. I think this is extremely valuable because, like most people, I don’t know how to set broken bones, sew up torn body parts, intubate, etc. Perhaps the government should pay for more of this type of thing.

We also, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have a right to a little help when we really need it, such as Social Security. Because there are times when a person needs that kind of help.

But in the main, I don’t believe the government’s job is to run our lives. Government does way too much of that already. I’d like our government to administrate itself, protect us and our shores and represent us to the other countries. (Now I’m stepping gingerly through a mine field, so that’s all I’m going to say about the government. For now.)

If I have some aspect of poor health, going to the medical establishment is my last solution. My first and best solution is to understand how my body works, find out what it needs to actually heal and provide that–mostly out of my kitchen. I raised three kids that way and we had very, very few medical visits and medical bills to contend with. (Now I’m promising myself to tell you the story of the parking lot tuna fish sandwich!)

Real health, in my opinion, is our responsibility, not our right. We are so willing to put our lives and health into the hands of others and then whine about the results. Is the short-order cook at McD’s or at the local chain restaurant the person who decides what nutrients and non-nutrients and poisons will go into your body today? Is that who is creating your health? Or is it the manufacturers of all the boxed, pre-packaged and frozen foods in the grocery aisle? Perhaps it is the barista at Starstrucks handing you that fancy sugar latte and ungodly sweet pastry. Is the buyer for any of these restaurants and stores considering your health as a priority or is he/she considering their bottom line? Or maybe it is Monsanto who is directing your path to health, busily modifying your food through genetic engineering. (Government sanctioned, by the way. Has our government shown us it makes good choices regarding our health? I think not. Have you heard the one about how the government arrived at the conclusion that Dairy Food is a food group?)

We have “right” to whatever condition we ourselves have created. And you might be shocked if I tried to explain to you how far that consideration of mine actually goes! So I’m going to leave my statement at that.

Basics: Digestion 101

Lindsay and Danny setting a good example.

Lindsay and Danny setting a good example.

“You are what you eat.”

How many times have we all heard that statement? I have heard it most of my life and while in the broadest, most general sense it is true, it is not specifically accurate. Why? Because everything you put into your mouth and eat does not make it through your digestive system and deliver the nutrients to create your new cells.

Let’s back it up for a moment. You eat a food, hopefully chew it at least a little, and down it goes. It is further broken down in the stomach before moving on through your system to the small intestines where nutrients can be delivered to the rest of your body to create your new cells which replace your old cells.

No matter what it is that you are eating, we can agree that it would be ideal if all nutrients consumed can be used for your benefit. But that, unfortunately, is not always the case.

Here are three bottom-line, basic factors to know about good digestion.

Is what you’re eating actually real food?

The main factor is whether you are eating something that your body can recognize as “food.” Your body is programmed to break down, digest and absorb the nutrients of anything it recognizes is food.  Everything else, your body is programmed to safely get rid of as something which doesn’t belong in it.

So if you are eating chemicalized foods, fake, manufactured food, food dyes, additives, preservatives, synthetic vitamins, inorganic minerals–anything that is not “real”–your body is going to process it as something to get rid of and protect itself from. That includes, by the way,  microwaved food in which the molecular structure of the once-real food has been scrambled into something unrecognizable by the body to be digested! It also could include genetically modified foods.

So first of all, you can’t be what you eat unless you eat “real” food. And second, the quality of the food you put in helps determine the quality of the new cells your body makes.

Are you doing your part when the food goes in your mouth?

My sister used to have a saying that she learned early in her schooling which I considered a funny, old-fashioned idea until I realized the truth of it. She used to say, “Drink your food and chew your water.”

It meant that food should be chewed until it is like liquid and drinks should be well-mixed with saliva before swallowing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say you really should chew water but I wholly agree that food must be chewed very well.

This is something I started paying attention to when I first began learning about macrobiotics. Macrobiotics comes from the words “macro” which means “large or great” and bios which means “life.” It can be interpreted as having the largest view of life or simply living a great life. My first teacher was Georges Ohsawa via his book and later on I met and studied with some of the best macrobiotic teachers in the world. It is with them that I learned the valuable lesson of chewing your food well.

Chewing is your part of the job of digestion. Chewing allows food–especially carbohydrates–to be broken down by your saliva. We new students used to count 50 chews per mouthful! It soon became habit and I learned that chewing alone can increase your health, improve or even solve digestive problems and helps ensure that your body will have available all the nutrients you are consuming.

Lucky for all of us, additional chewing costs us nothing but a few moments!

Is your natural defense system in place?

What I mean is, who or what is living in your intestines? We have probably all heard about having “good bacteria” in our intestines. Every commercial yogurt advertisement reminds us that we need it. So what exactly is this about?

There are a multitude of living things that can be found in one’s intestines. The intestines, being long and having a ridged shape inside, provide tons of real estate for these bacteria and yeasts and other things to take up housekeeping. And it is natural to have (and even necessary) certain of these in there–even yeast. These bacteria and things contribute to further breaking food down, helping it move through the lines and also preventing things that don’t belong in the system from getting in.

