Grain Coffee

Who are we kidding here? I love coffee – almost as much as I love my kids. I will drink hot coffee mid-summer in a car with no air. There is nothing that “tastes like coffee”.

My local coffee roaster has this beautiful vintage drum press, in which they roast fresh beans from fair-trade farms around the globe. In their skilled hands, the beans are perfectly roasted and pulled from the press at the precise moment to maximize flavor without scorching the beans. This is an art. In the summer, I might choose a Colombian or Ethiopian bean, Indonesian in the winter – but it is all good. And, if it has been a while since a trip to the coffee roaster, then I will be more than content with my 365 Pleasant Morning Buzz from Whole Foods. Real beans. Fair-trade. All good.

So, when preparing to embark on a one-week macrobiotics diet, I could not be happier about the prospect of enjoying roasted vegetables, a variety of good quality grains, and multi-colored legumes. Even eating foods I generally do not include in my diet, like tofu and wheat, is not at all daunting. (I can make a mean tofu taco.) And trying new an unusual ingredients is always exiting! But then it hit me… coffee. Not on the macrobiotic diet. This could very well be a deal-breaker.

Fresh grain coffee
Fresh grain coffee

The Macrobiotics diet answer to coffee is something called “grain coffee”. Grain coffee? We make cheese out of cashews & yeast, flour from seeds, roux out of garbanzo beans… and foods of this nature work quite well. But grains to substitute for coffee beans? hmm

The concept is not new, of course. Chicory, as a substitute for coffee beans, likely originated in Europe, and was used by early settlers. Its medicinal qualities have been appreciated as far back as in ancient Egypt. It is a fabulously healthful ingredient. In grain coffee, it plays a supporting role, providing flavor and bitter notes.

A fair mind-set

Instead of approaching this new item as a substitute for coffee – because I will most surely be disappointed, a better approach may be to experience it on its own merit. Simply a new and exotic beverage. Hot grain juice? hmm… the name still needs some work.

So off the the health foods store down the road to pick up a bag of grain coffee.

This vendor stocks a couple brands of grain coffee. They also carry Teeccino, which is probably a bit outside the realm of strict Macrobiotics. Both grain coffee brands contains the same ingredients:  barley, malted barley, chicory, and rye. One brand is darker than the other and my instincts tell me this is probably the more nutritious and flavorful option, but as expectations are low, my pocketbook wins out this time and I go for the lighter colored brand.

Grain coffee
Grain coffee

Upon opening the jar, I am surprised and very pleased with the aroma. It smells wonderful! – like whole food, complex, sweet and bitter, with very subtle hints of some nostalgic flavor from childhood that i have not quite defined yet.

To prepare this beverage, one only needs a mug and very hot water. The powder dissolves easily and a hot cup of grain coffee is ready to consume!

If compared to coffee, it lacks the depth and intensity of the bean. However, if taken on its own merit, there is an appropriate bitterness, and it is light and clean, and quite lovely. There are no aggressive or offensive flavors. It is somehow simultaneously new and familiar. It will certainly be a lovely accompaniment to the grains and legumes of a Macrobiotic diet and I am actually looking forward to trying it as part of a meal.


Fresh grain coffee
Fresh grain coffee

My kids both enjoy the flavor; my son prefers this to coffee. Because it is caffeine-free, this is a good thing! In my view, this grain coffee is certainly preferable to instant commercial coffee and drive-through coffee – by far. This jar will not be wasted.


Next morning: ‘made a fresh pot of 365, and am satisfied. I don’t feel bad for bypassing the grain coffee. It will have its place too, and every drop will get utilized, for sure.

2-for-the-price-of-1 – bonus recipe:

Bancha Tea

  • 1 quart water
  • 1-2 T bancha twigs

Place water and twigs in a teapot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5-10 minutes. For milder tasting tea, simmer for 3-4 minutes. Children may enjoy tea brewed to this strength. For stronger tea, simmer 10-15 minutes. Bancha tea is good any time of day, but especially after meals.

If you like what you see, please “like” and “share”. 🙂

Homemade Crème Fraiche

Homemade Creme Fraiche
Homemade Creme Fraiche

Smooth crème fraiche (fresh cream) is comparable to sour cream, but slightly less tangy. If you taste it plain, it is creamy and ever-so-slightly nutty when it first hits your palette. Then on the back end, the richness and tanginess intensify. When making a sauce, it does not tend to break easily as does sour cream. You can even add it to a Stroganoff and it will hold up. It pairs very well with fruit or potatoes. Use it in a dressing or sweeten it for a fruit dip. A  little dollop of crème fraiche on a bowl of gazpacho also quite nice.

