Saturday, July 25, 2020

In Gratitude

is the thankful awareness of what we have received. It can be tangible or intangible. Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus.  This means grace, graciousness or gratefulness and gratitude encompasses all of these. 

When we feel gratitude, there is a sense of joy for what has happened or is happening in our life. Gratitude helps us to recognise and acknowledge the good things that surround us and to understand that they often come from people and the outside world. 

Gratitude helps us to connect to something beyond ourselves (as the individual), whether it is a stronger connection to others, nature, or a higher power. Gratitude is strongly connected to increased feelings of happiness. Being grateful can help us to experience more positive emotions and improved health. We are better able to handle stress, and can feel a lightening of spirit.

Gratitude can be something another person did for us, a wonderful stroll beside the ocean or perhaps the smell of fresh roses. It is not about indebtedness. Gratitude is not something we owe. We can feel and express gratitude for things from our past (childhood memories or our parents), the present (a relaxing lunch with friends or a beautiful sunny day), and the future (feeling positive and optimistic about things to come).

Appreciate everything.

Gratitude isn’t saved for the “big” things in life. Being grateful begins with the understanding that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for.

It can be as simple as appreciating your morning cup of tea or the phone call from your daughter

Here are some simple ways to develop a sense of gratitude on a daily basis.

Write down what you are grateful for in a journal. Add to it each day.

Count your blessings. Choose a number (like 3 or 5) of things to be grateful for. Pick a time each day to take note of them. It could be when you wake up in the morning or go to bed at night.

Appreciate the beauty in nature.


Keep in contact with family members and friends. Tell them how much they mean to you. Spend quality time with them.

Cook meals with love and think of the people you are cooking for. 

Give thanks before you eat your meal.

Choose one day a week where you don’t complain about anything. If negative thoughts come up, try to see the positive side of the situation.

Show gratitude and give thanks to work colleagues or someone who has given you a helping hand.

Thank those that serve you in your community - at the super market, hair salon, or in a restaurant

Develop mindful habits. Slow down. Appreciate the small stuff.

Practice simple meditation on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be for long. Even a few minutes makes a difference. Focus on that which you are grateful for. Let it fill your heart. Then send those loving feelings back into the world.

Include an act of kindness everyday. Play it forward.

Focus on your strengths.

Read inspiring books or watch inspiring movies.

Live in the moment - engage all the senses.

See how to grow from your mistakes.

If you cannot be with a person, you can still think about them and send them thanks mentally.

Send love to those who may have wronged you in some way. Learn to forgive.

Volunteer - help at animal shelters or with the homeless. Helping others is one of the best ways to enhance your sense of well-being. 

Use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What Makes Macrobiotic Cooking Unique

The key to the health and longevity of humans is to live in harmony with nature. We are part of the natural world and live in it not on it. To look at why macrobiotic cooking is so unique, we first need to take a look at why cook at all.

Homo sapiens and Neanderthals first started to use fire and cook about 400,000 years ago (some say much further back). Cooking was an incredible invention. Food was easier to digest and certain bacteria's that caused food poisoning were killed off. The heat made food softer breaking down the tough fibres so less chewing was needed. Cooking also provided much more warmth and energy. This meant that less time was needed to search for food and for eating. The extra energy from cooked food helped to fuel our huge, developing brains and as a result other ways of learning could be enjoyed. Cooked food provided stimulating aromas, and the variety of edible ingredients greatly expanded. Cooking also impacted our physical and emotional health, nourished our humanity, and improved the quality of life. 

Humans are now much more adaptable. We are able to travel and live in different climates and visit all kinds of places by simply making adjustments to what we eat and how we prepare our food. This would not have been possible if we still had to rely on raw foods in a native setting. Wild animals are bound by their environment. We cannot take a polar bear, put him in the amazon and expect him to thrive.

Macrobiotic cooking is really the study of nature. All of life is nourished by the sun, air, water and the earth and we get this directly from spending time outdoors. Indirectly, we get it from food especially when it is still living and comes straight from the fields rather than from a factory. Plant based foods also contain the sun, wind, rain, and soil but in a condensed form. Therefore, nature is reflected in our food.

In macrobiotics, we are also eating for ecology and as much as possible, choose foods that are local, native, or come from a similar climate. Ideally, any fresh produce should come from less than 500 miles away Organic foods are vital as they help the earth and nourish us. Macrobiotics doesn't support the unnecessary and cruel slaughter of animals for food which is devastating on all levels - for the animals, for the earth, and for the health of humans. Macrobiotic cooking aims to use everything with as little waste as possible.  Grains and beans are whole, oils are unrefined and salt comes straight from the sea. As much of the vegetable is used as is feasible including the skin, tops, and stems. Leftovers can be used in new and delicious ways

A  vegan diet can be extremely healthy, but could also include any kind of food (including highly processed and sugar) as long as it is not from an animal source. Macrobiotic foods are still considered living up until they are cooked or eaten. In theory, any processing can be done at home such as miso making, pickles, bread or pasta. There is as little tampering as possible.