Some live in the small intestines where your digested food is absorbed into your bloodstream and some live in the large intestines where waste is directed so it can be eliminated. (Such a smart body!) If you have a healthy community of good bacteria taking up space in your intestines, that leaves little or no room for unwanted bacteria (such as those that cause illness and disease) from having a place to live.

Probably I could write (and maybe I will) an entire post about this because healthy bacteria in the intestines has many, many benefits. For instance, did you know that the bacteria called, “acidophilus” produces a very powerful natural antibiotic called “acidophillin?”

My main point here is that eating naturally fermented food (not just pasteurized yogurt with some manufactured “acidophilus” thrown in), such as miso and pickled foods and naturally made yogurt, can provide tremendous help to your body in getting the good nutrition “in” and keeping the unwanted elements “out.”

You are what you assimilate!

This is a much more accurate statement! Assimilate simply means, taking in the food and making it part of the body. Just because you put something you think may be “food” in your mouth doesn’t mean you are delivering nutrients to your body. Some people–whether meat-eaters or vegetarians–can eat and eat and eat and still crave more food.  Why? Because they aren’t assimilating much of what they eat and the cause is usually one or more of the three factors above.

The answer is to eat organic, whole food, chew it well, and make sure your diet includes naturally fermented food which can provide beneficial bacteria. Because you are not what you eat, you are what you assimilate!

Nutrition: Your Valuable Ally in the Fight Against Cancer

My experience with using nutrition to fight cancer goes back many years starting with my macrobiotic studies with Denny and Judy Waxman.  Back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s there was very big news in Philadelphia about a local hospital executive, Dr. Anthony Sattilaro, whose body was riddled with cancer.  With only a few weeks to live, per his doctors, he began the macrobiotic diet and overcame his disease.  He wrote a book about it, Recalled By Life, and suddenly eating brown rice and miso soup became extremely popular as an alternative treatment for cancer.

I learned how to prepare macrobiotic meals for people with degenerative illness and saw many of them make dramatic improvements that not only greatly extended their lives, but more important they were able to expand their quality of life, quality of joy and outlook.  So I have first-hand experience that nutrition plays a huge roll in fighting cancer.

And now I introduce to you Jillian McKee as my guest blogger!   Jillian has been the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance for over three years.  She is enthusiastic about spreading vital information about complementary and alternative medicine and how it can be used in conjunction with cancer therapy.

Jillian has graciously offered to enlighten us and share a link to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.  (For those who aren’t sure, mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.)

Nutrition: Your Valuable Ally in the Fight Against Cancer

By Guest Blogger, Jillian McKee

Cancer can be a terrifying disease. Those who have been diagnosed should be assured that cancer-fighting technology has improved dramatically over the past several decades, and their prognosis for most types of cancers is far better than it was for their parents and grandparents. Some of this research has lead to the conclusion that some fairly straightforward concepts, such as proper nutrition, can have a significant impact on the outcome of the battle.

Until roughly sixty years ago, little attention was paid to nutrition. Starting in the 1960s, a nutrition revolution took place through the medical world that spread into many aspects of modern life; one simply has to look at how much baseball players and other athletes improved through the 1960s to see this effect. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, studies consistently showed the symbiotic relationship nutrition and cancer treatments had with each other. Today, there is no debate: Proper diet leads to better outcomes.

Some of the results shatter notions of health prevalent in the 1950s and earlier. In the past, meat was valued as the best food to achieve good health and that fruits and vegetables had little effect on one’s health. Today, science has indicated that meat itself increases factors that can contribute to the development and progression of cancer, and cancer patients should take steps to gain their protein through other means. Beans and legumes are a great source of protein, iron and other valuable nutrients that the body uses to fight against cancerous activity and growth.

With a proper mix of fruits and vegetables, cancer patients can ensure that their body has the tools necessary to fight the cancer as effectively as possible. The human body has a variety of techniques it utilizes to prevent cancerous activity, and proper nutrition helps the body to hone these techniques. Further, good nutrition leads to better general health, which allows the body to focus on defeating cancer instead of maintaining other systems. The latest research has emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy state of mind throughout the treatment process; positive thinking has a measurable effect. Proper nutrition helps maintain this mindset even when the effects of various cancer treatments have a draining effect on the patient.

Focusing on nutrition also gives patents something to focus on while treatment is underway. Too often, patients feel overwhelmed and start to believe that their fate is wholly in the hands of their doctors. By focusing on aspects of the battle that they can control, patients can direct their attention towards areas they can influence. By educating themselves about nutrition and honing their diet as well as possible, patients can feel that they are working in concert with their doctors.

Whether using nutrition to fight mesothelioma cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer or any other form of cancer, patients have a strong influence on their eventual results. By learning how to best balance their nutritional needs and making it a part of their treatment protocol, patients can have a significant impact on their outcomes.

