Friday, September 28, 2012

Barley Beauty

Barley is an underused but powerfully healthy cereal grain.  And while many are familiar with pearled barley, the creamy white grain found in many barley soups and salads, it is actually not considered a whole grain.  The term "pearled" refers to the removal of the precious bran removed, which depletes the grain of its complete nutritional integrity. 

Hulled barley is the only kind of barley that can be truly referred to as a whole grain, as only the inedible hull has been removed during its processing.  Two delicious forms of barley are hato mugi barley (also known as Job's Tears) are black barley.  Hato mugi barley is a richer, softer form of barley that is truly delicious but can be difficult to find.  Black barley, on the other hand, is a bit chewier and firmer in texture, but is sometimes easier to locate in stores.

Whichever barley you choose, you are in for a fantastic experience!  Barley provides a rich, nutty flavor that is more full-bodied than other whole grains can be.  And its chewy, soft texture can provide a satisfying mouthfeel that adds great satiety to any dish.

Nutritionally, barley is exploding with minerals, complex carbohydrates, and soluble fiber.  This soluble fiber in particular makes it a wonderful food choice for people looking to reduce high blood cholesterol and blood sugars.  It is also excellent for weight management, as its rich fiber and water content make it a great way to add satiety to meals.

Energetically, barley is nourishing to the lungs and large intestines, by helping to balance the levels of moisture in the body.  It can also work to strengthen the kidneys, particularly black barley.  And as we move into fall and winter, these 3 organ systems are especially in need of tonification.  Choosing barley a few times a week can help keep us healthy and strong during the colder months.

A fantastic fall and winter barley dish is a warm black barley salad with winter squash.  Try out this wonderful dish this autumn and keep your body strong!

Black Barley and Butternut Squash Salad
Serves 4

1 cup black barley
4 cups water
3 cups diced butternut squash, peeled if desired
½ cup unsalted vegetable stock
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 bunch green scallions, chopped
Juice and zest of 1 orange
¼ cup cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the black barley and water in a pot.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour and set aside, draining any additional water that may remain.

Toss together the butternut squash, vegetable stock, curry powder, cinnamon, and garlic powder. Place on the baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. Set aside.

In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked barley, butternut squash, almonds, scallions, orange juice and zest, and cilantro.  Serve warm or chilled.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Macrobiotic Lecture this Month!

An Introduction to Macrobiotic Healing
with Anthony Dissen
Certified Macrobiotic Counselor

In this fascinating FREE lecture, we will learn more about:
■ What is Macrobiotics?
■ An introduction to Macrobiotic healing philosophy
■ Primary foods in Macrobiotics for reversing
disease and promoting wellness
■ Simple home-care techniques to assist the healing process

The Macrobiotic philosophy is about balance, and this lecture will
provide you with the introductory tools you need to live in balance
with the Universe. In this way, we can achieve true and long-lasting

Join us at 6:00pm on Friday, September 28th at Acutech
Acupuncture in Quest for Health & Wellness, LLC
315 Highway 34 (opposite Delicious Orchard)
Colts Towne Plaza, Suite 133
Colts Neck, NJ 07722

To RSVP, or for more information, please contact Anthony Dissen at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cultivating Your Passion

I consider myself to be passionate about so many things in this life.  Food and cooking, a natural approach to health, science, nutrition, spirituality, so much has fascinated me and continues to do so.  A powerful and principle aspect of our healing and evolutionary journey in this lifetime is not only recognizing what our passions are, but creating within (and around) ourselves an environment that allows those passions to be cultivated and nourished.

It is a true disservice to not only our health, but the health of those around us and the planet itself, that we are taught to tamper down our passions for the sake of logic or security. As children, hopefully, we are allowed and encouraged to explore our passions and imagination and play.  But then suddenly, we are told to put those silly notions aside and start to get serious.  One may love to paint or sculpt or write, but how many times have we heard that there is no "future" in that passion as a career and set those aside for something more sensible. And is it any wonder that this is when most diseases and chronic health conditions begin?  Most serious illnesses take 10-20 years or more to even show the earliest of signs. So if I'm told to abandon my desires in my mid-20s, and start to show signs of heart disease in my mid-40s, could it have had its origins (at least in an emotional or spiritual sense) in the disappointment we felt.  I remember once in college a chemistry TA told the class that if anybody was thinking of declaring art or philosophy or creative writing as a major, they needed to "grow up" and pick something more practical.  Even then I knew what a dangerously damaging that statement was to so many of the students in the room.

We truly must take the time to identify what our passions in life are, and take the time to nurture and develop those joys.  If I love art, that doesn't mean I must become an artist to be happy.  But nor should I abandon all attempts to keep art an active part in my life just because I choose a different career or path.  Yes, financial security is important, but it shouldn't be our primary goal in life. I know this is an overused and cliched expression, but nobody ever goes to their death bed and says, "I wish I would have worked more."

