Monday, October 30, 2017

What do you crave, salty, sweet… or both?

As daylight gets shorter and temperatures get colder, we tend to hibernate inside, huddled under a blanket, reading a good book or binge-watching Netflix. What better way to enjoy that than with some fresh baked vegan brownies or a bag of Kettle chips to much on? While that may be part of our comfort food routine, the salty-sweet seesaw can become an endless cycle that is never fully satisfied, and we may not realize that it’s making us sick.

Cravings are a sign of imbalance, or what is known as “dysbiosis” from a holistic health perspective. It is a term for a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body, specifically the gastrointestinal tract.  

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “microbiome,” which is the community of microorganisms which reside in our bodies that help keep our immune systems functioning efficiently.  When the “good bacteria” is flourishing, our digestion is strong and we’re able to absorb vitamins and minerals for optional health. However, when there is a proliferation of “bad bacteria,” our health can be compromised.

Symptoms of dysbiosis may include food cravings as well as gas, bloating, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, sinus congestion, and a myriad other responses essentially due to inflammation throughout the body. 

Why does this happen? This condition can be caused by poor diet, such as eating overly sweet and salty processed foods or food sensitivities and intolerances to such foods as wheat, soy, and corn, and flareups can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, and overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which weaken the gut lining.

How can we stop it?  A comprehensive health history analysis is essential to pinpoint the exact cause, since every body is different. However, everyone can benefit by eating more whole foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables which are anti-inflammatory and high in anti-oxidants. 

Balancing salty and sweet with sour and bitter is also important. Try adding dark leafy greens and spices like turmeric and ginger to your diet. In addition, consider your beverage of choice filtered water with a squeeze of lemon. To aid in digestion, try drinking mint or ginger tea and take bitters with each meal. These little tweaks can make a big difference in your overall health and wellbeing.


For a comprehensive list of strategies for killing cravings and treating the underlying causes of dysbiosis, contact me for a free consultation.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Soup Making 101


I had a great time making a variety of vegan soups this afternoon for my "Soup Making 101" class. Thank you to all who attended and to Kat Dargan for assisting! We enjoyed lots of warm and yummy comfort food.

Menu:
- Japanese Miso Soup with Immune Boosting Aromatic Herb Broth
- Rootsy Chowder with Toasted Spiced Pepitas
- Lemony Lentils with Collard Greens and Horseradish Dijon Crema


We started with some hands-on miso mixing which one of the attendees described as "meditative." Indeed. It's a nice way to relax before eating a meal.  I steeped some lemon balm, oregano, and thyme in the broth during the last minute to infuse essential oils that help boost the immune system.  


We also enjoyed layers of flavor from the lemony lentil soup that was topped with a horseradish Dijon crema. This added a creaminess when stirred into the soup. Everyone really enjoyed this combination.


Finally, we closed our meal with a root vegetable chowder made with carrot, parsnip, turnip, yam, potato, and onion. Root vegetables help "root" us and provide strength for the cold season ahead.  This delicious soup was topped with toasted spiced pipits for an added layer of taste and texture.


Everyone had a great time tasting delicious and healthy vegan food, observing the process, and enjoying the company of new friends.  I love getting feedback like this! 

"What amazing food... everything was perfect. My only comment is Bravo!"
"The education along with the prep tips make me think I can do this healthfully."
"The miso soup warmed my chest. Excellent presentation!"
"Lots of chopping to do, but I liked your easier methods."
"I loved the food!!! And seeing it prepared from start to finish." 
"I loved the hands-on experience and seeing different ways of preparing everyday foods." 
"It was delicious. Please do more!"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Seed Saving 101


How is your garden growing? If yours is anything like mine, you're thinking about saying goodbye to summer and beginning to plan ahead to next year's garden.  On the top of my list is saving seeds.

I've had a good run with several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, string beans, peppers, squash, and greens, and I'm already looking forward to starting them again in the spring. So I've been saving seeds.



Let the plants mature, then collect good sized fruits of tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Tomatoes and squash need to be thoroughly rinsed and dried before storing, while pepper seeds can easily be set out on a paper towel to dry.

 

The pods of string beans will swell up, turn brown, and begin to crack open when they're ready for harvesting. Mustard greens go to flower, then form pods which dry out and release tiny round seeds. The same is true of other greens such as lettuce and arugula.


In just a few minutes over the course of a few days, you will have seeds ready for planting next spring. Imagine how fun it will be to harvest free food all summer!  

You can learn more tips on saving seeds from Seed Savers Exchange.  


