Archive for cooking

Cooking with Bob Marley, on a snowy winter’s day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 25, 2014 by jtoddring

The cooking is rocking along to Bob Marley’s mellow groove, on this fine winter’s day. “The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory”…. “There’s a natural mystic blowin’ through the air…” “Soul captives are free.”

The sweet potato pie, turnip casserole, pumpkin pies and banana bread are done, ready and waiting for the gathering tonight. Now it’s time for brunch: spinach and goat’s mozzarella frittata with re-fried beans and home fries. Ah, I love to cook – so satisfying, soothing and joyful.

I’m glad we are having a real Canadian winter for a change. There’s a foot of snow on the ground, and big flakes are still coming down. It is a small taste of what winter was like when I was growing up – which was not that long ago, in the ’70s. Then, six foot high snow banks seemed the norm. We don’t have anything like that here now, since global warming has really kicked in.

It’s a good day to cook – then to go for a walk and build a snow fort with the kids. Or listen to Bob Marley, “The sun is shining,” and dream about sunny days and Caribbean islands…

But then again, if we can’t do anything about the weather, why grumble about it? Why let it make you upset? People complain about the weather, which they can’t change; but they have no interest in changing the things they can change, and that need to be changed. It makes no sense to me. And the snow is beautiful!

I’m dreaming about spring; and planning the garden – but I am definitely enjoying the winter.

And now some Steely Dan, to make the day all that much better.

JTR,
January 25, 2014

Leek and potato soup: simple, hearty and delicious

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 19, 2013 by jtoddring

Articles on food and cooking are rare on this blog, but occasionally I like to share some musings on this realm. Food is such an important part of our lives; and simple, healthy food can elevate our mood, boost our energy, heal our bodies, calm our stress and sooth our minds – which in turn makes more room and more energy for other things, such as philosophy, spirituality, politics or social issues – or anything that is important to us.

So, since nourishing ourselves is wise, here I’ve offered a short article on an easy, home-made, from-scratch soup that will warm your cockles and delight your taste buds. It’s a classic – and it’s surprisingly easy to make. It’s also vegan and very low-cost. Enjoy! The food and the cooking both, that is! Try to enjoy the journey, as well as the destination, once you arrive, as it has been wisely said before! Take it slow, and enjoy the ride.

 

Leek and potato soup

For my sister, and everyone else who loves good food

Makes a large pot of soup – I almost never measure anything, so I can’t tell you how much it will make. 6-8 bowls, would be my rough guess. And it will keep well in the fridge, or you can freeze part of it, I imagine – if by some strange fate it doesn’t get devoured in short order.

Ingredients:

1 large bunch of leeks – or about 3-4 large leeks

2-3 pounds or more of potatoes – your choice as to the variety

Lots of butter – no substitutes here if you want maximum flavour; but if you want it strictly vegan, you can use grape seed oil, which is best for frying, or another oil if that is not possible or on hand, if needs be. What is a generous amount? Again, I never measure, so I can only guess, without looking in the pot. I’d estimate four tablespoons or more. No, this is not a low-calorie soup, but it is very hearty, very healthy and very delicious.

Butter has had a bad rap. According to Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of India, which is rivaled in millennia of empirical field testing and meticulous observation only by Traditional Chinese Medicine, butter, especially purified butter, or ghee, is one of the most healing foods we can possibly eat.

Essential oils are just that – essential. Along with flax and olive oil, I would say that real butter is a definite healthy choice. (Most margarine and most low-quality cooking oils are little better than toxic sludge, and in fact, they quite literally are that.)

If you cut out the fast foods, the baked goods and the junk foods, and cut your meat and dairy consumption way down, your fat consumption will plummet, and you won’t have to worry about using butter in cooking in any case. And if you cut out the sugar, and cut the starch, bread and grain way down and get moderate exercise, you also won’t have to worry about calories. But that is a personal choice.

I definitely prefer to cook with lots of butter and olive oil. Olive oil is possibly healthier, but butter adds tremendous flavour. Neither of them should be used with high heat, so keep the heat very low, and cook slowly. Only a few oils, including grape seed oil, won’t turn into extremely toxic trans-fats if used for frying or high heat. This is an important note.

Vegetable broth: 1-2 L, or 4-8 cups – or chicken broth if you prefer, which tends to give a richer flavour (use only organic and free-range whenever possible)

Salt and pepper to taste

Always use fresh-ground pepper. Not only is the taste far better, but black pepper goes rancid shortly after grinding, just as the oils in grains do; and black pepper that is not freshly ground can significantly contribute to the risk of prostate cancer as well. Freshly ground grains and pepper are important. Switching to fresh ground pepper at least, is easy.

Getting a grain grinder and grinding your own flour fresh right before baking is also extremely easy, especially with a bread-maker, but I must admit I haven’t gotten into that habit yet. The difference in taste as well as nutritional content is worlds apart, mind you, even when compared to freshly baked bread. The freshly ground grain makes a world of difference.

Note also that cancer rates in Europe were almost nil in the time of Galen and Hippocrates, and only began to skyrocket with the introduction of refined flour and sugar and the industrial revolution. My, but we are making such great progress, aren’t we? Time to simplify, I would say. Our overly complicated lives are killing us slowly. (Ok, there is your bit of philosophy for this post, for those who enjoy that sort of thing!)

Preparation:

Trim the ends then slice the leeks lengthwise, in half; then chop coarsly.

Rinse the leeks very well in a colander, basin, sink or bowl – whatever works! – pulling all the pieces apart as you wash to get all the sand out. Gritty leeks, like gritty spinach, are not very pleasant to eat, and they will be gritty if you don’t take your time in washing them well.

In a large pot, add a generous amount of butter or oil, chopped leeks and salt – several twists with a salt shaker should do. (I prefer to use Himalayan salt, since it is reported to have health benefits from the trace minerals in it, but sea salt is also good; table salt is a last resort, and not the best for flavour, having a sharp metallic taste that it imparts to the food.)

