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Macro Monday: A Macrobiotic Staple...Miso Soup

Hi Guys,

Happy Monday. Can you believe January is already more than half over? Time flies!

Today's post is about one of the top Macrobiotic Staples.

MM: Miso Soup

Barley Miso at Rebar <3

Barley Miso at Rebar <3

I get asked about miso a lot. I know, kinda weird, right? But so is miso. I think it often freaks people out a little...especially when they hear the words "fermented" and "bean paste." And then they think of this tub just sitting there, in the back of their fridge, and being not sure what the heck to do with it. So I hope this helps!

 

What is Miso?

Well, as I said, it is a traditional Japanese fermented bean/grain paste, dating back to China (likely) 2500 years ago, used most often for seasoning soups.

It is most commonly made from combining soybeans, sea salt, and the starter koji (usually the fungus aspergillus oryzaea ), and mixed with grains such as rice or barley. It is fermented from 3 months up to 3 years. The variation in fermentation lengths, and the different beans or grains used, allows for there to be an amazing variety in kinds of miso, each one with a differing taste ranging from sweeter to more salty.

Miso is sold as a paste, often in plastic tubs or glass jars, in the cool section of the grocery store. You want to make sure you are purchasing miso that does not have preservatives in it, and that has been actually fermented, not simply filled with chemicals or artifical ingredients.

Miso paste can be added to soups, sauces, desserts and whatever else your heart desires, to add an amazing depth of flavour.

 

Health Benefits

Miso is extremely enzyme rich and is great for the immune system, which is perfect during the flu season. It also has a plethora of other health & healing benefits, including:

  • It is a good source of plant derived B vitamins, especially B12, which is very important and more difficult for vegetarians to get.
  • Along with other traditionally fermented products (like real sauerkraut), miso is a wonderful source of natural digestive-friendly good bacteria. It can help balance & restore beneficial probiotics to the intestines.
  • Miso is teeming with all the essential amino acids your body needs to function properly.
  • Miso is very alkalizing, which is what we want, as diseases flourish in acidic conditions, and cannot survive in alkaline conditions.
  • It can help to stimulate your digestive system and get things moving along
  • Due to the dipilocolonic acid in miso, it can help your body remove any accumulated heavy metals, and can help protect from radiation
  • Miso is a great source of manganese, copper & zinc, along with other amazing antioxidants.

 

How to Use It

While there are many different things you can make with miso, I want to focus today on the basic miso soup.

It is actually not so basic, as depending on the kind of miso paste, and the ingredients such as root veggies and/or noodles and/or protein such as tofu, you can create a hearty filling soup, or a very light simple soup to accompany any meal.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • You do NOT want to boil the miso paste - this will destroy the beneficial enzymes and good bacteria. It is therefore best added at the end, after all the veggies or whatever else are done boiling, and the stove temperature is lowered so your soup is just lightly simmering.
  • It is best to mix a few spoons of miso with some warm water in a separate bowl, until it has more of a sauce consistency, before adding it into your pot. This will prevent it from simply being one giant chunk in your soup :)
  • Please note: miso is fairly salty...it's probably best to not have more than 2 tsp per person, per day.
  • There are many kinds of miso (I read 1300 types!), and some are better at different times of the year:
    • Heavier miso types like straight soybean (hatcho miso) or darker rice miso in the winter
    • Barley (mugi miso) is great for a more year-round soup.
    • White miso (shiro miso) has a sweeter flavour and works better in dressing, sauces, and desserts.

 

Recipe for a Simple Veggie Miso Soup

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 inch piece of wakame, soaked in 1 cup water (keep the water to add to the soup)
  • 4 heaping teaspoons miso paste (I enjoy brown rice, barley or a new favourite is adzuki bean miso)
  • 1-2 tsps of sesame or toasted sesame oil
  • Veggies of your choice! Here's a recent combo I really enjoyed: few inches of thinly sliced daikon, a couple leaves of chinese cabbage or bok choy, about 1/4 of an onion or leek, and a few slices of green onion for garnish. {carrots and shitake are also lovely}
adzuki bean miso.JPG

