May 2009 – Detoxing Your Kitchen


Just coming back from Maui where I lived on fresh foods, locally grown, and picked the day I ate them I am compelled to talk about food this month . . .
And with the government trying to get too involved with our food supply via codex alimentarius and the HB 875 bill looming over us getting more educated about our food supply is important.

SLOW FOOD!  Make your own food, grow your own food!  
Check your cupboards—better yet check your grocery cart before the foods even make it to your cupboard!  How many foods do you buy in a box?  Processed foods are the absolute worst enemy—forget about worrying about fat, white flour, sugar, etc – worry about processed and GMO (genetically modified) foods!  If you eat fresh foods you will not get too much fat, white flour, or sugar!  It is processed foods that get these nutrients (or lack of nutrients) out of balance in our bodies.  It is startling to realize that in face of an obese nation, many of these obese people are sub-clinically mal-nourished!  That is right, they are fat from eating too many calories but mal-nourished from not eating nutrients.  This shows the state of our food supply!

Slow food does not necessarily take long to prepare!  Prepare your meals from fresh foods; primarily vegetables with a little grain, and for you carnivores out there cooking meat is not difficult nor time consuming.  Slow food is just a habit you get into.  If your habit is buying prepared foods realize that you are getting primarily GMO foods that have been stripped of nutrients and instead are laced with chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, sugar, salt or MSG . . . basically your anti-nutrients!

Print off the list of seasonal foods from or ask me to email you mine, and stock your house with those foods; breakfast should consist mostly of fruit and your main meal should consist mostly of vegetables!  I look at grains as a vehicle to get vegetables into your body.  For example, how many vegetables can you get into a wrap or on rice or over pasta?  How much salsa can you get on a corn chip?  How many vegetables can you put between two slices of bread?

And where to buy these foods?  It is not that difficult to buy from local farmers!  We have several CSAs in the area, and we happen to have a great farmers market right here in our back yard.  My Saturday routine is to teach and then go to the farmers market.  However you do have to know which stands to buy from, as sad as it seems many of the stands at the farmers market have food that were not grown locally by the farmer selling it!  My two favorite stands that I know sells their own food that they grow are Pippin Run Farms and D&S Produce.  And in the off season if they do buy food from other suppliers they are picky who they buy from and the quality of food they are getting.  In addition to a CSA and a Farmers Market ask around and see if you can find a farmer who will sell fresh meat and/or eggs to you (we happen to live in farmland! so this is easier than you think).  Holly can recommend some local farms that she buys her meat from (you can email Holly at ).  We are lucky to have a fresh supply of eggs here at the studio from a little farm where the hens are named and loved, fed a natural diet, and live the good life of running the farm yard!

Just a note on codex alimentarius and the HB875 bill, this bill is being promoted as a food safety bill, but what it is really trying to do is shut down organic and local farms and promote big agribusiness.  It is proposing that by the government regulating our food supply it will ensure us of safe food—however the problems in our food come from these big food companies!  The diseases are caused by large numbers of animals confined to small spaces.  If this  bill gets passed it will allow the government to tell farmers what to grow, how to grow it, what pesticides to use, etc.  It will basically ban organic foods and small farms and even back yard gardens!  Codex Alimentaruis is a committee that was set up by the WTO (world trade organization)—the WTO is a about money, not food safety (as are the FDA and the USDA!).  What codex alimentarius is trying to do is make all farmers register their farm animals so the government can track the animal.  This is fine and inexpensive for big farm businesses and time consuming and costly for small farmers, this is supposed to be done by December 31 of this year!  If this goes through it will put the small farmers out of business.  Monsanto is largely behind the bill and codex alimentarius as they have a lot to profit from.  Monsanto is evil, not only have they patented certain GMO seeds, but when the seeds blow into neighboring farms, they sue the farmer for growing their seed without purchasing it from them—and the farmer (in most cases) does not even want to grow their seed!

Sorry about the political stuff—and I am not a political person! But I care very much about our food supply.  So try to buy foods that are not boxed, bagged, in plastic or styrofoam, etc. and remember SLOW FOOD—grow your own food and even more important cook your own food.

