Day 30:  One Month - Complete                              Monday, May 17, 2010

For many in the United States, food is an afterthought.  Food tends not to be a focus in our lives.  We have all have a lot to think about, right?  So food falls to the bottom of the list. 

For the two years when I was working while getting my Master's Degree, food was a complete afterthought.  I rarely ate 'junk food;' I rarely ate much of anything.  I had too much to think about.  I wasn't hungry in the morning; I almost always skipped breakfast.  I ate a few morsels for lunch. I wasn't hungry at all during the middle of the work day when I was teaching in NYC.  During my final semester of grad school, when I was taking night classes a few times a week, I sometimes wouldn't eat until 5pm.  I wasn't thinking about food.  It's not that I was starving myself.   My mind was too full for me to eat.  I was thinking about other things, like staying safe in a city that had shown me, first hand, that it wasn't always safe.  I was thinking about the multitude of tasks that I needed to complete, to finish everything on time.  I was thinking about moving ahead.  And for some reason, my body, and what it needed, wasn't in my mind.  My adrenaline was pumping too fast; I felt it every time that I stepped off the subway and saw sirens signaling something bad had happened; I felt it every time I was about to fall asleep and heard mini 'booms' in the distance (just a car backfiring, right?); I felt it when I saw suspicious people anywhere; I felt it when I heard my fellow new teachers in my grad school complaining about the poor conditions in their schools and the sad situations of their students; I felt it when I thought about, well - a lot of things.  And I guess that the body is set up like a wild animal: when it's thinking about danger, the food is going to be left behind. 

So, maybe that's the problem.  Maybe too many Americans are thinking about other things.  Maybe there's no time for them to think about food - or if there is time, their brains are too consumed with worry to think about food.  Or maybe they just don't care.  They've been doing fine, seemingly.  Why think about food?

I've known people who didn't think about food enough.  Until it was too late.  Until a major diagnosis stopped them in their tracks.  When their bodies screamed "remember me!  I can't keep going on my own!"  Things catch up with people.  When you're young, you could get away with more, you can neglect your body more.  It's not so quickly obvious.  When you get older, the cumulative effects of ill habits take hold, unless you have super-genes.  But you don't know that you have super-genes.  It's possible.  But I'm not so sure that's a risk I want to take.

I started macrobiotic month with the intention of getting rid of a nasty cough that had been lingering in me for weeks.  I got rid of the cough.  I'm sure it would have left anyway.  The weather did get warmer, and time usually heals these things.  A week into the macrobiotic program, I felt an amazing upsurge of energy.  I'm not going to say that I've felt that level of energy every day since beginning, but maybe I would have felt it if I had gotten enough sleep every day.  Macrobiotics doesn't erase the need for sleep.

There've been times during this month when I was really enthusiastic about this plan.  I couldn't wait to try new recipes.  There's been times when I've been annoyed, and just wanted to eat something that could be quickly made.  And now that this month is over, things don't feel so new anymore.  I've gotten so used to making new recipes that I feel like I could tackle any recipe.  I'm not saying that it will turn out perfectly.  But I could tackle it. 

It's difficult for me to imagine not eating this way now.  I've found some recipes that I'll probably use forever.  I've found some that I'm a little less enthusiastic about. 

I've eaten approximately 95% macrobiotically this month.  And that's okay.  There were a few deviations.  So be it.  The whole thing doesn't need to end because of a little taste of refined white sugar once or twice a week.  Here's the big thing for me, though:  I haven't eaten cheese the whole month.  Before this, I would eat cheese once or twice a day. 

Will I eat cheese again?  Yes.  But I have more now to choose from.  More food combinations to think about.

This morning I started off with miso soup for breakfast.  So I've learned to eat soup for breakfast.  For lunch, I had leftover beans and rice, with some lamb's lettuce.  For dinner (see photo above), I made open-face tempeh sandwiches, with some homemade mayonnaise (Mayo without eggs!  Find the recipe on Eden Foods website.)  On the side, I had sauteed cabbage, and sauerkraut.

And thus was the month.  To summarize, here are some things that I learned:
1.  It's possible to enjoy eating soup for breakfast.
2.  There are multiple types of sea vegetables that can be very enjoyable.  Hijiki is time consuming to clean.
3.  It may seem tedious at first to always bring your lunch to work instead of buying it.  But if you bring leftovers, it's a nice way of making sure your refrigerator is always cleaned out. 
4.  At first, planning out what you will eat for the week is difficult.  Soon, you get used to it.
5.  You will surprise yourself sometimes with things you find tasty, that you might not have expected to find to be tasty.
6.  Cravings for specific foods can disappear when you don't indulge the cravings for multiple weeks.
7.  If you do something for long enough, it becomes habit.

I didn't start this journey to lose weight.  It wasn't that sort of diet.  That's why I haven't been calling it a 'diet.'  It was a journey, a lifestyle.  Why are we so hung up on the idea of deprivation of processed foods in this country that a departure from the norm is considered a 'diet'?  Why isn't a steady stream of crappy, chemicalized, preservative-ridden, simple sugared, over-salted foodstuffs considered a 'diet'?  A diet of bad perhaps?  A diet of mediocre?  A diet of addiction

Will power is not about deprivation.  Will power is about indulging yourself.  Indulging yourself in what is the best for you, indulging yourself in the things that will make your body, that ultimate machine, work up to its full potential, so that you can live longer to love, dance, play, work, hug, smell the air, and do everything that makes our moments on this Earth so priceless. 


Day 29:  Improvisation                                              Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm comfortable enough now with macrobiotic methods that I no longer need to follow a script.  I don't need to observe exact measurements specified in recipes.  I don't even feel like I need to use the exact ingredients specified in recipes.  And I feel confident enough in the macro food stylings to  invent my own recipes. 

This morning's breakfast was leftover miso soup mixed with some rice.  A plain meal, but sufficient sustenance, and nice and mellow.

My husband helped me to make lunch.  Lunch was some Isreali couscous - a form of couscous I had never previously tried.  The individual grainy spheres are bigger than regular couscous, and they taste a little more like traditional pasta than standard couscous.  I followed the suggested recipe on the side of the box, which called for the addition of sauteed onion, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.  I thought that a bean dip might pair nicely with the couscous, and my husband helped to turn the adzuki beans into a smooth and flavorful concoction with the assistance of the mini food processor, olive oil, and spices.  On the side, we had some lamb's lettuce, with some specialty dressing.

For dinner, I took a few ideas and melded them together.  The final product is pictured above.  My husband thought that it tasted somewhat like 'Pad Thai,' and he enjoyed it.  I first made some 'carrot matchsticks,' which I simmered in salted water.  Concurrently, I dry roasted sesame seeds, and chopped tofu into tiny cubes.  I sauteed the tofu in olive oil and then added a sauce of almond butter, soy sauce and lemon juice, thinned by water.  After adding the sauce, I let it simmer to thicken, and I sprinkled the toasted sesame seeds on top.  The tofu sauce was used as adornment on top of some udon noodles.

Tomorrow is the last day of macro month. 

Day 28:  Getting Used to This                                   Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today I had my first grocery shopping trip in a few weeks wherein my selection was not required to be limited to macrobiotic items.  (I went shopping for items to last for the duration of the week - and the 'macro month' officially ends on Monday.)  I could have gone in many different non-macrobiotic directions with this shopping trip, but I ended up only buying one item for a meal that's not macrobiotic:  shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, for a pizza I plan to make on Friday.  I've gotten so used to shopping in this macrobiotic fashion that it's actually hard to break the habit.  They say that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  I think it's actually true.

This morning, as I was forming my shopping list for the week, I decided to explore some internet recipes.  On the website of Eden Foods, I found a wonderful, comprehensive listing of macrobiotic recipes.  I was happy to find recipes that were different than those in my cookbook; they expanded my idea box twofold.  Suddenly I was hit with a burst of re-inspiration, and I became enthusiastic about the project all over again.

This morning I made some of those blueberry buckwheat pancakes which I had raved about in previous weeks.  I've decided that these are my new favorite breakfast items.  Frying pancakes in coconut oil really gives them a nice texture, I think. 

Today's lunch was a combination of leftovers and new food (see photo above.)  I made miso soup with cabbage, onions, and small cubes of leftover tofu.  I took some of the leftover rice and beans and added a 'specialty sauce' of olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar.  The added sauce gave the leftover rice and beans a nice pizzazz. 