While I have no claim to be a member of any particular religion or spiritual practice (they are all too beautiful to pick just one), I was recently reminded of a passage from the New Testament in the Christian Bible by Larry Heisler, and amazing massage therapist and overall healer and teacher.  Revelation 3:16 states "God spews out of his mouth the lukewarm."  I have heard this passage many times before, and I've never really responded to spiritual teachings or sacred texts that make God sound angry or vengeful.  But if we begin to view these teachings in a less literal sense, I think a greater message can be understood.  If instead of viewing God as a literal figure who decides who's good and who's bad, we view God as a state of being we hope to achieve, this passage begins to make more sense. That state of total peace and connection to the Universe, where there are no anxieties or worries, is God (at least, to me it is).  And what keeps us from entering that state (i.e. being spewed from the mouth of God) is being lukewarm in life; missing that fire and passion and exuberance in exchange for playing it safe or blending into the background.

So how can we hope to enter that state of bliss?  By being passionate!  By warming up that fire of our soul with our joys and passions in life, not only does life become more enjoyable but healing can begin.  We can eat as well as we want, and exercise our bodies, and everything else we are told to do. But if we practice these actions without any joy or fire in our bellies, can we really hope to enter that true state of health? 

So as we transition from Late Summer to Fall, and that quality of introspection and self-reflection becomes more pronounced and powerful, I plan to go within and ask myself if I am truly living my life with passion and doing those things that bring me the most joy.  If the answer is yes: I'd better keep doing them!  If the answer is no: what better time to start?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Late Summer: The 5th Season

In Traditional Oriental Medicine (and Macrobiotic theory) there is a fifth season known as "Late Summer" or the "Earth" time of year.  And we are currently right in the middle of this amazing time of year!  Late summer, according to the Five Transformations of Energy, is that incredible time when all of the energy from summer (when the energy of Earth is at its highest) begins its graceful back downwards, beginning to collect and gather and become solid again.  The earth becomes drier but still contains some verdant freshness. This has a profound affect on our mood and emotions, health, and (of course!) the foods we eat.

The Emotions of Late Summer

This time of year most strongly influences the functioning of our spleen-stomach and pancreas. These organs, in addition to their obvious physiological functions, govern aspects of our emotional health as well.  The emotions of worry and jealously and pensive thinking are controlled by the health and energies of these Earth organs.  When our Earth energy is in balance, we feel calm, centered, dare I say Zen?  When out of balance, we feel overcome with anxiety and worried, racing thoughts and jealously of the perceived happiness, health, and calm of others.  

The Foods of Late Summer

To help balance the building Earth energy within ourselves, choosing appropriate foods (and avoiding those less appropriate) help us to thrive at this time of year.  The flavor of the Earth element is sweet.  And by that, I mean a naturally sweet taste.  Foods that have a gentle, natural, unadulterated sweet flavor help to strengthen and balance our Earth energies.  These include:

  • Millet
  • Onions
  • Green Cabbage
  • Parsnip
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Brown Rice
  • Summer Squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Chickpeas
 Using more of these foods in your cooking brings a quality into our system that can rebuild and maintain our hearty Earth energy.  In addition, cooking styles that emphasize more stewing, braising, and other moist cooking are more appropriate that the cooking styles of the summer (like raw summer salads, raw fruits, juices, smoothies, and other cooling styles).  Foods that are intensely sweet, or artificially sweet, over stimulate the Earth organs and cause our Late Summer energies to become erratic and racing.  Taking time to chew, and engaging in calming, soothing activities all help to nourish ourselves during this important transition in time.

To help get your body and mind in balance as we transition from summer to fall, try a bowl of my Earth Energy Soup a few times a week to help relax the middle organs of the body, stabilize blood sugar, and vitalize your Earth Energy in the body to have a happy and healthy Late Summer!

Earth Energy Soup
Makes 4-5 servings

Soothes the stomach, alkalizes the blood and fluids, regulates blood sugar, and improves digestion.