Spice up your Life
I prefer to talk about foods and herbs that you should keep on hand, instead of talking about what not to put in your kitchen (processed foods!), its nice to approach it from a positive side and give information about what to put in your cupboards.

Herbs mon!  Herbs are very potent with antioxidants and healing properties.  Ayurveda cooks with lots of herbs to increase digestion, for healing purposes, and just for taste.
Ayurveda uses the entire herb, even in herbal pills—it is the entire herb ground and pressed.
When cooking with herbs you first want to heat your ghee or oil (more on oils below), then add any seeds next (cumin seeds, mustard seeds, etc), then any fresh herbs (ex. Ginger), then powdered herbs.  The heat increases the food value of the herb—it releases the prana or vital energy from the herbs.  Powdered herbs are always added last as they will burn quicker than seeds or fresh herbs.

The  herbs I always have on hand:
Ginger – fresh and powdered.  Especially beneficial in the winter and spring, ginger is heating, aids in digestion, circulation, and is anti-inflammatory.  It is a common remedy for colds and cough.

  • All winter and spring I chop up fresh ginger and make ginger tea
  • Mix together ginger juice, lemon, and honey as a premeal tonic that improves digestion
  • To relieve cold and flu symptoms (cough and congestion) make a tea of ginger, cinnamon, and fennel (1 tsp of each in 1 cup of tea)

Tumeric – known as the holy powder in India is the most potent beneficial herb; it cures the whole person.  You should keep in on hand at all times (I even travel with it).  It can be used topically on skin wounds or taken internally (and cooked with).  It has antioxidant, anti-cancer, antibiotic, antiviral and other properties, and most recently has been discovered that it aids in weight loss.

Scientifically proven anti-cancer benefits or tumeric

  • Inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells
  • Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor
  • Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body

Beyond cancer, tumeric’s effects appear to extend throughout your entire body, with benefits that include:

  • Strengthening and improving your digestion
  • Supporting healthy liver function and detoxification
  • Purifying your blood
  • Fighting arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anti-inflammatory properties


  • I put ¼ tsp of tumeric in my morning tonic
  • For skin wounds mix ½ tsp of tumeric with 1 tsp aloe vera and apply
  • Apply tumeric directly to the affected area of the mouth for canker sores or swollen gums
  • If you have a family history of melanoma take tumeric  3x a day as preventative
  • For a sun block for your moles you can mix 2 parts ghee to 1 part tumeric and apply


Cinnamon is slightly heating, so use it sparingly in the summer.  It aids in digestion, improves circulation (it is a mild blood thinner), and helps stabilize your blood sugar.

  • I sprinkle cinnamon on my coffee and over my fresh fruit and yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast
  • I also cook a lot with cinnamon, try adding it to soups and stir-fry’s –you’ll be surprised how good it tastes!

Cardamom is slightly heating as well.  It is good for coughs, breathlessness, and stress.  Cardamom calms the adrenals (your adrenal glands are your “stress glands” they control the fight or flight response and also regulate corisol release into the bloodstream), so adding it to coffee is suggested (coffee stresses the adrenals).  Cardamom also aids in digestion and improves the taste of food.

  • I grind cardamom seeds in with my coffee beans when I make my 1 perfect cup of coffee each day
  • I add cardamom pods to my rice when boiling
  • You can chew on cardamom for a breath freshener
  • Add cardamom to your oatmeal
  • For breathlessness make a paste of a pinch of cardamom, a pinch of rock salt, 1 tsp ghee, and ½ tsp honey and lick it off a spoon

Cumin is an aromatic seed and is another herb used heavily in Ayurveda because of its distinctive taste and medicinal qualities.  Cumin first and foremost kindles our digestive fires and improves the absorption of minerals in the intestines.  It relieves stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and gas.

  • For nausea or upset stomach make a tea of 1 tsp cumin seeds and a pinch of ground nutmeg in 1 cup boiling water and steep for 10 minutes
  • I use cumin in Salad dressings to help digest the raw foods.
  • For menstrual cramps roast cumin seeds in an ungreased iron pan, chew a spoonful slowly and then follow up with a tablespoon of aloe vera juice.

Cilantro is the plant from the seed coriander, the benefits are similar just less potent using the cilantro.  Cilantro/coriander is cooling and but is good to use year round, they also have a diuretic property to them, and can reduce fever.

