It’s a comfort food that’s good for you… A salty food that may improve heart health… A peaceful culinary offering to the West from the son of an impoverished warrior… If these sound too good to be true, allow me to introduce you to the delicious, versatile, and wonderful Japanese condiment called miso.
Miso is a popular condiment used in many Asian cuisines. In the US, it’s most commonly known as the star ingredient in miso soup. But this pungent paste has several other culinary uses. Traditional Okinawans, who are famous for their longevity and live in one of the world’s most heavily studied “Blue Zones,” often eatmiso soupfor breakfast.
Miso is well regarded for its health benefits, despite containing a significant amount ofsodium. But if you’re unfamiliar with miso, you may be wondering what exactly it is, or how to incorporate it into your diet outside of a traditional miso soup recipe. Let’s look at what miso is and what makes it so special.
Vegetables are ALWAYS a good idea, and this post is a good reminder to eat the rainbow! A plate full of color means you are loading up on the important phytonutrients that can do better than anything else on the planet to balance your immune system, reduce inflammation, and make you FEEL better. My advice? Go for it.
For over a decade, I’ve been preaching that you need to love your vegetables, not just endure them. Veggies, and the fantastic array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals they contain, are crucial for brain health, longevity, and cancer prevention, among their many good deeds. Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower) contain B vitamins that are critical for methylation, for example, a process through which our brains repair themselves. We all need brain repair!
Since the pandemic hit, the world is facing a very challenging “new normal.” Aside from the disease itself, many of us are struggling to stay positive and productive amid social distancing, masks, food shortages, uncertainty, lost jobs, and health fears. Many restaurants have closed for dine-in service or have significantly reduced their capacity, offering contactless, curbside to-go options instead. Some people are ordering take-out, but many are eating out less entirely, moving meal prep to the safety of their own homes.
On top of that, countless night-time venues and social activities are canceled or closed. Kids are home from school with nowhere else to go. And most of us are traveling less than normal. While that may mean more quality time with those closest to us (whether by choice or necessity), it doesn’t always mean we’re making healthier food choices. Home economics is, for many of us, a lost art that we need to rediscover if we don’t want to depend on DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats for all our food.
While putting together a healthy meal at any time of the day can be a struggle, dinner often suffers the most since it’s at the end of the day. But dinner is also the meal people are most likely to eat together, making it a perfect opportunity to add more whole plant foods. Plus, dinner is a great time to create leftovers. Today’s dinner can be tomorrow’s lunch — and maybe even (if you’re the adventurous type) the following day’s breakfast!
If you don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, now’s a great time to learn not just how to cook comforting, filling, and tasty meals, but healthy ones as well. And even if you’re already a cooking whiz, consider expanding your horizons with some plant-based dinner recipes.
It starts with the “p” word — and that would be “plants.”
A flood of new and surprising research is emerging about the role that plants play in brain health. For example, a study on the MIND diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets — published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association — concluded that people who eat more dark, leafy greens at least once a day have substantially slower cognitive decline with age than those who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD).Bingo!
Here I am on my soapbox again, talking to you about the importance of plants — for a reason! Whether it’s cancer, longevity, brain health or heart health, you’re going to find that the optimal diet has a lot of the color green in it. Why?
People have been baking flatbreads and adding toppings to them for millennia. And pizza precursors span the globe. We know that Persian soldiers actually baked flatbreads topped with cheese and dates on their shields. Hopefully, they had time to clean them off before the next battle! And the Aeneas tells the story of a cryptic prophecy of Trojan soldiers eating their tables that turns out to be round breads topped with vegetables. Sorry about that spoiler, but the book was written like 27 centuries ago.
The pizza as we know it and love it today seems to have originated in Naples, Italy. They had to wait for European exploration of the New World for the key ingredient, tomatoes, which are native to the Americas andweren’t grown in Europeuntil one of the first explorers brought back some seeds or cuttings. These strange-colored eggplants, as they were first described, were found to be delicious when seasoned with salt, pepper, and oil. Soon they were dubbed “golden apples,” orpomi d’oro.