Directions

  1. Soak wakame in about 1 cup of water, until softened (around 10 minutes).
  2. Wash and rinse all veggies. Cut the daikon pieces into half circles (moons), thinly chop the leek or onion, and thinly slice the cabbage or bok choy.
  3. Heat the oil in the bottom of a saucepan, and brown the onions or leek with a teeny tiny bit of sea salt, adding a bit of water if necessary, to prevent burning.
  4. Add in the daikon slices & the cabbage or bok choy stems, stirring for a few minutes until slightly sauteed.
  5. Chop up the soaked wakame.
  6. Add the 3 cups water, and the wakame soaking water to the pot, and bring to boil.
  7. Add the wakame, and let the veggies simmer until tender, between 5-10 minutes. Add in the finely chopped bok choy leaves closer to the end of that time frame, as they only need a few minutes to soften.
  8. Scoop out your miso paste, and mix with a tiny bit of water in a cup or bowl, until it is all dissolved and runny.
  9. Lower the temperature until the soup is barely simmering, and whisk the miso in. Alternatively, you can even remove the pot from the heat completely, and then whisk the miso in.
  10. Let it cook for a few minutes, until you see "clouds" appear. The miso will kind of puff up to the surface, like clouds, and then you'll know it's done.
  11. Throw on some green onion slices if desired, and serve.

*This miso will not be what you are used to getting at sushi restaurants...that stuff is often instant miso. It will have more of a texture. If you do not like the small bits of grain/bean chunks from the miso paste (most people don't mind), you can actually whisk your miso through a strainer like so:

More miso recipes to come in the weeks to follow :)

If you have any questions, or a favourite miso recipe to share, don't hesitate to comment or email me!

Enjoy, and may this week be nurturing, comforting, and healing for you, my friends.

xoxo Jess


 

 

Macro Mondays: Top 3 Macrobiotic Ingredients.

Hey guys.

I am so very thankful that the lovely Maggie over at Say Yes to Salad decided to start a Month of Macrobiotics this March. 

I'm thankful, because I have been in need of a little inspiration lately. Six months of snow on the ground, and what's now turned into slushy grey melty madness has felt a little overbearing this year. 

But there's no better way to say goodbye to the dreary winter blues and fire up the old inspiration station than by spending some quality time focusing on Macrobiotics. A Month of Macrobiotics sounds just GREAT!!! Yipee!

This was just the kick in the pants I needed to institute something I've been planning for awhile for the Dainty Pig:

IMG_4247.JPG

A guaranteed good start to your week.

Today is the first of many Macro Mondays! I will use Macro Mondays as a way to focus in on Macrobiotic tips, tricks, or information about specific ingredients & cooking styles. 

To collect all these posts & ideas in one place, I have made a new page on my site for this. Click here to check it out!

Each week as I do a Macro Mondays post, I'll put the link on the special Macro Mondays page, along with any other tips or tidbits, so it's all easy to find.

If you're interested in contributing/guest posting for a Macro Monday post, please send me an email. And I'm taking suggestions for any topics you'd like me to focus on here with our Macro Monday posts.

This very first MACRO MONDAY is devoted to...

The TOP 3 Macrobiotic Ingredients to ADD to your diet...or just try ;)

Macrobiotics can get a little overwhelming sometimes. So instead of worrying about what not to eat, perhaps try adding in a few Macrobiotic foods and see how you like them and how they make you feel.

Here are the ingredients that I am most happy to have discovered / embraced through Macrobiotics. 

  1. Seaweed 
  2. Umeboshi
  3. Miso
  • Seaweed:   Truthfully, I haven't met a seaweed that I didn't like. My top 2 favourites are wakame, and dulse. I sprinkle dulse flakes on whole grains or popcorn all the time. I use whole dulse pieces in wraps or sandwiches. They add a nice salty flavour. I'd say that Dulse is probably the gateway drug/seaweed to more hardcore things like arame & hijiki.  My second most favourite is Wakame. I use wakame when cooking brown rice, and in miso soup. If you've ever eaten miso soup at sushi, the seaweed floating in it is usually wakame. It is great for balancing lady hormones and tastes fairly mild on the sea-vegetable spectrum.

