By now we are submersed in all of summer’s glory, including the relative heat and humidity. Those of us living in WNC have already felt an early summer punishing heatwave. While some nutritional practices are well known for summertime, like increasing fluids, others may not be as intuitive.
Yes to more fluids, but also electrolyte replenishment! More activity outdoors in the summer increases sweating and loss of vital electrolytes. Downing plain water isn’t going to replenish those, so opt for a powdered electrolyte supplement to add into your water or a squeeze of lemon and pinch of sea salt. Just be mindful to check the electrolyte powder’s label for added sugar. Coconut water is also a great option.
Beyond fluids, consuming certain foods can help cool our bodies down. There are obvious choices like watermelon (it’s 92% water!), and watery fruits like citrus. Did you know that some lentils have cooling properties as well as leafy vegetables like lettuces, kale, and cabbage? Cucumber and cilantro are also used in various cultures to temper ‘hotter’ foods. If you choose to eat spicy peppered meals, you’ll want the addition of a cooling herb like cilantro or mint to offset that extra heat during the summer months.
Finally one of my favorite ways to externally cool down the body is with a rosewater spray. This is a skin tonic that you can find almost anywhere and is budget-friendly. Mists contain rosewater, which is rose petals steeped in distilled water, then mixed with other cooling ingredients. I like to use this on my face and neck after cleansing and prior to applying moisturizer, or just random spritzing throughout a hot day!
We are in unprecedented times with the worldwide novel coronavirus outbreak. Beyond the health scare for many, the virus has also posed a financial strain on some, who are at least temporarily out of work. It can be a challenge to feed a family healthy meals, when struggling to pay the mortgage or rent, among other bills. I spend time with many clients discussing food ideas that give the most bang-for-your-buck. Here are some examples.
I first learned about a neti pot from my grandfather. Apparently he used to suffer from bad sinus afflictions regularly. A doctor recommended that he do a sinus rinse using a neti pot and that was forever changed. I paid no attention to my grandfather on this matter way back, but I inherited his sinus afflictions to some degree, coupled with seasonal allergies that have worsened in the last 6 years of living in Western North Carolina.
As an adult, I was re-introduced to the neti after I visited an Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner in 2009. Ayurvedic Medicine (rooted in Hindu philosophy and a Hindu system of healing from India) developed the neti pot thousands of years ago to purify the nasal passages. The practitioner suggested I try it during allergy season as I was having consistent headaches due to sinus pressure. I started with a daily practice, then went down to every other day. The headaches subsided and bonus, I could breathe better!
Essentially the neti pot looks like a little ceramic tea pot with a long spout. You fill the pot with a solution of non-iodized salt and lukewarm water and ‘rinse’ your nasal passages. Here are some detailed instructions:
Make sure to use sterile or distilled water. You can also use boiled and cooled tap water (boiled for 3-5 minutes, then cooled to lukewarm). This is a safety precaution to eliminate contamination from any bacteria that you DON’T want getting into your nasal passages. The neti pot holds about a cup of water, and a ¼ teaspoon of fine, non-iodized salt. Water should be warm to dissolve the salt, but cooled slightly to avoid any potential burning to the mucus membranes.
Standing in a shower, or over a sink, place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril and tip your head to the opposite side. The saline solution should enter one nostril and exit the other nostril. Use about half of the solution on the first nostril, then switch sides. You can pause to gently blow your nose on each side. This will help clean the nasal passages of excess mucus, debris, and allergens, and may also reduce post-nasal drip. If you have a deviated septum (many of us do) or narrow sinus cavities, regular, correct use of a neti pot can keep your secretions flowing easier.
I’ve been doing a daily neti practice for the past few weeks because allergy season is upon us and to help keep my nasal passages moist and clear as a virus protection. There are many things we can do as a preventative for colds, flus, and viruses and this is one of them. Stay well everyone!
A friend of mine that I met through the WAPF organization shared this recipe with me a couple of years back. She said, 'it's great on cooked greens! You won't be disappointed!' Well, right she was. I really love anything gingery and this one is full of bite. You could really use it on a number of dishes. But poured over cooked greens will certainly do the trick. Ginger is a great digestive tonic and anti-inflammatory. The lemon juice adds some Vitamin C. Tahini for dose of a healthy fat. And raw honey as an antibacterial, anti-fungal, and to boost immunity.