We look to enhance both the unique qualities of the food itself and the specific nutrients by using different preparations and methods of cooking. We use different flavours, textures, aromas, colours plus seasonal produce to create a sense of harmony in our meals. The mindful way we cook and the ingredients we use are like a mirror to the grand order of nature. The small mirrored from the big. The Macrobiotic diet itself is a well balanced combination of grains, beans, vegetables, seaweeds, nuts, seeds, fermented foods, herbs, and fruits. The proportions of food can be adjusted to suit age, activity levels, work, environment, health, and culture.

Yin and Yang are tools which the cook can use to further understand nature and to broaden the potential to create meals for health, well being, and longevity. Yin and yang are complementary opposites. Each food contains a unique balance of both. Learning about yin and yang is a wonderful way to understand how food and cooking influences our energy. The use of fire, pressure, salt and time are all ways we can make our food more energised and stronger. These are considered yang aspects of cooking. We can gently adjust our cooking and cutting styles, and ingredients, tastes, and textures to meet our needs and our energy levels. 

Macrobiotic cooking also respects the quality of ingredients. This is not only the growing conditions but the actual energetic quality of the food. Just as we have our unique characters, so does every kind of food. For  example, the character of a carrot is quite different to that of chickpeas. The key is to make the most of these various characteristics through our food preparation. The energy that is produced through cooking then combines with our own energy to improve and enhance our health and well-being. Modern nutrition doesn’t look at this traditional view of food. Instead, specific nutrients are emphasised and food has become fragmented into parts where it is more important to worry about the fats, protein content or vitamin C.

Through our cooking we actually change and transform this unique energy of food. The idea is to have a variety of cooking styles to encourage free flowing energy. Quickly, blanched vegetables provide more uplifting energy, a stir fry is active, quick and lively, or a stew creates strong, long lasting energy. You can also balance a light dish with a heavy one or a longer cooked dish with a shorter cooked one. Seasonal foods help us to feel more comfortable during a particular season. In the summer we could use more cooling foods like lettuces, cucumber, celery, leafy greens, watermelon or in the winter  more warming ones like pumpkins, onions, carrots etc. We can also make simple changes to our meals depending on the weather.

The role of the cook is like an alchemist in the kitchen, changing basic ingredients into something unique and special. Macrobiotic cooking includes a reverence for all stages of the cooking experience from cleaning the kitchen to washing the rice, or placing the vegetables into the pot. Everything is necessary and important. There is also sense of gratitude for all the work that has gone into actually making our food available, such as nature, farms, weather, transportation, and all the people who have been involved in getting it to our door. 

Cooking can be a mindful experience, a chance to slow down and engage all the senses, smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight. It is an opportunity to be present and in the moment which can be grounding, calming and relaxing. We become aware of every step of the cooking process as a source of reflection,; how we move about the kitchen, how we cut vegetables or how gentle we are with the ingredients. Macrobiotic cooking is a way to create very simple dishes that taste gorgeous or ones that are more lavish and exotic. We can develop a sensitivity to seasoning foods which helps us to regain an appreciation and awareness of natural tastes.

Macrobiotic cooking uses natural flavours that each have a specific affect on our body, mind, and emotions. Through slight adjustments to these tastes, we can change how our food affects us. The five tastes are bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and umami. There is an additional taste that could be considered as no taste. This might be a very simple dish that enhances all the other dishes in the meal. The blandness actually brings all the other flavours to life.

We can also learn how and what to cook to nourish ourselves and our loved ones. We have a symbiotic relationship with our food. We could even say that the foods we are attracted to may have a similar character to us.  Through cooking we can adjust our meals to nourish our dreams and desires, such as becoming more creative, being physically active, mentally alert, more healthy, less stressed or more relaxed. Macrobiotic meals are balanced both energetically and nutritionally. Each dish has its unique kind of balance and then the whole meal comes together like an orchestra or painting, with each dish enhancing and complimenting the next. A delicate harmony of flavours, textures, colours, shapes, and energy. This is the art of cooking and the opportunity to play, have fun and create joy in the kitchen.

I hope this inspires everyone to get their cooking mojo going to create some gorgeous meals.

Love Chef Mel xx

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Let's Feel Great Cooking Plant Based Foods

Cooking with Chef Mel

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup
Lemon Coriander Soup
European Fried Rice
Simple Garlic Rice
Colourful Lettuce Wraps
Roasted Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad
Shiitake Mushroom Tea for Stress and Weight Loss
Spicy Kuzu Drink

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup

This soup is very easy to prepare in no time at all and is soothing and calming.

4 cups fresh or frozen organic peas
1/2 head lettuce shredded
1 onion diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 inch piece of kombu rinsed
1 clove garlic minced
½ cup mint leaves finely chopped
Sea salt
Pepper (optional)
4-6 cups spring water
Mint for garnish

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions and garlic.
Sauté for about 2 minutes and add the lettuce.
Continue to sauté for a further minute.
Add the peas and enough water to cover the vegetables.
Add a pinch of sea salt.
Bring to a boil and simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the flame and add the mint leaves.
Place in a blender and blend to a smooth puree.
Place the puree back in the pan and warm. Add more water if desired.
Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute on a low flame and mix gently.
Serve garnished with mint.

