Saturday, December 24, 2016

What are your favorite winter rituals?
Since childhood I’ve been a big believer in angels and in fact I credit them with  the magic and wonderful opportunities I’ve had in my life to travel around the world and share my gift with people.  I rely on them a lot to be my kitchen helpers – and of course they let me take all the credit – it’s our little secret!
I love Winter time, and depending on where I am in the world, I have different rituals for this time of year.  I grew up in rural Ireland and my childhood memories of winter are of warm cozy meals and gatherings around an open fire, storytelling with my family.  Making snowmen and sledding down the hills on makeshift sleds, usually old pieces of wood we found in the shed.  Snowball fights and of course the anticipation of Christmas and what gifts Santa Claus would bring.
These days, with my traveling lifestyle, I can never anticipate where I’m going to be come Winter.  Some years I’m swimming in tropical waters and some, I’m huddled up by the fire to stay warm.  Always though, my life and days revolve around food, so I’m usually creating winter delights with whatever ingredients I can find locally.  Last year I spent winter between Los Angeles and Hawaii. I love the feeling of festivity at this time of year as we have Thanksgiving in the U.S., Christmas and New Year – all excuses for me to create celebratory feasts and bring people together around the table.

Do you celebrate Christmas and how?
I love to celebrate Christmas – perhaps because I carry so many happy memories from the Christmases of my childhood.  I’m not a religious person as such, but I will often find myself going to church or some sort of spiritual gathering on Christmas day as I enjoy the ritual of it.  Although sometimes my church is just time alone, sitting on a rock on a beautiful beach, or a nice walk in nature. 
I love to decorate my home wherever I am, but often it will be with things I find in nature.  Last year I went to the beach and found a nice piece of driftwood and turned it into a Christmas tree of sorts.  Adorned with some lights, jewelry and ribbons it looked perfectly festive. 
I also love an excuse to give gifts to people I’m with.  Simple, thoughtful gifts that don’t involve mountains of wrapping paper and packaging – I really don’t wish to contribute to the commercialization of Christmas and all the waste this involves.  I sometimes go to the local thrift store and find old scarves and fabrics to wrap my gifts in and look for creative ways to make my Christmas a little lower impact and fun. 
And then there’s my favorite part – the food!  I’m usually cooking for clients or friends on Christmas day and often have various palates and dietary preferences to cater to.  My choice is to keep my cooking predominantly plant based, but often I’ll be cooking for clients who want to include a turkey or something traditional in their Christmas meal, so there will always be choices. 

Any tips for food regime in the cold climates?
What I love about nature and being in tune with nature in my life and cooking is that it is perfectly designed.  Foods that naturally thrive in a colder climate are the perfect foods for us to consume to help us stay warm and be in balance at this time of year.  Winter time draws us inwards and encourages us towards warmth and heartiness in our cooking.  Cooked porridges for breakfast, warming soups, stews and oven baked casseroles are all good options for cold climates.  Root vegetables and foods that grow on or below the earth have a more heating effect on the body, unlike food and fruits that grow on trees that keep us cool in warmer climates. 
It’s important also to get good quality fats to insulate the body in colder climates – good sources of fats are oily fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts and seeds and using good quality oils like olive, flax, hempseed oil.  Rather than frying foods, I like to drizzle oil on my vegetables and other dishes, or use in making dressings.

Can you share your favorite winter recipe with us? (you can add a photo if you like)
This is a difficult choice as I’m always creating new dishes, but we never had a Christmas growing up without Christmas pudding, or plum pudding as it was also called.  My Granny would make the puddings and traditionally they were made early in the year and stored so the flavors matured.  This is my own variation on my Granny’s recipe and it’s usually thoroughly enjoyed.  It’s traditional to pour brandy over the pudding and light it at the table to burn off the alcohol – I still like to do this as it gives it a lovely flavor.

