Category: Do It Yourself

DIY: Make Your Own Charcoal

Adapted from Corttany Brooks’ Recipe
Photography by Kolton Dalla

HOMEMADE CHARCOAL

Why would anyone want to make their own charcoal you ask? For one thing, good hardwood lump burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes and is much easier to light.You also know where it came from, what it contains and what was done to it en route.

Screenshot 2015-07-16 13.52.25WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Source of fire: I use a back yard fire pit. A propane heater or even a grill could also be used.

Empty metal paint can: It’s a good idea to make sure the paint can is cleaned of paints that can give off toxic fumes. Poke or drill three holes in the lid.These holes should be about an eighth of an inch in diameter.

Wood: You can use any hardwood native to the islands like Kiawe or Macadamia Nut wood. Experiment to see which one is readily available for you and works for your needs. Research to make sure the wood is not toxic when burned.

When building the fire, I like to have my fire going for an hour or two be- fore I start cooking the charcoal.This gives me a nice steady coal bed to cook over and a nice break to enjoy some sun and a brew.

Once the fire situation is in order, fill the can with your choice of wood. Try to use uniform pieces, which will give a more consistent end product. If using a variety of sizes, line the can with larger pieces, and place the smaller ones in the center. It’s also helpful to use dry or seasoned wood.

THE WAITING GAME

This part takes a few hours.Turn the can over once or twice to make sure that the heat stays hot and even, but not blazing.

As the wood heats, steam and gasses escape through the holes in the lid. The goal is to cook out everything but the carbon. Cooking the wood while starving it of oxygen is the retort method of making charcoal.

At first, the steam escaping will appear white. As the steam darkens, keep a closer eye on it.The darker gasses show that the essential oils are burning off.These gasses are flammable and will eventually ignite, making three small torches out of the holes in the lid.

This means that it is time to take it off the fire.

PLEASE NOTE: Do not take off the lid at this point! Simply place the extremely hot can holes facing down in a safe, cool place. Introducing oxy- gen to the coal at this point would cause it to burn up immediately, leaving you with ashes.

Wait at least a few hours for everything to cool completely before revealing your homemade charcoal. And lastly, enjoy!

DIY: Dreamcykle Smoothie

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.02.00 AM

By Kauai Juice Co.

INGREDIENTS

2 lb. coconut meat
– From mature green coconuts, ideally .-inch thick with a semi soft/hard consistency. Roughly two coconuts’ worth.

5 C. fresh coconut water

15 C. tangerine juice

2 Tbs. Tahitian vanilla

Items Needed:

  • blender
  • cheesecloth or nut milk bag

1. Blend together 1⁄2 lb. coconut meat with 5 C. coconut water. Blend on high for 1 minute.

2. Strain through cheese cloth and discard pulp. Repeat three times with 1⁄2 lb. coconut meat and 5 C. tangerine juice. Add in 2 Tbs. vanilla and stir.

3. Chill and enjoy.

DIY: Make Your Own Coconut Milk

coconut00

Recipe by Ryan Burden
Photography by Alexis van Dijk

Once you’ve tasted this homemade coconut milk, you’ll never go back to canned. Traditional recipes call for plain water, while this method combines the juice of young, sweet coconuts with the rich mature coco, for a unique alchemy we can’t get enough of. Use it for “wow factor” in soups, gravies, ice-cream and more.

INGREDIENTS

1 husked, mature “brown” coconut

1 or 2 sweet, “spoonmeat” coconuts

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.48.26 AM

1. Open husked, brown coconut by tapping firmly around the “equator” (think of the three eyes as the North Pole). You can

use the back of a machete, cleaver or even a smooth stone. Catch the juice in a large bowl, set aside.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.48.47 AM

2. Remove the meat using a coconut tool or butter knife, being careful to not force too hard.

Tip: Place halved coco in a warm, sunny spot for 1-2 hours; the meat will pop out much easier.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.48.57 AM

3. Fill the blender halfway with coconut meat, cut into 2” chunks. Add saved coco water and top with the juice of young, sweet coconuts.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.49.07 AM

4. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.49.15 AM

5. Strain out fiber by pouring into nut milk bag and squeeze or “milk.”

Serve or jar and refrigerate (keeps up to three days if cold and un-opened). The cream will rise after a few minutes, which you can utilize as a substitute to heavy cream in any favorite recipe.

