Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mindfulness Is Good for Your Heart—and Your Waistline

Mindfulness Is Good for Your Heart—and Your Waistline

By Adam Hoffman 

Two new studies suggest that mindful people have a lower risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

In a country where it is often easier to find fried chicken than fresh produce and sedentary lifestyles have become the norm, eating right and staying active can be a constant struggle. Right now, many people are making New Year’s resolutions to become healthier and more fit in the upcoming year.
But new research from scientists at Brown University has demonstrated that individuals who are naturally mindful tend to have healthier hearts and a reduced risk of obesity. In the face of temptations to eat junk food and sit in front of the TV all day, they seem to have chosen a healthier path that we all could emulate. 

In general, mindful people are more aware of the present moment and observe their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without judging them as good or bad. They tend to disagree with statements like “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” or “I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.”
In this new study, led by assistant professor of epidemiology Eric Loucks, the research team measured mindfulness in nearly 400 adults and assessed its relationship to their cardiovascular health, as measured by levels of smoking, body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, fasting glucose, blood pressure, fruit and vegetable consumption, and physical activity. In order to be considered in “good cardiovascular health” by the American Heart Association, you need to be in the healthy range for four of these seven indicators.
Their results, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, indicated that highly mindful individuals were 86 percent more likely to be in good cardiovascular health than individuals low in mindfulness—even after adjusting for age, gender, and race. More specifically, mindful participants smoked less, exercised more, and displayed significantly lower BMI and fasting glucose levels than participants with less mindful dispositions.
The researchers propose that mindfulness might help people gain more clarity about their thoughts, sensations, and emotions, thereby promoting a greater sense of control and allowing them to make better health choices. For example, someone could use mindfulness to be more aware of how they feel before, during, and after physical activity in order to motivate themselves to go to the gym more. Indeed, a significant part of the link between mindfulness and cardiovascular health was attributable to mindful people feeling a greater sense of control and less depression, which is thought to lead to more heart-friendly behaviors.
And the positive associations of mindfulness don’t stop there. In a separate study, the research group also compared mindfulness with fat levels around the stomach and abdomen, which put people at risk for diabetes and heart disease no matter what their BMI. They found that less mindful participants had a pound of extra belly fat compared to their highly mindful peers, even after taking into account several other factors that might have influenced the results, such as the participants’ age, gender, race, birth weight, or childhood socioeconomic status.
But is mindfulness causing our hearts to be healthy and our stomachs to be slim? These studies can’t prove it, although researchers have reason to believe that it’s a contributing factor. For example, adults in the second study who had overcome childhood obesity and become fit were more mindful than adults who had been fit all their lives.
Loucks hypothesizes that more mindful individuals are less likely to let powerful cravings dictate their eating behaviors. For example, someone with a sweet tooth might use mindfulness to become aware of their craving for ice cream, but not act on it.

“Our brains are set up to crave fatty, salty, sugary foods for good reason—up until recently in our evolutionary history, it wasn’t so easy to come across enough calories to feed us,” he says. “With increased awareness of thoughts, sensations, and emotions around diet, we can know that our cravings are just thoughts that will eventually pass, which may help in reducing obesity.”
Loucks and his team are now working to create customized mindfulness programs in populations with high blood pressure. The good news for those who are easily distracted and have a hard time focusing on the present moment is that mindfulness can be improved through training. If you find it hard to change your diet and exercise habits directly, mindfulness might help—and it might protect your heart in the long run. 


Friday, October 6, 2017

Vegetarian Sate Noodle Soup

Eating more vegetables these days is not "a la mode", but it is the scientific way to have a long healthy life. I share this recipe with my readers because I believe this soup is the best of vegetarian soups. The vegetable broth is loaded with healthy root vegetables; also the spicy use to finish the soup is a cross between Pho and Bun Bo Hue. I like to prepare this soup when I feel undecided which soup that I can have for my dinner, and this is the one. Move over, the sate sauce added as a final touch is unbelievable way to describe how wonderful it is of having this soup for dinner on a cold day or even under the weather. For a shortcut to have this soup, my suggestion is always have broth ready and sate sauce. I like to make my own broth and sate sauce. However, there are many good vegetarian broths and sate sauces are available for busy cooks.

