Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

It's December 24th, or Christmas Eve for those celebrating the holiday. Frequently, this can be a holiday of indulgences and unhealthy foods, but it doesn't have to be. This year we're doing a pot-luck style dinner with some family members, and I'm bringing some healthy options. Those of you who read my blog regularly might recognize the my contributions, as the links are below. I'm very much looking forward to dinner tonight!

Christmas Eve Dinner Menu:
To start, we'll be having Sugar Pie Pumpkin Soup. Going back in time to my very first blog post!

The next course will consist of "Everyone Loves It" Kale Salad, fresh Dungeness crab from the California coast, and whole wheat sourdough.

And for dessert...homemade shortbread cookies. Yum!

Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Garlic Mushroom Miso Soup

Fresh, hot miso soup - yum!
The cold weather means that I eat a lot of warm soups for lunch and dinner, and on a recent night my stomach was also feeling a bit queasy (perhaps from the bagel I ate for brunch - ugh!). I still wanted something for my evening meal, however, and decided that a light soup would be just perfect.

I recently bought a container of Brown Rice Miso, and decided that a Miso Soup was just what the doctor ordered! As fresh shitake mushrooms can be pricey, especially when organic, look for dehydrated mushrooms. They're much less expensive, take only 10 minutes to rehydrate, and the leftover water makes a delicious broth base you can use in your soup instead of plain water! While I added garlic, seaweed and mushrooms, those things are all optional, as are green onions or tofu. Like many recipes I love, it's all about what you have on hand in the kitchen! The garlic will be strong, but it's also a great immune system strengthener - great for cold and flu season!

This is a super simple and quick recipe that can be made as a light meal, a hearty meal (with lots of additions), or as a side dish to a meal. Use the base recipe and make it your own!

Miso Soup (serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side)
Base Broth Ingredients:
5C of Water (use water from the mushrooms if you re-hydrated some)
1/4C of Miso Paste (any variety)
1T Tamari

Optional Additions:
1T Toasted Sesame Oil
1/2 Block of Organic Tofu, cubed
3 Green Onions, sliced thin
3 Cloves of Garlic, pressed
1/2C Shitake Mushrooms, sliced
Anything else you desire!

- Heat water (or mushroom broth) in a pot over low/medium heat. You want the water to get hot, but not boil. Boiling destroys the beneficial microorganisms and probiotics in the miso, which your body needs!
- Stir in the miso paste until it is well dispersed.
- Add the garlic, seaweed, and any other optional ingredients. Continue to stir occasionally, and do not allow the mixture to boil!
- Heat through, and serve immediately.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chanukah Post: Lotsa Latkes

Zucchini, Sweet Potato, and Potato Latkes
In case you missed it on my Facebook page or in my December newsletter, I recently wrote a guest post for the Full Circle CSA blog. Full Circle is an organic CSA service based out of Seattle, Washington and serves Washington state, Idaho, Alaska and the San Francisco Bay Area with delicious produce. If you live in any of those areas and are looking for a CSA service, check them out!

My post, LOTSA LATKES, contains my recipe for traditional Potato as well as Zucchini Latkes, as well as a Chive-Yogurt Dip, and Laura's Applesauce. It's one time of the year when eating healthy is not an option!

Click on over and read it HERE!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

A steaming bowl of deliciousness!
Despite my best efforts, a few weeks ago I came down with a cold. It was going around, a few of my friends had it, and I thought my healthy diet and lifestyle would protect me from the virus, but it happened. It started with the tickle in the back of my throat, and within a couple of days I had the stuffed sinuses and runny nose as well. It wasn't horrible, nothing to keep me from doing most of my daily tasks, but it was still obnoxious and I wanted to get rid of it and get back to being healthy!

I met a friend for a cup of tea one afternoon, and she told me about the soup she loves to make when she or her husband have a cold. She got the recipe from a friend who also has a blog, and she sent me the recipe. As I read through it, I realized I had all the ingredients at home! No shopping required. So after our tea, I came straight home and started cooking dinner. I had a big bowl of the soup that night (see the above photo), and ate it again for lunch and dinner the next couple of days. I swear I felt better the morning after that first bowl! Besides all the healthy vegetables in the soup, it also has curry which is known for it's immune strengthening qualities, and miso has probiotics that help the immune system as well, so who knows what it was that helped me. I think it was the whole combination.

I know that the next time I feel a cold coming on, this is what I'll be having!