  • Umeboshi: Chances are you haven't heard of these Japanese Pickled Plums unless you've lived in Japan, or have looked into Macrobiotics. These little suckers pack a punch! They are tangy and salty, and aid in digestion (as do all naturally pickled things). Not only can you simply place a pickled plum on top of brown rice for a decorative & tasty treat, but you can also find/use umeboshi in many different forms, such as in Umeboshi Paste: a tiny bit goes a long way on sushi rolls! Umeboshi vinegar is a delicious and sour addition to steamed vegetables and tastes oddly AWE-mazing on lentil stews ---> this one in particular. Umeboshi extract looks like black tar in a teeny tiny bottle. But it is used like a medicine in Japan. It is insanely alkalizing, and great for stomach/digestion problems. When I say a little goes a long way, I mean little as in the end of a toothpick little. I love sour things---lemon is my lover---and umeboshi put lemons to shame. Pucker up, you won't regret it!

  • Miso: I know, I know, you've had miso at Sushi places and it was so-so. Probably super salty, and had lots of seaweed floating around in it. It probably wasn't the same stuff i'm going to tell you about. Proper miso (aged naturally, made with a combination of grains & soybeans) is a treat. It has tons of minerals and probiotics ---> a nutritional powerhouse. It adds a delicious salty rich taste, which can turn a pot of boiling vegetables into a delicious soup. Bonus: It comes in a tub and lasts a long time! Also, play around as there are many different types of miso: white miso made with white rice (great in desserts and for a lighter sweeter taste), barley miso---which is a great day to day miso, brown rice miso for a stronger flavour, and then pure soybean miso for the strongest flavour. You can use miso to make dressings and dips (tip: tahini + miso + lemon = all good things). And rumor has it that miso + cashews blended up tastes cheesy! One of my all time favourite desserts ever was a baked tofu cheesecake I had in Japan, and the chef leaned over and whispered to me: "shiro miso" (white miso). Ah ha! You can put it into cakes! Sold.

I'll expand further about each one of these lovely ingredients in the near future.

But for now, I highly encourage you to try at least one of these ingredients. A simple dash of ume vinegar to some steamed veggies might just taste good enough to spark your Macrobiotic interest. And if that doesn't suit you, then try mixing some miso paste with tahini and lemon and drizzling that onto some quinoa or brown rice. Top with a sprinkle of dulse flakes and BAM: a macrobiotic success story right there.

HAPPY HAPPY MACRO MONDAY to you all!

Millet and Squash: a wonderful match

I really like millet, but I often forget to make it.
I prefer it pan-roasted first, and you can cook it up many ways. Softer with more water like porridge, or less water and it will be pretty crumbly. I have used it in bean and grain patties, and have eaten it mashed too.
Recently, I tried cooking it with some celery and butternut squash.
I have had millet + squash before, and let me tell you, it goes perfectly.
After cooking the millet and veggies for a long while, I turned the heat down and added in some brown rice miso. It was delicious!!

I know many food bloggers seem to love millet bread. I personally have never tried it, but would like to.
Do you like millet? How do you like to eat it?

Typical Macrobiotic Day


So I'm always talking about Macrobiotics. But what is macrobiotics? At least...what does it mean for me??
Well, there are plenty of books (I've got most of them kickin' around) that outline the philosophical principles behind macrobiotics, as well as what you can and cannot eat. I want to do a post really soon describing some of these things.
For now, to ease your curiosity (if you have any, that is), here is what it means for me:

A whole lotta whole grains (mostly short grain brown rice, quinoa, and whole oats--although sometimes i get a bit crazy and mix it up with some kasha, or toasted buckwheat, millet, and barley).

Also, a whole lotta veggies. Think greens (kale, collards, sometimes chard), daikon radish, carrots, shitake mushrooms, and squash if I have some.

My ideal breakfast is a serving (a really big one...haha) of whole grains topped with seaweed, with steamed or quick boiled greens, carrots, shitake and daikon radish. Well okay, my ideal MACROBIOTIC breakfast consists of these foods. I am a breakfast gal. My absolute favourite snack / meal at any time of the day was cold cereal. But once I tried macrobiotics, I realized how much BETTER I felt eating WHOLE grains...and have thus been transformed into this kind of breakfast lover.

And vegetables for breakfast? wtf mate? well...I wouldn't knock it till you try it!
They make you feel so lovely and balanced! (even though sometimes I gotta sneak in a bit of sweet at the end, via grains with brown rice syrup and cinnamon, or maybe a squeak of cocoa...shhh...don't tell anyone).