If you purchase it ready-made, assuming you can find it, it will set you back a pretty penny. However, it is almost embarrassingly easy to make at home, and you get to save money and control ingredients too!

Homemade Crème Fraiche


  • One cup heavy cream (I use organic)
  • 1-2 T buttermilk

Place both ingredients into a bowl. Stir. Cover loosely with a clean towel. It needs to breathe and also be protected from contamination. Leave it on the counter overnight. That’s it.

It will not spoil. We want bacteria to grow. This is good bacteria! After 10-24 hours, it will thicken. At this point, it should be refrigerated and will last a good week or so.

For a silky thin texture, use only one tablespoon buttermilk. The mixture pictured above was made with two tablespoons buttermilk and is quite thick. It will thicken more as it sits longer. Refrigeration slows down, then stops the process. That is why people who fear bacterial growth and refrigerate this product complain that it does not work. 🙂

Special Diet Notes for Lactose-Intolerance: Follow the same procedure, using One cup lactose-free milk to at least 2 T lactose-free yoghurt. Alternatively, add a few drops of Lactase enzyme. Allow to sit 24 hours while lactose is broken down. Lactose-free products are a bit sweeter – glucose is naturally sweeter than lactose.

Here is a great article on Lactase Enzyme Drops. Another money saver!  Click here.


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Pan-seared Duck with Cherry Sauce & Alfalfa Potato Salad

Celebrating Summer! Fresh organic cherries, creamy tangy goat cheese, dark chocolate.
O Celebrating Summer! Fresh organic cherries, creamy tangy goat cheese, dark chocolate.

Cherry season ought to be celebrated, eh? Walking through the market, one can hardly pass the piles of beautiful fresh cherries without their beckoning to jump into the cart. Soooooo… in they go. Then, almost to the check-out counter, and they whisper “you forgot the chevre”... so in goes chevre. Upon arriving home, they offer a casual reminder, ” you know, you have dark chocolate stashed” (and I wont say where it is stashed because my son will find it and it will be melted and drizzled on a banana). When all is said and done, this becomes dinner! And we are talking indulgent flavor synergy!

Cherry season is approaching its end, so if you haven’t fully indulged, and if cherries agree with you, go for it! Eat them straight, cook with them, whatever suits your fancy.

Food Synergy

Food Synergy is what you get when 2 + 2 = 5, 7, or 10! It is when two foods work together to provide a nutritional punch that is greater than their sum. As odd as this may sound, cherries and alfalfa sprouts are thought to be synergistic. Researchers are not yet sure why, but they believe that pairing cherries with alfalfa sprouts vastly increases their antioxidant power and lowers LDL cholesterol.

If you have fresh cherries on hand, it is easy to throw them in a  green salad with alfalfa sprouts… maybe add some fennel for a little more crunch. A lemon vinaigrette will bring everything together nicely.

To follow is another idea, using those same flavor notes…

Variations of the following recipe may be suitable for Paleo, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, LowFODMAP diets. 

Please note: if you have a serious cholesterol issue, you may want to stick with the salad and leave out the duck altogether – opting for another protein. 

Pan-Seared Duck with Cherry Sauce and Alfalfa Potato Salad

This was made on a night when I really needed a quick dinner. I did not get too precious with the duck; please refer to Martha Stewart for that. She has you-tube instructions out there. I just wanted to feed hungry kids fast. There are a few rules I will not skip however:

  1. One must score duck skin into cross cuts
  2. Skin MUST be crispy
  3. Duck must NEVER be over-cooked. This one almost got away from me. I like it a bit pink.

In my fridge were previously frozen 6 oz duck breasts. As stated, this was not the night for breaking down a whole duck. The following recipe serves two. Add a celery soup or salad on the side to round out the meal.


