Wednesday, December 9, 2009
It started about eight years ago when I began weekending in upstate New York. My 15 years in Manhattan certainly had me attempting to race around via subway, taxi and on foot. All that really got me was stressed out. I didn’t have a chance to really earn my speeding chops until the first few jaunts up and down the Taconic State Parkway. The speed limit on that highway is 55 miles an hour. In Queens and Long Island, NY--where I put many a mile on my initial driving career,-- 55 means 70 miles an hour and that is just that. It honestly took me about five or so tickets (two actually within 24 hours of each other) to learn:
A) 55 miles an hour means not quite 65 miles an hour on the Taconic State Parkway in New York State and that is just that.
B) There is a button on my car that activates something called cruise control and I needed to learn how to use it.
C) When I wasn’t present and operated, instead, on my own “automatic pilot” (yeah, yeah…my own cruise control….) I would speed and it, got me nowhere pretty darn fast.
If you haven’t already guessed, this post is placing a major focus on “C” See?
It’s a wellness post prompted by my latest speeding ticket a week ago today. I need to regroup and slow down and I’m taking you with me.
Now in my defense (Oh, and speaking of defense, yes, I took the defensive driving course that keeps you mindful of driving habits and is looked upon kindly by vehicle insurance companies… And it was, I believe, close to a year before I got another speeding ticket) I reformed. Yes, I did.
I now get speeding tickets every 18 months. You can just about set your clock to it. Oh, and I don’t get them on major highways anymore. Nope, not me. My new bad habit is getting them speeding through small town speed limits of 25 to 30 miles an hour. I average 20 miles an hour faster and I blame it on the fact that I can’t use my cruise control when romping through the scenic towns of Rhinebeck, Red hook and Tivoli (Ticket, ticket and, yes, ticket.)
Really, does this sound like the gal who received an Excellence medal in the third grade for no days absent? Does this sound like the gal who is always talking about the healing properties of vegetables, the glory in being properly hydrated and how honoring what you place inside your body is important because everything you eat becomes your tissues, your organs, your muscles, your blood, your thoughts, your feelings and your actions?! No, it doesn’t. I know, I know, I know.
I’m not going to blame anything I ate, did or didn’t drink or the amount of sleep I have or haven’t been getting. I’m ‘fessing up and taking full responsibility in the fact that much as I try I have bouts of time when I’m simply not present because I’m either literally racing around town and/or figuratively racing because my mind obsesses on and on and on.
In my human experience, I “forget” to slow it all down by breathing. Some long, deep breaths down to my belly (not up in my throat and chest) and more quiet time in my mind (heart and soul) is what’s going to stop my driving insanity. NOT another ticket, defensive driving course, insurance notice or those darn state trouper/local town police cars and their glaring spinning red lights.
So, what’s your speed? What’s the tangible “thing” that has a hold on you where you subconsciously act out and stay in the drama instead of the delight of your own co-created life? I’m asking if you are present enough to know your own dirty little secret. And I’m inviting you to bring it out into the light so it can’t pull you over and fine you any longer.
Lest you wonder how it is that as part of my practice I TEACH breathing, the importance of slowing down and the practice of awareness know that one often teaches what one needs to learn. This one does anyway. I’m always right there learning with the rest of you.
“Tis the season for many things, many of them somewhat frenetic and hectic Slow yourself down with breath. Here’s a breathing exercise that I used while the nice police officer was checking my license and registration:
-Inhale deeply and slowly from way down in your belly for a count of five.
-Hold that lungful of air for an equal count of five.
-Exhale long, hard and deep for a count of six or, if you can, seven or eight.
Repeat the breathing exercise three to five times, thinking of the image of inhaling as that of receiving in what you need and want in your life. As you exhale, let that be the letting go of any and everything that doesn’t serve you. Take note of how you feel after you practice this.
Think of it as your own personal…….. cruise control.
If you are interested in learning more about my practice for nutrition/wellness counseling or in my in person or teleclasses on slowing down/breathing/awareness contact me via my website: www.wholebodyworks.net.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Whether you are traveling to grandmother’s house or beyond for the holiday, having folks coming to you, or opting to spend the day in some quiet time, here’s the skinny, inspired by the holiday, from a wellness and nutrition perspective….mine.