Sunday, August 27, 2017

New England Women's Herb Conference


This weekend I was fortunate to be able to attenan herb conference with experts in the field of ethnobotany and plant medicine. This was the 30th annual New England Women's Herb Conference held at a camp in beautiful Hebron, NH.

Each year, for the past 30 years the New England Women’s Herbal Conference has brought together women, herbalists, healers, and plant lovers to share their wisdom of the herbs and natural healing. Though the emphasis is on women’s health, healing, and well being, the WHC is also a joyful celebration of women spirit and women’s wisdom, as well as a special time to honor Mother Nature.



In one workshop on flower essences, we learned the energetic properties of some native flowers, including this lovely borage flower. It's easily grown as an annual in New England, and its bright blue flowers make a pretty edible garnish on salads.


Its properties are strength during times of stress, particularly with major life change. That's why borage is known as the courage flower. So plant it in your garden for strength and resilience, and eat some when you need that little boost to move forward in your life.


The founder of the conference, Rosemary Gladstar, led an herb walk across campus where we learned plant stories about native species such as Dandelion, Self-heal, Japanese Knotweed, Goldenrod, Plantain, Lamb's Quarters, Phlox, Jewelweed, White Pine, Elderberry, and a hidden clump of Indian Pipe.


Deb Soule also led a fantastic workshop on designing a Sanctuary Garden: one that is a sanctuary for birds, beneficial insects, pollinators, and people. She runs the wonderful herbal apothecary Avena Botanicals in Rockport, ME. It was a true pleasure to hear her share her plant wisdom with us, including these lovely messages from Native American plant healers.



This was such a wonderful experience and I gained such a wealth of knowledge about the plant kingdom. I look forward to sharing it with students in my vegan cooking classes and presentations.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Backyard weed walk

Daylily, Mint, and Lemon Balm

Our backyards are filled with wild plants that can be consumed for food and medicine.  A common Cherokee belief is that when we respect the plants, they will give us medicine to cure any illness. By observing and understanding plants, we reconnect with Mother Nature and our body’s natural ability to heal. This is also how we empower ourselves and resist oppression. 

Purple and Holy Basil "The King" of Herbs

This weekend I held a weed walk in my backyard.  While it's a relatively small space - just a quarter acre - it's amazing to discover the wide variety of plants growing there.  

The weed walk included hands-on instruction in plant identification, habitat analysis, medicinal properties, and folklore of over 25 common plants found in the suburban landscape.  I shared what I've learned over the past 20 years as a gardener, forager, and herb enthusiast, learning from such luminaries as Widman Steve Brill, David Winston, Jim McDonald, and Rosemary Gladstar. 

We followed the walk by sipping some mint and lemon balm sun tea and munching on fresh snow peas from my garden dipped in an oregano and garlic scape pesto. 

Snow Peas with Oregano and Garlic Scape Pesto

I love these words of inspiration from Michigan herbalist, Jim McDonald, about his first forays into wild plant foraging:
"In 1994, while living in an old, overgrown farmhouse in Okemos, Michigan, I discovered a tattered, purple herb book, left out haphazardly on the kitchen counter by one of my roommates. I began flipping through the book, and within a few weeks had begun foraging through the abundant weeds that covered the property and brewing them into strange tasting teas. Till then, I had little interest in either herbs or health, and so my sudden and growing passion with them was perhaps unusual. In hindsight, I think something in those first sips of strange tea woke in me my passion for plants and their medicine. From those first curious experiences, my hunger to both learn from and serve my green friends has been without end."
My experience began in a similarly innocuous way in 1995 when I was visiting my in-laws and began flipping through the pages of Culpeper's Color Herbal sitting on their coffee table. The book was filled with beautiful color illustrations of plants I had never before taken the time to notice, and I was fascinated by the historical context that extended hundreds, even thousands, of years, and included medicinal properties, food and nutrition information, and folklore. My eyes were opened, and I began to notice these incredible living things everywhere. 

Feverfew growing in abundance on my brick patio

I recommend going on a weed walk whenever you can -- in your own yard, in a field, or deep in the woods. Identify what you know, learn the basic properties, ignite your passion for plants, and share your knowledge with others. Connecting with the wisdom of plants develops our bond with Mother Nature and establishes a pact of protection. If we honor and respect her gifts, use them wisely, and reciprocate with environmental practices that nurture the ecosystem, we can have what Robin Wall Kimmerer calls an "honorable harvest," a truly sustainable environment that supports us all.  