Kale and Sweet Potato Soup (makes 6-8 good sized bowls)
2T Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
3 Sweet Potatoes, rinsed and chopped
2T Tomato Paste
8C Filtered Water
2T Miso Paste
1t Ground Cumin
1t Curry Powder
4C Kale, rinsed and finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Note: The original recipe has you add the miso much earlier, but heating will destroy the miso's healing probiotics and living organisms. Add miso toward the end of any recipe, after you've turned off the heat, to ensure you're getting the benefits!
- In a large pot, over medium heat, pour in the oil.
- Saute the onion, garlic and carrot until soft and fragrant.
- Add the spices, sweet potatoes, and tomato paste. Saute a few minutes.
- Add the water.
- Bring to a boil and simmer 30-60 minutes.
- Add the kale during the last 20 minutes.
- Just before serving, after heat is off, add the miso paste and stir to combine.
- Pour into bowls and serve. Pour leftovers into glass containers to refrigerate or freeze.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feeling Thankful

For those of us in the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday was last Thursday. Every family does something slightly different to celebrate the holiday, and many have traditions of something they do every year. Growing up, we lived across the country from our extended family (all my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents), so the Thanksgiving holiday was a pretty calm event for our family of four. As I've gotten older, the four of us from my immediate family have each done our own thing for the holiday, and I've developed some traditions of my own. The best part about my tradition is that I can keep it up no matter who I'm celebrating the holiday with. This is important because every year is different. Sometimes (like this year) I spend Thanksgiving with my dad, some years I spend it with my mom, and other times I spend it off on a vacation.

My dad with the turkey.
By now your probably wondering what is this tradition? It's pretty simple really, and it's something many people do already. My tradition is to use the Thanksgiving holiday as my reminder to be thankful. To be mindful and consider all I have in my life to be grateful for. I used to think that the "What are you grateful for?" question asked at every Cafe Gratitude restaurant was cheesy, but now I think it's a wonderful way to begin a meal.

Seafood soup, before the dashi broth was added. So pretty!
The people I'm sharing the Thanksgiving feast with may or may not take a moment before the meal to verbally share what they're thankful for, but I can do it in my head regardless. I realize that Thanksgiving was a few days ago now, but the spirit of gratitude can continue to live on through the December holidays and into the new year. I've recently read that keeping a gratitude journal and every day recording one thing you're grateful for can significantly improve mood, interpersonal relationships, and lift depressive symptoms. Whether you're a journal-keeper or not, taking a moment to recognize what you are grateful for can have a wonderful positive effect on your well-being.

And so, in the spirit of feeling grateful, here is my list of what I'm grateful for this season:
- My health
- My relationships with each of my parents, my sister, and my friends
- Two years (and counting) with my amazing boyfriend
- My fabulous apartment with lots of natural light
- The abundance of delicious, affordable, healthy food in my area
- The farmers that grow the food, and the delivery people that bring it to my area
- My clients and all that they teach me
- The beauty of nature
- My Christmas tree, the first I've put up in years
- Vacations

Grilled wild duck with chanterelle mushrooms.

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to you all! I'm also grateful for each of you who have read this post!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Puree to Pumpkin Pie

Here in the United States, National Pumpkin Pie day is observed on December 25th. In honor of that holiday (even though it's still a month away) and to perfect my recipe, I decided to make a pumpkin pie from the real thing. That's right, no cans here! I used a "sugar pie pumpkin" and pureed it myself. One of these days I'll make my own pie crust too, and then it will really be a made-from-scratch pie.

So, if you're still looking for something to bring to a Thanksgiving feast, here's your recipe!

Pumpkin Pie, right out of the oven!

Recipe: Pumpkin Puree to Pumpkin Pie
- One Sugar Pie Pumpkin (yes, that is what they're really called), or 2C canned pumpkin puree
- Pie Crust
- 1C Heavy Cream
- 1/2C Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/3C White Sugar
- 1/2t Salt
- 2 Whole Eggs, plus 1 Yolk
- 2t Cinnamon
- 1t Ground Ginger
- 1/4t Ground Cloves
- 1/4t Ground Nutmeg
- 1/4t Ground Cardamom
- 1/2t Lemon Zest
Sugar Pie Pumpkin, before baking
Directions for Pumpkin Puree:
(This can be done a day or two ahead, to save time.)

- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Rinse and dry the pumpkin, then cut in half.
- Remove the seeds (save them for roasting), and place the pumpkins cut side down on a baking pan lined with foil. The foil just makes clean up easier, it's not required.
Sugar Pie Pumpkin, cut in half and cooked til soft.
- Bake the pumpkin for about 40 minutes, depending on size. It is done when it is soft to the touch. I'd recommend touching it with a fork or cooking utensil, not your finger, as it will be HOT!
- When pumpkin is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool until you can hold it comfortably. (This took me about 30 minutes.)
- Scrape the inside of the pumpkin into a blender, and puree til smooth. My Vita-Mix worked great here!
- Put the puree into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, and let drain for about an hour. You can squeeze the water out to speed up this process a little. Otherwise, your puree will remain very liquidy, resulting in a mushy pie.
Straining the puree in a cheesecloth.