The wellness part. How many times a day are you aware of saying thank you? Sure there is the “polite” side of us who responds with those words when someone has held open a door, picked something up that we dropped or has demonstrated another act of kindness. But it’s the “thank you” for the parking space that is open in the shopping center when we pull in,; the check arriving in the mail on the date it is supposed to do so; the rain that didn’t fall on the day of the big move,;the smile from the stranger in the street on a day when you’re feeling blue , or just the gratitude for getting up physically being well enough to get out of bed each morning, that resonates a bit differently. Appreciation feels good. It feels really good.
Here are some ways to soak it in:
-Using the holiday for traction, stroll into today with awareness of things you are grateful for. If you like, you can wait until the end of the day, looking back and seeing what stands out as either perfunctory thanks or atypical, extraordinary appreciation. It could be something as simple as no one in front of you on line at Starbucks. Or, it could be something as significant as receiving a phone call//text /e mail from someone you deeply care for.
-Do something for someone else without looking to receive anything in return. If you have some extra change and feel grateful for it, pay the toll for the car in back of you when going over a bridge. Or, whatever your inspired version of that is.
Human connection, when deeply rooted with some thanks, is a wonderful thing.
The nutrition part. So let’s talk a bit more about those vegetables Say what you want about the turkey. Yes, it is perhaps the literal centerpiece of most holiday tables. However it is the side dishes that really shine. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, string beans, asparagus,, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, squash, onions, spinach, cabbage, collard greens….the list goes on and on. Even if not every vegetable is a favorite, more than likely you will find several that float your boat and that take possession over part of your plate. Can you say that over the course of most other meals throughout a typical week?
There is something about the revelry….the pomp and circumstance around the vegetables on this particular day that is different than most others. As you take vegetables from the serving dishes notice what your favorites are and ask yourself if you eat them regularly. If not, why not? If it’s for lack of recipes, now is the time to stock up. Most newspapers and neighbors are sharing vegetables recipes this week. Or, type your favorite vegetable into Google and place the word “recipe” next to it and hit search. You will have at your fingertips, literally, delicious options spanning easy beginner to chef’s choice/options.
Or, if it’s the lack of energy toward cooking, focus on the beautiful concept of cook once, eat three or four times. The idea is in fine play the day after Thanksgiving when leftovers are the stars of the show. Revel in your fridge for the next few days. If you were a guest rather than a host then simply demand some doggy bags!
If you found that too much pumpkin or pecan pie was ingested ,remember the cleansing vegetables of cucumbers, radishes and onions (leeks, shallots, scallions too) and any of the leafy greens (Think of them as a feather duster going through your body) will help with digestion so that less “bloat” occurs faster. Lots of water too. (Seriously, you knew there wasn’t really going to be a post without the mention of hydration, right?)
So….what if every day were Thanksgiving? What if we would each stop at least once, if not more times through the day, and express some gratitude. What if we would eat several different vegetables with each of our meals? Would life look and feel any differently? Just asking…..
In deep appreciation and gratitude of this blog 's followers, here’s a recipe you might want to try next week…or anytime, really: Disclaimer: I’m not maintaining the recipe as my own because I don’t remember where it came from. It is every man (woman) unless/until someone wants to declare it. For now I’m just, you know, grateful for it.
Sweet Potato and Cranberry Bake
3-4 medium sized organic sweet potatoes
1 cup cranberries, chopped 1 apple
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cardamom
¼ teaspoon of Celtic sea salt
3 tablespoons of organic unsalted butter
Slivered (or chopped) almonds (raw, not roasted)—to taste
Tablespoon and a half of Agave nectar
-Peel sweet potatoes and chop them into chunks
-Add potatoes to a pot of boiling water and cook until tender but not flaky (20-25 minutes or so) Drain and set a side.
-Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.- In a nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in with peeled, cored and cubed apple. Sauté for five minutes. -Add ½ teaspoon of butter. When it is melted, add in the cranberries for 1-2 minutes.
-Then immediately take mixture and add with sweet potatoes to a shallow baking dish, and add in sea salt , nutmeg and cardamom; mix thoroughly
- Take slivered almonds and quick sauté them in 1 tbs butter and then drizzle with Agave, put mixture on top of sweet potato cranberry mix
-Add final ½ teaspoon of butter and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.
