Perfect seasonal food – home made baked beans

beansSpringtime is the time to treat our palates with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Pulses, spiced right, are perfect spring food because they are astringent.

Knowingly, they are also “airy”, which is also a good property of food in this period when the season makes us feel heavy and tired. Nature balances itself through opposites and you can play with this concept a lot when you cook. Just remind yourself of the season’s qualities and then cook with opposite quality food.

Spring is a strong period of growth. The waters of the soil start flowing in late winter bringing qualities of heaviness and coldness around but providing life giving material for nature to wake up. Structure, cohesion and bulk created by the nature bring about feelings of heaviness, stiffness and tiredness. To avoid the season’s disorders taking over your body and mind resort to food that has opposite qualities: light (e.g. pulses), stimulating and heating (spices and herbs). Cut down on heavy items i.e. reduce the use of fats and you can almost avoid dairy. Generally eat less, especially in the evenings.

Sage is an optimal kitchen herb for this season. Being bitter, pungent and astringent in tastes it perfectly fits in to balance seasonal disorders. It is one of the herbs of choice for respiratory disorders, which are very typical of this season. Read more details of sage’s health benefits in Anne Macintyre’ site.

Here’s an old Italian recipe I love Fagioli all’uccelletto, which usually is made with cannellini beans. In fact, this is the original baked beans recipe. So, instead of buying ready-made ones make them yourself, which is far far better.

This time I’ve used giant beans because I prefer them out of all white beans. In Italy this dish is usually offered as a side with meat or fish but it makes a perfect supper in spring. A couple of dry crackers instead of bread is a perfect accompaniment (bread should be cut down in spring).

Another addition to the traditional recipe is the use of asafoedita spice (hing), which greatly reduces the gassy element of pulses. Take it as a default always to cook pulses with this gas smelling herb that actually reduces gas. Don’t be put off by the smell, you’ll be grateful for the effects. Use sparingly!

Also, I’ve stopped using vegetable oils for cooking. I use ghee instead as it does not turn rancid when you heat it and it feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut. I add olive oil in the end to get the proper Italian flavor out.

Spicy beans with cherry tomatoes and sage / Fagioli all’uccelletto

1 can of giant/cannellini beans (or dried if you have time)

15 cherry tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

3/4 tbsp ghee

Fresh sage

Pinch of chilli

Pinch of cracked black pepper

Pinch of asafoetida

Himalayan rock salt to taste

Cook the canned beans for 5 – 10 min in water with 5 leaves of fresh sage. If you are using dried beans then cooking takes longer and you need to have soaked the beans overnight first. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Add ghee into a pan with crushed garlic and fresh sage. Fry on a low fire to savour the fat. Add tomatoes cut side down and put the lid on the pan. Make sure the heat is low. You want to cook the tomatoes, keep the juice and avoid burning. Add the beans once they have cooked and soft, evaporate excess liquids, add salt, pepper and asafoetida. When you serve, pour a thread of olive oil on top.

Enjoy!

How you eat your food can resolve your gluten intolerance

wheatIn my practice I often, in fact more and more, meet people who have very negative thoughts about gluten. Some of them have real problems with it. Although I am actually of the opinion that gluten should or at least can be in our diet I do respect the fact that many of us have problems in digesting it and that some people really have serious issues like celiac disease.

Faulty digestion is usually the problem behind gluten intolerance. Digestive problems can originate from faulty eating habits or psychological issues. If our digestive system worked properly and we ate gluten in a reasonable manner we should be able to digest it. No bloating, no gas, nor digestive complains should arise.

Most of the times the digestive problems are due to how we consume our food. The way we eat is often more important than what we eat. Gluten intolerance is usually a consequence of years of bad eating habits. The food itself might have been nominally healthy but the way it has been consumed has deteriorated the gut environment and caused a reactive intestinal lining where hard to digest items are not processed to satisfaction.

The good news is that once gluten intolerance is spotted it doesn’t necessarily mean that gluten is to be totally avoided henceforth. The thing to do is to clear the GI-tract from toxic sludge and enhance digestive capacity and the bacterial balance. Sooner or later it should be possible to re-introduce gluten in the diet without any digestive complaints.

Personally I would still advice anyone to stay away from white wheat flour. It provides empty calories i.e. doesn’t have much of a nutritional content and is highly glutinous. Still, an occasional intake of this shouldn’t be a problem once the digestive fire is burning strongly and steadily.