To learn more about the different ages and uses of coconuts check out www.coconutinformation.com.

DIY: Homemade Butter

Photos by Monica Schwartz

One of the easiest things to make is your own butter. It becomes even more exciting when you add any number of flavors and added ingredients to make delicious spreads. The recipe below can be varied in countless ways. You can make plain butter from organic cream, or you can add lavender, lemon peel, vanilla, spices like cardamom, cinnamon, or sage, rosemary, thyme, jams, honey, etc. The combinations are endless, and with a base recipe, you can explore them all.

12 C. unsweetened cream (will yield about half the amount in butter)
optional ingredients may include salt and any variety of herbs

Phase two in making butter: whipping beyond cream

Blend. You can use a blender, hand whisk or mason jar to blend, whisk or shake. Do so until the liquid separates from the fat. Using a cheese cloth, squeeze as much water from the butter as you can. Rinse the butter with fresh cold water until it runs clear.

Straining butter from buttermilk using a cheese cloth

Add salt and herbs as desired, and mix by hand. You can press the butter into any type of mold you would like.

Shaping and wrapping the butter in parchment paper

Refrigerate until needed. Butter will keep fresh for up to two weeks.

Herbed butter rolls in parchment paper

Make Your Own Bone Broth

Photo by Dania Katz

Bone broth is a mineral-rich infusion made by boiling the bones of healthy animals with vegetables, spices and herbs. You’ll find a large stockpot of bone broth simmering in many kitchens. It has great culinary uses and unparalleled flavor, but it is also a powerful health tonic that can be easily added to your family’s diet.

Bone broth is a traditional food that your grandmother most likely made. Various cultures around the world still consume bone broth regularly as it is an inexpensive and highly nutritious food.

Along with its amazing flavor and culinary uses, bone broth is an excellent source of minerals and is known to boost the immune system (chicken soup for a cold, anyone?) and improve digestion. The broth’s high calcium, magnesium and phosphorus content make it great for bone and tooth health. Bone broth also supports joints, hair, skin and nails due to its high collagen content. In fact, some even suggest that it helps smooth connective tissue.

This delicious broth can be made from the bones of beef, bison, lamb, poultry or fish, and vegetables and spices are often added. It’s also a great base for many sauces and other culinary dishes.

Ingredients

  • 2 bones, organic if possible
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic
  • water

Wash and coarsely chop onions, carrots and celery. Add bones and vegetables to large stockpot and cover with water. Reserve apple cider vinegar, parsley, salt, peppercorns and garlic. Simmer on medium heat. Remove impurities that float to the top of the broth with a large spoon during the first few hours of cooking. There will be fewer impurities with healthy organic bones.

 

Cooking times:

Beef Bones = 48 hours

Chicken Bones = 24 hours

Fish Bones = 8 hours

 

1.  Add apple cider vinegar, parsley, sea salt, peppercorns and garlic in the last hour of cooking. Strain broth.

 

2.  Bone broth will keep for 5 days in your refrigerator or can be frozen. This recipe can easily be doubled.

 

 

Home Brewed Calamansi Ginger Ale

Photo by Monica Schwartz

Some scoff at the mention of soda, but there is nothing artificial or unhealthy about this home-brew. In fact, these wholesome local ingredients may never come together more perfectly than in this summer sipper. Plus, homemade soda is ready to drink in just one day. Play around with the ratio of tart (citrus), sweet (honey), and heat (ginger) adjusting to your personal taste.