If you need some one-on-one help with overeating, not eating well/emotional eating and/or feeling blue through holiday season , you can contact me for a session at: Mela@wholebodyworks.net. I'll also be holding a teleclass for support around holiday eating on Tuesday, December 8th. E mail me for more details/sign up.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The pool cover went on nearly three weeks ago, truly marking the end of the season. When the car pulled up and two young men got out to begin tending to this task it felt the way it does when you are at a funeral and the pallbearers slowly and solemnly step into the room and surround the body. There they are-a sea of dark suits and grave, albeit respectful, stances-marking the fact that the time is up. Yet, I still look longingly at the pool each day as I pass by, as if, miraculously, it would become a sunny, hot July day and the cover would be off it, seductively inviting me to come in for a float.
This seasonal change has occurred every single year of my life because I choose to live on the east coast. Yet every single year I deny that summer is over. Why can’t I simply accept the fact that it’s seriously fall, and enjoy the changing leaves, crispness to the air and all the apples? (Well, I do admit that I enjoy the apples.)
This is not a rhetorical question. The answer here is resistance.
Webster’s online dictionary defines “resistance” as a psychological defense mechanism.
My observation is that everyone uses resistance at one point or another, particularly in relation to self care. We resist so much. I don’t care what is right in front of me. I’m simply going to ignore (RESIST) the gold lame clad elephant in the room and stay in the land of denial.
We all know denial is a beautiful place. The weather is always warm and sunny. They serve drinks with sweet little paper umbrellas in them. But what does denial—in the day to day format of resistance—really do to one’s overall WELLNESS?
Sure, one might know that going to bed half an hour earlier will assist in waking more alert and being able to think on one’s feet. And, it isn’t a surprise that regular movement in the form of some kind of exercise or another, will bring on a forward motion in terms of health, assisting metabolism and other body systems. Of course, we’ve heard long enough that adding whole grains into our diet will help keep blood pressure and cholesterol numbers down.
And, lest we forget, keeping the tank filled with gas, getting up when the alarm first goes off, being honest in relationships and work-related confrontations, not going after the unavailable guy or girl, doing what it takes to complete a task from beginning to end……basically staying in our integrity…..will help keep stress levels down, which naturally helps with overall wellness.
Ah, but this human form we are packaged in is a conundrum of mixed messages, procrastination, brain rather than heart processing (or brain fog rather than heart opening) and…most of all FEAR. Because what would happen if we just took some deep breaths, rolled up our sleeves and moved forward on things we could, would and should do? In the short term there might be confusion, chaos and some crankiness. Long term we would move forward in fluidity, strength and motion by stepping into our potential. We’d all be healthier and feeling better, people.
So, how do you know if you are in denial about something in your life that needs forward movement?
· You basically do the same thing daily, expecting and waiting for things and circumstances to shift, without taking any action toward shifting them.
· There is a subtle numbness around you, the way you move through your day and the interactions that you have with others….something, as understated as it may be, just isn’t right.
· When friends and family ask you about a particular situation/occurrence/thing you provide them with a general shrug of the shoulders, objective, non-commitment-driven statement that doesn’t give any tangible credence to the matter at hand.
None of these bullets, by the way, is a sure sign that you will know that you are in denial. It will sometimes take a swift kick from someone you know/love/respect to “hear” the inference of what needs to be dealt with. Oftentimes it simply won’t shift until you are ready for it to do so…whatever this means for you.
So, what can help with the shift within you?
The nutrition aspects that will help this include drinking more water. (Really, this is a base answer for nearly everything). And eating root vegetables will help ground us. Oftentimes we have to stop and regroup before moving forward. What is put into our bodies aids in this entire process. I tout the root veggies a lot. Now they are in season and in high abundance. Beets! Carrots! Onions! Squash! Burdock! Potatoes! All my idea of grand fun!!
The wellness aspects that will help this include having people around you who support, encourage and—where necessary—give you that loving kick forward. Talking it through with someone both objective and compassionate is an aid.
The key is knowing what it is that you are resisting? How does the resistance show up in your day to day and reverberate throughout your entire life?