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea)

Garlic Scapes

Plantain (Plantago Major) also known as "White Man's Footprint"

Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) and Lavender (Lavendula Agustafloria)

Tofu with Garlic Scape Pesto

Minto, Cilantro, and Thai Basil Coconut Curry 

Fresh Mesclun Green Salad with Garlic Scape Vinaigrette

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Recipe: World Peas Salad


This is the kind of recipe you'll want to make all summer because it's colorful, refreshing, and most importantly, does not require any cooking. We've been in the midst of our second heat wave here in Connecticut and it's just the first week of summer.  It's been a blessing to indulge in this dish and not have to heat up my kitchen in the process.



I once catered a bridal shower where one of the guests was telling me about a family favorite recipe called “Carolina Caviar” (also known as “Cowboy Caviar”), which she enjoyed when growing up in the south.  It's made with black-eyed peas, a southern staple because it's easy to grow and is a low-cost source of protein. In fact, the other common name for them is "cow peas" because they're often a thrifty feed for cows.  They originate from Northern Africa, so I decided to reclaim their heritage with this recipe and spread the message of world peas/peace in the process.

You can see me demonstrate how to make this quick and easy recipe on my recent cooking segment for WWLP-TV's "Mass Appeal" program. The recipe follows below. 


World Peas Salad
(serves 4-6)

Salad Ingredients
1 15 oz. can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sweet red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp jalapeno, finely diced 
10 oz. frozen yellow corn, drained and thawed
2–3 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 of a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes

Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp agave syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
a few splashes of hot sauce

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.  Combine dressing with the salad ingredients, season with salt and hot sauce, then refrigerate at least a half an hour before serving.  Garnish with fresh chopped scallions and edible flowers.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Veganic Workshop with Will Bonsall



I was fortunate to attend a workshop recently with Will Bonsall on the foundations of veganic agriculture.  This is a natural growing method which uses no chemicals and only vegan inputs. 


Many people are not aware that mass produced organic agriculture is heavily connected to the animal agriculture industry as waste from factory farms is often converted into compost.  This can include cow, pig, and chicken manure as well as feathers, hooves, blood, and bone meal.  Other non-vegan soil amendments include shells from lobster and other crustaceans, fish, and worm castings (manure).  While animals such as worms, insects, and organisms in the soil are essential components of a healthy ecosystem, as veganic gardener Will Bonsall would say, the cultivated, caged, and castrated kind are not.  His book, Will Bonsall’s Radical Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening, is the bible of veganic gardening and an essential read for anyone interested in learning more about the topic.  



Over a dozen of us gathered in the home of Amie Hamlin, the founder of the Coalition for Healthy School Food in Ithaca, NY. She worked together with vegan registered dietician George Eisman and his wife Claire Holzner to coordinate this event. Sadly, George passed away just shortly before this workshop was held, but we could feel his presence with us through the delicious plant-based menu he helped design as well as the joy of the natural world we all shared. 



If you like to dig in the dirt, I recommend converting a sunny spot in your yard into a veganic garden.  This way you will not only be growing fresh produce for yourself, but you will also be forming a deeper connection with Mother Nature. Even if you only have space for a few pots of herbs, this is still a way to get vital plant energy into your body. 


There is nothing healthier than eating fruits and vegetables that have been picked fresh from your own garden, warmed by the sun, fortified with natural soil amendments, and free from harmful pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic chemicals. Most importantly, a veganic garden does not use any animal products in the process.  

Natural ecosystems depend on the process of decomposition to build humus, a rich, nutrient dense compound that supports plant life.  This can be achieved by using Mother Nature’s natural resources, such as dried leaves and grass clippings.  Start a compost pile, feed it with a mix of plant-based kitchen scraps and leaf debris, and you’ll have the formula for good compost. 
Amendments such as seaweed, rice hulls, corn gluten, and “green manure” like clover and buckwheat, can be incorporated into the soil to further enrich it.  Over many seasons of nurturing the soil with lawyers of these components, you will have a thriving veganic garden.  Start small (a simple 6” x 10” plot will do), then expand as your interest and love of gardening grows.
Veganic gardening utilizes natural inputs that enhance the soil, benefit the plants, improve vitamin and mineral content of plants fruits and vegetables, and nourish our bodies.  It is a truly sustainable ecosystem that can save our planet.   

Sunday, May 7, 2017

On-line herbal studies

I've always been interested in culinary herbs for flavoring foods, and more recently i've begun exploring the medicinal properties as well. This is a whole new way of looking at plants that not only taste good, but are also good for us.


I recently completed The Herbal Academy's free Herbal Materia Medica Course which provided a strong foundation for understanding an herb's constituents, actions, energetics, and healing properties as well as best methods for preparations.  My favorite form is teas and decoctions, and I do this with the fresh herbs in my garden like Lemon Balm, Mint, and Oregano.