Calamansi Ginger Ale

Recipe adapted from UH-Hawaii Community College Ag Program

Makes approx. 2 liters

  • 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated fine
  • 2 C water, plus more to fill bottle
  • 12 Tsp Hawaiian honey (or cane sugar)
  • 6 Tbl calamansi juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/8 Tsp dry champagne yeast

1. Heat. To make the syrup add all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a quick boil, stirring to incorporate.

2. Carbonate. Allow mixture to cool, strain, and pour into a plastic bottle using a funnel. Sprinkle in yeast to start the carbonation process. Top off with enough water to fill, leaving 2”from the top. Very gently shake to incorporate.

WARNING: Using plastic bottles is highly recommended, as it is safer and easier to assess the level of carbonation.

3. Wait and refrigerate. Let the bottle sit at room temperature, away from the sun or heat, for 12-24 hours, checking often. When sufficient carbonation has accumulated the bottle will feel solid with very little give; refrigerate immediately to stop the process. Over carbonation can occur and bottles can burst if not monitored.
Contents will be under pressure, use caution when opening bottle for the first time. The soda will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Extra Tips:

Purchase champagne yeast online or check your favorite gourmet food store. Do not use bread yeast.

For a quick cheat, create the syrup concentrate and top with seltzer water as needed.

Get fancy: garnish like mint sprigs or rounds blood orange elevate the presentation—and flavor.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade mayonnaise comes together in minutes, requiring just a few ingredients on hand in most kitchens. Get a feel for the simple preparation and skip the store-bought stuff. For flavor, homemade cannot be beat. Actually, it will be beat, but how is up to you—and the topic of heated debate amongst our staff. Blender, hand whisk, immersion blender…we each employed our own technique to whip up this humble, handy condiment. Experiment to find your preference, and you’ll have a great base for easy sauces, dips and salad dressings. Our favorite things to blend into our homemade mayo? Handfuls of fresh herbs, green garlic, chipotle peppers, or curry powder. Happy cooking!

4 egg yolks
1 1/4 C. light olive oil (or other oil of preference)
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
2 Tbs. lemon juice (approx.1/2 lemon or to taste)
1/2 tsp. of dry mustard (optional)

1.  Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Separate egg yolks from whites.

2.  Place the egg yolks in the blender jar, adding the salt, a splash of lemon juice and a teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the mustard, if using.

3.  Give mixture a few quick pulses to start the blending.

4.  Very, very slowly drizzle in the oil while blending. This process should take 2-3 minutes.

5.  Blend in the rest of the lemon juice. If the mayonnaise appears loose, keep in mind it will further set as it chills in the refrigerator. Tip: If the mayonnaise breaks (separates after the oil is added) it can be saved! Place an egg yolk and 1 teaspoon tepid water in a clean bowl or blender glass. While whisking/blending, slowly add the broken mayonnaise until incorporated, then whisk/blend in about 1/4 cup more oil.

A Kraut Shout-Out: Sauerkraut to Make at Home

Photos by Monica Schwartz

Rainbow Sauerkraut by Alyssa MoreauIncorporating fermented foods into our daily diet is a good idea anytime, and especially after the holidays when we’ve taxed our system with rich foods.

To demonstrate how simple it is to create beautiful home-made sauerkraut, we called on private vegetarian chef Alyssa Moreau of Divine Creations.

The basic recipe comes together quickly and is easily customized to different tastes and seasonal availability of vegetables. Growing up with a German heritage, Alyssa and her family traditionally ate sauerkraut on mashed potatoes with Bratwursts and mustard.

Now, as a vegetarian, she loves it tossed into a simple salad or mixed with tahini and used as a sauce for cooked vegetables and grains.

“It adds a nice tang and crunch and balances out the plate,” she says. Her recommendation: add a few tablespoons to a meal once a day.

Recipe: Simple Sauerkraut

Alyssa is brewing up a fun, “Ferment for Health” class at CookSpace Hawaii on February 8th. She’ll cover this recipe and others, demonstrating home fermentation recipes and their health properties. To register, visit www.cookspacehawaii.com or call (808) 695-2205.