Don't even get me started on SEAWEED. I frickin' love it. I probably crave it the most out of any food now.I top ALL of my grains with a bit of seaweed. Even at breakfast. Dulse flakes are my best friend. I also cook wakame in with my rice...and would gorge every single day on seaweed salad if I could afford it.

Soup is also a major part of the macrobiotic diet. While most meals start with miso soup (1-2 times / day)I usually just sip the vitamin filled water that remains after I quick boil my veggies. I love miso soup, but generally seem to find soy upsetting to my poor little tummy, so I just have the veggie water/soup/stock with my meal (that is what is in the blue mug in the picture above).

The hardest part for most people on a macrobiotic is satisfying the sweet craving. I am a FRUIT LOVER, and this is where I used to get all my sweet satisfaction from. Since switching to a mostly macrobiotic diet, I try to not have that much fruit. They (the "macrobiotic gurus") recommend only having fruit 2-3 times per week--which is probably better for my easily-bloated tummy anyways. Instead, grain based sweeteners like amasake (fermented brown rice drink that is actually delicious), brown rice syrup and barley malt are recommended, and of course even better are sweet vegetables like squash or carrots, or sweet grains like oats! I usually stick to fruit for my fixin' (as little as my greedy little taste buds can make do with), and brown rice syrup. I use brown rice syrup to top off whole grains like brown rice, whole oats and quinoa, or even the less preferred rolled oats or the not so macrobiotic oat bran (not-so-macrobiotic because it is just one part of the grain, and not whole). I also sometimes make desserts using grains, and fruit with kuzu powder (japanese arrowroot)for a pudding like substance, or fruit and agar flakes (like gelatin, but a seaweed!) to make kanteens. If I make one again, i'll post pics. Check out the saladgirl's amazing blog for some macrobiotic dessert photos: http://www.thesaladgirl.com/2009/02/27/unsweetened-dessert-jelly-jell-o/

Another part of my typical macrobiotic day consists of:
chewing...REALLY REALLY well. I have a tendency to scarf down my food, always thinking of what to eat next, and I usually end up with a not-so-happy tummy and a burned tongue. Chewing starts the digestion process, and is SOOO important. It is a continuous goal of mine to chew more...up to 50X per bite!

Also, not eating when i'm not hungry....aka not mindlessly snacking...which I LOVE to do...a big challenge for me. I often end up failing at this *cough*my food dedicated blog with photos of glorious snacks*cough* but i'm trying...and i'm getting better at it.

What do I drink on a macrobiotic diet??
Well...not coffee, that is for sure. I do sometimes sneak in a latte made with almond milk...but that is rare...or rather, SHOULD be rare. teehee. Seriously though: I drink a lot of water, because it's free, and good for you. Kukicha tea (twig tea) is wonderful at balancing the body after a meal, and is a nice substitute for black tea and coffee. I also drink green tea! Dairy should be avoided on a macrobiotic diet, and it upsets me anyways, so that's okay. Sometimes I use unsweetened almond milk, or rice milk.

Fermented Foods are not part of a typical North American diet...but they are certainly important in a Macrobiotic one! Even though they make me a bit gassy (haha...because i'm sure you wanted to know) I try to eat some whenever I can. For me, this usually means a bit of naturally fermented sauerkraut, some pickled daikon radish...and miso occasionally.

And lastly...but what about seasoning, flavouring, and oils?? Well: I usually sprinkle some flax oil on my grains, and some Udo's 3-6-9 oil on my greens (or vice versa). Other oils I use are sesame, toasted sesame, and occasionally olive oil. Toasted nuts and seeds are a great topping as well: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds. Roasted sesame seeds, and sesame salt (gomaisho) are delicious too! And of course, to give your food a bit of a zing: lemon, umeboshi vinegar, ume paste, rice vinegar for sushi, and tamari or soy sauce in cooking (although I have been avoiding it as per soy-tummy-trouble). And of course SEA SALT. I use a pinch when cooking grains, and sometimes sprinkle some on my steamed veggies.

Whew. That was a lot to digest....sorry guys. Make sure you let your mind chew it over really well ;)

Maybe I'll post some photos from tonight's dinner...this is all for now...but there will me more to come, and any questions are welcomed!