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Maine Tea

September 5, 2015

Tags: herbs, order, chemicals – beneficial, biochemical pathway, cell, Chinese novel, chives, dandelion, evolution, German, goldenrod, green goodness of plants, herb walk, interconnectedness, kitchen garden, Labor Day, lady’s mantle, Maine, oregano, parsley, plantain, peppermint, pine needles, plants – poisonous, polyphenol, red clover, rosehip, sarsaparilla, scented fern, steeple flower, tea - field, forest and meadow, tea - garden, tea - wild, usnea, walking, woods, workshop

For too long I haven’t written here, being deeply immersed in my new Chinese novel (which will take some years to finish writing). But this Labor Day weekend we returned to Maine, and I want to share that today I made a wild tea:

• Goldenrod
• Steeple flower
• Usnea
• Dandelion
• Oregano
• Sarsaparilla
• Red clover
• Pine needles
• Scented fern
• Peppermint
• Rosehip
• Chives
• Lady’s mantle
• Parsley
• Plantain

I usually call it a garden tea, but today the ingredients are from whatever I found on our walk – more of a field, forest and meadow tea, as we call it in German. Some came from my neighbor’s kitchen garden (I have their permission), some from the Maine meadows and wild woods. Everything is rather dry this year, but things are growing – and if you ask me – want to be eaten and drunk.

I wonder how many different polyphenols and other beneficial chemicals I ingested with the large cup of tea I just imbibed. Hundreds – if not thousands. They all work their magic without that I have to know all the chemical names or biochemical pathways because the wisdom of my body cells will sort out what is useful, and what is not. Mind, I don’t include plants that are poisonous. Just plants that have accompanied us through millenniums of evolution, and therefore will help my body healing whatever bothers it. Long before it bothers me.

You can make your own wild tea. Don’t look for my plants – look for what is growing around you. Some plants you probably know already – like dandelion. Never use a single plant that you don’t know one hundred percent! Enroll in a workshop or herb walk and be guided by some wise person who knows the land. Don’t go through life without really knowing the world you are living in. You will grow in unexpected ways, and you will be healthier for it! Not only because we are primed to ingest the green goodness of plants, but also because you have to walk to get them. And because you will experience the interconnectedness of all and everything.

Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones

September 9, 2013

Tags: food, water, antibiotics, bike accident, Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones, bone soup, broth, bowel health, calories, carrot, celery, celeriac, cheap food, carrot, chicken soup, clavicle, collar bone, elbow, Europe, fat, fracture, frozen shoulder, garlic, Germany, hair, heal-all, husbandry, immune system, ligament, lovage, meat, mending bones, nails - fingernails, non-fattening, onion, organic, osteopenia, osteoporosis, oxtail, parsley, peppercorns, processed food, ribs, salt – herbal, scapula, shank, shoulder, shoulder blade, sick animal, simmering, skeletal appendages, snack, strengthening bones, tendon, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, war, warming food, winter

Somebody in my family was in a bike accident and broke a shoulder – the collarbone as well as the shoulder blade. Ouch!

From my childhood in Germany, I remembered the heal-all properties of bone broth. Bone broth has all the ingredients a bone needs for knitting together again because bone broth is simmered for hours and hours – days, actually – until everything good in the bone now is swimming in the broth. Proof: If you try to eat the bones, they are soft and can be eaten like just another piece of meat. I find them just as tasty – but opinions differ here …

This is how you make a bone soup: Take beef bones like shank, oxtail and/or ribs. If you add chicken, it is better to have an old bird than a young one – the bones are stronger in an older bird.

Cover the bones with filtered cold water in a lidded pot, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmering. For taste, I add herbal salt and black peppercorns in a tea ball. If you don’t like the taste of bone broth very much, add whole onions, garlic and carrots. Since the broth is reheated and simmered every day for a few hours until eaten up, it is not appetizing to have other vegetables in there – they would cook into a mush. But vegetables won’t hurt because all of them carry the minerals bones need to grow strong. – Before you serve the broth for the first time, cool it down and remove all visible fat from the top. Not that the fat is not healthy; most people just don’t like it swimming on their soup. – The meat can be eaten, or be discarded. All its goodness (or most of it) is now in the broth.

Make sure you buy organic meat and bones only. The detrimental effects of meat are not so much caused by meat – as vegans and vegetarians think. Unhealthy effects of meat seem to be related to the sick animals we eat. Sick animal come from bad husbandry. Bad husbandry requires medications like antibiotics to make the animals look healthy – but they aren’t. How can we expect health from a sick cow or a poorly chicken? Lead stores in bones - so make sure you get animals that were raised and fed in a natural way.