Bring the leeks and butter to a slow simmer over low heat. The leeks should sizzle, but they should cook slowly, if you want the best flavour. You can probably cook them in a few minutes over high heat, but the soup will be vastly better of you take your time, as well as being more nutritious. A slow saute over low heat for about an hour is ideal. Pour a glass of wine or a cup of tea, take your time, enjoy the process, and relax.

Everything is better when it isn’t rushed. If you eat in a rush, you never really taste your food. If you make love in a rush, you are not really there, and you miss the whole thing. And if you cook in a rush, you will likely make bland and unhealthy food, and miss all the joy of preparing it as well.

With all of the complications we have made in our lives, have we really improved the quality of our lives, or are we simply more stressed, more frantic and more busy? Are we really so clever, classless and free – to borrow a line from John Lennon – or are we simply manic serfs? What is all this insane rushing about? In our fast-paced and almost maniacally busy lives, we are in danger of forgetting how to truly live, or even who we are, as well as forgetting what is most important in life. Slow down. It cannot be said enough.

Which reminds me, last night the host and owner of a local restaurant rudely asked my belle and I if we would mind changing tables – to make space for a couple he said were his friends, who didn’t have a reservation either, by the way. Since my love and I would rather not make a fuss over minor issues, or at least, we certainly try not to, we said alright, and changed tables. The proprietor and host was fawningly chummy and patronizing, but it was a rude act regardless, made all the more rude by his clearly hollow pretense of being a close friend, when he was obviously acting out of callous self-interest.

We had been taking our time, and the restaurant was empty when we came in. We were enjoying tapas and drinks and hadn’t even had our main course yet when this rude message was delivered in the most plastic of fakery.We wanted to enjoy a leisurely meal, and to enjoy our time together, especially since we rarely go out; and not simply gulp down our food and run out the door. We were racking up a significant bill, and this was no fast-food restaurant, so we figured we could relax and take our time. Apparently not.

I won’t embarrass the staff or owner by mentioning the name of the restaurant, but I will say that before this incident, I would have given the restaurant five stars – even though, and especially because, it was unpretentious. Everything was perfect. After this rude behaviour by the owner/host, I couldn’t give it more than two, and we probably won’t be back for a long time. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost, as the story goes.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. And for the loss of a battle, the kingdom was lost. Everything fell apart, due to the want of a nail. And for want of simple grace, many a business are lost as well.

If you can’t welcome and serve your guests like they are God, which in fact, they are, no matter who it is, then you really have no business running or staffing a restaurant, or having any guest at all, at home or anywhere, but should instead close your doors and hang your head in disgrace, until you can learn that “he who is worthy to drink from the ocean of life is worthy to fill his cup from your little stream.”

We had earlier told the host and owner that we really liked the place, as well as the food, but after such crude total lack of grace, brought about, frankly, by greed, callousness and a culture of cold and shallow rushing about, eager to get and to spend and to impress, the place has now left a bad taste in our mouths – even though the food was excellent. The rider was most definitely lost.

In any event, rushing destroys the joy of life, endangers our health and well-being and that of our loved ones, destroys our peace, and can make our lives more impoverished – as well as making us more self-absorbed, callous, disrespectful and cold. Slow down, I say. Few things are more important.

Modern life is wildly out of balance. Maybe we should all watch Koyaaniskaatski, Baraka and Office Space, and read Thoreau’s great masterpiece, Walden. We could do far worse with our limited time in this life than to ponder these great works – that is certain.

But to return to cooking… Slow foods and slow cooking are definitely the best. Simply make time. If you don’t have time for slow, home-cooked foods, then your priorities are probably messed up, and you need to slow down and simplify your life. And yes, it generally is that simple. We make excuses, but we are lying to ourselves, more often than not, when we refuse to slow down and to simplify.

And now, back to the recipe after this brief philosophical interlude!

While the leeks are sauteing, peel and chop the potatoes to whatever size pieces you prefer. My belle, my gal, the love of my life, my better half, likes creamed soups, so I blend them with a hand blender when they’re done cooking; but to each his own: leave them in large or small chunks if you prefer. I do think the flavour is enhanced by blending; but as you like. Sometimes a chunky soup is just what you want. For leek and potato in particular, however, I do think blending is best.

When the leeks are soft and have cooked well, add the potatoes, then add enough broth to cover the vegetables. If you add just a bit extra broth, you shouldn’t have to add any water later to keep the veggies covered while cooking. (Keep the lid on to keep the moisture in and the heat and energy requirements for cooking down.)

When the potatoes are soft, the soup is done, and just needs to be blended and seasoned. Add salt, fresh ground pepper and butter to taste. If you used lots of butter during the sauteing, you shouldn’t have to add any more at the end – it will be very rich and very creamy.

The soup can be made fast, but again, if you take your time, the flavour will be far, far better – and you will probably enjoy the process more as well!

C’est tout! Bon appetit! And enjoy!

Blessings,
JTR,
December 18, 2013

More cooking joy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2013 by jtoddring

In the past week I’ve learned how to make nine new dishes – so joyous! Nothing compares to home cooking.

Banana bread and zucchini loaf
Both gluten-free, scrumptious and super-nutritious: with gluten-free flour, eggs, stevia, and loads of fresh-ground flax as well as chia seeds
(From an improvised recipe from my mom.)

Turkey noodle soup
Two turkey drumsticks, boiled or roasted for 1 hour at 350 F, 1 cup of brown rice noodles, 1 liter of chicken broth, salt and poultry seasoning to taste – fast and easy, and infinitely better, in both flavour and nutrition, than anything you can buy in a store.  (There’s no excuse for lazy cooking, in my mind, or for anything other than home-made meals, at least 19 times out of 20. If you’re too busy to make home-cooked meals, you’re probably too busy in general, and your priorities are probably out of line. Simplify. And slow down. Make big batches, and eat it for a couple of days, interspersed with other foods; or freeze part of it, and have delicious home-cooked meals ready to re-heat anytime.)