For dinner, I simmered some fresh broccoli and fried up some polenta in olive oil.  I sprinkled some of the leftover adzuki beans on the polenta, and the meal turned out quite nicely - a refreshing combination of flavors.  (See photo below.)

And today, I finally made the pie that I had been planning to make for awhile.  It was an apple pie, made with whole wheat crust.  All natural ingredients.  The pie turned out well - the crust could have perhaps been a little sweeter, and the pie would probably be enhanced by some sort of frozen custard (aka ice cream), but that's not in the current macrobiotic plan.  But anyway, nice to have some pie!  (See photo below.  That black thing on the top is a raisin.)


Day 27:  A New Bean                                                   Friday, May 14, 2010

This morning I started off with some whole grain waffles drizzled with some pure organic maple syrup.  I had taken a personal day today and I woke up late, so by the time I ate breakfast, it was almost lunch time.  Lunch was a well-balanced meal: some udon noodles with 'specialty sauce' and pan-fried tofu, with a side of lamb's lettuce/parsley salad. 

I went to the movies today with my husband and he got a box of Raisinets - I had some too (non-macrobiotic, but the closest movie food snack to macrobiotics, I suppose.)  When we arrived home, I started preparing the adzuki beans.  I think adzuki beans are one of the most beautiful bean varieties.  They are small and cute and reddish, with little white things on the top.  (I'll try and remember to post a photo tomorrow.)  I didn't know until I did some adzuki research that these are the 'red beans' in the red beans buns that I enjoy eating when I visit Chinatown bakeries.  Of course, in the red bean bun, which is a dessert bun, there's lots of sugar added to the beans, which I suppose negates their healthful qualities.  ('Adzuki beans' are apparently also called 'azuki' beans, by the way.)

Anyway, for dinner, I sauteed some onions in olive oil and then added the cooked azuki beans, with some sea salt and soy sauce.  I let the mixture simmer for awhile as I finished cooking the rice.  I served the rice and beans for dinner, along with a starter salad of green leaf lettuce drizzled with almond butter dressing (a mix of almond butter, water, soy sauce, and lemon juice.)  As I said before, I'm really enjoying these nut butter dressings. 

So, although this entry is titled 'a new bean,' I have apparently eaten azuki beans before, in the red bean buns.  But since I've never had them in their whole form before today, we'll consider them to be newish.  

Day 26:  The Roots of It                                          Thursday, May 13, 2010

Simple macrobiotic foods today.  Dry cereal for breakfast.  A cucumber, followed by bread with sunflower seed butter for lunch.  Dinner:  a salad with 'lamb's lettuce' and parsley, drizzled with rice vinegar and olive oil, pan fried tempeh marinated in soy sauce and lemon juice, and buckwheat soba noodles with a sauce of almond butter and miso.  Raisins for a snack.  No new recipes today - but some quick tasty standbys. 

Day 25:  Variations on a Theme                           Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This journey has taught me how to work with ingredients in a more intuitive way.  Lately, I feel less of a need to measure things out - I have a feel for how much or how little might be necessary. 

This morning, my breakfast was some dry cereal from the box.  Not too well-balanced, I know.  But at least there weren't any artificial additives or nasty chemicals in the cereal.  Lunch was slightly more complex:  a salad with vinegar, and a sunflower seed butter sandwich.

The macrobiotic lifestyle does not advocate eating fish more than once (or at the most, twice a week).  Today was fish day.  Earlier in the week, I had bought some frozen yellowfin tuna.  Macrobiotics has certain lessons about which fish is recommended for consumption, but I decided to not pay too much attention to it.  I've heard that yellowfin tuna are supposedly lower in mercury than regular tuna.  So that works for me.  I decided to poach it.  This method is not discussed in my book, but I found a recipe online that worked for me.  (Poaching the fish in lemon water with a little bit of sea salt and pepper - lemon working to balance the fish.)  I think I cooked the fish too long - it turned out too dry for my tastes.  I tend to err on cooking fish/meats too long; I'm always wary of under-cooking.  Anyway, to balance out the flavors, I made some couscous and some collard greens, with that cornmeal/onion recipe I used earlier in the month.  The collard greens turned out as delicious as they had the other time, so I think the greens recipe is a winner that I'll use in the future. 

Day 24:  The New Mac & Cheese                               Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Macaroni & cheese.  The old creamy comfort food standby.  It's raining, it's dark outside, it's chilly, you're sleepy - what do you make?  That boxed glory.

What do I make now that Macaroni & Cheese is no longer on my roster?  Udon noodles, with nut butter sauce.  It doesn't quite have the same ring as Mac & Cheese, but I would hearken to say that I find it similarly delicious. 

This morning I was rushed.  I was experiencing some stomach issues which may or may not have related to the huge amount of fiber I ate yesterday.  So, there was no time for a proper breakfast.  Instead, I had to resort to eating cereal from a box, in a free moment during the morning.  Lunch was fairly simple: soup from yesterday, and plain udon noodles. 

There was a big 'cheat' in the afternoon.  During a meeting, shortbread cookies lay on the table.  As did chocolates, and cocoa almonds.  I indulged.  And I did so without compunction.  After all, it's a snack - not a full meal.  Somehow disregarding a full meal in favor of non-macrobiotics would have seemed more like a deviation than just indulging in a few handfuls of processed food.  Or so the rationalization goes. 

Dinner was the rest of the leftover soup (yay for leftovers!) along with the 'new mac & cheese' - udon with a sauce of almond butter and miso.  I'm really happy that the soup I made was so chock full of broccoli - it was an easy way to make myself eat vegetables.

And thus, the day of food.

Day 23:  Will power!                                                      Monday, May 10, 2010

It's nearing the last leg of the marathon.  The runner is tired.  The runner wants to sit down on the sidelines and fan herself while drinking lemonade.  What keeps her going?  Sheer determination.  Will power.  The motive to get things done, to complete what has been started. 

And that's where I'm at, on this, the home stretch.  It's easier to do this when there aren't the temptations.  When there aren't desserts staring at you with their processed sugars and friendly grins; decadent looking, but inaccessible.  I think I might have indulged in the desserts if I didn't think about what that influx of sugar would do to my body.  I had a feeling that it wouldn't sit right.  So I didn't.  And I could of course imagine what it would have tasted like.

This morning I had some whole grain waffles with almond butter and a smidge of maple syrup.  Lunch was leftovers:  leftover 'New England stew' and leftover macaroni salad.  The macaroni salad developed increasing depth and complexity of flavor when left overnight in the refrigerator. 

Dinner was a battle.  Once home, I was tired.  I wanted to go to a restaurant and eat some kind of cheese-filled meal.  I even went so far as to look at a menu online from a restaurant.  I checked out the offerings: nothing looked even vaguely macrobiotic.  I decided to resist the cheese temptation.  And I started to make broccoli soup. 

First I had to make the dumplings.  They were made of whole wheat flour, a little tahini, a little sea salt, and a little baking powder, mixed with boiling water.  I rolled the doughy mixture into little spheres reminiscent of meatballs.  I then sauteed some onions with broccoli stems, and added boiling water.  After letting the onion/broccoli mixture simmer for awhile, I added the florets and the dumplings.  After letting those simmer, I added some soy sauce.  The soup was interesting.  It had a.....clean flavor.  I think that's the best way of describing it.  Check out the photo above.   

Oh, and lest you think my menu today was Spartan - I did indulge in some vaguely macrobiotic whole grain peanut butter sandwich crackers while waiting for my car to have a part changed.  Then, when I came home, I had some cereal with sunflower seed butter. 

Day 22:  Expanding the Repertoire                             Sunday, May 9, 2010 

Breakfast:  Sumptuous buckwheat blueberry pancakes.
Lunch:  Leftover corn biscuits with sunflower seed butter, and New England stew. 
Dinner:  Pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta, celery, carrots, and a sauce of tofu, tahini, garlic powder, soy sauce and lemon juice.  A side of romaine.  A new recipe for me.

