Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Health with Winter Foods

December 21st is the official start of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. As we enter into the Christmas Holiday Season, something to keep in mind after all the feasting and celebrating is a great way to get on track afterwards is to eat with the season in mind.

In the not so distant past, we humans actually always ate with the season. Before the 1940's in the United States of America, most people ate the bulk of their meals made out of foods grown within a 50 mile radius. This meant eating what was available during the time it was available. Now, with the advent of mass shipping and transportation, our typical meals can log more frequent flyer miles than most global executives.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the dietary suggestions are actually quite simple and very effective at maintaining balance and harmony with the outside world. Each season has an organ system associated with it, a taste and food items that nourish.

Winter is the TCM season of the Kidney and Urinary Bladder. The elemental correspondence is Water. The Taste that nourishes this system is salty, and the health challenge is cold. The western associations we understand in correlation with the Water, to be the endocrine system, particularly reproduction and the adrenals. The Kidneys in TCM theory hold the life essence, which determines our inherent strength and immunity. Stress and anxiety tax this system, sleep and rest replenish it.

Modern life with 24 hour lighting, television and activity, particularly during the Winter Holidays is the complete opposite of what we should be doing during the Winter months. Winter time used to be quiet and internal, a time for storytelling and dreaming. One of the best things you can do for your health during Winter is to get enough sleep. The second thing you can do is eat "with the season."

The energy of the earth pulls inward and goes underground during the Winter. Root vegetables are excellent sources of nourishment during this time.

The color associated with the Water Element in TCM is Black, so Black foods are also very healthy during winter.

We often do not think of foods as "black", but things like black beans, black rice, black sesame seeds, black soy, are all very nourishing during the cold months, and are also very flavorful.

Salty and Bitter foods help guide our bodily energy in the right direction for the Winter months. Kale's, bitter lettuces, beet and turnip greens are all great seasonal offerings. The grains rye, oats, quinoa and amaranth are all on the bitter side, and go well with Winter vegetables.

While over doing on iodized salt is not good for anything, eating naturally salty foods like miso, tamari, seaweeds and naturally fermented sauerkraut are excellent Winter foods.

Miso soup is so easy to make, especially if you have an electric kettle that heats up water quite quickly. Pour one cup of hot water into a bowl, add a tablespoon of Miso paste, some chopped scallions, shredded carrots, and a small sheet of nori dried seaweed (this is the kind used in many sushi rolls and you can get it in most health food stores in the sea weed section) for a delicious quick soup.

White, Red and Dark Miso Paste
Miso can be made from Soy, Barley, Beans and Other Grains

Nori Sheets, Dried Seaweed

Fresh Seaweed Salad, available in Asian Markets and often in the 
Sushi section of most markets

Main Seacoast Vegetables is a great company, that sustainably harvests seaweed in clean waters, Their products are usually found in most grocers or you can order directly from them.

A great condiment you can use to season your salads, soups, vegetables and more is Gomasio, a sesame, salt and kelp condiment. There are many on the market, Eden Foods has a good one, and you can get it with Black Sesame seeds to be really theme! 

Making stews and soups in a crock pot is your best bet for simple meals that take little or no preparation. You can put everything in the crock pot before work and come home to a great tasting meal, ready to go, with minimal clean up afterwards.

So you can see, eating for the season is actually quite simple. With a few condiments, and emphasizing "black" foods, root vegetables and seaweeds for the bulk of your diet, you may find that cold and flu season is something that happens to other people. Enjoy!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Villa Dihovo and a Taste of Macedonia

On December 10th the program featured an interview with Pece Cvetkovski a hospitality entrepreneur from Villa Dihovo near Bitola Macedonia. I had a lovely visit to this Trip Advisor top rated inn with my cousins Valentina and Vladko Veleska during my tour in October. 

Cvetkovski is part of a growing movement in Macedonia capitalizing on the warm tradition of hospitality and incredible local cuisine. 

Pece Cvetkovski in Villa Dihovo's Wine Tasting Cellar

Dr Valentina Veleska and Pece Cvetkovski Getting Ready for Lunch
At Villa Dihovo

I visited numerous restaurants and initiatives focused on the incredible food, wine and cheese of the region. 

Traditional Sitting Room, Villa Dihovo

Many of the sites were only a few years old, but were constructed with great attention to the detail of traditional restaurants of bygone eras.

Sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and Sheep's Milk Yogurt

What makes Villa Dihova so unique, and visited by people from all over the world, is the personal catering to individual needs. Family Cvetkovski has some of the largest vineyards in Macedonia, and produces their own organic wines. Pece networks with local cheese producers in the area to serve sheep, goat and cow regional specialties. Visitors can literally pick their own salads and produce from the garden next to the guest quarters. The family and staff can cook for patrons, offer cooking classes or help you make your own creations. The goal of Villa Dihovo is to make you feel at home.

Grape Arbor, Garden and View from Villa Dihovo Macedonia

Nestled next to the Pelister Mountain preserve, the staff at Villa Dihova can arrange for hiking and biking tours, and numerous winter sports. I had visited this delightful location several years ago when it was first opened to the public. Now because if it's global popularity, I had to fit in my interview between guests arrivals.

Mountain Trails at Pelister National Park in Macedonia

Villa Dihovo and the Pelister National Park preserve will be destinations on the upcoming culinary tour "A Taste of Macedonia" a joint collaboration between Ambasador Mak Balkan Tour specialists in Macedonia and Sophia Services of Vancouver Canada. The tour will take place from May 11, 2014 through to May 24. Please visit to download the itinerary, and book through the same site. 

Macedonia has one of the most unique cuisines in the world. Villa Dihovo can prepare regional favorites for you to order, and we will enjoy their culinary offerings as well as the Pelister Park on A Taste of Macedonia. See you there!

Update: Biodiversity in the Balkans

One of the most innovative projects of Slow Food international is now underway in the Balkans. ESSEDRA or the Environmentally Sustainable Socio Economic Development in Rural Areas is in full swing. With their new website , many individual projects and several international meetings completed, ESSEDRA is truly a model for the new global economy that is based on a sustainable agricultural base.

For me ESSEDRA is the antidote to all the trade agreement negotiations and "economic" plans put forth by multinational corporations.

Casey Angelova, Chef and Organic Farmer from Bulgaria joined the program on December 9th to talk about the recent meeting in Sophia Bulgaria.

With my travels this past Autumn, the urgency of the ESSEDRA project became quite clear. We good food movement people in the West can learn a great deal from the partners in ESSEDRA. As the Balkan nations are trying to create a sound economic base as they emerge from decades of communist rule, it is important that rural lands and peoples are not lost in the transformation.

Angelova offers insights from the recent meeting at Slow Fish Istanbul and why ESSEDRA is so vital to the sustainability of Balkan lands and traditions. as a Slow Food chapter leader, as well as a farmer and chef, she has a unique perspective on the possibilities for good change in the Balkans.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fast Food Workers Strike Across US

The World was paying attention to the passing of Nelson Mandela on December 5th, but another milestone was happening in 130 cities across the United States. Inspired by Fast Food Forward in New York City, workers from fast food chains rallied for a one day strike for a livable wage. 

While the fast food industry made 200 billion dollars last year, with some of it's CEO's making upwards of 51 Million dollars in salary and compensation packages, but apparently, this industry can not afford to pay it's workers more than minimum wage or give benefits to the majority of it's employees.

We are told that our burgers, fries, tacos, pizzas and fried chicken would cost more if the workers were paid a livable wage. The food is actually costing us much more in terms of tax payers subsidizing the fast food work force to the tune of $7 billion a year. McDonald's alone cost over $1 billion. These costs come from the fact that over half of all fast food workers receive some sort of governmental assistance, in health care (mainly for children of the workers) food stamps, rent and child care subsidies and earned income tax credits. We also pay the top end of the "fast food chain" because of corporate tax loop holes allow the companies to not pay taxes (we pay to subsidize this) for "compensation packages" to their CEO's. Some of these executives make up to $51 million per year in combined salary and compensations such as stock. 

The other way we pay for the cheap fast food is through agricultural subsidies for things like corn, meat and soy. High Fructose Corn Syrup is in most everything you can imagine at a fast food restaurant, from breads to sodas, condiments and desserts. GMO corn is used to feed the animals raised in factory farms for those famous burgers and nuggets.

But the biggest way we pay as a society is through the terrible health effects of eating fast food.

Do we really want to support an industry that wastes so much tax payer money while polluting the environment with factory farms? Should we be arguing to increase the wages of workers in an industry that produces food which destroys our health?

