Anyone out there have tomatoes piling up?  Attracting fruit flies?  Tired of BLT’s? (Never!)

tomatoes from MY YARD!

I realized today that if I didn’t act, and act TODAY my tomato harvest would be fruit fly food.

 

I had yellow tomatoes, green stripey tomatoes, and red, red tomatoes.

 

If I mixed them all together I would create a really attractive brown tomato sauce!  So I made Cream of Tomato Soup with the yellow and green ones, and Roasted Tomato Sauce with the red ones.  I’m pretty pleased with the results, so I thought I would share!

Cream of Tomato Soup Indian Style

Saute in coconut oil:

  • ginger, onion, garlic

Meanwhile toast your whole spices in a dry skillet:

dry toasting spices

  • cumin, coriander, black pepper corns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds

Grind the whole spices and add them to the onion mixture.  Add a healthy dose of turmeric (if I’d had fresh turmeric I would have used it, but dried ground turmeric is fine.  Remember how good it is for you?  Anti-inflammatory?), and a dash of cinnamon.

Saute the spices for a minute. Then add a bunch of cut up tomatoes.  I used yellow and green ones which worked great with the turmeric which is bright yellow too.

Add a little chicken stock or water to get the tomatoes to start breaking down.  Put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for a while, checking occasionally and stirring.  When the tomatoes are completely broken down, puree the whole she-bang.  I used my trusty Vita-Mix, but those immersion blenders work well too.  After pureeing the mixture, put it back in the pot and add a can of coconut milk and salt to taste.  Heat it gently at this point.  You don’t want the coconut milk to boil.

lunch. check.

 

 

Depending on how sweet your tomatoes are you might want to add a handful of sugar, honey, or maple syrup to balance out the acid of the tomatoes.  I decided against that.  I portioned out the soup (after eating some, of course) for lunches for the next few days!

 

 

 

Next up:

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The recipe is thus:  Cut up a bunch of tomatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, fresh thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

red tomatoes ready for the oven

 

 

Roast in a 350 degree oven until they break down and start to dry out a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

herbaceousness

 

 

Add some fresh garlic and chopped basil and spoon over  spaghetti squash, roasted cauliflower, zucchini ribbons, or…. pasta!

I spooned mine into a jar, and froze it for some winter day when I need to conjure up the bounty of these last fall days!

 

 

 

 

 

after roasting

 

 

Tomato’s nutritional claim to fame is high levels of a carotenoid called “lycopene.” Carotenoids act as anti-oxidants in the body and high intake of lycopene has been found to be protective against prostate cancer.  Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, and guavas their pink/red color.  Lycopene is more available to the body when tomatoes are cooked, and they should be cooked with some oil to aid absorption.

 

   

swimming hole bliss

 

Many years ago when my kids were little, and we were poor, young, frazzled parents, someone wise asked me what was one thing that made me happy.

 

I didn’t have to think long before answering “sun and water.”  Living in Seattle at that time, it was fairly easy to pack a lunch, throw the kids in the car and end up on the banks of Lake Washington for the day.

 

It is no wonder that my kids have grown up to love swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans.  It is one place where we are all happy.  Together.

This fall my youngest son goes off to college.  Last week was the hottest week we have seen in Portland, and he and I packed a lunch of fresh tomatoes, salami, bread, cucumbers, and carrots, and headed for one of our favorite swimming holes.

Reading by the River

 

 

I ask you:  Is there anything more nourishing than doing what you love with the people you love?  Especially when there are tomatoes and salami involved?

If you have your finger on the pulse of what’s new in Natural Medicine you’ve probably heard about oil pulling.  Folks are talking about it, blogging about it, making you tube videos about it.  There is great debate about it.  Is it the magical cure-all or a complete waste of time?  But first of all what exactly IS oil pulling?

Oil pulling has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine but was made popular by Dr. F. Karach, M.D. in the 1990’s.  The technique involves taking 1 tablespoon of oil (most commonly cold pressed sesame,  or sunflower oil) into the mouth and vigorously swishing the oil through the teeth and gums for 20 minutes.  Then spitting it out and washing the mouth with water and brushing the teeth.  The claim is that during this process toxins are pulled from the blood into the viscous oil and then expelled with the oil.  There are many anecdotal claims on the internet that this practice not only is good for oral hygiene (cures gingivitis and bad breath, whitens teeth), but that it can cure chronic diseases such as blood disorders, arthritis, hormonal dysregulation, sinusitis, immune disorders and cancer.