To find our how you can enhance your digestion come for a consultation. Book here.

Nutritional confusion

Dieting confusionI recently sat down with Angie Greaves from Magic Radio and Feeling Fab website to have a proper chat about nutrition. She finally said it in a nutshell: “There is a total nutritional confusion”. I couldn’t agree more. We are so bombarded by the media with all sorts of facts about the good and the bad of our diets that no-one really knows what is right and what is wrong any more.

Let me tell you what is wrong first of all: there is no one piece of advice that is good for everyone. We have to come to an understanding that every one of us in the universe is a uniquely built being and responds differently to every variety of food, food supplements, activities and stressors from the environment. A jog might be beneficial for people with good stamina but not for someone who hasn’t been jogging for a long time. An apple a day might keep the doctor away from someone who doesn’t get an acid attack right after eating it. Different sorts of vitamins of might benefit you or not. It depends how you digest what you take in.

I have a number of clients coming for a health consultation who tell me that there is nothing wrong with their diets and that what they eat is said to be healthy and with a high nutritional content. Still they complain they can’t lose weight, they feel tired or have problems of different sorts, ranging from digestive issues and skin complaints to headaches and sleeplessness, to name a few.

Here lies another core problem behind our dietary confusion. We don’t know anymore how to consume our food. It isn’t enough to know the nutritional contents of your smoothie. If you have it at the wrong time of the day, combined it with the wrong foods and perhaps eaten on the go, you are not likely to get many benefits from it. On the contrary, bloating, gas, cramps and unexplained pains become an unwelcome but familiar presence in your life. When you know all the simple things about correct eating you will be able to enjoy proper tasty food, not have uncontrollable cravings and have your body return to its ideal weight without too much effort.

And what lies behind it? That’s the Feeling Fab that Angie is talking about. When we feel good and relaxed our bodies are able to heal themselves. Most importantly, our minds are able to make decisions on our health that are conducive to stability, wellbeing and happiness. What this means, is that it is all in our minds. And believe it or not, your diet has much to do with your mindset.

Life – Light – Love

Cooling summer drink

Ingredients for cooling summer drinkSweet bitter and astringent are the tastes that pacify pitta energy, the one governing in the warmest third of the year. The summer heat is best pacified by what the nature provides in harvest at the moment and the tastes mentioned earlier are present in this produce. A great cooling summer fruit is pomegranate. Add some of its seeds to your salads and squeeze some fresh fruit out of it. We here in the shop also have pomegranate juice and a pomegranate molasses, all great additions to your summer kitchen. A great cooling summer juice to cool you down is

1 part pomegranate juice

1 part aloe vera juice

1 part cucumber

Fresh mint

Mix together in a mixer and enjoy, preferably room temperature or without ice. Anything cold slows down your digestion and creates sluggishness and mucous in your digestive system. Also, cold drinks do not quench your thirst well but are likely to increase mucous, which easily creates when you have e.g. an unnamed black fizzy drink. Highly sugary drinks generally are not good to drink for thirst so between an occasional juice like the above, drink plenty of warm or room temperature water and enjoy the sun!

Ghee is the love of my life

SAMSUNG CSCGhee is the love of my life. My story with this healthiest of the healthy fats is a story with a happy ending.

Ghee has myriad health benefits, not least being the best one to fry with. You might have heard about fats going rancid or turning into those harmful, trans fat ones when heated. Ghee does not go bad quickly. In fact Teflon goes bad before ghee does. So, if you need to enjoy fried food, make sure you fry it in ghee. I have even changed olive oil in my Italian kitchen to ghee. I add the olive oil at the end of cooking so that it keeps its good qualities and I get the flavour I want.

When good quality ghee is used in reasonable quantities it reduces blood cholesterol, enhances digestion and metabolism. In fact, the gut produces ghee on its own, called butyric acid, and without it the gut cannot function properly. Ghee is also brain food, it nourishes and lubricates the nervous system and is very good for the eyes. In fact, I often prescribe an application of ghee straight into the eyes for those having problems with dryness, heat and tiredness. I also heal eye infections with ghee, the last one being those of my 3-year-old. Talk to my previous receptionist. She had an infection in both eyes and it was dealt within three days with a frequent application of ghee. It works wonders.

