Archive for January 2013

Which is a “food of the gods”?

So easy that I’ve made it several times. So yummy that I’m bringing it to share with my family this weekend. Mushrooms were called “food of the gods” by the Romans. Though most of the research on the health benefits of mushrooms have focused on shiitake, reishi, and maitake mushrooms, all mushrooms, including the common ones, like white button, crimini, and oyster mushrooms have immune system benefits. They contain polysaccharides and beta-glucan components that have been touted for their anti-cancer benefits, amongst other things. They are also rich in B vitamins, zinc, and potassium.

When buying mushrooms, look for ones that are not broken or bruised. The end of the stem should be fresh and moist, not dried out. Also avoid mushrooms that are wrinkled, wet, or slimy. Store mushrooms in a loosely closed paper bag.

But enough with that. What you really want to know is how to make this soup.

This is my slightly modified version from The Tasty Alternative.

First of all, she says it takes just 10 minutes, but it took me more like 20, probably because I’m slower to wash and slice.

Ingredients
1/2 yellow onion, small chop
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups chopped crimini mushrooms (or preferred mushrooms)
2 cups cashew milk* (see below notes for how to make this; I often make more than I need so I can use the extra for other things)
1 cup homemade stock (of choice: chicken, mushroom, veggie, etc.)
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic granules (I often use fresh minced garlic instead)
Pepper for garnish or to taste
Preferred oil for sautéing — grapeseed oil is what I used here

Instructions

Note: You need to start plan ahead to make this soup because of the cashew milk. You might be able to just use a bought version, but I think that would be too thin.
For cashew milk: soak 1 cup of cashews in filtered water 4 to 8 hours (I just soak them overnight). Drain, rinse, and blend with 3 cups filtered water (she uses a Vitamix, I’m still dreaming about getting one). Poor into glass jar and store in fridge up to 4 days.

1. Add some oil to pot
2. Add onions, garlic, and salt and saute until translucent
3.. Add mushrooms and saute until soft
4. Add cashew milk and broth
5. Bring to a simmer until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes
6. Remove from heat and blend with immersion blender (or any blending method of your choice)
7. Soup will thicken up even more as it cools

I would freeze the extra, but it doesn’t last more than a couple of days in my fridge anyway as my husband loves this one.

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Grilled Portobello Burgers

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, these burgers are deeeeelish! I do eat meat, but sometimes I want something that has a meaty feel to it without the meat. Mushrooms are such a great solution for this. Not only are they yummy, but they are also good for your immune system. So, without further ado, here’s the burger that even my husband craves.

* modified version from The No Meat Athlete

Ingredients
Portobello mushroom caps–as many as you want burgers

For 3 burgers, I use:
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
thyme, either 1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh

your choice of bun (or not)

topping options:
onions
sliced beets–I’ll choose jarred ones if I want to make this quick and easy
arugula or other leafy green–arugula is my fave
cheese–Daiya brand has a non-dairy, non-soy cheese, but I prefer without
sliced tomatoes
pickles
relish
avocado

Instructions

Preheat your grill to high. Mix thyme, Worcestershire, and Dijon mustard in a bowl. Dip the top of each Portobello cap into the mixture. Place the mushrooms top-side down on the grill. Grill for 3 minutes or until they are well-marked by the grill, flip and grill for another 3 minutes or so. Just watch them carefully so they don’t burn. I use a George Foreman-like grill, so I just press the portobello in that and both sides are cooked at the same time.

If you want, drizzle some oil on both sides of the bread and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 1-2 minutes per side, again looking for marks but not letting them burn.

Build your burger with toppings.

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Culture and Food

I was recently interviewed for my take on foods enjoyed by different cultures. I’m half Japanese, half Caucasian. Though my mom is third generation Japanese-Canadian and though my family does not continue to hold that many Japanese traditions, cultural foods seem to stick around. Even at Thanksgiving and Christmas we would often have rice as a side option. When I was a kid, I loved having seaweed paste on my rice. When we were sick we had ochazuke, rice in green tea. I love o’senbei rice crackers, even though they stink. On New Year’s Day, we always have o’zoni, which is a Japanese soup with mochi (pounded rice cakes), though we called that glue soup because of the consistency of the mochi. And I would eat slice after slice after slice of yokan, a bean paste sweet.