Day 21:  What's in Season?                                          Saturday, May 8, 2010

I recently finished reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," a book which is not about macrobiotics, but is all about food - specifically, locally-grown food.  Right now it is difficult to find anything which is locally grown around here - the farm stands haven't yet opened to share their offerings, and I am thus still buying produce from the grocery store.  Today I was looking for some organic sweet potatoes to make sweet potato pie with; alas, I brought them home and took them out of the bag and noticed some white mold growing on them.  I had to toss them away.  I should have been more diligent in inspecting them before I brought them home - it's not exactly sweet potato season any more.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to beginning to eat more locally-grown foods, once my CSA share begins in a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, my macrobiotic lifestyle is supplemented by some foods that come from pretty far away to get to me.

This morning we had run out of oat milk and I didn't feel like making a complicated breakfast, so I had some dry cereal with sunflower seeds.  For lunch, I had a simple green salad with grated carrot, and some whole wheat penne with a sauce of almond butter and miso.  Very tasty sauce.  Later on, I snacked on raisins and some cereal, before dinner.  Dinner was a couple of new recipes for me:  unleavened corn biscuits and something called "New England Stew."  The corn biscuits turned out nicely: crispy on the outside and moist within, with a nice savory flavor.  The stew was also tasty: it was a combo of potatoes, cabbage, onions, and carrots, cooked towards the end with some soy sauce.  (See above photo.)  See below photo for a picture of the biscuits. 


Day 20:  2/3 of the way there                                        Friday, May 7, 2010

I'm going to write today's entry in the form of a poem:

                                      On a Friday,
                                      Cold cereal with oat milk
                                      In a measuring cup
                                      Because it is hilarious
                                      And new-fangled
                                      To eat out of a measuring cup
                                      And who needs a bowl?
                                      Lunch:  a miso soup
                                      Followed by black beans.
                                      Dinner is a plain green salad
                                      Of romaine lettuce with sunflower seeds
                                      Topped with oil, vinegar, soy sauce,
                                      Salty, crunchy, tasty.
                                      The second course is quick-cooking
                                      Udon noodles with leftover black beans,
                                      And for a postprandial snack:
                                      I am tired.


Day 19:  If Macro Month Had a Soundtrack             Thursday, May 6, 2010

Have you ever heard of the band known the Polyphonic Spree?  The first time I saw them was at a David Bowie concert, about six or so years ago.  They were the opening act, and as I arrived into the stadium in Jones Beach they were hopping up and down on stage, jubilantly singing in their solid-color tunics.  They kind of looked like a cult, albeit an extremely happy cult.  (For the record, they're not a cult - they just favor non-mainstream stage costumes that resemble the gowns  graduates might wear.) 

When I see the Polyphonic Spree and listen to their music, I think of how their particular brand of counterculture does not appeal to everyone.  For those who enjoy their music, the soaring, sometimes repetitive and complex melodies provide a welcome relief from one-dimensional pop tunes.  For those who only catch a quick glimpse of the band members' robes, it all may seem a little too uncomfortably 'out there' - but for those who take the time to observe the levity and joy emanating from the band members' smiles, it becomes clear that these joyful harmonies are some form of complex expression, as they both create and express happiness.

In case you're interested in checking this band out, here's a link to their one of their videos:

So, why would the Polyphonic Spree be a good soundtrack for this macro month?  Well, for one, both entities share a common ground of seeming unfamiliar and somewhat distant to the general population.  It may be genuinely difficult for some people to find enjoyment in both the band and the food concept.  The Polyphonic Spree has a sort of niche audience, as does macrobiotics.  Both are complex.  Both are multifaceted, although it is possible to find running themes in each.  And for me, both can provide me with moments of discovery, alertness, and awakening to the possibilities.

So, time for a recap of the day, in food-style.  I had some cold whole grain cereal for breakfast, with oat milk.  Lunch was hastily assembled - bulgur wheat with leftover black beans.  After work, my husband and I stopped at a local snack/tea shop and had some rooibos tea with vegetable buns.  For dinner, I made some miso soup with salmon and wakame, along with udon noodles with almond butter/miso sauce, and I baked some salmon.  The salmon turned out better than it had last time - I didn't over cook it.  I had marinated it in soy sauce and lemon juice, and I tossed some sauteed onions over it and put some boiling water in the casserole dish before baking. 

I think I might make a pie this weekend.  (Macrobiotic pie.)  Looking forward to it.   


Day 18:  Resisting Pizza Again                               Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I did it!  I resisted pizza again!  After a long day, I didn't want to cook.  I just wanted a cheesy slice.  But!  Macrobiotics!  I boiled the beans that I had been soaking throughout the day in a big pot.  I went in the other room to do some things and soon smelled burning beans.  They had started to boil over onto the electric coil burner.  A watched pot may not boil, but an unwatched pot seems to boil quite easily.  Anyway, luckily, everything was safe.  No smoke or anything.

Dinner was a simple meal of black beans and whole wheat pasta.  I didn't have enough energy to make a vegetable or soup.  I consoled myself with the fact that I had lots of romaine lettuce along with my lunch.  (Lunch was fairly bare bones, some bulgur wheat I had quickly cooked up this morning, and the lettuce - not cooked, of course.)  Breakfast was whole grain cereal with oat milk. 

Day 17:  Leftover Surplus                                              Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Recently I've been faced with some excess leftovers.  I wish that I could donate them to people in need of food before they become too old to eat.  At any rate, I perhaps need to start planning the recipes a little better.  Sometimes I've been making the full amount called for in the recipes in the book, since the book doesn't specify how many servings the recipes are supposed to yield.

This morning I finished off the leftover barley miso soup, which was a quick and tasty treat.  For lunch I had the leftover tofu burgers from yesterday, along with the leftover kale.  I was at a late afternoon meeting and ate my early dinner there - a big vessel of leftover lentil soup.  (I also had two very small chocolates from the meeting table, non-macro, yes yes.  They were actually almost shockingly sweet in my mouth.) 

At home, I wasn't too hungry, so I just improvised a macro snack: some whole-grain cold cereal with oat milk and a dab of sunflower seed butter, for topping.  This evening, I had to go to the grocery store to pick up extra soy sauce - I'm going through quite a bit of soy sauce on this program!  I'm using the reduced sodium kind because I feel like I should.

Day 16:  Getting the Hang of It                                   Monday, May 3, 2010

Wow!  I didn't know that macrobiotics could be so...efficient.  Everything related to food today was quick and easy.  I started off with leftover barley miso soup (I'm getting used to soup for breakfast!)  Lunch was leftover lentil soup and brown rice.  When I arrived home, a little before 5, I was famished, and polished off the remaining 4 oatmeal cookies.  I also had some leftover tempeh/mushrooms/onions. 

Dinner was expedited by my brand new mini food processor, which quickly ground up carrots, celery and onions, to add to the mashed tofu to make tofu burgers.  I ran out of wheat flour and had to use cornmeal, but the burgers still turned out tasty (a little bit crumbly, but oh well.)  I fried them in coconut oil.  I also rounded out dinner with kale and soba noodles drizzled with an olive oil/soy sauce/rice vinegar dressing.  All of the available dishes were in use or in the dishwasher, so I used a glass Pyrex dinner to assemble dinner in, and made my own homemade bento-type of box.  (I added a smidge of sauerkraut by the tofu patties for that macrobiotic 'pickle'.)  Overall, a very tasty day... I want to make more of those oatmeal cookies soon, but macrobiotics is not in favor of overdoing the I'll wait.   

Day 15:  Halfway There                                             Sunday, May 2, 2010

Trying to summarize the lifestyle of macrobiotics into a sentence or two is somewhat like trying to summarize your political beliefs into a sentence or two.  The best you can hope for is that the listener will get the general gist of things.  When people who have never heard of macrobiotics ask me what it is, I try not to go into very much detail.  I mainly use words like "whole grains, vegetables, non-processed foods."  Sometimes I'll elaborate by adding "sea vegetables, miso, no dairy, only fish but no meat."  Hopefully those peg words conjure up something familiar for people who are curious.

If I were to go further in depth with each of the categories, I could say a lot more.  In the whole grains category alone, there's a bunch of things to eat beyond brown rice.  Millet, cous cous, whole wheat pasta, rye, quinoa, oats, and more.  I think it's easy to forget about different foods when you're not actively seeking them out.  It's easy to stick with whole wheat bread and call it a day.  But one food does not do justice to a wide, expansive food group.

