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Staying Healthy: Recipes feature time-honored ingredients for nutrition

Danville author analyzes herbs and teas in latest cookbook

As the creator of more than 900 recipes, Tri-Valley resident Parisa Z. Ambwani obviously loves to cook.

But her kitchen skills go beyond satisfying meals and tasty treats. She undertakes to provide nutrition via fresh ingredients and seasonings, served with a dose of philosophy. She has followed this recipe to write and photograph six books that weave her beliefs into caring words on how to live life to the fullest.

The latest, "Enlightened Home-Chef: Green Pharmacy," focuses on defining and using 150 herbal plants, citing their benefits and therapeutic properties, as well as more than 60 ancient aromatic teas. The book "makes it easy to understand how to use nature's gentle green pharmacy to enjoy a healthier, happier and fuller life," Ambwani states in the introduction.

"Dr. Elson Haas, a nutritionist, a very famous doctor, who lives in Marin, edited the glossary and the tea (section) for me," Ambwani said. "I had to be sure that this book is completely correct."

Haas, author of "The Detox Diet" and "Staying Healthy with Nutrition," describes her food as "delightful, sumptuous, elegant and healthy."

Ambwani also noted that the material she presents is not intended to take the place of a doctor's care.

"This is information I studied on my own," she said.

Her father was good in philosophy, she observed, and her mother was a wonderful cook, as they raised their six sons and one daughter in Iran. Ambwani -- a Danville resident for many years -- learned from them both and now her mission is to share these lessons.

"Nourishment for the body and sustenance for the soul is the vast philosophy behind my writing," she said.

In preparing information for this book, Ambwani traveled to Jodhpur, India, where she did research at Rajasthan Ayurveda University on medicinal herbs and spices, and attaining good health using the ancient Hindu art of medicine and wisdom.

"Someone recommended this, and they really helped me," Ambwani said.

She also composed a poem for the book, "Being in Nature," after contemplating for a long time, which is printed on page 315.

"I thought, 'How can I bring people together in peace, so they are not fighting,'" she said.

Ambwani won two International Cordon d'Or-Gold Ribbon Culinary Academy awards in 2005. The next year, she participated in a Culinary Tour of Ireland with Noreen Kinney, honorary culinary ambassador of Ireland to the USA.

"I am delighted to see Parisa has now written a book about the world of herbs and spices," Kinney wrote in the book's forward. "It is of considerable interest to me as I grew up in India, a country famous for their use of herbs and spices to impart delicious, nutritious healthy flavors to food."

Ambwani describes her 324-page book: "A unique health handbook of 'natural cuisine' with 200 recipes to balance and emphasize the elements of taste, simplicity and sound nutrition." She said she would study the benefits of an ingredient and then go about developing a recipe that included it.

"The book is not only about recipes, it is an encyclopedia," she said.

Recipes range from appetizers and snacks to smoothies to fish dishes, fruit dishes, main dishes, pickles and relishes, pastas, pizza, soups, sauces, vegetarian dishes and more. Other information includes food safety and herbal wisdom along with medicinal plants to provide well being, such as digestive support and antioxidants.

Learn more about "Enlightened Home-Chef: Green Pharmacy" and her other books at enlightenedrecipes.com.

Delightful summery salad with peaches

Serves 4

2 large ripe peaches, divided

2 cups plain cooked chicken breast, divided

1 small red onion, sliced, diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

8 cups baby lettuce, cut into bite size pieces plus lettuce for decoration

1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon basil leaves, chopped

Slice one peach and cut into small pieces. Combine with cooked chicken and onion in a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a small bowl mix olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper; whisk until blended. Add to chicken mixture and stir to coat. Cover bowl and refrigerate for a few hours.

Prior to serving, toss bite-size pieces of lettuce, walnut and chicken mixture together. Mound salad in serving bowl. Cut remaining peach into thin wedges. Garnish salad perimeter with green lettuce and peach wedges and sprinkle center with basil leaves and serve.

Note: You may use 2 teaspoons brown sugar and 1 pinch cayenne instead of honey and black pepper.

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