Journaling free form for five or so minutes, with the initial answers to these questions being the ones that you take heed of, can reallly help you both accept changes that are occurring around you and make the changes that need to be made .
I can’t tell you how many times each week I hear the words “I don’t journal” from clients. Journaling is a strong portal to move you from point “a” to point “b”—to showcase a real change in your world. Just set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes and sit still with notebook and pen in hand. Write down any and everything that comes through your mind….even if you find yourself writing “the silly woman on that blog suggested I do this and I’m coming up with nothin’ !!” It’s good practice and will eventually lead you directly into your truth . Because when you are writing in free-form, without pre-conceived thoughts rattling about, your true voice emerges. It’s as plain, simple, and frightfully scary, all at once. However it is amazing what you can learn spending a few honest minutes daily with yourself.
With that thought, I officially retire my flip flops for the next few months. Actually, I had better go and pack them. Did I mention that I’m moving to a new place—just a mile away, but still—in less than two weeks?!
Ah, that statement had me knock over the sumptuous cocktail I was sipping on the island of denial. The drink went overboard and that darling little paper umbrella floated away. Sigh. I had better go and get my journal.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Embrace them.
In my nutrition and wellness practice I work one-on-one in person and/or via telephone sessions with individuals to assist them in making changes in their overall health and wellness. This includes larger scale issues such as weight, managing chronic health issues, and stress management. I also assist with home/office/kitchen organization, as well as shopping/cooking equally delicious and nutritious meals. Through working with precision on food intake, movement in the form of exercise, sleep patterns and fun/joy factors and using tools…like the journaling spoken about in today’s blog post, individuals can make changes that will shift their life into a better/happier/healthier place. And yes, we work on how to journal too! If you’d like to take this step you can reach me via: www.wholebodyworks.net or Mela@wholebodyworks.net
Thursday, October 1, 2009
On this shelf I keep a large bottle of white vinegar I use for cleaning. Nope. Stored in this area currently are also some bottles of natural sparkling water. Nah. Then I saw it! The one lone dark item with the adjective dark taking on a more pervasive meaning as I realized what had occurred. It was a can filled with an “energy drink” that I had been given as part of a favor bag from an event I attended about four years ago. I kept the aluminum-clad item because I do talks on energy drinks/ energy bars from time to time. And, since my main platform is whole foods eating the energy drink in question proved to be a perfect prop to distinguish something that is marketed as something in the healthy realm that doesn’t prove to be so at all.
The fact that the liquid had successfully corroded a pin hole in the aluminum is great fodder for future talks. If it can seep through aluminum just think of what it can do inside your BODY?
As I spent some time wiping up the mess that was before me, when all I had really wanted was to throw in a load of whites, I berated myself for not dumping the contents years ago and just keeping the darn can. It was the ingredient list noted on the can that I was most interested in. And as I continued to work on the clean-up I recognized that no amount of scrubbing was going to get the deep brown stain marks out of my formerly painted white, wood shelf. It was forever marred by the attack of the tall can of energy drink. Ah….more fodder for the talk. If it can stain a wood shelf so markedly just think of what it can do inside your BODY?
By now even I was curious about the contents of the darn drink. So, I put my cleaning rag down and picked up my reading glasses. Here is what I read:
· water (Well it was a good start, I admit)
· high fructose corn syrup (So not only was the second ingredient a form of sugar, but a highly refined, made in a lab (with genetically modified corn) processing system)
· sodium hexametaphosphate (Really, I have no idea other than the fact that we know what sodium is),
· caffeine (And, along with sugar, we can see what puts the energy in energy drink…nice),
· citric & pantochenic acids (Do we think the acids aided in burning a hole through the aluminum?)
…..and a host of other ingredients that I simply don’t have the energy to note here.
There are several points I wish to make from telling you this tale.
One is that I’m going to have to re-paint the shelf in the laundry room.
Two, for true long-lasting sustainable ENERGY: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This has been my mantra for years. Anyone who knows me will attest to this. Water in its plain and simple form, provides balanced energy, clarity of thought and assists in the regulation of bodily systems including nervous and digestive. Oh, and it doesn’t stain when it spills. We are not talking long-lasting stainable energy!
