Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Re-Focus

I'm right in the midst of Thanksgiving cooking. We'll have a houseful on Thursday and I always enjoy it. I used to cook all day every day the week of Thanksgiving. Now I don't have that option so I started earlier and have been cooking and freezing my way to this holiday of gratitude.

Although I enjoy the cooking, I find I've been so occupied that it's hard to focus on God. Just like Christmas, I'm often too busy to take in the real meaning. I need to stop and meditate on God's good gifts awhile, but the oven is beeping and the batter needs to be stirred.

Today I pledge to take enough time to give thanks to God and to exercise for 30 minutes.

The recipe I'm making today might turn out to be my favorite this year. Check it out at http://community.wholeliving.com/profiles/blogs/sweet-potato-pear-and-walnut-gratin

Sunday, November 20, 2011


"You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God flavors of this earth."
Matthew 5:13 (The Message Bible)

Salt is a preservative. Salt also enhances flavor. Making cranberry sauce the other day, I added a couple of dashes of salt. I didn't need much at all and, no, my cranberry sauce isn't salty. But somehow that little dash of salt enhances the cranberry flavor.

We're small in this world, but we can make a difference. We can bring out the God-flavor in this world for others who are close to us. 

May we live in such a way that that those around us experience God.

Here's a recipe full of harvest flavors for Thanksgiving:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Are You Wild?

 “Manoomin, or wild rice is a gift given to the Anishinaabek from the Creator, and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance for our community. In the earliest of teachings of Anishinaabeg history, there is a reference to wild rice, known as the food which grows upon the water, the food, the ancestors were told to find, then we would know when to end our migration to the west. It is this profound and historic relationship which is remembered in the wild rice harvest on the White Earth and other reservations-a food which is uniquely ours, and a food, which is used in our daily lives, our ceremonies, and our thanksgiving feasts.”  from www.saveourwildrice.com.   

 Wild rice is a nutrition super-star. (Side note: Isn't it amazing how God created foods on every continent that feed and sustain its people?) It contains protein, B vitamins, folic acid, niacin, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. It also has the amino acid lysine and plenty of dietary fiber. This is not necessarily a complete list, nor is it in order, just showing you what this "American idol" offers. It's also gluten-free naturally. No wonder the Native Americans considered wild rice, or manoomin, a staple in their diet. 

Wild rice just feels like Thanksgiving food. I love to make it during the holidays and the following recipe is always a hit, even with young people. 

Wild Rice with Cranberries
1 cup wild rice
2 cups water or stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup chopped, sauteed onion
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
salt, pepper and butter to taste

Bring the rice, onion and water to a boil. Lower heat to simmer. Simmer until rice is soft, 35-45 minutes.
Drain if rice is soft but water remains. 
Pour rice into serving bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir. 
Serve hot or room temperature. It's probably even good cold.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Generosity and Sweet Potatoes

"Early in the nineteenth century, a group of Lakota moving camp were forced to wait for an entire day while a herd of buffalo, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, passed by. Everyone was awed by the sight and could feel the ground tremble beneath the hooves of the herd that stretched from one horizon to another. A young boy sat, somewhat impatiently, with his grandmother as they watched. "Why are there so many?" he asked. The old woman smiled lovingly and replied "Because there is no end to the Earth's generosity. Do not let there be an end to yours."
~The Lakota Way, Native American wisdom on ethics and character calendar, November

As we approach Thanksgiving, may we remember and give thanks for all the blessings God has given, not the least of which is His intense love. And may we also love and serve others. 

Here's a recipe for sweet potatoes we've enjoyed on several Thanksgivings. It's rich and sweet, but not too sweet and has a little bit of a spicy kick too.