Sugar: Poison in the Pantry

Anyone interested in improving their overall diet may sooner or later discover that they are consuming way too much sugar and try to “cut back.”  This is a discovery that often takes place after a sugar-laden holiday such as Easter after we’ve consumed all those jelly beans, chocolate bunny ears and “Peeps.”

You are right if you eat a great deal of sugar and come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t.  My first introduction to the problem with refined sugar was back in the ’70’s when I picked up a paperback book called Sugar Blues by William Dufty.  Dufty writes about what eating refined sugar can do to a body and what he did to stop eating it.  In the book, published in 1975, Dufty writes about how he met and married famous actress, Gloria Swanson, and how she taught him about diet and nutrition and helped him get completely off refined sugar.  He describes dramatic improvements in his health by doing so.

This is still one of the best, most straight-forward and informative books about sugar that I know of.  I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Dufty and I also saw his wife, Gloria, in New York at an event held at the United Nations.  I don’t recall how old Gloria Swanson was at that time–but definitely in her 80’s and she was absolutely gorgeous!  Her skin tone was so impressively smooth and youthful for her age.  And I saw her up close and realized that she was not simply covered up with a lot of makeup.  She was truly an example of someone who successfully preserved their health in old age.

Screenshot taken by me (Icea) from the trailer...

Screenshot taken by me (Icea) from the trailer to the movie Sunset Blvd. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Sugar Blues, Dufty discusses sugar in terms of being an addictive drug responsible for many devastating diseases throughout history.  He attacks the sugar industry in his book and points out that American food manufacturers have kept Americans hooked on sugar, particularly by hiding sugar in its many forms in virtually every food product found on the shelves of the supermarket.  Of course the sugar industry didn’t like this book and attacked Dufty for writing it.  But today all you have to do is google about refined sugar and you will find a multitude of authors and experts echoing exactly what Dufty had to say about sugar including his claim that too much sugar can cause depression and mental illness.

No matter whether you want to go in the direction of vegetarianism, vegan, macrobiotic, standard American some-of-everything, or the extreme opposite direction–the Paleo  Diet, which is heavy in animal protein–getting sugar out of your diet will take you a very long way in the right direction toward better health.

Why?

The reasons to stop eating refined sugar are enormous in number but here are the main ones:

1.  Sugar depletes the body of vital nutrients including minerals and B vitamins. That means when we eat sugar we are not only eating something that is itself nutritionally empty, the sugar is taking some of the nutrients we did manage to consume and destroying them too.  This leads to all kinds of imbalances that can affect virtually every system in your body especially your digestion and your hormones.

2.  Sugar (and it’s cousin white flour) heavily contribute to what is known as Candida, a condition in which the body has an overwhelming growth of a particularly damaging strain of yeast.  The yeast lives in the intestines and attach themselves to the intestinal walls sometimes even breaking through the wall and creating what is commonly called leaky gut syndrome.  There is much to know about Candida yeast infections and how easily they come about and you should also know that Candida can be difficult to get rid of and the treatments for it are themselves damaging.  But what I want you to know here is that every living thing on earth needs some kind of food and Candida yeast’s menu of choice is sugar and white flour!  I recently read that 60-70% of Americans have Candida yeast infections.

3.  Because sugar consumption affects so many bodily systems and functions, it heavily contributes to all manner of diseases and disorders:  diabetes, indigestion, gas, high blood pressure, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, heart disease such as arteriosclerosis, cavities, depression and mental illness, nutritional deficiency and weight gain, PMS, and the list goes on and on . . .
4.  Eating sugar is addictive and is a poison in the simplest sense of the word.  If you eat a little, you become more active (as in hyped-up, on overdrive, buzzing).  If you eat a lot, you slow down (this is the typical drowsy, can’t keep your eyes open stupor you may have experienced after a big sugar binge.)  And, like all other poisons, if you eat way too much you will become ill or die (see points 1 through 3).

What to do?

First, you need to educate yourself on what is and isn’t sugar.  The quick study is to start reading labels in the store and asking questions in the restaurant:  “Does this have sugar?”  Realize that sugar includes maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, “natural” sugar, organic sugar, raw sugar, and all those chemical-sounding ingredients that end in “-ose.”  And don’t be fooled by the packaging.  Just because the paper is brown instead of white does not somehow make the sugar better for you.  But  there is much more to know than that and it is worth investing some time to become knowledgeable.

Second, find out what else acts just like sugar in your body.  This is where we get into the subject of refined white flour, alcohol and things that literally convert to sugar when you eat them.

Third–and this is the good news–learn what you can or should eat and drink that will help you overcome your cravings for sugar, help you regain nutritional balance and vitality and help you recover from the damage that sugar may have caused you.  For this I recommend you find a program that works for you and commit to following it.  You may have to look around and try different things.  The bottom line is that you make your decision to stop eating sugar.  Learning what to do instead will only be workable if you have made that strong decision first. (And that advice comes from personal experience.)

Check back with me here for some help.  This is the first in a series about sugar and I will be writing in much more detail about what I know that is useful!