Fried chorizo with pico de gallo
See Epicurious for a super-easy and incredibly delicious pico de gallo recipe, and many more. (I rarely eat meat lately, but this little Spanish side dish incredible.)

Gluten-free spanakopita (spinach pie)
Instead of the traditional Greek spinach pie, which is made with filo pastry, I used frozen spinach, three eggs, beaten, lots of goat cheese feta, and a pinch of nutmeg, baked in a greased casserole dish, covered, for about an hour – easy, incredibly delicious, and extremely healthy. For extra flavour add sauteed onions and garlic; but this dish is super-rich already, even without them.
(From another improvised recipe from my mom)

Classic pecan pie
Also from an Epicurious recipe – Epicurious has never failed me yet. As with most recipes, at the rare times when I use a recipe, I modified this one, and improvised. I didn’t want all that sugar, and no corn syrup, so I mixed brown sugar with stevia. Next time I’ll use maple syrup, which I was unfortunately out of, along with natural, zero calorie and zero carb stevia.

Fruit cobbler
With apples and pears from the backyard: five pears, four apples, large oats and maple syrup on top, with a cup or so of water in a covered pie dish, baked for about an hour at 350 F (A total improv – and it turned out great!)

Mexican-Italian pizza
Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and amazingly delicious:
Gluten-free teff tortillas with pesto, goat cheese feta, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and pico de gallo added after it baked for about 20 minutes at 350 F. One of the best pizzas I have ever tasted. (Also total improv, like most of my cooking.)

Gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian lasagna
Brown rice lasagna noodles, par-boiled, layered with a white sauce made with lots of goat cheese, spinach and pesto, with layers of goat mozzarella on top – fantastically mouth-watering, everyone in the family can eat it; and it doesn’t sit on my stomach like a rock! (Also improv. There’s nothing like free-form experimentation – especially when it turns out far beyond your expectations!)

“Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.”
  – Harriet Van Horne
  (A quote than adorns my fridge)

The next dishes I want to learn to make:

Pumpkin pie
The pecan pie was my first pie ever, and it turned out amazing, so I am emboldened!

Muffins – gluten-free blueberry bran with stevia, flax and chia seeds, as a first run

Mexican tortilla soup

I hope these cooking notes will inspire you to cook, if you don’t already – and to take joy in cooking! Experiment! It’s all a learning process, and we can take joy in the journey. Why not? Life is short!

Bon appetite!

J. Todd Ring,
November 12, 2013

 

Mens sana in corpore sano: a sound mind in a healthy body

Posted in consciousness, cooking, food, healing, health, wellness with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by jtoddring

Mens sana in corpore sano: a sound mind in a healthy body – a very good motto that is. The saying comes from the Roman Juvenal, and it applies as much today as it did two thousand years ago, of course.

I’ve alternated, myself, between being a certified bon vivant, almost a regular Zorba the Greek, and in the past, being a certified health freak, purist and borderline ascetic. Lately it seems to me that a bit more balance would be a good thing.

Balance is a good thing, and under-rated. Moderation in everything, as the ancient Greeks used to say – including moderation. Those wild and crazy guys…they certainly knew a thing or two about life.

Modern industrial society is driven to extremes, and such extremes are not particularly healthy, wise, or conducive to soundness, peace or clarity of mind. But, as William Blake said, “If a fool would persist in his folly he would soon become wise.”

I guess that means I’ll be a very wise man some day, because I’ve done a lot of foolish things. Well, life is for learning, as Joni Mitchell so beautifully reminded us. We’re not all born omniscient or faultless after all.

Since I seem to have no problem on the bon vivant side, or the workaholic side – many people wouldn’t know that, but as a writer, I am a workaholoic, and I love it, and wouldn’t want it any other way – I do think a little more attention to the health side would be wise. And maybe my thinking aloud and my own mental list of things to do to keep in good health and full of energy will be of some interest to others too. Take it or leave it, as you like. I wish you all the best of health, well-being, peace of mind and happiness.

Here are some thoughts on a super-deluxe healthy way of life, that doesn’t have to be unpleasant at all, but very, very deliciously enjoyable. Everyone has different tastes, so see what fits, if anything, and leave the rest. If this list of ideas seems helpful to you, share it with others, or print it out, and post it on your fridge as a reminder, until the new habits become the new norm. And remember:

“Life is a daring adventure, or nothing.”
– Hellen Keller

An aspiration for a daily way of life that doesn’t slowly kill me,
and in fact, makes me feel great:

(The items with a star are relatively easy, and just take a little effort; the items with a cross are a bit more challenging, cost a bit more, or take a bit more time. Stars are high priority, crosses are awesome bonuses, if I can get myself to do them. Some things listed here, and maybe many, will be unfamiliar or completely new to a lot of people. I would explain what every item is, and give details as to health benefits, but then we would have a book, and not a short and easy-to-read article. So for the moment, I’ll leave it to the reader to look up any unfamiliar terms or items if they wish to explore further. Happy hunting! The quest for health and wellness is worth the trek! And the journey can be interesting and fun as well!)

Morning:

In the morning, you are waking from an overnight fast, effectively, and the best way to end a fast, however short or long (and fasts are awesomely powerful for cleansing the body of toxins, by the way), is by drinking lots of fluids. Taking lots of fluids in the morning helps your body to flush out the toxins that naturally accumulate – or unnaturally accumulate, due to pollution or bad habits. If drinking this much fluids in the morning isn’t possible or desirable for you however, you can space it out during the day.

* A cup of tea

* A glass of Redoxon, effervescent vitamin C

* A glass of lemon water

+ A small glass of wheat juice

* A glass of fruit juice – preferably freshly squeezed and organic if possible
(Vary the juices, for variety of taste and nutrients. Mixed berry, pomegranate, apple, cherry, grapefruit, prune and pineapple are best.)