Sweet Potato-Apple Gratin
from Vegetarian Times, November 2002
1 Tablespoon + 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup packed bread crumbs
3 lbs sweet potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 tart apples, peeled, cut in chunks
1/2 cup apple cider, boiled down to 1/4 cup
1 Tablespoon Bourbon
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
pinch cayenne
Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter casserole dish
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet. Crumble bread crumbs and toast until golden. Reserve.
Steam potatoes and apples until tender
mash potatoes and apples
Stir in remaining butter, cider, sage, nutmeg, salt, cayenne and bourbon.
Scoop it into prepared dish, smooth surface and sprinkle with bread crumbs
Bake 25 minutes.

*Freezes well too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I love stuffing, or dressing, as my family always said.  Thanksgiving food is some of my favorite.

We usually have a house full of people. Since my husband and I didn't grow up in Minneapolis we have no relatives here, so we make our own by inviting others who don't have family close by. I could be serving 17-20 people this year.

Traditionally Thanksgiving food is high in starch and not so high in fiber and nutrients, but it's not that hard to change things slightly and have a health-promoting, as well as delicious Thanksgiving.

I grew up eating Cornbread Dressing. I've tried a number of variations on it and regular stuffing. This year I have two recipes I'm considering and may do a combination of the two.

Here's the first of the two recipes:

Cornbread, Bacon and Shiitake Stuffing
from Real Food, Fall 2011

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I'd use half cornmeal and half polenta)
1 Tablespoon sugar (I'd remove this one)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 extra large egg, beaten
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped (I like sage, so I'll probably add that too)
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice (could use turkey bacon or eliminate, but the taste would be altered)
5 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper if desired

1. For the cornbread: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together in a bowl flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Stir in milk, egg, and butter. Stir well and pur into well-oiled, 8-inch squyare pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until firm. Let cool.

2. For the Stuffing: Heat oil in a 6-quart pot. Add onions and celery and cook 15 minutes over high heat, stirring, until softened and golden brown. Add rosemary, bacon, and mushrooms and cook 10 minutes until mushrooms are soft and bacon is cooked.

3. Cut cornbread into 1/2-inch pieces and add to pot. Stir and cook 5 minutes. Whisk together eggs and stock; pour over cornbread mixture and stir. Add salt and pepper if desired.

4. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30 minutes and serve.

You can make this ahead and freeze it. Then thaw and warm in the oven before serving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shalom or Dis-Ease

"Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers." ~3 John 2

"John greets his friend Gaius with a common Jewish blessing: May you be prosperous and healthy (in a wholistic sense, inwardly, bodily, socially, materially). It implies an interrelated understanding of human nature based on the Hebraic worldview of Shalom: Yahweh's wholistic peace and prosperity, health and harmony, experienced through right relationships. Beginning with Adam and Eve, we see throughout the biblical witness how fractured relationship with God, the source relationship, ourselves, each other and creation itself, leads to "the curse" -- the chaos of sin, sickness, demons and death. We also see how restored relationship (reconciliation) through Messiah's life, death and resurrection breaks the curse and leads to forgiveness, healing, freedom and eternal life. Shalom is God's reign of wholistic order and wellbeing, the opposite of disintegrating chaos and destruction, the rule of evil.

"Simply stated, a biblical understanding of disease is dis-ease--a lack of ease in the whole person. Sicknesses are disorders, the opposite of Shalom, a disruption of God's wholistic harmony and relational wellbeing in the human being. . .

". . . Healing is the event and/or process of restoring wholeness to the whole person. Healing is God's Shalom--experiencing and ministering God's wholeness, order and wellbeing. The New Testament word for this Shalom healing is 'salvation', God's work in saving us and creation from sin, sickness, demons and death . . ."      ~excerpt from Doing Healing by Alexander Ventor

This blog is often devoted to nutritional health and healing. I believe God has provided for our health and healing in nature, his creation. However, complete health and wholeness can only come when it comes in every part of the person: body, soul, mind, spirit and relationships being set in right order. That is God's Shalom, to which Ventor refers above, and which only comes through right relationship with Jesus Christ.