Build a Raw Pantry: Nine foods to keep stocked for natural, gourmet meals

Story by Renée Loux

The best way to conjure up a great meal at the drop of a hat is to make sure your pantry is stocked with the right ingredients. With the right long-lasting staples on-hand, you can take advantage of foods that are fresh in season, try out new recipes without extensive shopping, or pull together a delicious meal with whatever is in your fridge.

Here are nine pantry staples to enhance a multitude of meals:

1. GINGER

GingerFlavor: Warm, spicy, bitter, sweet
Aroma: Refreshing, woody undertones, sweet citrus overtones
Benefits: Ginger increases circulation, improves digestion and assimilation of nutrients, has anti-inflammatory properties and strengthens immunity.
Buying and Storing: Young ginger has a thin, pale skin and tender, milder and less fibrous flesh; Mature ginger has a tougher skin that generally requires peeling. Look for smooth skin and a fresh, spicy fragrance. To keep ginger fresh for up to three weeks, store in a zip-top bag or sealed container in the fridge.
How to use it: Peel and mince finely to add to dishes. Peel, chop and blend into dressings, marinades, sauces and soups. To extract ginger juice, peel, finely grate and squeeze.

2. NAMA SHOYU (unpasteurized soy sauce)

Flavors: Salty, savory, umami
Aroma: Deep, complex, savory
Benefits: Shoyu is traditionally brewed soy sauce that is aged in wooden casks for several months to several years, which converts soy’s complex proteins and starches into easy to digest nutrients. Nama shoyu is unpasteurized and abundant in healthy microorganisms such as Lactobacillus, which aid digestion and assimilation of nutrients, and help balance intestinal ecology.
Buying and Storing: Look for “shoyu” rather than soy sauce to ensure it is traditionally brewed and cultured, which yields a more robust flavor (and to dodge chemical extraction and solvents used in commercial products). Look for “organic” or “GMO-free” products because most conventional soy products contain genetically modified ingredients. Store nama shoyu in the fridge after opening and it will keep indefinitely.
How to use it: Use nama shoyu as you would use soy sauce to enhance marinades, dressings and sauces.

3. UMEBOSHI PLUM VINEGAR

Flavors: Dynamic, salty, tart, fruity
Aroma: Bright, clean, mildly tangy
Benefits: Umeboshi plum vinegar is the brine from pickling umeboshi plums (it’s not technically a vinegar because it’s not fermented and it contains salt). Its alkaline minerals balance the body and are highly valued to aid digestion and assimilation of nutrients. With a dynamic flavor, it boosts and enhances the flavors of a wide variety of other foods, herbs and spices.
Buying and Storing: Look for umeboshi plum vinegar that does not contain preservatives or colorants. Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge. Keeps indefinitely.
How to use it: Add to dressings, marinades, sauces and soups to boost salty, bright flavors. Sprinkle on steamed or sautéed vegetable or cooked grains. Umeboshi plum vinegar can be used instead of fish sauce, though the flavor is fruitier and lighter (just be sure to adjust the salt in the dish as umeboshi plum vinegar is quite salty).

4. LEMON

LemonsFlavors: Tart, sour, bright
Aroma: Clean, zesty, sweet overtones
Benefits: Lemons are acidic in taste, but alkaline-forming in the body and help restore the body’s pH balance. They’re loaded with immune-boosting Vitamin C, citric acid and antioxidants to neutralize free radicals and renew the body and skin. Valued as a digestive aid and liver cleanser, lemons also have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Buying and Storing: Look for lemons that are firm, yet yield a bit when squeezed. Avoid fruit with soft spots and discoloration. Hard lemons can be ripened on the counter for a few days and stored at room temperature for about a week, or in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.
How to use it: Add a squeeze of lemon juice to water when blanching veggies to retain bright colors. Try adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the water used to cook rice to prevent it from becoming sticky. Grated lemon zest has a bright, concentrated lemon flavor to add zip to sweet and savory dishes.