  • 4 T crème fraiche
  • 1/2 T lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 c red potatoes, diced and steamed
  • 1/2 c alfalfa sprouts
  • 1/2 c fennel, diced
  • Duck breast – two
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/2 cup port, or merlot, or even chicken broth if preferred
  • 1 c fresh cherries
  • 1 t fresh lemon
  • 1/2 T sweetener, honey or agave (maple syrup for LowFODMAP)
  • 1/2 t ground flaxseed (thickener) – if preferred, make a cornstarch slurry
  • salt & pepper – to taste
Potato Salad with Alfalfa Sprouts and Fennel
Potato Salad with Alfalfa Sprouts and Fennel

Potato Salad

Whisk together 4 T creme fraiche and 1/2 T lemon juice with salt, to taste. Combine with diced red potatoes, alfalfa sprouts and fennel. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Searing Duck Breasts

With a sharp knife, cut through the skin only of each duck breast, making diagonal cross-cuts. Scoring the skin in this way prevents shrinkage when pan-seared. Salt and pepper duck breast, skin side. At a medium heat, in a saute pan, place duck breasts skin side down. No need for oil, unless garlic-infused oil is desired. The duck will release its own fat, and this is exactly what we want. We need the fat under the skin to melt away. Allow to cook until skin reaches a beautiful dark golden brown.  Add salt & pepper to uncooked side and flip the breasts. Cool until nicely browned. When you press (gently) on the duck with your fingers, it should feel a little spongy. When both sides are brown and you get that spongy feel, it is probably done. Of course, you can cook to the doneness you prefer. Set duck breasts aside and allow them to rest before slicing.

Pour out duck fat from pan into a heat-safe bowl. Add 1 T duck fat back into the pan. Sweat shallots. When shallots are tender, add wine and simmer until reduced by about half.  Add cherries, 1 t lemon juice, sweetener, salt to taste. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until cherries are warmed through and flavors well combined. Move cherries to the side of pan and whisk in flaxseed. If you prefer, make a cornstarch slurry with 1/2 t cornstarch to equal amount water. Whisk together, then whisk into sauce. Adjust acidity and sweetness to your liking.

When rested (5 or 10 minutes), slice duck breast on a diagonal. Add to plate over potato salad, with cherry sauce added over duck or around the plate.


Special diet notes:  If you are on a LowFODMAP diet, replace fennel with celery and use a lactose-free creme fraiche, or replace with olive oil to make a lemon vinaigrette. Before pan-searing the duck breast, brush with a little garlic-infused oil to incorporate that flavor. Leave out shallots, or replace with green onion (green part only).

If you do not eat potatoes, this dish would be quite lovely with a green salad, replacing potatoes with romaine.


Food Highs does NOT provide diagnosis or medical advice. You are an individual. Your dietary needs are specific to you and should be decided based on your personal health, preferences, with your healthcare provider. This site offers information, resources, and recipe development for GENERAL use.


Caviar by Cold Oil Spherification

Attention home schoolers! …and anyone who likes to play in the kitchen!

Molecular gastronomy does not have to be all that difficult. (This is not said to discredit the brilliant minds who created these techniques in the first place.) You need only the right tools and ingredients. And although much of it involves test tubes and chemicals, there is indeed still some dabbling that a holistic home cook can do. And it is so worth it! Plus. if you make beet juice caviar, your kids will at least try beets because it is just that cool!

Modern molecular gastronomy (a.k.a. “modern gastronomy” “food science” ‘cucina molecolare”, etc)  – when well conceived  and executed – is not just about trickery. It is a cerebral blend of art, science, and psychology. While there is the obvious element of surprise, which is delightful in itself, it must also be transformative. For example, while what you see on the plate may be highly stylized, familiar flavors may invoke nostalgic memories of childhood. At its best, this cuisine should tease all of the senses in an interactive experience which transports the diner to another place and time.

A great way to begin – Spherification

How I wish I knew about this when my little boy was preparing a science project for school. We wanted to make edible faux salamander eggs. How perfect would this have been! Today, I have no need for science project salamander eggs, but I do have three teens set up for a sci-fi movie day. So what could be more fun today than a little food science? In any event, this should keep them off electronics for a bit. There is a method to my madness.

Another suggestion: make this for your friends but don’t tell them how easy it is… just say you are skilled in molecular gastronomy cold oil spherification. And ask them to repeat that 20 times.

Mise en place for caviar
Mise en place for caviar

Cold Oil Spherification

You will need:

  • 1 c Juice
  • 1 t. agar (more if your liquid is acidic)
  • oil, vegetable oil works
  • tall clear container (freezer safe)
  • dropper
  • small sauce pan
  • whisk

Place oil in a freezer safe container in the freezer for about an hour. Oil must be very cold.

Pour juice and agar into sauce pan off heat. Whisk together. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Turn on heat and bring mixture to simmer. Simmer about 5-10 minutes. You can check to see if mixture is ready for spherification by putting a small drop on a plate. It should solidify in about 20 seconds or so.

Apple juice spheres in cold oil.
Apple juice spheres in cold oil.

