Archive for the ‘high fiber’ Category

What are you, a vegetarian? A vegan? WHAT?

March 9, 2012

I’m a Vegimaximizer.

Vegimaxitarian? Whatever. I like “vegimaximizer.” The more the better. I don’t rule anything out. I like bacon, although I don’t keep it in the house. I eat eggs for sure.
Here’s a question for you – what do “humanitarians” eat?

Pictured: RIce with shiitake, saffron, wasabi, kimchi, and bonito flakes, seasoned with tamari and ume vinegar. Steamed acorn squash and sweet potato with tamari, sesame oil and rice vinegar. Coconut-fried tofu, eggplant and garlic garnished with scallions and tamari.
This was TASTY!

Simple Salad

March 6, 2012


Romaine, cabbage, avocado, tomato, smoked salmon, cabbage kimchi, carrot-ginger dressing with toasted sesame oil, rice & ume plum vinegars, Serrano peppers, tamari squash seeds, black sesame seeds.

Crazy Tasty- better than a steak!

February 22, 2012


Eggplant dusted in rice flour, fried in coconut oil, finished with caramelized Tamari…this is so tasty I feel guilty! So, I’m sharing it instead.

It’s So Easy Steaming Green

February 20, 2012

Leeks, chard, fennel, kale and tofu in rice wine and tamari, braised in a frypan for ten minutes – comes out really tasty! Cook it until they wilt and have an al dente texture. Serve with rice or whatever!


Acorn Squash Seeds

February 14, 2012


Saved from organic Acorn Squash, left on a plate to dry, then pan-roasted in a little sesame oil, sprinkled with ancho chile powder, and finished with a drizzle of Tamari stirred in to the browning seeds. Makes a great addition to salads, soups or stews!

More new food ideas

February 14, 2012

Rice and Beans with a twist…
or – Kombu Chili with Dirty Rice, Japanese style

This dinner took an hour to cook, but was very easy, not requiring much attention after it started cooking. It was very tasty – savory and satisfying. It’s nutritionally balanced, containing micronutrients, complex carbs, legumes, with land and sea vegetables; and vegan/organic (turkey wing optional!), with complete proteins and a lot of fiber.

Pictured are dried shiitake, some of which are crumbled into the rice, along with some wasabi powder and saffron.

The chili came from a bean mix with white, red, & black beans, aduki beans, and lentils. Combined into a pot with water with cut-up kombu (sea vegetable), a little piece of smoked turkey wing, a few cherry tomatoes, celery root, onion and dried Japanese peppers, the pot was brought to a boil, then cooked over low flame and a stovetop diffuser for about an hour.

Once combined and brought to a boil, these were left to simmer for awhile. The rice finished earlier than the beans, but didn’t mind the wait! I unplug the rice cooker when it finishes, although some like the crunchy rice crust you get from leaving the heat on.

We served the rice with a sprinkling of dulse seasoning, Chipotle powder, soy, and Togarashi pepper.

The whole trick in making a meal like this is having the ingredients on hand already. Most of the components have excellent shelf life, and can be combined infinite ways. It’s inexpensive, too. The big trick is getting the ingredients. Luckily I live in a large metropolitan area and I can drive for miles without seeing an Olive Garden or McDonald’s, and can find an Oriental grocery and organic produce not too far away.

The Improvising Chef goes Japanese

February 11, 2012


Miso Soba with Ika and Wakame
Bean Sprout, shiitake and tomato salad, and tamari-braised eggplant

I’ll be back with recipes for these!

OK. I’m back.

This is a simple meal.

The miso soba begins with water, some kombu ( I cut up the dried kombu pieces inside a plastic bag so they don’t go flying all over), and red organic miso paste. Bring it to a boil, then simmer. Add some wakame, shiitake, and soba. Stir it up a little to distribute the miso paste evenly. Add the soba noodles, and a little while after they bend in, add squid pieces.

The salad has 3 main components, including mung bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. I’ve got some home-made carrot-ginger dressing, with sesame oil, rice and ume plum vinegars, water and raw honey, pureéd together in a food processer.

The eggplant was pan-braised in sesame oil; first browned and softened, sprinkled with chipotle powder, then finished with a splort of Tamari in the pan, cooked long enough to caramelize slightly.