And one day, perhaps, two distracted Neapolitans were walking on the piazza, one holding a flatbread and the other a stewed tomato, when — bang! — they bumped into each other. And thus was born the classic Italian pizza. (Okay, that might or might not be literally accurate, but it makes for a fun story!)
True confessions: I’ve written 4 cookbooks with a 5th on the way (about which,more soon) and I have a personal library of 560 cookbooks. YOU’D THINK I’d know what to cook for dinner, like for the next 2, maybe 3 years?
But I’m sure we can all agree that this is a SERIOUS issue that everyone faces! Restaurant chefs. Experienced moms. It’s THE question I get all the time.What should I make for dinner?
Good news! Out of sheer exasperation and determination, I have developed superb strategies and time-savers to help us all get dinner on the table AND keep our sanity.
Every minute spent on planning time will smooth out your life in the kitchen.
Once you’ve got a menu in mind and your shopping and prep work done, cooking is a relative breeze. You will be SO impressed with how calm you are in the kitchen, and how much you enjoy it. Cooking can be a meditative, nourishing act -- IF you prepare!
Did you know that fresh herbs and spices don’t JUST 10x flavor (as if that weren’t enough), but that they have magical healing powers, too? Many contain compounds capable of modifying gene expression to potentially keep cancer and other diseases at bay, plus providing immune support, controlling inflammation, and warding off bacteria and viruses—i.e., they have superpowers! So we’re not talking just enhancing taste, but improving wellness and possibly increasing longevity when you reach for that spice jar or throw some chopped herbs in whatever you’ve got cooking.
I’m delighted to share one of my favorite posts from the archives on this topic. If you haven’t seen it before, take a few moments to absorb this truly remarkable knowledge developed over the past decade of nutrition research. Plus get 2 superb recipes, including one of my most popular potato recipes ever. Serious yum!
Having a well-stocked pantry is always a good idea. And in uncertain times, it becomes all the more important. No matter what happens in the world, you’ll be healthier, your stress will be lower, and your immune system will be optimized if you have plenty of good, healthy food to eat! Here are some pantry foods (and freezer foods) you might want to consider stocking up on. As always, going organic can help you steer clear of exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides.
This is the list my family put together, based on the pantry and freezer items we stocked up on. I’m posting it here because I hope it might help you and yours, too!
I’ve always followed the food trends—what’s in, what’s out? They can be as trendy and entertaining as fashion. As the new year, new food articles come out, sometimes I laugh and sometimes I grit my teeth. We’re inundated with how to be healthy and hip.
Apparently in 2020:
Eating blue food is in. (Blueberries have always been “in” for me.)
Awareness that how we eat affects global warming is up. (A necessity, not a trend.)
Impossible Burgers lead the food industry parade of new food. Everybody’s excited about a burger made of plants with meat-like qualities. (But—are they really made of plants?)
Here’s the trend I’m seeing: it’s simplifying.
Wouldn’t it be great to take the stress out of going into the kitchen? Make cooking NOT this complicated thing in our lives, especially when there are so many demands on our time?
We’re all being bombarded by a LOT of information, about the planet, the politics, your kids, your dogs… life happens fast, but we have to keep ourselves nourished. We need to find a simple way.
I look back at my first cookbook and think gosh, could I have made this recipe more complicated? With a laundry list of spices, including ⅛ teaspoon of cardamom? Like I couldn’t live without that? I say this as the author of 5 cookbooks and someone who’s helped chefs in restaurant kitchens, home cooks, community cooks… the whole spectrum.
This is my year to crack the code and come up with a formula.
I’m putting it out there, the challenge I’ve set myself that I think will help many of us. What if it could just be simpler?
Soul food is a variety of cuisine originating in the Southeastern United States. It has been a cultural staple among the African American community for centuries — starting as a means of survival during the many decades of slavery and evolving into many modern-day variations.