I am all for a livable wage. Hard working people should be compensated for their time. But why not steer people to jobs that do not harm so many levels of our civilization and citizens? In American Meat, film maker Graham Merriwether shows that if we switched over to sustainable meat production , not only could we create good paying jobs, but our environment would benefit.

Fast food workers need good jobs that contribute to the betterment of society. This should be the focus of the debate.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

TPP and Food Sovereignty

When I was in Naturopathic School, I was always irritated by how the medical community could never say words, only the letters. This irritation has been with me throughout my life, trying to keep all the letters straight and what they mean. Now we have a new group of letters, which when I was young stood for toilet papering a house. 

The TPP is an international trade agreement now being negotiated, but you would never know it, since currently being made to buy insurance is heralding the end of the world in the United States of America. The TPP or Trans Pacific Pact, is a trade agreement currently being crafted by numerous nations across the Pacific Ocean. It makes NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) look like a good idea.

This trade pact, which has very little to do with trade actually, much of it concerns making laws that override national laws and protected freedoms to ensure profits for pharmecuticals, internet material and industrial agriculture corporations, is the greatest threat to our individual rights as human beings than anything ever crafted in modern history. Since our supreme court made corporations into human beings, you can see where this is going. What this has to do with food, is the TPP violates the essence of Food Sovereignty. For a basic discussion and other links, this is a good start:

When I was a student in Naturopathic School, I spent a summer preceptoring with a Naturopath in Kewlona Canada. As I was driving there along windy forested roads in rural eastern British Columbia, I heard a segment on the CBC radio station by Dr. Helen Caldicott. She was quoting a study by an Australian Industrial Psychologist, Alex Carey, on how the USA got from FDR to Reagan in 50 years. Later I found the study published in a book, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.

The main thesis of the study was looking at the major developments in the 20th Century.

1. The Development of Democracy.
2. The Development of Capitalism
3. The Development of Propaganda to protect Capitalism from Democracy

While the media swirls over jammed websites and politicians threaten to impeach over healthcare insurance we are told that our very democratic principles will be forever lost if we purchase subsidized plans on line. Government shutdowns, 40 congressional votes, and billions have been spent to shield the American people from purchasing mandatory health insurance, and being able to compare plans. While the 113th Congress has worked the least amount of days in the history of the United States of America, the TPP is quietly, secretly being crafted to the real detriment of the American and partner nations people.

The only people privy to this document are the multinational corporations crafting it. Apparently food safety and citizen initiated labeling laws are an impediment to "unfettered capitalism." Threats to our pharmaceutical, labor, health, environmental and safety laws are being written into this document, making farmers, fishermen and normal everyday people vulnerable to international legal sanctions.

The trade pact will in essence nullify any attempt at GMO labeling, and enable corporations to sue based on "trade barriers." It would become illegal to label where the food comes from, and producers from different nations would not have to adhere to our food safety laws and inspections, (which under normal circumstances are actually inadequate.)

Our very rights to choose what we wish to eat and support producers we want to support is being legislated away while we focus on a governmental insurance health care exchange website. 

The trade pact is being formed by multinationals such as Monsanto and Dupont. Monsanto's profits are decreasing mainly due to the valiant efforts of citizens across the globe that refuse to purchase their products, and work to either ban or label GMO products. Democracy has hurt their bottom line, so they are circumventing national laws passed by citizens in numerous nations, Japan and Peru to name a couple that have banned GMO's from their food system. 

Why is this not national news, international news? The only news source that is covering this to any extent is the Pacifica Network and Democracy Now If not for the leaked documents, we would have no information on this ongoing event.

I go back to that fateful drive through the Canadian Rockies all those years ago, when I heard that phrase, "The development of propaganda to protect capitalism from democracy."

It is not too late, please write your congress member, your president or prime minister. Here are the links for the United States. 

This is an excellent website with talking points and social media tools for action:

Tell your representatives and leaders that there should be no fast track on the TPP, that you want your laws to be kept in place and full disclosure on the trade pact must be made public before any agreement has been reached. The citizens of the world stopped the World Trade Organization in 1999. The multinational corporations learned their lesson, and have gone into hiding to get what they want. But there are more of us than there are of them, and we can stop this terrible trade pact that will ruin biodiversity, destroy livelihoods and dismantle democracies around the world. The program on December 4th, featured a lengthy discussion on this subject

Please speak out now, write letters to the editor, call in talk shows, spread the word via twitter, facebook and email. We stopped them before and we can stop them again.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gluten Free Holidays

A couple of years ago I was interviewing a turkey farmer for my Thanksgiving show. I was in his office, where I saw a copy of Living Without my absolute favorite gluten free website and magazine. I asked the farmer if he was going to advertise in the magazine, and he replied he thought the whole gluten free craze was a fad that would die out soon.