Directions for Pumpkin Pie:
(Total time is 3-4 hours. Prep, cook time 65 min, cooling for 2 hours.)
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix the sugars, salt and spices. Add in the lemon zest.
- In a small bowl, beat together the eggs. Pour eggs into large bowl with sugars.
- Add the pumpkin puree and combine.
- Add the cream and mix until everything is well combined.
- Pour mixture into pie shell, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, drop oven temperature to 350 and continue baking 40-50 minutes longer.
- Pie is done when a toothpick (or thin knife) comes out clean in the middle.
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Slice, and serve with a dollop of whipped (organic) cream on top!
Pumpkin Pie, before going in the oven.
Pumpkin Pie, after baking. Smells delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you grateful for this year?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Easy (I promise!) Home Made Chicken Stock

While it does require some time and planning ahead, making chicken stock is super easy! If you can chop vegetables and boil water, you can make it. I promise!

Mmmm...chicken stock!
I love to make my own soup after having made a roast chicken earlier in the week. One roast chicken turns into food for the next two weeks (for one or two people, anyway)! Be sure to keep a container in the fridge where you collect all the bones and scarps from your chicken. I also pour the fat/drippings from the roasting pan into a glass jar and keep that in the fridge until I'm ready to make soup.

My week will usually look something like this:
Monday: Make a roast chicken with veggies and maybe some brown rice.
Tuesday: Eat leftover chicken and veggies.
Wednesday: Use shredded chicken to make chicken salad or taco filling.
Thursday: I'm usually a little tired of chicken and eat something else.
Friday: Ditto Thursday.
Saturday: Make stock!
Sunday/Mon/Tues: Use the stock in a soup, and either eat for the next week or freeze it.

Chicken Stock (one chicken makes about 6 cups of stock)
- Leftover roasted chicken carcass, including all bones and scrap meat
- If it came with your bird, use the neck too
- Whatever you roasted inside the chicken (ie. lemon, onion, herbs, etc.)
- Drippings from the pan
- Your choice of vegetables: chopped carrot, celery, leek, onion, garlic cloves
- Fresh or dried herbs: rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, parsley

- Set aside at least 4 hours to make the stock. Most of that time it's simmering unattended, so you can do other things around the house while it cooks.
- Heat a big, heavy stock pot over medium heat.
- If not already cooked, first cook the chicken neck and any other raw chicken parts you're using. When these are cooked, remove and set aside.
- Use some of the chicken fat (scraped off the top of the drippings) to cook the vegetables. Stir until fragrant and softened.
- Put everything (chicken bones, neck, other veggies and herbs, etc.) into the pan, and cover with water.

Everything is in the pot! Not quite enough water here though.
- Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 4+ hours, stirring every so often. Skim off the foam that forms on the top.
- After about four hours, taste the soup and see if it is to your desired taste. If it's not strong enough, keep simmering!
- When done, strain and keep the liquid (obviously, this is your stock!). I do this by pouring the soup into a colander that is in a big bowl. Push down on the contents of the colander to extract as much liquid as possible.
- If you are making soup, not stock, and want to keep some of the veggies in your soup, go ahead and pick them out! I frequently do this.
- After straining, chill the soup in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, skim the fat off the top.
- Make soup, or pour the stock into containers, and use within 3-4 days. If you're freezing it be sure to leave 1" of room on the top to allow for expansion.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Easy Oven Roasted Chicken

On a night cool enough that I don't mind using the oven, one of my favorite things to make is a roasted chicken. I love making it anyway, but it also is a great meal to make during October Unprocessed month. Why do I love it so much, you ask? Because it makes the whole house smell good, it tastes delicious, it's a meal in one pan, and gives me a bunch of leftovers! Oh, and I can make soup out of it, too! Check out my easy way here.

Ready to serve!
What you'll need:
- 1 Whole, Organic Chicken - check if you can get one at your farmer's market!
- Vegetables of your choosing: Carrots, Onions, Garlic, Fennel, Sweet Potato, Parsnip, etc.
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Chopped herbs of your choosing: Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, etc. (Fresh are ideal, but dried work just fine too.)
- Lemon, cut in half
- Bay Leaf
- Roasting pan with deep sides

