Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Instinctual Cooking


      Anybody that is a true chef will tell you, upon occasion, there will be failures. I learned this the hard way in my younger years, many a time. Although I have gotten a lot more savvy about what works and what doesn't, occasionally I am blind-sided. This was such the case with a recipe I decided to so diligently follow for a Cajun 15-bean soup I found on the back of a 1.5 pound package of beans I picked up.
     Sounded pretty good, at first glance. As I was soaking the beans, I started doing the math of what they were telling me to do. To make a long story short, the people behind this recipe seemed to think that covering the soaked 1.5 pounds of beans with 2 quarts of water was sufficient to cook said beans for 2.5 hours at a low simmer, uncovered. This totally rubbed me the wrong way, but then I heard my mother's screams from my youth as I experimented with "deviations" of traditional family recipes, in my usual "mad scientist" way.
      "You have to follow the recipe!!!" she hollered as one concoction blew up in the oven, while another boiled over into a foamy mess all over the floor. I told her I just wanted a chemistry set for Christmas, year after year. I guess I took it upon myself to make own chemistry set in the kitchen when my Wish List was repeatedly stamped, "Denied." (Psht! Blow up the house? What's the worst that could happen?... Don't answer that.)
     Anyway, getting back to the bean soup, I decided to fudge on the side of caution and added an extra pint of water. Just as I suspected, about one hour into the long simmer, the soup was starting to look more like lava than soup meaning the water was running out. With a quick stir, I could feel the thickness starting to collect at the bottom of the pot with the spoon, too. Grrrr. I knew it!!!
      Although the process of "reduction" when making soups and sauces is a hallmark of many a great recipe, there was no WAY this was going to go the distance for the amount of time they told me. In went another pint of water, and on went a half-cocked lid. Skip ahead to 30 minutes before time to add the browned meat and onions the recipe called for. It was getting way too thick again, and started to stick at the bottom. went more water and some vigorous stirring to keep the bottom from burning. Now I stopped to think, as I'm browning the meat and onions to seal the deal. Something seemed off about this process. I made navy bean and split-pea soup many times as a little girl with my grandma. I miss the days when I could just call her and say, "What am I supposed to do, again?" She worked on auto-pilot. It was a hand-full of this and a chunk of that, a pinch of one thing and a dash of another. Learning to cook from grandma was an exercise in observation and memory. Today, my now middle-aged memory was failing me. Something just wasn't right. But what?
     Added the meat and onions into the brew, just like the recipe said, being such a "good girl". The nagging feeling of unease persisted. As I cleaned up the kitchen, the lava-like sound returned to the pot. I raced over to stir, but it was too late. The bottom had officially started to burn. I pulled the pot from the stove, swearing the whole way to the sink. I pulled another pot that was still drying from a different dish prepared earlier. In went the lava, but not without leaving a good 1/2 inch of burn on the bottom. "F*#K! S#^T!" After I got over my surly sailor expletive session, I tasted the remaining lava.
       Oh. It was good, really good. A few "consumers" of my household passed by, tasted, and concurred; it was really, really good. Well, I hope they enjoy it. I now stare at the mess for the 'morrow, as the burnt-on pot soaks overnight. I sigh deeply, still knowing this could have been avoided. Grandma never constantly stirred her bean soup. What did I forget to do? Suddenly, I quietly heard her cackling from the great beyond.
      In her Hungarian-American accent I heard her say, "You brown the meat een the pot, silly mokush! You brown the meat und the onions in lard or oleo een the pot first, my dear. I luff you!" Her laughter echoed gently away. Yep. That was it. I will try it "our" way next time. Love you and miss you, Grandma. Thank you. Meanwhile, I have a pot to scrub.

       Have a Happy and Healthy Day! Bright Blessings!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Knowing When to Say, "When."