Here’s how to make it:

  • Melt 2-3 packs of organic unsalted butter in a pot

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  • Let the butter melt really, really slowly so the milk residue (proteins) settle at the bottom of the pot

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  • Pour the mixture through a muslin cloth and what is strained through the cloth is fresh ghee

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If your hob is too hot to let the butter melt slowly, don’t worry – you can still obtain good ghee by slowly letting it boil for a few hours. The milk solids then come to the surface and you can peel them off and, in the end, pour the mixture through a muslin cloth to get your homemade ghee.

Buckwheat flat bread with spinach and ricotta filling

I’ve really been enjoying making flat bread from buckwheat flour. It is a great alternative to white flour and yeasted bread. To make the dough it only takes two minutes and it is very easy to work with. I’ve been using it as a wrap or a crepe, stuffed it with whatever the season provides. These wraps are a great addition to the lunch box menu and, in fact, my three year old loves them for their playfulness. She rolls them into easy to pack and eat rolls and I never find any leftovers.  photo

I usually fry the bread in ghee or coconut oil, which are the only fats that do not turn bad when heated. Sometimes I don’t use fat at all and bake them dry.

This recipe is just one of the variations and is my great favourite. I love pasta with spinach and ricotta cheese. Here is a friendlier version for the slow spring digestion.  Although ricotta cheese is not the best option for this season I find it necessary as it smoothens down the pungency of spinach. Also a little chilli makes dairy much easier to digest. I might also add a bit of parmesan cheese to the mix.

 

100g buckwheat flour

¼ tsp salt

12 tbs water

ghee or coconut oil for frying

 

Filling:

Ghee for frying

1 clove of garlic

Chilli

1 big bag of spinach

½ tub of ricotta cheese

Himalayan rock salt

Pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

 

Work the dough into flat circles depending on the size of your baking pan. Add ghee or coconut oil in the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown.

In another pan fry the garlic and chilli lightly in ghee and add the spinach. Cook until soft and then add the ricotta cheese. Savour with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Enjoy together with the flat bread.

 

Bloated?

bloatedstomachBurp, burp, burp…bloated and heavy I am. I just can’t get my food to digest. It is sitting in my stomach. Actually, it is lying on the bottom of my stomach whilst I lie in bed and can’t get to sleep. I’ve eaten a heavy meal and I know tomorrow morning I’m going to wake up with puffy eyes and ravished by hunger.

What’s gone wrong?

Firstly, you need to digest your food before you go to bed. Your body should concentrate on metabolising the food it has absorbed during the day and not digesting new food. Result: bad sleep and possibly violent dreams.

If you eat a heavy meal then lie down, the chances that your digestion slows down dramatically – or even stops – are great. This means that the amount you absorb is nowhere near the amount that you have eaten. Therefore you’ll wake up in the morning crying for food. And piling up new food on undigested food creates digestive toxins, sluggishness, bad breath, smelly gas and a variety of digestive issues. Result: myriad of health issues depending on your individual susceptibilities and tendencies.

A great way to understand if you have digested your previous meal is to have a half a glass of hot water. Wait for a few minutes and if you burp, you have not digested yet. At this point, stay up a little longer and have a sip of Jagermeister. 🙂

 

 

Healthy food is good… but it can also be your undoing

binge-eatingI just ate a slice of wonderful Finnish cabbage pie I baked modifying my mum’s recipe ever so slightly towards my Italian culinary preferences. A bit of parmesan won’t hurt any dish. Or maybe a fish dish… oh no, I do put it there as well sometimes!! Flexibility is one of the requirements of good living so I am justified.

Back to the point, I ate a slice, and then I ate another. I ended up eating so much I had to open the button of my trousers and lie on the couch as sitting up was too much. Even if I made the cabbage pie from very healthy elements: white cabbage and onions fried in ghee (does not turn to transfat), baked in spelt flour mixed with ghee and water for dough and flavoured with Himalayan rock salt. I mixed in mashed boiled eggs and grated the parmesan with cabbage, added some pepper. The only non organic item I used was a dollop of dark molasses to give a nice sweet twist to my pie. So, that should be a pretty healthy, only slightly Italian Finnish dish, right? Except that it ruined my good night sleep and in the morning I was grumpy and I certainly couldn’t get the leg behind my head.

Any food can be toxic. Even the healthiest of foods can become toxic if you consume it in a wrong way. Eat too much, too fast, in wrong combination whilst concentrating on something else like media or eating to calm down negative emotions. Stress, both physical and emotional brings digestive power down. There are so many factors that can go wrong with a superfood bomb green smoothie.