Note: Any time you are handling raw poultry, be sure to wash your hands and any utensils well!
- If there are any, remove giblets (heart, liver, etc.) from the inside of the chicken.
- Rinse chicken under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.
- Since your hands have touched the chicken, have someone (a partner, child or friend) pour some olive oil, s&p, and herbs onto the bird. Use your hands to rub this around til both sides and the inside of the chicken are coated. You can push some herbs under the skin as well, though this is not necessary.
- Put the lemon and bay leaf inside the cavity, as well as sprigs of fresh herbs, if you have them.
Ready to go in the oven.
- With the chicken breast side down, put the pan into the oven.
- While chicken begins to cook, chop up the veggies you want to use. Toss them with oil and herbs.
Chopped sweet potato, onion, carrots, garlic and herbs.
- After about 20 minutes, take the chicken out. Carefully flip it over so that the breast side is now on top, and then add the vegetables.
- Return the pan to the oven, and continue roasting for about another 25 minutes.
- After 45 minutes total, check the temperature of the bird using a meat thermometer. Poultry should reach 180 degrees in the thigh.
- When done, remove pan from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. This makes for a juicier bird.
- Spoon vegetables into a serving dish, and cut up the chicken to serve it.
- Be sure to save all the bones and pan drippings if you're going to make soup! That recipe will be up next week, so stay tuned...It's been posted! Click here to learn how to make chicken stock.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin (or Squash) Seeds

Roasted Seeds from a Sugar Pie Pumpkin
Last week I posted a recipe for Acorn Squash, and I told you to keep the seeds. Here is the post where I tell you what you can do with them. If you're cutting open any variety of squash or pumpkin this season, don't throw those seeds away! Also known as pepitas, and not just for October Unprocessed, these little guys are full of vitamins and minerals, and are quite tasty when roasted with a little olive oil and garlic salt (or any spice you feel like using). You can eat them right away, or store in an air-tight container for a couple of days. They'll lose their crispiness the longer they sit.

Some of the nutrients contained in squash seeds are: Protein, Calcium, Zinc, Mono-Unsaturated Fat (good for the heart), Vitamin A, Folate, Manganese, Trytophan, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. Source:

What to do:
- Rinse the seeds and pat dry.
- Toss the seeds with just enough olive oil to coat. Not too much, or they'll be greasy!
- Add some salt, garlic salt, or chili powder, or whatever you want.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Keep an eye on 'em so they don't burn.
- Enjoy warm, or wait for them to cool. Either way, they're delicious!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa

With the return of fall weather recently, I've noticed that I'm craving less raw salads and more hearty meals. And the other night was no exception. As the seasons change, have you noticed a change in the foods your body craves?

Acorn Squash - those seeds are tasty too!
Because I've taken the October Unprocessed pledge, I took a look in my kitchen and tried to come up with something to make that would not require me to buy anything or go to a restaurant. I saw an Acorn Squash I bought recently, and decided to turn it into a complete meal. How to do that, you ask? Enter quinoa! I always have quinoa in my kitchen, in fact I have three kinds of it: white, red and black. Each ones tastes subtly different, so depending on what I'm making I'll choose a different type. To go with the squash, I decided to go with the blend, as it seems to go well with savory dishes.

To start, I roasted the squash in my oven. As that was baking, I cooked the quinoa in a pot on the stove. And miraculously, everything was done at about the same time!

A delicious meal! Yum!
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa (serves 2)
- 1 Acorn Squash
- 1/2C Quinoa
- 1C Water
- 1/3C Minced Onion
- 1/8C Your choice: Raisins, Currants, Cherries, or Cranberries
- 1/8C Pecans
- 1T Olive Oil
- 1T Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper, to taste

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Rinse and dry squash, then slice lengthwise down the middle.
- Remove and save the seeds for roasting.
- Put the squash face-down on a foil-lined baking pan. Bake about 30 minutes, or until soft.
- While squash is baking, prepare the quinoa.
- Rinse the quinoa to remove the natural saponins that give it a bitter taste. When water runs clear, put quinoa in a pot with water (ratio is same as for rice - 1:2).
- Bring water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer quinoa until water has been absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. In the last few minutes, add the onion.
- When water is absorbed, remove quinoa from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, and let sit until the squash is done.
- Spoon the quinoa into the squash, and serve.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chard and Chickpeas with Farro

Chard wilting in the pan.
We're about a week into October now. How is your #unprocessed challenge going? I'm lucky in that our CSA delivers fresh produce year-round, making it easy for me. (To find a CSA in your area, check out Local Harvest.) Lately they've been sending us a lot of chard, so I've been finding new ways to cook with it. Here is one that I created based on what I had around the house. It was delicious, and it made enough for me to have leftovers too! And we all know how much I love my leftovers! This dish is great this month, for October Unprocessed, but it would be delicious any time.

