Friday, June 26, 2009

tiny kitchen risotto -

I love risotto, it's a great side dish and you can make it any flavor you want. Creamy and delicious it's a great side dish for anything. There are some great risotto recipes at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food, Inc

This movie looks as if it will provide an interesting view of modern food production. Unfortunately it's not showing in my area. Looks like it's playing in Houston, hopefully there are a lot of opportunities for folks all over the country to see it.

Go to the official site to see if it's playing near you.

You can also go to the Whole Foods Blog to read their take on the movie and their food process.

I believe this is an important issue. Our processed food and the way we eat is making most of us sick. It's not healthy for us, our kids or our future. We need to care more about what we eat and make a choice to eat for health.

Aromatherapy, understanding the science of smell

Aromatherapy article 

Learn how science is exploring the healthcare uses of aromatherapy and some scent suggestions to lift your mood.

I've just learned how to add my articles here and will be sharing them through this blog as well.  Let me know how you like this format.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

love your farmer is running a contest to support your local farmer's market.  The winning market will receive $5,000 but there are other prizes as well.  Support your farmer's market and give them a vote today!

The photo on the right is from my local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Home Sweet Farm who runs a Monthly Market Day. You can read a little bit about them at While a CSA is not a farmer's market many of them do eventually get large enough to participate in farmer's markets.  I think it's a great thing to support a farmer whether through the CSA, the farmer's market, or even buy purchasing local produce or products that may appear at your neighborhood grocery store.

If you don't have a local farmer's market see if you can start one in your area;  if you are lucky enough to have one, show them the love and vote today. 


My friend Tracy recently mentioned that she is growing basil in her back yard garden and would like to eventually make pesto. Pesto is a delicious way to add flavor to a wide number of dishes, it's not just for pasta. It can be used for a fabulous sandwich spread for tomato or tomato and mozzarella sandwiches. It's wonderful to use on chicken and thinned down it is a great dressing for a cold bean salad.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb with a very strong flavor; originally from Asia it is now most common in Italian cuisine.  Basil comes in a number of different "flavors" so in additional the  sweet basil that we are used to you can also get cinnamon, lemon, Genovese (which has sort of a clove flavor), licorice basil and a wide number of others.  Basil is a very useful herb with high levels of vitamin K as well as calcium, iron and vitamin A.  If you plan to grow it all summer to harvest in the fall for pesto you can increase your yield by pinching the flower stems.  This will prevent the flowers and seeds from forming and keeps the essential oils from drying up.

This is my favorite recipe for pesto:

2 C. fresh basil leaves, washed and destemmed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C. parmesan cheese
1/2 C. pine nuts
1/2 C. olive oil

place all ingredients into a food processor
turn the food processor on and begin to add in olive oil until mixture is smooth
add salt to taste

Note: you can make different types of pesto by using parsley or red peppers instead of basil, using walnuts instead of pine nuts and changing the parmesan for romano cheese.  Experiment and find out what your favorite flavor is.

Be well.

photo courtesy of

Saturday, June 20, 2009

vinegar for your health

Vinegar is an acidic liquid that is made by fermentation. It is used in many different cultures primarily as a condiment or to preserve other foods. Vinegar is made up of acetic acid; natural vinegars may also contain additional acids such as citric acid. In addition to the vinegars that we are most familiar with, distilled, apple cider, balsamic or various wine vinegars, there are other types that include coconut, date, beer, and honey.

Vinegar has been around for centuries and has a wide variety of uses both in the home as well as in the diet. In the home many people are familiar with vinegar as a glass cleaner. However it can also be used for things like removing oily stains from carpet (1 t. liquid detergent, 1 t. vinegar, 1 pint warm water), cleaning your coffee maker, deodorizing the dispos-all, and many more tips. You can find other household uses for vinegar here.

In terms of health benefits vinegar has a number of different uses. One of my favorites is to use it as a fruit and veggie wash; according to this article from NPR a solution of three parts water to one part vinegar removed 98% of the bacteria from the outside of the fruit being tested. For headaches a compress soaked in a 50/50 solution of warm water and vinegar is reputed to be helpful in reducing or clearing the pain. Vinegar also makes a great gargle for a sore throat (1 t. vinegar in 8 oz water) and is widely believed to be helpful in easing the pain of sunburn; simply spritz vinegar from a spray bottle on the sunburn, being careful not to spray on broken skin.

Frequently vinegars are enhanced by adding herbs to them. The healing effects of the herbs combine with the benefits of the vinegar, for example tarragon is noted for helping with digestion and vinegar, being high in acetic acid, helps the body to absorb minerals. There is also the use of hibiscus vinegar which may help with allergy symptoms. Edible hibiscus (and not all of them are) is very high in quercetin which has helpful properties for those dealing with allergies. You can learn more about hibiscus and hibiscus vinegars here.

If you live locally, in the Houston area, you can purchase some delicious hibiscus vinegars (and teas) from Village Botanica. If you don't live locally you can purchase their products online. The direct link to the vinegars will be online for the summer season within the next week. If you do place an order, please mention my name, Mira Dessy, for a 10% discount on internet orders only.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

can't exercise?