Let’s face it:  I’m a sucker for crazy ritualized health routines.  I mean I have fully embraced the castor oil pack, dry skin brushing, jumping into cold water, eating organ meats, and more.  So when I first heard about oil pulling from an interview with Bruce Fife ND, I was intrigued!  Sign me up!  I’ll try it!  I could not think of any reason it would be a BAD idea to swish oil around your mouth.  If nothing else, perhaps we absorb some good fatty acids through the mucus membranes in our mouth.

I do know that our mouths often harbor plenty of bacteria on a good day, and on a bad day can be the source of ongoing, hidden infections that the body has to  continually fight off.    Having a low grade infection takes lots of energy to keep the immune system so revved up and can lead to further complications.   Coconut oil is especially antimicrobial, so there’s that.   With my training in physiology I can’t say that I buy into the idea that toxins are being “pulled” into the saliva/oil mixture through this process.  But I am the first to admit that there is a lot we don’t know about the human body and I don’t need to understand something for it to benefit me.  I mean, I practice homeopathy after all!

So I have been practicing oil pulling with coconut oil (I am a big fan of the many health benefits of coconut oil and I buy it here) for about 3 weeks now.  I do it once a day, in the morning, on an empty stomach.  The first thing I noticed was that my teeth feel like I just came from a dental cleaning appointment.  Smooth!  Clean!  Sexy!  I’m watching my receding gums and hoping to see a change there.  My chronic back and hip pain is improved (!).  I don’t suffer from allergies or chronic sinusitis, but I do feel my sinuses drain each time I do it.  And (accepting the risk of TMI)  my last menstrual period?  A breeze.

I’ve been asking friends to try it and tell me what happens.  I mentioned to my naturopath that I had started oil pulling, and her face lit up!  She’s been doing it for 8 months and has been using it with patients as well.  I must say, I’m optimistic that it can help at least some people.  And really, the risk/benefit ratio is fairly low, so why not?  Try it and report back.

Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon

Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon

More and more research is supporting the idea that inflammation is at the heart of most chronic diseases.

A wonderful friend of mine taught me this delicious recipe for an anti-inflammatory tea.  She experienced significant reduction in her arthritis pain after regular consumption.  I decided I had to try it myself!  Not only is it extremely good for you, it is delicious!

Recipe?  In a saucepan full of water throw a few slices of fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, and cinnamon sticks.  Simmer for 20 min or longer.  Add  a small bit of honey and the juice of one lemon.   Drink hot or cold!  It is also easily made with dried, ground herbs as well.  Try 1 quart of water with 1/2 tsp of each herb.

Curcumin, the potent anti-oxidant in Turmeric has been found to be as effective an anti inflammatory as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in a trial with rheumatoid arthritis patients.  It is an effective free radical scavenger, and holds promise in prevention of cancer and alzheimer’s disease.  In nutrition, it seems that the deeper the color of the food the higher the nutritional value.  So when you are shopping, look for deep green greens like kale, dark berries, and bright yellow pigments like turmeric for nutrient dense power.

Ginger has been used traditionally to quell arthritis pain and has been shown effective in trials comparing it to NSAIDS.  Ginger is also a warming, digestive stimulant.

Cinnamon is rapidly earning its reputation as a blood sugar and lipid regulator for folks who struggle with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  Besides this, cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, warming and delicious!

Do you need any more encouragement to go put on a pot of water for a batch of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon tea?

beet, ginger, dandelion greens

I need a little correction after the holiday weekend.  How about you?

Into the vitamix today went:

1 small beet (liver food)

a handful of dandelion greens (good diuretic and bitter greens for liver/gallbladder stimulation)

1 cup kombucha (probiotics, tangy deliciousness)

1/2 cup frozen cranberries (great for kidney flush, and high in anthocyanins)

1/2 cup frozen blueberries (what are blueberries NOT good for?)

fresh ginger (anti-inflammatory, digestive stimulant)

2 T ground flax seeds (high in lignans, soluble fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory)

1 tsp ground milk thistle (liver and kidney tonic)