Aine’s Christmas Pudding:
1 cup raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped pitted prunes
½ cup chopped dried figs
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup crystallized ginger – small diced
¼ cup brandy
1 Tbs. orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tbs. lime juice
½ cup maple syrup
Big pinch sea salt
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup melted coconut oil
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½  cups ground almonds
2 cups white breadcrumbs
1 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups non-dairy milk (rice, hemp, oat, almond)

Mixing bowls
2 ceramic or glass pudding bowls with rims
Cheesecloth or light muslin
Aluminum foil
String for tying bowls

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dried fruit and ginger and add brandy, orange zest and juice, lime juice, maple syrup, salt, spices and vanilla. Mix well, cover bowl and set aside to marinate overnight.

When ready to make puddings, transfer the soaked fruit into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well.  Rub the inside of two ceramic or glass pudding bowls with oil and line the inside with a couple of layers of cheesecloth, leaving enough to hang out over the edges.  Divide the pudding mixture between the two bowls and draw the edges of the cheesecloth together in the middle and tie with a string. 
Cover the top of the bowls with aluminum foil, putting a pleat in the middle of the foil to allow for expansion during the cooking process.  Tuck the foil well in around the bowls and tie around the outside near the top with string, looping the string over the top to make a handle that can be used to lift the bowl.  You want to make sure the foil is tucked in and tied securely so that no water or steam gets into the pudding during the cooking process.
Put the bowls into large saucepans with tight fitting lids.  Fill the saucepans with enough water to come to within an inch of the top of bowls.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 4 hours.  Check occasionally to make sure there’s enough water and add some if it’s getting low.
It’s traditional to make your puddings several months before Christmas and re-steam on the day.  When ready to use, steam them again for about 2 hours.
To serve, turn out onto a platter and drizzle liberally with brandy – set it alight immediately to burn off the alcohol. 
You can serve with ice cream or whipped cream or non-dairy alternatives.

Where are you going to be this winter/what are your plans for work and celebration?
I can honestly say at this stage that I really don’t know.  I’m currently home in Ireland for a couple of months cooking for my mother who just had surgery.  I love being home in Ireland and may extend my stay here until Christmas, in which case I will be celebrating with my lovely parents, who just celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary!

What’s your favorite book to curl up with by the fire?
I’m obsessed with wild foods foraging and fermentation at the moment.  I made my first batch of beer using wild foraged herbs recently and it was quite delicious.  One of my mentors in the wild foods world just published a wonderful book called “The new Wildcrafted Cuisine” which I have by my bedside and enjoy reading for ideas and inspiration.  I really don’t take cookbooks into the kitchen as it’s my creative space and I like to let my creative spirit loose when I pick up my knife, but I enjoy reading cookbooks in my leisure time, particularly if they have nice food images. I love the Ottolenghi cookbooks for inspiration and creative ideas. I also love a good novel

Does snow make you feel grumpy or romantic?
I love snow!  It makes me happy, especially if it’s a snowstorm big enough to slow the world down. I remember being in busy Manhattan one winter and we had the biggest snowstorm ever and the entire city came to a standstill.   The cars were all buried under mountains of snow and people were snow skiing in the streets.  I know it’s probably not the best thing for business, but it brings a sense of calm and peace when the world is clothed in white.

What’s your fondest childhood winter memory?
Waking up on Christmas morning and going downstairs to see what Santa Claus had left.  We always left him a glass of milk and cookies the night before.  It must have been challenging for my parents to keep us all happy, with 11 children to feed and clothe on one man’s salary, but we were always surprised and thrilled with Santa’s generosity. 
We went to midnight mass at Christmas, which was also a big thrill, to walk to church in the dark.  The smell of the incense in the church still lingers with me.

What’s your secret wish for this Christmas? If you’d like to share it with us
Well then it won’t be a secret any more!  When I worked for one of my actor client’s we all had to make a wish list for Christmas and this was always a challenge for me. The things my heart desires the most are things that money can’t buy.  My wishes usually involve being with the people I love and who make me happy.  Having access to great food, feeling healthy and joyful.  Being somewhere in nature where I can take a nice long walk or a swim. 
When I think of “things” to wish for, it’s usually something small that travels easily – beautiful jewelry is always appreciated!