When I make a dish that consists mainly of vegetables (like this one), I like to combine it with a whole grain. Quinoa or brown rice are my usual go-to grains that I keep around the house, but lately I've been hearing a lot about farro. I usually buy my grains in the bulk section of the grocery store, and store them in glass jars. I've found that this reduces the amount of waste from all the packaging, and also keeps my kitchen nice and organized! If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in having me give your kitchen a make-over, send me an email and let's talk!

Anyway, back to my dinner...Farro is the italian name for emmer wheat, and is an unprocessed grain of wheat. Farro is lower in gluten and higher in protein and fiber than conventional wheat. It is also high in magnesium and B vitamins. Sounds good, right? I purchased some from the bulk section at the store, and it had been sitting on my shelf for a few weeks. I thought this chard and chickpea recipe was the perfect dish to try it with. And I was right! The farro has a nice bite to it, almost like al-dente pasta, and it has a nutty flavor too. It paired very well with the chard and chickpeas, and was hearty, and left me feeling full without being stuffed. This grain could be substituted any time a recipe calls for rice, pasta, or another grain. That's the best thing about these grains - they're so interchangeable!

Finished dish, served over farro. 

Leftovers! In my glass "tupperware" to bring to work and reheat.
(Sorry for the horrible lighting here.)

Chard and Chickpeas with Farro
2T Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, chopped
1 Small Onion, chopped
1C Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans (they're the same thing!)
1 Bunch Swiss Chard, rinsed and chopped
1 Tomato, sliced
1/2 Lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper, to taste

- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Stir in garlic and onion, cook and stir until soft and fragrant. They'll turn a bit translucent.
- Stir in the chickpeas, and season with s&p. Heat through.
- When chickpeas are hot (a few minutes), add the chard to the pan. Cook until wilted.
- Add tomato slices, squeeze lemon juice over the greens, and heat through.
- Plate, and season with more s&p, if desired.

Farro, almost done cooking.
Cooking Farro:
- Similar to rice, the ratio of farro to water is 1:2. For example, if cooking 1C farro, use 2C water.
- Be sure to rinse the farro before using. Even better, soak it!
- Boil water in pot, salt it, then add the rinsed farro. Cover and simmer until water is absorbed. Cooking time will vary depending on how much you're making, but 1C of farro took me about 30 minutes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

IIN Conference in NYC!

WOW! What an inspiring weekend I had in New York. The school I attended for my health coaching program (the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, for those of you wondering) put together an amazing lineup of speakers for us at our 2-day LIVE conference, held at the Jazz at Lincoln Center. As I sit here in my sister's Manhattan apartment on Monday morning writing this post, I am trying to put words to my experience. Flying out from California, I am so grateful that I was able to combine attending the conference with staying with my sister, spending time with a best friend from high school, and also seeing two of my cousins who I hadn't seen in WAY too long. I'll fly back to California tomorrow, and it's been a great trip that has left my heart full, and I feel re-energized to propel myself and my business forward.

Here was the lineup of speakers:
Andrea Beaman, Health Coach and Chef (trivia fact: she was on the first season of Top Chef)
JJ Smith, Nutritionist & Weight Loss Expert with an awesome energy
Kathie Swift, MS RD LDN
Joel Harper, Celebrity Personal Trainer, he really got us moving!
Dr. Daniel Amen, seriously amazing brain researcher and author
Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and cookbook author
John Douillard, Ayurvedic expert
Sadie Nardini, Rock Star Yoga Instructor
Bernie Siegal, MD, Surgeon and creator of Carefrontation
Jane Ashley, MA CHHC
and of course, IIN's founder Joshua Rosenthal, and CEO Uri Feiner

When I signed up, I was most excited to hear Andrea Beaman and Mark Bittman. But I have to say, every single one of these speakers was amazing. I learned something from each and every one of them, and even though I was sitting on my butt from 10-4 for two days, I was never bored. The speakers were so engaging and they had my complete attention. I wish I'd been able to take photos, but the one I took didn't really come out and I got a stern talking to, so I decided not to risk it again.

Reviewing the pages and pages of notes I took (hello, hand cramp!), there are SO many things I want to share, but that would make for waaaaay too long of a blog post. So instead, here are some of my highlights:

- Having your health is having wealth. Without your health, you have nothing. Disease is not a normal state for humans - look at your symptoms, they're telling you something! (Andrea Beaman)
- Live your life with passion. Never forget your dreams. Love! (JJ Smith)
- There are more nerve endings in our gut than in our entire central nervous system. So our "gut feelings" really do matter! (Kathie Swift)
- Alzheimer's Disease starts 30 years before there are any outward symptoms, but it is seen in brain imaging scans. Our choices can either accelerate or decelerate the process. (Dr. Daniel Amen)
- As our weight increases, the size of our brain decreases. (Dr. Daniel Amen)
- What would happen if we reversed the prices at fast food restaurants so that a burger costs $4 and a salad $1? (Mark Bittman)
- That 80% of all the antibiotics in the United States are given to the 10 billion animals we eat each year. (Mark Bittman)
- To think of pure veganism as nirvana. It's on one end of a spectrum, and the journey is more important than the destination - eat more foods from plants and less from animals/processed foods, and even our small changes make a difference. (Mark Bittman)
- That 95% of our serotonin (what gives us our sense of well-being) is produced in our intestinal tract. So if the gut is blocked up, your serotonin production will be too. (John Douillard)
- Nobody is free of wounds, so don't hide yours. Charcoal under pressure can become a diamond! (Bernie Siegal)
- We're all mortal, so our purpose is not to help people avoid death. Our purpose is to help people enjoy life! (Bernie Siegal)
- Getting clear on my goals and how I'm going to achieve them. What do I want to have accomplished by tomorrow? By Friday? By Thanksgiving? By Christmas? In one year? In five years? In ten years? (Joshua Rosenthal)

I would love to hear which of my highlights are meaningful to you as well. Please leave a comment below to continue the conversation.
And as always, if you're interested in a free health consultation, send an email to and we'll set it up!

Monday, September 24, 2012

October Unprocessed - Join Me!

Hello dear reader. You may or may not have noticed the new icon on the left of my blog. It's a button for the October Unprocessed Challenge, which is starting in less than a week. October is coming up fast, the first is next Monday, so it's time to prepare!!

Sign up to take the challenge with me!
As a little background, the October Unprocessed Challenge is the brainchild of Eating Rules founder Andrew Wilder, and this is the fourth year he's held the challenge. I first heard of it on the Facebook page of a fellow IIN alum, Cora Poage of Sexy Soul Wellness. I clicked on the link, and the second I read what the October Unprocessed Challenge was about I signed myself up. Last year 3,000 people took the pledge, and Andrew's goal for this year is 30,000. Will you join us?

This pledge has me really excited! I mean, most of you know that I already eat pretty healthy, but there are those lingering processed items in the kitchen that I keep going back to. Taking a pledge to omit those items for a month is so much more do-able than telling myself I can never eat them again, and the challenge is a great step towards raising my awareness even more about what I'm putting into my body. Throughout the month, here on the blog, I'll be talking (and taking pictures) about my experience with the Challenge. You guys are going to hold me accountable. I'm going to be real and honest. If I slip up, I'll tell you. But I'll also be talking about all the delicious unprocessed things I'm eating, too.

If you want to join me in doing the challenge, please leave a comment here and/or on my Facebook page. And also please sign up on Andrew's website, as that way he can reach his goal. He also sends out all sorts of helpful updates via email - not spam, I promise! And trust me, you can eat MUCH more than you think you can! His goal is to raise awareness of what's in our food via the "kitchen test," where basically if you could make it in your kitchen (you don't actually have to make it, just know that you could) you can eat it. If it takes a laboratory to create the food, then you can't eat it, at least not this month.

Another point he makes, which I am also a fan of, is that you can make deliberate exceptions. For example, if it's your birthday and you know you're going to want a special treat that does not pass the kitchen test, go ahead and eat some. If you have a marathon or triathlon and know that you need to eat your Gu or whatever, that's okay too. The point is that we shouldn't buy some processed food items at the market because we have an instant craving for it or because it's an existing habit. Take this month to explore your habits, and notice any differences that occur in your mind and body. And please let me know what you're experiencing via comments.

So join me, and take the October Unprocessed pledge! For a day, a week, or the whole month! And remember, leave a comment below or on my Facebook page. And please sign up on Andrew's page too!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blistered Padron or Shishito Peppers

Blistered to perfection!
While sorting out our CSA bounty the other week, I came across a carton of Padron Peppers. I've ordered these at restaurants before, and usually they're very mild. But the last time I had them (with my sister in Los Angeles about a year ago) they were SO spicy that we couldn't even eat them. The very nice waitress took them back to the kitchen and off our bill, she could see how much we were suffering. My sister and I both had tears, were gulping water, and blowing our noses. Not a pretty sight. Apparently they are spicier when out of season, but when they're in season (like now - Aug/Sep) they are a very mild pepper.

Anyway, I now had some in front of me, so it was with some trepidation that I cooked them as an appetizer to dinner. This batch was mild and delicious, and making them is so easy and simple!