When mixture is ready and oil is cold, remove mixture from heat and allow to cool just a bit. You want it somewhere between a simmer and warm. Then simply fill the dropper with the mixture and gently squeeze one little drop at a time into the cold oil. Little spheres should form, break through the surface of the oil and collect in the bottom of the container. It is delightful!

If you feel an urge to do too much too fast – resist it! Be strong! About half way through, you will probably need to strain the oil and get it (the oil) cold again, as the agar-liquid mixture will gradually warm the oil. If you do not watch the temperatures, you may end up with clumping instead of pretty little spheres.

When you have a good little collection of spheres, gently strain them from the oil. Very gently rinse caviar by dipping them (in a strainer) in cold water to remove oil. Use immediately or refrigerate.

Notes on agar-agar

  • Agar-agar is a dried seaweed, used often in Asian cuisine as a thickener. Purchase it from and Asian grocer, some health foods stores, or online.
  • Flake form agar does not dissolve easily. Powder form often has chemicals added. So I buy flakes and grind them myself.
  • Amounts of agar you need will depend on the acidity of the liquid to be gelled, more acidic liquids may require more agar
  • Standard ratio – agar 1% of liquid. Example: 2 g agar to 200 g liquid
  • I use 1 cup (about 226 g) liquid to 1 t (2-3 g) agar powder.
  • Balsamic vinegar is a bit more tricky to make as it wants to simply thicken. FYI This is a delicious alternative to a balsamic reduction. For spheres, I doubled the amount of agar; this worked well. If you play with these ingredients and find ratios and methods which work well for you, let us know!
  • Alternative: Sodium alginate is used to create spheres which are liquid-filled. These are quite delightful! They burst with flavor. Cold-oil spherification creates a solid gel caviar. Equally delightful, and I love being able to make caviar with more healthful ingredients.
  • Pictured on the page are spheres made from apple juice, beet juice, and balsamic vinegar.  Yum!!!


Caviar – Balsamic, Red Beet Juice, and Apple Juice


Check out a video of this process made by the girls on my Facebook page. Be sure to Like my page while you are there! 🙂

Music by Bill Parsons



Artisanal Cheese Plate – featuring beets 3-ways

What does one do with a surplus of beets? Provided that one is not the keenest of beet fans, one might wish to do something other than borscht – not that borscht isn’t lovely. But that vibrant color deserves to be elevated, even celebrated, now and then. How does one elevate a beet? Hmm Maybe, turn them into caviar and tartare. Then pair them with cheese and wine! …and my mind has only one track now.

So, here is a trio, a three-for-the-price-of-one artisanal cheeseplate must have for you. This one is dedicated to my attorney, Mr. Van, who inspired the idea by asking me what I do with beets. Turns out, he is an adventurous and creative culinarian, so I must offer an idea worthy of his talents.


Here are my suggestions for three elegant cheese-beet flavor-texture pairings. Each one could stand on its own. All three on one plate is to-die-for! Try this as a final course in lieu of a sweet dessert. You wont regret it. And if you really dislike beets, or cannot eat them, try taking the ideas here, switch up some of the flavors, and swap beets out with cherries. But really, all I am saying… is give beets a chance. 🙂

For the lactose-intolerant, at some point, we will explore lactose-free cheese making on this site. However, there are delicious lactose-free, and low lactose cheeses out there, as well as cheese substitutes. There is no reason you should miss out. 


Perfect pairing #1
Beetjuice Caviar with Creamy Lime-Tarragon Creme Fraiche


Perfect pairing #2
Golden Beet Chutney with Chevre (goat cheese) and Pistacchios


Perfect pairing #3
Crunchy Beet Tartare with Gorgonzola and Hazlenuts

Highly recommended: German Riesling – This light-bodied white wine pairs beautifully with both beets and cheese, especially blue cheese, as well as summer fruits and light dishes. We are talking serious flavor synergy here.

Plan Ahead
Beet tartare should be made at least a day in advance for good pickling flavor. If you make your own creme fraiche (embarrassingly easy and much cheaper than purchasing), you will need to do this a day in advance as well. Everything else can be made fresh, but you will be so happy with yourself if you make ahead chutneycaviar, and lime-tarragon creme fraiche also. Then when you are ready to enjoy the cheese plate, you only need to bloom the cheese, pour the wine, and enjoy the praise.


Beet Juice Caviar 

This recipe is in a separate posting. Please click here. This is really an introduction to molecular gastronomy, made very easy. It is a fun thing to do with your kids, and they will at least try these beets.