The Whole Food and Nothing But the Food

Today the term “whole food” is tossed around quite a bit and it sounds very healthy and much better than just “natural food.”  There’s even a huge chain of stores with that name.  But what does it mean, really?

Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.

The term “whole food” came into use around 1970, which makes a lot of sense to me in the broad scheme of things.  I have a friend who grew up on a farm in the ’50’s.  She would tell me about all the vegetables and fruits they raised and all about the chickens, pigs and cows.  They provided the eggs, the meat and the milk.  Virtually all the food they ate came from these “whole food” sources and processing them was minimal and done right at home on the farm.

It was truly whole food!  My friend’s family did not slaughter an animal and then eat only a two-pound package of some of the parts.  They used all the parts and they used methods for storing such as drying, smoking, pickling and freezing.  When they milked the cows they did not homogenize it and drink only a two-percent version of the milk.  They used the whole thing and made their milk, cream, butter, buttermilk, etc from that whole food source.

English: Young cattle – the milk cows at the o...
Image via Wikipedia  Really?  You’re going to drink the milk and eat the whole cow too? Wholly Cow!

The twentieth century had brought us all kinds of prepared, packaged, processed food products that we could just buy in our grocery store instead of growing and raising and preparing them ourselves.  These were not, and are not today, “whole foods”– no matter what the name of the store is where you bought them!

By the sixties and seventies we came full circle once again, looking for a healthier, more natural way to eat.  Terms like “natural,” “whole food” and “organic” began cropping up.

(I’m skipping over a LOT of food history here, and perhaps I will write more about that later.  You might want to check out Dr. Neal Barnard’s books for some of this. I’m also not promoting drinking milk.  That’s another story involving the U.S.D.A, the U.S. Dairy Industry and billions of dollars.)

No, not everyone is to going to go back to farming and raising all their own food and that’s okay.  However, if we are going to buy whole and organic foods from our “natural health food stores” we need to know some definitions.

I did not find a legal definition for “whole food” and there definitely isn’t one for the word “natural” or “natural food.”  Natural food means to me, whole and organic food.  It is in its natural state and wasn’t raised with pesticides and other unnatural chemicals and it is not highly processed.  That’s probably what you think, too.  But in the world of advertising and marketing, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that.  So beware.

The United States Food and Drug Administration defines whole grains as cereal grains containing the bran, endosperm and germ of the original grain.  That’s a mouthful!  These are the layers that are inside the grain.  It would be better to think of some examples:

Brown rice is hulled and the rest of the grain is left intact whereas white rice is hulled and has the underneath layers–the bran and the germ–also removed and you get the white part left (which is, by the way, called the endosperm.)  The brown rice is whole, the white rice is not.

Brown rice.
Image via Wikipedia  Some good-looking brown rice here.

Organic unbleached white flour is not a whole food.  Organic whole wheat flour is not a whole food, but is much less processed.  100% whole wheat flour is often stone-ground and still has the bran and the germ in it.  Whole wheat–the actual grain–is whole food.  So when you’re buying your “whole wheat” bread in the health food store, what does the label actually say?  Is the ingredient “wheat flour?”  That’s not necessarily “whole” wheat!  It has to actually say, “whole wheat” to be closer to whole food.

What about that bottle of sweet, organic, unfiltered apple juice?  Not whole.  But the apples it came from, definitely whole!

Let’s look at this very simple example:  You’re going to buy yourself a bunch of organic carrots.  Great!  The display is beautiful and the carrots are piled up all nicely arranged and they’ve even gone to the trouble of taking off the end where the green part was attached to the orange part . . . Wait.  What?

Manageable or Maimed?
Whole Carrots

Go for the whole carrot, I always say!  You can saute those carrot slices up in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and you can wash and mince up those greens and toss them in for the last couple of minutes and you’ve got yourself a very colorful, delicious whole food dish.

In my universe, “organic food” falls under the category of “whole food.”  Organic food production is a heavily regulated Industry in the United States and in several other countries.  Organic farmers have to comply with strict guidelines to be able to claim their food or livestock is organic.  Generally, organic food is food raised without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Organic food is not supposed to contain genetically modified organisms, industrial solvents, or chemical additives and it is not supposed to be irradiated.  Organic farmers are also required to use farming practices which foster recycling of resources and promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

My first-hand experience with using organic whole food is that it is very economical and it provides much better nutrition than non-organic foods.  I fed three growing boys with almost all organic food and I can attest that on the few occasions when I didn’t have organic food and had to cook with non-organic, they ate twice as much, snacked all the time and never seemed as satisfied as they did (and we all did) when eating organic.

I think you can take it from here.  I’m not saying “NEVER” eat anything that is not 100% whole and unprocessed. But I am saying it is a good thing to start looking for more truly whole foods and use them to move toward a much more balanced, satisfying and healthy cuisine.