Inversely, even the food that is not the healthiest of all can yield nutritional benefits if it is consumed in a correct way. Sitting down, eating slowly, chewing properly concentrating only on eating, not washing food down with drinks, eating seasonal food, emphasizing the right balance of meals is the way to go. These rules will allow you to enjoy foods that are not exactly on your preference list for absolute health.

You can’t always be in control of what is on your plate. Knowing how to eat it makes a big difference though. And, even if you binge on cabbage pie and feel ill and lose your sleep, there is still something to do. That’s a topic for another blog entry. In the mean time, call for a health consultation for information.

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Rules for sensible eating

sheknowsHave you ever noticed that after finishing a plate of food you actually didn’t taste much of what you ate? Did it go down with such speed and volume that the only thing to stop you eating more was the stomach stretching to levels that started hurting? Yes, I’ve done that too. Many times. What used to happen after hurrying back home from work with an empty stomach is not something I want to share here, but my point is that when stressed, you make wrong decisions. This is the number one rule of sensible eating: you should be relaxed when you start your meal.

What and how you eat is incredibly important and often how is even more important than what. Even the healthiest foods can become toxic if you eat them in a wrong way, be that too much, too fast or eaten in a wrong combination. If you have a plateful of raw spinach that you firstly don’t want to eat because it has no salt or butter on it, your salivary glands don’t excrete enough saliva. Your digestive power goes down when you have no appetite for what’s on your plate. Then, the enzymes in your stomach do not work well because you haven’t secreted enough saliva, and whatever happens thereafter in your gut is not something to brag about (but it has something to do with toxins). So this then is rule number two of sensible eating: make sure your food is appetising.

You also have to make sure you have understood if your need to eat is because you are actually hungry and not just because you have an appetite. Rule number three consists of making sure you don’t eat before you’ve digested your previous meal. There is however (& hooray), a trick you can try to test this. When you get a craving have half a glass of warm water. If this makes you burp, you have not fully digested yet and should wait until the previous meal has left the bottom of your stomach.

These are a few helpful practical tips for your everyday life. If you are interested in knowing more, come for a health consultation at our centre. When you book, remember to mention this article and you’ll get a 15% discount on your first session, or if you prefer to book online, simply use the promocode “toxinfree”.

Soupy chicken stock

chicken soupSoupy chicken stock

Cold ankles, hair messed up by the wind and feeling disoriented, coming home after a stressful day at work. Is there a better remedy than a warming chicken soup? I can’t find anything nicer than sitting down by the table and blowing in the hot bowl of self made chicken soup. It is so fragrant and comforting and so easy to make. Although it takes a bit of time it is so well worth it.  I rarely use measurements and this is the best recipe for that as you just play it by ear and learn by doing changing the recipe every time to your liking. Here it goes:

4 organic chicken carcasses

You should get these for free from your butchers, yay!

2 potatoes

2 carrots

2 onions

(other veggies of your liking e.g. other root vegetables and celery)

Half a blub of garlic (5-6 cloves)

2l water

Garden herbs – Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme of course….

Salt

Pepper

 

Place the carcasses, roughly chopped vegetables and cloves of garlic on an oven tray and bake until golden brown in colour in about 175 degrees. Once done, transfer them to a big pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for two hours with a lid on. Remember to add the rest of the ingredients as well! With the lid the idea is not to let the water evaporate too much but to get that intense flavour a stock should have.

When done, pour through a big sieve. Recover all the succulent meat and discard the bones, skin and cartilage. If you want your stock to be more soupy, like I love it, pass the rest of the mixture of vegetables and herbs through the sieve so you get a nice smooth mash you can mix in with the stock later. As for now, let the stock rest and cool down. You’ll notice that the fat will settle on the top and if you put it in a cool place for a while it will solidify on the surface. Then it is easy to peel off and discard.

Once you’ve taken the fat off you can mix the mash and meat off the bone to it and either enjoy the whole 2l of soupy stock or make smaller portions and freeze them for later. It is perfect food when coming home and not having time or energy to cook. Put a portion in a pot, let it melt on a fire, enjoy like that or even add rice or pasta, some olive oil and parmesan cheese… yum yum. I’ve said it all.

 

P.s. I also use it as a base for Tom Kha, the Thai soup I love the most.