Are you planning any more cookbooks or projects?
Being a creative mind, I always have many projects and books brewing, I would like to do a revision on my first book “Recipes to Nurture” and bring it up to date – I still use recipes from it, but as my cooking is constantly evolving, I’d like to add some more recipes to reflect this.  I have a few other cookbooks in the works that I’m hoping to get out there soon. 

I’m really inspired by the food culture in Ireland whenever I come home – so many artisan food producers popping up all over the place and it’s such a magical and beautiful country, I’d love to bring groups over here to explore the food and foraging culture.  I have a Facebook page, Feastandforageireland, where I’ll be posting updates on this.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Some simple guidelines for staying healthy and happy..

 Don't worry, don't hurry, you're only here for a short visit.  So don't forget 
to stop and smell the roses"      Walter Hagen

I once asked a medical doctor if he thought that the fact that I had my tonsils and adenoids removed at a young age compromised my immune system and he very adamantly responded that there was absolutely no connection, and went on to tell me that if something is not working, that’s what the doctors are here for – to remove it.  I know there’s a place for medicine and I have to confess that I’ve ended up in the ER twice this year – once as a result of contracting Dengue fever and another time when I had a bad fall and needed an x-ray.
However, I have to say I was very excited on discovering the Eastern approach to health and wellness, which, even though it hailed from another part of the planet, has so much relevance universally – it simply makes sense.  The marriage of Eastern and Western medical practices is becoming more mainstream these days and much like our big toe being somehow connected to our brain, when systems come together to work in harmony, health prevails.
As well as eating healthfully, there are so many facets of life that need to be in balance for us to live healthy and balanced lives.  Here are some things that I have found important in order to maintain health, happiness and balance:
Alkalize – One of the most important considerations for good health is to maintain your body’s pH balance.  Many people become overly acidic, mostly due to dietary factors - the average diet is too high in acid-producing proteins and carbohydrates and other acid forming elements like coffee and sugars and lacking in alkaline-producing foods like fresh vegetables and sea vegetables.  Stress also elevates acidity in the body.  Acidosis has many symptoms, including low energy and chronic fatigue, weight gain, obesity, premature ageing, osteoporosis and weak brittle bones, bladder and kidney conditions including kidney stones, aching muscles and stiffness in the joints.

Rest - There’s nothing more important than a good nights sleep to regenerate all our body systems.  We get the best rest when we can be attuned to nature’s rhythms and get to sleep soon after sunset and up at sunrise.  For most people this is not a reality, but aim to get to bed at a reasonable hour and get 8 hours of sleep.  Napping during the day also helps to recharge our batteries.  Lack of sleep can contribute to lowered immunity, high blood pressure, brain fog, learning and memory deficiency, irritability and moodiness, adrenal exhaustion and a host of other health conditions.
Eat predominantly plant based foods – whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or eat animal foods, make vegetables, fruits and other plant based foods the core foods in your diet for optimum health.  These nutrient dense foods, especially if they’re locally sourced and organically grown keep our bodies vital and healthy. 
Choose Organic - Organically grown products are always the best choice.  However, if you can’t find all organic foods, you can rinse your fruits and veggies in a mixture of 1/4-cup apple cider vinegar in a basin of water.  Soak for several minutes and rinse.  Alternatively, a few drops of citracidal (grapefruit seed extract) in a basin of water will help remove pesticide and chemical residue.

Use good quality water – whether you’re drinking it or bathing in it, the quality of the water we’re ingesting has a huge impact on our health – for more on this check out my blog post
Chew your foods  - I’ve heard it said, “you should drink your food and eat your drinks”. Digestion begins in the mouth – the enzymes in the saliva start to break down the food and prepare it for the next stage of digestion.  To get the most nutritional benefits from your food, it’s very important to chew it thoroughly before swallowing.  If weight is an issue, this is also very beneficial, as you tend to eat less if you’re taking time to chew.