5. UNREFINED SEA SALT

SaltBenefits: Unrefined sea salts are alkaline-forming in the body. They are a valuable source of trace minerals, which aid the immune system, as well as electrolytes that maintain hydration and support nerve and muscle function. The best sea salts are dried by the sun or at low temperatures to preserve precious elements, minerals and delicate flavors, whereas refined table salt is devoid of minerals and may contain additives such as aluminum silicate and chlorine derivatives for a uniform white color.

Types of Sea Salts:

  • Celtic Sea Salt: This pure, naturally moist pale grey sea salt is hand-harvested from Brittany, France and sun-dried using traditional methods that date back 2,000 years. Available in coarse and fine grind for a clean taste and delicate finish.
  • Hawaiian Red Sea Salt: This burnt-crimson colored salt is infused with the legendary, medicinal red ‘Alae clay of Hawaii and has a slightly nutty flavor.
  • Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt: This glistening, charcoal colored salt is infused with lava rock for a complex flavor and mineral finish.
  • Himalayan Crystal Salt: This rosy, pink colored salt is harvested from salt veins in the Himalayan mountains from sea salt beds that are 250,000 million years old (yes, really). The crystals are very dense and intensely salty so a little goes a long way. Himalayan salt is available in fine and coarse grind.
  • Maldon Sea Salt: This flaky salt from the UK’s North Sea has a delicate, pyramid-shaped crystal that provides a salty crunch for finishing a dish.
  • Smoked Sea Salts: These salts are naturally smoked over wood fires to infuse a deep, distinctive smoky aroma and flavor. Look for natural smoked salts that do not contain artificial flavors.

6. AGED BALSAMIC VINEGAR

BalsamicFlavors: Pungent, sweet, tangy (the older, the smoother and sweeter it is)
Aroma: Pithy, piquant overtones, sweet undertones (the older, the more complex the bouquet)
Benefits: Balsamic vinegar is mineral-rich and loaded with antioxidants, which counter free radical damage and also help the body digest and absorb proteins. Aged balsamic vinegar is more mellow and sweet and lends a complex flavor to balance and boost recipes.
Buying and Storing: Look for balsamic vinegar that has been aged at least 10 years (and up to 25 years) and has a thick, syrupy consistency. Usually, the longer it is aged, the thicker the consistency (because more water has evaporated from it) and the deeper, sweeter and more complex the flavor.
How to use it: Aged balsamic lends complex flavor to dressings, marinades, sauces and grilled foods. Try a drizzle of it over strawberries or pineapple for a surprisingly delicious complement of flavor.

7. COCONUT OIL

Flavors: Buttery, mild to strong quintessential coconut flavor, slightly sweet
Aroma: Mild to strong scent, sweet, floral coconut
Benefits: Coconut oil is highly digestible and a great source of fuel for the body. Its medium-chain fatty acids boost metabolism and can be directly converted into energy by the body instead of being processed by the liver or stored as fat. Coconut oil is loaded with lauric acid, which is great for the immune system. Plus, it’s an extremely stable oil that can hold up to cooking without breaking down and its rich, buttery texture and taste is incredibly satisfying.
Buying and Storing: “Virgin” coconut oil is naturally extracted without heat and has a stronger coconut scent and taste, which works well in recipes that the flavor will compliment. Refined coconut oil has a milder flavor and aroma, which is suitable for a wider array of recipes, including baking and sautéing. Just be sure to look for coconut oil that has been expeller-pressed without the use of chemical solvents, and which doesn’t contain hydrogenated oils.
How to use it: Coconut oil is a delicious plant-based alternative to butter. It acts just like butter – semisolid at room temperature, solid in the fridge – with a delectable, buttery texture that works well in both savory and sweet foods. It can also be used the same way as other oils, such as olive oil or grapeseed oil, in dressings, marinades and sauces.