     A client of mine spurred the impetus for this post. She had her own "AHA" moment realizing that continuously "working through pain" is not always the answer to healing. (You know who you are. Thank you for your keen insight, and blessing.) ;) She struggles on and off with a hamstring, IT band and piriformis issue that mimics sciatica. She pushes herself hard in a variety of physical outlets. This particular day, she had just run a 5K. She reported her ongoing problem as being a little "twingy" after the run, but over-all, felt pretty good. Her SI joints and hips were slightly out of alignment which is normal because she leads heavily with one side. While working to balance her back out, she told me that ever since she rested for a few weeks from the rigors of her usual routine, she noticed in a recent Taekwondo class she takes, that she is finally able to do a particular kick that she had been struggling with. AHA! She had just come back from a week-long vacation and was "easing" back into her schedule. She observed that since she had been being a little more gentle with herself, the offending muscles and corresponding fascia actually had time to unwind, and return to the proper resting length. This has opened up her body to have greater range of motion, stamina, and strength. You go, girl! Gently.
     In contrast to this awesome report, I had another client who doesn't believe in rest. He is a firm believer that "no pain, no gain, at any and all costs". This client works as a personal trainer, is built like a truck, and, despite his young age, has the range of motion in some of his joints of a senior citizen. "Yeah. I got a lot of work for you to do," he sighs. Never mind the taught bands restricting his neck and shoulders that are better suited for holding up a bridge than the human body.  It is when I get down to the legs that the true atrocities become evident.
    This client's hamstrings are like individual, solid, steel pipes with wrinkles and wads of scar tissue, throughout. The IT bands are so tight that there is a actually an outward bow developing in the shape of the thighs. There are corresponding "clicking" and "popping" sounds from the knees and ankles, sounding off from their torturous misalignment. On the front of the thighs there is more scarred and wadded up fascia and muscle-fibers gone horribly wrong. In one quad, there is an egg-shaped knot of such derelict fibers. "Yeah. That's from my last tear," he admits. I asked him if he realizes that when he gets into his 30's, if he doesn't knock this off, he isn't going to be moving very well, at all. He relates that he knows, and further relates that this last tear put him down for 6 months with crutches. I am stunned. He then goes on to say, "That's why I am working so hard, to get back to where I was." No AHA, here, unfortunately. After delicately trying to explain why this is a bad idea, he retorts, "I can't help it. It's an addiction." I finish my work, and quietly leave.
     Now, to see this guy walking about, he looks like a very fit, young man. It is sad that this is not the case. There is nothing wrong with pushing one's self up to the limit and eventually, making a break-though to another level. There does, however, have to be a respect for the integrity of the body and its health, for its own sake. Part of this maintenance includes rest. It is not an option. It is a necessity, if you want the body to be able to keep working to and through limits.  Please remember this the next time a limit is being approached. Be gentle with yourself. It is the only body you have, and it needs to last a life-time.

Have a happy and healthy week, everyone. Bright Blessings!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Proper Time Management vs. The Proper Use of Time


