Mindful Cooking

During the fullness of life, sometimes it takes a little extra patience to relax and be present what we are doing - no distractions. 

Cooking provides the perfect opportunity to slow down and enjoy the moment. Try this practice as you are preparing food for your loved ones.

Perhaps you want to try it while making the kasha biscuits and herbed green gravy below. 

Slow Cooking

Begin from the very first moment you place the water on the heat, or pour the oil in the pan. Listen to the sounds, the smells and the sensations.

As you begin to cook the various foods, notice how the addition of each new ingredient affects the overall fragrance of the dish. Allow yourself to be present with the different senses, rather than being lost in thought. Each time the mind wanders, just gently bring the attention back to these sounds and smells.

Try to be aware of how your mood and thinking change throughout the cooking process. Do you find the heat oppressive? Do you find yourself getting anxious trying to keep all the different things going at once, or confident and in control? Don’t try and change any of these things for now –- simply building up a picture is enough.

As you observe the mind, use the physical senses as a safe place to come back to when you feel the emotions running off. For example, rather than feeling anxious about feeling anxious, come back to the smell of the food. Instead of getting increasingly frustrated at feeling frustrated, bring your attention back to the sounds of the food cooking.

As you become aware of these things, notice where your mind wants to travel. Does it drift off to memories past, perhaps associating the smells with previous meals? Or does it race ahead to the future, perhaps imagining what the food is going to taste like? 

This doesn’t require any thinking, it is simply a matter of being aware. Being aware of the thoughts in this way will help you to get much better at the exercise, which, for most people, means enjoying a more peaceful experience in the kitchen.

Simple Kasha

Place ½ cup dry kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) and 1 ½ cups water in a stock pot.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency.

Serve with scrambled eggs, roasted roots, or greens and beans.

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Kasha Biscuits

You will need:

  • 1 cup cooked kasha

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • ¼ cup ground sunflower seeds

  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

  • ½ teaspoon salt

Place ½ cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats) and 2 cups water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, mix olive oil, nutmeg, and salt. Incorporate the cooled kasha and then the lemon juice.

Drop mix in heaping spoonfuls on a greased baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges have turned dark brown. Enjoy with butter or gravy.

Herbed Green Gravy

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon each: dried rosemary and thyme

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids

  • 1/4 cup oat flour

  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1 cup kale, chopped

Heat oil over medium in a medium pot. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened and translucent. Stir frequently. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and pepper.

Add the soy or Bragg’s then stir in the oat flour. Stir until a paste forms and let cook for about 1 minute. Add a few splashes of the broth. Let cook for 2 minutes then pour in the rest of the broth. Whisk until well combined.

Add the kale. Bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat for about 5-8 minutes to further thicken. Stir before serving. For smooth gravy, pour into a blender and blend until fully smooth.

Whole Food + Mindfulness = Health

Food For Thought

Much of the body's total digestive response to any meal starts with the mind. If we are distracted before we begin to eat, and if we are not fully aware of what and when we are eating, we are not stimulating the full beneficial digestive response.

On the contrary, mindful eating requires being fully present with our food. It's a meditation practice that brings our thoughts to the food and our experience of the food.

In Eating Mindfully, Susan Albers describes:

"Eating a mindful meal means completely focusing your mind on the 'process' of eating. You take it moment by moment and focus on the here and now. You begin by looking at the food, noting the different colors and shapes. You really see what is in front of you. You also become aware of the manner in which you reach for the spoon and fork. Food doesn't automatically end up in your mouth. Your entire body is involved in getting it there... from ingredients to atmosphere, whether appealing or appalling, both the psychological mood and the physical accessories that surround you when you eat may influence the way in which you metabolize food and in turn your health and well-being."

You can cook and eat whole food, as close to the source as possible, to reduce your risk of illnesses from the common cold to cancer. Many doctors maintain that food is the best way to prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and depression.

Choose one food to be your health ally this spring. I am choosing black pepper. What about you?


Black Pepper

Although it’s known for making you sneeze, black pepper can actually help to ward off the sniffles. Black peppercorns are high in piperine, a compound with anti-inflammatory qualities that can reduce swelling in joints. Piperine also helps you absorb the benefits of other spices.Try for 2 teaspoons of both black pepper per week to boost your immunity.

By including your healthy food ally in your diet each week, you can contribute to your own long-term well-being. Remember that it takes time a commitment to notice these changes. Be patient.

Most of all, enjoy your meal!

Here is my favorite black pepper recipe.


Healthy Stir-Fried Vegetables

You will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, chopped

  • 3 carrots, rinsed and chopped into matchsticks

  • 1 large head broccoli, chopped

  • 2 zucchini, rinsed and chopped into matchsticks

  • 1 small purple cabbage, rinsed and chopped

  • 1 hanful snap peas (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari (low sodium)

  • 1 teaspoon each: turmeric, cumin, and coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon each: fenugreek and cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

  • Juice of half a lime

Heat oil in a skillet.

Add ginger and garlic. Stir well.

Add vinegar.

Sauté on medium heat, with the lid on, for 5 minutes. Add water if anything is sticking.

Add carrots, zucchini, broccoli and cabbage in layers with carrots on the bottom, then zucchini, then cabbage on top.

Add ½ cup water, soy sauce, and spices. Do not stir. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook with lid on for 5 minutes.

Add snap peas if you have them.

Stir, increase heat to medium, and cook for 5 more minutes, or until carrots are just tender.

Squeeze lime juice over the top and mix well to incorporate.

Serve over rice with chopped hard-boiled eggs or enjoy with rice flatbread

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