I modified her recipe below and just used about 3/4 cup of fresh ginger root with all other measurements the same.
Ginger Sauce, makes about 1.5 cups
1 ½ cups fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup tahini
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
¼ cup tamari
2-3 TB water, to desired consistency
Bit of cold pressed, toasted sesame oil
Sauté diced ginger root in the toasted sesame oil for a few minutes (don't overcook it!). Blend with rest of ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
*Keeps in fridge for 1 week; freezes well.
Kitchari, or Kitchadi is a vegetarian stew made from cooked split mung beans and rice, usually basmati. It is a wonderful, nourishing, easily digestible food for everyone. Kitcharis are a core food in Ayurveda and it's where I first learned about them. Yellow split mung beans can be found on-line, or in many health food stores. Don't let the laundry list of ingredients deter you; the kitchari preparation is quite easy. Read on at the end for why this kitchari recipe is particularly useful for the lungs and bronchial ailments:
Lung Kitchari (serves 4)
½ cup white basmati rice
¼ cup split yellow mung beans
6 cups water
1 TB ghee
½ tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp hing (asafetida)
1 stick of kombu seaweed
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp cardamom seeds or powder
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 TB ghee (divided)
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced into 1” pcs
1 cup string beans or zucchini, chopped
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp turmeric
¾ Tsp rock salt
1 TB fresh ginger, minced
½ small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
½ tsp ground cumin
1 TB ground flaxseed
Wash rice and mung beans and rinse until the water is clear. Wash the sweet potatoes and dice them. Warm one TB of ghee in a medium saucepan. Add the ajwain seeds, cumin seeds, and hing. Cook for a moment until the seeds sizzle. Add the sweet potato plus the kombu stick, rice, mung beans, and water. Cook for about 45 minutes.
Warm the other TB of ghee in a small skillet. Add the coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, and ginger. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Then stir in the rest of the spices, onion, and garlic cloves and cook another couple of minutes. Put this spice mixture into the rice and mung. Add the other vegetables and the flax meal and 1 to 1 1/2 cup of water. Cook 20 minutes more.
Adapted from the Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar
*Amadea writes – this is an excellent kitchari for fighting winter ailments. Ajwain and ginger work to decongest the lungs, while the onion and garlic warm and stimulate the immune system and circulation. Sweet potato is rich in Vitamin A, which soothes the lung membranes and supports the immune system. Flaxseed will enhance clearing of the lungs.
I've been asked before and quite recently as the holidays just passed and upgrades to kitchen necessities were up for grabs - 'What cookware do you recommend?' There isn't one answer, so let's discuss. If you are conscious about what food you put into your body, naturally you'll be conscious of the vessel for said food. This post will focus on stove-top pots and pans and some ovenware too.
By now (2019) you may have heard the bad news about traditional non-stick cookware (Teflon, a brand name), - coated pans which were all the rage for quite some time. Hey, it made food Not stick to the pan and also clean up was easy. Then some rumblings came out about what was in this magical non-stick coating (perfluorinated compounds, PFCs), specifically PFOA and PTFE, and did it/how much leached into food when heated? While research has been done on these chemicals and their effects on the body (PFOA can stay in the body for many years), most studies determined that it was GRAS - generally regarded as safe*. At low amounts. However, more recent research has found that PFOA is a possible human carcinogen (causes cancer) and animal studies led to the conclusion that this chemical is an endocrine disruptor, causing reproductive harm*. The age of your non-stick pan and the matter that if the coating is scratched or damaged (mine were!), play a part. My conclusion on this - throw your old, worn non-stick pans out.
Another concern with non-stick cookware is the fact that many pans had an aluminum base as well. Aluminum toxicity has been linked as a component in the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases*. While this scientific debate is ongoing, aluminum as a general neurotoxin is well-known in the plant, animal, and human world. A study in 2017 established particular concern for the transfer of aluminum through heating vessels that contained acidic foods (tomato sauce and citrus) - the acidity of these foods caused a greater measured transfer into the food than other foods*. Now, do you need to worry about an aluminum pan with an alternate coating (ceramic, chemical-free non-stick)? I would say it depends on the quality and the condition of the pan. Aluminum pans have been a choice option as they are inexpensive, versatile, lightweight, and good heat conductors. My takeaway: ditch the aluminum foil and make sure that you have a quality pan with a solid chemical-free coating. And, make sure you have other cookware options. Such as...