       Just got home a little while ago from one of my "brick and mortar" jobs where I work as a massage therapist; and for some, a confidant and cheerleader for helping others to achieve a happier and healthier, pain-managed life-style. I am passionate about what I do. The Universe has granted me a sound mind to cipher the intricate puzzle of the human body. This includes recognition of patterns and pains that can be debilitating if not dealt with in a kind and understanding fashion.
      These "patterns" are sometimes easy to figure out from a physiological stand-point. These can be observed in repetitive motion injuries, or improper work-out strategies for the particular body at hand. Sometimes postural distortions are discovered that were previously unmentioned. They show their insidious harm in the way a person compensates in his or her daily activities. This comes as a beautiful "AHA!" moment for some people that have been struggling with pain for a very long time, but never knew why. Sometimes, though, the chain of pain runs deeper.
       Sometimes, the reason behind a painful postural distortion comes from what it is happening, or has happened, in life. These cases require a special kind of care and patience. The problem with this particular "brick and mortar" job, is it is run by a corporation that is more concerned with "numbers" than real results. Enter: problem; at least, for me.
        Tonight, I did six hours solid of body-work, back to back. At this particular job, each hour of therapy is supposed to actually yield 50 minutes therapy time to each client. In the 10 minutes remaining, the therapist is responsible for: bringing the client in and seeing how his or her body is feeling, gleaning what he or she wants to be worked on, and getting the client ready for the job at hand. Apparently, there is no time allotted for gushes of approval over how much better the client is feeling since the last session or concerns over what did not work and needs to be done. There is also no time allotment for talk about the weather, grand-kids visiting, stress at work, or anything else that might be affecting the healthy integrity of the whole living, human being before me.
      Okay...I look at the clock that has passed several minutes past the top of the hour after this has all been revealed. I still have my 10 minute "slush-fund" to work with. It's all good. Now comes the session.
      Sometimes the client will relax right into the face-cradle, just needing to be touched to let it all go. Sometimes he or she will continue talking the whole time to "get it all out" while I work at the physical problems that ebb and flow throughout the session. But sometimes, there will be that one client that needs "just a little more time."
      Extra time is needed to go through Muscle Energy Techniques to release that bundle of muscle fibers that never let go after a gruesome hockey game two days ago. Extra Time is needed to quiet the nerve and stress bundles acquired by a young person trying to make "REGIONALS" at an important swim meet. Extra time is needed to disengage the shoulders from being worn as "earrings" from a person trying to accommodate demanding "in-laws". Extra time is needed to allow a person who is deaf and blind, to be able to find the table, know when and how to turn over, and how to find her clothes to get dressed after the session. Time. For the love of God and the Universe, it takes time.
       I can usually get it done within the time allotted; but sometimes, I just can't, or should say, WON'T. Apparently, this is not acceptable, at this particular "brick and mortar" job. Therapists are no longer able to keep one room for their shifts. (We are now required to bounce from room to room each hour, to show the rooms are being used "effiiciently". I guess it "looks better" on the books this way.) We are also required to change sheets, clean the room and do all of our case notes which are housed in the front office (so as, to comply by HIPPA laws) in between clients. (Please do the math on how long all of these items should really take. Remember, we have ten minutes.)
      I got reprimanded today, because: I take too long to get out of my room assigned for the hour before going to the next room, and, I quote, "You laugh too loud when you are in there". (This was a response to a particularly funny story a client was relating to me while she was on the table.) Another very humorous regular client was on the table a little while later.
       He is a very kind, fatherly-like character who has "adopted" me has his "go-to gal" to unwind his ill-placed golf-swing.  I caught myself laughing, and apologized and explained myself. With his usual wit, he replied, "Tell them you can show them how it is done, if they would like." I had to stifle myself, to be sure. I warned him I couldn't go over in time, as I had to be mindful of the clock. At the end, he thanked me, as he always does, then told me he would be out in 15 minutes. I closed the door laughing...loudly. Thanks for keeping me honest, dear sir. :D

Trying to be in the present moment doesn't always work in the world, I understand. But if you were on my table, how would you like me to proceed? Your comments are whole-heartedly welcome. Bright Blessings!

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Fermented Food Success Story!


     Hello! I am pleased to share with you a success story using the information provided on my my previous post:
where shares with us the value of consuming fermented foods in our diet. This recipe was gleaned from the info from that post by my friend and workmate, the lovely and talented Tina Hoffman. She has graciously allowed me to reproduce what she did here, to share with you! I must say, it is DELICIOUS!!! Two jars way, way up! So without further ado, here it is:

                                                  Tina's Ferment-abulous Cabbage!!!


1/2 head red cabbage
1/2  head regular cabbage
4 carrots
1 small red onion
2 generous teaspoons of minced garlic - Hint: 1 clove equals about 1/2 teaspoon minced.
Salt and Pepper


Shred the cabbage and carrots into a bowl.

Finely chop the onion and add it to the mix. Add in the garlic, too.

Lightly add salt and pepper to taste. - Note: Although the salt combines with the juices to assist in the fermenting process, you only need to add a small amount to achieve the taste you want.

Mix the whole works together by hand. Squeeze the veggies as you go. The liquid released should make the veggies start to feel wet. (You are breaking down the cell-walls of the veggies to release their juices. These juices combined with the light salting creates "brine" which is the preserving and fermenting agent.)

Stuff the mixture into a jar, or jars, depending on the size of your jars and the yield. Make sure that the veggies are completely covered with the brine solution. (If not, you can add a little water to "top it off".)

Allow to sit on the counter for three days. You can let it sit longer, if you desire, but this tastes pretty awesome at three days. :) Place finished fermented product in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process and keep fresh.

Now, I must note, that in the picture I took of Tina's beautifully colored concoction, there are some alfalfa sprouts in it, too. This is because I was a "bad girl" and ate some before I got home to take the picture. ( I couldn't help it! It's really THAT good.)  I through them in to re-fill the part I ate. I must say, it is a nice addition and adds to the bright and tasty mosaic inside that jar.