Sometimes I worry that some of the more exotic whole grains will become endangered.  How many people are eating millet, for example, more than once a year?  I really hope that these rare grains become a part of society's more health-conscious palate.

Anyway, time for a food-based rundown of the day.  In the morning, I had the BEST PANCAKES OF ALL TIME.  I forgot to take a photo of them, but a photo wouldn't have done them justice anyway.  The pancakes were made from an organic buckwheat mix I had bought. (I added some frozen blueberries to the batter).  I fried them in coconut oil and I'm not sure if that made the difference?  But these pancakes were the perfect texture - not too dense, but dense enough - not too crispy, not too soft.  Just right.  Yum.  And with some freshly purchased organic maple syrup?  These would have been pricey in a cafe somewhere.  But I'm estimating they cost me about a dollar to make.

For lunch, I started off with a green salad (pic above) that was topped with some avocado dressing (freshly made), rice, and the chickpea thing from the other day, which I had ground up in my food processor and let marinate in lemon juice and olive oil.  To go along with lunch, I made lentil soup, which turned out decently - a little flavorless, but okay.  My husband sprinkled tons of grated cheese on his, and offered me some, but I forced myself to resist - it wouldn't have been macrobiotic. 

I was getting hungry before dinner time and had a few handfuls of cereal.  I decided to make dessert early - some oatmeal raisin cookies.  The cookies were sweetened with maple syrup and contained coconut oil.  They turned out wonderfully - sweet, but not too sweet.  (Picture below, hot from the oven.)

For dinner, I was barely hungry anymore, but I made some barley miso soup with diced turnips, organic green cabbage, and wakame leaves.  I liked the barley miso - this was the first time I had tried it.  It has a richer flavor than the yellow miso.  (It's also more expensive than the yellow variety.)  I also made some tempeh sauteed with onions and mini portobello mushrooms.  (I had marinated the tempeh in soy sauce and water.  After I sauteed everything in the pot, I put in some water and let it simmer covered.)  The tempeh turned out okay, but the mushrooms were really tasty.

So, I'm halfway through.  Gonna keep going....




Day 14:  Macrobiotics - In a Restaurant?              Saturday, May 1, 2010

I had resigned myself to the idea of not eating in a restaurant for the duration of the month.  Fresh, home-cooked foods seems to be the main idea of macrobiotics.  There are no macrobiotic restaurants in the local area.  (There's a macrobiotic restaurant in NYC that I visited years ago, before I had ever thought of adopting the macro lifestyle on a temporary basis.  I'm looking forward to re-visiting the NYC restaurant at some point to examine the menu with new eyes.) 

Happily though, I was able to enjoy food in a non-macro restaurant today while maintaining the macro credo.  My husband and I were a few towns away from our own town, visiting a farmer's market (which turned out to only have a few small plants and lots of arts and crafts, it wasn't really a farmer's market although it bore that name), when we got hungry/thirsty and decided to visit the Elk Creek Cafe, an establishment which prides itself on a rotating menu with lots of local foods and beverages.  The menu is a short list, but diverse, and I was able to find a good mix of grains, vegetables, and protein.  I started off with a hummus platter with pita chips that seemed baked and only slightly oily.  The hummus tasted extremely fresh and was my favorite part of the meal.  I followed with a salad of marinated beets and various greens.  I had forgotten that I'm not a big fan of beets, but the salad greens were very tasty with some kind of vegetable-based, minimal dressing.  (Confession: I ate a few non-macrobiotic potato chips from my husband's meal.)  

The macrobiotic lifestyle does not favor potatoes as a frequent food companion due to the fact that they are in the nightshade family.  (Also in the nightshade family are things like tomatoes and eggplant.)  In balance, however, a macrobiotic diet can include some of these foods occasionally.  (On a side note, it's interesting that I actually have had a bit of trouble eating a lot of foods in the nightshade family, without realizing they were nightshades.  Bell peppers have often had adverse affects on my stomach.  My mouth has become itchy from eggplant.  And tomatoes can sometimes be too acidic.  Tobacco is also a form of nightshade - happily I've never tried that.)  A website I just looked at about natural health says that nightshade foods contain mildly irritating alkaloids.  (

Potatoes have never had any kind of adverse effects on me.  Today I included them in my dinner, as a part of a balanced recipe for salmon.  This was my first time in the two-week period eating an animal product.  Fish are allowed in moderation, no more than once a week.  I had some frozen Alaskan salmon that I defrosted throughout the course of the day.  When I was ready to make it, I rinsed it with cold water and marinated it for a few minutes in a soy sauce/lemon mixture.  (Lemon is supposed to help balance the 'yang' of the fish.)  Meanwhile I sauteed onions, carrots, and organic red potatoes in olive oil.  (Note: Non-organic potatoes are supposed to be one of the more toxic non-organic vegetables, due to heavy pesticide residue... that's not macrobiotics talking, but other things I've read/heard.  So don't eat non-organic potatoes if you can avoid them.) 

I melted some coconut oil and then put it on the bottom of a casserole dish to provide a base for the salmon.  I baked the salmon and the sauteed vegetables for about half an hour in the covered dish.  The best part of the meal probably turned out to be the onions - the salmon was kind of too dry, the potatoes weren't really cooked enough, and the carrots could have been cooked a little more.  That's sometimes an issue with these one-container meals - baking it all at the same time may mean that some foods are over-cooked while others could have used some more time in the oven.  But, at any rate, I'll know not to make that particular recipe again.

Below is a photo of the salad I had at lunch, and the dinner I made this evening.   


Day 13:  What would macrobiotic pizza look like?   
                                                                                            Friday, April 30, 2010

Throughout the course of this adventure, I have not had many specific desires for particular kinds of food.  This evening, however, I have been craving pizza.  If this was a normal Friday and I wanted pizza, I would either heat up some frozen Kashi pizza or go get or order regular pizza.  But - this is a macrobiotic Friday.  Thus, no pizza will be had. 

Admittedly, though, I kind of lived on the macrobiotic wild side with my food choices for dinner this evening.  Snacks, all snacks - not a single entree in sight.  (Macrobiotic-approved snacks, of course)  Cereal (without milk), Ezekial sprouted grain bread with sunflower seed butter, and popcorn with melted coconut oil and sea salt.  Breakfast was cold cereal with oat milk.  Lunch was leftovers from the chickpea/millet/vegetable meal.  My dinner was kind of on the wild side because it didn't include a vegetable.  Although I guess I'll make up for it, by having some more of the chickpea vegetable thing soon.

Anyway, now that it is the weekend, I promise that some more diverse meals will be forthcoming.     

Day 12:  Still at it                                                      Thursday, April 29, 2010

The morning was an act of eating the remaining leftover miso whilst cooking soba and broccoli (with a 'specialty sauce of oil and vinegar) for lunch.  I soaked dried chickpeas throughout the day with a piece of kombu.  Dinner involved making millet while boiling chickpeas.  The chickpeas were the base for a dish meant to top the plain millet: a vegetable medley of cabbage, carrot and onion simmered together and drizzed with watered-down soy sauce and nut butter.  (The nut butter was a substitute for tahini, which I do not have and forgot to buy this weekend.  That's okay, though, because I never much cared for tahini anyway.)

I continue to feel as if my energy levels are higher throughout the day.  Waking up in the morning, I feel more energetic.  Thus, in that respect, it seems like this project is a successful one. 

Day 11:  Patterns                                                   Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Certain things are cyclical.  And I find that my cooking moods are cyclical.  Yesterday I was much more willing to cook than today.  Luckily, there were leftovers, with that soup from yesterday for breakfast, and some rice, beans, and collard greens for lunch.  (I made a new almond butter sauce for the rice and beans, which gave old leftovers a new dimension.)  This evening I had zero interest in cooking, and thus I slapped some leftover beans on a corn tortilla with sauerkraut.

On days like this of little cooking motivation, what makes me continue this project?  I think that it's you, out there in the blogosphere.  I feel accountable to you.  So my advice, if you are ever looking to start up a new project, commit yourself to blogging about it.  It may make the difference between a project that gets off the ground and one that flounders.  

