Warm Milk with a Spice Kick

Some of you faithful Wooden Spoon Wellness blog readers may remember this oldie but goodie from last year’s enewsletter, The Monthy Mix. It’s so delicious that I think it deserves a comeback. Enjoy!

Warm Milk with a Spice Kick
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 10 oz. of your favorite milk or milk alternative (I like almond milk or coconut beverage for this one)
  2. 4 cardamom pods
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  5. ½ tsp. of raw honey
Instructions
  1. Heat milk and spices over medium-low heat.
  2. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain and stir in the honey.
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From the Garden: Eggplant for Your Delayed Aunt Flow

EggplantSeptember is perhaps one of the best produce months because we have the overlap of the end of the summer leaves, squashes, and cruciferous vegetables and the fall roots and squashes. Among the new plants we can eat fresh are eggplants (aka, aubergine, brinjal, bengan, elabatu).

Like other purple and red skinned produce, it is loaded with antioxidants. It is also high in fiber so it cleanses the digestive tract and is rich in Vitamin C and its skin is tauted as a excellent for the skin because it protects cells from inflammation. (See Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles by Allison Tannis)

Eggplants hold a special place in women’s health. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda recommended eating it if you want to bring on menstruation. For some, it works just by eating it once or twice. For others, it may take regular consumption to have an effect. (For more reading on this, see Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford and The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Michael Tierra.)

Some but not all practitioners believe that eggplant is best avoided if you have painful cramps, once your period starts, and during pregnancy. If you have questions as to whether it is right for you, as always, consult a natural health practitioner such as an acupuncturist, Ayurvedic healer, or integrative doctor. (If you would like recommendations in NYC, let me know.) This is also not to say that eating eggplant will cause a miscarriage. If you have made the choice to terminate a pregnancy, eating eggplant may not be the solution you are looking for. Feel free to contact me if this is an area where you would like support.

Eggplants are especially delicious roasted but if you’re not ready to turn your oven on just yet, here is a simple stovetop side-dish that includes cumin seeds which are a great source of iron according to one of my favorite sites, The World’s Healthiest Foods. The iron in cumin is helpful for building blood and thus helpful support before, during, and after menstruation. ¡Buen apetito!

  1. If you have a hard time digesting peels and/or you really do not like to eat the peel, peel the eggplant. Otherwise, just peel off a few strips and leave some of the peel on to gain from the antioxidants in the purple shell.
  2. Dice small-ish eggplant into 1-inch cubes, about 2 cups
  3. SIDENOTE: Many culinary traditions recommend salting eggplant before cooking in order to reduce the bitter taste as well as oil absorption. For the purposes of using eggplant as a healing food, consider NOT salting the eggplant as salt can inhibit circulation and the purpose of cooking this superfruit is to improve blood circulation.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil of your choice over low heat. (Extra virgin olive oil, ghee, or untoasted sesame oil are my favorites for this dish.)
  5. Add 3/4 Tbsp cumin seeds and ½ Tbsp crushed, dried rosemary in a sauté pan or wok and toast until fragrant, about 5 mins.
  6. Add eggplant to the sauté pan, coating the egpplant well in the oil and fragrants.
  7. Cover and sauté over low heat, approximately 15 minutes, tossing regularly until the eggplant are tender and a fork easily goes through and each piece is brown.
  8. If you have not eaten much salt or salty (often prepared) food that day and you generally do not have issues with blood pressure or blood flow issues, add a pinch or two of salt in the middle of cooking.
  9. Serve with a sturdier whole grain like millet or brown rice or fish. Click here to download the latest guide and app to determine which fishes are sustainable and healthy.

 

From the Garden: Easy Basil Dressing

Basil leaves on old wooden table.It was a cold and rainy day in April and the winter felt endless. My friend, Stephanie, and I were both desperate for warm, spring sunshine. We met at a French/Senegalese restaurant in Brooklyn called Cafe Rue Dix and ordered a simple salad of baby, mixed kale and avocado with basil dressing. I took my first bite and the fresh basil burst on my palette. It was as if the cold rain disappeared and my friend and I were transported to a sunny picnic in the middle of a flower field. Sometimes you need inspiration to imagine a different world and this was one of those moments. My friend instructed me to figure out how to replicate this dressing so here is my humble attempt. This one’s for you, Steph!

Easy Basil Dressing
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 4 large basil leaves
  2. extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Rinse 4 large basil leaves (or 6 to 8 small/medium leaves) lightly under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Using a mortal and pestle, crush the basil with 4 tablespoons of good quality, extra virgin olive oil. Do this for a few minutes, releasing the oils from the basil until the leave begins to turn brown. The oil should taste sort of spicy in the back of your mouth.
  3. Strain the oil using a fine mesh sieve, and pour over your favorite salad, grain and vegetable dish, or lightly cooked fish.
  4. Sprinkle with rock sea salt. (This will cut some of the spice.)
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Corn Silk: A Natural Remedy for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Green corn field growing upFresh corn-on-the-cob may be a favorite grilling vegetable but don’t toss its outer shell too quickly. Indigenous Americans and communities throughout Latin America and Central Europe have long used corn silk as a remedy for urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder infections, bed-wetting, as well as prostate problems. A 2012 article published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmocology reports scientific evidence for corn silk’s healing properties as well.