2 cups water

my harvest of Cleavers

Yesterday I had a delightful hike in the South Hills of Portland, exploring historical sights, hidden stairs, and great views.  Along the way I found a bunch of Cleavers (Galium Aparine) growing in the woods.  I brought some home and made a simple (single herb) brew by pouring hot water over the fresh herb and letting it steep overnight.)  Today I’ve been enjoying the mild herbaceous taste of the cooled simple.  Cleavers are a wonderful all around tonifying herb.  Known specifically to support the lymph system, but also as a blood cleanser.  Drinking a “simple” is one way to add herbs into your daily routine.  Find safe, tonifying herbs, steep overnight, and enjoy all day!  Other herbs to consider: Parlsey (mineral rich diuretic), chamomile (bitter tonic for digestion, nervine), chrysantamum (fortifies the lung, liver, eyes), nettle (mineral rich, tonic).

super satisfying for any time of day!

Salmon Cakes

2 cans wild salmon

2 eggs

1 1/2 T coconut flour

1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 scallion, chopped

1 shallot, diced

1 T grated fresh ginger

1 t grated fresh horseradish

splash of tamari

fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

mixing the mix

Melt some coconut oil in a skillet.

melting coconut oil

Fry the salmon cakes until browned on both sides.

Browned salmon cakes

St. Patrick's Day is coming!

Seeing corned beef in the grocery stores these days made me dream up this low glycemic version of one of our favorite breakfasts.
I used Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, (which are high in anthocyanins and low glycemic, getting some press these days as a new “super food”) instead of white potatoes and added quartered brussels sprouts for a high fiber, satisfying breakfast! My son poached me an egg and mixed up a mixture of ketchup and chili sauce for the perfect accompaniments.

Spicy pickle diakon (with fresh turmeric), purple cabbage sauerkraut, turkey burger, bacon.

One of my guilty procrastination techniques all through medical school was to watch Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Videos.  I LOVE them!  They are short, funny, and produced well.  But most of all they offer fantastic recipes:  simple to execute, healthy, and delicious.  Just what everyone needs more of in their lives!  His recipe for chickpea flour savory pancakes has become a staple in my repertoire.  I leave out the wheat flour, and double the chickpea flour to make it gluten free.  Often I add shrimp, diced red peppers, scallops, fresh parsley, fennel bulb, or minced scallions.  It is incredibly versatile.  Another recipe that I have adopted successfully is his sweet potato salad.   Sweet potatoes are nutrient dense compared to their white potato counterparts.  In this version, Bittman gives potato salad a complete makeover, adding black beans, cilantro and lime.  Fresh, creative, easy and nutritious!  I was very excited when I learned that he would be speaking at Powell’s Books this week!  He is touring to promote his new cookbook titled The Food Matters Cookbook, following the publication of his book, Food Matters.  The thrust of his message promotes movement toward a plant based diet and away from processed foods.  His personal health has improved since making these changes in his diet and he argues that this way of eating is good for our planet’s health too.  He shared some statistics about the industrialized livestock industry which were indeed damning.  It was at that point in his presentation that I started questioning his message.  Sure, I agree that industrialized animal production is a nasty business, using far more water, land, petrol, and resources than it should, but all these statistics are based on feeding animals a GRAIN based diet.   Cows, pigs, and chickens have not evolved to eat grains, and neither have we.  Factory farmers feed cows corn because it fattens them up and makes them grow faster than their grass grazed cousins.   Prairies and grasslands that could be feeding cattle using only the sun and rain as resources have been converted into giant corn and soybean monocrops in order to feed cattle and fuel our industrialized food industry.  The solution is not to become vegetarian, but to raise our meat sustainably.  In my experience as a physician I see my patients’ health improve when they eliminate grains (especially, but not just wheat) from their diets.  I would assert that eating grass fed meat with heaps of vegetables and small amounts of properly prepared grains and legumes is the ideal to shoot for.  I do agree with Bittman’s main message that we need to eat REAL FOOD, which means we need to cook.  We need to protect our children from anti-foods like soda and chips that are available from vending machines in their schools, and served to them on trays (subsidized by the government) in school cafeterias.  My personal mission is to help people realize that it is not hard or time consuming to cook healthy meals.  I think Mark Bittman is on the same path.  I did buy the cookbook because it is chock full of innovative simple meal ideas.  In fact, he took a picture of the couple in front of me while I was in line to get the book signed, and I made it onto the website!  (I’m in the second photo) I would love to hear from my readers:  what are some obstacles to cooking real food that you experience?  What are some solutions that you’ve found?  What do you think about vegetarianism or sustainable agriculture?

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