Don’t’ skip meals – I know I’m at an advantage here as my work involves spending quality time in the kitchen, but even if you have a busy lifestyle, you will find that you’ll be so much more productive in your day if you start with a good healthy breakfast and have at least three meals throughout the day.  When we skip meals, our blood sugar levels are disrupted, causing feelings of sluggishness and fatigue and it can also have a negative impact on metabolism.  If you think of our metabolism as a muscle that needs to be exercised, when we’re not putting it to work, digesting our foods, it can slow down and become less efficient.  Also to get the proper nutrition our body needs for optimum health, it’s important that we have a regular and balanced diet.
Keep hormonal levels in check - Our hormones naturally decline with age, but even from a young age, as I personally discovered, we can have hormonal imbalances that can greatly affect our health and wellbeing. If you’re having difficulty shifting that extra weight despite all your dietary measures, or if you’re experiencing low energy, brain fog, memory loss, loss of muscle mass, lackluster hair and skin, mood swings, depression, low libido – it’s a good idea to have your hormone levels checked.  There are many natural ways to address hormonal imbalances, using plant based natural hormone replacement and other natural remedies as well as dietary adjustments.
Use natural skin care products  - A respected teacher once said to me ”don’t put anything on your body that you wouldn’t put into your mouth” and I’ve taken this to heart.  Lotions, creams and potions that we put on our bodies are absorbed into our systems, so read the labels on your cosmetics as you do on your foods. 

Exercise regularly and make it fun – it’s important to engage in exercise that’s suited to your level of health, body type, constitution and lifestyle.  Yoga is a perfect balance for someone who is quite physically active and needs a way to connect to their inner quite place and cultivate flexibility of body, mind and spirit.  For someone who has a more sedentary lifestyle, it’s fun to get out in nature for a good hike or engage in some cardio exercise.  For me, there’s nothing better than a barefoot beach walk – not only do I get to breath in fresh sea air, but I get the added benefit of a natural foot reflexology session.  If you’re not near water, walking barefoot in the garden first thing in the morning gets your body systems activated.

Be flexible - Strive to be open, flexible and happy in your life and work.  Take time to walk in nature, smell flowers, be introspective, do yoga, dance, listen to inspiring music and keep a balance between work, rest and play.  I once thought I was being “selfish” by taking care of my own health and wellbeing first and foremost, but have since learned that the greatest contribution I can make towards the health of the planet is being healthy, fit and happy in my own skin.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Sun and The Wind:

I was reminded on my hike this morning of a story I heard many years ago.  It's about the sun and the wind.
There was a man walking along one day and he was wearing a heavy overcoat.  The wind observed this and decided to challenge the sun to a contest to see who could get the man to take off his overcoat first.  Of course the wind thought it was a no brainer - he's so strong and forceful, he can definitely win this challenge.  The wind wanted to go first, so he blew and he blew with all his might.  The harder the wind blew, the more the man held onto his coat and after much effort, the wind was finally defeated.  
The sun's turn came and all it did was be in it's own radiance and shine.  After a few minutes, the man started getting warmer and warmer and before too long he took his coat off.
This story came to mind as I was engaging in inner dialogue with myself - we all have that sun and wind within us and there are times when one or the other predominates.  All of the colors and energies we experience are part of the great dance of life, when we can embrace and flow with them, but there are moments when I know that all I really need to do is be in the light and radiance of who I am, and observe what this naturally attracts into my life.
However, sometimes I become more like the wind, feeling I need to go out there and make lots of effort to make things happen in my life.  This is not always the most effective place for me to operate from and if not kept in balance can be quite exhausting.  We all need to be reminded every once in a while to slow down and smell the flowers.I suppose you can compare it to the yin and yang energies - the object always being to have a balance of both in our lives. 
For me, the kitchen is where much magic occurs - it's the place where I can let my creative spirit fly and let my sunny radiant self express.  The yang energy can produce technically great results but if not infused with the yin, creative, loving essence, the food will fall flat.
One thing I know for sure is that when I'm living from a place of light and doing something every day to connect me with my own yin essence, like a moth to a flame or bees to nectar, everything I need is naturally attracted into my life - it's the beautiful alchemy of being.
When I'm out there banging on doors, trying to make things happen, I'm engaging in struggle and often end up feeling drained and defeated and wondering why life isn't how I want it to be.
It's Mother's Day and time to embrace the loving, nurturing essence within all of us - male and female alike.  So to bring a little sunshine into your life, get your dancing shoes on, turn up the music and cook up a  pot of my yummy Sunshine Carrot Soup.  Happy Mother's Day to all!

