My Favorite Mushroom: Maitake

Personally I’m not a huge mushroom fan. I like them a lot cooked, but I rarely ventured into the realm of eating them raw UNTIL I met the Maitake, or Hen-of-the-Woods as it’s more commonly called in the U.S. I first encountered the Maitake a number of years ago at a farmer’s market when I asked a mushroom farmer which of his wares tasted best raw. He immediately pointed out the Maitake. I let me break off a bit and have a nibble and it was love at first bite.

The Maitake has a very firm, almost crisp and juicy texture and a mild nutty taste, and it keeps for a long time (unlike white or portabella mushrooms which needs to be used ASAP). Recently I came across an article that was extolling the health virtues of Maitake, in particular the fact that it has the highest Vitamin-D content of any mushroom with 100% RDA in half a cup diced (per Wikipedia)!!!

Personally I just really like how it tastes and the fact that it’s good for me is just an added bonus. I love to sprinkle it (you don’t actually have to cut it, it’s so crisp it crumbles very easily in your hand) over kale salads and scrambled eggs. It’s become much easier to find and I can now purchase it at my local Whole Foods but I’m thinking about trying my hand at growing my own! Would love to hear what you think of it! Be a spark!

Wikipedia’s Maitake entry: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grifola_frondosae

Cancer treatment benefits: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/maitake-mushrooms

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Health and Happiness 2014: Wonderful Autumnal Salad and Book Recommendation

Every year I wish my friends and family Health and Happiness for the year ahead because if you have those two items well in hand, the rest of life is much easier and more enjoyable!  So here are two items to help contribute to your health and happiness.  An autumnal salad full of antioxidants and other phytonutrients, and the latest book we’ve been reading that is absolutely rocking our worlds!  Enjoy and be a spark in the world!

Happiness: 15 Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

This book is absolutely awesome. Maxwell’s supposition that you don’t get better just because you get older hit me like a thunderbolt of “duh!”  It makes perfect sense once you think about it, but many of us take for granted that we will naturally become better at everything we do just because we have more experience.  He makes a strong case for why this is not true and lays out a plan that is guaranteed to ensure that you don’t just age, but that you progress as well. I can’t wait to finish it AND put his suggestions into practice.  Right now this book keeps bouncing back and forth between our nightstands as we each read a chapter and then discuss it together. You can buy the book here.

Health: Autumn Jewels Antioxidant Salad

I made this salad for a Thanksgiving feast at my daughter’s pre-school and it was a hit.  Witness the “after” photo.  I love the rich jewel colors that the pomegranate seeds, avocado and kabocha squash lend.  Make sure the squash is cool to cold or it will wilt the salad. My recipe will serve 6-12 depending on if it’s an entree or an appetizer.

jewelsalad

1-large bunch of red kale washed, despined and shredded
1-large pomegranate (just the seeds of course)
4-ounces of pecans
1-large avocado
1/4-medium sized kabocha squash baked at 300-degrees until soft, do this the night before so that it has time to cool fully
1-lemon
olive oil and sea salt to taste

Chop up pecans, avocado and squash to desired sizes (I like marble size chunks) and toss with pomegranate seeds and kale.  Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sea salt (I like Alaea salt which you can find here), drizzle with olive oil and squeeze the juice of about half a lemon.  Toss and allow to sit for no more than 20-minutes before serving (the lemon juice will wilt the kale and 20-minutes is just enough, any longer and it becomes limp…YUCK!)

I always try to buy organic ingredients.  This is especially important when you are eating a fruit or vegetable without a rind to peel which helps to protect the plant from the chemicals it may have been grown with.  This salad is super good for you.  To learn some of the health benefits I’ve included additional links below.

Kale: Besides having a wonderful crunch (I hate limp food!), kale is also high in protein, Omega-3 and Omega-6 when compared to traditional lettuce.  Kale is also high in folic acid and calcium, and let’s just be frank…eating it is like giving the inside of your body the loofah scrubbing it deserves!!!  If you eat kale regularly you will be regular too ;^)  My entire family eats raw kale twice a day (morning smoothie and afternoon salad) and I feel like it is a major component in our good health.

Pomegranate: super high in Vitamin C and potassium

Pecans: lots of Vitamin E and good for your cholesterol, pecans add some protein to this salad as well as give you some satisfying fat.  Fat is a vitally important building block for the body and helps you feel satisfied when you eat. Also, many nutrients require fat for maximum absorption, so for all these reasons it’s good to have some healthy fats in your salad.

Avocado: Personally I just LOVE LOVE LOVE avocado.  I met someone who was allergic and I felt so incredible sorry for her because avocado is one of my favorite foods.  It also provides lots of healthy fat and helps increase the absorption of carotenoids.  But one of the best health benefits is the high-presence of polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols which is mostly present in ocean vegetables (rare in terrestrial) and helps greatly with anti-inflammation related to arthritis.

