Posts Tagged ‘superfoods’

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Dreamy. (LAKSA TOFU)

January 4, 2016

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Soup is on and I’m psyched. Lately I just want to take care of everyone and there is no better way than a big soup. It’s also handy to fight the chills, sharpen immunity and transform refrigerator odds and ends into a delicious, shareable meal.

As it’s finally winter in my hometown, I can’t help but dream of a Gilligan’s Island, where it rains coconuts and fish sauce douses everything. I am not sure where that crew landed, but Southeast Asia, and its exceptional array of cuisine, is where my mind is going. All the fresh ingredients that grace the plate and techniques that conjure flavor and texture, make complex dishes of rather straightforward ingredients. Deeper studies reveal an endless tome of recipes, unique to each person cooking. Paradise in more ways than one.

In hopes of bridging my desire for exotic beach holidays and wintry wonderland realities, I spent some time cooking laksa, a coconut-based soup that is served over noodles, the result of a fusion between Chinese and Malay cooking. Laksa is also hearty with protein, vegetables and spices, it will ground an appetite with satisfaction and warmth, while the mind gets in a boat and sails.

In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Southern Thailand, laksa is wildly popular and comes in many varieties, sporting tofu, fish, poultry or beef  intermingled with an endless parade of vegetables. I fill my quota with a couple of contrasty colors like orange, green, red, white, thanks to things like winter squash, green beans, tomatoes, parsnip, eggplant, or whatever seems logical. A simple homemade spice paste, with a healthy dose of curry and turmeric, sets the backdrop a golden yellow. A handful of bean sprouts adds crunch on top. Like many dishes from this part of the world, garnishes are key. Bright, aromatic lime, chilis, fresh herbs and extra fish sauce complete the dish, and the daydream.

LAKSA TOFU

Spice paste:
2 stalks lemongrass
1/2 cup roughly chopped shallots
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Soup:
1/4 cup oil
2 cups cubed eggplant (1 inch cubes)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)
3 cups water
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes)
1 cup sliced napa cabbage
1/2 pound tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts, plus extra for garnish
cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
red chili slices for garnish (optional
kosher salt
1 lime, cut into wedges

your favorite noodles, cooked

Remove the tough outside layer or two from the lemongrass stalk.Slice off the hard end (root end) and discard, along with the outer layers.

Make thin slices, starting at the root end, up the pale part of the stalk just until it starts to become deeper green. Reserve the green stalks.

Place chopped lemongrass in a small food processor (or blender) along with shallots, garlic, nuts, oil and salt. Puree the ingredients to form a paste-like consistency. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a medium sized pot. Fry the cubes of eggplant with a generous pinch of salt until golden brown.

Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

In the same pot, fry the spice-paste until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry and turmeric, and sauté for another minute or two before adding the coconut milk and water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release any cooked bits that are clinging.

Toss in the kaffir leaves, sugar, fish sauce, a teaspoon of salt and squash. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the leftover lemongrass stalks, using them to stir the soup occasionally. Simmer until squash is almost cooked, about 8 minutes.

Add in the cabbage, tofu, scallions and sprouts along with the cooked eggplant. Simmer all together for another 5 minutes and taste for seasoning.

Add more salt, sugar or fish sauce as needed. Remove kaffir lime leaves before serving. Place a serving of noodles in each bowl. Ladle soup on top and garnish with fresh mung bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, lime wedges and/or chili slices.

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Winners. (BELCAMPO MEAT CO.)

May 4, 2015
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On November 3 2014, The New Yorker released it’s annual food issue, thick with articles about how we react to, and with, food. An especially inspiring piece by Dana Goodyear featured California’s farm to fork Belcampo Meat Company, a series of pastures, slaughterhouses, butcher shops and restaurants with an impressively high standard. The article recently won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award (category: Profile), and really put into perspective the way a company can choose its methods to support its ideals, if creatively run.