Day 10:  Vegetables and their Multiple Manifestations                                                                                           Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Today was a macro day in which I truly enjoyed all of the meals.  That hasn't necessarily been the case since Day 1.  There have been a lot of meals and individual dishes that I've enjoyed, but I can't remember a day where every single meal was something that I found very tasty.  Is my palate becoming more finely tuned to the subtle flavors in this type of cooking?  Or was it simply a good food day?

This morning I was cooking for about an hour before breakfast.  That's right - AN HOUR OF COOKING IN THE MORNING.  I woke up early and quickly assembled all of the food items.  At one point I was sauteing onions with one hand and rinsing something in the sink in another hand.  Luckily, my kitchen is small enough for me to accomplish this feat without unduly straining myself. 

I started off with making my breakfast.  From reading the recipe, I wasn't too excited about it.  It involved a mix of leftover creamy leek soup and leftover rice, simmered with some water.  I expected a repeat of yesterday's 'bleck' moment during breakfast.  But happily - I was completely wrong!  This "Japanese porridge," which has a Japanese name I can't remember, was delicious!  I added some miso towards the end of cooking and it was very flavorful.  It was satisfying.  It was everything I could ask for in breakfast at that moment in time.

While I was making breakfast, I was also making lunch.  I started off with a collard green recipe in which I had to dry-roast cornmeal, which in turn got sprinkled on top of shredded collards in water, in a mix of sauteed onions, and olive oil.  I put a lid on the pan and the collard greens slowly simmered.  (See photo below.)  At the same time, I cooked some soba noodles, which I added to a sauteed mixture of onions, garlic, and tofu cubes.  I added some soy sauce and let the mixture heat up in its own light marinade.  At the same time, I roasted some pumpkin seeds in the oven.  See the photo below for the final product, as readied in my glass container to bring for lunch.

Dinner was a complex matter.  I made some 'spring/summer miso soup', which first involved soaking wakame (a sea vegetable) in some cold water.  Happily, the preparation of wakame is not quite as complex as that of hijiki.  I chopped some bok choy and onions and sauteed the onions in some olive oil in a pan.  I added the bok choy to the pan and then some boiling water and a little non-boiling water.  I put the lid on the pan and let the whole thing simmer.  Five minutes before removing it from the heat, I added the wakame leaves.  The soup was excellent - light but flavorful.  My favorite soup so far.  (See photo above.)

The second course was a simple green salad with romaine and cucumber rounds.  I made a fresh dressing by mashing an avocado with lemon juice and a bit of soy sauce.  I really liked this dressing.  While eating it, I was briefly transported in my imagination to somewhere on the beach in Northern California.  Fresh avocado makes me think of California, even though I've never been there.  Go figure.

The final course had been simmering on the stove for awhile.  I made some brown rice which was ready in advance.  I also made some 'Mexican beans' in the macrobiotic style.  The beans were pinto beans, boiled on medium heat for an hour and a half, and then simmered in a pan with cooked onions in olive oil, a bit of water, and a teeny bit of chili powder and sea salt.  I kept the kombu in the pan as I cooked the beans.  This was the same kombu that had soaked with the beans all day.  By the time the beans were ready, the kombu had become soft and I was able to mash at it with the tines of my fork to incorporate it into the bean mixture.  I served some sauerkraut along with the bean mixture.  Macrobiotics recommends that 'pickle' for good digestion.

Oh, and here's my confession of the day.  I had two non-macrobiotic cookies at the staff meeting today.  It was mid-afternoon, and my blood sugar felt like it was diving.  Again, this is not a despotic plan where any slight transgressions create havoc.  This is a journey where I attempt to keep foods in balance.

So, this was an intense cooking day.  Lots and lots of cooking.  Luckily, that means that tomorrow will be a lighter cooking day, as I have lots of leftovers.

On a side note, I need to start paying attention to my chewing.  I think that sometimes I eat too fast and don't chew enough.  Macrobiotics is in favor of slowing down and chewing a lot (as are members of the health community at large.)  I will try and remember this.


Day 9: Breakfast of Champions?                              Monday, April 26, 2010

Starting yesterday, I have been roughly following the "7 day menu planning example" given in my book.  Yesterday's breakfast on that plan was rather normal: the oatmeal as mentioned below.  Today's breakfast was much more of a stretch for the average American:  soup and roasted quinoa.  The soup I assembled this morning is termed as "orange soup" in the book, but it bares no resemblance to those Floridian fruits so commonly juiced and imbibed in the mornings.  The orange color in this soup derives from grated carrots.  Also present in this "instant vegetable soup" are small tofu cubes and pieces of scallion.  The soup is flavored with miso at the very end of the cooking process.

While I think I might have found this soup pleasant about five hours later in the day,
it was hard to swallow between 7 and 8 in the morning.  Not that the taste was unpleasant, it was just - I wasn't in the mood for it.  I wanted something sweet and cold.  Like cereal.  But I ate about half of the bowl of soup anyway.  My second course during breakfast was quinoa, which I had dry roasted prior to simmering.  Again, I had to pretty much force myself to eat some of that.  In any case, I at least knew that I had fortified myself to some extent and thus was ready to meet the day.

Lunch was yesterday's lunch leftovers, cold.  Happily, the elements in that meal worked well together cold: there was a nice cool intersection of rice, moist hijiki, tempeh, and assorted vegetables. 

When I arrived home from work I was very hungry.  I started off with some leftover oat crisps from Saturday (which had since been refrigerated and become more like oat soggies.)  I dipped them in sunflower seed butter and they were very tasty.  I followed them with a couple of handfuls of cold cereal - displaced from breakfast time.  At this point, when I was still hungry, I knew there was no turning back, and decided to assemble dinner from an off-menu collection.  I had the leftover leek soup, which interestingly had turned into a wheat-flecked gelatinous mass in the refrigerator.  I had some more of the apple crisp from yesterday.  A little later, I took a late afternoon nap.  When I woke up, I was still hungry, and made myself a big bowl of popcorn with some melted coconut oil (only about a teaspoon of the melted oil, as it's high in saturated fat) and a sprinkling of sea salt.  My beverage of choice to cool my mouth was some watered-down organic apple juice.  And thus was the macrobiotic food festival for today.  The menu was like an inverted triangle of organization today, from structure to near-food-entropy.  But, the foods of choice were all under the macro umbrella.  And thus it continues.  

Day 8:  Cooking as a Workout?                                 Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ever take an extremely long walk and then actually feel a sense of visceral pleasure when you finally get to sit down?  It's like all of your muscles are sighing in happy unison as your back rests against a chair.  This is how I feel right now, after my Extreme Cooking Marathon.

The Marathon began this morning.  It actually started off on an easy pace.  I made some oatmeal with stewed apricots.  In this case, 'stewing' meant that I simmered Turkish apricots on the stove for about 15 minutes.  The oatmeal was a little bland, but the macrobiotic book does not mention anything about sweeteners outside of the apricots, so I just ate it in its plain state anyway. 

Lunch time was more intensely active.  Lunch preparation was a coordinated dance of chopping, sauteing, and stirring.  I first dry roasted some brown rice for a few minutes, then added some boiling water and let it simmer.  Supposedly dry roasting before boiling brings out the flavor in grains.  I'm not sure that I could tell much of a difference when eating it.  Perhaps there was a subtle increase in the fullness of the flavor.  As the rice was cooking, I began the tedious process of preparing hijiki.  Hijiki, if you've never had it, is a sea vegetable.  Apparently hijiki grows in shallow water and somehow retains sand in the packaging.  After soaking the hijiki for about 15 minutes, I washed it according to the methods in the book.  This involved placing the hijiki in a bowl and sieving out the 'clean' non-sandy hijiki that floats to the top.  I repeated this process, adding more water after pouring out the floating hijiki and top water layer.  I must have repeated this process 10 times, and there was still non-floating hijiki at the bottom of the bowl.  At that point I decided that this bottom layer of hijiki was not going to float no matter how many times I would try to make it float.  So I put it all in the sieve and rinsed it off vigorously.  Finally I had some edible hijiki.  I stir fried it in a pan with a chopped onion and olive oil, and then added some tempeh cubes, water and soy sauce.  I boiled the whole mixture and then simmered it, and then boiled again without a lid to reduce the fluid.  Meanwhile, I was chopping up vegetables for the yellow squash/carrot/cabbage/onion mixture I was making.  About an hour and a half of solid work after I started, everything was ready.  Happily, the most time consuming part of the meal was also the tastiest:  I really enjoyed the sea tang of the small black slivers that are known as hijiki. See the first photo below for what lunch looked like.