The Pot Thickens

FOUR WAYS TO ENRICH YOUR MENU

Are you wishing you could eat a nice, thick, creamy bowl of soup without sacrificing your diet? Does your mouth water when you see smooth, rich desserts even though you know you shouldn’t indulge? Do you “pass” on the gravy?

Let me show you some ways to enjoy rich, thick textures in your meals that are guilt-free and nutritious without cramping your style. These methods can be used by anyone even though my particular recipes here are vegetarian.

1. Agar Flakes: You might recognize the name “agar agar” as something used in laboratory experiments and you’re right—it is used in petri dishes. Agar comes from seaweed. Food-quality agar is usually a blend of sea vegetables that have strong thickening properties. Agar is great for making gelatin-type dishes like aspics, desserts and pie fillings and it can be molded. It also comes in bars but I much prefer the flakes because they are so much faster and easier to use. To use agar flakes, add them to hot liquid and stir often until it is dissolved. Stirring helps prevent it from getting too thick and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once the agar flakes are dissolved and have simmered about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken as it cools down. For the best taste and consistency, let your agar-gelled dish cool down outside of the refrigerator so it doesn’t get rubbery. After it is cooled, you can refrigerate it, covered. Like all sea vegetables, agar contains minerals–sodium, potassium, calcium, iodine, magnesium and iron are some. Agar is also considered to have medicinal properties and may relieve constipation if eaten several days in a row. Agar is good for vegetarians and vegans to know about as a replacement for gelatin which comes from pigs’ hooves or sometimes from other animals. If you are substituting agar flakes instead of gelatin in a recipe, you’ll need much less agar than you would gelatin.

One tablespoon of agar flakes has 10 mg of sodium, 10 mg of potassium, 1 gram of carbohydrate and 1 gram of dietary fiber. It has no calories, no fat and no cholesterol. Here is my favorite summer pie recipe using agar flakes:

Strawberry Blueberry Pie
(Given to me by Claire Kauffman from Meredith McCarty’s American Macrobiotic Cuisine with a few of my own notations)

• Single Pie Crust, baked and cooled. You can use pastry, graham cracker, etc.
• 2 Pints, Strawberries
• 1 Pint, Blueberries
• 1/2 tsp. sea salt
• 1/2 c cup rice syrup (you may substitute other sweeteners such as agave or honey and adjust for the right sweetness)
• 1/2 cup agar flakes

Wash all the fruit and remove the stems and leaves. Cut only the large strawberries in half and leave the rest whole. Put the strawberries in a pot, sprinkle them with sea salt and pour the syrup over them. Add the agar flakes. Cover and simmer until the agar flakes are dissolved.  This takes about 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally to gently combine the ingredients.  If necessary to get the agar fully dissolved, you may add a tablespoon or so of water.  No other liquid.  Add the blueberries for the last five minutes of cooking.  Pour the fruit mixture into the baked and cooled pie crust and let it set.

Strawberry Blueberry Pie

2. Kuzu: If you’ve ever been in the deep south of the U.S. you’ve probably seen these prolific vines with big leaves. They are so hardy and grow so fast they can take over an entire stand of trees in one season if they aren’t constantly cut back. The kind of kuzu (or kudzu) I use for cooking is a starch derived from the root of the plant. It comes from Japan in the form of white powdery lumps and is sometimes referred to as “wild arrowroot.” Kuzu can be used to thicken soups, sauces, desserts and even a hot drink. To use kuzu, crush the lumps up with the back of a spoon before measuring it and dissolve it in a little cool water or liquid first. You will need about a tablespoon of kuzu for every cup of liquid you want to thicken. When adding the dissolved kuzu into a hot liquid, stir constantly to prevent lumps. The dissolved kuzu will look cloudy at first, but as you stir and cook it will become clear. When it’s clear, it’s done. If the end result is not thick enough, add more kuzu. Add more liquid if your result is too thick. Kuzu does not have a strong flavor itself, so you can use it in many dishes without the kuzu interfering with the taste. Kuzu can be very soothing and is sometimes used in certain medicinal remedies for digestive troubles.

Српски / Srpski: Kuzu prah, koristi se u kuhin...

Image via Wikipedia

 One tablespoon of kuzu has about 30 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrate and 2 mg. of calcium. It has no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and no sugars. Here is a very basic recipe for using kuzu to make a quick, soothing drink:

 Kuzu Apple Drink

Gently heat a cup of apple juice and a pinch of sea salt in a sauce pan. Bring this to just below a boil and take it off the burner. Dissolve about a teaspoon of kuzu powder in a quarter cup of water. Mix the kuzu and water into the apple juice while stirring constantly. Return the mixture to the stove and heat for a minute or so and serve. If you like, you can dress it up with a cinnamon stick.

3. Whole Grain Helper: We’ve all heard that eating whole grains is better for you. This is a great way to start incorporating them into your daily menu and introduce yourself and your family to the wide variety of types and uses for whole grains. I’m sure you aren’t new to the idea that cooking with grains can produce a thick and hearty soup or stew, such as a barley stew. Many grains can be used as thickeners including brown rice, oats, buckwheat and millet. Sometimes I use the whole grain and sometimes I use a milled or flaked version. An added plus is that when you use whole grains along with beans in a dish, you get what is known as a “complete protein.” In otherwords, a food that has all the needed requirements to provide good, useable protein to your body.