Last fall was my first visit to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles and, in a taco frenzy, I almost dismissed another butcher counter full of mustaches, muscles and beautiful fonts. But the meat was too gorgeous to ignore. I admired the cuts (pictured above), purchased some jerky, contemplated a tote bag and moved on to more tacos, unaware of the fascinating back story.
Upon return to NYC, I sat down with the food issue that was meant for in-flight reading and, coincidentally, read all about the meat I was gazing upon so lovingly. As it turns out, the most fascinating thing about Belcampo, the focus of Dana Goodyear‘s article, is the company’s CEO Anya Fernald. The story goes on to detail her fierce dedication to teaching consumers the value of eating well-raised animals, despite the significantly higher prices. There are no plans of compromising the pristine practices of Belcampo, which are outlined in depth on their own site. Instead, she and the company will wait for the rest of the country to catch up, hopefully rejecting factory farming for good.

 
Belcampo supports the idea of raising animals in a pre-industrial fashion. Allowing them to graze a variety of plants, and letting them live a bit longer (over two years), benefits the animal, the farmland and the taste of the product. Consumers also reap the benefits of a more nourishing meal on the plate.
Nutritional advantages of grass-fed beef include increased levels of Vitamin E, antioxidant-rich carotenoids and conjugated linolenic acid with fewer calories and less fat. And although beef can’t compare to salmon in its level of essential fatty acid Omega 3, it’s still 5 times higher in sustainably raised animals than in cows from the feedlot, as reported by Ms. Goodyear.
 
To navigate the soaring costs of beef, especially in the midst of the devastating drought California is facing, Anya Fernald suggests eating smaller portions, (another pre-industrial concept) or by trying other animals such as sheep, rabbit or “drought resistant” goat.
Better consideration for the origins of the food we eat is the way of the near future, for the health of the planet and every body that inhabits it. Sustainable butcher shops are starting to be more prominent and grocery stores are beginning to offer better choices in sustainably raised meat and poultry. But it is obvious that Belcampo is in the lead. They hold themselves responsible for the whole supply chain, consciously making every decision for the greater good. They are determined to put meat back on the table, making a hearty, well-raised steak something good for your health, as opposed to the stigma of the last decade or two when red meat was, as recalled by Anya Fernald, “like smoking a cigarette –a guilty pleasure”.
 
*Lucky for us east coasters we can have a Belcampo experience via their webstore. Gorgeous selection of frozen meats and dry goods.
** yes, my vacation photos include a meat counter. yes.
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Healthify. (COCONUT OAT FLAX MUFFINS)

April 1, 2015

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Certain foods are great vehicles for healthy ingredients, and muffins are one. It’s truly a case of a recipe just being a guide. You can switch around grains and flours and fruits and sweeteners to make a healthier snack that is customized especially for you and yours to devour. I took these muffins from Gold Medal Flour‘s website and messed with them. I find that product websites often have good, reliable recipes that are both healthy and -un. You can also find great starter recipes at Bob’s Redmill and King Arthur but, my point remains, don’t be afraid to tweak!

As an example of how and what I modified, you will find my recipe below, as well as the original, for comparison. You can see that applesauce has replaced half of the oil and I brought the sugar levels down all around. I swapped out half of the chocolate chips with raisins, and I omitted chocolate altogether from the topping. Some of the additions happened to be on hand (bran, oat flour, flax, etc.) and some, like coconut, my fam just enjoys. Gold Medal didn’t do a bad job here! Original recipe calls for whole wheat flour and oats, which is a perfectly acceptable health-supportive combo. Even the amount of fat in the original recipe is kept at a minimum, with just a bit of oil and some yogurt. But I went ahead and kept on pushing.

COCONUT OAT FLAX BRAN RAISIN CHOCOLATE CHIP YOGURT MUFFINS
(makes 12 large muffins)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup oat flour

1/4 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons apple sauce

scant 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup raisins

Streusel Topping

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons flax seeds

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, bran, coconut, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined. Fold in (1/2 cup) chocolate chips and raisins.
  • Divide batter evenly among greased muffins cups.
  •  Streusel: In a small bowl, stir together the struesel ingredients with a fork until well coated in the oil. Place a heaping tablespoon of streusel over the batter in the muffin cups.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or until muffins start to turn golden brown and streusel is crisp. Let muffins cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to cool completely.