- Rinse peppers and pat dry.
- In large bowl, toss peppers with enough olive oil to coat.
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I used a cast iron) over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of high-heat oil (such as sesame), just enough so the peppers don't stick.
- When pan is warm, add the peppers. Watch out for sizzling oil splatter. They will cook quick, so don't walk away!
- Keeping an eye on the peppers, turn them every couple minutes so they evenly blister.
- When they have enough blistering to your taste, put them back in the bowl and toss with sea salt.
- Serve/eat immediately! They're best when hot.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What to do when you have too many peppers!

Beautiful, aren't they?
I haven't been to the farm where our CSA grows peppers, but the place has got to be totally overrun with them right now (late August/early September), because every week we get another bag full of them. They are delicious, don't get me wrong, but in going through my fridge the other day I realized that I still had some from 3 weeks ago! I started thinking about what delicious things I could do with the peppers before they got too old (besides chopping them up and topping my salad with them) and I realized that in a few months, when peppers aren't so plentiful and they become pricey at the store, it would be fabulous to have a bunch ready-to-go in the freezer.

Some info and health benefits of bell peppers: (source: World's Healthiest Foods)
- Low in capsaicin, which is what makes other peppers spicy, resulting in a mild taste.
- Paprika is made from bell peppers (I didn't know this!), and will be whatever color the pepper is.
- Member of the nightshade family (others include tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant). If you have arthritis or joint pain, don't eat these as the alkaloids could be a contributing factor.
- Vitamin C and Carotenoid concentration is higher in ripe peppers.
- Twice the Vitamin C as an orange!
- Good source of Vitamin E.
- Lots of Phytonutrients: Flavonoids (luteolin, quercitin, hesperidan), Carotenoids (alpha/beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin), Hydroxycinnamic Acids (ferulic and cinnamic acid).

I had bell peppers, but I believe this would work with any type. The one thing to keep in mind is that peppers that have been frozen usually get a bit mushy when you defrost them, so while they work great in cooked recipes out of the freezer (think scrambled eggs, soups, etc.), they won't be so great raw.

Here's how I got my peppers freezer ready: 

1. Rinse peppers and pat dry.

2. Cut peppers in half, use your fingers to peel out the seeds and the green tops.

Step 2
 3. Cut the peppers into your desired form. I chopped, but you can do slices (think: fajitas) or even dice them if you want. It's up to you!

4. Put peppers onto a baking sheet and put them in the freezer until frozen. Ideally you would do a single layer, but I didn't have room in my freezer.

Step 4
 5. Once the peppers have frozen, put them into labeled freezer-proof glass jars or plastic baggies. I do my best to avoid using plastic, but all my jars were in use today.

Step 5

6. Put the peppers in your freezer, and use them as needed. In a few months, you'll be glad you thought ahead!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eggplant Two Ways: Roasted & Baba Ghanoush

Dinner: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato with Pesto
I had a problem the other night. I was home alone, and there were two huge eggplants (a globe and a rosa bianca) sitting in the fridge. No matter the preparation I chose, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to eat it all in one sitting. But I needed to cook them soon. And then, I had an idea! Why not roast some eggplant tonight (with some under-ripe tomatoes), and make baba ghanoush tomorrow? Brilliant! I love meals that meld into each other - another way to use leftovers! If you aren't thinking ahead that far, you can roast the eggplant the same day as making the baba ghanoush, but be sure to allow enough time to let it cool first.

Eggplant and tomato slices. Fresh and hot, right out of the oven!
Roasted Eggplant & Tomatoes
2 Eggplants (any variety will work)
4-6 Tomatoes (under-ripe works great here!)
1t Salt (plus extra)
1/4t Black Pepper, freshly ground
2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced (I used a press)
8 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped (or 1t Dried Basil)

- Rinse the eggplant and pat dry, then slice into 1/4" rounds, put in a colander and sprinkle with coarse salt. This draws out the moisture, making them less bitter.
- Let eggplant sit for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- When time has elapsed, remove slices and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Put slices (plus sliced tomatoes, if using) in a big bowl, and toss with salt, pepper, oil, garlic and basil.
- Lightly oil the baking sheet, and arrange slices in a single layer (use two baking sheets if you're overlapping).
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until slice turn a bit brown.
- Eat immediately, or let cool to make the baba ghanoush.

Baba Ghanoush (without tahini)
Leftover eggplant, about to be blended up!