  • For fever try ½ tsp each of coriander and cinnamon, and a ¼ tsp of ginger. Steep in hot water for 10 minutes before drinking
  • Cilantro chelates metals such as mercury and moves these toxins out of the body.  I make a cilantro pesto about 1 once every week or so.  I also make my own salsa and guac with high amounts of cilantro.

Mint is very cooling and easy to grow.  All summer long I put mint leaves in my water to help me stay cool and avoid using the a/c!

Shekhars churnas (spice mixtures from my Ayurvedic Dr. that I cook everyday with)
Vata – cumin, ginger, fenugreek, tumeric, asafetida (use in fall and winter)
Pitta – Coriander, fennel, cumin, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, tumeric (use in summer)
Kapha – ginger, black pepper, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon (use in spring)

And the most important ingredient is LOVE, COOK WITH LOVE!

Oils and Butter
Fat is not the enemy!  Our body needs fats, especially in the winter time.  Fat stores certain vitamins in our body (A,D,E,and K), insulates and protects our organs, keeps our hair, skin, and eyes lustrous and healthy, aids in digestion and food moving through our body, and helps some nutrients absorb into the cell.  Of course, as with most foods there are certain seasons we need more fat than others.  Fall and Winter our body needs fat to counter all the dryness in the air, in the summer we can handle modest amounts of fat, and in the spring we want to eat a low fat diet to kick our body into a fat burning system instead of a sugar burning system after our winter hibernation.

The type of fat you eat is important!  First, coconut and palm oils, and butter/ghee are not the villains we once thought they were.  The tests that proved coconut oil harmful were actually done with hydrogenated coconut oil.  More recent research proves it was the hydrogenation (processing) of the oil that makes it harmful to our bodies, not the oil itself.
So first and foremost avoid anything hydrogenated including margarine.  You also want to avoid highly processed oils such as oils from vegetables, soy, corn, canola, safflower, etc.  These foods are naturally low in fat, the kind of fat they provide our body does not need much of (think how much corn you would have to eat to get a cup of oil!).  Nature provides what we need, when you eat the whole vegetable you don’t get much oil from it!

The best oils to use are foods that naturally are saturated with it; olives, coconut, avacado, some seeds and nuts (peanuts tend to be mold quickly are are seldom pressed for oil before mold has set in on the peanut therefore Ayurveda does not recommend the use of peanut oil and sunflower oil is highly processed to get the oil from the seed so I avoid it).  The oils I use mostly are coconut, olive, butter/ghee, and sesame oil.

The fatty acids in coconut (primarily lauric and capric) have unique properties in that they are antiviral and antibacterial and actually help the body with immunity to the flu, HIV, herpes, and other bacterial issues.  Also the fat in coconut oil is a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT), this type of fat actually speeds up your metabolism!  Coconut oil is best used in the summer and spring, use it sparingly in the winter as it is cooling.

We have all heard of heart benefits of Olive oil, I always use extra virgin olive oil as it is the most pure and has the least processing.  Olive oil is good in summer and spring as well, it is ok to use in the winter however it is a “lighter” oil so in the winter I use the heavier oil sesame oil, plus sesame oil is heating (so it should not be used in the summer).  Do not use olive oil to cook at high heat, as it breaks down, you should only use olive oil in low heat (ex. sautéing vegetables).

Butter/Ghee – Ghee is a staple in Ayurveda, ghee is clarified butter–basically “clean butter” it is heated and all the froth and cream is scraped off the top, all that remains is clear yellow fat.  Ghee helps digestion because it stimulates the secretion of your digestive juices.  When used with various herbs it helps their medicinal properties enter our tissues.  Ghee also is useful in detoxification as “greases” our digestive track . . . and ghee also promotes the healing of wounds.  Butter is useful for many of these same reasons; ghee is just more pure than butter.   I do use butter too, but not processed

butter.  I get my butter from the farmers market, there is a stand there (Rettingers) that sells old fashioned Amish tub butter–and wait til you taste it . . . you will never want to use any other kind of butter again!

So don’t be afraid to use oils and butter in moderation and seasonally, and remember; make your own foods–SLOW FOOD and cook with Love.

Comments are closed.

« Back