Writing for the blog, Black Foodie, Vanessa Hayfordtellsus:“During the Transatlantic Slave Trade, enslaved African people were given meager food rations that were low in quality… With these rations, enslaved people preserved African food traditions and adapted traditional recipes with the resources available. Over time, these recipes and techniques have become the soul food dishes we are familiar with today. This food genre… was born out of struggle and survival.”
It’s that time of year again when we think about how to show our love to family and friends and community, especially those in need. What shall we give? I’ve been thinking that gifts don’t necessarily come wrapped in a little box. Though they certainly can!
The gift of time
Some of the most meaningful gifts are gifts of time, which is ENORMOUSLY valuable.
We can volunteer, helping in any way that calls to us—visiting elder folks, cooking for people with cancer, reading to children, pitching in to clean up a river, serving meals at a soup kitchen. Good for your community, good for the soul.
We can spend time with someone we love. Hang out and play cards, listen to music together, or read aloud to them if they’re not well. Or make a kitchen date! Make 3 pots of soup and split the proceeds. There’s nothing like laughter to season the soup to perfection. Or duck out to a movie together! Excellent for keeping holiday stress levels in check.
We can make something for someone we love. Imagine how much your dear friend would love 2 quarts of soup or a soup assortment! A box of Triple Triple Brittle (see below) all dolled up in a box with ribbon. A certificate for dinner at your house (a favorite of mine in a pinch). Be at my house at_______to be fed! A work of art, a lovingly knit cowl, or a hand-sewn sachet filled with lavender and rose petals fall into this category, too.
I read the book on the plane on my way to visit my dear mom on the occasion of her 86th birthday (Happy birthday, Ma!).
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy since I have been following Shauna’s writing from her Gluten-Free Girl days up to the present, in which she has established herself as an original and remarkable essayist. Along the way she had a TIA (transient ischemic attack, a stroke that lasts only a few minutes) and it made her reflect on her life and how she was living it.
Can anyone relate to that? We’ve all had something that has led us to re-evaluate or draw a boundary. We’ve said, something’s got to give. Or maybe we’ve outgrown certain things.
Drawing a boundary can allow us to open up and find something more nourishing.
Have you ever experienced that rare moment when you’ve been around long enough to see signs of system-wide transformation occur before your very eyes? Dear reader, such has been the case with the role of food and medicine in the span of my professional career, during which I’ve devoted myself and my talents towards this very end—bringing science to the table, and food to the treatment plan.
The moment that filled my heart!
My foundation, Healing Kitchens, works with different hospitals and cancer centers to provide culinary content for their patients. We recently accepted an invitation to pay a call at Stanford Health Care. We’ve done some interesting work at Stanford in the past, including online, live and printed material for neuroendocrine cancer patients and for their survivorship program and website. We had modified my Cancer-Fighting Kitchen approach with specific protocols for neuroendocrine and carcinoid syndrome—two very specialized forms of cancer—and word got out. A colorectal surgeon at Stanford putting together a trial for pre-op prep for her patients suggested we meet and talk about the role food can play in patient preparedness and recovery.
The surgeon and her team were curious: what would happen if we have people shift their eating to an immune-boosting diet full of anti-inflammatory foods and also include exercise? Would it help people recover faster and with less chance of complications?
This was MUSIC to my ears! The notion of helping patients BEFORE they go into surgery with food!!!! We introduced her to my famous healing, nourishing Magic Mineral Broth. Oh my gosh, she said, is this a clear broth? I can give this to all my patients!!! Long story short, we’re working on a package to go into this critical trial.
Spring has been super rainy for us (it’s been raining for almost a full week now!), with only a sprinkling of a few nice days, so cozy food cravings are still in full swing around here. I seriously can’t wait until freezing cold smoothies, raw salads, and huge watermelon mono-meals regain their appeal, but I definitely don’t mind living on this pot pie til then :) It’s got almost all the comforting features of a traditional pot pie, but is made with bright spring produce and a blanket of thinly sliced vegetables instead of the more traditional pastry-based crust.