One of my favorite grains to thicken the pot with is millet. Millet is an ancient grain that comes from Africa and India. You might recognize the tiny yellow balls of millet in your favorite birdseed mix! Millet is an excellent grain for people to eat. To help you know more about millet, you can check out this information: http://chetday.com/millet.html .

One half cup of millet has approximately 378 calories, 4 grams fat, 8 grams fiber and 11 grams of protein. It has no sugars and is a decent source of iron. To demonstrate how grains can be used as a thickener, here is my recipe for hearty Navy Bean and Millet Soup:

Hearty Navy Bean and Millet Soup
Serves 6 – 8

Hearty Navy Bean and Millet Soup

• 2 cups of cooked or canned navy beans (If you use canned beans, I recommend organic ones that have been cooked with kombu seaweed. The seaweed makes the beans more digestible.)
• 1 quarter onion sliced ¼ inch thick
• 2 stalks of celery sliced
• 1 carrot cut in half moons. (Wash the carrot and slice it in half lengthwise. Then slice the halves on an angle, about ¼ inch thick.)
• 2 Tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 cup millet
• 2 cups spring water
• 2 cloves garlic
Sea salt (You can add other spices and herbs that you like. Last night I used black pepper and oregano)
• Naturally brewed soy sauce

Put the millet into a bowl and rinse with cold water, draining the water off and rinsing again. Use your hand or a sieve to keep from losing the millet when you drain the water. Put the millet in a small pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of sea salt and bring it to a boil. Simmer the millet until it is soft, 20-25 minutes. If the water is gone and the millet needs more cooking, just add more water. You want your millet to be soft and somewhat wet.

While the millet’s cooking, begin sautéing the other vegetables in a 3-4 quart pot. Heat the olive oil and sauté the onions first. Put in a pinch of sea salt and sauté the onions until they are translucent and sweet-smelling, then add carrots and another pinch of sea salt and sauté them. Last, add the celery, another pinch of salt and sauté that. Add four cups of water, your cooked beans and any seasonings or herbs and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Blend the cooked millet until it is smooth and creamy. I like using an electric hand blender because you can blend right in the cooking pot and you’ll have less to clean up. Add the creamy millet and stir to incorporate it into the soup. If it is too thick, simply add a little bit more water. Season with a couple teaspoons of soy sauce. Voila! You have a thick, creamy protein-rich soup or stew. Serve with a garnish of parsley, sliced scallions or if you use dairy products, some grated parmesan cheese.

4. Reduction: Ooh La La! The very name “reduction sauce” sounds so haute cuisine! It is really very easy to make and can have a nearly unlimited variety of flavors. A reduction sauce is made by simmering liquids down in order to slightly thicken them and intensify their flavors. It is most often done after cooking meats by simmering the cooking juices with other things such as wine, vinegar, or cream and getting a very rich concentrated sauce. But reduction sauces are by no means limited to meat juices. You can reduce many kinds of liquids including fruit juice by simmering them in an open pan (no lid) and letting the liquid evaporate until you have the desired finished product.
Here is a recipe for Savory Mushroom Reduction Sauce:

 Savory Mushroom Reduction Sauce

• 6 medium portabella mushrooms, sliced
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed in a press
• Sea salt
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon of barley malt syrup (or substitute a small quantity of a sweetener of your choice)
• 1/2 cup of water

Heat the olive oil up in a heavy skillet and add the garlic, quickly followed by the mushrooms and a pinch of sea salt. Sauté the mushrooms until they start to get tender. Add balsamic vinegar, water, soy sauce and syrup or sweetener and stir to combine them. Let the mushrooms and liquid simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking and turn off the heat. Use this as a sauce for grain dishes, cooked tofu dishes or steamed or boiled vegetables. I like it on steamed fresh green beans or asparagus.  This makes about a half cup, enough for 2-3 servings.

Asparagus with Mushroom Balsamic Reduction Sauce

I think you can see that these methods and ingredients for adding texture, richness and of course thickness to your menu are healthy and nutritious. They are useful for any type of diet—omnivore, vegetarian or vegan. You don’t have to rely on heavy cream, flour and butter when you’ve got these alternatives.

Purchase items such as kuzu, agar flakes, naturally brewed soy sauce and whole grains at a natural foods store or order them online if you can’t find them locally.

I’d love to hear about your experimentation with these ingredients and methods and if you want to share your own recipes, that would be wonderful too!

NEW!!

For additional free recipes using these techniques, you are invited to join PATTY’S CLUB!  Just go to my new Patty’s Club Page https://mycookinglife.com/pattys-club/ and follow the directions.