* A glass of vegetable juice – preferably freshly juiced and organic

* A cup of detox tea

* A cup of green tea, genmaicha or kukicha

* A cup of miso broth or miso soup

* A glass of Green+ or other greens drink

* A cup of pau d’arco tea

(Another trip to the toilet after all those fluids.)

+ Fried bacon, blood pudding and steak with fries and gravy for breakfast, with a large glass of Coke to wash it down – ok, just kidding. Save that for once a month, at most.
A piece of fruit and a smoothie for breakfast
This is a delicious, super-nutritious meal in a glass, that you can take in a travel mug or thermos. I use goat’s whey powder, with fresh ground flax and pumpkin seeds (use a coffee grinder), lecithin granules, Fiber One cereal for extra fiber, maca and essential oils – but all of these are optional – along with blueberries, pineapple and banana, buttermilk (you won’t notice the taste at all) and crushed ice, for a smoothie that is extremely high in anti-oxidants, nutrients and fibre, and has complete protein and amino acids, plus potassium and natural anti-inflammatory and digestive aid properties from the pineapple. Or if you don’t want to wash the blender afterward and have you the coin, buy smoothies pre-made in a bottle. They’re not nearly as delicious or as nutritious, but they’re still very good for you. The smoothies I make, with this recipe, always make me feel amazing. It’s like drinking an elixir of liquid sunshine.

+ Yoga
Even fifteen minutes of yoga does amazing things for your body and mind. Just do it.
(And screw you Nike for branding that expression – we’re taking it back, no offence.)

+ Prayers and meditation
Prayer is powerful. And nothing, and I mean nothing that I have experienced, compares to the power of meditation for healing and calming and refreshing the mind and body. Again, even fifteen minutes, even five minutes, has more power than anything else you can possibly do with that time. Just un-do it! You’ll feel better for it, and you will be healthier, calmer, more alert, more energetic, happier and more productive because of it. Do whatever form inspires you. Just sitting and watching the breath cross the tip of the nostrils is extremely effective. This simple “act” is unbelievably powerful and transformative. It lets the body and mind find their own natural harmony, slowly, over time. But don’t look for results, just sit and breathe. It gets easier with practice, as with anything. It may be challenging at first, but it is worth the effort.

Snacks:

* Roasted pumpkin seeds (best food for prostate gland) and other seeds, nuts, fruit

* Rice crackers or other crackers with goat’s cheese, almond butter, hummus, or kippers and mustard

* Boiled or pickled eggs – keep some in the fridge, or pack them to take to work, school or on hikes, picnics or other trips. Don’t forget the salt.

* Veggies and dip
Healthy dips, not the mayonnaise-based junk that is the norm. If you get an inexpensive food processor you can make your own – it’s very easy. Try white bean, artichoke and asiago dip, spinach dip, hummus or hot broccoli dip – all amazingly delicious, and using yogurt instead of mayonnaise, very, very healthy, as well as simple and easy to make.

* Nachos with salsa, yogurt, guacamole, refried beans, jalapeno and/or cheese
(Try rice chips if allergic to corn, as I am.)

* Popcorn – simple, fast, comforting, tasty, and very nutritious too. Try olive oil instead of butter for a change. (Leave the margarine on the shelf – that should be used only for lubing bicycle chains, not eaten.)

* Tamari almonds – my favourite snack in the world. So delicious, and supremely healthy. Find them at the health food store or roast your own.

If you’re temped by junk food or fast foods, try keeping healthy snacks on hand, in the car or your briefcase, backpack or purse at all times. Remember that the junk food will be done if a few minutes, and for the rest of the day you’ll feel worse than if you had a healthy snack.

If you crave sweets, try eating more fruit, and substitute fruit for sugary foods – it’s far healthier, and you’ll feel better, with improved mood, memory, conscnetration and energy.

Keep healthy snacks on hand at all times, and eat small, frequent meals so you’re blood sugar doesn’t get low.

If you cook with mildly sweet vegetables you will have fewer sugar cravings: squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions…

Or make homemade applesauce or cooked fruit – totally simple, sweet and delicious, and super healthful. And the kids will love it too. Or make popsicles with pure, unsweetened fruit juice – far better tasting than most sweets, and far more healthy. Or blend frozen berries with yogurt and crushed ice for delicious shakes….

And when you do feel like something sweet and fruit is not enough, try more healthy sweets, like sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, rhubarb pie, fruit pies, pecan pie or fruit tarts or pastries. Substituting honey or maple syrtup for sugar and using gluten-free flour, pie shells or pastry will make them even better – in terms of both flavour and wholesomeness. It’s much easier than you think, and there is nothing like home baking to warm the house and your soul. Two hours a week, and you’ll have delicious homemade sweets for you and your family, that will not cost you your health or drain your energy.

Or try home-made granola bars – very simple, and takes no time: throw the ingredients in a bowl, mix, pour into a baking tray and pop in the oven – ready in 20 minutes, and you can have enough for the week.

Processed foods and fast food tend to be the worst things you can put into your mouth. Most of it is little better than toxic sludge. Skip it, and try something different.

It’s easier to avoid junk food if you don’t keep it in the house. Don’t buy it, except maybe on rare occassions, and shift the habits to helathy choices. It takes only two weeks to establish a new habit, so hold tight for that long, and it will get easier, until it soon becomes the new norm, and completely natural, as if you’d done it all your life.

Lunch:

* A big salad – no, strike that, a HUGE salad
Mix it up and vary it: Greek, Caesar, Asian Chicken and vegetable, spinach, mixed veg…
Use a healthy dressing, with no hydrogenated oils, and only healthy oils; or better, make your own – it’s very, very easy, and once it’s made, it’ll keep in the fridge for a long time. Try a mixture of olive oil, flax oil and a little sesame oil with apple cider vinegar, or balsamic, red wine or rice vinegar, with salt, pepper and crushed garlic – very delicious and super-nutritious. Leave out the sesame oil and garlic if you like, but they are extremely healing. Add fresh ground flax seeds and black sesame seeds on top for an extra burst of essential oils and fibre.

