Tag Archives: Healthy Cooking

Healthy Cooking: Brawny Barley, Spring Cleanser, by Val Wilson

Spring is the time of year when we become more active, go outside, and reawaken after the more sedentary winter energy phase. Our bodies go through a natural cleansing at this time of year. It is easy to see how the organs associated with this phase are the liver, gallbladder, and nervous system, the organs associated with detoxing the body. The liver and gallbladder are primarily responsible for purifying the blood. When these organs are working properly, they neutralize poisons and toxins and remove them from the blood. The liver also regulates the release of sugars into the body for fuel. If the liver is overtaxed from the over-consumption of dense fatty foods such as dairy foods, it cannot properly give the body energy. To make sure these important organs are working properly, we can incorporate the signature whole grain for spring, barley.

Barley is the whole grain known for cleansing the body. It is one of the oldest grains, originating in Southwest Asia around 8500 B.C. Roasted barley was one of the main foods of the gladiators because of its strength-building properties. Known for strengthening the blood and intestines, barley contains potassium, iron, calcium, protein, and fiber. When buying barley, look for whole barley. Pearl barley has the bran polished off, losing the fiber and other nutrients. Barley is excellent in soups, stews, salads, and vegetable dishes. It has a chewy, creamy texture, and a nice sweet taste. If you have gluten sensitivities, substitute brown rice for any recipe using barley.

Barley Vegetable Stew

9 cups water
1 cup barley
4 inch piece kombu
1 onion (diced)
5 garlic cloves (minced)
3 carrots (diced)
2 yellow summer squash (cut in small cubes)
2 celery stalks (diced)
2 cups mushrooms (cut up)
1 (15 oz.) can white beans (drained)
1/3 cup dark miso
1 tsp. sea salt

Bring the water to a boil in a soup pot. Add the kombu and cook for a couple minutes until kombu is soft. Remove from water, cut into small pieces, and add back to pot. Add the barley and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, yellow summer squash, celery, and mushrooms. Continue simmering with cover on for 20 minutes more. Add the beans and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Take some of the hot broth and dissolve the miso and sea salt in it. Add back to the pot, turn off heat, and mix all together.

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Perceptions in Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.


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Healthy Cooking for Fall, by Val Wilson

When cooking tasty fall dishes it is important to use rich, aromatic seasoning to satisfy our taste buds. We have been enjoying the light fare of summertime foods and now it is time to add more seasonings and richness to our food. In the fall we turn our ovens back on and enjoy casseroles and start to crave warming soups.

Two important seasonings we can enjoy in the fall are toasted sesame oil and tamari. Toasted sesame oil has a nutty, earthy flavor that works very well when sautéing. A unique natural by-product of sesame seeds, sesamol, protects sesame oil from oxidation. This means the oil is less subject to rancidity and loss of flavor over a period of time. Toasted sesame oil is also high in linoleic acid, one of the three essential fatty acids our body cannot produce. Tamari is a wonderful, salty condiment used to flavor all kinds of dishes. It is simply the salty liquid that comes from the fermenting of soybeans. Good quality tamari contains enzymes and amino acids that aid in digestion. Tamari also has the unique ability to neutralize the extremes of being over acidic or over alkaline. The lactic and phosphoric acids in tamari absorb excess of being over alkaline. And the saline nature of tamari acts upon acid foods to neutralize them. When shopping for tamari it should be wheat free and naturally fermented.

Brown Rice, Tempeh and Squash Casserole

3/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
2 cups water
1 package tempeh
1 onion (diced)
4 cups butternut squash (cut in cubes)
3 cups chopped portabello mushrooms
5 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tahini
2 T. tamari

Pot boil the two rices in the 2 cups water for one hour. Steam squash until fork tender. Sauté the onions in toasted sesame oil and a dash of tamari until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for just one more minute. When done, put in a large bowl. Using the same pan sauté the mushrooms, when done add to the bowl. Still using the same pan, brown the tempeh in toasted sesame oil and tamari, and add to the bowl. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and add along with the rice and steamed squash to the bowl. Add spices and mix all together. Pour into an oiled casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered.

French Onion and Black Bean Soup

2 onions (thin half moons)
toasted sesame oil
8 cups water
3 (15 oz.) cans of black beans (drained)
6 T. tamari
1 tsp. basil

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website; to purchase her new cookbook, Perceptions In Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, www.macroval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food. 

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2007 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Anniversary Cake!

by Valerie Wilson

Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite sweetener is brown rice syrup. But recently I made a cake for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, which would serve many people who eat the average American diet. I was very concerned that everyone like the cake, so I made three attempts in order to perfect the recipe. I wanted it to be moist, light, sweet enough for the crowd, and delicious. I believe I achieved all those things – my family said it was the best cake I had ever made and I received compliments from the rest of the guests as well!