Bone broth is not a good source of all amino acids, but provides three essential amino acids, namely arginine, glycine and proline. Also it is rich in gelatin – once your broth cooled down, it separates in fat on top and the jelly below. Besides strengthening your bones – not only in a case of fracture, but against osteoporosis and osteopenia too – bone broth is said to be good for general bowel health and the immune system because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, it is also good for skeletal appendages like tendons, ligaments, nails and hair, and it “greases” the joints. It calms the mind and promotes sleepiness. Unfortunately, none of these benefits have been proven by science because there are no studies published on this subject – at least not that I am aware of (and I looked!!). In past times, however, broth was always given to sickly people and patients recuperating from major illness. It fell out of fashion with easily available and processed foods – that doesn’t mean bone broth won’t work. But don’t assume that so-called chicken soup from the store would have the same benefits. It won’t.

Making a bone broth is no work at all – and once it is in the pot, you have a snack always available. A non-fattening quick, warming snack, that is, and highly satisfying. With few calories. And cheap – in Europe bone broth was always used widely during and after wars, when food was scarce. The simmering broth on our stove will likely be served much longer than the bones need to be mended; I can make a new batch every few days – no sweat! It is good, warming winter food, too.

P.S. 9/17/2013: We did some experimenting in the kitchen, and indeed one can add vegetables to the bone broth without getting it mushy. Indeed, the vegetables make it even more tasty. Celeriac root and celery greens can be cooked for days without getting mushy. Same with carrots. And some tough herbs like parsley and lovage. As the ingredients will not be eaten - only the broth - you don't have to cut anything.

The results are also superb: The healing goes well, and since the young man is moving his arm constantly with micro-movements (without the slightest weight bearing, of course - he does not even have a frozen shoulder or elbow.

Degrees of Freshness – Or what I learned from an Alpine Meadow

July 28, 2013

Tags: food, water, air, alpine, animals, aroma, Austria, basil, bell flower, biodiversity, bulbs, burdock, bush, buttercup, cilantro, coltsfoot, cranesbill, crocus, dandelion, diversity, Earth, Europe, eyebright, farm, fresh, heal-all, garden, Germany, Good King Henry, grazing, Great Britain, Grimming Mountain, growth, Hamburg, harvest, healing power, health, hedge, herbal, humans, kitchen, limestone, lovage, meadow, meadowsweet, mowing, nutrients, ocean, oregano, parsley, plant, plantain - broad-leafed, plantain - narrow-leafed, poisonous, pollution, polyphenol, primal, processed, red clover, rosemary, Russia, scilla, silverweed, skiing, soil, species, stinging nettle, storage, Styria, sub-alpine, sun, supermarket, sweet Annie, tea, thyme, travel, tree, underground, vital, yarrow, hiking, vacation

People vacation in Austria – skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer. I never considered summer vacations in a land-locked country like Austria, because, originally from Hamburg/Germany, I am a child of the ocean – of all the oceans. But I am just back from one of the high meadows in Styria, smack in the middle of Austria. And what I found: a primal meadow.

The alpine meadows high up there, facing the Grimming Mountain, have been mowed twice a year, for hundreds of years, probably thousands of years. The plant diversity is unimaginable. In an article I read some years ago that in Great Britain the age of a hedge can be estimated by how many different tree and bush species grow there; roughly one species is added per decade. I imagine it must be similar with these ancient meadows, mowed over year after year, different plants moving in all the time, enhancing biodiversity over time. The converse is also true: If we abandon regular mowing and/or grazing – as often now is the case on the steep and hard-to-reach meadows, and in light of shortage of labor when the young people move into the cities for a “better” life – we will lose this biodiversity. And might regret it too late.

Because I was exhausted from my Europe travels through Russia, Germany, Austria, I brewed myself an herbal tea from the plants of the meadow right after arrival. The underground is limestone that let so many plants thrive: yarrow, meadowsweet, narrow-leafed plantain, stinging nettle, heal-all, broad-leafed plantain, red clover, eyebright, silverweed, Good King Henry, dandelion, sweet Annie. To which I added herbs from the kitchen garden: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lovage, basil, oregano, thyme. Of course, other plants grew there that where not useful for my tea as they are poisonous, like cranesbill, coltsfoot, bell flower, buttercup, and a variety of spring-flowering bulbs like crocus and scilla that were now out of bloom. The tea had a gorgeous aroma, and I felt better and stronger immediately. Wish I could take such a meadow home!

