Whole Foods Healthy Cooking: Recipe Re-do's

I met someone recently who said that he wants to eat healthier and is interested in following a vegetarian diet, but that he can’t afford the time it requires. He also has concerns about dealing with foods that are not familiar to him. We discussed the importance of establishing priorities and the critical role food choices play in health. My philosophy is that we can’t afford to not make it a priority.

We’re all pressed for time and the lure of convenience foods can be difficult to resist. It’s easy to find, fast to get and tends to be easy on the wallet. We can load our freezers and cupboards with meals-in-a-box and stop by any number of fast food places and be eating within a few minutes. Most times we never even have to leave our car.

When it comes to food choices it’s all about priorities and health. Think about it. The primary reason we eat is to fuel our bodies. A whole foods approach to fueling the body takes what can be a mindless process and makes it a feast for the senses with the colors, textures, flavors and aromas that heighten the pleasure. Fresh, whole ingredients have the added benefit of providing the body with the nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy. Food preparation can be a real stress reducer. The state of mind in which we approach food is critical to our body’s ability to resist illness. It’s the best health insurance there is.

In the last issue, readers were invited to send requests for a recipe re-do or ask for ideas and suggestions for healthier choices for favorite dishes. The goal is to transition gradually to a healthier eating style. Take some of your favorite recipes and try substituting healthier ingredients. Observe how you feel and start making the transition to a healthier lifestyle.


Tofu-Potato Salad

From Bedford, NHcomes a request for a potato salad. She says she buys it every week at her local supermarket’s deli counter and wants something without additives and preservatives. This recipe was given to me by a friend who can be counted on to bring this salad to pot luck dinners. The bowl always empties fast.

Note: I’ve made this and added a few tablespoons of chopped kalamata olives and a handful of grated carrots for a different flavor and texture.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. soft tofu
  • 3 tbls apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbls brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup pickles chopped, optional


  1. Wash and cook potatoes until tender. Peel or leave skins on and cut into cubes.
  2. In a blender, combine tofu, vinegar, rice syrup, salt and turmeric and blend until creamy. Mix everything together in a bowl, chill and serve.

Salt Brine Pickles

A Vermont reader says that, in his efforts to lose weight, he’s snacking on pickles. After weeks of munching on them between meals, he’s looking for something a little different and a little more nutritious. My recommendation is these salt brine pickles. They’re a great way to add vegetables and flavor to your diet as well as texture and nutrition. The fermentation process does wonders for food. Enzymes and bacteria change the sugar in the foods to lactic acid, strengthening the flora in the intestines. This helps us get more nutrients from the foods we eat. Try to incorporate some type of high quality pickle into your diet daily.

Use unrefined, hand-harvested sea salt from clean waters in all your cooking. It’s loaded with beneficial minerals. The sea contains all the minerals our body requires. White table salt should never be used. It’s refined to the point that it contributes nothing to the body and has harmful additives. It is completely unnatural with approximately 82 trace minerals and essential nutrients removed. Salt has a dramatic affect on health. Look for it in processed foods. Read the labels, notice the sodium content and make healthy choices.


  • 3 cups water
  • 2-3 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower florets, sliced in half
  • 2 pickling cucumbers, quartered
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced in half moons
  • 1/2 cup carrot, cut matchstick


  1. Place the water and sea salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Place the vegetables in a glass jar and pour the brine solution over them. Cover the top with cheesecloth and keep in a cool place for 2-3 days.
  3. Remove the cheesecloth and place the lid on top of the jar. Refrigerate to store. Rinse before eating. Pickles will keep for 2 weeks.

Black Soybeans

From Manchester, NHa reader is switching to a vegan diet and has been reading about the benefits of detoxifying the body. She’s looking for suggestions to help rid her body of animal toxins. One suggestion I recommend is black soybeans. They’re native to northern Japan and are very sweet and delicious. They’re known as the Japanese black beans.

These are the only beans that are soaked and cooked with salt water. It helps to keep their skins on. Black soybeans are also washed differently than all other beans. To wash, take a clean, damp kitchen towel and place the beans on it. Cover the beans with the towel and gently, but firmly, roll the towel over the beans. Do this two or three times, wringing out the towel occasionally. After washing, the beans are then ready to soak or dry-roast before cooking.

In Japan black soybeans have a variety of medicinal uses. They are much stronger than yellow soybeans and are considered helpful for asthma and kidney and bladder problems caused by an accumulation of fat or excess animal food.


  • 1 cup black soybeans, washed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Shoyu or tamari
  • Barley malt or brown rice
  • syrup (to taste)


  1. Place the beans in a bowl, add water and salt. Soak for 6-8 hours.
  2. Place the beans and soaking water in a heavy stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and leave uncovered. Skim off the gray foam as it floats to the surface. Add water as necessary.
  3. When beans are 80% done (about 2 hours) add a few drops of tamari/shoyu. Do not mix, but you may gently shake the pot. Cook until almost all the liquid is gone. Then mix the beans to coat them with the remaining juice. Sweeten the beans with sweetener of choice and to taste. Eat as is, or use in your favorite recipe calling for black beans.

Michelle Hirsch lives in southern NH and teaches whole foods cooking throughout New England. She is a graduate of the world renowned Kushi Institute where she also worked developing curriculum. Michelle is the author of the cookbook Venturesome Vegetarian (Surrey, 2004) scheduled for release this spring. Michelle can be contacted at mphirsch@yahoo.com.