Sunshine Carrot Soup:
1 onion – diced
6 – 8 carrots – peeled and diced
1 garnet yam – peeled and diced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. sea salt – or to taste
1 cup coconut milk
Lemon juice
Lemon slices to garnish
Optional garnishes – minced parsley, chives or cilantro

Prepare your ingredients -  peel and dice onion, carrot and yam,  mince fresh ginger and grate lemon zest with microplane or small citrus zester.
Heat coconut oil in a saucepan and sauté onion for a minute with a pinch of sea salt.  Add the carrot, yam, ginger, lemon zest and spices along with more sea salt to taste.  Continue to sauté for a minute, then add about 4 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, until veggies are soft. 
Allow to cool a little then blend until creamy, adding coconut milk as you blend.  You can add a little more water if necessary to get the right consistency.
Taste test and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Sometimes I like to add a dash of umeboshi plum vinegar to enhance the flavor.
Serve in bowls, garnished with lemon slices and if you choose, any of the optional garnishes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Food Conversations with Aine:

In my 35 years exploring the world of food and health, I have witnessed lives transformed simply by implementing some dietary changes. It is always a pleasure and a privilege for me to be part of this process in another’s life. 

Up until now, the benefactors of my skills have been the fortunate few who can afford the luxury of a personal chef to travel the world with them.  It’s been an amazing journey and one I wish to continue, but the time has come to make my gifts accessible to more people.
With technology these days we can spread our net far and wide and the possibilities excite me.  I have had conversations with people around the world, who want  support in implementing aspects of healthy eating and lifestyle.  The conversations range from someone wanting ideas for a healthy dinner to someone needing guidance in addressing a specific health issue to someone wanting their own private cooking show! 
I am now offering one hour Skype conversations were we can address any issues you have in the area of healthy eating and cooking.  We will begin with some questionnaires which I’ll send to you so we can establish the theme of our conversation and to give me a background on your health and lifestyle.  From there we’ll set up a time where we can chat from my kitchen to yours. 
Our conversation promises to be enlightening, fun, informative, educational and give you some tools to support you in living a healthy and balanced life.  As a special bonus, you will receive an e- booklet containing 20 never before published recipes created for my upcoming cookbook.  I look forward to our conversation.
To schedule a session, email
COST:  $150 for one hour/$400 for three one hour sessions