Creamy lime-tarragon Creme Fraiche

  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 t. lime zest (or to taste)
  • 2 t. lime juice
  • 2 t. fresh tarragon, diced
  • salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients. This will yield about 5 servings (each appr. 1 T.).  Double or triple recipe if you need more. This is so creamy, layered with flavors, and satisfying, even nutritionally… I made extra just to eat on crackers, or on a spoon in the middle of the night – not that I am proud of this.

Golden Beet Chutney

  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • One medium-sized Golden Beetroot, small dice (yields about 100 g, 3 oz or ¾ cup)
  • Shallots, small dice –  use equal parts shallots and beet
  • One medium-sized orange, zest and juice (about 3-4 oz juice)
  • Brown sugar – 1 t. or to taste
  • Salt – to taste

In a small sauce pan, gently sweat shallots in olive oil. Do not brown. Add pinch of salt. This will take about 5-10 minutes. Add diced beet, orange peel, and juice. Cover. Simmer about 30 minutes. Add a bit of sweetener, if desired. I like brown sugar for this dish. This will yield 4-8 servings, depending on how much you would like to use on each plate. You can use red beets, if preferred.

Diced golden beet, shallots, and orange for chutney
This is your simple chutney flavor base. Use beets and shallots in equal parts.

Beetroot Tartare

  • 1 cup (yields about 4 oz or 120 g) red beet, tiny dice – this will require about 2 beets
  • 1/2 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 T. sugar (use more if desired)
  • One bay leaf (or kombu, if preferred)

Place diced beets into a heat-safe container. In a small sauce pan, heat vinegar, sugar, and bay leaf (or kombu) to a simmer. Pour vinegar-sugar over diced beets. Shake the container to cover beet with vinegar. Allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Strain beets from pickling juice. Discard bay leaf. Assemble on the plate.

Option, if you prefer to use golden beets or are lucky enough to score chioggia (stripped) beets, simply repeat the process with each.

Build your tartare anyway you like. You can use a small cookie cutter to produce a desired shape.

For this application, I pickled raw beets for the crunchy texture. Raw beets do not hold a “tartare” shape very well, but I preferred the crunch, after the soft texture of the chutney. You can roast your beets instead of pickling if you would like a more authentic appearance. Be sure to add a little acidity (vinegar, lime, or lemon).

Note: I prepared this tartare with the same methodology I would use on a beautiful tuna or beef steak preparation. I like a small, consistent dice. I never use a processor as it produces uneven pieces and, to me, the mouthfeel of raw ground meat. Personally, I do not find this pleasing. It is worth taking the time to cut small even little pieces. Your attention to precision will pay off. Just listen to your favorite music and open up that riesling… it will be fun!

Pickling beetroot
Pickling beetroot


How to assemble a proper Cheese Plate.

  • Choose a variety of cheese flavors, textures, milks – fancy it up by choosing artisanal cheeses, or use whatever pleases both your budget and your taste buds
  • Choose a theme. The theme featured here is unconventional, as it focuses on the accompaniment. You can choose a regional theme,  a milk theme (ie: all sheep’s milk), offerings from a single artisan… anything that floats your boat.
  • Arrange cheese, left to right, from mild to strong, so as to not overwhelm the palate
  • When slicing cheese, run a sharp knife through hot water and dry between each slice
  • Each individual cheese serving should be about 1-2 oz
  • Bloom cheese at about an hour before serving (simply assemble them on the tray and let them sit at room temp) Do not “bloom” creme fraiche.
  • Accompaniments are not required, but highly recommended. Think sweet, salty, optimal flavor-texture pairings.
  • Oh!!! Serve with crackers or toast points. Use whatever fits your personal dietary needs. Use the most bland crackers you can find so as not to muddle the layers of flavor you have created in your pairings. These are merely crunchy vessels for all the goodness they will hold.


Fire – The Element of Summer

The warmth of a fire attracts us, draws us in, and brings people together. It creates moments of joy, especially at an outdoor gathering of friends. One cannot help but move toward it to be soothed by the glow that emanates from it’s embers. It can capture our attention in a way that leaves us mesmerized for a moment. It is intense, but if controlled, it is a thing of real beauty.

The fire  person can be described in much the same way. Often this person may be called charming, magnetic, or charismatic. When healthy, they are friendly, warm, and connect easily with others. They tend to be passionate and dive into life with both feet. They are able to express clearly and appropriately what is in their heart. They are fun to be around, and exiting. Their smiles and laughter are infectious; they light up the room. They love fully and dream big. They enjoy telling jokes. They are empathetic and inspirational, and imaginative.

