Tempura

Tempura anyone?

Crunchy, warm, moist, salty – tempura has all of these features. No wonder we love tempura in America. It just occurred to me that it might be a great way to get finicky kids to try vegetables – tempura vegetables are extremely tasty, especially broccoli.

So what is tempura? In short, battered and deep fried food. Typically made with wheat flour, it can be made gluten free, such as we did in our lab class. You also need a substance to give the flour lightness. This is usually accomplished with beer, bubbly water, or baking powder. These substances create gas in the dough which creates air pockets that give the resulting batter a light feel.

To make tempura batter, just combine equal parts flour and beer/sparkling water. Also add a couple of tablespoons of a thickening powder such as arrowroot or kuzu (cornstarch could be used, but it’s often genetically modified).

Below: Non alcoholic beer was used, so we couldn’t be tempted. 🙂

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You can tempura almost anything, but vegetables are terrific. You want your pieces to be cut thinly without being flimsy. You don’t want the vegetable to be overwhelmed by Continue reading

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Kinpira

Kinpira is pretty much a saute in macrobiotics. It involves thinly cutting a variety of vegetables and cooking them in hot oil. The standard kinpira combination is using burdock, also known as gobo, and carrot. The resulting dish is a bit oily, crunchy, and sweet (especially if you use parsnips). So what’s not to love about that? Just don’t overdo it – kinpira has a lot of energy (the non-macrobiotic term would be lots of calories).

Below: Who remembers Fraggle Rock the TV show on HBO? I sure do! Gobo, in addition to being a root vegetable, was also the name of this character on the show, which was produced by Jim Henson. Ahhh, the 1980s.

Energetics

Since kinpira is similar to a braise technique (saute + simmer), it’s energy is grounding and steady. Kinpira is said to impart strength to the eater. Further, kinpira is made with root vegetables, which are also settling and grounding. This would be a good thing for someone with Continue reading

William Spear Macrobiotics Class (Part 1)

Living in Austin, TX, has it’s benefits: Cool people like William Spear come to talk about very interesting topics. Mr. Spear is a Feng Shui expert (he wrote a very well known book on the topic, Feng Shui Made Easy) and a long-time practitioner and counselor of macrobiotics. He is staying in Austin temporarily to work on some writing, and he decided to give a series of talks on macrobiotics while he is in town. The talks will occur at Casa de Luz, a terrific macrobiotic “restaurant” in Austin. I noted a few interesting tidbits that struck me from the talk (below the photo).

Below: William Spear explains Macrobiotics whilst I snap a surreptitious photograph.

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  • Chew your food a lot. Chewing alkalizes food, which reduces the load on your digestive system. He cited an expression “drink your food and chew your drink” which is to say “chew so much that your food becomes liquid.”
  • The lungs are an important organ for elimination of waste – CO2. The lungs are very active discharging carbon dioxide from 3:00 am and 5:00 am, which is why many people awake during those hours.
  • Good desire for food is a key benefit of the health you can achieve through macrobiotics. Healthy food will make you feel nourished. You will have desires for all normal things at healthy levels.
  • Your body’s organs have natural daily rhythms. Western medicine I beginning to take these rhythms into account when treating organs (administering treatment at certain times of day to maximize impact). Our hearts’ natural rhythms are least active around midnight, and this is not just because we are commonly sleeping – taking it easy is just what your heart “wants” to do at that time.
  • People urinate more in fall due to cooling temperatures. This aligns with macrobiotic principles of contraction/expansion, (although I am not quite sure how!).
  • You should be able to fall asleep shortly after getting into bed.
  • Your body doesn’t need as much food on a macrobiotic diet because your body uses it more efficiently. At first your body may be hungry on a macrobiotic diet, but that is because it is not used to drawing nutrients from food so efficiently. Most of our bodies are accustomed to working very hard for the scarce nutrients in our French fries and hamburgers, so we demand a larger quantity of food.
  • Most degenerative diseases occur not because of deficiency but because of excess.
  • Americans eat 2-3 times more protein than necessary.
  • We know that calcium in a high protein environment (e.g., milk) is not well absorbed. Cultures with lowest consumption of dairy have least osteoporosis. The “fact” that dairy is beneficial to your bones is a big lie perpetrated by the dairy industry.
  • There is no forbidden food in macrobiotics. (There is more to this point, but I don’t think I can do it justice. Basically, you want to shoot for eating in a certain way, but macrobiotics would not specifically prohibit any food, especially if it might be useful for your body and your particular situation.)

What do you think? Do these points make sense? If you attended the talk, what did you hear that you liked a lot?

Back to Basics

I want to eat more brown rice and beans. Both are chock full of complex carbohydrates (chains of saccharides which take longer for the body to break down and which provide a better energy source than simple carbs like table sugar). Both are great sources of fiber and contain lots of water. Beans are said to contain lots of helpful phytochemicals, compounds in plants which protect against oxidation or other inflammation-producing processes.

So, I pulled out ye olde pressure cooker for the rice. The beans came from a BPA-free can. On the side, some delicious wine roasted mushrooms.

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Below: I put a piece of dried kombu seaweed in the pressure cooker with the rice. It lends the rice a body and depth of flavor that you can’t achieve with rice alone.

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Below: Fresh thyme for the mushrooms. A plug here for Central Market: I love them! I am primarily a Wheatsville co-op shopper, but Central Market has a better mushroom selection. Plus, I love how you can get a small bunch of fresh herbs for $1.50 instead of having to buy an unnecessarily large quantity for double that price (such as at a certain publicly traded national organic food purveyor).

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Below: Look at the caramelization of the roasted mushrooms! I deglazed it with some white wine and dissolved the glaze, creating a wonderful sauce.

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