I chose not to respond, in the spirit of wanting to get an interview on organic turkeys for the holiday, but I really disagreed with him. Gluten free living is not something that most people enjoy or seek out because they want to be special. It is usually a long process to give into the reality of the situation. We now have a great report from the Institute for Responsible Technology that links GMO's to the rise in gluten issues. 

Being gluten free is not a fad. The person being gluten free sticks to it, mainly because they get really really sick if they don't. I have found in my practice an explosion of gluten intolerance and sensitivity. Amazing things can happen when people stop eating gluten. Great tips on this can be found on the above link for Living Without.

But what do you do for the holidays? It can be a real, true pain to celebrate with friends, co-workers and family if you must avoid gluten. Here are a few tips and helpful links to make your holidays happy, healthy and gluten free.

If traveling, pack an extra bag filled with your food substitutes. You have to check them in if they are liquids, but it is worth the trouble.

Communicate with your holiday destination hosts, either hotels, family or friends. Offer to bring food, help cook, or send them gluten free food mixes ahead of time.

Map out your destination. A really great couple of apps from helps you to locate grocery stores and restaurants that are gluten free or carry the products.

There are so many gluten free products on the market if you want to indulge in baking. Here are some of my personal favorites: This is the link for Bob's Red Mill pie crust and it is amazing. Bob's Red Mill has many other gluten free flours, mixes and produts.

King Aurthur Flour has an entire line of gluten free baking mixes, recipes and supplies 

Glutino has great mixes, my personal favorite is the white sandwich bread. 

These mixes are available in most grocery stores or online. 

The trick to cakes and breads if they call for eggs and you can eat them is to separate the egg yolks from the whites. Mix in the yolks to the mix, and whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form

When all ingredients in the mix or recipe have been incorporated, the trick is to fold in the egg whites at the end. This gives great levity to the recipe.

Another trick with gluten free baking, if you can tolerate it, is adding butter milk instead of water or milk. And yet another trick is to use coconut milk as the liquid.

There are more blogs and websites than I could possibly lead you to in this post, but if you google Gluten Free, you will be led to thousands of them. My personal favorite is Gluten Free Girl. and for those who are also wanting gluten free and sugar free this is an excellent resource 

The best thing to do is offer to bring food to your holiday parties so you have something to eat. If you are going to a restaurant party, call them ahead of time to see what your options are, it is worth the time, and remember, mostly people want to make you happy and feel welcomed at their events. A little communication before hand is worth the effort.

But most of all, enjoy yourself. It really is a great time of year, and there is no need for you to suffer or stress about what you can and can not eat. 

With a little planning, communication and creativity, everyone can have fun. Make sure to listen to the podcast for a great discussion and more ideas on gluten free holiday strategies

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Yummy Thanksgiving Leftovers

Now that the Thanksgiving Meal has finished, what in the world do you do with all of those leftovers? Most people enjoy the leftovers for about a day, basically by reheating everything in the microwave, but that gets a bit old quickly. What usually happens is no one wants to choke down another dry turkey sandwich and everything either becomes a science experiment in the back of the fridge or gets tossed immediately into the trash or garbage disposal. Did you know that T day leftovers are the number one reason for a call to the plumber for clogged drains? I read that somewhere, and I can not give a reference, but it makes sense.

Food waste is a national shame here in the USA. The average American household throws away one fourth of the food purchased in a year. This could add up to almost $2000  of a families yearly food budget. A report from the National Resource Defense Council shows in graphic detail the food waste from farm to table in this country, which adds up to 40% of total food production in the US This is 28 billion pounds per year in the US, and is 100 lbs. per person. Holiday waste increases 25% from normal waste in a household. Food waste is a major component in landfills, and food waste creates methane gas that goes directly into the atmosphere contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

But the USA is not the only nation that wastes food. Slow Food International and the Farm and Agriculture Organization have joined forces to educate and combat food waste

One of the best ways to combat this problem is to use up leftovers. With Thanksgiving, this means incredibly delicious meals that you may wish to eat long after the festive day.