Hope you enjoy Tina's recipe as much as I did! Happy and Healthy eating everyone! :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sweeeet Pepper Poppers!!!


    Hi all! This is another cold weather treasure that makes for awesome snacks on a football Sunday, or a meal by itself. The ingredients in this recipe are mostly Tri-doshic friendly from an Ayurvedic standpoint. There are some potentially heating aspects of the end product that might aggravate Pitta a bit; however, on a cold, blustery day in November, you can aggravate my Pitta anytime. :) So here it is!

                                             "Sweeeet Pepper Poppers!!!"


12 Mini Sweet Peppers - They come in all the gorgeous red, yellow and orange colors of Bells, but are small and skinny. Unlike similarly shaped sharps, they are sweet and mellow.

1 cup fresh spinach

1 cup freshly prepared (already cooked) couscous- Quinoa can be used, but I like the smaller size of couscous granules for this particular recipe. Note: 1/4 cup dry couscous makes about 1 cup cooked. If making from a box, save the left-over for salads. It's delicious!

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup celery, chopped small
1/4 cup carrots shredded and lightly steamed

About 1/3 pound ground and browned turkey - I have some hard-core carnivores here. Crumbled and browned tofu works, too. :)

1/3 cup plain yogurt      
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small bunch parsley (optional, but cool.)
2 pinches sea salt
2 Tablespoons sunflower or walnut oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

About 1 teaspoon ground black pepper corn - I mill it straight onto the top of the finished product before popping in the oven. More or less is personal choice.


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice peppers length-wise and remove seeds. Note: I like to keep the 2 halves together by not cutting through the other side. Just cut a slit big enough to open the pepper to take out the seeds. :)

Place the peppers on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Heat the garlic, salt, celery and oil in a pan and sautee for a couple minutes. Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted, but still a lovely green.

Spoon the sauteed mix into the prepared couscous. Add in the steamed carrots, turkey or tofu, yogurt, turmeric and most of the cheese. Note: Keep a Tablespoon or two aside to sprinkle on top of the peppers after they come out of the oven for a little "cheesecap". This also serves to hide the veggies on the "inside" of the peppers for the picky, anti-veggie crowd. Mom trick. ;)

Stir up the couscous mix to evenly distribute everything.

With a teaspoon, spoon the mix into each of your little peppers. Be generous, but try not to overflow the little guys. Sprinkle your ground peppercorn on top.

Pop into the oven for 50 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top for last couple minutes of baking, if "cheesecaps" are desired.

Upon removal from the oven, garnish the tops by sinking little parsley florets into the tops of the stuffing. Careful. They will be hot. Place the peppers on a serving tray, and garnish the empty spaces with a few more parsley florets. (It's all about the presentation, donchaknow?)

Report: Entire plate of 12 was gone in 15 minutes, including the plate I used to take the picture. Might need to double or triple this recipe. ;)

                              Happy and Healthy Eating, everyone. Stay warm! :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pan-tastic Potato Supper!


     As discussed in the last post (see :  What is "Ayurveda" Anyway?) the goal of Ayurveda is to live a healthy and happy life that is in line with an individual's unique constitution. This is done through diet. As the old saying goes, "You are what you eat." Ayurveda takes this one step further. The teachings decree that not only is the physical body affected by what is consumed, but so are the dispositions of the mind, emotions and spirit.
     When referring to food from an Ayurvedic stand-point, the first thing that is considered is the taste experienced on the toungue, or "rasa." There are six tastes : sweet, sour, pungent, salty, bitter and astringent. The doshas have certain tastes dominant to each nature. All six tastes should be incorporated into each meal, as it assists to balance the whole. All three doshas are found in all constitutions. It is the proportions of each taste that must be adjusted for the dominance of doshas in each person.
    Another thing considered in the Ayurvedic diet is the heating or cooling qualities of food, or "virya." This consideration is not only important to balance the doshas themselves, but also important when considering the season in which food is being eaten. Consumption of more cooling foods during the heated days of summer, and warming foods during the cold nights of winter just makes sense.
     One more quality considered for food by Ayurveda are the sensory or tactile qualities of food, or "guna". Whether a food is calming or stimulating, light or heavy, dry or moist, (among many others) can determine whether that food is going to have a positive or negative effect on the constitution. (Tiwari, pages 57-63) All things considered, there still are some foods that are generally considered to be Tri-doshic when eaten upon occasion by anyone. This generally means imbalance is less likely to occur for any of the doshas if certain things are eaten. It is this tri-doshic stand-point I am providing the following recipe for.  Hope you like it as much as all the different doshas did in this house!