I started making dinner early.  I chopped up apples for an apple crisp, the first dessert of my macrobiotic journey.  (See photo above.)  The apples were topped with cinnamon and a bit of sea salt.  The crumbly layer on top was formed from a mixture of oats, whole wheat flour, coconut oil, sea salt and apple juice.  I also poured a bit of apple juice in the pan with the apple crisp.  As I baked the apple crisp I started forming the entree:  a 'creamy' leek soup.  The leeks were kind of fun to chop up: they're extravagantly tall in their natural state, and their stems are satisfyingly round.  I sauteed them with olive oil and added boiling water and wheat flour to thicken the soup.  I put in a dab of chili powder for flavor.  While the soup simmered on low heat, I made some sauteed mustard greens with onions.  For the plating, I put some of the lunch's cold rice as a base underneath the mustard greens.  The mustard greens were excellent, as they were the last time I had made them.  The leek soup was a little bland, even after the addition of soy sauce.  The apple crisp was excellent and sweet, except for in a few spots where too much salt had congealed.  And thus the marathon for the day concluded, on another sweet/salty note. 


Day 7:  One Week Complete                                    Saturday, April 24, 2010

This is what one week's worth of macrobiotic groceries look like in a small refrigerator.  Today I went shopping for next week's menus.  I spent about the same amount of money that I would have for non-macrobiotic groceries, but these foods take up a lot more space. It makes sense when you think about how macrobiotics sort of reflects the food chain, with a greater preponderance of plants (producers) than animals (consumers).  To me, it makes sense to have my refrigerator reflect the natural order of things. 

This morning I started off with some cold cereal with oat milk.  Lunch was more elaborate:  a whole-wheat spiral pasta dish with blanched snow peas and caramelized onions, drizzled with "specialty sauce" (olive oil, balsamic and rice vinegar, and soy sauce.)  I made some pan-fried tofu for protein on the side. 

Dinner was a split pea soup: split peas, carrots, celery, onions and a pinch of sea salt, with a couple of spoons of soy sauce
added towards the very end of cooking.  I also made some "oat crisps," which the book describes as a 'light version of a cracker'.  I let oatmeal sit in a lesser proportion of water and a bit of sea salt for 20 minutes.  The oatmeal absorbed most of the water, and I made the moist mixture into flat patties which I baked on a coconut-oiled baking sheet.  After an hour out of the oven the crisps tasted better - more flavorful and crunchy.  Below are photos from lunch and dinner.  



Day 6: Macro On the Run                                              Friday, April 23, 2010

It's rather late.  So instead of posting in detail, I will say this:  my meals today were quickly assembled.  A fast bowl of cereal with oat milk.  A lunch made of assorted sundries from my refrigerator: leftover brown rice, leftover baked beans, and a salad of romaine, carrots and young zucchini.  I actually forced myself to add the zucchini to the salad in order to put some variety on my vegetable palate.  It was somewhat of an exercise in futility, though, as I couldn't eat any more of it halfway through.  I'm not a big fan of the vegetable.  (Sorry, I didn't mean to publicly insult zucchini like that.) 

Dinner was interesting.  I was at a party and tried to find the most macrobiotic meal possible.  I looked over the food table and flashed back to various recommendations I had seen in the book.  Happily, I was able to construct a meal which mostly passed the macro litmus test.  I had my whole grains, in the form of whole wheat and corn tortillas.  There were beans, in the form of refried beans.  There were vegetables, with the shredded romaine and scallion pieces.  And there was even some soy, with a soy product that was used as a meat substitute to go inside the tortilla.  Granted, the meal was perhaps not prepared using macrobiotic methods, but it definitely contained elements of the preferred food group proportions.  Dessert was not really macrobiotic at all, but it was tasty.  A small piece of chocolate cake with some raspberries. 

When we got home, my husband was hungry again and made some popcorn.  I asked him to melt some coconut oil and put some salt on it, the recommended method, and the popcorn turned out quite well.  A good mix of sweet and salty. 

Tomorrow's Day 7.  I'm a quarter of the way through this journey.  And thus it continues.   

Day 5:  Earth Foods                                                  Thursday, April 22, 2010

Today is Earth Day.  And it seems quite appropriate that I am eating in a way right now which is allowing the earth to flourish a little more.  I'm trying to eat as much organic as possible.  I'm not eating factory-farmed animals.  I usually eat that way anyway, but during this macro month I am really making an extra effort to pay attention to these things.  I've never heard the macrobiotic commentary on factory-farming, but in general, the basic macrobiotic diet only occasionally calls for animal products, if at all.

I'm tired today.  It's been a long day.  And I didn't get enough sleep last night.  But on the whole, I have to say, this eating macrobiotic wizardry has perhaps given me more energy than usual.  When I wake up in the morning I feel more ready to go and start the day.  Is it possible that my excitement to continue this project has given me an extra morning boost?  Possibly.  But I really feel like it may have something to do with what I'm eating, and perhaps even more to the point - what I'm not eating.

Before I started doing this, I used to have a glass of Emergen-C every morning.  In case you've never seen it, Emergen-C is a vitamin supplement powder you put in water.  Macrobiotics is against vitamin supplements, believing that all of your vitamins should come from the foods you eat.  I believe that if you eat a truly balanced diet, of foods that have come from properly nourished soils, and that are cooked in the right way, that you should be able to get all of your vitamins from foods.

This morning I started off with a couple of organic blueberry waffles with almond butter.  I really wanted to add some sweetener in the form of agave nectar or honey but I resisted.  I didn't want that simple sugar 'up and down' to take place in my system.  And macrobiotic followers don't seem to use many added sweeteners. 

This morning I also did some cooking for lunch.  I cooked some brown rice, along with some lentils.  I also made a simple salad, similar to the one I made on Sunday, for my lunch.  I felt like I was treating myself with this salad that had shredded carrot on top.  Carrot that I had taken the time to grate myself.

I was at work until 7pm and thus brought along a cornbread snack to tide me over.  It was delicious, just when I felt my blood sugar getting low, to sink my teeth into the carb-y goodness of the soft, hearty bread.

When I got home, I had to force myself to cook.  Any other Thursday night that I felt this anti-cooking impulse I would have just suggested that we go out to eat, or order in.  But I am sticking to the plan.  So I started cooking.  And once I started cooking I realized it wasn't that difficult.  It really doesn't take that much energy.  And at least there's nothing mentally taxing about it.  I also made a simple dish.  I quick-boiled some kale and added a dressing of olive oil and rice vinegar.  I pan-fried some tempeh in coconut oil after letting it sit for a few minutes in soy sauce and lemon juice.  I added water to the pan after letting the tempeh brown on both sides and simmered the whole concoction on low for almost ten minutes.  I also added a nice new recipe to my repertoire: a nut butter sauce.  I made some udon noodles and the nut butter sauce was absolutely a delicious companion to the noodles.  In a small saucepan, I mixed sunflower seed butter and some miso, and added water.  I cooked the whole mixture on high while continuously stirring, and the result was fabulous.  The tempeh from above actually only turned out so-so; I may have added too much water to the pan because the water took away some of the flavor of the marinade.  The kale was good though, I had quick-boiled it quick enough so that it lost its bitterness but maintained somewhat of a strong shape.  Above is a picture of my dinner.  I hope that you had a great Earth Day. 

Day 4: Mid-Week Leftovers                                 Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The dish mountain.  Sitting there in its asymmetrical glory, with utensils sticking up, defying gravity.  Remnants of organic matter randomly dispersed amongst hard porcelain and the sticky grates of a moist colander.  I wish there was a way for macrobiotics to somehow make the act of washing dishes into something more appealing.  I would appreciate it if there was some fictional fact appended to the recipes, such as "cleaning dishes immediately following the last bite of the deal produces essential acids which increase the digestibility of starches."

This morning I had a pre-manufactured macrobiotic food.  It was a minimally-processed organic cold cereal.  It felt a little like cheating to eat this grain straight from the box, but hey - it's allowed.  I topped the cereal with some organic oat milk.  Grain milks are allowed as well.  The book gives a recipe for making one's own grain milk, but I'm not on vacation with enough leftover energy to make my own grain milk at this point in time. 