My garden at home, lovely as it is, does not come close. Its plant variety is not as great, the individual plants are not as sturdy, their green is not as deep, their aroma is not as overpowering. From this exceptional plant health we can assume that their polyphenol content is higher, and that their healing power is greater. Mostly, it is the strong sun out there that enables such a lush growth. But also the absence of pollution of air, soil and water so prevalent where we live. Earth just isn’t that primal anymore as it is high in the alpine and sub-alpine meadows. I am coming home with a new yearning, namely to preserve what we have, and perhaps even return our planet to more health. Because, the life of plants, and animals, and humans are closely interwoven here on Earth, none can survive alone.

In my books, and here on the blog, I am touting fresh foods over processed foods. Fresh does not only mean harvested recently and stored for not too long, but also containing a high amount of vital nutrients. Up there, in the mountain meadow, I learned that degrees of freshness exist: Fresh from the supermarket: good. Fresh from your garden or directly from the farm: better. Fresh from an alpine meadow: best.

World Water Day 2012

March 22, 2012

Tags: water, herbs, allergies to herbs, arterial disease, bath, bath – commercial bath ingredients, bath - herbal, bath oil, bliss, blood flow, breathing, bruise, candle - unscented, chamomile, children and herbal baths – careful!, circulation - sluggish, coconut oil, cold – beginning, cold shower, Earth, dandelion flower, eucalyptus, fever-lowering bath for children, foam, healing waters, herbal bath, herbal bath, high blood pressure – uncontrolled, ginger - grated, hops, insect bite, incense, insomnia, jasmine, lake, lavender, linden flowers, lung, meadowsweet, mint, muscle ache, muscles – sore, music, Nature, nerves – tattered, ocean, orange blossoms, parsley, pleasure, relaxation, river, rosemary, rose petals, sage, salts - bath, skin rejuvenation, skin sore, sleeplessness, soap, soul, stimulation, stinging nettle, tepid bath, tonic, valerian root, winter blah, World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day. Celebrate it with

• a dunk in the ocean, a lake or a river if your are living in a warmer climate
• a cold shower (Don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure – controlled on medication is fine – or if you have an arterial disease)
• a nice warm herbal bath, together with gentle music and a lit candle (unscented because scented candles and incense are harsh on the lungs). Warm baths relax and soothe. And any fragrant herb you have at hand will increase water’s action:

- Chamomile works against sore skin and insect bites
- Dandelion flowers: Gather as many as you can find and throw them directly into your tub – they will make you playful like a princess and renew your skin and will drive out the winter blah
- Eucalyptus opens your lungs and helps you breathe
- Ginger, grated, to enhance blood flow to all parts of your body
- Hops for easing you into the night
- Jasmine to make you smile and refresh your skin
- Lavender for calming your nerves and rejuvenating your skin
- Linden flowers relax and might help with a beginning cold
- Meadowsweet helps sore muscles and will bliss you out
- Mint stimulates and heals your skin
- Orange blossoms for beautiful skin and nourishing your soul
- Parsley heals bruises
- Rosemary for relaxation
- Rose petals to enliven your skin after a long day
- Sage against stiff, hurting muscles after a workout
- Stinging nettle to push sluggish circulation, and are a tonic for your skin and your whole being
- Valerian root for easing tattered nerves and prepare for a good night’s sleep

So many more herbs grow on our beautiful Earth! Use any combination of herbs you like: Dare to explore!

Never make the bathwater too hot! And always, always. always end your hot bath with a short cold shower or gush, starting with feet, hands, face, and then your whole body – to close your pores.

Before you dress or go to bed, slather your skin with coconut oil. There’s nothing better for your skin!

Cooler bathwater acts more like a stimulant – when you want to go out afterwards and shine in the world.

And a tepid bath can lower fevers – especially helpful in small children. But in small children, especially those under three years of age, I would not use herbs in the bathwater, just plain water. They can have violent reactions.

You have two ways to do an herbal bath: To throw a handful of herbs directly into the hot bath water. Or to brew a tea in a pot, and then add the steeped tea to the bathwater. This last method is less messy. There’s actually a third way: To buy an herbal bath tea bag – much bigger than those used for tea in a cup – and throw it into the bathwater; contain a medley of herbs, usually to lift your spirits and to soothe your skin.

As always: Don’t use any herb that you are allergic to. Allergies to herbs are rare, but they can happen.

Herbal bath can heal. But don’t forget the immense pleasure they bring into your life! And other than commercial baths (foam, lotions, soaps, salts, etc.), they are pure Nature, particularly if you pay attention from where you get them.

And after a renewing bath like this you will know again why we have to protect Earth’s healing waters. Think about ways how you can save water!

