Guilt-Free Desserts

Majority of people crave sweets. The sweet taste promotes happiness, contentment, cheerfulness, love, and satisfaction in the mind. We all need sweet tasted food in our diet to make it balanced. A simple sugar like cookies, donuts, breakfast cereals, etc., goes right into your bloodstream. Excess glucose and fructose are both converted to fat and stored. It gives you a quick spike of hyperactivity and then – when you totally not ready for that – your blood sugar goes down, and you feel no energy, tired, sleepy. It is quite inconvenient if it is 11:00 am, and there is still another hour of meetings before the lunchtime. A quick search for a cookie or chocolate or coke or whatever you can find in your drawer…

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Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_4212It is our favorite Fall/Winter soup. It even looks like fall when leaves on the trees change colors to yellow, orange, and red while some surprisingly stay green.

When it rains or the wind is blowing so strong making us hurry up in the warm shelter of our homes, this soup is the best “comfort food” – sweet, warming, and satiating. Easy to make, easy to digest, and healthy. Butternut squash belongs to the family called “winter squash” – seasonal vegetables with tons of vitamins. It is designed to keep you warm regardless of cold weather. It can stay in the fridge for 2 – 3 days… Yum!

Ingredients

  1. 1 large Butternut Squash peeled and cut into cubes
  2. 4-5 organic bulk carrots cut into rounds
  3. 1 big onion cut into pieces
  4. 1-2 large organic zucchini
  5. 1 small bunch of organic parsley with stems
  6. 1.5 Tbs sea salt
  7. 1/2 tsp cumin
  8. 1/2 tsp coriander
  9. 1/2 tsp paprika
  10. 1/2 inch of fresh ginger
  11. 2 Tbs olive oil
  12. Water as much as it takes to cover vegetables

Cooking Instructions

  1. Cut onion into 1/2 inch pieces. Put a cooking pot on the range, add olive oil. After a few moments when oil is warm add onion. Reduce the flame and let the onion simmer. It may become slightly light brown.
  2. Peel butternut squashes skin off. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Remove and discard seeds. Put the cut butternut squash into the pot on top of simmered onion
  3. Cut carrots into 1/2 inch rounds and put on top of squash
  4. Cut zucchini into 1 inch half moons and add to the pot
  5. Slowly pour cold water on top of vegetables until they are almost covered.
  6. Increase the flame so water can reach boiling point. Reduce the flame when it boils, add salt, cover with a lid but leave some room so nothing would escape from the pot.
  7. Cook for 20 minutes.
  8. Add the rest of the spices
  9. Cut fresh ginger into very small pieces and add to the pot.
  10. Cut parsley and add to the pot. Cook for another minute.
  11. Turn off the flame. Let it cool off a little to protect your mixer knives from becoming dull.
  12. Mix well with an electrical mixer until your soup has even creamy texture
  13. Try it for salt. Add salt if needed to your taste.
  14. Serve hot.
  15. You can enjoy it with minced parsley added to your bowl and with your favorite crackers or homemade croutons or as is 🙂

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**Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

  • Butternut squash has very low calories. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, is a rich source of dietary fiber. Squash is one of the common vegetables that often recommended by dieticians in the cholesterol controlling and weight-reduction programs.
  • It has more vitamin A than other vegetables, constituting about 354% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus. It is also an essential vitamin for optimum eye-sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help the body protected against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • It is rich in the B-complex group of vitamins like folate, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid. It contains adequate levels of minerals like iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

What about Mushrooms?

mushroomsBeansLeek500x300

I was introduced to mushrooms in my early childhood. We used to hop on a bus in the wee hours to go mushroom picking in the forest. It was one of fun activities during late summer – early fall. It was so exciting to walk through the early morning forest in the rubber boots with a basket and search for edible mushrooms under the trees. In the middle of the day our baskets were almost full with colorful mushrooms. We all got together to sit down, rest, admire each other’s crop, drink hot tea from thermos and eat our tasty sandwiches lovingly prepared on the previous night. That’s as far as my interest for mushrooms went.

The next less exciting but necessary step was to clean, sort the mushrooms and prepare them for different cooking styles: some were good for conservation – pickled mushrooms in a jar – delicious appetiser during winter gatherings; some were good to dry and use in soups throughout the year; some were good to cook for that day dinner – Russian favorites – fried chanterelle mushrooms with onions, sour cream and potatoes! 🙂

I didn’t care about any of it 🙂

When I started my journey studying foods and their medicinal properties, I rediscovered mushrooms and developed taste for them overtime. Now mushrooms take a well-deserved place in my regular cuisine.