8. MISO

MisoFlavors: Salty, savory, umami; varies with type of miso; some sweeter, some stronger
Aroma: Rich, complex, nutty, sweet
Benefits: Miso is a probiotic-rich food that aids digestion and assimilation of nutrients and balances intestinal ecology. It’s an enzyme-rich fermented food that is easily digestible by the body and known to boost the immune system and help the body process toxins. Plus, its deep, full-bodied flavor enhances many dishes with complex, umami taste.
Buying and Storing: Lighter colored miso is sweeter, milder and less salty than darker colored miso. Look for some of the most exceptional, locally produced miso at the Kula farmer’s market on Maui. Miso should be stored in the fridge and will keep indefinitely.
How to use it: Traditional miso soup is a familiar association, but miso is a delicious addition to other soups as well as in marinades, dressings and sauces. The enzymes and probiotics in miso are sensitive to heat, so keeping it below 150˚F will ensure maximum health benefits.

9. RAW HONEY

Flavors: Sweet; varies with type of honey; lighter honey is mild and floral, darker honey is more complex with hints of malt and molasses
Aroma: Distinct honey scent; varies with type of honey; flowery, fruity, caramel
Benefits: Honey contains all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and a high concentration of minerals and nutrients, including B-complex vitamins. Raw honey is rich in enzymes, friendly bacteria and antioxidants, plus antibacterial and anti-viral properties; and unfiltered raw honey contains small amounts of bee pollen and propolis, which boost the immune system and protect the body. The bee pollen in local honey may even help thwart seasonal allergies.
Buying and Storing: Look for raw honey that has not been pasteurized or heated; it will have the most flavor and the most benefits for the body. Local honey is the most valuable and sustainable choice to support local farmers.
How to use it: Raw honey is best used at low temperatures (high temperatures will destroy many of its precious properties). Use raw honey for savory and sweet dishes as an alternative to sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar.

 

Eat Well, Live Well: A Game Plan for Health with Chef Leslie Ashburn

O‘ahu-based macrobiotic chef and life coach, Leslie Ashburn, lays out a fail-safe game plan to live and feel better in the new year, one meal at a time.

Story by Leslie Ashburn
Photos and food styling by Ja Soon Kim

Now that the new year has arrived, it’s a perfect chance to set a healthful course for 2014 by reflecting on your diet and lifestyle. This year, “spring clean” early by focusing on the foods you eat and changing a few habits.

To undo the bad stuff (who didn’t splurge this past holiday season?), there are several gentle steps you can take to cleanse and detox. For the purposes of this article, this means aiding your body to release accumulated toxins and create the optimal conditions for your body’s organs to function most efficiently. The simple ways laid out for you here will naturally prepare your body and mind for success. My suggestions are meant for long-term, sustainable health — there are no magic bullets here. And, as you’ll see, cleansing can be gentle and actually quite delicious!

Diet Dos & Don’ts

First, DO take the middle path with your diet and DON’T go to extremes. Strict fasts (such as liquid-only diets) may produce short-term results. Their severity, however, often results in a yo-yo effect, sending people back and forth between overeating and not eating enough. If you greatly restrict your calories, it is inevitable that you’ll end up with a strong urge to binge. Situationally, a fast may be appropriate on a sojourn in the woods or while on a meditative yoga retreat, but for people who need to show up for a full-time job, parent, or who like to exercise, it is neither functional nor practical.

While it’s not healthy to overly restrict your diet, it is important to limit certain foods. DO avoid consumption of antibiotic- and hormone-laden animal foods, refined sugar, too much coffee, alcohol and anything containing nitrates, food colorings, preservatives and additives. If your goal is to clean up a polluted ocean, river or lake, it makes little sense to continue to dump toxins into it. In general, your best bet is to avoid anything processed. If it has gone through a factory of some kind, is in a box, a can or is pre-made, then it’s processed!