The result: delicious Baba Ghanoush!
1.5 Pounds of Eggplant, weigh before cooking (how many this is depends on size)
3T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1T Fresh Lemon Juice

Note #1: Because I was using the seasoned roasted eggplant from the night before, I did not need to add seasoning. If you're using plain roasted eggplant, add 1t sea salt and 1 clove of pressed garlic to this recipe.
Note #2: Most recipes tell you to remove the skins of the eggplant, but I left them on the slices. Not sure how this would work in a regular blender (and I would not do it for bigger pieces) but in a Vita-Mix it turned out great.
- Add ingredients to blender or food processor, and pulse until combined to desired consistency.
- Serve either at room temp or chilled with your favorite dipping items: fresh veggies, whole wheat pita, etc. Or use as a spread on sandwiches.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Berry Peachy Smoothie

Okay, enough of my vacation. It's back to work for real this week, and I'm posting a healthy recipe for you all. I don't know about you, but with it being summer, we have a bounty of fresh fruit around the house right now. This smoothie is a good way to use some peaches and berries, and it's also a good smoothie to use if you want to hide some greens (for the kids, or your friend or partner who isn't used to the idea of veggies in their smoothie). I used kale, but you could also use spinach, they both blend in nicely. As you become more used to the greens being in the smoothie, you can begin to change the ratio of fruit:vegetables so that you actually have more vegetables and less fruit - it's better for your blood sugar. But this easy to make and easy to drink smoothie is a great place to start, so give it a try today!

All ingredients ready to go...

Vitamix at work. See the kale leaves disappearing?
2 Peaches or Nectarines (white or yellow), pit removed
1/3C Boysenberries/Blackberries
1/4C Blueberries
2 Strawberries
3 Kale leaves (remove the thick stalks)
Water, or Coconut Water
2-3 Ice Cubes (if using fresh fruit, omit if using frozen)

- Put all ingredients in blender with greens/ice on top.
- Snap on lid and blend til smooth.
- Pour into glasses, or a  mason jar if you want to save it for later like I did.
- Sip and enjoy!

Yum! Some for now, some for later.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yoga Retreat (Part 2 Of My Vacation)

Last week I wrote about the road trip part of my solo summer vacation. This week's post is about how I ended the trip: at a yoga retreat! It was my first one, and I was a little nervous. I arrived on my own, but it was a very friendly and social group and I met quite a few awesome people.
Medicine Wheel at the front entrance.
The retreat was held in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just outside the coastal town of Soquel. As I turned out of town and into the forest, I knew I was headed to a special place. Land of the Medicine Buddha is a peaceful place tucked into the hillside among ancient, tall sequoia redwoods. I can see why the Buddhist monks picked it!
Anyone for the "enchanted forest"?
Exploring the Enchanted Forest during a break from yoga.
The retreat was put together by two fantastic yoga teachers from San Francisco: Debbie Steingesser and Tim Floreen. I think I was the only one at the retreat who does not attend their classes, but I felt welcomed by both of them and the other retreaters. And I loved the way Debbie and Tim taught their classes! I was a bit nervous when I looked at our schedule and saw that each yoga class was two hours long, but I really enjoyed the relaxed pace. The longer classes allowed us the time to really sink into and enjoy each pose or movement, instead of having to rush though everything. We also did some partner work, which was a bit awkward at times but allowed all of us to accomplish things we didn't know we could do. For example, I got into headstand (twice!) and wheel for the first time ever! I wish I had pictures so I could see what I looked like, but I'll have to settle for my memory of the feeling. And hopefully, with more practice, I'll be able to do those poses again!
The group: Strike a pose!
Medicine wheel at the entrance.
Walking the "8 Verses Pilgrimage Trail"
Giant Buddha inside the temple.
Amazing hand painted artwork on the temple building.

Enjoying lunch on the last day with new friends.
The retreat was a wonderful end to my vacation. Being able to deepen my yoga practice enabled me to recommit to doing yoga regularly. I've been practicing yoga for a few years, but I go through phases of being really into it and then letting it slide, then getting back into it again. However, I really notice that my body, mind and spirit feel more relaxed and at ease when I am practicing yoga a few times each week. And the effects linger after class too. That tight shoulder or racing mind is soothed for a while by the meditation of practicing yoga. And while I can't make it to Tim or Debbie's classes on a regular basis (though I hope to visit!), I've found a couple of studios near my home that offer wonderful teachers and classes.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the vegetarian meals served at the retreat. My body felt so good eating the delicious veggies and whole grains, and as a health coach, I enjoyed talking about nutrition with people who were surprised at how satisfied they could feel after a meal without meat.

After our last yoga class on Sunday, we had a final lunch and said our goodbyes. Upon leaving, I continued driving up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay, where I turned inland and headed home. This final leg of the drive allowed me a gentle way to reconnect to being back home and returning to my daily (non-vacation) life. I took my time, and enjoyed stopping at vista points and farm stands along the way. 

Now that I am back in the swing of things, I can reflect on how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to take this vacation. And when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I know that a yoga class or the ocean is only a short drive away!

I love this stretch of highway!
My bounty from roadside farm stands and stores.
LOVE this! The beach is such a healing, relaxing place for me.