Kabocha squash: This squash has a wonderfully starchy and sweet quality.  Almost more like a sweet potato (especially similar to purple Okinawan sweet potato if you’ve ever had any of that deliciousness!!!) Super high in Vitamin A. In my opinion its taste and mouth-feel is HIGHLY superior to butternut squash and it has fewer calories and starches than butternut (win-win-win!)

Olive Oil: Great for the cardiovascular system and again, a super good fat for you (like pecans and avocados.) Be sure to buy extra virgin first cold-pressed.  Heat will always compromise the nutritional benefits of produce, so you want things to be as close to raw as possible and the cold-press designation helps assure that.  BTW, I only “dress” my foods with olive oils, I never cook with olive oil because it starts to break down at relatively low temperatures. I cook with ghee. This is the brand of olive oil I use in my kitchen.

Disclaimer: please use common sense as my blog represents my opinion only.  I am not a medical-professional so take a big tablespoon of Alaea salt with what I say and please do your own research too!  Mahalo and Happy Holidays.

Raising a Kale-Loving Child

On the days when my toddler and I are out and about during lunch time, I usually have our lunch packed with us since I like to eat healthily.  Our “going out” lunch is usually comprised of a large kale-based salad, baked sweet potato, raw hummus and garlic to dip our kale stalks into (the thick center portion of the kale that I remove from the salad leaves) and some sort of fruit.  When people see us eating we usually get a lot of comments.  One of the most common things I hear is “Is your child eating kale?  I could never get my kid to eat kale” as my toddler munches happily on a raw bit of the cruciferous superfood.  Now since I’m just a mother of one and she’s only a toddler (so she hasn’t reached the food rebellion phase), I reached out to my friend Leigh a super-mom of 6-children ranging in age from 20-years-old to 18-months-old.  All of Leigh’s kids are great eaters (and great kids) and she also makes a pretty amazing vegan chocolate mousse.  So here are 4-tips for raising a “kale-loving child” (with valuable input from Leigh)  I hope you find the information useful!  Namaste.

1) Set a good example: if you want your child to eat kale and other healthy foods, then you need to eat those foods as well.  Children are literally born to mimic their parents, and they will be naturally curious about whatever you are eating (especially if you are enjoying it.)  Before my daughter could even eat solids she was shoving her hands into my daily kale-based salads, and as soon as she had teeth she was happily grinding away on them too.  Also, if you are pregnant be sure to eat healthy.  There are LOTS of reasons to do so, but for the purpose of this article I am suggesting it because taste buds are developed in utero.  My daughter eats EXACTLY how I ate when I was pregnant.

2) DO NOT make “separate food” for your child: My child eats almost anything, however, if I happen to make one of the few things she’s not super crazy about, I make it clear that “this is what’s for dinner and if she’s hungry she should eat it.”  I never make her  food that is separate from what my husband and I are eating.  My friend Leigh has a slightly different approach to this.  Leigh makes meals with lots of different options (she does have 8-people to provide for after all versus my 3.) Then if all food is rejected (as sometimes happens), she will allow them to eat “something fresh”.  Those are her exact words and what that means is something raw….an apple, some carrots, celery, orange, fruit, green smoothie, etc that they have to make.  She has found that by providing lots of options it ensures that the children find SOMETHING healthy to eat, and encourages them to experiment and develop their own taste buds.  Both of us agree that if at that point nothing is eaten, then likely they aren’t really hungry and we don’t force them to eat or make something “yummy” that we know they will eat.

3) Grow your own fruits and vegetables: Kids want to put everything that is outside in their mouths anyway, just imagine how their faces will LIGHT UP when you say “go ahead, put that in your mouth.”  This is how my daughter first started eating kale: picking it from our garden.  Most salad items: kale, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs are easy to grow without very much space.  You can even grow them in containers (pots.)  I’ve never met a child who isn’t a born gardener.  Also, there have been studies that show that children who garden eat more veggies. 

4) Get them cooking with you: This tip is from Leigh and I imagine will become even more useful as my child gets older.  She encourages them to find recipes for the family to make, or even for them to make on their own (for the older children.)  She’s found this process to be very successful in getting her kids to eat healthy food since people are naturally more interested in eating something if they’ve been involved in making it.

I’ll be writing more posts about healthy eating for you and your children, so I won’t expand here, but do know that I allow my child the occasional “treat” such as mac and cheese and lollipops (but they have to have no artificial ingredients!)  However, there are lots of super healthy foods that kids love to gobble up like dates and goji berries, so give your child lots of choices and see what they like that also happens to be healthy for them!  Good luck and happy eating!