DO eat wholesome, nutritious regular meals three times per day to keep your blood sugar levels even. Eat your last meal at least three hours before you go to bed. Your liver and kidneys work their detox magic at night and need all available energy to do so. Dealing with a full stomach zaps energy from other organs, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish when you wake up.

DO switch your thinking. Sometimes overly concentrating on avoiding certain foods makes them even more tempting — like that chocolate cake in the fridge that you absolutely “shouldn’t” eat. Instead, turn your focus to adding new, amazingly healthful things into your daily diet.

The best possible diet you can adopt in order to rebalance and cleanse your body is a whole-food, plant-based diet with ingredients grown as close to the source as possible with organic farming methods. Eat this way as often as possible. This diet is easy for your body to digest, freeing up energy that would otherwise be spent trying to clean and filter your organs. It is also fills your system with good stuff — valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals and more.

My suggestions for a whole-food, plant-based diet include: unrefined starches and whole grains, such as organic brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, sweet potatoes, taro and breadfruit; a wide variety of vegetables prepared in different ways, including root vegetables like burdock root (gobo), round vegetables like kabocha, and hardy, dark leafy greens like kale; beans and bean products; sea vegetables; naturally fermented vegetables like kimchee or sauerkraut; and lastly, fruits, nuts, and seeds. These foods are low in calories, high in fiber, and you can pretty much eat as much as you like.

You absolutely DON’T need to deprive yourself, ever! DON’T feel that you’re going to be eating sticks and rocks, either. There is a world of incredible food out there just waiting for you to discover! In fact, Forbes rated well-crafted vegan cuisine as one of the top trends of 2013.

Food is Medicine

While eating a variety of unrefined, plant-based foods is the most important thing you can do to give your system a rest and help it rebuild, it’s also important to know how foods affect your body. After all, food is medicine!

Easy first steps include adding the following items into your diet. First, homemade soups are an excellent way to fill up, not out (avoid adding too much sodium and fat). Soups are very gentle on your digestion, which can often be taxed due to overconsumption of the standard American diet. In particular, miso soup made from “unpasteurized” or “unrefined,” organic soybeans is an excellent way to build immunity, cleanse your blood and alkalinize your system.

Limu, or seaweed, is an often over-looked food that is rich in essential minerals. It helps your kidneys function well, and aids in removing heavy metals from your body. I highly recommend certified organic, in this case.

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods aid digestion and help your liver in assimilating oily foods and fat. These are especially important for us to eat in the spring. Sour flavors are also great for cleaning out the liver, such as umeboshi plums (without MSG), and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Other fat-dissolving foods include daikon radish and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Kale and other dark leafy greens are what I consider the secret fountain of youth. In fact, in Oriental medicine, they are associated with spring cleansing and liver purification.

Kukicha tea is a full-bodied and flavorful tea (available in your local health food store) that is alkalinizing and cleansing to the blood.

Eat, Breathe, Rest

While food is a critical component in cleansing and detoxing, it’s just one piece of the health puzzle. Just as important is gentle exercise. Activities like gardening, yoga, or going for a walk, hike, surf, SUP or swim enable you to breathe in fresh air and sweat out toxins.

Lastly, practice a daily body scrub so that your skin, the largest organ in your body, can more easily release toxins. Pamper yourself with massages. Practice meditation. Turn off the TV or close the newspaper while you’re eating your meals (your entire environment is “food”). Get ample rest to allow your body to heal from stress.

“What do I have to look forward to?” you ask. The list is long: getting along better with your loved ones, easier weight management, clearer skin, deeper sleep, better moods, more energy, reduced cravings, and protection and healing from a wide variety of lifestyle-related illnesses.

Here’s to YOUR healthful 2014!

Leslie Ashburn is an internationally trained personal chef, educator, blogger and life coach. She is a Level 3 graduate of the Kushi International Extension Program in Osaka, Japan, mastering in “Samurai Macrobiotics,” a holistic approach to well-being. She loves challenging stereotypes about what it means to eat healthy.