So my greeting today is that of John and the early church: 

May you prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cranberries Fight Disease

The health benefits of cranberries are astounding. They're one of the top disease-fighting foods. Cranberries contain powerful antioxidants. They've been known to fight urinary tract infections, yeast infections, lower cholesterol, and may even lower the risk of cancer. To read a short article about the benefits of cranberries, click here.

There are many recipes for Cranberry Sauce (compote, marmalade, chutney, etc). I love cranberries so much that I want to try each one. It seems I try a new one every year at Thanksgiving. But almost every year I cook and can this recipe for Cranberry Apple Relish. It's a hit with the family and good for Christmas gifts too.

Cranberry Apple Relish
by Cynthia Lair, Feeding the Whole Family (an adaptation from The Natural Foods Cookbook, by Mary Estella)

1 1/2 cups cranberries
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup currants
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup apple juice or water
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Place cranberries, apples, currants, zest, maple syrup, salt, and juice in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, remove cover, and simmer 20-25 minutes until excess liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Add walnuts if using. Serve at room temperature. Will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator 3-4 days.

Or, you can can it while it's still hot. (my note)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Food Power

"Food isn't just fuel; it has the power to heal."
~Whole Living, Ten Thoughts, October 2008

And I'd add that it has the power to make us sick as well. 

It's important to be aware as we eat. Think about what we put in our mouth and how it will affect our health. Our cells regenerate continually and what we feed our body determines how healthy those cells will be. There may be things that affect our health which are out of our hands, but food we can control, to a large extent. 

So why don't we? 

I think a big reason is that we don't eat thoughtfully. We rush to fill the stomach and get on with our daily tasks. Or for a thousand other reasons, we're not thoughtful. 

One thing that helps me make good choices is to think, in the moment, this salad will build my bones and strengthen my immunity against sickness and disease. Or to think, this snack cake will feed the yeast in my body, increasing the possibility of infection and joint pain.

Confession: I ate the dessert at the church dinner last night. Even as I did I remembered how it would affect me, but I finished it anyway.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dark Thoughts of the Underworld

"Negative thoughts tend to beget more negative thoughts, says David Rakel, M.D. director of the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine program. Train yourself to see the bright side and it will soon be your natural response." ~Whole Living magazine October 2011.

I'm not as surprised as I used to be when I read things in articles or see them on T.V. or online that illustrate God's truths. God's Word is indeed lived out in our physical world and studies prove it all the time.

"Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
Philippians 4:8

Ring a bell? Paul gives us this excellent advice under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the Lord made sure it was placed in our cannon of scripture. Yet, how often do we forget and allow our thoughts to take us to the dark underworld of the negative?

Christians live in defeat and depression. My children these things ought not to be. But they are and there's only one reason. We have not disciplined our thoughts. 

Study after study has proven that negative thinking leads to depression and sickness. 

The only way to discipline our thoughts is to replace them with truths from the word of God. Repeating them daily in the face of our feeling-thoughts, which lie to us. Like vitamins we take daily for our body, verses of truth strengthen our mind and spirit. 

Here's an example. If you feel God has let you down and you just can't trust Him, repeat this verse every day, some days many times a day and soon your thoughts will begin to change. 

"And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, 
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You."
Psalm 9:10

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wok-Seared Chicken with Asparagus

Asparagus is very nutritious. It helps fight cancer, high cholesterol and many other health concerns. It's also delicious and versatile. Here's a family favorite of ours from the book, Healthy in a Hurry, by Eating Well. It's quick and satisfying.

Wok-Seared Chicken with Asparagus Tenders & Pistachios
Serve over rice or noodles.
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp minced, fresh ginger
1 Tbsp oyster-flavor sauce (or fish sauce)
1 tsp chile-garlic sauce
1/4 C shelled, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add asparagus; cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add chicken; cook, stirring for 4 minutes. Stir in scallions, ginger, oyster sauce and chile-garlic sauce; cook, stirring until the chicken is juicy and just cooked through, 1-2 minutes more. Stir in pistachios and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings about 1 1/4 cup each.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Rainbow Diet

