Sister Visits & Souen Suppers

My sister came to visit me this weekend.

I had to work yesterday, but after work we all convened downtown (me, Julia, and Bobby) near Bobby’s office to get something for dinner. Bobby suggested Souen, and who am I to disagree! Julia also enjoys Souen though she says it’s a little bland sometimes 😉

So let’s see, what did we get…

Julia ordered the cornbread with a side of miso-tahini spread. (But we all shared it.)

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I got Squash Tofu – my absolute favorite dish at Souen. (My other favorite is the macro plate.) Squash Tofu is a sauteed mix of fresh vegetables – broccoli, napa cabbage, onions, soft/medium tofu, carrots, kabocha squash, and probably more that I am forgetting. The sauce is of the miso/tahini variety (a common theme at Souen).

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Souen’s Squash Tofu (with a side of brown rice)

Julia opted for the Inspired Vegetable Curry – a delicious mix of broccoli, carrots, squash (kabocha), cauliflower, mushrooms, and more + a savory Indian spice-inspired sauce.

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Souen’s Inspired Vegetable Curry (with a side of brown rice)

And last but certainly not least, Bobby got Souen’s Stir-Fried Noodles with soba noodles as his entree. Tons of veggies including lotus root and snap peas, topped with some seaweed flakes. It’s in a mushroomy-gingery sauce.

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Souen’s Stir-Fried Noodles

After dinner I got a macrobiotic scone. Here a recipe for macrobiotic scones that I have been meaning to resurrect – it’s from 2009. And I found this Eden Foods recipe for Cranberry Walnut macro scones too.

Do you like macrobiotic food? Which dish would you pick at Souen? Do you like math?

{WIAW} Konnichiwa! (What I Ate Wednesday From Japan)

I am in Japan! Bobby and I left NYC last Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Japan Wednesday night. We were on the plane for 16 hours and we crossed the dateline, hence the entire day+ difference. The flight is only ~13 hours, but there was a problem with the plane’s toilets and we ended up sitting on the plane while they fixed them.

I can’t remember exactly what I ate that Wednesday but it included this:

A surprisingly good airplane dinner of beef and veggie stir-fry, shrimp cocktail, a little salad, and bread. The meal came with “buttery spread” which is really margarine-like. I am not sure why people are still eating margarine. It should go the way of large sugary sodas in NYC. Dessert was a small cinnamon brownie.

There were a few other surprisingly OK airplane meals, and then we were in Japan. We found Bobby’s mom in the airport, and then hit up a Starbucks. Did you know that Starbucks has a “short” size? They do – but it’s not listed on US menus. If you ask for it though, apparently you can get it (I believe only for hot drinks; I haven’t tried yet because I didn’t know until this trip). The tall is so large – I don’t usually want to drink that much coffee/frappuccino/whatever.

After 1.5 hours on a train and subway we were at Bobby’s aunt’s house in a suburb of Tokyo/Yokohama. A veritable feast was laid out for us of amazing Japanese food. Most of the daily eats in Japan are macrobiotic. I wish I could remember each dish. Some where – rice (they eat white here; brown is rare), a stew with konyakku/lotus/daikon, hijiki salad, and more. And kabocha is also ubiquitous here.

And finally – shower and bed. I find that the best showers come after long days of traveling. This was possibly the best shower of my life.

Here are some more pictures from the trip so far:

Me enjoying a Japanese grocery store.

A double yolk egg. Did I mention that egg yolks are this really intense shade of orange here?

Not from the trip… but I miss these guys. My friend is taking care of them.

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Signing off for now. Have you ever been to Japan? What about another Asian country? I have not – this is my first time. I have traveled to Europe and Canada and that is about it.

Flashback Friday: Does Cooking Make Us Human

**I am going back through my old posts and finding some that I still love. I wanted to re-share them, especially for those of you that haven’t been reading my blog for very long. This post is from last September (2009), a few weeks after I stopped eating raw. I was only raw for a few weeks, but I found that it didn’t work for me. I have edited this post slightly so it is not exactly the way it appeared last year. Without further ado…**

Does Cooking Make Us Human?