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup chopped butternut squash or pumpkin
1 cup chopped sweet potato (do not peel)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped or grated fresh ginger
2-inch piece kombu sea vegetable
4 cups of filtered water
1 tablespoon chickpea or barley miso (depending on your needs/preference)
¼ cup watercress leaves (optional)
Sea Salt

In a  medium-sized pot, add the sesame seed oil and turmeric and place over medium heat.  Once the turmeric becomes fragrant, add the onion with a small pinch of sea salt. Sautee for 1-2 minutes, then add the carrots with another small pinch of salt.  Cook 1-2 minutes, add the squash/pumpkin with another pinch of salt, and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Next, add the sweet potato, garlic, and ginger with another pinch of salt and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the kombu and water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender, food processor, or use a stick blender and process until smooth and creamy.  Remove soup from heat.  In a small bowl, dissolve the miso with warm water and mix into the soup once all boiling has stopped.  Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes, and transfer to serving bowls.  Garnish with watercress and serve.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Keeping Cool with Kale

If there is one "it" food of the times right now, it has to be kale.  Kale is everywhere!  Morning talk shows are using it in their cooking segments, restaurants have it all over the menu, there are now even entire cookbooks that cover one single food: kale (and yes, other greens as well).  Good news, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because kale is truly one of the healthiest foods a person can eat.  No, because we aren't exactly serving kale is the most natural of ways.

For example, you can now buy raw kale chips. Sounds like it should be fine.  Well, when you look at the package, the kale has been coated in a mixture of ground up nuts, oils, syrups, and enough salt to make your lips go dry.  And all sold to you for about $5 for, in the end, about 2 cups of kale (keeping in mind that an entire bunch of kale is usually less than a buck).  In those restaurants that are serving so much kale?  Yes, the kale is in there, but you have to look underneath the ocean of cream sauce, olive oil, and duck fat to get to the poor little green.  The reason why this gives me some concern is not just because the food is so laden with concentrated sugars, salts, and fats that it completely negates any health properties that the kale would have provided.  More importantly (in my opinion) is that we are being told that we're healthy because look at all the kale and greens we're eating!  So the unsuspecting diner buys the chips, orders the creamed greens, and says to themselves, "Look at how good I'm doing!"  And when they still get heart disease 15 years down the line, we now say to ourselves, "Well, I guess eating lots of greens and veggies isn't that important.  I mean, I did it, and I still got sick." 

So, like most items related to health in our society, we truly believe we're doing well because that is what hte sound bites tell us.  And when we don't get the results we're promised, we are told that what we eat doesn't matter after all.  But what is the true story behind the benefits of eating kale, and preparing it in a more health promoting way?

Let's look at kale (and dark greens in general) from both a Nutritional and Macrobiotic perspective, shall we?

Western Nutrition: Kale is King

Kale is a monumentally powerful food in the view of western nutritional science.  Kale is a rich source of organic calcium salts, as well as a plethora of b-complex vitamins.  Kale is about 26% (or so) protein, and as a matter of fact: practically all dark leafy greens are a great source of protein! Kale is also rich in folate, which is a necessary b-vitamin for reducing homocysteine levels in the blood (which helps reduce the risk of heart disease and damage to nervous tissue).  High in fiber, full of water, easy to prepare, and cheap to buy, kale and other dark greens should definitely find their way onto your plate at least 1-2 times per day.

Macrobiotic and Eastern Nutrition: Kale is King

The energetic qualities of kale are that of the springtime. Kale burst up and out of the soil full of vibrant, strong energy that in turn helps us to expand outward intellectually, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  Kale and other dark greens also help us to be more understanding and flexible in the world.  Kale is strong so it stands tall in the ground, but can bend and sway with the breeze.  Not so stiff it will break, but not so loose it falls down, kale gives us that perfect quality of being confident but flexible all at once.  Powerfully tonifying to the liver and gallbladder, kale and other greens can help us let go of old stagnant feelings of anger and jealously. Kale is also said to help purify and strengthen the blood, allowing for every tissue in the body to be cleansed and rejuvenated.

Kale comes in a variety of different styles.

So, in the end, no matter how you view this humble plant (from the West, East, or both), the answer is still the same: eat more greens!  But what is the best way to prepare them?  As gently as possible, that's how.

The nutrients in kale, collards, and other dark leafy greens are sensitive to cooking.  If you throw a bunch of kale into boiling water and cook for 20 minutes, a lot of the vitamin C, b-vitamins, and other key nutrients have either leached out into the cooking water (which we then tend to throw away) or have been destroyed by the intense heat.  So the trick is to mess with it as little as possible.  Steaming dark greens for as little as 1-2 minutes is pleanty to take away the raw taste and fibrous texture and let the soft, sweetness of greens come out.  This also allows them to be more refreshing and light.  Throw some shredded kale into a pot of soup during the last 30 seconds of cooking, perfect! Or, if you'd really like to cool off with some kale, you can leave it raw.  By shredding the kale finely, you can break up the fibrous strands enough to make it more tender and pleasant.  Try out this refreshing summer salad to get an idea of how refreshing and satisfying greens can be!

Kale and Almond Pressed Salad

2 bunches of kale leaves, finely shredded
1 cup of chopped or slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup finely shredded red cabbage
¼ cup roughly chopped basil leaves
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Using your hands, massage the ingredients together until the kale begins to wilt.  Place a plate on top of the bowl (one that is small enough to fit inside) and place a heavy jar or weight on top of the plate. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving. Remove the plate, toss well, taste for seasoning and serve.