For lunch, I pre-packaged myself some baked beans from yesterday, and a nice chunk of cornbread.  I ate them cold, without microwaving them, and found it a nice counterpoint to the increasing temperature of the afternoon. 

Dinner was also a quick one.  I had planned on making various new dishes, but suddenly and unexpectedly, at about 5:30, my husband and I were really hungry.  I heated up leftover onion soup and started snacking on cornbread with sunflower seed butter.  Suddenly I realized I was forming a meal, and decided to dive in whole hog.  I grabbed some more leftover baked beans and ended the meal with a palate cleanser: a fresh salad of romaine leaves and cut cucumber (with the same dressing from yesterday, with reduced soy sauce proportions.)

Not every day brings an entirely new menu.  But then again, macrobiotics is intended to reflect the natural agricultural patterns of a temperate climate.  And in a temperate climate, sometimes some foods are in season.  Today in my house, leftovers were in season.   

Day 3:  Mostly Macrobiotic                                         Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You may remember, from my last post, that my plan was to wake up extra early this morning so that I could cook the beans that I soaked last night.  And indeed, upon hearing my alarm clock, I sprung out of bed with the sense that I was on some kind of food mission.  To wake up early to cook beans felt like some sort of 'ye olden times' concept.  Who cooks dried beans when you can get them right out of a can?

Throughout the early morning, the bean scent filled the house.  It was that starchy scent, the one that hits your nostrils when you open a can of beans.  I quickly chopped up some onions to saute and got together my ingredients for the baked bean recipe.  Mustard, miso, tomato sauce.  Tomatoes are not recommended by most macrobiotic sources, as acknowledged in my book, but the author makes reference to the fact that she and her family include them in balanced recipes (such as baked beans) from time to time.  I figured I may as well utilize the unopened jar of sauce that's been sitting in my kitchen for awhile, and added it to the mix.

I took the 'unbaked' baked beans to lunch (I stored the rest in the fridge to be baked later), along with some hastily cut squares of cornbread.  I was running short on time but luckily still had leftover grain burgers to grab on the go for breakfast.  Believe it or not, I ate the grain burgers with some leftover sugar snap peas, and enjoyed it as a novel way to start the day.

After work, I gave my husband a choice of two potential menus for the evening.  Happily, he chose the menu that I was secretly rooting for:  onion soup with udon noodles, sweet potato 'chips,' and a simple salad.  By this time I finally had the beans in the oven, and when they emerged an hour later, the top appeared a little dry, but below the thin crust there was some moist, starchy, flavorful goodness.  This was a little appetizer before the dinner.  While these beans were in the oven, I ran over to go buy a bag of onions.  I didn't realize that my recipes this week would utilize quite so many onions.  The onion soup was simple to make.  I sauteed some onion crescents with a pinch of sea salt in olive oil and added boiling water to simmer all together.  After about a half an hour I added some miso, first diluting it in hot water, and then added cooked udon noodles to the soup.  In reference to the miso, my book talks about the health benefits of miso, with the disclaimer never to boil it, as that supposedly destroys the healthful compounds.  There is a recommendation to dilute it in hot water first before adding it to soups.  I suppose this is to help the clumps disperse in the liquid.

The final product of the onion soup reminded me of a milder version of the French Onion Soup you might find in a diner.  Sweet and salty with a little tang from the miso.  My simple salad dressing for the lettuce and cucumber was a bit too salty: I added perhaps a little too much soy sauce to the olive oil, rice vinegar and balsamic mixture.  The 'sweet potato chips' turned out very tasty.  The coconut oil and sea salt used in the hour-long baking process highlighted the potato's sweetness with a nice sharp bite.  The chips actually became even more tasty an hour later, after they had cooled down and became a little more crunchy. 

Today was a long day, and I had to push myself to complete the recipes.  But, nevertheless, the macro journey continues.  I had a slight deviation from the plan today in the form of a processed-food dessert at a work meeting, but I don't feel like that has negated anything.  It was a one-time dessert, and my macrobiotic journey is more than a one-stop train ride.  It's not like an express train that won't pick you up at another stop after you've stepped off to visit another destination.     


Day 2: A Macrobiotic Monday                                     Monday, April 19, 2010


Today, macrobiotics and the first weekday of this experimental month merged together almost seamlessly as I grabbed my ready-made breakfast from the fridge.  No, neither store-bought boxed cereal nor health food pop tarts were on the roster today.  My convenience food of choice this morning was grain burgers.  That's right, grain burgers.  I had packed leftovers from dinner into tin foil packets and yesterday's warm, vaguely meat-like patties transformed into this morning's chilled, savory crumpets.  I was a little worried about how these burgers would mesh with the breakfast vibe, but they worked nicely.  They were quick and available, and they went well with a dab of crunchy sunflower seed butter.

Lunch was leftover lentil dal and brown rice from yesterday.  I brought it to work in a small glass Pyrex container and reheated it in the microwave.  I wasn't sure if microwaving is perfectly macrobiotic, and I'm sure it's probably not, but any other form of reheating would probably take too much time and might dry out the food.  So I took the moderate path and reheated the meal slightly - enough to take the coldish edge off, but not so much to completely dehydrate the day-old rice.

Dinner got off to a late start, mainly because I couldn't resist staying for some extra time in the park near my home.  The skies were a crisp blue and the air was sweet-smelling and springlike.  Macrobiotics calls for eating no less than three hours before bedtime.  By the time I went inside and cooked and ate dinner, it was about 7:45.  By the time I fall asleep it will probably be right around the cut-off three hour mark.  Happily, this three-hour time span is also a recommendation from doctors who want to help patients prevent acid reflux. 

The macrobiotic lifestyle does seem conducive to a healthy stomach.  This evening I prepared a meal which seemed suited to the warmer weather; it was a little lighter than yesterday's food in terms of texture and density.  I started off with a clear broth; I boiled cold water and added a piece of the kombu, and then I added a few dashes of soy sauce.  The broth was mild, slightly salty and perhaps had a bit of that taste sensation known as umami.  For the main entree, I pan-fried some tofu after pressing it between two plates that were weighted down with the sauerkraut jar.  The pressing action supposedly helps to remove some of the water from the tofu, making it easier to fry.  I dredged the tofu in some whole wheat flour and browned it in a pan with coconut oil.  The cooking tofu added a sweet scent to the kitchen air, as the coconut oil warmed the sweet wheat mealy coating.

For the grain component of the meal, I made soba noodles, using the method in the book which I had not tried yesterday, the 'shock method.'  This method utilizes quick variations in water temperature.  I brought the water to a boil with the noodles inside the pot, and then I quickly added some cold water to the mixture.  I repeated this process a few times, and the final noodle product was soft and well-cooked.  It was perhaps a little too soft, but at least it was nice and moist.  Next time I try making these noodles I will be sure to monitor the boil - you're supposed to add the cold water at the exact moment that you see the rolling boil start to occur.  The hot/cold water treatment is supposed to make the inside of the noodle cook at the same speed as its outside. 

For the vegetable part of the meal, I sauteed some slivered onions in olive oil and then added freshly washed and chopped mustard greens to the pan.  I turned the heat on low and covered the pan and let the mixture simmer for a little over 10 minutes.  The resulting greens were well-cooked, but still flavorful, and not too limp.  A tasty way to enjoy vegetables.

After plating the foods for dinner I added a slice of lemon and some 'nori matchsticks' [thin pieces of nori seaweed] for garnish. The lemon worked well to add moisture to the otherwise slightly sticky soba noodles.  The pan fried tofu made a good complement to the noodles and were well paired together on the tines of the fork, providing a good contrast in textures and density in a mouthful of food.

So, that was dinner.  Capped off by a cup of warm herbal tea mixed with oat milk and various sweet juices.  I was not really tempted today to deviate from the macrobiotic course, except for when I came home hungry and craving string cheese.  I resisted, though, and happily remembered that I had leftover noodle soup from yesterday's dinner.  That served well to tide me over, and I stayed on the right path.