Leeks, asparagus, peas, and spinach all made it into this pot pie in celebration of spring. There’s also quinoa for more substance and a stew-like texture, as well as carrots and zucchini. The crust is made up of thinly sliced potatoes (use new potatoes for the ultimate seasonal points) and zucchini. You could totally sub in your favorite pot pie pastry crust here if you’re looking for something even more substantial, store-bought biscuits would work too.
As though writing a cookbook and trying to stay on top of a second grader’s homework and extracurriculars is not enough, we’re planning a long overdue and major kitchen renovation this summer. When I say long overdue, I am not exaggerating one bit, as we haven’t put a hammer or paintbrush to the kitchen in the thirteen years of living in this house. Something has always topped it on the priority list, which, I know, sounds crazy considering what I do.
Our kitchen is nicely sized and sunny, but has many questionable and outdated details from the 90s along with badly aging countertops, the layout needs improvement, and there is a low hanging ceiling in an otherwise high ceilinged house. There’s lots of unearthed potential, and we are finally coming around to letting it free. To me, this is extremely exciting – the kitchen is my office, the place where the family eats, and also happens to be the central hangout spot in the house.
Sunny one day, rainy and cold the next. Peaceful, then wildly windy! Warm, then here comes a snowstorm! Spring is so beguiling… and so fickle!
Let’s not forget, we’re in another transition time. Spring is a little bit of a seesaw. So our immune systems can be tricked! We can get colds or leftover remnants of the flu.
It’s been super rainy here in the Bay Area, in fact, super rainy in many parts of the country. And while you may be yearning for those bright, fresh spring greens it isn’t quite time to jump into a big salad yet. But it is a time when you want to perk up and feel a little brighter.
How do you welcome in the green of spring and still successfully juggle all the vagaries of what’s going on outside?
On a recent Sunday, I was in my pantry trying to find baking powder. If you know me, you know I’m not a baker. Soup, yes! Baked goods, not so much. So I have a little bin at the top of my cupboard where I keep less-used things that I have to get on a step stool to reach. I stretched up, got down my little box, pulled out the baking powder… and noticed the expiration date. Embarrassing!
I started going through everything in my cupboard and putting things on the kitchen table. Oh my gosh! I had forgotten about all this stuff. Here’s what I realized: My cooking patterns have changed.
Maybe kids go off to college… maybe you stop entertaining so much, or you start entertaining a lot more! When I’m recipe developing, I explore a dazzling number of ingredients that I certainly don’t need when I’m not. Things change in our lives and in how we cook. We’re always shifting.
It seems like a lot of people still see broccoli stems a scraps to be thrown away, but the truth is that broccoli is delicious in its entirety. The stems make up the bulk of the weight for a reason – they are totally edible, incredibly tender inside, and very versatile. To prep them, all you have to do is peel away the tough outer skin, and you’ll be left with a velvety ‘heart,’ which kind of reminds us of an artichoke heart. It can be utilized in so many ways – in fried rice, soups, salads, gratin, latkes, and even apps.
This ‘tartare’ is an unexpected little number to serve on a snack platter, but we think that it will pleasantly surprise any guests. It comes together with the help of staple pantry ingredients, and tastes indulgent…but in reality you’re eating a bunch of broccoli. Win-win all around.
I’m constantly amazed by the fact that nature gives us the exact things we need during each given season. Citrus season might be my favorite fruit season, just because it’s such a ray of sunshine in the midst of winter bleakness. The contrast between the quiet darkness of this time of year and the bright, juicy, sweet citruses that spring up at the stores is especially intense. Our grocery store is exploding with all kinds of citrus varieties, more than I can count on my two hands. I couldn’t resist getting a few citrons, since they smelled amazing, and I had never tried them before. I knew that they have a really thick rind (they are mostly rind really), which is great for candying. After doing some research, I also learned that citron is one of the original citrus fruit, from which a lot of the other household citruses were developed.
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