    Original recipe:
    Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Muffins

    1 cup Gold Medal™ whole wheat flour
    1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 cup canola oil
    1/2 cup dark brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1cup Yoplait® Greek vanilla yogurt
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    Streusel
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1/3 cup dark brown sugar
    1/2 cup old fashioned oats
    1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and Greek yogurt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips.
  • Divide batter evenly among greased muffins cups, filling each one almost full.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the struesel ingredients with a fork until well coated in the oil. Place a heaping tablespoon of streusel over the batter in the muffin cups.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or until muffins start to turn golden brown and streusel is crisp. Let muffins cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely or enjoy.
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Not missing a pig. (VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE)

February 17, 2015

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As the chill seeps through the crack under the door, our heaviest defense is in our soup pot. I am a soup person. In addition to being the perfect immune-boost, to me it is the best comfort food. And though it is quaint to work all day on a home cooked meal, I would secretly trade slow cooking for fast any day of the week. This shouldn’t mean that your food isn’t awesome. There are plenty of express meals that will keep the whole family happy, satisfied and fit, and come flying out of the kitchen in under 20 minutes.

Soups are especially good for this. It’s the ultimate one-pot meal. My auto correct wanted to write ‘unlimited’ instead of ‘ultimate’ and it is that too. A soup can be as decadent or as lean as the cook wishes. Many classic soups have a base of salt pork, hock, belly or some other flavorful cut that appreciates in taste with a long cooking time. I definitely support this style but when you want to get dinner out a bit faster or cook a little leaner, the pig can easily be
omitted from any recipe. The trick is to make up for that missing savoriness by building flavors as you go. Starting with garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes or onions with a little extra caramelization and finishing with a touch vinegar, olive oil or sea salt can really bring a soup to the next level. The recipe below features smoked paprika, or pimenton de la vera. It has a deep smokey spice akin to chorizo, without the fat and calories.

In this recipe, a take on a Sopa Verde, the ingredients are really flexible. The greens can be swapped out for any hearty leaf like chard, turnip greens, escarole, mustard greens or spinach (which will wilt straight into the finished soup –no cooking required*). You can also use any kind of broth or even water. Another way to get a little extra flavor if using plain water is a splash of white wine or beer.

 

VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE

6 main course-sized servings

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups stock/water
1 pound white or sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale and collards, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cans (15oz, each) white beans (great northern or cannellini)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
a few dashes hot sauce (optional)
Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste

cilantro leaves for garnish

• Warm the oil and butter (if using) in a large saucepan. Add the
onions with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sauté on low heat until soft and
translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Stir in smoked paprika and garlic.
• Pour in the 8 cups of liquid, raise heat.
• When it begins to simmer, add sweet potatoes.
• Bring the soup up to a boil and add the greens (except if using
spinach*). Boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer, add beans.
• When the sweet potatoes are cooked through and greens are tender, remove from heat. (If using spinach add at this stage, stir until wilted*)
• Add another tablespoon of salt, mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of red
wine vinegar.
•Taste!
• Adjust the flavor to your liking with another spoon of vinegar,
salt, black pepper and/or hot sauce, if using.
• Serve the soup warm with fresh cilantro leaves and a few slices of
jalapeño if you love heat.

Like most soups and stews, the taste gets better as it sits, especially the next day! MMMMmmmm…leftovers!

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HLE_sweetpotato

This is a great base recipe with plenty of possibilities. Personalizations can be beans, croutons, pumpkin seeds, dried chilies, mushrooms, tortilla strips and on and on.

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Disguise. (SWEET/SAVORY TURMERIC POPCORN)

March 3, 2014

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For some reason I had always meant to make popcorn on the stovetop but never really got around to it. And because of this I refused to wrap my head around the unbelievable simplicity of making it.

