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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Apples

Rosh Hashanah – It is a wonderful time. It is a new beginning with the deepened love, understanding, resolutions, commitments and sweet familiar feeling of celebration. It is time for new and old – like our traditions.

Traditionally we start the celebration by dipping apples into honey and wishing each other sweet year!AppleGala600

If you are, like me, eat according to the season, then you have not had apples for a while. Last season apples lost their taste and vitamins long time ago. Lately our tastes for fresh produce were mostly attracted to strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches and similar summer seasonal fruits.

And now I am excited for a new crop of this year apples – the first ones so tender, juicy with wonderful aroma. So many different kinds – all taste so amazing like never before!

New crop just in time for old and wise tradition to have apples for Rosh Hashanah!

Organic apples are so delicious and packed with vitamins.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old saying that most of us are familiar with, but what makes this fruit so special? What health benefits are associated with eating apples?

As one of the most cultivated and consumed fruits in the world, apples are continuously being praised as a “miracle food”.  Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants and dietary fiber. Apples deserve to be called “nutritional powerhouses”. They contain many important nutrients: Vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, iron, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

Apples could be enjoyed in so many different recipes: just raw (with or without honey), baked, in salads, applesauce, as stuffing and many more.

Here are couple simple healthy recipes:

Baked apple slices, with raisins, almonds, and dried cherries in pomegranate juice and honeyReadyTo Bake Apples

Ingredients:

  • 4 organic golden delicious or granny smith apples
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • ½ cup dry cherries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 2 Tbsp organic raw honey

Cooking Instructions:

Cut apples to 8 slices each and place in the baking sheet (see picture above), evenly spread raisins, almonds and dry cherries. Mix pomegranate juice and honey and pour over apples. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 F without cover.

Enjoy for dessert or mid-day snack!

baked Apples

Blanched collard salad with gala apples, peanuts, sesame seeds and parsley

CollardAppleSalad_300Ingredients:

  • 2 leaves organic collard greens and stems
  • 1 quarter raw organic gala apple
  • 1/4 cup minced organic parsley
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds

Dressing:

Freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with a few drops of brown rice vinegar, a few drops of soy sauce and a tea-spoon of peanut oil

Cooking Instructions:

Wash and check collard. Cut the stems off. Put stems in a pot with boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the hot water and let cool off. Put collard leaves one by one in the boiling water for 30 seconds.

Slice blanched collard stems, collard leaves, apples, parsley and mix together. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts and sesame seeds. Add dressing.

Happy Rosh Hashanah! Sweet and healthy New 5776 Year !

Summer Fruit and Vegetables

cherriesSummer is a wonderful season with long days and lots of sunshine. We like to spend more time outside – walking along the beach or park, playing summer sports or watching our kids play, swimming or watching others swim, and eating outdoors either at our backyards, balconies or forest preserves picnic areas.
Our body needs food to cool off when it is hot outside. No wonder we like to have fresh salads, cold summer soups. Out of sudden long cooked dishes lose their attraction. We enjoy raw fruit and berries. They are delicious and ripe with the abundance of sun.
The color of vegetables also shifted to more bright warm colors like yellow, red and all in between.
It is time for fresh berries – strawberries, blueberries, cherries, sour cherries.
It is time for summer fruits – watermelon, peaches, apricots, and plums.

We enjoy newly harvested vegetables – radishes, carrots, daikon, and beets.
Red color is dominant 🙂 though green vegetables are always good for you. Green vegetables help keep our diet balanced and not to overload on glucose which could be tough on our liver.

Because we naturally get more sugar from summer vegetables, berries and fruits, our body is craving pungent even bitter taste to balance it out.
Radish, daikon, arugula, dandelion, and ginger are great veggies to keep us healthy while we indulge ourselves with sugary freshly grown summer produce.

Summer food is sweet. Most of the recipes are raw or quickly cooked.

Corn on the cob takes 5-7 minutes to cook. Corn
Cucumber zucchini Polenta soup takes 10 minute to cook. cucumber soup
Red Cabbage, Daikon pressed salad takes 10 minutes to prepare (plus 1 hour under press) pressed salad

Health Tip** The higher the temperature that food is cooked, the longer it stays in your gut and the more difficult it becomes for your digestive mechanisms to digest it.

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.

Healthy Life Lessons from Maimonides to our Days

Rambam

Our generation is facing one of the serious health issues – obesity. In response to public demand many diets were introduced in the recent years. Some of them come and go quietly without creating too much damage; some of them unfortunately did not go so unnoticed. We have rights to ask the question who is behind promoting those diets and how many years of scientific studies did they undergo?

When a new diet shows up, people jump to it without realizing we are playing with our
own health. It is not yet another book, or an article – it is our health that is at risk.

Some people who follow kosher dietary laws would eat anything as long as the package has a trusted rabbinical certification. It is assumed to be good. G-d will take care of theside7 rest. Is it true?

We do not seem to think that the Torah requires us to control our eating to preserve our health. It is quite opposite. There are laws in the code of Jewish laws (Halacha) about eating. I will have another post to cover this amazing topic.

Maimonides – one of the greatest Jewish philosopher and the outstanding doctor who lived 800 years ago wrote a tremendous amount of material concerning health. Maimonides’ teachings have withstood hundreds of years and are as solid and truthful as they have ever been. Many recent nutritionists outside of Jewish world came to the same conclusions after decades of proven studies on the matter. Every science and medical discovery till nowadays just provides confirmation of Torah’s ultimate truth and wisdom. It encourages the fact that this manual for living is given to us with love and care.

In his writings, Maimonides gave very clear instructions regarding what, when and how much people should eat in order to lead a healthy life. One of his well-known quotes is: “No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.”

His attitude to medicine is based on three main fundamentals — nutrition, physical exercise and balanced mental state. If you practice physical activity but neglect your nutrition, or eat healthy but do not exercise, or suffer from depression, then eventually your health will suffer. Maimonides has talks on the benefits of sun exposure, vegetarianism and a good night sleep.

Maimonides teaches Don’t eat three hours before bedtime; wait one hour after rising to eat; don’t drink milk; avoid meat (if you must eat animal flesh, choose chicken); eat small fish, such as the sardine, instead of big fish, like the tuna; don’t drink as you eat, (Too much fluid dilutes the enzymes, which makes digestion harder) and, the most obvious one, don’t overeat.”

Maimonides says that most of the health and sickness of the body ruled by how one digests his food. One who does it in the proper way will be a healthy person, but one who does not do it right will be a weak person and can bring himself to danger.

The beginning of the digestion process takes place in the mouth, as the teeth grind the food and mix it with saliva. Therefore, one should not swallow any food without chewing it first. The stomach’s job is much easier if one were to chew his food properly before swallowing it. Since chewing is so important, one should refrain from talking (including talking on the phone). Aside from the danger of choking, this also prevents proper chewing. Reading also distracts one from chewing. One should not place food on his fork while he is chewing, as he will swallow his food faster if he sees food ready on his fork to be eaten.

One should be in a happy mood and not full of anger, fear and worry while eating.


Even a snack requires you to sit down, chew well and give it your full attention.

Healthy Snack