Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Whipping up Stuffed Peppers

A crowd to please? No problem. Whip up some gourmet stuffed peppers (or squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes) and wow them and yourself.

I almost always make these when I have leftover grains (above is black rice combined with quinoa, mix and match style) and with whatever veggies and scraps I have around. Or I use a grain salad - such as this Quinoa-Corn Basil Salad, one of my favorites.
  • 1 medium veggie per two people, sliced and insides removed/scooped 
  • cooked grain or grain salad/stuffing and/or beans 
  • add-ins: chopped onion, garlic, veggie scraps, greens, herbs, corn kernels 
  • optional: ground meats, other veggies, chopped olives, cheese
Preheat your oven to 400F. Put the veggie halves you want to stuff on a rimmed baking dish with a little water as soon as you've halved them, oven ready or not. I usually cook mine through (usually taking 15-20 min) before stuffing them, then just heat/melt the stuffed versions together.

Prep your grain mixture. Start with the Quinoa-Corn and Basil Salad or make up your own (basically grains + veggies + herbs + seasonings).

If I'm starting with plain grains, I first saute some onion and garlic in a large skillet, add and cook any finely chopped veggies I want (plus ground meats if you'd like).

This recipe idea is so forgiving and a great way to practice getting comfortable cooking without a recipe! Have a tasting spoon handy and taste everything as you go along. Learn the flavors of the kitchen.

For best results, the grain mixture should taste well salted before being stuffed into veggie shells (since they are plain).

Stuff your grain salads into your halved veggies, sprinkle with cheese, if desired and bake until soft, melty and hot, about 5-10 minutes. If I want the cheese to brown, or the top to come out crisped, I finish them under the broiler for a few minutes, watching them carefully. Serve with a green leafy salad and sharp knives.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why a "High Quality Cry"

Can you remember the last time you cried?

I mean, really let it loose and cried? I heaved for about twenty minutes after watching Brene Brown's Power of Vulnerability TED talk (but that's a whole other post)...

Our culture is big on the no-cry attitude. It's often portrayed and interpreted as a sign of weakness or instability - and is very much linked to our gendered expectations of behavior. Men and women both face some major stereotypes around what it means to cry - it's unfortunately often seen as a sign of weakness, lack of stability or self-control, or an emotional breakdown...

Did you know that crying it out is actually part of our natural learning and healing process?

If we don't allow ourselves (or others) to cry, we actually inhibit our ability to move through our experiences pain - and move on to the better life. Crying helps us heal, grieve, move through sadness, and experience relief when we've been overwhelmed.

Check out this amazing article, High Quality Crying, from the Interchange Institute's blog to learn more about:
  • the reasons why it's so important to have quality crying time
  • what it does for us
  • how to get the most out of your cry
  • why letting yourself and others "cry it out" is the best approach for happy living

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making More Vacations In Your Life

August is the time for vacations and relaxation. "Where did you go this summer?" is the big question on people's lips come back-to-school time. But do you ever get back still feeling like you need a vacation? Or feeling like once a year just isn't enough?

We live pretty jam-packed lives these days. We work hard, we run around to get it all done and cram it all in. Most of us only get two weeks vacation these days, if we're lucky. Well, what if that's just not enough?

Stress lowers our immune function dramatically and contributes to the development of many common medical problems - cardiovascular disorders and diseases, high blood pressure, skin issues, weight gain, diabetes, lowered immune defenses, chronic pain and even infertility. Yikes!

Stepping back from daily life to relax is one of the number one things you can do for yourself.

Think about the last time you got some quality relaxation time. How did you feel afterwards? How was your productivity, energy, focus, patience, awareness, attitude, motivation? So much better, right?

My relaxation space. (Even the cat chooses to relax here.)
So how can we create more vacation experiences in our lives so that we can have more of the good life all of the time?

1. Create a retreat space in your home. My aunt told me of a quote she'd heard on Oprah that "Your home should rise up to greet you." - and it's one of those things that hit the nail on the head for me. Your home - or a space in your home, at the very least - should be a place where you can feel safe, relaxed, inspired and refreshed (everything I want from a good vacation!). Create that space, even if it's just an armchair in a corner, where you can unwind, reflect and get some perspective.

2. Plan mini self-care or relaxation-based day-trips. Prioritize them. Leave the rest of the day open. Don't rush. Pack a picnic for a nice, long, slow hike. Go for a spa day with your friends. Bring a blanket and find a field to lay in. Keep it simple, but make plans and stick to them (no plan is a plan too)! Invite people who help you relax and unwind - and let them know that that's the point. You'll all be grateful you did.

3. Spend time in nature. Notice the changing of the seasons. Notice that you, too, are a natural creature who is always in flux, going through cycles and rhythms, experiencing shift, change... erosion, even. Smell the air, listen to the birds and the wind. Be present. Climb mountains. Spend time at the peak, enjoying the view.

4. Try meditation and mindful breathing, the ultimate "vacation anywhere" tools, as far as I can tell. For me, they are techniques that help me get curious about the barrage of thoughts going on in my head, while grounding me in the rhythm of my breathe and the present moment. Even when it's noisy and busy all around, it's about knowing you hold a sanctuary within.

Relaxing, grounding yourself, and getting perspective is what improves the goodness factor in the rest of your life. This is why we owe it to ourselves, our families, friends and coworkers to take some time for ourselves. When we feel recharged, refreshed and energized, we show up as the best version of ourselves.