12 cups of vegetable broth with lemongrass*
1 piece ginger
3 shallots
10 garlic cloves
3 star anise
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 small piece of cinnamon stick
Other ingredients:
1/2  Japanese pumpkin peel and cut into chunk
1 gourd, peeled and cut into big bites
9 oz king oyster mushrooms, sliced
14.5 oz tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes and fried
1/4 cup sate sauce*

Garnish with chopped green onions, basil and cilantro
Serve with rice noodles
Seasoning with salt, sugar, soy sauce and black pepper

Cook the rice noodles according to the label on the package and set aside.
Place ginger and shallot on a baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Peel the shallots and discard the skin.

In a frying pan, roast the cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and coriander seeds for few minutes or until fragrant (be careful not to burn them).

 Place in a container and include the roast ginger and shallots

For easy removal later, the container to use for these spices are selling at Asian supermarkets.
Bring vegetables to boil. My broth to use for this soup is the one I made with lemongrass, Drop a handful of lemongrass to the broth if you do not have the broth made with lemongrass.

 Add spice package and simmer for 10 minutes then add  gourd, and pumpkin.

 Simmer for 25 minutes and add tofu and king oyster mushrooms. Remove spice package and lemongrass at this point. Season with salt, sugar, and soy sauce to your liking. Add sate sauce just before serving.

Place cooked noodles on the bottom of a serving bowl; top with tofu, pumpkin, gourd, and mushrooms. Ladle the broth over and top with basil, cilantro, and green onions. Serve extra sate sauce on the side with lemon wedges.

*In a saute pan add 1/3 cup of oil and fried the tofu until golden brown

* follow the instructions for homemade sate posted in my blog on July, 18,2015.
* Follow the instructions for homemade vegetable stock posted in my blog on January 02/2012

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick Zucchini-Carrot-Blueberry Bread

The title says it all. This is a quick bread that tastes wonderful and is easy to make. It only takes a few minutes to prepare with only a few simple ingredients. Most of them are already in everyone’s kitchen. I like this bread because the ingredients are healthy, and they are just some leftovers for some recipes. I add blueberry because it is what I have on hand, but another berry can be used or omitted if it is not available. Enjoy this easy recipe to serve family, guests, or friends. I guarantee they will love it.

2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
2 total cups shredded zucchini, carrot, and blueberry
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
1 cup coconut or regular milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted cool butter
1 tsp oil to grease the pan

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with coconut oil and set aside.
Combine zucchini, carrot and blueberry and set aside.
Whisk flour, cinnamon, pumpkin spice and baking soda in mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine milk, eggs, sugar vanilla in a Vitamix blender container. Blend for 20 seconds.
Pour the egg-milk mixture into the flour.

 Use a spatula to mix well. I use the old technique, which is 50 turns. Add zucchini mixture.

Pour batter onto the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes; then slice and serve.

Mushrooms-Cherry-Tomatoes Quiche

Quiche is one of my favorite finger foods, which serves as an hors d’oeuvres at any party. However, quiche is also made with heavy cream, cheese, and the crust makes me feel a little uneasy to eat.  To create a healthier version of quiche so that I can enjoy it for dinner, I will share this recipe. I use my fresh cherry tomatoes from my garden, mushrooms and some vegetables that I have on hand. Instead of using heavy cream, I replace the cream with coconut milk which also cuts down quite a lot of calorie. I am very happy with this recipe and hope that you will also.

One 9 inch store-bought unbaked pie crust
3 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups low fat cheese (your choice)
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup broccoli
1/2 cup asparagus, sliced
2 minced garlic cloves
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbs olive oil
Salt, pepper, chili flakes, mustard powder to taste.