On the side is some kimchi, adding a sour spicy element with probiotic benefits.

This is CRAZY tasty, yet good for you as all heck. And to think I used to like the Colonel… is up!

February 10, 2012

New website for the book and blog! Two URLs point to it:

Come visit, recommend on Facebook, tweet, share, read, buy the book!

“The Improvising Chef-Making Healthy Food Tasty” Available now!

October 11, 2011

It's Out! Download $18

The Improvising Chef – Making Healthy Food Tasty
Bassist/author/chef Jon Burr lays out a sustainable, enjoyable path to optimum nutrition, taste, body weight, and health.

“There’s no other book like this.  I will personally recommend this—not only to my patients who need to incorporate healthy, palatable and enjoyable eating habits to reduce their cerebro-vascular and cardiovascular risk factors—but also to everyone who will come across my path.”

—Arlyn Valencia, M.D. Neurologist, Stroke Subspecialist

“Jon claims to be making healthy food tasty.  Personally, I think he’s making tasty food healthy!  Either way, this engaging, insightful, beautiful and clearly heart-felt work is aimed right at the sweet spot, where the food we love – loves us back.  I endorse that destination, as well as Jon’s joyfully improvisational means of getting us there!”

-David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP

Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center

The Author

Jon Burr is a bassist, composer, teacher, author, producer, engineer, chef, and dad. Active in the creative arts since childhood, he sat in for Charlie Mingus (by Mingus’ invitation) at the Village Vanguard at the age of 16, and went on to play with jazz greats such as Buddy Rich, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Stephane Grappelli, and pop artists such as Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, Rita Moreno, Barbara Cook and many others. Also active composing and leading his own ensembles, he recently released an EP of his new band Giant Cicada.

Jon’s interest in food began with fish he caught and cooked as a child. Struggling throughout childhood with weight and fitness, his early efforts to get in shape met with frustration until influential mentors in later years inspired his study of food and nutrition. Suspecting he was an “easy gainer,” then later on as a cancer survivor, Jon’s discoveries in facing these challenges led to the knowledge collected in this book. Also informed by his experience as an improvising jazz musician, the book shows the path to an enjoyable, sustainable lifestyle-based approach to food, nutrition and exercise. His stamina and youthfulness belie his 58 years, wearing 32” pants at 5”10. Find him on the web at

The Japanese Breakfast is Amazingly Good for You

September 12, 2011

Japan ranks low in population obesity rate – #28 of the 29 top industrial countries (only Korea ranks lower)

and among the lowest in the world for heart disease:

Japanese diabetes rates are among the lowest in the world: 2.1_Diabetes per region_2010-2030_0.pdf

But – Japanese cancer rates are moderately high.

Recently back from an eye-opening trip to Japan with the wonderful Manhattan Jazz Quintet, I made many observations from my perspective as a healthy food blogger, author and advocate. The Japanese culture and cuisine are world renown; having the chance to spend enough time to observe some of the eating habits of the population gave a glimpse into a well-established, relatively homogeneous culture with strong traditions and very interesting, nutritious food. Japan is densely populated, and has a successful and efficient marketplace distributing quality nutrition consistently throughout the country.

Yakitori Stand

I had a chance to see many thousands of people during the course of a four-week musical tour, and make observations about the daily habit of diet, the availability of foods as well as the characteristics of the food supply, and the apparent health of the population. I took every chance I could to explore local cuisine, finding places frequented by everyday ordinary Japanese in the routine course of their lives, observing their culinary preferences, habits and techniques, and the apparent state of their health.

As a rule, Japanese appear happy. Socially integrated, considerate behavior appears foundational to Japanese society; self-respect, respect for others, and empathy come easily to the Japanese. There’s the sense that a profound ethical foundation underlies the culture, probably owing to Buddhist influence (unfortunately, given the language barrier, I was unable to investigate this aspect of the society as much as I would have liked), a strong sense of tradition, and relatively strict homogeneity in the population. Appreciation for artistic things and quiet seem as common as the raised glass of beer, sake, or cigarettes, which are very common. Obesity is rare. Having seen many thousands of people, the occasional overweight person seemed oddly out of place.