To make the cake sweet enough for everyone without using refined processed sweeteners that my health-conscious guests would not eat, I used Sucanat. It’s a dehydrated, granular, brown, all-natural sweetener found in most health food stores. It’s made by pressing the juice from natural cane sugar and cooking it down to a thick syrup. The syrup is then dehydrated and ground into sweet small pits. All the nutrition from sugarcane remains in Sucanat.

I originally wanted to create a vanilla cake, but using Sucanat turns the cake a light brown color with a rich maple, almost molasses-like taste to it. To create additional moisture, I used apple sauce. I made my own by simply cooking down some chopped up organic apples. You can also use store-bought apple sauce.  I chose spelt flour because it does not have the distinct taste whole wheat flour has. Spelt is also light and does not create a dry cake.  For the frosting, I used maple syrup and amazake for sweeteners. Amazake is made from brown rice. You can find it n the freezer section of health food stores.

For your next special event, here is one of my best recipes!

Anniversary Cake (thick 9” round cake)


1 T. flax seed meal

1 cup rice milk

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup Sucanat

1 T. vanilla

1/4 tsp. sea salt


1 T. baking powder

1  3/4 cup whole grain spelt four

Blend the flax seed meal and rice milk in a blender or food processor for about a minute until it looks frothy. Add the remaining wet ingredients. Blend until smooth. Sift the baking powder and flour into a bowl. (Sifting creates a lighter cake.) Now mix together the wet ingredients with the dry. Pour into oiled 9” cake pan. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Anniversary Frosting

3/4 cup rice milk

1/2 cup amazake

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 T. agar flakes

pinch sea salt

2 T. kudzu (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)

1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan natural buttery spread (has to be cold)

1 to 2 tsp. rice milk

In a sauce pan, heat the rice milk, amazake, agar flakes, and sea salt. Let simmer 10 minutes. Whisk in the kudzu mixture. It will thicken as it cooks. Once thickened, remove from heat and place in refrigerator a couple of hours until completely cold. Put in food processor along with cold Earth Balance. Blend until smooth. Add the rice milk slowly while it blends to create the desired consistency. Be very careful not to add too much or the frosting will become runny. Frost cake.

Valerie Wilson is the author of Perceptions in Healthy Cooking. She teaches cooking classes and offers counseling in Westland, Michigan. She can be reached at (734) 722-4553 or http://www.macroval.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012.

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Lentil Soups for Winter, V. Wilson

Winter is upon us and we need to keep warm. Lentil soups are a terrific way to keep our bodies warm and healthy. Soups are a great appetizer to any meal, or can be a whole meal just by themselves. Lentils are one of the perfect ingredients for soup-making because they can create a thick broth. 

The two most popular types of lentils are the green ones and the red ones. The green lentils tend to hold their shape after being cooked, while the red ones dissipate, losing their shape. 

When cooking with lentils, (and any other bean), I always cook them with a piece of kombu. Kombu is a sea vegetable that helps strengthen your digestive tract and helps you digest the protein in the beans, therefore eliminating the gas. And even though lentils are small beans and therefore have less sulfur, some people still have gas after consuming them. 

Lentils are an excellent source of protein, can help reduce cholesterol, help lower blood pressure and are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A. 

Here are two wonderful lentil soup recipes that will keep you warm on those cold winter nights! 

Rice & Lentil Soup 

10 cups water
1/2 cup short grain brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
1 cup red lentils
1 four inch piece kombu (soaked and cut up)
1 onion (diced)
2 broccoli heads (cut up)
8 ounces mushrooms (cut up)
3 celery stalks (diced)
1 cup corn
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. marjoram
2 tsp. sea salt 

Bring the water to a boil in a soup pot. Add the two rices, reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, covered. Add the lentils and kombu, continue simmering for 10 more minutes. Add the vegetables, layering them – first the onions, then broccoli, mushrooms, celery and corn on top. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes. Season with the spices and sea salt. Stir all together and serve warm. 

Lentil Squash Soup

11 cups water
1 cup green lentils
1 cup red lentils
1 six inch piece kombu (soaked and cut up)
1 onion (diced)
8 garlic cloves (minced)
1 buttercup squash (cut into cubes)
2 carrots (diced)
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
2 T. tamari
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt 

Bring the water to a boil in a soup pot. Add lentils and kombu. Let cook 5 minutes. Letting the water come back to a boil in between each vegetable, add the vegetables one at a time. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. 

*Recipe note: These recipes make a large pot of soup. You can put what you don’t use in containers and freeze them, so you’ll have homemade soups on hand even when you don’t have time to cook them. 

Valerie Wilson is the author of Perceptions In Healthy Cooking. She teaches cooking classes and offers counseling in Westland, Michigan. She can be reached at (734) 722-4553 or www.macroval.com.

Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2010 – 2011.

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Filed under Healthy Cooking, Lentils, Valerie Wilson, Winter Cooking