Then someone offered me money to make lots and lots of popcorn and, here I am, ready to tell you all about how awesome the results of this quick and easy snack can be. The other upside (what’s the upside?), you can make it as decadent as you want with peanut butter, sugar, chocolate, caramel, etc. or you can cram a whole bunch of healthy stuff on it like coconut oil, flax, nutritional yeast, matcha or turmeric, which is my fave because the color is righteous.

Turmeric is being hailed as such an impressive superfood, I keep a bottle of it handy, working it in where I can. Popcorn is a healthy snack itself, when prepared in the latter of above-mentioned styles. I think it is great anytime but especially before dinner when you have hungry family meowing around the kitchen but the meal is not quite ready… that bright yellow can really distract!

I use a pretty foolproof popcorn-making technique and I am sorry I can not give proper cred where it is due. I saw it once and never turned back. The topping is my invention…but also foggy. Here’s the gist:

SWEET/SAVORY TURMERIC POPCORN

1/3 cup popcorn kernels

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2-3 tablespoons butter or oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

pinch cumin

1 tablespoon turmeric

dash of cayenne

salt to taste

  • Heat a large pot over a medium flame with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and 3 kernels of popcorn inside. Place well-fitting lid on the pot and listen for the 3 pops.
  • When you hear them, add the rest of the kernels to the pot, put the lid back on and remove from the heat. Count to 30.
  • Replace to pot on the flame and, keeping the lid on tight, shake the pot a bit. Listen for lots of popping noise. Continue with some light shakes until the popping sound slows down considerably or has practically stopped.
  • Dump the popcorn into a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining ingredients; butter or oil, maple, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, salt in a small pot and stir, combining thoroughly. Adjust to taste! Make it sweet, salty or spicy as you like.
  • Pour the maple mixture over the popcorn and toss well to coat.
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A little lesson. (FARMERS MISO SOUP)

September 19, 2013

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I am a miso lover. I need to have miso soup at least once a week, usually as the precursor to some sushi even though that feels like the lazy way out. Miso paste in general has so much more potential than a few cubes of tofu and some lonely sails of seaweed. By learning a few different (easy!) ways to use it, miso can be a staple in your fridge forever and ever. You, as the owner of a high-quality tub of miso, can reap the many health benefits for just as long.

Since it’s a fermented food, it is important is to avoid boiling miso. High heat will harm the living enzymes that make this a genuine superfood as it will also dull the unique flavors. Use miso to ‘finish’ dishes that you have created rather than adding it when there is still cooking to be done.

Miso to-do list:

-Mix into softened butter to make ‘miso butter’, the best topping for seafood ever.

-Mix with minced garlic and chili paste as a condiment for grilled meat.

-Whisk into salad dressing or marinades.

-Just miso solo in a bit of simple broth.

-I’ve seen people use it in pesto as a substitute for parmesan but…

Below is a hearty soup recipe that uses a bunch of fantastic end-of-summer vegetables, but any mixture of veg would work. Once the soup is off of the stove, dunk a measuring cup into the broth, scooping out about one cup of hot liquid. Drop a few spoonfuls of miso into measuring cup and whisk/stir until it is dissolved. Pour the miso mixture back into the soup pot and adjust to taste. You can simply repeat this process until you have reached the desired amount of umami.

Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, spinach and/or noodles. This recipe can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like, the main thing is hot (not boiling) liquid*, dissolve miso, enjoy.

FARMERS MISO SOUP

(serves 4-6)

2 quarts stock or water

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed into small chunks

1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup chopped kale leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 pound tofu, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 splash of rice vinegar

a few red pepper flakes

1/4 cup wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water until softened

1/4 cup miso paste (any color)

1/2 carrot

1 inch ginger

chopped chives to garnish

  • Place the stock in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add onion, kohlrabi and celery. Simmer about 10 minutes. 
  • Add kale, garlic and tofu. Cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar and red pepper to season. Taste and adjust. Add wakame.
  • Take one cup of stock out of the pot and place in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk miso into the hot broth and pour it back into the soup. Taste and adjust.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and using a fine grater (preferably a microplane), grate some carrot and ginger into each soup and sprinkle with chives to garnish.
  • When reheating the soup, warm it but don’t boil. I’ll say it again.