After dinner I got to the business of preparing tomorrow's lunch.  (Which will also probably be tomorrow's snack and the next day's lunch.)  My plan listed corn bread and beans.  I made some cornbread using the recipe from scratch from my macrobiotic cookbook, making a substitution of organic agave nectar, because I didn't have the maple syrup that the recipe called for.  (I have heard controversial things about some forms of agave nectar, but oh well, this is an organic brand and I'm not downing it in shot glasses.)  The cornbread turned out looking rustic, like something from the nineteenth century.  (See picture below.)  I also began the soaking process for the beans.  (See photo above.)  I plan on making some 'baked beans' tomorrow.  I'm soaking the Great Northern Beans with a piece of kombu, as this is recommended in the book.  My alarm clock will ring extra early tomorrow to give me time to cook the beans.



Day 1: The Beginning                                                  Sunday, April 18, 2010           



                             Yesterday was a rather chilly, fall-like day here in central Pennsylvania.  I woke up early and set off on my first official macrobiotic quest: to find a cookbook that would be my guide throughout the journey.  I stopped at my local library and was somewhat surprised to see a fair amount of people browsing the shelves.  Retirees, mostly.  I was really the only one in my age group.  And somehow I imagined that I was the only one looking for a cookbook on an early Saturday morning.

I walked over to the automated book catalog system and performed a subject search for "macrobiotic."  Surprisingly, there were 4 results.  A closer inspection revealed the results to be useless however, as one of the books was a distant relative of macrobiotics and the others were all housed in a somewhat distant library branch.  After spending some time browsing and picking up unrelated works, I left to embark upon part 2 of the book quest.

I debated my bookstore options.  I could visit the local chain book store, or I could peruse the shelves in the back of the local independent natural foods store.  I chose the later, as I would rather support the local business as much as I could.  Not sure that my meager book purchase was going to help keep them afloat, but every drop in the bucket helps.  This store had a grand total of 2 books about macrobiotics; I chose the book that seemed the most user-friendly and had the greater variety of recipes.  It was a basic macrobiotic cooking guide, and a critical endorsement on the back cover seemed to indicate that it laid a solid foundation for beginners.

Bringing the book back home, I found it to be a realistic and practical in tone.  It was written by a woman who began cooking in the macrobiotic style around the time I was born.  She described her menu planning and went into a brief discussion of yin/yang and alkaline/acid.  Some foods are considered to be more yin, others more yang, and the goal is to eat foods that maintain a sense of balance in the system.  I like the conceptual architecture of this: picturing meal making and food creation as a sort of art; much like keeping the elements in a painting harmonious, or adding the right instrumental blend to the background track in a piece of music.  Except here, the goal is health, as much as it is enjoyment.

As I am not at the advanced stage of menu planning in this macro foodstyle, I opted for lifting menu suggestions straight from the pages of the book.  I chose somewhat at random, planning on a daily course schedule for my first week.  I made a list of all the foods I would need, and I was pleased to see that I would probably be able to find them all at my local grocery store.

I'm lucky to live in the same town as a gigantic Wegman's, which is undoubtedly the best food store I've ever been to.  As I planned out my shopping trip I realized that I would be able to find 99% of what I needed in the produce section, the health food aisles, and the international area.  My actual shopping trip was extremely quick, as I hopped to these three sections and threw all of the necessary supplies into the cart.  As I stood at checkout, I was interested to see if the cashier would have any reaction to the types of food I was buying.  No comments from his side.  I wondered if there are there any other macrobiotic shoppers at this local Wegman's?

Later that evening, my husband wanted to go out to dinner, and we ended up at a local American/Italian place.  I scanned the menu to see what the most macrobiotic-like dish was; even though my month hadn't officially started, I thought it might be nice to ease into it.  I looked for a dish that was a nice balance of grains, vegetables, and nuts, and was left with a total of one dish to choose from: a salad of early greens topped with some pesto pasta and nuts.  I had a few bites of a giant calzone (which contained the freshest ricotta cheese of all time) and thought about how this was going to be my last taste of cheese for awhile.  Would I miss it?  We'll see.

This morning it began.  I started off with a kind of macrobiotic ease-in, a dish of scrambled eggs with some bread.  Eggs are not used frequently in the macrobiotic lifestyle: the book I am using recommends that they be eaten about once a week.  I followed the special scrambled egg recipe, which included mixing sea salt and some lemon juice into the egg before it is cooked.  I scrambled the mixture with the aid of some olive oil and put it atop some sprouted grain bread.  It was tasty: not the tastiest breakfast of all time, but the eggs had a lighter taste than I've known them to have.  I followed the meal with some herbal tea.

Midday, I started to prepare the first macrobiotic lunch.  It was a time-consuming process, chopping all of the vegetables and such.  I've cooked big meals before, but for some reason this one seemed to take especially long.  I consoled myself with the fact that I would be able to use the leftovers as tomorrow's lunch, saving some time on the back end.  And, what better to use some free time on, then on preparing a healthful meal?  Isn't that what food creation should be?  Loving and artful preparation?  I made a simple salad, layering the vegetables and topping it with sesame seeds and a dressing of soy sauce and fresh lemon juice.  I measured out some some brown rice, but as I was about to boil it, I realized I had forgotten to pre-soak it.  The book recommends pre-soaking grains for optimal digestion.  Ah well, probably not the first error of omission I will make on this journey.  Nevertheless, the rice turned out fine.  To pair with the rice, I made a lentil dal, using organic green lentils and some vegetables and spices.  Lunch is above, in picture form. 

For dinner, I felt infused with a new sense of macrobiotic confidence.  I could do this.  Yes.  I had pre-selected a meal of soup, green vegetables, and grain burgers.  (Grain burgers?  That's right.)  For the soup, I needed to make a kombu base.  I was thrilled to find Kombu at Wegman's, and I was amused to see that it came in a giant envelope.  When I opened up the package I was a little disheartened, seeing some white streaks on the huge dark green sheets of seaweed.  Mold?  I could imagine that it was mold, as it was imported all the way from Korea, and had been on the shelves in Pennsylvania for who knows how long.  But an internet search turned up the result that the white color was natural, something to do with starchy compounds that appear after the seaweed is dried.  I wiped the kombu with a damp paper towel (sources recommended wiping with a damp cloth) and dropped it into the cold water to begin making the soup base.  The kombu itself is only in the water until the boiling point is reached - at which point it is removed and other ingredients are added.  I added scallions and small cubes of tofu, and was happy to see the soup starting to look like something I would get at an Asian restaurant.  I then added some cooked organic soba noodles as per the recipe.

The grain burgers were fashioned out of leftover cooked rice (from lunch time), mixed with water, chopped onion and wheat flour.  I fried them in some organic coconut oil, having no idea of what to expect.  This particular menu recommended some sort of pickle (pickles are believed in macrobiotics to aid digestion of starchy foods.)  Pickles here aren't the dill pickles made of cucumbers - although they can be made of cucumbers, they are usually another vegetable.  In the supermarket, I bought some organic sauerkraut as my 'pickle', as the process of actually making many of my own pickled foods seemed a little too elaborate.

The meal turned out well: the soba soup was a little on the mild, somewhat bland side, but the sugar snap peas sauteed and then boiled turned out crisp and delicious, and the grain burgers topped with sauerkraut were really awesome.  I ended the meal with some warm tea, as I had ended every meal today.

(See below for photos of the kombu, and a photo of the dinner.)


Why Macrobiotic?                                                                         April 14, 2010

There's a lot of controversy over the macrobiotic lifestyle.  Some cite it as a revolutionary cure-all, others dismiss it as unsound.  Still others acknowledge elements of it to be possibly beneficial.

Where am I on this macrobiotic continuum?  Probably somewhere to the left of center - I'm somewhat liberal when it comes to adopting new potentially healthful food lifestyles on a temporary basis.  I don't know if I could necessarily adopt the macrobiotic diet as a permanent fixture.  To do so, and to decide to do so, seems drastic to me, when I really, really like dairy products.

But, at any rate, after suffering from my second bad cold in a month, I've decided to give the macrobiotic diet a shot.  If for nothing else than to experience the placebo effect of radiant health that macrobiotic advocates promise.  So here's my plan:  I'm going to start on Sunday.  I'm not going to cut out all fish or poultry products, but I will try and follow the macrobiotic lifestyle, as much as I can, without going to radical extremes.  Because I'm not really trying to go to extremes, but I'm trying to follow a path of balanced elements.  I plan to start following the macrobiotic diet on Sunday.