Monday, September 27, 2010

Flexible Quinoa Salad - safe to bring to dinner parties!

This is one of our favourite naturopathic-friendly go-to recipes that can easily be altered to suit your tastes or pantry supplies. The bonus of this very healthy (and dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, vegan) recipe is that it is safe enough to bring to dinner parties (ie. not too weird-looking and enough flavour to appeal to everyone's tastebuds, even for those who aren't health-conscious). We have tested variations of this recipe out at a few potluck parties, and it always gets rave reviews.

Flexible Quinoa Salad

1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
pinch of salt

½ cup dried apricots or cranberries, finely diced
½ cup red bell pepper
½ cup yellow bell pepper
¾ cup toasted pine nuts, cashews pecans or walnuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro or basil


grated lemon zest and lemon juice from one lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil

1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in cold water then pour into a fine meshed strainer and rinse again under running water (if not rinsed well, quinoa tends to be bitter).
2. Bring water to boil and add salt, then stir in the quinoa.
3. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 15min. Taste the grain. There should be just a little resistance and the opaque spiraled ring of germ should show. If necessary continue cooking until done.
4. Pour into strainer and set it to drain over a bowl.
5. Toast all the nuts either in a dry pan or the mini oven works great too! Just put them on some foil in the mini oven, watch them carefully and stir often because they may burn.
6. Combine the apricots, peppers, nuts and cilantro in a large bowl.
7. Mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette and add to the bowl of yummy apricots, peppers, nuts and cilantro.
8. Once the quinoa has cooled, add it to the bowl. Give it a good mix and ENJOY!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Warming Foods for the Cooler Weather: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Seems like in the last couple of weeks, everyone has been getting sick from coast to coast (we noticed it in Toronto and then when we went to Vancouver for Aileen's sister's wedding, people were hacking out their lungs). Part of the problem is that the weather has been cooling down, and as happens every year, we neglect to protect ourselves with adequate clothing.

Yesterday I saw people wearing parkas, others wearing shorts, and some wearing parkas with shorts(??). What this means is that those people that are holding on to the last remnants of summer by continuing to wear their summer wardrobe (not that I can blame em...I'm having a really hard time giving up my flipflops) are going to be chilled, and thereby at a higher risk of infection, such as the common cold.

For decades, conventional thinking has dismissed the correlation between cold weather and risk of infection because of Pasteur's germ theory of medicine. The germ theory explains that infection is based on exposure of a host to a pathogenic organism. The component that this theory neglects is the immune state of the host, which can be compromised by exposure to negative stressors, such as cold weather. Mothers and grandmothers have been telling us ad nauseum for eons to "dress warmly" and their theory has been vindicated by a review article in 2007 in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, which clarifies that there is a relation between repiratory tract infection incidence and exposure to cold: Exposure to Cold and Respiratory Tract Infections.

Further to this study, in 2005 at the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University, Claire Johnson and Professor Ron Eccles conducted a study that involved immersing participants' feet in cold water for twenty minutes. The participants' incidence of catching a common cold within the next few days was 29%, which was much higher than the control group, which was only 9%.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has acknowledged this phenomenon for thousands of years, and termed pathologies created by exposure to cold as "Wind-Cold Invasion". Much of TCM theory is based on Yin versus Yang qualities, which includes respectively, Cold and Heat characteristics.

Based upon changes of seasons, TCM also recommends changing cooking methods and types of foods based on their inherent cooling or warming qualities, to balance out the energies we are exposed to from the environment.

Cooking methods that impart "heat" into foods include roasting, baking and steaming. A raw food diet may be beneficial to some people who have a more yang or hot constitution, but may be detrimental in the cooler months from October to March.

Below, I have summarized common warming and cooling foods from each particular food group. During the fall, winter, and early spring, stick to neutral and warming food types, and in the summer, switch to cooling foods.
  • Warming Vegetables: sweet potato, parsnips, cilantro, green onions, cabbage, beets, turnips, pumpkin, shiitake mushrooms
  • Cooling Vegetables: broccoli, eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, radish, celery

  • Warming Fruits: blackberry, cherry, date, peach, lychee
  • Cooling Fruits: apple, banana, watermelon, strawberry, grapefruit, avocado

  • Warming Grains: oats, quinoa, rice, spelt, rye
  • Cooling Grains: barley, wheat, wild rice, millet

  • Nuts and seeds are generally all neutral, with some warming nuts including coconut, pinenut, chestnut and walnut.
  • Most meats are warm or neutral. Cool meats are frog and rabbit. I know this may be extremely challenging, but please make sure to limit your intake of frog and rabbit meat in the winter.

  • Most beans are neutral, with the exception of the cooling beans mung, soy, and lima beans.

  • Herbs are generally warming foods. If they are added to a recipe, they will provide more heat to the final food. There are some cooling herbs to avoid in the winter time: marjoram, mint and tamarind

TCM also considers a protective energy called your Wei Qi (akin to your immune system), that can be easily depleted by exposure of your neck to cold winds. So, like your mom always told you, DONT FORGET TO WEAR YOUR SCARF.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wonderful Weddings in September!!!!

We just came back from Vancouver to help my sister and our new brother-in-law celebrate their AMAZING wedding on September 12, 2010!!!  CONGRATULATIONS Elisa and Denis!!!  September is a big wedding month for our family.  My wonderful parents celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary on the 10th of September.......

And Makoto and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on the 9th of September!

Denis and Elisa were absolutely glowing on their wedding day and I credit this to their incredible ability to stay grounded throughout the entire wedding planning process.  They made sure to take care of themselves, exercise, sleep well and eat well up until the day before the wedding and while half of the wedding party had caught a bug or were completely exhausted from a week long of pre-wedding celebrations, Elisa and Denis were the picture of perfect health!  We all had an incredible time and they really went all out including a beautiful fireworks show (with heart shaped fireworks!!!) and....Makoto's favorite....a photobooth!!!  Congratulations Elisa and Denis...we love you!!!

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