The virtue of the fire person is warmth, propriety, appropriate intimacy and connection with others, clear articulation, ability to act on what is right. They are in rhythm with life. The primary emotion is joy. Primary concerns are love, trust, and intimacy.

Interestingly, their body odor may be like that of a campfire. This may sound odd, but rub the bend in their arm and sniff. (Like a “Scratch and sniff” – haha)  They may have the color red in their skin tone or hair. 

For a brief introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine, please click here.
For a brief description of each element (phase) wood, fire, earth, metal, water, please click here.

General Pathology of the Fire Element

When unhealthy, the converse is likely. They tend to be over-controlling, and inappropriate with boundaries around sexuality. They trust who they should not trust, and have difficulty trusting who they should. They move from one passion to another, often forgetting the original plan. They may chase their passion to their own destruction, and not understand what happened. They have difficulty expressing themselves and become very hard for others to understand. They may not realize that they are expressing themselves in a confusing way and become angry with others for not understanding them. Rather than being the life of the party, the may even become the wall flower in the corner. They can be nervous, overly talkative, unable to relax, agitated, unpredictable, impulsive, sarcastic. They are essentially “out of rhythm” with life.

Common Health Concerns of the Fire Element

Fittingly, the primary organs associated with fire are the heart and the small intestine. A fire person is wise to give special attention to heart health. If over-stimulated they may experience congestive heart conditions, palpitations, rashes, migraines, insomnia, ADD/ADHD, arrhythmia, edema, stuttering, fidgeting, cold sores/mouth ulcers, or associated mental and emotional disorders, including mania, by-polar disorder, anxiety, forgetfulness, foggy-headedness, excess desire, even inappropriate laughter. They will also experience relationship issues.

Noteworthy: Firefighters on duty, face a much higher risk or heart attack. It is more likely they will die from heart disease than fire. If you love a fire-fighter, please urge them to take care of their heart health!

Optimizing Health (Summer, Fire)
Methods for reaching the highest level possible

  • The sensory organ of the fire element is the tongue. Watch for redness on the tip of the tongue. This may suggest excessive heat in the body. Also, watch for stuttering and lisps. This may indicate vascular issues or mental confusion.
  • Related to the small intestine, watch for excessive or spontaneous sweating, sweaty palms. this may suggest issues with gluten.
  • Avoid energy drinks, coffee, cigarettes, and drug use. This may include prescription drugs– of course, do not discontinue use of any prescribed medication without consulting with your physician!
  • A fire person may be able to release heat through exercise, such as dancing and swimming. Also, helpful are calming activities such as reading, message, or lying on the beach.
  • A good diet is crucial! Cooling foods will reduce heat issues. Bitter foods are helpful for heart conditions, and inflammation.

Healing Foods – Per TCM (Summer, Fire)

In general, enjoy brightly colored fruits and vegetables of summer’s bounty. Cook foods quickly with high heat. Or eat foods which are raw, sprouted, steamed, or simmered. Eat light meals. Reduce salt. Increase water. Counter-intuitively, it is advisable to avoid very cold foods on hot days, like ice cream, as these are not easily digested when the body is hot.

Cooling Foods

These foods are helpful if a person is manifesting excessive heat in the body. Indications may include mania, chest pain, rapid pulse, mouth ulcers, inflammation, swellings, redness, mental restlessness, dark urine, tongue with a very red tip, excessive talking or cussing.

Mung beans, red beans, apples, watermelon, mulberries, persimmon, lemon, peach, strawberry, kiwi, beets, bitter melon, carrots, lotus root, cucumber, celery, duck, oysters, sushi, mint tea, flower and leaf teas, bamboo leaf tea

A cucumber salad, with many of these ingredients, would be great! Watch for future recipe postings.

Bitter Foods 

These foods are helpful in cleaning arteries of damp deposits from cholesterol and fats. They help the body to purge toxins which cause or aggravate skin eruptions, candida, lung congestion, congestion in digestive track and vessels, abscesses, tumors, and cysts.

Bitter greens, like dandelion, bitter melon, arugula, radicchio, romaine, radish leaf, burdock root, chamomile, alfalfa sprouts, citrus peels, grapefruit, papaya, scallions, turnips, taro root, amaranth, quinoa, asparagus, broccoli, celery, vinegar.

For the fire person, bitter foods may be beneficial for regular incorporation in the diet.

Personally, I like dark chocolate (bitter) with strawberries (cooling). You, and your healthcare provider, must determine what is beneficial for you.