We Have a Right to Know

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM (Photo credit: live w mcs)

More About Genetically Engineered (or Genetically Modified) Food

A follower recently asked me what was actually bad about GMO’s besides the fact that they’re unnatural.  It was a good question! I wrote about this subject January 23rd and 24th. https://mycookinglife.com/2012/01/24/a-bandwagon-worth-jumping-on/ and  https://mycookinglife.com/2012/01/23/whats-good-enough-to-eat/  I’ve continued reading about this subject and have come to understand that it is not just a problem of having a fruit, vegetable or animal’s genes modified in order to develop some quality or characteristic that it wouldn’t normally have.  (Though for me, this is unnatural enough and reason enough for me to not want GMO food.) The problem is also the reason that foods are being GMO’d.

One reason is that food is modified so it can withstand harsher pesticides.  When this is done, then the harsher pesticide can be used without killing off the plant but then what does that do to our environment now that we’re using harsher pesticides? Another problem is that the pesticides themselves are being GMO’d.  What is that doing to them and how does that worsen their affect on our environment?  Do we really want to mess with Mother Nature that way? Look at this picture of a guy pouring Monsanto pesticide (Monsanta is very BIG in the GMO business) to be sprayed on food crops.  What do the mask, jumpsuit and heavy rubber gloves say to you about the safety of having that in and on our food?

English: Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on f...

Image via Wikipedia

And as far as I can see, no one has actually laid out exactly what the effect of GMO food is on our bodies, though the link below does mention GMO pesticides being found in the umbilical cord of pregnant women.  Well, you can find pesticides in lots of living things and this is never a good thing and I do my best to avoid exposure to pesticides altogether.

The GMO industry is money-driven, of course.  And the first step we need to take in order to change the direction of increasing alteration of natural food by genetically modifying them, is to be able to know if a food product is GMO or not.  In forty countries, GMO labeling is required.  It is not required in my country, the United States.  You should find out if it is required in yours.

If we can get laws passed to label GMO’d food products, then we have the ability to choose if we want to consume them or not.  And if enough of us get educated and decide not to consume GMO foods, then the problem will take care of itself. Here’s the link to some basic information about GMO foods from “Just Label It” http://justlabelit.org/about-ge-foods/ge-foods-at-a-glance/

Souper Bowl Sunday

When I hear “Super Bowl,”  I think:  Souper Bowl.  That’s because I absolutely love soup!

Soup became one of my favorite types of food when I was very young and the Campbell’s soup company was offering a “Campbell’s Kid” doll if you sent in labels from your soup cans.  My flavor was tomato and I ate lots of it to get that doll.

Other than that, I pretty much ignored the existence of soup until I studied macrobiotics and we had miso soup for breakfast every day.  Really?  Soup for breakfast?  How odd was that! Turned out miso soup is incredibly satisfying to make and eat and is a wonderful thing to start your day out with.  It gets your digestive system going, it alkalizes your blood, and there are unlimited variations you can create in the way of miso soup!

Miso Soup

Image via Wikipedia

So I learned how to make that and found out I really, really love soup.  I also learned as a cooking student to make lots of other soups to serve as a starter for dinner as well as for breakfast.  Bean soups, whole grain soups, veggie soups – seems we never ate the exact same soup twice.  That’s because the world of soups is infinitely variable!

I used to make huge batches of eight different soups for my local health food store to sell.  That was back in the 80’s. I had a five-gallon soup pot!  I found out that soup is one type of dish that is very easy to make in large batches without much trouble.  That’s probably why we have “soup kitchens” for the homeless or unfortunate.  You can feed a crowd with soup!

Coco Eating His Soup, 1905, by Pierre-August R...

Image via Wikipedia

Soup-making solves many family diet issues and it is economical.  You can get people to eat more veggies by putting them in soups.  You can get people to eat more complex carbs by using beans and whole grains in soups.  Soup can be comfort food.  It can also be food a sick person is willing to eat when they don’t want other foods.  A young child can quickly become very handy with a spoon if he or she is given some not-too-hot soup to eat.

You can make your soups light or hearty, or start with a light soup and make it richer later on and vice versa.  You can also use up your kitchen leftovers and last wilting bits of veggies from the bottom of your refrigerator crisper by putting them into soup.  And of course you can make enough soup to last a few meals or freeze the soup for later.

Soup is easy too.  There are lots of recipes around for soup and if you haven’t tried making your own soup then I recommend starting with a recipe or two until you get the hang of it.  Mostly you may want to know about the broth for the soup and how to get that.  That is the only part that may seem a bit labor intensive.

Most of my soup broth comes from saving the water I used to boil vegetables.  I don’t always even use a special broth and just make the soup using water and using seasonings to bring out the delicious, natural flavors of my ingredients.  Sometimes my “broth” consists of bringing spring water and a 2-inch piece of kombu seaweed to a boil.  The seaweed adds plenty of minerals and a mild flavor to the water.