                                                    "Pan-tastic Potato Supper!"
                                                 - for a chilly fall or winter day-

                                                       Yield :  about 4 servings


2 Cups Fresh Green Beans - Snapped into bite-size pieces.
                                            Steam-cook lightly, but still maintain firmness and bright green color.

4 medium red or white potatoes - Boil these until soft enough to pierce, but still firm.
                                                    Drain but set 1/3 cup of the potato water aside.
                                                    Cut potatoes into bite-sized cubes.

1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon sunflower kernels
2 Tablespoon canola or sunflower oil
2 pinches sea salt
1/2 Tablespoon lemon zest pepper
1 Tablespoon ground sumac
1 Tablespoon ghee


In a large, tall-sided pan, (a wok works great!) heat 1 Tablespoon oil, salt, parsley and sunflower kernels and saute for a couple minutes.

Add in the beans, lemon zest pepper and potato water. Stir well. Allow to simmer for another couple of minutes.

Add the cubed potatoes, remaining 1 Tablespoon oil left and the ghee. Mix everything together coating the potatoes well. After 5 to 7 minutes, potatoes should be cooked through, but still firm.

Sprinkle sumac all over and mix once more.

Serve warm and enjoy! :)

Stacey Adams is a Body-worker, Healer, Herbal formulator, Perpetual student and Mom. She also is the owner and operator of "The Woman of the Woods Health Portal" on

Sources used for research :  Tiwari, Maya. "Ayurveda A Life of Balance". 1995.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What is "Ayurveda" Anyway?


     Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates into "the science of life". The tenants of Ayurveda were recorded more than 5,000 years ago making it one of the oldest, holistic medical systems in the world today. It is comprised of practices and philosophies that regard the mind, body and spirit as a whole unit. When any of these components become compromised, imbalance ensues which precedes illness, and ultimately manifests as dis-ease (Lad, pages 15-19).
     There are a variety of ways a person can become more aware of what needs to be maintained for holistic balance. Each person is a unique combination of the five"elements" of  Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space (Ether). The combinations of these natural elements, genetic recall and karmic memory make up each individual's human constitution, or Prakriti. The elements transmute their energies into the human form by way of three operating principles of nature called Doshas (Tiwari, pages 15-16; 23). These principles are thought to determine physical appearance, thought and emotional tendencies, and strengths and weaknesses within different people. (To determine which Doshic tendencies you may have, there is an interesting little quiz you can take found here: ) The goal of Ayurveda is to know your Prakriti and keep it balanced "for optimum health and happiness." This is achieved by well-suited life-style, exercise, and most importantly, a diet that is in harmony with each individual's needs (Chiodo, page 8 -9).
     Maya Tiwari said, "Food is memory." It is from the five elements acting upon each other that subatomic particles, minerals, nutrients and living cells are formed. As we consume food, there is an inherent memory brought to our cells of sustenance (Tiwari, page 15). Each morsel is a reminder of the symbiotic relationship food and cells have had since the beginning of life, itself. It should be emphasized that food has its own inherent memory of  the cellular structures within itself, as it was designed to be at the beginning of time. Mutations to these structures alters the delicate DNA and balance of the sustenance held within. Hence, the importance of "living" food is emphasized. Food that has been altered, over-processed or made in a laboratory out of synthetic chemicals is not "living food", nor can it sustain life in healthy cells as they were designed to be sustained. This is another topic, for another time. With all this being said, the importance of food as a key player in balancing for health and happiness is tantamount to the Ayurvedic traditions.

Coming up: Some Ayurvedic-friendly recipes to help balance the Doshas. :) Stay tuned!


                                            Works Cited

Chiodo, Tess. "Ayurveda 101." Presentation at Joyful Yoga. 29 Sept. 2013.

Lad, Dr. Vasant. "Ayurveda The Science of Self-Healing." 1984.

Tiwari, Maya. "Ayurveda A Life of Balance." 1995.

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