The Wolf That Ravages - Lupus

July 31, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, movement, alfalfa sprouts, Antrodia camphorata, apple, Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, artificial molecules, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus, autoimmune disease, basil, beans, blood, blood thinner, brain, Brussels sprouts, Bupleurum chinense, butter, caloric restriction, celery, chamomile, cheese, cheese - “milk-free”, dairy cilantro, clover, cod liver, cold shower, cooking, Cordyceps sinensis, cream, creams, curcumin, curry, DHEA, dried milk ingredients, exercise, fish, fish oil, flaxseed, food allergy, food intolerance, French Maritime Pine bark extract, garbanzo, gene-manipulated seeds, Gentiana macrophylla, GMOs, green tea, heart, hepatitis B, herbalist, herbs - culinary, herbs – medicinal, honey bee secretion, immune system, inflammation - chronic, joints, junk food, kidney, kidney failure, Latin, legumes, lentils, lipstick, lotions, lotus flower, lungs, lupus, Matricaria chamomilla, milk, mineral oils, miso, mono-crops, mugwort, mushroom - medicinal, Nelumbo nucifera, nutritional bar, nuts, obsessive-compulsive disorder, olive oil, oregano, overweight, parsley, peas, pycnogenol, photosensitivity, plant food, Rheum emodi, royal jelly, sauna, seeds, skin, SLE, sleep, Sophora flavenscens, soy, soy - fermented, soy-sauce, spices, spinach, sugar, sunlight, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, tarragon, tempeh, The Wolf That Ravages Your Life – Lupus, Tripterygium wilfordii, turmeric, vaccination, vegetables, vitamin D, vitamin E, weight loss, wormwood, yogurt

Lupus is Latin for “wolf” - an apt name for a disease that may maul your skin and inner organs relentlessly. Lupus is a group of autoimmune diseases that can affect skin, joints, blood, brain lungs, heart, and in its most feared form the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. One interesting picture produced by SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) of the brain can be an obsessive-compulsive-like disorder.

Autoimmune diseases – with all our scientific advances – are still not thoroughly understood. From experience and the literature I would consider the following steps if I were afflicted with lupus – which I am not.

1. Eliminate all dairy because casein seems to be hurting badly in lupus. Do not eat butter, cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, or any food with dried milk ingredients. For instance, “milk-free” cheese still usually contains casein. Since lupus is basically a disease of chronic inflammation in the body, it is wise to throw out all foods that contribute to inflammation – and dairy is the worse in that respect. Sugar and artificial molecules come in second. And food items you already know don’t agree with you (allergies and intolerances). Of all those, dairy has been consistently been linked with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

2. Fish oil. Take good-quality fish oil capsules daily, about three times three. Make sure you don’t have a bleeding problem because fish oil slightly thins the blood. Also eat small ocean fish.

3. Flaxseed. If you don’t have a nut-and-seed problem, flaxseeds have a healing quality in lupus. Use olive oil for cooking.

4. Vitamin D or sunlight is beneficial in lupus, but photosensitivity (skin reactions to sun) is a prominent feature of lupus. What is a person to do? If you can’t tolerate light, take a vitamin D preparation or eat cod liver once a month.

5. Eliminate soy unless fermented. The reports about soy are not clear – sometimes soy hurts, sometimes it helps. This might have to do with two facts, namely that unfermented soy is not better than any other bean, and might even be worse as soy is one of the new mono-crops of gene-manipulated seeds. GMO are linked to lupus by some authors. On the other hand, fermented soy has done well in all studies. Miso, a good soy-sauce and tempeh are fermented soy products; tofu and the “nutritional” bars are not.

6. Caloric restriction has been shown to delay the onset of lupus. That does not mean you should starve yourself. But if you are overweight – even if ever so slightly – you should seriously focus on losing the extra pounds – which might actually happen all by itself if you eliminate dairy, sugar and other junk foods.

7. Herbs. There is a long list of herbs and plants helpful in lupus. I would not recommend any one over any others. And obviously, there might be other herbs and pants beneficial. For me it means that plant material – the way we should nourish ourselves naturally – is the way to go. So, eat a variety of vegetables. And from the list below chose food items, herbs and spices freely in your cooking. For medicinal herbs, chose one at a time and take it according to directions, until the bottle is empty, then choose another one:
Alfalfa sprouts
Antrodia camphorata (a medicinal mushroom)
Apples
Astragalus
Basil
Brussels sprouts
Bupleurum chinense (and other Buleurum species)
Celery
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
Cilantro
Clover
Cordyceps sinensis (a medicinal mushroom)
Curcumin (in turmeric and curries)
Gentiana macrophylla
Green tea
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzo)
Lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Oregano
Parsley
Pycnogenol (French Maritime Pine bark extract)
Rheum emodi
Royal jelly (a honey bee secretion)
Sophora flavenscens
Spinach
Tarragon
Tripterygium wilfordii
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, notoriously bad for the brain – absinth! So consult an herbalist for this)

8. Vitamin E and DHEA have been beneficial in lupus, but I would not take them without consulting a physician because both may have side-effects.