*Make your own stock! I love stock making.

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/elaborations-veggie-dashi/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/balancing-it-out-alkalizing-broth-2/

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Balancing it out. (ALKALIZING BROTH)

April 19, 2013

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Remember the science lesson about acids and bases in the form of a number line? Seven is neutral, like water, right in the middle of both states. Anything over 7 is a base (alkaline) and anything under is acidic. Our blood, which our body maintains at a pH of 7.35-7.45, is therefore slightly alkaline. The thing is, many of the foods we eat are acid-causing, even some pretty healthy ones.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, most grains and legumes in excess and without balancing are not the only things that have the power to make us acidic. Some of our experiences like stress, lack of activity and poor diet choices in general can also be culprits of this undesirable condition. And though we need both acid and alkaline to be in balance, when too much acid is present, the body works overtime to keep the blood in its proper state. Foods that are alkaline*, most fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, seaweed, miso, olive oil, for example, are not only important for daily functions, but when ingested regularly will more readily balance out the less than perfect moments in our lives.

All that to say, hey! eat your veggies!

Lately I have been making extra effort to do just that by keeping the fridge stocked with beautiful organic produce and cooking lots of healthy dinners. Also trying to keep my fridge from being a graveyard of dead leftovers or, even worse, perfectly good uncooked stuff going to seed. One of the ways I like to stretch my organic grocery bucks to the fullest is by making stock. All of the lovely and delicately aromatic things that make for a good, clear stock (carrot, celery, onion, leek, fennel, thyme) go into freezer bags until I have stockpiled enough to be dumped into a big pot with some water, simmered until a lightly golden stock is born.

A few months ago, while doing a cleanse, I learned about alkalizing vegetable broth. It broke every classic culinary rule for stock-making which advises no leafy greens, no cabbage, no squash, no root vegetables, no radish. Each one of these things said to make the stock cloudy, sulfuric, bitter, etc. but the recipe included all of these things. The product was delicious, had none of the qualities Escoffier warned about. Now I am happily breaking the rules and adding all of this stuff to the freezer bag to create broths that can double as alkalizing tonic. The broth is dark and rich and can stand alone warmed  with a little extra sea salt (also alkalizing). The recommendation is to drink it several times daily. That is a great theory and I enjoyed it when I was eating strictly, but I am more often using the stuff in soups, stews, curries and risotto in lieu of more boring stocks, giving a nutritional boost and extra flavor.

ALKALIZING BROTH

You can really be creative with the vegetables you put in there, this is just a guideline:

1 onion, quartered

(plus shallot, onion, leek or scallion trimmings)

3 carrots

3 celery stalks

2 fennel tops

4 cloves garlic

2 cups green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard, beet greens, etc.)

1/4 head of cabbage + the core

peels, trimmings (no seeds) of one (organic) butternut squash

1 sweet potato, large dice

1/2 cup seaweed (I like kombu)

2 cups mushroom stems (or 1 cup dried mushrooms)

1/2 bunch of parsley or cilantro stems with or without leaves

1 cup of radish (with or without tops) -optional

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4-5 quarts of water (enough to cover all of the ingredients by a few inches)

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook about 1.5 hours.
  • Strain out the vegetables and save the stock in containers.
  • Freeze what you are not using. Defrost as needed.

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Scrap bag! Red cabbage, mushroom, leek, scallion, celery, sometimes chicken bones too.

In culinary school after  pastry classes when we were ingesting sugar all day long, we were told to go home and alkalize with a hot miso soup. Yea! I give it to my kid too, after parties and stuff.

*A proper alkalizing food chart lives here. These sistas are serious!