* Pick something else that is healthy to eat if you want more, but if you’re still hungry, either you’re over-eating, you’ve been doing intense physical labour, you’ve been starving yourself for days, or your salad was TOO SMALL. Yes, you’ll be hungry in an hour or so after eating only salad, but it’s better to have more frequent, smaller meals anyway, so just plan to have healthy snacks on hand.

*Sandwich on whole grain bread
Goat’s cheese, turkey and avocado, chicken, or almond butter with jam….endless possibilities.
Try making your own bread – with a bread maker, it’s simple and easy, and tastes fantastic. Better yet, get a grain grinder and grind your own grain freshly before baking the bread for maximum nutrition and incredible flavour – it takes less than a minute. Try spelt or other gluten-free grains, sour dough, or whatever you like. Add fresh-ground flax for essential oils and fibre.

* A cup of green tea, kukicha or genmaicha, or miso soup

If you are going to eat one big heavy meal in the day, noon is a better time than evening, digestion-wise, and weight-wise, but more frequent, smaller meals are best.

Afternoon or evening – or whenever you determine to make the time:

+ Get 20 minutes to an hour of exercise
Walk, run, cycle, ski, snowboard, surf, snowshoe, skate, toboggan, swim, snorkel, scuba dive, spelunk, rock climb, windsurf, do weights, yoga, martial arts or tai chi – just do something, other than watching TV or going to the mall, that is. For myself, my preference would be to alternate weights, yoga and martial arts, and do one of them every day, for at least 20 minutes if not an hour, no exceptions. I’m still working on that, but New Years is coming up, and I need a resolution. Hopefully I’ll live `till then. You never know. Life is fleeting, and full of surprises, but I certainly plan to. I’ll enjoy every day and make the most of it in any case. “I do not wish, when I come to the end of this life, to realize I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau, my all-time favourite writer

Dinner:

Again, there are endless healthy possibilities: soups, stews, crock pot dishes, stir fry, frittata or quiche, home-made chicken fingers with fresh ground flax seed batter and sweet and spicy Thai sauce (Had that tonight – amazing! ), sweet potato fries, brown rice with steamed vegetables and garlic butter, risotto with butternut squash and goat’s cheese (wow), brown rice pasta with a garlicy spinach and goat’s cheese rose sauce (had that last night – fantastic!), homemade pizza with goat’s cheese, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, black olives, garlic, pesto, jalapenos, artichokes and feta (incredible!), roast chicken or turkey with roast vegetables, buckwheat noodles with tahini, soy sauce and sautéed tempeh and vegetables (this was a staple of mine for years – try carrots and onions, or whatever veggies you like); sushi, nori rolls, refried black beans burritos, curry (mmm…I could eat burritos or curry every day), tyropita, spanakopita…. (Spanakopita, or spinach triangles, has got to be one of the world’s best foods. Thank you Greece! And, you can freeze them, and have them ready for quick meals and snacks.)

The important thing is to make healthy choices, and to make sure you eat healthy snacks often enough that you don’t get low blood sugar and are tempted to eat junk.

The next most important thing, I would say, is to learn to love cooking. If you grow to love cooking, and you’re interested in feeling good and being healthy, it’s a lot easier to accomplish those things than if you’re relying on frozen food or canned food, take-out food or delivery, generally speaking.

Cook in big batches, and freeze two-thirds of it in meal-size portions for later. That way, when you’re in a hurry, you can just defrost your own home-made frozen foods, which are generally far more delicious and nutritious than most frozen “foods,” which tend to have all the flavour and nutritional value of a cardboard box.

Have dinner parties, and exchange dinner parties or potlucks – it’s more fun, you get inspired to cook, and you share the cooking chore – which really shouldn’t be a chore, if you’re letting yourself get into it, and take your time and enjoy it – and it will save you time this way while letting you try new foods and get new ideas for cooking.

Eat TONS of vegetables and get lots of fibre, keep the carbs low, avoid processed and canned foods, eat fresh, natural foods, and as much organic as possible, eliminate red meat, sugar and processed flour products as much as possible, and use only healthy oils: grapeseed oil, coconut oil or ghee for frying, olive oil, sesame oil and flax oil for toppings and dressings. Learn to love brown rice, beans and lentils and you’ll eat super-healthy foods that cost pennies. Cook with wine for health and flavour. Experiment with herbs, spices and sauces, and combinations of them, and even the most simple foods will taste phenomenal.

Chew, chew, chew your food! Digestion can’t work properly unless food is well-chewed, and if digestion is impaired, then nutrient absorption will plummet, and you will be malnourished and nutrient-deficient no matter how healthy your diet is. Fifty chews per bite sounds like a lot, but it is ideal – 20 minimum. Or simply eat very slowly. Savour your food – and savour life!

For optimal digestion, you should not drink any fluids with meals or for at least an hour afterward, because the fluids dilute the digestive enzymes acids, thus impairing proper digestion. The exceptions to this rule are wine, miso soup or broth, or a little ginger tea, all of which aid digestion.

Most people think that indigestion, or poor digestion, is just a minor issue of mild discomfort – it’s not. Poor digestion not only robs your body of vital nutrients, leaving you malnourished even if you gourge yourself, it has other, even more serious negative effects on body and mind.

Poor digestion means that the body cannot properly process what is ingested, and that leads to a state of auto-toxemia, where metabolic wastes and fungal growth build up in the digestive tract, creating a situation where the body is literally poisoning itself.

Toxic overload and nutrient deficiency has been proven to cause or aggravate depression, anxiety, mood disorders, learning and behavioural disorders, and to generally cause negative effects on the mind, and not only the body.

Mercury poisoning is an extreme example of what toxins can do to your mind. The expression, “Mad as a hatter,” came from the fact that in the past hatters used to suffer from mercury poisoning, from using mercury to make felt hats. They slowly went insane, simply as a result of toxins in the body. Other toxins may be a bit less severe in their impact, but we should naturally avoid them, as they are certainly serious enough, and can cause major problems.