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GLUTEN - friend or enemy

“Gluten Free” has become a sort of buzz word these days as gluten intolerance is gaining more recognition. At it’s extreme, we have Celiac disease, which is an auto-immune disease where the immune system has a severe reaction to gluten, the protein component of wheat and many other grains.
In my opinion, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance and other common food allergies are often the symptom of a compromised digestive system. These days our digestive systems are bombarded with a host of substances that can put a lot of stress on a system designed to break down and assimilate whole, natural, unadulterated foods that provide nourishment to our bodies. Digestion begins in the mouth, where the enzymes in the saliva start to break down your foods and prepare it for the next stage of digestion in the stomach and small intestine. Many of us, in our rushed state, gulp down our foods, and this puts a lot of stress on the rest of the digestive system, so our foods do not get properly digested and assimilated.
If your digestive system is weakened, then digesting gluten may prove problematic. Wheat is the most common source of gluten, but it is also a component in other grains such as spelt, barley, rye and oats (although there are a number of companies producing "gluten free" oats these days). It is a sticky substance and not soluble in water. On the positive side, gluten is an excellent vegetarian source of protein. It doesn't have all the amino acids to make it a complete protein, so in order to get the full protein benefits, combine in a meal with a grain like rice or millet. For centuries the Chinese have been making a mock meat from the gluten in wheat by grinding the wheat into flour and making a dough. After thoroughly kneading to activate the gluten in the dough, the starch and fiber is rinsed out, alternating between cold and warm water, until you’re left with a mass of sticky wheat gluten. The gluten can then be simmered in a broth seasoned with soy sauce and ginger and used in place of meat in various recipes. The resulting product is known as seitan.
If you experience symptoms such as bloating and gas, fatigue after eating, headaches or aching joints, poor concentration or “fuzzy brain”, emotional irritability, you may in fact be intolerant to gluten. Wheat and other gluten grains are such a big part of most of our diets, showing up in everything from bread, cakes, crackers, to pastas, cookies, packaged breakfast cereals, soy sauce, beer and the list goes on. When faced with the dilemma of having to omit gluten from the diet, people can end up feeling deprived of some of life’s greatest pleasures. Who doesn’t love to sit down to a comforting pasta dinner, followed by a delicious slice of cake? Eating out can also be problematic as it’s quite difficult to find dishes that contain no trace of gluten. The good news is that you don't have to give up your comfort foods as there is a growing range of 'gluten' free alternatives on the market these days.
I have had several clients who are sensitive to gluten and have had to come up with lots of delicious alternatives to the foods that they enjoy, so they don't feel deprived, especially on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. The grains that do not contain gluten are rice, corn, millet, amaranth, teff and you can also use flour made from chick peas, lentils, tapioca, coconut or ground nuts or seeds for baking.
My gluten free pear, almond upside down cake is always a big hit. It's made with ground almonds and brown rice flour. When cooking with a non-gluten flour, you will often find that the result is a more crumbly texture as the gluten has a binding action. (I haven't made this cake in a while and even with baking I'm not notorious for weighing and measuring, so you may need to make some little adjustments...and of course your feedback is always welcome!)
Pear Almond Upside-down cake:
2 large or 3 smaller pears
1 cup pear or apple juice
1 cup strawberry jam
1 Tbs.kuzu or arrowroot
1 ½ cup ground almonds
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
3 level tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup agave syrup
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup rice or almond milk
1 egg (optional)

Peel pears and cut them into lengthwise into 6 pieces, removing seeds. Put the pears and apple juice into a pan and bring to a boil. Cover pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove pears with a slotted spoon and add strawberry jam to remaining juice. Dissolve kuzu in a little water or juice and add to pan, stirring until thickened. You can add a little more juice if the mixture is too thick – it should be like a sauce. Drizzle about 2 Tbs. of this mixture over pears and toss to coat them. Reserve the rest to serve as a sauce on the cake.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the syrup, oil, vanilla extract and milk. If using an egg, whisk it and add to the liquids. If not using an egg, you can use another 2 Tbs. milk. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix well.
Oil an 8” cake pan or pyrex baking dish. Arrange the pears in the bottom and top with the cake mixture.
Bake for about 30 minutes. You can test to see if it’s done by inserting a toothpick or knife and if it comes out clean it’s done. Remove from oven and drizzle the strawberry juice mixture on top and spread evenly.
Serve with natural yoghurt or vanilla ice cream or if you’re vegan, your favorite non-dairy topping.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