One simple trick I learned to help me eat right is to eat lots of color. We know white foods are bad, empty calories, lacking nutrients. The opposite is also true. Foods with color contain lots of vitamins and nutrients our bodies need. If we eat plenty of deep green leafy veggies, we get calcium, vitamin C, iron and much more. Eating red foods can offer vitamin C, capsaicin, and others. Yellow foods like squash have the most vitamin A along with many of the other nutrient we need.
These are just a few examples of how choosing our diet by color can help boost nutrition. It also offers a pleasing meal for our eyes.
An easy weeknight meal for us is often Quinoa (cooked in vegetable broth), Greens (cooked in a large frying pan with canned tomatoes and chopped garlic) and a baked squash such as Spaghetti or Butternut.

Friday, November 4, 2011

White Sins

White dietary sins, that is. White sugar, white flour, white rice, even white (refined) salt.

Why do I categorize them as sins of our diet? They have been processed and refined until every bit of nutrients have been stripped from them. They fill our stomach while starving our body.

We hunger because our body needs something. It needs things like vitamins, minerals and protein. If we satisfy our hunger with empty calories, we gain weight but starve our body. We fool ourselves into thinking we're full but will be hungry again soon because we're still starving.

Years of this behavior can cause serious to deadly illnesses.

God designed our body and He designed our food. I love the way Rex Russel puts it in his book, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living.

Eat what God made for food.
Eat it as close to the way He made it as possible.

That keeps our complicated dietary lives simple. Simple, but not always easy.

What we need to keep in mind as we shop or look over a menu is to choose ingredients that still contain the fiber, and nutrients. These would be natural and whole grain. It may not be possible to get it all in every meal, but being aware of the problem and observant of ingredients are great beginning steps.

What are your suggestions for avoiding the white sins?

Check out this nutritious taco recipe

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Parfait

Continuing the pumpkin theme. Here's a great pumpkin recipe I found at Simply Organic. If you've read my blog for a long time, you know I rave about the benefits of yogurt and other fermented foods. That combined with the health benefits of pumpkin and we have a delicious, health-inspiring dessert.
Pumpkin Parfait
 This creamy concoction is a proven winner. No need to spend hours in the kitchen to impress a crowd — this dessert is a cinch to make and yummy to boot.
2 cans (15 ounces each) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
3 tablespoons Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
38 ounces (one 32-ounce container plus one 6-ounce container) Vanilla Yogurt
1 1/2 cups granola with raisin.
In a bowl, stir together pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, milk, and sugar. In 12 small bowls or ramekins, layer the pumpkin mixture and yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.
Chef Suggestions
Instead of making individual portions, layer in a trifle dish.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For the Love of Pumpkins

Pumpkins are extremely versatile, they grow easily in almost any climate and their bright color cheers even the dark, cold days of winter. 

Native Americans had a multitude of uses for pumpkins. They used the seeds and flowers for medicinal purposes. They baked them, cut them in strips and grilled them, they dried them and used them for bowls, they even used strips of dried pumpkins to weave mats. 

Pumpkin seeds are full of nutrition and healing properties. They contain Vitamins A, B and E, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Protein and Zinc. Pumpkin seeds have been used as a pain reliever, an energy booster and a diuretic. The natives used them to expel parasites. They are anti-inflammatory and studies show they may prove helpful with arthritis pain. Phytosterols in these seeds can reduce blood cholesterol. On top of all that they're low in calories!

So next time you make a pie from scratch or cut a jack-o-lantern, save the seeds!

If your interested in learning more about pumpkins, here's a short History of Pumpkins.

Here's a simple, delicious recipe I found for whole pumpkins.

Ojibwa Baked Pumpkin
1 small pumpkin
1/4 C maple syrup
1/4 C apple cider
1/4 C butter
Place pumpkin in oven at 350 degrees and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Cut a hole in the top, around the stem, and remove pulp and seeds. Save the seeds to eat later, they're full of nutrients and healing properties. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour into pumpkin. Bake for 35 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve. 

What's your favorite thing to do with pumpkin?