All sorts of health issues, some of them very serious, can arise when the body is nutrient-deficient and simultaneously overloaded with toxins – whether they are from the environment, from ingestion, or from autotoxemia due to poor digestion. Unfortunately, a state of nutrient deficiency and toxic overload has become the pandemic of our modern industrial society. Avoid toxins, manage stress, take regular saunas or steam-baths to eliminate toxins, eat healthy foods, and practice good digestive health as well as a positive state of mind, and your health, well-being, mood, mental clarity and vitality will all improve dramatically.

Basil, pesto, ginger, mint or a glass of wine will all help greatly with digestion. Practice optimal food combining if you have serious digestive issues: eat fruits alone, carbs and protein separate, or at least eat the carbs first, protein last.

If you have digestive problems, test for food allergies with an elimination diet. Eliminate the most common food allergens one at a time, for a period of a few days to two weeks, and pay attention to how your body feels. Wheat, gluten, dairy (not just lactose but cow’s milk protein), corn, and of course peanuts, are among the most common allergens.

I never had any food allergies in the past, until the last few years. Now, dairy gives me a slight headache and cheese sits like a rock in my stomach, unless it’s goat’s milk or goat’s cheese; corn upsets my stomache and wheat gives me hives and severe indigestion. It’s not worth the discomfort to eat foods your body can’t properly digest, so I’ve found. Goat’s cheese and gluten-free foods have helped immensely. Gluten-free pizza crust with goat’s cheese and feta means I can eat home-made pizza again – and it’s fantastic! Yeah!!! Brown rice pasta is delicious, and more hearty than regular white flour pasta; and sour dough spelt bread is amazingly delicious and hearty, I find.

Try to eat dinner by 6pm, so that you can properly digest your food before 9pm, when your liver goes into regeneration and rest mode. Eating later will cause poor digestion, nutrient mal-absorption and lower quality, restless sleep.

Possibly most important, in terms of a healthy diet, along with eating as much fruits and vegetables as you can, is to eat organic. According to Health Canada, 80% of the toxins we ingest come, not from air pollution, or water, or even smoking or drinking alcohol, but from the foods we eat. Pesticide residues are among the most toxic substances we can ingest. They are making us sick, and they are making our kids sick. Eat organic as much as you can. It is that important.

* Look up super-foods and include them in your diet daily or weekly:

Fo ti (polygonum multiflora is the Latin name, or shu wu in Chinese), Siberian ginseng, panax ginseng, ashwaganda, Solomon’s seal, gotu kola, motherwort, maca, (TRF has all of this and more), asparagus, fiddle heads, blueberries, pomegranate, apricots, avocado, dandelion, burdock, red clover and nettle tea, kukicha, genmaicha, green tea, roasted barley drinks, roasted dandelion coffee, coconut milk, goat’s milk, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, lemon grass, basil, pesto, garlic, ginger, peppers, pickles, sauerkraut, prunes, yogurt, buttermilk, flax, almonds, almond butter, sesame seeds, tahini, hummus, sesame oil, flax oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, coconut oil, pecans, goat’s cheese, goat’s yogurt, barley, barley grass, wheat grass, almond butter, adzuki beans, black beans, daikon, miso, tamari, tofu, tempeh, Braggs liquid amino acids, apple cider vinegar, apples, cucumber, tzatziki, lemon juice, lemon water, cherries, pineapple, shitake mushrooms, holy basil, ghee, oats and oat bran, dark semi-sweet chocolate (in moderation!)….

Love, laughter, sunlight and fresh air, green space and water

Get some or give some every day. These things are powerfully healing, and very good for your state of mind as well as your physical health.

 

Saunas, sweat and steam-baths

These things are amazingly healing, and also powerfully stress-relieving. Have a sauna, steam-bath or sweat once a week at minimum, if not every day. This is also one of the most powerful and effective ways to eliminate toxins from the body. Sweat it out. A liter of drinking water and a hot steam or sauna is a miracle in terms of what it can do for you. And you will feel not only clean and deeply relaxed, but greatly refreshed as well.

 

Sleep

Get enough sleep, and as regular as possible. I’ve had insomnia on and off since I was eighteen, and it’s a real drag staring at the ceiling for hours at night, unable to sleep, then waking up the next day feeling totally exhausted, so I can sympathize with people who have trouble sleeping. Here are some thoughts and gleanings I have found.

For good sleep and peaceful, restful nights, a few things can help greatly:

The best for health is to be asleep by 10pm, but that takes real commitment, I find. I’d rather go to bed by 10:00, and get up at 4:00 or 5:00, and take a siesta in the afternoon if I need to, but I’m still working on that one too.

Lots of sunlight during the day – sunlight on the forehead stimulates the pineal gland, creating melatonin, which regulates sleep and induces restful sleep at night

Melatonin supplements before bed if needed

Meditation or prayer before bed

Progressive relaxation before bed

Keep a regular sleep schedule

No food after 6pm – or only very light, easy to digest snacks if anything, like yogurt or fruit

No caffeine after 2pm – or after noon if you have serious sleep problems

Mimimize or avoid alcohol, tobacco and stimulants – ok Zorba, listen here…

Don’t watch or read anything disturbing before bed, or talk about disturbing or stressful subjects right before going to sleep

Sleep in a dark, quiet room

Ideally, save the bedroom only for sex and sleep, and don’t read in bed

If you can’t sleep after half an hour, get up, go into another room, and read, meditate, or do something relaxing

No TV in your bedroom – or anywhere, except the curb, ready for the trash….ok, just joking – man, I hate TV.

When you wake up, get up. Don’t lay in bed once you’ve woken up. Take a nap later if you need to. Siestas and cat naps are very, very good for health; sleeping in late – not so much.

Try holy basil or ashwaganda, from Ayurveda, for improved sleep as well as stress relief, or if you have insomnia.