In the summer of 2009, raw food was abuzz in blogland. I gave it a try to help my digestion, but that way of eating didn’t work for me. Now that it’s fall there is less and less talk about raw food, and more and more posts about oatmeal, baked squash, and delicious apples. It’s propitious that Bobby alerted me to this article: Did Cooking Give Humans An Evolutionary Edge? – a transcript of an NPR talk from Science Friday. It has to do with the differences between humans and other primates (like this gorilla that lives in the San Francisco zoo)…

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To summarize:

  • It’s an interview with Dr. Richard Wrangham, a primatologist (someone who studies primates = humans, apes, monkeys, and prosimians) who wrote Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.
  • Dr. Wrangham proposes that cooking has actually been a key aspect of evolution and our bodies have changed over the years due to the fact that we can cook our food. It’s given us a huge evolutionary advantage because we have more time to use our brains instead of foraging and chewing all day long.
  • Interesting factoid: apes show either a preference for cooked food over raw food, or they are neutral… they never prefer raw to cooked food.
  • Humans have a weird digestive system compared to other primates. Our digestive system is 2/3rds the size of an ape’s (if you adjust for the size of the ape versus the size of the human) and we have small teeth and small mouths – not ideal for lots of chewing.
  • We’ve adapted to a “high quality” diet. (High quality meaning mostly cooked and easy to digest… not talking about the processed crap that most people live on.) Cooking is what increased the “quality” of our diet.
  • We don’t have to eat large amounts of food and we don’t have to retain and ferment food for many many hours to digest it.
  • The changes to our digestive system happened about 1.8 million years ago.
  • Cooking our food increases the proportion of nutrients and energy that we’re able to digest. While a cooked carrot may technically have the same number of calories as a raw one, we are able to access more of the calories from the cooked one. Another example – when you cook an egg and eat it, you can digest about 94% of the protein. A raw egg? You digest about 60%. That’s a big difference.
  • Why does cooking make things easier to digest? For protein, the process is called denaturation. The protein cells are kind of like a big ball of yarn; cooking unwinds the yarn. Besides cooking, acid can also denature something. Our stomach acid can do some of this, but cooking makes it that much easier for our bodies to digest protein (going from 60% digestion with just stomach acid to 94% digestion with cooking in the egg example above). A similar process happens with starch – chains of sugars open up during cooking so that they are more readily available to absorb.
  • Humans are one of the only species that typically does not thrive on a raw diet… about half of women following a raw diet stop menstruating and most people lose weight (but this isn’t always a but thing). This is due to an energy shortage.
  • Now this doesn’t mean that a raw diet can’t be beneficial – a lot of people are eating way too much so a raw diet can help them maintain their weight and feel better. A lot of the benefits that come from a raw diet are due to cutting out processed foods and chemicals. Many people have undiagnosed food allergies (gluten, wheat, dairy, etc…) and since those foods aren’t common in a high raw diet, people will feel better since they’re not eating them anymore.
  • Again, eating more raw food is not necessarily bad or unhealthy! But if you live in a place where food is scarce, you should *not* follow a raw diet… if you live in the US or another developed country, incorporating more raw foods into your diet is actually a fabulous idea.
  • Many people think that following a raw food diet is the most “natural” way to live… not true. We’ve actually evolved away from eating raw food. And one of the major reasons that we’ve been able to advance so far in terms of knowledge and technology is due to the fact that we are NOT like other primates – we don’t have to eat all day to get enough food, so we have time to use our huge brains.

Ever Heard of Biocultural Evolution?

In anthropology there is the idea of biocultural evolution, which basically says that our culture (using tools, cooking food, etc…) has a large influence on our evolution. The invention of tools allowed us to evolve away from huge teeth. The cultural idea of wearing clothes might be the reason that we aren’t covered in hair. And maybe cooking is responsible for changing our digestive system, our mouths, and our teeth.

What does it mean for me and you?

What works best for me is a fairly natural diet (no processed foods) with a little bit of raw food. I’d call it somewhat macrobiotic, except for the fact that I also eat dairy and meat… in moderation. I eat fruit raw (obviously) and I do snack on raw veggies sometimes. I love salad (obviously, again) but I don’t eat salad every day unless it’s the summer. I love my oatmeal, oat bran, baked and steamed squash, and many other cooked foods, especially in the cooler months.

What works for you? What do you think of the ideas that this guy is proposing?