Mushrooms …

What are they? They aren’t vegetables no legumes. These, not so obviously defined plants, are very humble and modest. But as we know G-d often design humble to possess amazing qualities. And mushrooms are no exception. shiitake550x300

One of the medicinal mushroom leaders is Shiitake. Shiitake mushrooms high in many enzymes and vitamins that are not usually found in plants. Shiitake is effective in treating a long list of ailments including high cholesterol, gallstones, hyperacidity, stomach ulcers, diabetes, vitamin deficiency, anemia, and even the common cold. Shiitake are able to rapidly lower serum cholesterol. Studies with humans have shown that only three ounces of shiitake (5-6 mushrooms) a day can lower cholesterol by twelve percent in a week. There is increasing evidence that the health-promoting compounds found in medicinal and edible fungi, including shiitake, stimulate the immune system. Shiitake stimulate the defense system, spurring the immune fighters that attack cancer cells, bacteria, and viruses.

As a food source, Shiitake contains all eight of the essential amino acids in a better ratio than meat, milk, eggs, or soy beans. Not to mention they contain an excellent combination of vitamins and mineral including A, B, B12, C, and D. In addition, Shiitake produces a fat-absorbing compound which is perfect for those wanting to lose weight. It’s no wonder why the shiitake is also known as the “miracle mushroom”. Dried shiitake mushrooms have even stronger medicinal properties than fresh. And they are delicious when cooked!

Shiitake mushrooms are great in soups and various vegetable dishes. Here is the recipe of a basic miso soup where along with other ingredients it offers you healing powerhouse dish. Heal, lose weight and Enjoy!

enoki-mushrooms

The Enoki mushrooms could be found in Whole Foods Market or other health food stores and Asian markets. Enokitake mushrooms have tumour fighting compounds. They suppress further cancer growth and spread.

Enokitake has antioxidants that rid the body of free radicals hence boosting the immune system. The Enoki mushroom impacted greatly in test treatments of lymphoma and prostate cancer. The Enokitake mushroom also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. They help to balance the immune system and to keep the liver healthy.

The Enoki is able to fight against diseases of degenerative sicknesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. It also has anti-inflammatory substances that help lower the risk of heart diseases.

Enoki mushrooms has to be cooked in at least 100 degrees of heat for 20 consecutive minutes.

BunashimejiMushroomsBunaShimeji Mushrooms – another medicinal kind and also very tasty. I usually buy them in Whole Foods Market and make various recipes. They are delicious in soups and go well with other vegetables.

Shimeji have tumors fighting properties. Shimeji mushrooms can also help diabetes, asthma and certain allergies by enhancing the immune system and boosting its healing capabilities.

Shimeji mushrooms have meaty taste. Their texture is firm. These mushrooms are used in preparation of soups and stir fried dishes. These mushrooms are also ideal for casseroles. It is important to cook these mushrooms before serving them. Raw shimeji mushrooms have a bitter taste. Cooked shimeji mushrooms are flavourful. It is best to use Shimeji mushrooms in combination with other vegetables because they are rich in Umami compounds. Umami compounds are known for enhancing the flavour of food.

My recent creation – Balanced delicious dish with BunaShimeji and oyster mushrooms, black soy beans, leek, and quinoa – Enjoy!

Bunashimeji Oyster Leek Beans Quinoa

 

Summer Daily Menu

Many people asked me about a menu for a day.

I put together a sample menu for summer. I selected cooking styles as well as grains, beans and vegetables that mostly suited to nourish your organs during hot summer days. The menu consists of lightly cooked, easily digested foods which will help your body to balance normal temperature, not get overheated while providing plenty of nutrients.

BREAKFAST

quinoa sauteed veggies

strawberries

pumpkin seeds

LUNCH – EASY to take to work

Tabouleh saladhummusPeach

SNACK 

In case you feel hungry and want to eat something small between lunch and dinner – 1/2 cup of almonds or walnuts is a healthy option

DINNER

beet soup

Tofu barley green beanswatermelon

Enjoy!


Health Tip** For some people summer is associated with barbecue in the middle of a hot day. Eating grilled meat is very stringent for the heart and other organs. Liver gets overheated. People might experience excessive sweating and have hard time being outside to enjoy the sunny day. Refrain from barbecued meat could make a surprising pleasant shift to being able withstand 85+F much more comfortable and easy.