9. Avoid mineral oils (lipstick, lotions, creams, etc.) as mineral oils have been implicated in the development of lupus.
10. Certain vaccinations, especially hepatitis B, have been brought in connection with lupus. The jury is still out on that – but think twice before you get an unnecessary vaccination.

11. Exercise moderately.

12. Do sauna regularly for detoxification. Take a cold shower after a hot one to regulate your immune system.

13. Get enough sleep. Your body needs to repair during sleep.

Lupus might be what I like to call the canary diseases: Certain foods and lifestyles hurt all of us. But in some – the canaries – the damage shows earlier.

Congee and Beans

February 28, 2011

Tags: food, water, herbs, amino acids, Asia, bean salad, botulism, breakfast, butter beans, cabbage – sour, chelating, China, congee – recipe, cilantro, Congee and Beans, cravings, detoxification, dill, easy meal, economical meal, fermented foods, garbanzos, garlic, gluten-free, grape leaves, Greece, Herbes de Provence, herbs – dried, herbs – fresh, herbs – Italian beans, Hippocrates, Japan, Kellogg - John Harvey (1852-1943), Kellogg - Will Keith (1860-1951), legumes, lunch, maple syrup, marjoram, microwave, olive oil, parsley, pressure cooker, refrigeration, resveratrol, rice – brown, rice – short, rice cooker, Russia, tarragon, vegetables, pickles, salt and pepper, sauerkraut, savory, sweet tooth, umeboshi plum paste, Your food be your medicine

Surely, I've been stressing my mantra "Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables" on this blog; without vegetables, no health.

Think of congee and beens as "fast" vegetables. They don't substitute for greens and roots and cabbages. But congee for breakfast and beans for lunch keep me going all day until I arrive at my vegetable-laden dinner table. The amino acids in congee and beans complement each other to a full, nourishing set, and congee and beans have this in common: They are easy to make and very economical – I bet you can’t come up with a healthier meal that’s less expensive.

• Congee: This Asian dish is basically rice cooked with lots and lots of water into a very satisfying thick soup. If you think you know rice, and don’t like it, try congee. To me it always tastes like it was made in heaven by some motherly, nourishing angel. Here is how you make it yourself:

If you have a rice cooker with a congee setting (which I don’t), you have it easy. I use a pressure cooker. One cup of brown rice – preferably the short, sticky variety – to two cups of water. Cook for about ten minutes. After cooling, add three to four cups more water. Cook for another ten minutes or so (I know my recipes are awfully vague; that’s how I cook – you figure out your own way). The pressure cooker method works better if you do it in two steps rather than pouring in all the water in the beginning. If, on the other hand, you have only a simple, big pot, you let the rice simmer on very low heat for several hours. If needed, add more water.

One cup of dry rice, transformed into congee, fills about four big breakfast bowls. You serve it with any kind of fermented pickles – sauerkraut being very good and cheap. (Look up my old blog on fermented foods if you are not familiar with their health benefits). Chinese traditionally have some nice pickles – but it has to be the fermented kind, not the modern processed stuff, and the fermented pickles are not longer found easily. I have used sour cabbage from the Russian store, or Greek marinated grape leaves (high in resveratrol!). Japanese have great fermented things like umeboshi plum paste. You only need a little bit for a whole bowl. Whatever you like. But don’t do sweet stuff like maple syrup – the congee needs fermented foods. Anything sweet will only feed your sweet tooth. And it is not written in stone that a breakfast needs to be sweet – that is the Kellogg brothers' invention, I suspect.

I always add a liberal amount of olive oil because otherwise it won’t last me until lunch. By the way, you may add a pinch of salt to your bowl – but fermented foods usually provide all the saltiness you may want.

This breakfast has one great advantage: Filling without stuffing, it squashes all cravings – and makes you go until lunch without ever thinking of food.

• Beans: I apologize to the purists among you, but I use canned beans. Of course, one can also soak beans overnight and cook them – but I have more interesting things to do. When you buy canned beans, make sure they have no additives – they should be beans and water, nothing else.

