Meet my new favourite breakfast buddy: this easy Miso Soup with Shiitake mushrooms! I know it might sound weird, but I can promise you, it's weirdly wonderful :).
Actually, let me backtrack a little bit and tell you how I got to swap my fruity porridge for soup...
As those of you who have been reading the blog for some time know, I'm studying to be a nutritional therapist (Yup, Still. In year 2. One more year to go. And in case it's not blatantly obvious: I CAN'T WAIT TO GRADUATE! ;)). As part of my studies we were asked to partake in a diet experiment; we had to live a particular diet and lifestyle for one week and then write a report about our experience. Cool huh?
By the time I had a chance to look at the options available to us, most of the diets were already taken:( and I was left with only 4 possibilities: FODMAP, the GI diet, macrobiotic diet and the blood type diet. Sorry, but this was a no brainer for me. As a massive Madonna fan (this is her best album ever and this my favourite tune) I knew full well that Madonna partly attributed her healthy body to her macrobiotic diet and so I HAD to give it a try.
So what exactly is a macrobiotic diet?
Macrobiotics is a diet and lifestyle with a truly holistic outlook; it focuses on creating harmony between us humans and the enviornment we live in. It aims to do so by emphasizing the importance of eating a whole and natural diet that is seasonal and local, thereby putting less strain on the environment. Grains and legumes form a key part of the diet as do fermented, raw, cooked and steamed vegetables.
So what would a macrobiotic meal actually look like?
If you think traditional Japanese food such as vegetable sushi, pickled cucumbers, miso soup and LOTS of brown rice, you're on the right track. Animal based proteins aren't forbidden as such, but are recommended to be kept at a minimum. Processed foods including sugar and jumk foods are completely off the menu.
Anything else that's important?
Oh gosh there is so, so much to macrobiotic living and the macrobiotic lifestyle. Too much for me to outline in detail here in this blog post. Hence all I can do is highlight some of the key 5 points I took away from my diet experiment. I hope you find them helpful :)
1. Chew well! This is really crucial. Chewing well allows you to digest your food better, to absorb nutrients more efficiently and to recognise more easily when you are full.
2. Sit down for a meal without any distractions. Yup, a toughy, especially - if like me- you tend to catch up on your e-mails when you eat, or chat on your phone as you're munchin' away on breakfast. But just like point 1., sitting down and being focused on the beautiful ritual of eating a meal is good for our digestive system and gives us the emotional space to be more thankful for the abundance of food nature provides us with. It also allows us to become more aware of the effects food has on our body - good or bad.
3. Finish your last meal at least 3 hours before you go to bed. (And go to bed before midnight!). Following this simple and easy rule gives your digestive system and your liver a rest and an opportunity to recover. Plus you sleep better :).
4. Don't be afraid to eat soya. Soya products feature heavily in the macrobiotic diet. Initially I was slightly taken aback because soya isn't something I would normally consume because I don't consider it a healthy, whole food. However the more I read, the more I understood that in its purest form - similar to wheat and corn - soya has been a staple, nourishing food for many generations. It's only modern technology that has turned something so good into a Frankenstein food. (GMO soya, no thank you!). The key is to use organic soya that has been produced and fermented using traditional techniques. To make things easier for you, I have provided a link to the miso pastes I used and found to be authentic, organic and delicious.
5. Have a vegetable at every meal. Now this one was interesting...You see, when I started my week of macrobiotic living, I had a miso soup, a bowl of brown rice and some steamed broccoli for breakfast. When I told my husband what was in store, he was a bit freaked out. I mean he's super supportive of my plant-based ways but broccoli for breakfast was a step too far. And a miso soup?!? Then I showed him this AND asked him why this didn't weird him out, but broccoli did. And so he admitted that I had a point. A good one. (Though he didn't eat the broccoli, in case you were wondering).
I appreciate that this blog post is just a tiny snapshot of what macrobiotics is all about. Hence, if you want the full picture please, please, PLEASE pick up a copy of Denny Waxman's book: The Complete Macrobiotic Diet. His book is a beautiful and clear illustration of what macrobiotic living is truely all about. Frankly, I couldn't put it down and was moved by his ability to show how macrobiotic living empowers us to connect to our true self and be more compassionate towards other people and our wonderful planet. You can also read his response to and thoughts about THIS blog post here.
Though I haven't adopted the macrobiotic lifestyle following my week long experiment, the idea of having a miso soup for breakfast has stuck with me. Sure, I don't have it every day, but do make myself this nourishing breakfast about 1-2 a week, just because it makes me feel good. Actually, it makes me feel great. And better still it is so quick and easy to prepare, which is why I wanted to share this recipe here with you today.
Remember, the key is to ensure you buy a good quality source of fermented organic miso paste. The cheaper pastes are often chemically fermented and are likely to do more harm than good. (I used these two miso pastes (1 and 2) and found them nourishing, delicious and easy to digest.)
I made my miso soup with shiitake mushrooms because as you know from this post as well as my last blog entry, I am OBSESSED with medicinal mushrooms; shiitake are one of the superstars amongst medicinal mushrooms as they help support our immune and cardiovascular system and are a great source of plant-based protein, iron, vitamin B2, B6 and fibre. In addition, they are a symbol of longevity, which is where it's at and taste unbelieveably delicious. It doesn't get better than that.
What are your thoughts about soya? Have you dabbled with macrobiotics? I'd love to hear your experiences.
Also, if you make one of my recipes, do let me know. I'd love to share your creations on instagram or facebook.
Thanks for reading everyone :)
IMPORTANT: Please check the tips at the end of the recipe for substitutions and other suggestions.
MUSHROOM SERIES 3: EASY MISO SOUP WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS (V+, GF, GrF, NF)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cut the wakame strips in small pieces, the smaller the better as the wakame will expend in water. Place the wakame pieces in a bowl with warm water. Leave it in there as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Wash and slice the shiitake mushrooms. Wash and thinly slice the spring onion/scallions. Remove the tough skin of the ginger and grate the flesh of the ginger finely.
Boil the water in a sauce pan. Once it has started to boil reduce the heat to a light simmer and add the miso paste, mushrooms and wakame. Stir well. Once you feel the soup is warm enough, serve in a bowl and top with the grated ginger and spring onions/scallions. It's as simple as that!
Tip 1: There are lots of different miso pastes on the market. Some have a stronger and others have a milder flavour. It really depends on how long the paste has been left to ferment. As a result the quantity needed to make the soup will vary. It's also a matter of personal choice. Therefore I suggest starting with 2 scoops. If it's a bit bland, add some more and take it from there.
Tip 2: I used fresh shiitake mushrooms, but you can use dried ones too. You'll need to soak them before use. Just follow the instructions on the package.
Tips 3: Wakame is a sea vegetable. It's super delicious and healthy. However, it is a bit pricey and I appreciate not everyone has it to hand. You can just leave it out, or replace it with 2 fresh, washed and chopped up bok choy (pak choi) leaves. Just as good!
Want to find more soup recipes? Just click here.