Architecture in Shinjuku!

The infrastructure of the country, the architecture and public amenities are advanced, beautiful, well maintained, and orderly. Litter is rare. The trains run on time and the platforms are clean. In short, Japan seems like a very highly civilized, functional place, and I had a wonderful time there. They love jazz, and appreciate my work as a musician, which feels fantastic (especially contrasted with the post-apocalyptic morass of the American music business). If not for the language barrier, I’d have tried to stay! I’m certainly looking forward to returning.

But, I did come back with a lot of new food ideas. Their health statistics are generally far superior to those in the U.S., particularly in the area of obesity, diabetes (also known as diabesity and/or metabolic syndrome), and cardiac health, where the U.S. has fallen sharply into epidemic and failure. Something is going right in Japan, although their cancer rates are high, which could very well be their high rates of alcohol and tobacco consumption, or history of radiation-related calamity. Cancer rates increased with Western influence in the diet, and as tobacco consumption increased in the occupation after World War II. [see here] Lung, stomach and colon cancers are the big killers in Japan. Industrial foods with additives similar to those in the US (high fructose corn syrup and trans fats) and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are increasing in the food supply, adding negative factors; but all in all, the Japanese seem much more successful in bringing quality nutrition cheaply and consistently to a large population on a relatively small island. The day-to-day habits of the Japanese – those everyday choices learned as children, and long-standing cultural tradition – seem to protect them from the worst influences of Western industrial or fast food. Good nutrition habits are inculcated to the Japanese from infancy.


Breakfast (raw egg not shown). Shown here: cooked egg, pickles, seaweed, miso soup

Japanese generally eat rice frequently; maybe three times a day, though not in large quantities. Raw eggs are a staple. A Japanese breakfast might consist of Miso (fermented soy bean paste) soup with tofu and wakame (leafy seaweed); a bowl of rice with natto (fermented soy beans) and a raw egg mixed into it, eaten with nori (sushi seaweed) strips folded around the rice mixture with chopsticks. Seasonings include soy sauce, and togarashi (fine-ground red hot pepper and sesame mix), with a side of some pickled vegetables or ume plum or some other little savory treat. A salad with sesame oil dressing might be an accompaniment, and/or little side dish of tofu, flavored with scallions, bonito flakes, and soy sauce. Maybe a small one-inch square of broiled mackerel might go along with it. In western Japan (nearer Korea), kimchi might be served with breakfast. Some local variation occurs; in some of the hotels serving breakfast, there might be no tofu or no fish, and cooked eggs and bacon are also available many places.

I came to love the taste of the traditional Japanese breakfast, even though the raw egg and natto together could have a somewhat slimy texture in the rice and took some getting used to. When these things are all mixed together and seasoned with soy, sea vegetables, and hot pepper, it can be quite delicate and savory–but more importantly than that, there are really good things happening nutritionally in this breakfast.

Japanese breakfast on the plane home - natto at center, top

Natto is known for some remarkable properties, including the ability to break up arterial plaque. It’s high in protein and the K vitamins, particularly K2, which is rare in other foods. Japanese have mixed feelings about Natto—some never overcome their childhood resistance to it (it’s infamous for its odor—it’s an acquired taste), but, given its nutritional profile, it’s well worth overcoming initial resistance. The Bacillus subtilisit contains is a desirable pro-biotic.

The sea vegetables are high in all kinds of wonderful vitamins, minerals, iodine, and antioxidants [link]. They’re highly nutritive, and, they have a savory taste. Tofu is a great source of protein. Although raw soy or soy protein isolate have become less favored by holistic researchers over recent years, fermented soy products are pro-biotic, carrying constructive intestinal flora, and are easier to digest and metabolize. These include the miso paste, the base of the miso soup, which is savory, the natto mentioned above – and soy sauce, which is also fermented. There had been some speculation and considerable coverage in the American press regarding the use of soy sauce and its impact on the incidence of stomach cancer (put forth by Japanese scientists on the basis of the population data), but recent research shows that the opposite is true: [click here for story] Fermented soy products are good, and prevent cancer. For those with gluten sensitivity, it’s useful to note that Soy Sauce (Shoyu) contains wheat gluten, whereas Tamari does not.