Heart Blood Deficiency – If there are palpitations, anxiety, difficulty in falling asleep and/or staying asleep, general restlessness, poor memory, then foods high in iron, like spinach and other dark leafy greens, may be beneficial. Also, rare beef, lamb, pork, chicken, chicken eggs, homemade soup stocks, grapes, apricots, dates, berries, kidney beans, gogi berries, longan.

Small Intestine Congestion: Indications may include ADD/ADHD, mental confusion, dyslexia, sexual perversion, general lack of clarity; one may feel congested. Completely eliminate gluten, dairy and sugar. Vegetables, particularly fibrous and low sugar content, should make up at least half the diet. Beneficial choices include apple, pear, berries, legumes, okra, avocado, kale, and other greens. If there is no indication of excessive heat, such as redness or a yellow coating  on the tongue, etc., then building digestive fire in the small intestine will be helpful. In this case, you may include ginger, cinnamon, and chilies.

For more information:


During summer months, this blog will feature bright colorful nourishing summer foods, using appropriate preparation methods to make these foods both inviting and bioavailable. You can, of course, adjust them according to your personal taste and needs.


Please note: This information is provided as a general introduction to the principles of TCM. Please consult you physician of choice concerning all matters pertaining to your personal health.

Tex-Mex Seven Layer Dip with Refried Seeds

Seven layer dip is sooooo delicious! All those layers of colors, flavors, and textures – salty, tangy, creamy, crispy, sweet, spicy – blended into one rich indulgent bite on a crunchy chip or celery stick – you just can’t beat it. It is great for a summer party, game night, or even a Friday night dinner.

This version is for everyone! It is delicious whether or not you can eat beans, onion, gluten. Make components ahead and throw them together as needed.

Tex-Mex seven layer dip, as it is traditionally prepared, is not always a friend of the IBS sufferer. But why should that be? If you love someone who has IBS, try this dip. We are keeping some of the tradition, along with all the fun and full flavor, and adding a twist.


Recently I prepared this dish for a casual gathering of friends… uh humm… the dip never made it there. Somehow it got consumed at home and we had to take buns and drinks instead. The dip bandit(s) shall remain nameless.  Oh well; when game season rolls around again, we will redeem ourselves.

This dip is perfect for a Low FODMAP diet, which means it is:

  • lactose-free (or low lactose)
  • gluten-free
  • legume-free
  • free of excess fructans

This dish is easily digestible for many IBS sufferers. And it blends creamy, crunchy, sweet, tangy, salty and spicy, as any good Tex-Mex Seven Layer Dip should!

Her’s how to make it.



Tex-Mex Seven Layer Dip with Refried Seeds

Gather and prepare all seven components and get ready to layer. Directions here are for individual servings in 9 oz plastic cups or small glass bowls.

  1. Tex-Mex Refried Seeds, see recipe here
  2. Shredded Zucchini
  3. Lactose-free Sour Cream
  4. Low FODMAP Salsa, see recipe here
  5. Shredded Romaine Lettuce
  6. Sharp Cheddar Cheese (if you prefer no lactose, omit cheese or sub with lactose-free)
  7. Olives

Use the links provided for recipes for refried seeds and salsa.  These are great make-aheads!

Spoon 1/4 cup (or 2 oz) refried seeds into the bottom of the serving cup. Then layer in shredded zucchini – about 2 T. No special treatment needed for zucchini; it provides just the right texture simply shredded.  Then 1/4 cup (or 2 oz) lactose-free sour cream, or dairy-free if you prefer. Next, layer shredded romaine lettuce, enough to fill the cup. Sprinkle a little cheese over the lettuce – using sharp brings a lot of flavor with less cheese. Top with olives, to your liking.

Note: Each batch in this refried seeds recipe makes about three servings, if you use 2 oz per serving – you can use less. It you want more servings, just make additional batches. Personally, I like equal parts refried seeds, sour cream and salsa. Feel free to adjust ratios as you desire.


Individual Tex-Mex Seven Layer Dip - Low FODMAP and party-ready!
Individual Tex-Mex Seven Layer Dip – Low FODMAP and party-ready!



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Tex-Mex Refried Seeds

Nutritionists often suggest hiding healthy foods in other food… “the kids will never know” they say. Well, my kids know. They will detect the smallest granule. Believe me – I have tried sneaking things in! I did get away with it somewhat when they were little, but no more. To be honest, that was really more like never letting them know that meatloaf could be made without spinach and oats – muah ha ha. But they are old and wise now; they know many many flavors.  My daughter’s palate will isolate every nuance of flavor,  and my son insists on perfect texture as well. That’s why I just have to put the healthy things right out there, front and center, and make them great!