How do you create mini step-back vacation experiences in your every day? How to you relax and get perspective?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler

1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (any flour of your choice is fine too)
½ cup maple sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
9 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup water

Berry Filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch or 1 teaspoon agar agar flakes
¼ cup cold water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4-6 cups blackberries
1/3-1/2 cup maple sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. If you have a 10-inch cast iron skillet use that, otherwise grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Mix together all topping ingredients, except the butter and water, in a large mixing bowl. Add the pieces of cold butter and, with your clean hands, crumble and mash the butter into the flour mixture until it is all integrated into a crumbly dough. Add the water and finish mixing with a spoon to just combine. Do not overmix. Set aside.

Combine all berry filling ingredients in a bowl on the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring. When boiling, pour into baking dish. With your fingers or a spoon, roughly break up and distribute the topping dough over the berries.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the dough looks solid and dry (it should be firm to a tap from your finger, not mushy or liquidy in any way) and the mixture is bubbling happily. Serve hot or room temperature, with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream if your heart desires.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blackberries: Celebrate the Season!

Evan and I went blackberry picking last weekend! Sorry he only took a butt shot...
Came home with a couple pounds... I'd say half a gallon.
Blackberry honey jam.
Whole wheat blackberry pancakes!
(For dinner, yes!)
Blackberry crumble
times two!
Oh, yeah... with a little Straus organic vanilla ice cream. I don't mess around when I'm celebrating.
Evan obviously didn't like his.

If that doesn't make you want to celebrate, I just don't know what will! If you go pick yourself some blackberries, I'll type up that blackberry cobbler recipe for you to make this weekend...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ditch Exercise...

for Movement!

Who likes working out when they've been at work all day? (Some do, I don't!)

Movement is one of the number one ways to beat low-energy and the blues. It might seem counter-intuitive that using energy will give you more, but remember those old lawnmowers you had to pull-start? That's what a few minutes of movement does for your energy (and metabolism)!

So what MOVES you? Hint: What's fun? Try a dance class (or dance party with your friends/kids/dog in your own living room), hula hooping, martial arts, backyard-freestyle (or kitchen!) badminton, freeze tag, a long walk on the beach... let your creativity flow!

Have just 5 minutes (right now) between tasks? Don't check your email or Facebook again - try one of these instead:
  • Run around the block. That's right, in whatever clothes you're wearing. Sneakers are a good idea, though.
  • Blast the music and bogey down: put on the most bouncy, happy song you know and dance as hard as you can for one whole song. Full body shaking and grooving.
  • Hula hoop - kids got one hanging out in the garage? Whip it out. And blast the music for this too, if you can. And yes, they make ones for adults - mine's from Hoop Mamas!
  • Pull-start your lawn mower! (Kidding!)
  • Stretch and jump. Counter-act all that sitting with some reaching for the sky, reaching for your toes, and jumping up and down for one full minute. Seriously simple, not so easy!
Go get your blood pumping! What else does it for you? Leave your ideas below so we can all have as much fun and feel as good as you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Emotional eating hurts.

This is how it felt when I told my partner that I was secretly eating in the closet at night, that I was an emotional eater, that I had disordered eating habits that were eating me from the inside.

Somehow something inside of me knew that I couldn't take the pain or shame of hiding anymore.

And now I know it was so worth it.

Everything feels lighter and easier.

How do you dream of blossoming?

What is your untapped potential?

You're not alone in wanting more, happier, better.

And you deserve it all!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quick Mid-Summer Dinner

leftover roasted sweet potatoes and tempeh
+ half avocado
+ 10-minute chard and squash saute

Always always always make extra whenever you cook. Leftovers are the number one secret to having healthy food at your fingertips for easy eating!

I already had the leftover roasted sweet potatoes and tempeh. You can sub in any protein for the tempeh: fried or hard-boiled egg, beans, quinoa, free-range organic chicken/turkey...

Maple Mustard Baked Tempeh recipe here.

How to: Never buy a rotten avocado again.

Saute: Warm skillet over medium-high heat, add oil (coconut oil is my top choice for sautes). Add chopped garlic and sliced squash, cook until beginning to brown. Add roughly chopped chard (or other greens) and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve!

Bonus avocado tip: If you're not eating your whole avocado right away, do not remove the pit in the uneaten half. Leave it out on your counter for 1-2 days until you're ready to eat it. (Unless your cat likes avocado, like mine. Then hide it and leave yourself a note so you remember to eat it.) Somehow the pit lets it know not to turn brown and rotten. After a few days, remove the pit and, if needed, slice off the super thin skin that forms on top.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Italian Beet Salad

Salad base:
2 large red beets
15 italian basil leaves (stacked, rolled and sliced into ribbons)
1/2 cup raw walnuts (chopped), pine nuts, pepitas/pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. Peel beets (under water or wearing rubber gloves/an apron is highly recommended) and shred into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine dressing in a jar and shake to mix.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to mixing bowl, toss with dressing and serve immediately.
  4. Garnish with slices of avocado (optional).
Serves 4
*Thanks to Chef Ray Goodman for this amazing recipe!

Here was dinner for two last night!

Italian beet salad + fresh romaine salad + spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce + hard-boiled egg
(+ cat)