From my dad’s side of the family, we started the day with a big breakfast. My grandparents followed the tradition of eating the big meals at breakfast and lunch–which they call “dinner”. They ate much less at the evening meal–“supper”. I now eat 5-6 small meals a deal rather than 3 meals daily, but my favourite meal of the day is breakfast.

This is the article, if you want to read about how I, and a few others, approach culture, food, and health: “Experts Reveal Cultural Dietary Wisdom

What foods speak strongly of your cultural background?

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“No Time. No Money. Don’t Know How.”

“I’m on holidays, so my usual health routines don’t apply.”

All excuses. But it’s not difficult to make the healthier choices. First of all, the holidays excuse. I do believe that it’s a good idea to ease up on regular routines once in awhile. Of course I too like to indulge with my food, toss out sleep/wake specific schedules, and skip the regular workout routine. But I find that if I keep at least one of my healthy habits on track, I feel much better.

I find that I love to enjoy the local cuisine, even if that means pastries or rich meals. I also find that I don’t always have control over the timing of events. Some activities require a later night, while others mean getting up super early. Where I can have more control is often how active I am. I find ways to walk, hike, take the stairs, join dynamic activities, and any other way to move. I start my day with 20 to 30 minutes of yoga. No excuses.

No time? Take an inventory of what you do in a day. Do you have 10 minutes? Schedule in that time, at least that, every day. Stretch, take a fast walk, do jumping jacks, do kettleball swings, or do yoga sun salutations; choose activities based on your own level and ability. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. For healthy food, cook in large batches so that you have leftovers to freeze; use a slow cooker or timer rice cooker; and choose recipes with 5 ingredients or less. For sleep, know that without enough sleep, you will be less efficient over your day, so skimping here does not endow you with more time. No excuses.

No money? The movement activities I listed above cost you nothing, or next to nothing. You don’t have to join a gym or take classes to exercise, though you may want to get some initial guidance from a trainer, especially if you are not regularly active, want to push yourself to the next level, or have injuries. Fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, and grains can be purchased inexpensively. If you buy dried legumes, you can soak them, cook them, and freeze them for future use. For good sleep, invest in a decent bed and pillow. They will last you for a long time and be worth the investment, but you don’t have the buy the most expensive ones to get good quality. No excuses.

Don’t know how? Certainly there are many places to research online, but make sure that you use common sense and, of course, understand that not all the information is valid. If you need help, there are many of us who studied health and wellness for years and continue to keep up to date on health research, supplements, nutrition, exercises, and more. I’m always happy to help! You know by now what I’m going to write here…no excuses!

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Waiting to Exhale

Watching the water in anticipation. That’s what so many do when they are in Hawaii or any place that you can see whales. Lucky me, I’ve seen whales from the waters of Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and am now watching the waters in Hawaii. What’s the first thing you look for when whale watching? A spout–a sign of a breath.

We wait in anticipation for a sign of a whale breath, but how often do we pay attention to our very own breath? Think about it. How are you breathing now? How have you been breathing for the last few minutes? Breath is mostly something we do unconsciously, so for the most part we just breathe as we breathe. But for our better health, physically and mentally, making sure to set time aside each day to focus on conscious breathing is important.

We usually don’t use much of our lung capacity. We exchange only about 15 to 20% of the air in our lungs. Whales are much more efficient, exchanging over 90% with each breath. This is why humpback whales (the kinds I’m watching in Hawaii) can hold their breath up to 45 minutes, though they usually breathe much more often.

Test out what it feels like to take a deeper breath. Take a slow deep breath as you feel your ribs and belly expand. Hold for a count at the top of your breath. Then breath out equally slowly, all the way out. Again hold for one count. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

How do you feel?

You won’t be able to match a whale’s breath, but you can gain the massive benefits of focused breath.

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