General health and wellness – state of mind is 90% of it:

Make the most of every day – don’t rush, don’t hesitate, don’t push, and don’t drag your feet. Life is fleeting, and we should make the most of it while we have it. Living an active and satisfying life, and doing the things that are meaningful to you, will help put your mind at ease, and sleep will come more naturally and more restfully. Stifling yourself or holding back from your dreams will make you tense, dissatisfied, frustrated or depressed, and that can disturb your sleep as well as your waking life.

Practice forgiveness, and try to never hold a grudge – challenging maybe, but important. Anger and resentments will haunt you, destroy your peace and your joy, disturb your sleep and make you ill.

Do your best every day, and try to be at peace with that – worry and guilt help no one.

Consciously practice gratitude, giving thanks, and appreciation every day. Despite life’s pain, there is a great deal of goodness and beauty in the world. Appreciate the simple things as well as the big things. A simple cup of tea in the morning sun can be a delight. A hot bath can be wonderful. And a simple hearty meal can be a satisfying joy, both to cook, and to eat and share. Appreciation will brighten your days and sooth your nights. It is amazing how powerful it can be, when we simply cultivate an attitude of appreciation, and see the beauty that is around us – and within ourselves and others.

Live with love. Nothing will improve your health and state of mind, or make you sleep like a baby, more than having spent your days loving fully and deeply. This doesn’t require a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or mate by the way – giving love means giving love; and there are an infinite number of ways to give from the heart. Anyone can do it. Being loved is of course a source of great joy, comfort and peace: in fact, the greatest source of human happiness – but giving love, living with love, will bring an even deeper satusfaction and joy. This is the single most important key to a sound and happy mind, and to peace: live with love. It is also very good for your health, for it dramatically improves your state of mind, and state of mind is the most powerful influence in terms of human health and well-being. The studies have shown it time and time again.

“Be gentle with yourself. If you can be gentle with yourself, you can be gentle with others.” – Lama Yeshe

“Stop putting yourself under such extreme psychological pressure.”
– Lama Yeshe

“Just do your best. That’s good enough. It has to be.” – Lama Yeshe

“Trust yourself. It’s extremely important that you trust yourself. Don’t be afraid of yourself. Trust yourself. You can trust yourself. Trust that your own natural intelligence is working itself out.” – Chogyam Trungpa

“Never tell yourself you’re powerless. You’re not powerless. You do have power.” – Lama Yeshe

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

“A true warrior does not judge himself through another’s eyes.” – Don Juan

“Don’t take anything personally. Everyone is living in their own dream.”
– Don Miguel Ruiz

Keep your dignity at all times. No matter what our faults, or what mistakes we’ve made, there is a basic goodness and beauty within us all that never dies, and remains radiant and pure at all times, whether we can see it or not. Life is not about becoming good, but about revealing our natural basic goodness.

Love, appreciate, give thanks, eat well and follow your dreams, and laugh a little, or a lot – these are the best things you can do for your health and happiness. Make sure to give yourself some quiet time, some time for reflection, and some time in green spaces, by the water, or in nature. And do a little yoga and meditation, or whatever form of exercise strikes your fancy. These things are far more powerful than most people would imagine, and powerfully healing, for both body and mind.

So, there are some thoughts on a more ideal way of life, in terms of health and energy levels and generally feeling great. I’ll do my best, and try to be gentle with myself – I think that’s a good general rule for how to approach anything. (Certainly apathy, lethargy, complacency, purism and fanaticism don’t work. I’ve tried those in the past, and ya, they don’t produce good results.)

If anything is useful here to others, then do it up!

Bon appetit and bonne journée!

May the wind be at your back and the road rise to meet your feet.

JTR,
November 2, 2012

P.S: For great recipes and inspiration for cooking, try Epicurious. It’s awesome. And no, I don’t get paid for saying that. Nigella, on BBC, is great too.

For more, excellent information on health and welness, see:

Gary Null

Andrew Weil

Brenda Watson

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Larry Dossey

Bernie Seagel

Dean Ornish

Deepak Chopra

Prescription for Nutritional Healing

Integrative medicine

Naturopathic medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Ayurveda

Light and fluffy time: delicious and hearty Mediterranean-style stew

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by jtoddring

Ok, I realize that stew is not something we would generally think of as light and fluffy – but I meant that this is not a serious political or philosophical analysis piece or essay: it is for joy and for good health. Bon appetite!

I don’t usually write about food, unless it’s the politics of food, but here goes…Cooking is becoming more and more of a joy – especially when I’m cooking for others, and the art seems to be refining itself. Here’s the latest: a very hearty and delicious turkey-vegetable stew. For vegetarian variations, saute tempeh or tofu with tamari or soy sauce in place of turkey. Serves six to eight as a main dish, with bread, rice or noodles – or two people for three days (big batches are easier, I find, and leave you time for other things in life). The dish is a Mediterranean style stew, you could say, and very rich, very tasty, and very healthy.

I never measure anything when I’m cooking, unless I’m using a recipe, which is rare, so unfortunately, you’ll have to judge by taste and instinct, as I do: start with small amounts of each ingredient, then add a bit more at a time, tasting at virtually every addition, until the flavour is – hopefully – sublime. (I’ve included measurements for some items, but these are only estimates, or guesstimates.)

Cooking time: get a bottle of wine or a pot of tea going, and enjoy the slow and easy-going process… 45 minutes to four hours, depending on how long you want to gently simmer it for maximum flavour. (Cooking is like making love: you should never rush it, and always savour every moment.)

If you like, you can throw the ingredients in a crock pot and let it sort itself out. Either way, I hope you enjoy it: both the food and the cooking!

The dish is low carb, high in protein and super-rich in nutrients, high in essential oils and also fibre. It is so rich in flavour that you may want to serve it with a hearty bread or bed of brown rice – or maybe spelt or buckwheat soba noodles.