The lotus flower in Eastern religions is a symbol representing purity and divine wisdom. Seeded in muddy waters, the lotus rises above the mud and produces beautiful and fragrant flowers. As the level of the water rises, so does the flower, so although taking it's nourishment from the muddy water, it's beauty and fragrance is never tainted by it. In the same way, we can aspire to live in this world and maintain our purity and spiritual awareness.
All parts of the lot
us plant are edible and commonly used in Asian countries, particularly China. The lotus leaves are used to season foods and also to wrap rice preparations for dim sum. The flowers are dried and used in dishes such as Mandarin Duck. The dried seeds are a commonly used food in China and Japan - they can be cooked with rice or other grain or bean dishes, added to soups and stews, made into a paste for use in sauces or as a cake filling. In Chinese medicine, the seeds, which are astringent with a sweet flavor are said to nourish the spleen, kidneys and heart. See for more info on lotus seeds as food and medicine.
You might be forgiven for walking right by the hum
ble lotus root in your Chinese Market. From the outside it doesn't look at all interesting (this picture was taken in Chinatown, LA), but when you cut into it, you will be happily surprised by the interesting lace like pattern of the inner flesh. It has a delicious slightly sweet flavor and crunchy texture which it maintains even when cooked. In my macrobiotic studies we learned about the use of lotus root to clear mucous from the lungs. A tea can be made from lotus root powder, to which you can add some grated fresh ginger juice. You can also grate the fresh root and squeeze the juice and add it to hot water along with some fresh squeezed ginger juice. Because of it's astringent nature and sweet flavor it is also nourishing to the liver, spleen and stomach. When cooked, the lotus root is said to build blood so is helpful to treat anaemia.To cook lotus root, peel it and slice into discs. The flesh will discolor when sliced, so if not cooking it right away, you can pop it into a bowl of water to which you've added a squeeze of lemon juice. It's a little too fibrous to eat raw, but it can be blanched in lightly salted water to add to salads or cooked into many dishes. After my last trip to Chinatown, I made this dish which was quite delicious. Peel and slice your lotus root into thin slices. Finely mince about 1 Tbs. fresh ginger. Heat about 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large pan or wok and add lotus root, ginger and a big pinch sea salt and saute for several minutes. Add 1 - 2 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. mirin, (you can use agave or rice syrup if you don't have mirin) and continue to stir saute for about 5 minutes. If it starts to stick to the pan you can drizzle in a little water. In the meantime, cut a head of broccoli into small flowerettes and peel and slice the stalks. Steam the broccoli or blanche in hot water until al dente. Add the broccoli to the lotus root and toss. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving. To enhance the Asian flavor, you can drizzle with a tsp. of toasted sesame oil.
NOTE: my friend who lives in Maine couldn't find fresh lotus root, but had some Mitoku, sun dried root which can be substituted for the fresh. Simply soak it for about two hours then drain and use.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What's for breakfast

Veggies in the morning, veggies in the evening
veggies at supper time
Veggies when I'm feeling sick
and veggies when I'm fine
Veggies in my pancakes
Veggies on my toast
I am the Queen of Veggies
Of that I can boast!
I never tire of finding new ways to get people loving their veggies and here's one way I've come up with that never fails to make people get up and dance.
This morning I looked in my fridge - the first thing that caught my eye was a bowl of brown rice left over from last night's dinner. I considered adding some almond milk and a few raisins to make a creamy rice porridge. However, my cookies caught my eye and I decided against having a sweet breakfast so I could indulge in a cookie with my late morning cup of tea.
So I raided my veggie drawer and found a nice colorful selection - a carrot, piece of kabocha squash and half a zucchini. I grated them and added a big pinch of sea salt, 1/2 tsp. of the lovely garam masala which my friend Tara gave me for Christmas - it's her Indian grandmother's secret recipe and it's always by my stove these days. To that I added 1/2 cup amaranth flour, 1/2 cup spelt flour about 2 Tbs. coconut flour and 1 tsp. baking powder. I felt like a little protein, so I separated an egg, added the yolk to the mix and beat the eggwhite till it was stiff. Then I added enough water to make a thick pancake batter and folded in the eggwhite. I cooked them in coconut oil, but you can use olive oil or ghee. To serve, I made a little sauce with vegannaise and minced parsley...oh yeah!