Third, it is really important to have a look at the ingredient label when you are deciding to purchase and ingest any item but especially any touted to give you energy—generally a good thing that we all want to have. Honestly, it’s important to read the ingredient label whenever you are eating/drinking something packaged , particularly if you are working towards a whole foods-based diet.
My ingredient label rule of thumb is as follows:
1. There should be no more than five ingredients noted on the packaging.
2. Sugar, in any form, should not be one of the first three ingredients
3. You should know what each of the ingredients is.
4. You should be able to pronounce each of the ingredients.
5. The ingredients should each be whole themselves.
So, to elaborate on point two, if you are eating a dessert-related item, obviously there will be a sweetener in the ingredient list. And yes, it will most likely be one of the first three ingredients. So, desserts do get a caveat here. In true whole foods eating you would be aiming to have that sweetener be more naturally based…….honey, molasses, maple syrup as top examples because of the no processing aspect here.
And, to explain point five I’ll use a packaged coconut macaroon that I love. The ingredients are as follows: Unsweetened coconut, honey, egg whites. Each of those ingredients are whole and complete and unprocessed unto themselves.
Hmmm, I think I’m now going to go and have a few. And I do believe that I will wash it down with a glass of water. Then, maybe I’ll go and re-paint that shelf.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I really like to roast chickens. No. Let me be clear. I really like to roast chickens. I would have one in the oven right now, only I’ve roasted three in the past seven days. Company was coming, you have to understand. And who doesn’t like to walk into a house filled with the smell of something good in the oven? Well, in this case—perhaps—a vegetarian.
Looking back, even as a child I was a huge fan of the bird. Though my Mom, rest her soul, couldn’t make a chicken to save her life. She always said people were “cookers” or “cleaners.” Imagine my dismay at 13 years old to realize that I was neither. I digress. She cooked the darn thing within an inch of its previous life. It wasn’t juicy. It wasn’t moist. Dry as the Sahara. Somehow, I liked it anyhow.
As I grew, so did my love for fowl. Chicken was my friend back in high school when I decided that I needed a little more of it so there would be a little less of me in a bathing suit. In college, I admit, Colonel Sanders was the source of my chicken fetish from time to time. In my 30’s when I began doing strength training, it was my answer for additional protein for many a mid-afternoon snack. It was what I would order in any shape or form - whether I was in a Chinese, Thai, Italian, Spanish or fill-in-the-blank restaurant. Yet for years I was hesitant to try roasting one myself.
t really wasn’t until I understood the truth and horror around factory farming that I realized that I needed to spread my wings and find good quality chickens that didn't have antibiotics or hormones in them. Then… learn to cook it. Also, if I was going to eat an animal for food, I wanted to be sure that it saw the light of day during its lifetime. I wanted to know that it was not kept in an unlit chicken coop with hundreds of other chickens milling about in their own mess. I wanted to know that it could enjoy the natural instinct of literal pecking order, sans suffering the stress and pain of having their beaks physically altered so that it wouldn’t injure, or prematurely kill, another chicken in the process. And, that during its life span, it was eating healthy feed and not genetically modified corn or soy product. Okay, sorry for the soapbox. If you are not aware of what goes on with chicken processing, try to learn about it. It's worth it! Most chain supermarkets, non-organic butchers or most restaurants are up to fowl play. Alas, that’s the story of most 21st century chickens today.
What to do?
If you live in an area that has local chicken farmers, please support them. Many local farmers markets will have vendors with free range and antibiotic/hormone free chickens. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are two other national chains that make a point of having 'clean' meat. And, once you find that great source of beautiful lean protein, here’s a great way to cook it:
Divinely Roasted Chicken
-Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
-Put your chicken in a roasting pan
-Pour one cup of organic vegetable broth/stock over it (Or use one cup of either red or white wine)
-Season with Celtic Sea Salt and Pepper
-Add any additional seasonings you wish (some yummy ideas: sage/rosemary/thyme; herbs de Provence; a glaze of honey and mustard --one teaspoon of mustard to one tablespoon honey)
-Place in pre-heated oven for 70-90 minutes. Timing will depend upon your individual oven. Gas and electric will cook differently. Older ovens, whatever the energy source, cook more slowly.