If you have not worked much with seeds, you will be amazed at their versatility and how great they can taste in many different applications.  Forget nutritional value (for now), they just provide texture and flavor that hit the spot.

When I make this dish, my discriminating kids eat them up with chips and salsa, then my ever-growing son later looks for leftovers in the fridge in case there are any to finish off. Triumph!

Tex-Mex Refried Seeds

So, a bit about the “special diet” side of things. This dish fits easily into many diets, paleo, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free. But it is also a great option for a Low FODMAP diet, or anyone who cannot easily digest beans.

Per TCM, sunflower seeds are warming and sweet, beneficial to the pancreas (for the earth person), and relieve dryness in the intestines.

They are a great source of selenium (cancer-fighter), magnesium, copper, and antioxidants, providing benefits throughout the entire body!

These refried seeds can be used pretty much any way you would use refried beans – in a wrap, with eggs, in a dip, you name it.

Here’s how to make them:

Plan Ahead!
“Sprout” sunflower seeds at least an hour before you plan to use them; I usually do this the day before. Simply place seeds into a container, cover with water, and refrigerate. A more accurate term for this may be “soaking”, but really doesn’t “sprouting” sound better? And this term is commonly accepted for soaking and sprouting (nuts, seeds, and grains).

Why sprout first? Because sprouting unlocks nutrition inside the seeds, making it much more bio-available for your body!  And for culinary purposes, it also improves the texture for food preparation and adds a bit of sweetness. Win-win.

Sprout sun-dried tomatoes if you intend to use them.

Have garlic-infused olive oil and pureed ancho ready, if you want those flavors. I highly recommend them.

Tex-Mex Refried Seeds


  • 1 cup sprouted sunflower seeds (note: starting with about 3/4 c raw will yield about a cup sprouted)
  • 1/2 T garlic-infused olive oil (a must to keep on hand for Low FODMAP eating)
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t ancho chile puree (preferred), or chile powder (adjust according to preferred heat level)
  • 3-4 green onion stems (green part only for Low FODMAP)
  • 2 T liquid – water or vegetable broth
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 2 T water
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • options: 4 sun-dried tomato halves (these will need to be presoaked, at least 2 hours), or 1 t tahini paste, or 1-2 dates

Combine all ingredients into a processor and blend to desired consistency. (I like a somewhat chunky texture, but if you have trouble digesting little pieces, make the puree smooth) If you like your food raw, you are done!

Option: To develop the flavors a bit further, place mixture in a saute pan on low-medium heat. Add liquid if needed. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Add more garlic-infused olive oil for richness if desired. Bump up heat, spices, or acidity as it suits your taste.

Yield: about 6 oz, 190 g, 3/4 cup

The following options will add richness and vary flavor. Determine what you would like to add based on how you will use the dish.

  • 4 sundried tomato halves added to the puree. Avoid those soaked in oil with other flavors if you are preparing this for a LowFODMAP diet. These will need to be presoaked, at least 2 hours.
  • 1 t. tahini paste helps to create a very nice texture and deeper flavor; if you add too much, it will taste like hummus, which is great if you want a hummus flavor!
  • 1-2 dates will add not only richness, but a bit of sweetness

The dip pictured above will be used in a seven-layer dip so no additional flavor needed. I kept it simple and clean.

If you make adjustments or additions that work well for you, please share!



Garlic-infused oil and reconstituted peppers.

* You can make your own infused olive oil. Emeril Lagassi uses a ratio of 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil to 4 cloves garlic. If I am doing Low FODMAP cooking, I might throw in more garlic! Place olive oil into a small pot on the stove top.  Heat, bringing the temperature up to 200° – this is a good simmer. Add garlic cloves. Simmer for 5 minutes. This is important to prevent bacterial growth (Clostridium Botulinum). Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Strain out garlic. Keep oil in a sealed container, out of direct light. You can leave garlic pieces in the oil and garlic flavor will intensify in storage; I find it easier to have them out of the way. It is preferable to allow flavors to develop 24 hours before using.

**To reconstitute dried pepper(s), cut away stem(s) and discard. Cut pepper(s) open and remove seeds, discard.   Place peppers in a small pot, covered with water. Simmer until softened. Remove peppers from water and puree until smooth.  This is a great do-ahead. Keep in the fridge and add to dishes for a little kick.