Coffee Love Makeover

I was a coffee drinker for as long as I can remember. Being born in Europe, it was natural to drink coffee. It was part of life, it was part of culture. We had a cup of coffee for breakfast and for a late night out. The size of an average coffee cup was about 2 espresso shots 🙂

riga coffee cup

When we moved to the US, I was surprised at many things; one of them the size of the coffee mug and that coffee is offered for free in every place I worked with unlimited refill. Being a coffee lover, I appreciated the accessibility to coffee all day long. Moreover, I noticed that it is “a thing to do” to run to a Starbucks for a cup of coffee in the middle of the morning and in the middle of the afternoon. It was all great until I realized that I was feeling sleepy multiple times a day. The more pressured situation I was in, the more difficult it was for me to stay awake. I was horrified that I was falling asleep in the middle of an important business meeting. I had to pinch myself under the table but even the pain could not help me to stay awake. I remember hiding in my office to take 20-30 minutes nap. It didn’t get any easier to drive home after a long workday. Driving in traffic was unbearable; I was falling asleep behind the wheel. It got to the point of not only being embarrassed at work but actually dangerous on the road. I felt tired and exhausted all the time. I was in my thirties!

I was very concern about my condition – constantly feeling tired and I started looking for the information. First time I encountered a nutritionist who told me quit coffee, I had a nervous laugh. I thought my life and ability to function totally depended on the caffeine. I couldn’t fathom such a crazy idea to quit coffee… But I did decide to give it a try. I had a 1 liter bottle of water in the morning and I had another liter throughout the day, (I know now that having so much water is not good; it washes off necessary minerals from our body). The water quickly cleansed caffeine from my system and … what an unexpected surprise! I started functioning much better. I could go through the day feeling energized without coffee or any caffeine whatsoever!

Later on I learned that starting day with a cup of coffee before food is a shock to the system. You will wake up quickly but then you will get tired quickly. Coffee shuts down the adrenal system, dries your bones and skin, and takes you out of balance. Most a.m. coffee drinkers don’t realize it, but their morning cups of coffee set their bodies up for a rollercoaster day of highs and lows, only to bottom out at the point of exhaustion. Just a few hours after consumption, when the artificial high dies down, many people may reach for more coffee or something sugary to get another lift, leading to daily fluctuations in energy and alertness, and possibly to eventual chronic adrenal exhaustion.

By stimulating your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, caffeine puts your body in this “fight-or-flight” state, which is useless while you’re just sitting at your desk. When this adrenal high wears off later, you feel the drop in terms of fatigue, irritability, headache or confusion.

Caffeine causes nerve cells in the brain and body to fire faster, increasing activity of the stress response system. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to increase cortisol release. Cortisol then elevates heart rate and blood pressure and shuts down digestion. Once the adrenals are provoked to release cortisol in such a manner over and over again, a decreased resistance to stress occurs. Chronic adrenal stimulation from caffeine results in chronic high levels of cortisol, which breaks down healthy bone and muscle, and interferes with digestion, metabolism and mental function.

The majority of coffee drinkers who want to cut down on caffeine think, “I’ll just drink some decaf instead”.  Decaffeinated coffee is a processed product; moreover it is chemically processed. Most of the methods use chemicals like methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and highly pressurized carbon dioxide.  After the green beans are moistened, they are immersed into the chosen solvent.  After the solvent performs its chemical reaction, the beans are rinsed with water.  The final decaffeination phase is steaming the beans. Decaffeinated drinks have been advertised as a healthy alternative for several decades at the behest of the chemical industry, but these drinks are often more dangerous than the unmodified versions.

Decaffeinated Coffee Is Highly Acidic. Too much acidity causes health problems that include heartburn, ulcers, inflammatory bowel conditions, osteoporosis, and urinary tract inflammations.

It is better to have a small cup of organic coffee once in a while than a decaffeinated one.

A cup of high-quality tea can be a great alternative as a warm, soothing morning beverage.

Green tea seems a popular choice. While green tea has many health benefits, it still has a lot of caffeine. Green tea  contains just  41 percent less caffeine than coffee.

I drink Kukicha tea now.

I run through my long busy day staying alert and full of energy without any form of caffeine or taking a nap.kukicha tea Amazon

Kukicha tea is made from a variety of twigs and coarse leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Kukicha tea is a good source of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. A cup of kukicha tea has 90 percent less caffeine than a cup of regular brewed coffee. Kukicha has the lowest caffeine content of all the traditional teas.

To keep the tea as naturally low in caffeine as possible, growers only select older twigs. Tea producers harvest the kukicha twigs and leaves in the fall and winter seasons when they are the most delicate and the caffeine content is at its lowest.

Kukicha teaGeorge Ohsawa, the founder of the macrobiotic system, brought kukicha tea to the U.S. in the 1960s from Japan. The tea is a healthy complement to a macrobiotic diet.

  • It is a really alkalizing drink
  • It is very rich in vitamins and minerals
  • It has a high calcium content
  • It has virtually no caffeine, it can be taken any time of day, even after dinner, without running the risk of lose sleep.