You open a can of beans and heat the contents (including the fluid) in a small pot to a boil. Add olive oil (I can’t even think of life without olive oil!), and pinch of salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of fresh or a table spoon full of dried herbs: Dill and parsley turn a boring can of beans a festive and health meal. Tarragon goes beautifully with garbanzos (which, technically are no beans, but belong to the legume family), marjoram or savory are great with butter beans, Italian herbs or Herbes de Provence plus garlic make dark beans a spectacular meal. Cilantro goes with everything – again add some garlic, and you already have a detoxifying, chelating medicine – “Your food be your medicine” as Hippocrates already said. We can now buy so many different kinds of canned beans. Find out what you like – and then rotate, because it is not good to eat the same fare every day.

If you can’t warm up your beans at midday at work on a stove (don’t use a microwave!), you can also make a bean salad (same ingredients, just drain the fluid of, and perhaps cut a small onion into the mix). But keep your beans refrigerated at all times, as they are prone to botulism germs when left at room temperature longer than two hours. And, hopefully you know better than use a bulging can of beans – discard it!

And then, as they say: Enjoy!

P.S. Did you notice that congee and beans are perfectly gluten-free? No-sweat gluten-free!

Cat Food

August 15, 2010

Tags: food, order, beef, carrots, cat, cat food, Cat Food, chicken, dander, diabetes in cats, dill, dog, fish, fish oil, kidney failure, liver, liver - fatty, liver disease, meat, oats, obesity, Otto, parsley, predator, Rivka, thyroid disease, turkey, vegetal

This morning I marveled at Otto’s silken black fur and how he has changed in ten short months into a purring bundle from a frightened, grimy cat with dander flying all over the place. I got him from a shelter last October, after our last cat Rivka had been carried away by a Maine eagle – or so we think; she left no trace.

The first thing I did was to add a capsule of fish oil (prick the capsule and dribble the fish oil over the food) a day to his food, for a month, against the dander.

I am not a veterinarian but, like humans, cats are part of nature and thrive on natural foods. Canned and dried foods are unnatural and unhealthy for our pets (all this applies to dogs too, but I don’t know much about dogs. I would think that dogs can handle a slightly higher portion of vegetal matters in their diets). Why do we have so many cats with diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, thyroid disease? It is not only that we over-feed our pets; diseases also stem from unnatural, stale food with ingredients that are alien to cats. In the wild, cats are predators with a predominantly fresh meat diet.

Only when we travel does Otto get canned or dried food. Once in a while, he gets a few dried morsels when he is good. The fresh food I cook for him, I freeze until it is used. This is what Otto eats twice a day:

• Meats. Buy something cheap like chicken, turkey, beef, not too fat. Preferably two different kinds. No bones.
• Liver. If I forget the liver (which I have at times), Otto sulks. Usually I get chicken livers. Make sure they are not yellow. Yellow indicates fatty liver - a liver disease.
• Fish. Any ocean fish will do – I take what’s on sale. No bones.
• Plant matter: Either a handful or two of rolled oats. Or a small bag of carrots. Or a bunch of parsley. Or dill. The emphasis is on “or” - cats are no vegetarians; they need a little bit of plant material, but not too much.

Cook until the meats are very soft. Puree. Serve. Love your cat.

Freshness

July 16, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, beet greens, bratwurst, cabbage - baby, carrots, cauliflower, chana dal, chives, cilantro, coconut oil, dill, dressing, fennel, fish, freezing, freshness, Freshness, garbanzo, garlic, grains, gravy - ready-made, green sauce, kitchen machine, legumes, microwave, mustard, olive oil, onions, parsley, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, split peas, sugar, thyme, vegetables, zucchini

We cannot eat perfectly healthy every single time we sit down to dine. But we should at least have an idea what the ideal of a meal can be.

Surrounded by friends and family, and outdoors – if possible. Even the tiniest of balconies will do; or an open window. A tablecloth would look lovely; at least a few matching plate mats, and always my best china. For whom would I keep it? My children will inherit what is not broken.

Ah, what for food? The answer is easy: vegetables. Tonight, at my home, it will be fennel – probably sautéed with onions, garlic and olive oil. And a baby cabbage, which I will steam whole with caraway. We will finish a leftover from yesterday (beet greens, cauliflower, young zucchini and green garlic). So, technically, we will have three veggies on the table – and I haven’t even mentioned meat or fish (I might do bratwurst today, in coconut oil – we still have some frozen from our May garden party, and we had fish or vegetarian for several days in a row. Served with chana dal (an Indian small garbanzo; they look like split peas, only yellow. One takes a cup of chana dal to two cups of water, brings it to a fast boil with a pinch of salt, and then simmers with a lid until all water is gone. The problem with chana dal (as with split green peas and most grains) is that they need skimming off some froth early on so that they don’t boil over.