And as always, be well!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting Started

I thought that my first posting should be short and sweet, and based on a question I get asked very often, which is "how do I get started eating healthfully?"
In the most basic sense, here are the steps that I think make the transition to a more wholesome, plant-based diet as simple as possible....
Step 1 - Bring Plant Foods IN
Too often we begin our process of changing our diet by thinking about how much food we need to stop eating, how much our diets are going to change, how much harder it will be to eat out and with other makes it seem like healthier eating is a miserable thing.  Instead, begin to think solely about what to include or increase.
The most important food, no doubt, to increase is that food that comes from plants.  Whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, seasonal and local fruits, just start eating them more and more often.  Don't worry about the chocolate, the sodas, the chips, the candy, we'll deal with them later.  Instead, just think about how you can start getting these plant foods in your diet.
What will happen as your intake of vegetables, grains, and other plant foods increases is that your tastes will naturally begin to change.  After about 30 days, you will find you start craving these foods, your taste buds are now in love with arugula and barley and chickpeas!  And as your tastes change and refresh themselves, what you will naturally notice is that your intake of the above-mentioned junky foods will decrease.  Not because you are denying yourself, or forcing yourself to stop eating them, they are just less and less appetizing, less interesting.  Plus, with a belly full of fiber, there's no room for much else.
Step 2 - Slow Down and  Make Time
Now,  you are eating tons of these plants foods a day.  Excellent!  Next, start to look at how you eat.  Do you eat on the run?  In front of the TV? In the car???  Do you take 20 minutes out of your day, 3 times a day to sit down and eat?
Your next goal is to just....slow....down.  Eat an actual  breakfast in the morning, take your lunch break to eat lunch (not to catch up on e-mails), have dinner.  Eat slowly, chew well.  Take at least 20 minutes for each meal.  This will improve your digestion about 1,000,000 times.  The more you chew, the more your brain realizes you are eating and a truer sense of satiety and fullness can set in, leading to less overeating.  The more you chew (notice a pattern here?) the more efficiently you can actually taste your food, which only adds to the deliciousness factor of all those wonderful grains, beans, and veggies.  After a couple of weeks, your stress levels will decrease, your sleep will improve, your skin will  look clearer (I kid you not!), and your digestion will be amazing.
If you are looking for a great experiment, make yourself some plain-cooked brown rice.  Chew a mouthful at your normal speed and rate of chewing.  Then, take another mouthful and chew for about 50 times.  How different do they taste?  How do you feel?  Was the rice more enjoyable?  Finally, take another mouthful and chew between 50 and 100 times.  Again, what was it like?
Next, time a mouthful of a food you are hoping to reduce (ice cream, chips, cheesecake, whatever).  Chew it normally and swallow.  Chew another mouthful 50 times and then swallow.  How as that?  Did you find yourself enjoying the flavor more, the same, or maybe less?  Did it start to taste too sweet, too salty, to oily?  Finally, take another mouthful and chew 50 to 100 times.  What was it like? 
Step 3 - Begin to Transition Harmful Foods Out
Ok, you have accomplished a lot of great work here.  Maybe it took you a month, maybe it took you 6 months.  Whatever, who cares?!?  Take the time you need to increase your plant foods and take your time with meals.  Then, once that is now routine, now you can focus on removing any remaining yuck-foods from your diet.  What you'll probably be blown away by is that without having to try, you have naturally removed a lot of foods from your diet anyway.  Try slow-chewing a handful of potato chips, your mouth gets so oily and salty its revolting!
So any remaining items you would like to remove, now is the time.  Again, do it slowly, gradually, chances are there's no rush.  Take 2 months if you need. 
Take a  year!  Take all the time you need.  As long as you are honest with yourself, and always being aware of what you are doing, you will be eating more healthfully and calmly than you ever thought possible.  Just keep increasing the plant foods on your plate with each passing meal, chew them well, and slowly replace the less health promoting foods.  And the most important thing of all: enjoy that meal!


Jersey Shore Macrobiotics is an intentional community for individuals who are committed to growing the Macrobiotic community in the Central NJ and Jersey Shore area.

Jersey Shore Macrobiotics is a place for students and teachers of Macrobiotics to share their  knowledge, experience, and passion for the Macrobiotic philosophy.

In this space, we will post information about upcoming Macrobiotic potlucks, educational programs and lectures, cooking classes, and other fantastic events happening in the area. For more information about Jersey Shore Macrobiotics, or to learn more about scheduling a private Macrobiotic counseling session or cooking class, please contact Macrobiotic Counselor and Teacher Anthony Dissen at

Also, please find us on Facebook for more information and to join the community!