My only caution on the subject of soups is to be alert if you’re buying soup that’s already made or in a mix.  Even in the natural food store, you really have to read the labels because cane sugar juice is in a lot of the canned or pre-packaged soups and broths.  You can also buy powdered miso soup mix and soups that only require adding boiling water.  All of these are pretty salty and the quality of the ingredients is definitely not equivalent to what you can make at home from fresh ingredients.  I don’t recommend these salty mixes.  Same goes for the “ramen soup” mixes you can buy in the dollar store.  Read the ingredients sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

Probably I should include a recipe or two here.  I hesitate because there are so many good ones around and my recipes are very simple.  My soups (and yours) become unique by how they are varied, how high-quality the ingredients are, and in the care and attention given to preparation.  So before I slap down a recipe, I’d like to give you my top five tips on soup-making:

1. The broth is the basis of the soup and should be of the highest possible quality.  If you are using water, make it spring water.  If you are buying pre-made broth, don’t buy one with sugar in it and make sure it is organic.

2. If you are going to make soup with beans in it, use kombu seaweed also.  The minerals in the seaweed help you digest the beans without getting flatulence.

3.  I love an immersible hand blender!  You can make a creamy soup without cream by blending the soup especially if it is something like a winter squash soup.  Some grains, beans and even vegetables can be blended into a nice, creamy consistency.  This also works for a cold cucumber soup.

4.  To make a richer-tasting soup, try sauteeing some of the ingredients before adding water or broth.  Sauteed onions and garlic, for instance, can really change the taste of the soup.

5.  Garnish your soup.  You can use parsley, ginger, sliced scallions and many other interesting touches.  These add another layer of flavor to your soup and make the presentation beautiful and appealing.

And here are a couple recipes to start out with:

Miso Soup

4 cups of spring water

4-6 inch piece of wakame seaweed

1/8 small onion (organic)

1 large kale leaf (raw) or ¼ cup of cooked & sliced kale (organic)

1/8 cup of firm tofu (organic)

½ – 1 Tsp. barley miso

1 scallion

Put the spring water into a small pot.  Soak the dried wakame seaweed in the water for about 2-3 minutes until it’s soft enough to cut.  Take out the seaweed and cut the thick spine off.  Cut the spine into small pieces and add back into the water.  Cut the leaves of the seaweed up and put them back into the water.  [Alternative would be to buy pre-cut pieces of wakame and just add a tsp of that to the water.  No soaking or slicing is needed then!]

Slice the onions into very thin slices.  Bring the water and wakame seaweed to a boil and add the onions.  While the onions are cooking, wash and cut the big kale leaf into small pieces.  You want everything in the soup to be small enough to pick up with the spoon when you’re eating it, i.e. bite-size.

Cut the tofu into small bite-size cubes.

When the onions have become translucent and sweet-smelling, add the kale.  When the kale starts to turn bright green (this only takes about a minute) add the tofu.

Simmer all this for a few minutes until the kale becomes tender.  Just simmer, no heavy boiling.  Meanwhile take the miso paste and dissolve it in a little of the soup broth so there are no lumps of miso.  You can use the back of a spoon or anything you have that works.  I use a special Japanese bowl called a “suribachi” that comes with a special masher called a “surikogi.”  This works perfectly and I have them because I make miso soup very often.

When the soup ingredients are tender, turn the soup down so it isn’t boiling at all.  Then add the miso dissolved in hot broth.  At this point you can turn the stove off and the miso will cook in the hot broth.  The miso will break down and look cloudy and it is done.

Serve it out garnished with a few slices of the white end of the scallion.  This makes 2-3 servings.

You can add small, thin cuts or slices of your favorite vegetable(s) to vary the soup recipe as you like and experiment from there.

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Hearty Barley Soup

1 cup rinsed barley

2-inch piece of kombu seaweed

pinch of sea salt

5 shiitake mushrooms

2 quarts of spring water

2 onions, diced

1 cup of diced parsnip

1 cup of diced rutabaga

1/2 cup of minced parsley

3-4 cloves of garlic

soy sauce to taste

sliced scallions as garnish

English: Close-up of a piece of homemade seita...

Image via Wikipedia

1 cup of diced seitan (vegan “wheat meat”)

Optional protein: diced beef or chicken if you are not vegetarian

Bring the water, kombu and shiitake mushrooms to a boil.  Simmer the stock until the mushrooms are tender.  Remove the mushrooms, discard the stems and dice the mushroom caps and add them back to the pot.

Add the onions and simmer until sweet and translucent.  Then add the garlic, parsnip, rutabaga, seitan and barley in that order.  Simmer the stew with enough water to cover the barley until it is tender, about one hour.  Add a little more water to get your desired thickness.  Add the parsley at the last minute and season with soy sauce to taste.  Serve in a bowl with scallion garnish.  Some lightly boiled greens or a salad with some whole grain bread would go well with this dish.

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So I say make every Sunday “Souper Bowl Sunday!”  Take some time to make a great soup that you can eat all week!

(No offense to you football fans, but Super Bowl Sunday means to me that we have but a few short months before Opening Day of Baseball Season.)