Kimchi, consisting of fermented vegetables such as cabbage or radish also has pro-biotic characteristics, involving fermentation, and is another really healthy component popular in Japan (although of Korean origin)[link].

Seven-Eleven Shelves

Healthy food is relatively easy to come by in Japan. Convenience stores are ubiquitous, featuring an assortment of convenience supplies but with a much more diverse and healthy array of food options than in the U.S.. Salads, packaged fish, noodle lunches, boiled (or raw) eggs in packages, dried fish, nuts, dried beans, cheeses, yogurt and many other items are available. In the US, the healthiest options in a Seven-Eleven might be trail mix, bananas, and jerky. In Japanese convenience stores a salad lunch is available for ~$7. Junk food is also available, but even the junk food seems better when it’s wasabi peas or seaweed-coated rice crackers.

Soba in broth

Soba, Udon and Ramen noodles comprise the most popular lunch staple. Accompanied by a wide variety of ingredients (including tempura, eggs, fish, meat, vegetables, or various combinations thereof), served hot or cold with a variety of sauce options, lunch counters are shoulder-to-shoulder with the population enjoying a fast, nutritious and tasty lunch based on these staples. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are gluten-free (as is rice) and very high in protein; Udon and Ramen are wheat; because of my own problem with gluten, I avoided these. A discussion of the relative health benefits of the various types of noodles is here.

I had Soba lunches a few times;little lunch places offer tempura, gyoza(dumplings), sliced cooked beef, curries, over rice or noodles.

Convenience store salad lunch

Usually I had a salad lunch from purchases at the convenience store, which was less daunting at times than wrestling with the language barrier in a small, busy, crowded restaurant.

Picture vending was helpful

Some lunch shops had a vending machine near the door selling food tickets representing your selection; if the menu had pictures or an English translation available it was easy, quick, and cut down on the embarrassment. Trying to order in a small town without a translator or an English menu could be challenging; eventually I noticed that frequently there were pictures or model food mockups outside the restaurant, and I would take a picture on my iPhone to show the server.

Easy ordering

Give me one of these, o kudasai?

As an American health-aware “foodie,” it was surprising to me how many “carbs” the Japanese consume, given the population of millions with low obesity rates. It’s led me to rethink some prejudices that I’ve developed having subscribed to the widespread American cultural indictment of carbohydrates in diet and health information. The big difference is the Japanese eat rice with some wheat, versus our emphasis on wheat with some rice – but, nonetheless, the foundation of the diet is grain. Maybe the difference is in the predominance of rice in Japan! The countries where rice predominates, including Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia (data on China are unavailable), have the worlds’ lowest rates of diabesity and metabolic syndrome. Vegetables are less predominant than one might expect, although sea vegetables are common features of the Japanese diet. Fruit can be hard to find except in a department store in a city or a suburban grocery, and it is prohibitively expensive, often packaged as gifts.


Dinners are a revelation. Sushi, tempura, teppan-yaki, shabu-shabu, and many other Japanese culinary styles are known the world over. The food tastes as good and is as nutritious as it looks.


The food industry in Japan uses additives, preservatives, and questionable ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and trans-fats (hydrogenated oils) like their counterparts in the U.S. Having discovered that glutamate was the savory component of seaweed, the Japanese developed monosodium glutamate (MSG), a common additive in Japanese condiments and commercial packaged foods. Purchases of Japanese products in the U.S. subject to USDA labeling requirements reveal that some packaged sauces and condiments contain HFCS and trans-fats. Packaged natto is an example; it was surprising to see these ingredients listed on the package of this notably healthy food, until closer inspection revealed that these additives are present in the little condiment packets included with every serving (the natto itself is free of these!).

Despite the presence of these undesirable factors in the food supply, Japanese statistics regarding diabesity and metabolic syndrome remain very good. Culture and tradition are strong, and the citizenry can be observed making healthy dietary choices, probably as a result of these traditions. Unfortunately, they’re not so successful in cancer prevention, with the prevalence of cigarettes, second-hand smoke, and alcohol the prime causative suspects.

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