A typical Thanksgiving feast is usually composed of the following:

Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Cooked Vegetables
Cranberry Sauce
Rolls or Bread

Now that the holiday is over, what can you do with the all left over food? Here are some ideas and there will be simple recipes to follow.

Turkey: Soup, Turkey shepherds pie, grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, stews

Mashed Potatoes: Potato Pancakes, Top for Turkey shepherds pie

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Pancakes, Sweet Potato Curry Soup, whip up left over Sweet Potatoes and use in a Sweet Potato Pie recipe.

Cooked Vegetables: Add to soup from turkey stock, add to Turkey Shepherds Pie, add to omelets, toss into salads.

Cranberry Sauce: Mix into yogurt for a holiday breakfast treat, mix in with cream cheese for a bagel schmeer or fruit platter dip, use as a base for mulled cider, use as a glaze for a pork roast or baked ham, filler for buns and cookies.

Rolls: Make your own bread crumbs for other uses, use in an egg casserole, strata or bread pudding. Just follow any recipe and use your left over rolls as a base.

Pie: Just eat it, not much you can do with pie as a left over other than heat it up.

Basic Recipes 

This link has some excellent recipes for soup, I could not do better myself

A basic soup stock recipe, really does not have a lot of exact amounts, so I am not going to give specific ones, these are approximate: Put the left over Turkey Carcass, meat attached into a large stock pot. If you have not used the giblets and neck that is in the cavity of the turkey,

open the package and add that to the stock pot, they give a rich flavor, and when cooked you can remove them and either eat them (my mom loves these) or give them to your cat who will be thrilled. Add a large peeled and sliced onion, a few stalks of chopped celery, especially the heart with all the leaves, several sliced carrots, a spoonful of peppercorns, several peeled cloves of garlic and a sprig of either rosemary or thyme. Fill the pot with water and simmer on low very heat for several hours, maybe up to four, you want the meat to fall off of the bones and the vegetables to be very soft and mushy.

Remove the bones and giblets, the sprigs of rosemary or thyme, use a hand mixer to blend the vegetables into the broth. I like to add salt to taste when the stock is finished. You can add some lemon or lime juice for a unique flavor.

For using up left overs with the turkey stock, you can add any remaining cooked vegetables to the broth, if you have served rice you can add that, top single servings of soup with left over biscuits or make dumplings with left over mashed potatoes. You can also use the above soup link for yummy ideas.

Another really great way to get rid of all those leftovers in one dish, is to make a turkey shepherds pie. Again these are approximate ideas, there really is not fixed way to do this.

In a large mixing bowl, put in cubed cooked turkey, add any left over cooked veggies (carrots, pearl onions, peas, broccoli or cauliflower) Mix in some stuffing and moisten the mixture either with broth, left over gravy or a can of cream of mushroom soup. Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 casserole dish if you have a lot of left overs or in a pie pan, top off with a layer of left over mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the top with some bread crumbs and sliced green onions. Bake at 375 for about 30 - 45 minutes or until completely heated through.

Use left over sweet potatoes as a base for a creamy soup. Put potatoes in a food processor, process until smooth. In a large sauce pan, saute sliced red onion and a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add potato puree,  Add vegetable, turkey or chicken broth to the mixture until a thick soup consistency is achieved. Add 1 tsp curry powder, and Tabasco sauce to taste. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt or swirl of cream for garnish. 

Another great idea for left over mashed potatoes or even sweet potatoes is to make potato pancakes. Add chopped herbs to the white mashed potatoes, dill or chives are quite good, and a couple of spoonfuls of either Greek yogurt or sour cream and mix thoroughly. Take about two tablespoons of potato mixutre and make into a patty, dredge in some bread crumbs and fry in a non-stick skillet with some sunflower oil about one to two minutes on each side. You can do this also with the sweet potatoes.

Finally, use the cranberry relish and a spread over refrigerator roll dough, or puff pastry dough. Roll out dough of your choice, top with cranberry sauce, and roll up like a jelly roll. Slice into pinwheel slices and bake according to the directions on the package. 

You will want to cook a big turkey dinner on a regular basis so you can enjoy all these amazing leftovers! And who knew that all these delicious ideas would help save you money and help the environment all at the same time!

For more information on ideas about food waste, check out Food Shift.

To hear the podcast referring to this blog go to