While many people in the US turn to cranberry juice or cranberry supplements when they have signs of a UTI, cranberry juice most often contains processed sugar and additives and can sometimes irritate the bladder or aggravate preexisting acid reflux. Like cranberries, corn silk is a diuretic but it also contains unique anti-inflammatory compounds as well as Vitamin K and potassium, which support blood circulation. Note that corn silk’s high amounts of potassium can interact with some blood pressure medication so you should check with your doctor if you have questions about this.

The tea that is made from corn silk is very mild: It tastes like sweet corn water. It generally resolves mild UTIs within a day or two. According to many herbalists, small amounts of corn silk tea are safe to drink during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and for children but, as with any herbal remedy, consult your physician if you have concerns.

It is important to note that most corn in the US is sprayed with chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Many studies have shown that these toxins can negatively affect human cells. Use non-GMO corn or organic corn if possible.

Cornsilk Tea
For Adults
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Ingredients
  1. 1-2 tbsp of freshly peeled corn silk
Instructions
  1. Bring approximately 10 oz of water to a boil.
  2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of freshly peeled corn silk.
  3. Turn off heat and cover.
  4. Allow to steep for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Strain and enjoy.
Notes
  1. Herbalists generally recommend drinking 1-3 cups per day. Note that this does not last in the refrigerator beyond more than a day or so.
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From the Garden: Greens, Greens, and More Greens

bunches of greensChard, and lettuces, and dandelions, and mustards, oh my!!! Take your pick of greens because they are popping up in abundance for the next several months. Baby versions of kale and arugula are ideal for salads. More mature collards and chard can be easily and quickly sautéed. All of these are packed with iron, calcium, Vitamin C, fiber and various other heart-healthy nutrients.

If you’re heading to a BBQ or picnic, capitalize on the seasonal freshness and throw together a quick salad because there is a good chance you will be the only one to bring something green. This is especially great if you are eating meat off the barbie because greens help break down the protein and will give you energy so you can keep the party going longer. Here is a recipe for a quick and easy salad that is packed with flavor as well as nutrients.

Quick Greens Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cucumber, sliced very thin
  2. ½ cup of pumpkin seeds
  3. 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  4. 2 tablespoons of ume plum vinegar
  5. 5 oz (5 cups) of baby kale (whole) or mature lacinato kale (chiffonaded-- cut into very thin slices)
  6. 1 avocado
Instructions
  1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop each half into a large bowl.
  2. Add the kale to the bowl and massage the avocado into the kale, as if you were mixing together a hamburger or veggie burger mixture. This tenderizes the dense leaves like you would meat and helps the kale break down so it is easier to digest and the nutrients are more readily available. Really get in there and massage for a solid 3-5 minutes depending on whether you’re using baby or mature kale.
  3. Add in everything else and mix well.
  4. Taste.
Notes
  1. If you want more seasoning, add more vinegar, a small amount at a time (1/2 tsp at a time) because it can become too salty very quickly.
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From the Garden: Turnip Greens

Turnips on the tableWe’re approaching the end of the local winter crops here in the Northeast and *some of us* might be a little sick of the all too popular kale at this point. If you are looking to switch things up, consider turnip greens. They are packed with calcium (4 times more than broccoli, cabbage, and their relatives), folate and Vitamin K1 (good for the pregnant ones out there or those trying to get pregnant). Turnip greens might be a little harder to find than spinach or kale so check your local farmer’s market. Some might find turnip greens to be on the bitter side so I’d recommend that you give them a quick steam (5 minutes) and then toss with something rich or tangy, like browned pieces of local bacon sautéed with onions and crushed red pepper, or this vegan dressing: mix raw tahini with hot water (3 parts tahini: 1 part water). Stir in a small amount of non-soy miso paste while the water is still hot (available at most health food stores in the refrigerated section) and add more paste to taste depending on how salty you like it. Take note: those with existing kidney or gallbladder issues might stay away from turnip greens as they may exacerbate your symptoms.

Healthy Office Cooking in Less Than 5 Minutes

IL4A0259Every office has a way to make boiling water and you can use it to blanch fresh greens, like swiss chard which is in season in New York from May November.

Here is an easy Swiss Chard recipe you can make in less than 5 minutes:

 

Swiss Chard Recipe
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. few pieces of swiss chard (or the whole bunch if you're really hungry)
  2. 1tbsp unrefined extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, or sesame oil (I like Napa Valley Naturals Cold Pressed Organic Sesame Oil.)
  3. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Wash and tear into 1-inch pieces, discarding the stems if you do not like that much roughage.
  2. Put the greens in a mug or a bowl, cover with boiling water for 30 seconds, discard the water.
  3. Toss the greens with 1 tablespoon of oil.
  4. Add a pinch of salt and you have a delicious snack or side dish almost instantly.
Notes
  1. To increase the nutrition level, decrease or eliminate the salt and add gomasio instead (sesame seeds mixed with salt and seaweeds), which you can find in most health food stores.
  2. To turn this into a quick meal, buy a side of plain, steamed brown rice from your local sushi joint or Asian restaurant. Cut up a hard boiled egg, add your blanched greens and seasonings as mentioned above. You have near instant un-fried rice that is loaded with iron, magnesium, B vitamins, as well as fiber and healthy fats.
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