We all know the common advice about keeping healthy. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. Many of us think that exercise means vigorous physical activity. Although that is a great way to get in shape and stay fit it is not always possible. 

Some people have health conditions that prevent them from being able to engage in activities such as aerobics, tennis, jogging, or team sports. These conditions include severe arthritic conditions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, low blood pressure problems such as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and others. Unfortunately many people afflicted with conditions that prevent them from being as physically active as they are used to may think that there is nothing they can do to stay active. This leads to weight gain, loss of muscle tone and can even affect other body systems.

It doesn't have to be that way. If you are unable to engage in heavy physical exercise, if even long distance walking is beyond you or yoga triggers your low blood pressure, there are things you can do to stay healthy. The first is to realize that pushing yourself to exhaustion is not going to help. If you can walk for five minutes a day that's where you start. If you can do a few Tai Chi poses start there. It takes time to build your body back up.  And your new activity level  may be reduced from what you are used to, but remember, any movement that you can do is helpful for your body.

Here are a few links to some websites with information on different types of gentle exercise that you may be able to do to keep your body moving. You may need to engage in these activities with a fitness professional who can guide you and monitor your progress on your journey to health. As with any health condition please consult a healthcare practitioner before you engage in new types of physical activity.

photo courtesy of,_Cannon_Beach.jpg

Monday, June 15, 2009

men's health week

It's Men's Health Week, which always occurs the week before Father's Day.  

I've written an article about five nutrients that are helpful for prostate health, you can read it here.

Be well.

photo courtesy of

Friday, June 12, 2009

blueberry season is here...

...and there is nothing more wonderful than having fresh blueberries to eat.  Just by themselves they are a wonderful snack.  In a fruit salad they are delicious.  Baked into a myriad of treats such as muffins, cobblers and pies they are indescribably delicious.

Recently I went with some friends to a local pick-your-own place where there were over 5 miles of blueberry bushes.  The berries were plump, juicy and very flavorful.  With three adults and four kids the picking went fairly quickly and everyone came home with a quite a few berries.   Blueberries freeze quite well if you want to save some for later.  There's nothing quite like blueberry pancakes in the middle of winter from blueberries that you picked fresh during the summer.

Blueberries are native to North America and related to cranberries, another distinctive North American fruit.  They are high in antioxidants; anthocyanin which is beneficial for collagen especially as it relates to capillary and vascular support, and ellagic acid which is helpful in protecting against cancer.  Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C, manganese and are a good source of fiber.  Studies show them to be effective in helping to protect against Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), colon cancer, and ovarian cancer.

One of my favorite ways to eat them is in pancakes, simply take your favorite pancake recipe and add blueberries to the batter after it has been put into the pan.  Another favorite is blueberry muffins.  A quick search of the internet will reveal plenty of recipes that call for fresh blueberries but here is my muffin recipe which is always a hit at our house.

Blueberry Muffins

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup Sucanat
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 - 1 1/2 C. blueberries (depending on how berry-y you like them)

Sift together dry ingredients 
In a separate bowl beat egg, add oil and Sucanat
Add vanilla and add-ins
Add dry ingredients and mix well
Spoon into two well greased loaf pans
Bake 375°F for 15 minutes


If you live locally in the Houston area, here's a link to an article about the farm I visited to get my blueberries.

photo courtesy of

Thursday, June 11, 2009

heart-healthy foods

My friend Jen is 31 and was surprised at a recent physical to discover that she had high cholesterol.  Jen works very hard to provide a clean diet for herself and her family, eating organic foods, and not eating a lot of processed foods.  It never entered her mind that she might have high cholesterol.

As we were talking I mentioned that there are a few simple things that she can do to start making heart-healthy changes to her diet.  Although this list does not cover everything that you would need to do it covers the top five foods you should add to your diet for heart health.  This, of course, would be after you make other healthy changes such as quitting smoking, not eating anything with trans-fatty acids and adding some form of daily exercise to your routine (even just a 15 minute walk a day if that's all you can do to start; check out my previous post to calculate how far you walk jog run).

Flax seed: High in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids flax seeds are a great way to reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or bad, cholesterol.  With a nutty, rich taste flax seeds are a great addition to baked goods, cereals, or even sprinkled into smoothies.

Oat bran:  With high levels of soluble fiber oat bran helps to reduce LDL cholesterol.  Oat bran can be eaten as a cereal, cooked into muffins or cookies or even substituted for part of the flour in a bread recipe.

Cold water fish:  High in heart-healthy omega 3 oils this is a great way to add protein to your diet.  Versatile and quick to cook you can grill, sautee, broil or steam these fish for a great meal.  Fish in this category include salmon, sardines, tuna, rainbow trout, and herring.

Garlic:  Adding garlic to your diet has been shown to be very beneficial as it can lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, or good, cholesterol.  Garlic is also good for reducing platelet aggregation (which is where the platelets stick together in the blood and can form a clot).  You can read an article I wrote about garlic here.