Cast iron cookware is at the top of the list for safety. However, I'll mention that it isn't entirely practical. Cast iron is heavy and you can't just 'give it a wash' and go. You should never wash with dishsoap and water - just rinse with hot water, after scraping the bits of food off with a hardened silicone scraper (everyone has one of these, right?) and 'season' the pan (put a light coating of high quality oil on it) and bake it at 350 for 30 minutes. That's the program with cast iron. You don't have to season and bake after each use; that's more in the beginning (after first 5 uses)*. Beyond that - season the pan when it begins looking dry. This is a good amount of upkeep that I don't always want to do. So I also use...
Stainless steel pots and pans - these make up the most of my kitchen at the moment. However, stainless they are not. Not always, anyway. Also, let's go back to the metal debate as I'd like to share that there are a couple of main types of stainless steel - magnetic and non-magnetic. Non-magnetic stainless steel typically contains other metals including nickel and cadmium. Nickel is a worry because in excessive amounts in the body, it can be allergenic and carcinogenic.* You'll want pans that are magnetic; these will contain more iron and you can test with a refrigerator magnet. Just place the magnet all over the pan; if it sticks firmly, you have a good pan. If not, you'll want to replace the pan with one of a better quality or type.
The next type of vessel that I use is ceramic (pictured above in my Le Creuset that was gifted at my wedding). I also very recently purchased some Bialetti pans that have an aluminum base, but with a titanium-ceramic coating. These pans are totally non-stick and I am happy with the quality. So even though they have the aluminim base, I'm okay with using them at times because of their chemical-free coating. The traditional ceramic options, like the Le Creuset, are great as well. The downside is the pricetag, and also the fact that food sometimes sticks. Cleaning isn't usually much of an issue, however, and there are ways around it. I also have some glass bakeware that I use, which is a solid, safe choice, but sometimes impractical (breakage).
So now let's go through what is left in the wide selection of cookware. Copper: No. Still touted as a chef's top choice, copper pans are expensive, high-maintenance, and lined with other metals that have to be kept up, or replaced after time. Why? Because copper will form toxic materials when it contacts acids (as in acidic-foods)* For me, this is not an efficient option. Some copper in the body is good; Too much is bad. Greenpan is a manufacturer that uses a ceramic non-stick coating called Thermolon, made from a sand-derivative not using chemicals such as PFOA. I have one of these pans (a grillpan that was gifted to me) and I use it on occasion on the stovetop. I'm pretty sure the base is aluminim as it's very lightweight. I wouldn't advocate buying an entire set of these but occasional use is probably okay. Solid Teknics is an Australian company that makes their AUS-ION line from wrought iron. It is supposed to be half the weight of cast iron, which is appealing. The pricetag is moderate to high, but I would be willing to try one of these guys. You can find them online here in the states; note that its cleaning and seasoning is the equivalent for cast iron. Stoneline is a maker of pans out of Germany that are comprised of an aluminium base with a ceramic coating. They also offer chemical-free non-stick products. At first glance, I thought these might be a good alternative, but for their expense, I have read too much about quality concerns to chance the investment.
So the final takeaway? Well, for starters and as with food, variety is key! My kitchen is currently comprised of stainless steel, ceramic, enameled and traditional cast iron, and the new titanium-ceramic coated aluminum non-stick pans that I mentioned above. I would ditch the older non-stick pans pronto; if you have stainless steel, do the magnet test; if you have a copper pot, is it in good shape and of good quality?; treat your cast iron-ware right; rotate your vessels so that you aren't always using the same piece over and over; replace aluminum foil with another option, and use non-abrasive cleaners and sponges on all of your pots and pans!
Begley, T.H., et al, "Perfluorochemicals: Potential Sources of and Migration from Food Packaging", Food Additives and Contaminants (February 2005): 1023-1031.