In a mixing bowl whisk eggs and milk and set aside is to.
In a sauté pan, add oil, sautéed garlic, and shallots until fragrant (about 2 minutes).

 Stir in mushrooms and cook until soft. Add broccoli and asparagus and cook until tender (about 3 minutes). 

Season with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and mustard powder.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place half of the cheese on the bottom of the pie.

Pour the cooked vegetables over.

Top with cherry tomatoes.

Pour the egg and milk mixture over.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the egg sets and is golden brown.

Let quiche cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Grilled Honey-Sate Chicken

Today, I will introduce this recipe to my readers. Sate is a combination sauce of garlic, shallot, lemongrass and fresh hot chili or dry. The sate sauce is another signature in Asian kitchen. Every household has his or her own sate recipe. However, nowadays, the sate sold in an Asian grocery is very good. This recipe can be baked or grilled. It is a meal easily put together. Enjoy!!

6 chicken thighs
Marinade sauce:
3 tbs sate homemade or store-brought*
2 tbs honey
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs blackstrap molasses
1 tsp 5 spice
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
Other ingredients:
Green onions, cilantro
Hot cooked rice

Wash and dry the chicken thighs.

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs.

 Cover and let chicken marinate for few hours or overnight.
Remove chicken from the marrinade and either bake or grill
If baking, line the baking sheet with foil and bake in a preheated oven set to 375° for 30 minutes. Turn chicken over halfway through baking.

If grilling, Prepare the grill and grill about 2 minutes on each side of the meat.
Sprinkle chopped green onions and cilantro on top. Serve with rice.

* follow the instructions for homemade sate posted in my blog on July, 18,2015.

Easy Rice Cooker Prepared Taro Desert (Chè khoai môn)

A rice cooker is not just for making rice anymore. This kitchen gadget can make desserts, such as cake, sweet congee, and even baking. However, one of my favorite Vietnamese desserts is Chè khoai môn, and this dessert is very easy to make using a rice cooker.

1 cup sweet sticky rice. washed and drained
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups coconut milk*
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
For taro ingredients:
1 to 1 ½ lbs. taro
1/2 cup sugar

For taro:
Peel and cut taro into big chunks. Place in a Microwave safe dish and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. It depends on each microwave, but the taro should be tender. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and mix well. Let it stand for 30 minutes.

In the rice cooker, add rice, coconut milk, water, salt and cooked taro. Close the lid and press the cook function. When the rice is done, add the 1/2 cup sugar and mix well.

For this recipe if you can find a fresh pandan leaf, it will be perfect and add this leaf at the beginning or use vanilla extract when adding sugar. Serve with coconut cream on top.

To make coconut cream:
1 can of coconut cream
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Mix well the ingredients together and place on the saucepan and bring to boil; simmer until coconut cream has thickened.

* I use Costco coconut milk because it is light, and it will bring some health benefits while enjoying this dessert. However, you can just use all water.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Crockpot Roasted Tomato Soup

There are many health benefits from tomatoes, and I cannot mention enough for my readers to consume tomatoes daily, especially, cooked tomatoes. Go to this website to learn more about healthy eating tomatoes. I created this tomato soup using a crackpot to make cooking healthy food much easier. I also use some vegetables such as carrot, daikon and even corn to this soup to make it completely vegan and gluten free...


2 lbs. tomatoes cut into wedges

1/2 onion, cut into big slices

3 garlic cloves, shelled

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt


1 cup water

1 carrot, sliced

1 piece of daikon, cubed

1 celery stalk, sliced

1/2 cup corn

2 bay leaves

1 tsp herb Devonne


Place tomatoes, garlic, and onion on a baking sheet; Drizzle with oil and salt. Bake in preheated oven set for 350° for 20 minutes.

In a crockpot, place roasted tomato mixture with the rest of ingredients and cook for 4 hours.

Use handheld blender to blend the soup to smooth. Season the soup before serving. Sugar can be added to subdue some acid from tomato.