I chose to study Immune Boosting herbs which are so important to our health. My Materia Medica included Astragalus, Echinacea, Elder, Ginko Biloba, Red Clover, Tulsi, and Turmeric. As much as I thought I already knew, this class taught me so much more.  I can't wait to continue my studies by exploring the Advanced Herbal and Clinical Herbalist courses.

If you're interested in an excellent on-line herbal studies program that can be completed at your own pace, check out their offerings here:  The Herbal Academy Online

Friday, April 7, 2017

Recipe: Tempeh Tartare with Avocado Aioli


I returned to the set of WWLP-TV to make this light and crispy spring salad.  It's a twist on a traditional Norwegian tartare made with raw herring, but I like my vegan version much better!


The crunch comes from diced celery, jicama, and Granny Smith apple. They're tossed in a vinaigrette made with spicy Dijon mustard boosted by a kick of heat from a few drops of Sriracha.


Serve it on top of a salad of bitter greens like these radicchio leaves seen here, or spread it on top of avocado toast for a simple sandwich.  I also like to add some lightly blanched asparagus for that hint of spring.


Garnish with edible flowers like pansies or wild violets and add a sprig of garlic chives if you're lucky to have some popping up in your yard right now!

See me demonstrate how to make this quick and easy recipe on WWLP-TV's "Mass Appeal" cooking segment:


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Appointment: Trustee of AVS


I'm honored and excited to have been named to the Council of Trustees of the American Vegan Society (AVS) which was founded in 1960 by H. Jay and Freya Dinshah. AVS is a 501(c )(3) nonprofit, nonsectarian, nonpolitical, tax-exempt educational membership organization teaching a compassionate way of living by reverence for life and ahimsa.

I look forward to expanding the AVS mission by offering vegan education opportunities to the general public and working with restaurants and food service operations to add vegan items to their menus. As a member of the AVS Speakers Bureau I am also available for public presentations at schools, libraries, and other interested organizations.

You can read the announcement in the Spring Issue of the American Vegan below.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Radical Vegan Wellness

rad·i·cal
ˈradək(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: radical
1 (especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

I want to introduce you to my new Radical Vegan Wellness program.

It’s a comprehensive health overhaul incorporating diet, physical exercise, stress management, and holistic health care to create a healthy family, healthy home and garden, and healthy communities. Many have called it transformative.

I know you’re a compassionate person who cares about animals, people, and the planet, and you want your lifestyle to reflect your values, but you need some guidance and support.  That’s what I’m here for!

Maybe you’ve been vegan for awhile, but you’re the only one you know who shares your values.  Or you’ve switched to a plant-based diet but want to take your health to the next level.  Maybe you’re tired of popping pills for this or that ailment or you just feel tired all the time despite being vegan. Or maybe you’re just getting started on the vegan path, but you need help taking that first step and following through.

What I want to share with you is a plan to take charge of your own health: how you eat, sleep, exercise, and heal yourself. It’s life-changing; not just for you, but for those around you as well. I fully believe that, 
When we come together in unity with compassion for ourselves and all beings, we can heal the planet.  
I’m committed to making this change happen by sharing what I know with you.  Nearly twenty years ago I became vegan for health reasons. I was tired and cranky all the time, had asthma and seasonal allergies that seemed to last all four seasons, I got migraines nearly every week, and I just didn’t think I’d ever feel well again. When allergists told me I needed to be on medication the rest of my life and get rid of my dog who they claimed was causing my asthma, I decided to seek alternatives. This began my journey of discovering how diet, exercise, and holistic health care can transform your life.

I want to let you know what worked for me and has worked for dozens of my clients over the past 13 years. These are simple strategies that anyone can incorporate into their daily lives to ensure success.  Whether it’s losing a few pounds, eliminating food cravings, learning how to create quick and easy meals, increasing energy, or all of the above, I can help. 

Want to learn more?  

I will be hosting a free Skype video conference call on Saturday, March 18 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) to talk about this new program and answer any questions you may have. 


Space is limited to the first 10 people who contact me.  


If you’d like to reserve your spot, please RSVP “Yes” with your Skype handle and I will add you to my contact list.   

I look forward to speaking with you about Radical Vegan Wellness




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recipe: Family Favorite Marinara

One of our greatest challenges as vegans is living among non-vegans, particularly family and friends. I'm often asked how to make food that's appealing to even the "committed carnivore" (perhaps you know someone like this!).  My answer is always: take the familiar and make it fabulous!