Quality ingredients, slow, low-heat cooking, and lots of love make all the difference in the world. Get all ingredients as fresh as possible, preferably organic (and local, free-range, fair trade, if you can find it). Then do it up! I make a variation on this stew at least once a week, and it’s always different, always hearty, and always delicious – feel free to experiment! If you don’t have all of the ingredients, leave some out or substitute. This is cooking live: we can improvise!

Todd’s Mediterranean-Style Stew
(possibilities and variations are endless!)

(Again, all ingredients are optional, and can be substituted, as you like. Cookie cutters are for cookies.)

“Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” – Harriett Van Horne

If serving with whole grain rice – red, black or brown – start rice early: whole grain rice takes 45 min+

Chop several cloves of garlic relatively finely (less or none if you’re not so fond of garlic)

(Optional, and preferable: saute 2-3 chopped onions with a shake of salt, in a generous amount of grape seed or coconut oil on very low heat, for 20 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently, making a super-rich and flavourful base)

Melt a generous amount of butter in a large, deep skillet or pot over minimal heat
(2-3 tablespoons – real butter, or ghee, for flavour, and yes, health; stainless steel is best, iron second; copper, aluminum and teflon out of the question for health reasons, unless unavoidable)

Add garlic to melted butter and keep heat very low (most people err in cooking by either rushing or using way too much heat – slow and easy, and pay attention: enjoy it – don’t rush)

Add 3-4 tablespoons of pesto to the garlic and butter, and stir

Add a few dashes of your favourite hot sauce, hot peppers or chilis
(remember, you can always add spicy heat later – start slow; also, if cooking for others, remember not everyone has a cast-iron stomach)

Add a splash of grape seed oil (2-3 tablespoons, roughly; grape seed oil is best for cooking, along with butter, ghee and/or coconut oil – all are healthy oils; substitute if need be)

Saute very gently on low heat for just 3-4 minutes in total (try not to brown the garlic or butter)

Add half a cup of red wine to the saute mix (any left-over wine that has gone vinegary can be used for cooking wine – or fresh works too, of course; either red or white can be used)

Increase heat to moderate, bringing the mix to a gentle simmer – keep the heat from here on at a gentle simmer until finished

Add a large splash of tamari (soy sauce if you don’t have it – careful with this: it is easy to over-do it)

Add a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce (be very careful with this one – it is a very strong flavour: you can always add more, but you can’t take it out once it’s in)

Add a dash of celery salt (sea salt or table salt can sub-in)

Add 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning herbs (if dried, then best if ground with mortar and pestle – and also fun and delicious to the nose)

Add 1-2 tablespoons of basil

Add 2 tablespoons of coriander paste

Add 1-2 pounds of ground turkey (or chicken, or tofu, or tempeh, or chick peas, and/or beans…)

Add 2 cups of diced tomatoes (or 1 can)

Add half a cup of freshly grated romano cheese and half a cup of freshly grated parmesan (or more: more is better when it comes to cheese, butter and olive oil, I firmly believe! Ya, it means we have to exercise more, but it is super-healthful and also low carb and low glycemic index)

Simmer for 20 minutes at least, or longer

If serving with noodles, this is a good time to get them started

Add 1 cup of finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Add another splash of red wine if you like

Add a dash of lemon juice (1 tablespoon max)

20-30 minutes before you are ready to serve the dish, add vegetables at will, to your liking or in different combinations for variations on the dish:

Half a head of cauliflower, chopped

1 large, diced zucchini

5 minutes before serving, add any greens you would like:

Large amount of chopped spinach: half a pound or so, or 3-4 cups fresh (and/or kale, chard, collard….)

Taste, taste, taste….add what you feel it needs – small amounts at a time

Possibly a few more shakes of salt, maybe hot sauce, a dash of balsamic vinegar…as you like

Add olive oil generously, just before serving: 3-4 tablespoons for the pot, or a small splash or teaspoon per bowl (excellent for heart and circulatory system, gall bladder and digestive system, hormonal, nervous and immune systems – high in essential oils; best not heated for very long)

Serve with rice, bread or noodles, and enjoy. Smile when you eat, use all your senses, eat slowly and savour every mouthful, like it’s your last meal: then the smells, textures and tastes will explode in your awareness, and you will enjoy it even more!

Variations: some or all of the following can be added

Add hemp and sesame oil to bowls before serving for an adrenal-supporting, energy-boosting blast of added essential oils, with a rich Asian flavour. An Asian-Mediterranean hybrid dish sounds odd, but surprisingly, it works! The flavour combinations are great!

Ginger: add 2-3 tablespoons of chopped ginger early on and let simmer slowly

Lemon grass paste: 2-3 tablespoons early on, let simmer slowly

Sicilian pesto: 1-3 tablespoons

More zucchini: supports the adrenals, giving energy – lots of zucchini!

Add tofu, tempeh, chick peas and/or beans for added protein, B vitamins, fibre and iron.

Experiment with various Asian sauces: sweet, spicy or tangy

Add just about any kind of vegetable you like: try small amounts first, to see how you like it in the dish, later increasing amounts if you want – except for kale, chard and spinach, which, unless you really don’t like these, you can never have too much of, I’d say.

Vary the cheeses, or leave them out for a change: Emmenthal, Swiss, cheddar, mozza, ricotta, and of course, feta! Wow, feta in this dish is amazing! Goat’s cheese feta is the most digestible kind of cheese, and can be tolerated even by most people with dairy allergies: and it’s super-healthy: pack it in for flavour and health!

Serve with fresh mixed salad for important enzymes, added anti-oxidants, nutrients and fibre. (Healthiest oils for dressings include olive, flax, almond, hemp, sesame – low-grade oils are very damaging to the body.)

Nutritional status and taste:

High protein, low carb, low glycemic index

Meat, vegetarian or vegan options

Super-rich in nutrients, fibre and essential oils

Specific health benefits from each ingredient could fill many pages – let’s just say it’s a very healthy dish

Very richly flavourful

Endless variations on the theme

Delightful!

JTR,
June 16, 2011