For desert I will quick-cook rhubarb with a bit of sugar. Rhubarb is one of the few things that absolutely can’t go without sugar.

If freshness is the standard, then this is what we eat tonight: The warmed-up vegetables came from a friend’s garden– they were tender and delicious. The fennel is organic, from the supermarket; so is the cabbage. The cabbage and the rhubarb are local, the fennel came from far away. The bratwurst is organic.

Yesterday, with the fish, we had some green sauce – from the freezer. I usually make a batch for guests, and freeze the rest. I never use a microwave (not even for thawing) or use ready-made gravy or dressings, but I am not above freezing leftovers. Here is the Green Sauce recipe (you need a strong kitchen machine – a blender will not do):

Chop five cloves of garlic, a small onion and a handful of baby carrots. Add all the herbs you can put your hands on, one by one, and chop. Basil is a staple – and so are parsley, dill and cilantro. A few snippets of sage, chives, rosemary and thyme give fragrance. Add olive oil, a dab of salt and pepper. If it tastes boring (sometimes it does…), add a few teaspoons of mustard. Chop until fairly smooth. Chill and serve to fish and/or vegetables. Freeze leftover in portions.

If you live in the countryside (or if you have friends who bring you their produce) count your blessings. Otherwise make do with what you find in your supermarket. Organic is desired – but better a conventional vegetable than no vegetable at all! Local is super – but can’t always be had. I never go to the store with a recipe to follow: Number one, I am bad in following rules; number two, I go for what is fresh and what is cheap. I throw together what I think will work (olive oil and garlic rescue many of my dishes).

Brown rice or legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos) are dry. But vegetables should not be old or store-bought frozen or canned. Go for fresh, and strew on a few fresh or dried herbs. Here I say “dried” because fresh herbs can be very expansive – better dried herbs than no herbs.

No complicated cooking – just fresh produce. Enjoy!

Seasonal Indulgences

June 4, 2010

Tags: order, food, herbs, aphrodisiac, asparagus, calcium, chrono-biology, copper, detoxification, fiber, Galium odoratum, iron, magnesium, minerals, parsley, phosphorus, potassium, Seasonal Indulgences, seasons, strawberries, sweet woodruff, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc

White asparagus, new potatoes, chopped parsley in melted butter and prosciutto - have you ever tasted the joy of this? I did last week - traveling in Europe. This is asparagus time, and it is eaten plentifully. Followed by strawberries.

In years gone, I have tried asparagus with sauce Béarnaise or sauce Hollandaise, with Wiener Schnitzel or salted herring. I had it as soup or stew. This year, I learned a new asparagus dish: Jam – made with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), an herb that should only be harvested in May, with a flavor that is indescribably delicious – pure May indeed.

But my point is not the asparagus or the sweet woodruff; the point is that Europeans eat in season. They fantasize all year about asparagus with “young” potatoes – and when the white spears finally shoot out of the soil, there eat them often. Until mid-June (the exact date varies from north to south), when traditionally the last white asparagus is cut to let the plant develop strength for next year. After mid-June … nothing for a whole year.

Medicinally, asparagus flushes the kidney and moves the bowel (fiber!), taking with it toxins that have accumulated over the long winter. Parsley gives vitamin C, depleted after the cold season. And young potatoes round out the composition that delights the taste buds. In medieval times it was thought to be an aphrodisiac – but anything that was growing freshly after the long winter and had a phallic form might have served for the purpose, I guess.

Asparagus contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, and E and is thought to help regeneration of cells, especially of nerves, vessels, skin and hair. White asparagus is kept white by growing them in deep soil, and they always need peeling of the tough skin (which might be the reason that green asparagus is preferred here – less work). Asparagus is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and copper – all minerals sorely needed for bone strength.

Of course, it is possible to get white asparagus year-round. But Europeans still stick to the ancient clock: Over there, they have a time for everything, and May/June is dedicated to asparagus and strawberries.

We here think nothing of eating the good stuff whenever we feel like it. We don’t think about that the good stuff is made expensive by world-wide travel, and leaves a huge carbon print. Not to mention of the health consequences. Eating the same thing over and over again makes one prone to food allergies, for instance. And the old wisdom of the body is that what is in season is right for the body when it is in season. Not by chance but because we developed over millions of years together with the plants.

Here a small sample of what should be eaten when – and it is not only ancient lore but modern chrono-biology confirms the value of eating in season:
• January: red Beat
• February: celery, celeriac
• March: spinach, stinging nettle
• April: radish, rhubarb
• May: lettuce
• June: cucumber
• July: carrots, black currants, gooseberries, raspberries
• August: tomato, first apples, blueberries, raspberries.
• September: broccoli, cauliflower
• October: leeks
• November: cabbage
• December: rapunzel
(I will add to these!)