Spinach:  High in Co-Q10, which is important for heart (and muscle) health, as well as lutein, an antioxidant which can help reduce hardening of the arteries, spinach is a wonderful food to add to the diet.  Spinach is also high in folate which is effective in reducing homocysteine in the blood and magnesium which is helpful for reducing blood pressure.

Be heart-healthy; eat well, be well.
1. Haas, Elson, " Staying Healthy with Nutrition", Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, 1992, pp. 277

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

great granola

The kitchen is fragrant with the smells of baking granola right now. Steve and the kids like to eat it as a bowl of cereal, I prefer it as a garnish on top of a bowl of yogurt and fruit, as an added treat to a bowl of muesli, or as a crumb topping for making muffins. One of the reasons that I like to make my own granola is because I can control the flavor and the sweetness; I also believe I save money by making my own.

Bear Naked Apple Cinnamon Granola is $4.85 for approximately 3 cups, Kashi Mountain Medley Granola is $4.56 for approximately 3.5 cups and my homemade version comes out at around $3.65 for 6 cups. Because I want less sugar in my granola it is admittedly less crunchy but we find it to be very flavorful and enjoy it a lot. Taste testings with friends and family shows that they like it too.

The most recent batch is apricot, raisin, walnut, cinnamon. The kids were very eager to "taste test" it as it came out of the oven, I had to fend them off with my mixing spoon so that it could cool properly.


preheat oven to 350F

3 T. honey
3 T. molasses
1/3 C. oil
4 C. rolled oats
1 C. nuts, chopped
1 C. dried fruit
1/4 C. flax seed, ground
1 t. vanilla
spices, optional (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc)

In a small pot on the stove mix honey, molasses and oil
Heat until just starting to bubble, stirring to mix well
Place oats in a large ovenproof dish
Pour liquid mixture over oats and stir well to coat evenly
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from oven, stir well, add nuts and return to oven
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from oven, stir well, add dried fruit and return to oven
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from oven, stir well, add flax seeds, vanilla and any spices if desired
Let cool completely before storing in a container


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

walk jog run

Part of a healthy lifestyle is to get out there and get some exercise.  As the saying goes, "Move it or lose it."  There are a lot of benefits to moving our bodies.  Even simple walking has been shown to help with weight control and cardiac health.  It's a great way to reduce stress, strengthen bones and muscles, improve your mood and more.

It's sometimes difficult to know how far you've gone when you are out there moving, especially if you don't have a pedometer.  I've recently rediscovered a wonderful website that can help with that.  Walk Jog Run allows you to find a starting point (anywhere in the country), plot a route and save it.  You can even print your routes to take along with you for reference.

I'm very fortunate to live in an area where we have hike/bike paths so I do get out there on a regular basis.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my regular walk with Tobi (our dog) was 2.1 miles.  Whether you are out there for a walk, a jog, or a run, just get out there and get moving.  It's good for you.

photo courtesy of

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Are Hand Sanitizers Helpful or Harmful?

A great article written by my friend Hildra.

Are Hand Sanitizers Helpful or Harmful?
They May Be Causing a Decrease in Hand-Washing Among Children
© Hildra Tague

Jun 6, 2009

Both parents and schools used to have a common practice of teaching, and supervising, children in proper hand-washing techniques. Now hand sanitizers have taken over.

Hand sanitizers are everywhere! There is little doubt of their efficacy. Both homes and schools allow unsupervised use without batting an eye. Yet there is a problem in substituting them for hand-washing. Could this next generation suffer from not being taught hand-washing habits?

Read the rest of the article

Thursday, June 4, 2009

summer freshness

I love summer eating.  Using fresh vegetables, grilling, delicious salads, it all adds up to a refreshing and satisfying way to eat.  

My sister-in-law is a big "salad" person and years ago taught me to make lots of different kinds of salad. She made it more than just green vegetables with a few chunks of something thrown on top and dressing from a bottle.  She always serves wonderful salads with her meals, planning them to coordinate with the main dish.  

Yesterday's dinner was "dry" grilled veggies; not marinated but brushed with oil as they are cooking.  Instead of a pastry brush I like to use a long sprig of rosemary; the olive oil has garlic, herbs such as thyme and oregano and some salt in it.  The vegetables come out drier but with a great intense flavor to them.  Served with a little aioli (a French garlic-y mayonnaise) on the side they are fabulous.  I served them with two side salads, my favorite Quinoa Taboule and a great jicama salad recipe that I got from the latest issue of Clean Eating

Jicama is a wonderful root vegetable sometimes referred to as a Mexican turnip.  It is part of the legume family, a tasty, crunchy, sweet vegetable whose cultivation has spread to include a larger area within South American and parts of Asia.  In texture it is similar to an Asian pear.  Low in calories, high in fiber and vitamin C it is very versatile and can be eaten raw, stir fried, roasted, even turned into relish.   It adds a snap and a crunch to raw dishes, with a crisp refreshing flavor and is equally delicious in cooked dishes.  As a cooked vegetable it can be substituted for water chestnuts in stir fry dishes, or can be steamed, boiled or even fried.  If you haven't had jicama before you may be surprised to discover how versatile it is and how much you like it.

Photo courtesy of