Lemon Coriander Soup

3 Chinese cabbage leaves shredded
¼ cup red cabbage shredded
1 carrot julienned
Small handful Spinach shredded
3-4 fresh shiitake mushrooms finely sliced
1 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) 
4 tablespoons fresh coriander finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons white or brown rice miso diluted in a little cold water
Juice of a lemon
4-6 cups water

Bring the water to a boil and add the chopped coriander. Simmer for about 5 minutes and remove the coriander.
Add the vegetables, and a pinch sea salt.
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the white miso. Mix gently
Serve hot, garnished with the remaining fresh coriander and fresh lemon juice

*miso is packed full of protein, amino acids, living enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Amazing for energy, stamina, and mental focus

European Fried Rice

2 cups brown basmati rice cooked
1/2 cups spring water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 onion diced
1 carrot washed and grated
1/2 cup round cabbage rinsed and shredded
1 cup cooked chickpeas (can use a can of organic beans)
2 cloves garlic sliced 
1-2 tablespoons olive oil 

Warm the skillet over a high flame for a few seconds and add the oil. You can use water instead of oil if desired.
Add the onion and garlic (optional) to the oil and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the cabbage and sauté a further minute. Add the carrots and continue to sauté for another minute.
Add the chickpeas and mix through the vegetables.
Place the cooked rice on top of the vegetables.
Add the water and season with salt.
Cook on a low flame, with a lid, for about 
5 minutes.
Mix the rice and vegetables together and serve from the skillet.

*Brown rice helps with mental clarity and focus and keeps energy levels stable.

Simple Garlic Rice

2 cups basmati brown rice soaked in 3.5 cups of water for at least 4 hours
3 cloves garlic sliced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt

Warm the garlic and oil in a pan and sauté
for about 1-2 minutes.
Place the rice and soaking water on top of the garlic.
Add the  sea salt.
Cover and bring to a boil on a medium flame.
Simmer on a low flame for about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Mix gently and serve.

Colorful Lettuce Wraps
Sauce Ingredients
¾ cup tahini
2 tablespoons rice syrup
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
8 lettuce leaves, tough stems trimmed
Filling Ingredients
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup grated raw beets
½ cup cucumbers peeled julienned
1/4 cup mung bean or sunflower sprouts
8 large fresh basil leaves
4 sprigs fresh mint

In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the dipping sauce with 1/4 cup water and set to one side.
Fill each lettuce leaf with pinch of carrots, beets, cucumbers, and sprouts. Top with basil and mint. Fold in the sides of the lettuce leaf and roll up to create a wrap. Serve with Dipping Sauce or place a few spoonfuls inside the lettuce leaf.
*For fun, place the filling ingredients on a pretty serving tray/dish and let your guests make their own roll.

*Vegetables are full of minerals and vitamins and are anti-inflammatory helping the body and mind to stay youthful.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad


2 cups sweet potato cut into chunks 2 tablespoons basil finely chopped 
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
2 cups mushrooms, thickly sliced 
4 cups arugula 
½ block firm tofu crumbled
1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil chopped

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the sweet potato on a baking sheet with a Little olive oil, and season well.
Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once, until the sweet potato is soft and a little darker around the edges.
Add the umeboshi vinegar to the crumbled tofu and mix well. Set aside.
Place a tablespoon of oil into a skillet over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a little salt and pepper, and sauté for a few minutes, until any liquid they release has evaporated, and set aside.
Combine the squash, mushrooms and the tofu. Mix gently.
Place the arugula into a serving bowl and add the squash mixture on top.
Garnish with the basil and a generous dash of balsamic vinegar.

*umeboshi vinegar can be purchased at your local natural food store. It is wonderful for the digestion and is alkaline forming

Shiitake Mushroom Tea

1 dried shiitake mushroom soaked for 10 minutes or until soft
2 cups spring water
Pinch sea salt

Cut the shiitake into quarters.
Place in a pan and add 2 cups of water
Bring to a boil on a medium flame.
Reduce the flame to low and simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes.
 Add a pinch of sea salt and drink warm.

Helps to lower cholesterol
Good for tense or stressed condition
Helps weight loss

Spicy Kuzu Drink

Snuggle up with this soothing and relaxing yet spicy drink. Wonderful as a destresser after a long day at the office

1/2 cup apple juice (organic, sugar free)
½ cup water
1 tablespoon rice syrup
1 tablespoon kuzu powder
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice

Place the kuzu into the water and mix well. Make sure the water is cold.
Place the kuzu mixture and apple juice into a pan.
Heat on a medium flame, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken.
Add the lemon, ginger and rice syrup. Bring to a boil, mix gently and pour into your favorite mug. Drink hot.

*Kuzu is an amazing super food that is soothing to the digestion and helps to calm the mind. This drink is also relaxing for tense muscles.

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