We delight in Christmas, and sometimes go over the top with Christmas decorations and gifts and events. Perhaps, if one had something to look forward year-round, would Christmas take its place among many seasonal delights?

No Time For Cooking?

May 18, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, butter, carrots, cilantro, coconut oil - virgin, cheese, cumin, dill, fish, garlic, ghee, green sauce, herbed salt, honey, kale, meats, No Time For Cooking?, olive oil, onion, parsley, red kale, red lentils, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, thyme, water cress

The argument most often used why people eat take-out food, TV dinners and in restaurants, is that they have no time to cook.

Once you understand that you cannot be healthy on ready-made foods, you will want to cook for yourself and your family. Contrary to popular belief, it does not take much time to cook.

As an example, let’s look at our dinner last night. This is what we had:

Fish filet with green sauce
Red kale in olive oil and garlic
Parisian carrots
Red lentils with cumin.

Sounds like an outlandish dish for you? For us, it is pretty much every-day fare. It did not take me more than half an hour to bring this fresh meal on the table.

Fish filet: We had cod, but any filet would do. – The green sauce is the tricky part; in this case it was a frozen leftover from when we last had guests. Melt some virgin coconut fat in a frying pan (no microwaving!), add frozen green sauce, wait until thawed before adding the fish. Fry on low until done (a few minutes). Instead of green sauce, I could have sprinkled the fish with dried dill, or fresh herbs from the garden.

Red kale: Cut in stripes, wash quickly in cold water. Add dried or fresh garlic (I used dried), olive oil, pepper and salt (I prefer an herbed salt). Sautee in little water until done (about twenty minutes). - Most vegetables taste delicious with just olive oil and garlic - try!

Red lentils: One cup of red lentils to two cups of water (this is the ratio for most grains and lentils). Add salt and ground cumin. Bring to a boil. Simmer until done (about twenty minutes).

Carrots: Wash carrots, cut in bite-sized pieces. Add parsley (dried or fresh; the original recipe asks for parsley; I had run out of it and used dried cilantro instead – you make do with what you have), white pepper, salt and a teaspoon full of honey. Butter or, better, ghee (clarified butter) is optional. Sautee in little water. Takes about twenty minutes.

Serve and, as they say, enjoy!

Green sauce recipe: You need a kitchen machine for this – a blender will not do: Chop a small onion, a few baby carrots and a few cloves of garlic in the machine. Add as many washed and coarsely cut herbs as you can put your hands on: Basil, parsley, cilantro, dill are my staples. Water cress, thyme, sage, rosemary and others are optional. Blend with olive oil, pepper and salt until smooth. Fill up with plenty of olive oil until frothy. Freeze leftovers in small tupperwares.

You might notice that I use a lot of healthy fats (coconut oil for frying, olive oil, ghee). They don’t make your cholesterol go up – cheese and meats will do that. My husband’s cholesterol hovers around 110 – enviably. Good fats lower inflammation in the body. AND you leave the table satisfied.

A Tea From Your Garden

April 30, 2010

Tags: herbs, A Tea From Your Garden, basil, broccoli, burdock, chives, cilantro, dandelion, feverfew, garden, health, hemlock, lettuce, nettle - stinging, parsley, phyto-nutrients, pine needles, raspberry leaves, rose leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme, yew

Green is the color of life, and green herbs keep us healthy.

From April to November, I find things growing in my garden that go into my daily garden tea. Only one question asked of that green thing: Is it edible? If it is not, forget it! If you don’t know, don’t even touch it – what you don’t know can kill you when you put it into your tea!

Today, this is what I gathered: Dandelion leaves and flowers, stinging nettle leaves, feverfew leaves, young burdock shoots. Pine needles (make sure you can identify them because hemlock and yew would be deadly!), rose leaves, raspberry leaves. And from my herb garden: rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, chives (including their fat purple buds), sage, cilantro. I also started a vegetable garden in big pots on the terrace and I snipped off a few leaves off lettuce and broccoli.

These green things contain small molecules - phyto-nutrients - which we are not getting easily from our modern food. But our ancient bodies need them to function.

Nature gives me these green gifts every morning, and I breathe in the beauty of my garden (which is, admittedly, an unkempt jungle – but never touched by pesticides, herbicides, and the like!). When I come into the kitchen I feel as if I have meditated (I have meditated!). I throw my big handful of greens into a cup, pour boiling water over it and start my day in beauty, contemplation – and health.

And it tastes good, too.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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