Summer vegetable lasagna with fire-roasted tomato marinara 

If your family traditions are Italian like mine, you'll want to master a good lasagna, ravioli, or polenta dish.  These are familiar favorites that everyone knows and loves.  You'll want your meals to taste as good as they look.  So a garnish of fresh herbs, a drizzle of parsley oil or vegan pesto, or handful of toasted pine nuts sprinkled over the top will add visual interest and stimulate the appetite.

Penne with marinara, parsley pistou, and cashew crema

Starting with a foundation of a basic marinara made with fresh basil and fire-roasted tomatoes is essential.  It can be tossed with spaghetti and vegan meatballs, used as a dipping sauce for breaded tofu mozzarella sticks, slathered on pizza, or combined with a tofu ricotta for calzones.

Deep dish pizza with peppers, onions, fire-roasted tomato marinara, and herb oil

Having authentic flavors is key to a successful dinner with non-vegans.  Always have some cans of crushed tomatoes on hand so you can whip up this quick and easy sauce in minutes.  It will taste like you worked all day in the kitchen stirring a hot pot of bubbling tomatoes.


Sun-dried tomato marinara on zucchini noodles

Another technique I use is to add "flavor bursts" for all types of cuisines:  Italian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, West African, French, Chinese, Indian, etc.  Combining fresh herbs, dried spices, and the elements of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and savory makes food satisfying and delicious.

In my private cooking lessons I teach which spice goes best with each cuisine, how to add variety to otherwise ordinary meals (to make them fabulous!), and how to achieve balance through color, taste, and texture.  In just a couple of hours I can help you master these skills and show you how to transform mundane meals into gourmet feasts.

Contact me for details!


Family Favorite Marinara
1 20 oz. can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onion, diced
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
10-12 large basil leaves

In a large sauce pot on medium heat, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, and salt, and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes to thicken. Meanwhile, stack basil leaves, roll into a cigar, then slice very thinly into a chiffonade.  Stir half the basil into the sauce just before serving, then use the remaining as a garnish on top. 




Friday, February 17, 2017

Recipe: Loaded Oatmeal

When I'm presenting to an audience of new vegans or those who are "vegan curious," I'm often asked what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  My cookbook Easy Peasy Vegan Eats is filled with over 100 quick and easy recipes for salads, soups, entrees, and other delicious meals that can be eaten for lunch or dinner, but when it comes to daily breakfast, many people don't have time to prepare tofu scramble or pancakes (even though those recipes from my cookbook are both fabulous!).


What to do?  I start each day with a breakfast loaded with superfoods that fills me up, warms me up, and keeps me energized all morning.  It takes just a few minutes to prepare and is perfect on a cold winter morning.  The oatmeal can be soaked in unsweetened almond milk overnight in a large mason jar, then all the toppings added in the morning for a meal that's easily transportable to your office.   Or you can cook your oatmeal on the stovetop the traditional way to make a hot breakfast at home.

I like to add some combination of fresh and dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and spices that work together synergistically to boost the immune system.  The oatmeal is loaded with fiber and protein which will help fill you up and aid digestion.  For natural sweetness, I use about 10 drops of liquid stevia in the almond milk, then I add fresh and dried fruit, typically a banana, some berries, and raisins or dried cranberries.  Berries are among the healthiest fruits since they're high in antioxidants and natural cancer-fighting phytonutrients called anthocyanins.  A handful on your loaded oatmeal is ideal.

Nuts and seeds are high in protein and omega-3 oil which helps lower bad LDL cholesterol.  I use about a tablespoon each of flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. Be sure to grind your flax seed with a spice mill or coffee grinder in order to better digest them and absorb their nutrients.

Finally, the spice of life!  Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory superfood that has tremendous health benefits.  It has been used to treat cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, lupus, cancer, alzheimer's disease, and so many more.  Even if you're fortunate not to have any of these conditions, turmeric works as a preventative, and just 1/4 tsp a day can improve your body's natural defenses.  Add a few twists of fresh-cracked black pepper to increase the absorption. I sprinkle turmeric, powdered ginger, and Ceylon cinnamon on my breakfast cereal, oatmeal, or in a smoothie every morning. The flavor may take some time to get used to, so start with a little less, then gradually add more as your tastes adjust.

Loaded Oatmeal
(1 serving)

1 cup water
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (add a few drops of Stevia for sweetness)
1 Tbl ground flax seed
1 Tbl ground hemp seed
1 Tbl chia seed
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts
1 banana
8 blackberries (or any other berry, fresh or frozen)

Combine water and oatmeal in a pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 5 minutes until creamy. Alternatively, place in a Mason jar to soak overnight. Pour into a serving bowl and stir in almond milk.  Top with remaining ingredients.