American Cancer Society, Teflon and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/teflon-and-perfluorooctanoic-acid-pfoa.html (January 5 2016).
Sandrine Perez for Nourishing Ourselves, Cookware Recommendations, https://nourishingourselves.com/2013/02/21/cookware-recommendations/ (February 21 2013).
Dr. Deanna Minich, Toxins from Cookware: What is the Best Option to Avoid Adding to your Burden?", https://www.deannaminich.com/toxins-from-cookware-what-is-the-best-option-to-avoid-adding-to-your-burden/ (January 25 2019).
Stahl, Thorsten, et al, "Migration of Aluminum from Food Contact Materials to Food - A Health Risk for Consumers? Part III of III: Migration of Aluminum to Food from Camping Dishes and Utensils Made of Aluminum", Environmental Sciences Europe (April 2017): 17.
I made this soup the other night for some dinner guests. It's adapted from the gorgeous Complete Book of Turkish Cooking by Ghillie Basan that I received from my sister-in-law as she was downsizing her recipe book collection (gasp!). We had the soup at the start of the meal and I'm pretty sure it was the favored dish of the night. It is a very comforting soup for a chilly evening. While I often substitute cow dairy with non-dairy, I didn't this time. I suppose you could try with coconut milk, but you might not get the intended flavor (too much sweetness). Other non-dairy milks may work too, but you may not get the body. If you do try it, let me know in the comments! Recipe follows and made plenty for four as a first course.
1 TB olive oil
3 leeks, trimmed, washed, & roughly chopped
1 TB yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped reserving a few fronds for garnish
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cup whole milk
4 ounces good quality sheep's milk feta cheese, crumbled
Plenty of black pepper and some paprika to garnish
Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot and stir in the chopped leeks and onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
Add the sugar and the chopped dill, and pour in the water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Leave the liquid to cool a bit, then process everything in a blender until you've got a smooth puree.
Return the pureed soup to the pan, pour in the milk and stir over a gentle heat until it's hot (careful NOT to let it boil). Season with a little salt (very little as the feta should be plenty salty), and lots of black pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with crumbled feta and a sprinkle of paprika and dill fronds and serve.
This recipe was built around the fact that I found a Berbere Spice blend that I'd been hunting down for a while. I went to Spice and Tea Merchants in S. Asheville for their berbere; Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix of chilies, cardamom, ginger, paprika, fenugreek, and cumin. Some can be quite hot, so choose wisely in accordance to your taste. I would rate this spice blend as a 6 on the heat scale (from 1-10). Following is a recipe with an Ethiopian flare. I have adapted it from Naturally Ella.
Berbere Black Lentil Stew - serves 4
1 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 TB minced fresh ginger
3-4 TB of Berbere spice
1 cup dry black lentils
2 cups vegetable broth or bone broth
1-2 cups water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Yogurt for serving/topping
Cilantro, chopped for serving/topping
Procedure: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I like Le Creusets), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Cook until the onion is translucent - about 6 minutes. Add in the ginger and saute for another minute.
Measure in 3 TB of the Berbere spice blend and stir to coat the onions and ginger. Add in the black lentils, then the vegetable broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook about 25 minutes. Check and stir on occasion, adding water if needed (I didn't need to).
When the lentils are mostly tender, stir in the tomato sauce and lemon juice. Cook for another 10 minutes until the lentils are the right consistency (should be soft, not mushy). Taste and add anymore seasoning that's needed (squeeze of lemon, more berbere, or sea salt).
Serve immediately, topped with chopped cilantro and a bit of yogurt.
I often get asked where I find inspiration for cooking and fresh recipes. The answer is any and everywhere! Yes, I follow other food blogs; Instagram and Pinterest are both fun and photo-filled; inspiration comes from my travels - often a big part of any adventure for me is discovering the food. And this can be anything, not necessarily exotic. Some of the best places are complete hole-in-the-wall dives. Do you have a favorite crab shack at the coast? A fave BBQ joint? Often times I'll experience a food at a place like that and come home to try and replicate it a little bit 'healthier'. Sometimes it doesn't work (I'm not much for deep frying), but more often times, it does.
Insights and Inspirations on nutrition, food, wellness, recipes, and more! All posts by Jaime Frinak.