OZU Macrobiotic Restaurant Review (New York)

I promised this a while ago, and here it finally is…

Ozu (Macrobiotic) Restaurant Review

Ozu is a small Japanese restaurant on the upper west side. I found it because my friend Mel works nearby and we wanted to find a place close to her work for our weekly lunch date (we have since moved to dinner dates; we just work too far apart for lunch to pan out as planned). Ozu is macrobiotic, but not really advertised as such. Traditional Japanese food is typically macrobiotic by default. Here is another inside view (small and cozy, but nice):

We went for lunch one day back in September and I got the lunch special – a macro plate with a side salad. Possibly the best macro plate I’ve had – a close tie with Good Health’s. This macro plate was: chickpeas, seaweed, carrots, yams, kabocha, and brown rice.

The salad was fabulous too, and came with a slightly tangy dressing.

Mel got a noodly pad thai dish…

A Second Trip to Ozu!

I didn’t grab a picture of the noodly dish at the time, but I brought Bobby and another friend back just a few days later and they both got the “Thai Noodles” on my recommendation. The dish had thick rice noodles stir fried in peanut sauce, with broccoli, string beans, carrots, kale, and collards topped with raw bean sprouts and walnuts. They added salmon as well.

I am pretty sure they were very satisfied. I got this vegetarian macrobiotic (and vegan actually) fried rice. I don’t know how I finished it all, but I did.

We also split the “Carrot Pancake” appetizer, which apparently I forgot to photograph. It was a pan-fried pancake of wheat flour, cabbage, carrots, kale, ginger, kabocha squash, coconut milk and carrot dressing. Served with soy dipping sauce. Reminded me a lot of my okonomiyaki (Japanese frittata thing) – I love my okonomiyaki recipe; must make it again soon.

Macrobiotic food is just about the only type of food I can always finish without feeling guilty and/or sick. Macrobiotic eating has really really helped me overcome any and all kinds of food phobias that I used to have; I would say that macrobiotics has actually been the major factor in helping me learn to eat intuitively. (Part of macriobiotics is remembering that it’s not about the food, and that to be macrobiotic you sometimes should not be macrobiotic… if that makes sense.)

Would anyone be interested in hearing more about macrobiotics?

I have touched on it before, and I did a macrobiotic experiment a while ago (macrobiotic wrap-up posts here – scroll to bottom of page), but I’m sure there is more to discuss. Do you have any specific questions about macrobiotics? Want any macrobiotic recipes? Leave comments and let me know!

P.S. I did do Meatless Monday yesterday and I also didn’t have any added sugar (as far as I know), both for Healthy Monday.

Healthy Monday Tip #1: Skip the Sugar (and the Splenda)

Thanks to your suggestions a while ago, I started listening to NPR podcasts on walks/subway rides/free time. One of my favorites is “Your Health” – a podcast on a variety of health-related topics. The other week I listened to one featuring the founder of The Monday Campaigns – Healthy Monday and Meatless Monday. I reached out to them asking what I could do to help promote the campaign, and I decided to start featuring a healthy tip every Monday going forward. Maybe I’ll try doing Meatless Mondays as well.

Healthy Monday is a public health initiative founded in 2005 in association with Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Syracuse University. HM’s goal is to end chronic preventable disease in the U.S. by offering people and organizations a weekly prompt to start and sustain healthy behaviors, intentions, actions and initiatives. For most Americans, the week begins on Monday. Studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week. That makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet.

Healthy Monday Tip #1: Skip the sugar!

Yes, sugary food can taste good, but too much sugar leads to…

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Breakouts (skin) (click here for my skincare tips)
  • Weight gain and diabetes
  • Sugar addiction
  • Heart disease
  • Lots of other bad things

On this Healthy Monday, think about skipping the sugar in favor of something better – stevia maybe (I recommend NuNaturals), or perhaps nothing at all. Splenda-aspartame-nutrasweet-etc are just as bad (or worse) than sugar in my opinion, so try skipping them too (I am off of Splenda for over a month now!). Not everything that we eat has to be sickeningly sweet, right? Take this healthy scone for example…

Source.

Or my favorite macrobiotic meal.

Both completely sugar-free. Splenda-free, too. They are delicious and healthy (Monday).

If you are ever interested in submitting something for a Healthy Monday post, please email me!

Are you a sugar addict?

P.S. I FINALLY updated my yoga page. Have been meaning to do this for ages and ages now. Check it out.