My FAVORITE sides are roasted root vegetables (beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips and/or any combination). I cut them up, drizzle an abundant amount of olive oil on them and season them, minimally with Celtic Sea Salt and black pepper. Herbs de Provence are great on them too. I usually put them in a separate roasting pan on the oven shelf below where the chicken is roasting, but at the same time. They are usually done 10-15 minutes before the bird.
Others swear by throwing them in with the chicken and letting the veggies cook in the meat juices for more chicken delight.
Note: Some people prefer roasting at 350 degrees. If this makes you happier…go ahead and do it. I have an electric oven and I’m just happier roasting at 375 degrees.
You know when the chicken is done one of three ways:
a) Use an oven thermometer. It should read 180 degrees when it is cooked.
b) It should be evenly browned and the leg will jiggle freely when you wiggle it.
c) The juices run clear when you cut into it. (And, of course, the meat is white—not pink)
Bon Appetit !
Contact me for nutrition/wellness counseling at www.wholebodyworks.net
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I knew I’d be pretty cozy upon return from a yoga/meditation class and debating between dinner and a bath, because I’d want to soon get to sleep. So I made some dinner ahead of time then warmed it upon returning home while simultaneously running a warm tub. Then my plate and I soaked for 30 lovely minutes.
Don’t fret. I held the plate. It didn’t touch water.
My aqua meal, as one friend referred to it, did as much for calming me as the yoga practice AND the bath. It’s my version of a phone/cable/internet company’s triple play….yoga/dinner/bath.
For me eating a meal in the tub has a wonderfully undisturbed effect on the nervous system, slowing the body, mind and spirit down from a frenetic I’ve “gotta- get -stuff -done” pace. Why? Well, because I love taking baths. By the way, I have another friend who likes to eat in bed. Why? She loves her bed. And I know someone who loves to eat out-of-doors, and yet another person who hates to eat outside. Getting the picture?
It is really being aware of things you want and need. Being able to answer: Where can my body relax? Know that when it’s in a peaceful state it will digest, take in/absorb nutrients better and feel more tranquil.
So…how about eating :
-while standing mostly upright with a slight bend over the kitchen sink?
……..Sitting in the car as it idles and you wait for someone outside of somewhere?
……..Walking down the block while you are heading toward an appointment?
When working with clients I often do a session where we prepare a meal together in their home and then sit and eat it together. I place emphasis on using nice placemats or a likeable table cloth. Lighting candles and/or dimming the lights are great too. Creating an atmosphere for relaxation around eating is important and an act of kindness you give yourself.
That all said, eating certain foods can assist in relaxation and help your body move to an undisturbed state.
-Any of the whole grains (quinoa, millet, amaranth, oats, barley, rye….) are considered natural valium for their expansive effects on the nervous system.
-Fruits and other naturally sweetened (honey, molasses…) foods fall under a similar category. Their sweet taste naturally relax one and “open” them up some.
-Herbs that can be ingested as teas (lavender, chamomile) create internal feelings of peace and are great sleep-inducers.
All this talk about baths makes me want to run one. And, hmmm….I’m feeling a little hungry.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Well, it’s the last month of summer now. It is this time of year that people that live in the country begin to talk of canning foods. They plan to can tomatoes or blueberries, in the form of jam, and other stuff that grows in their home gardens or is sold via the Farmer’s market. Foods that they want to savor for the upcoming winter season.
I have been in the field of nutrition and wellness and based, most of the time, in the country for nearly a decade now. Yet, when I hear the word, “can,” it actually brings me back to my city roots and makes me think of one of two things: kick the can—a game I didn’t, but that other kids played; or Delmonte, the brand where most of my vegetables came from when I was growing up. Yes, they were in a CAN.
When in this state of being, somewhere between the uses of the word as a verb or a noun I try to rise above my truth. My truth is that I have no need, want or desire for the verb “can” or the noun “can.” I have decided to focus on the mason jar being half full and talk with anyone out there who might still wish to have some fresh local vegetables in the middle of January, even if they live in the northeast and won’t have year-round access to the beloved Farmer’s Market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) …like me.
I know, I know. Being a nutrition counselor I’m supposed to be queen of the can…right? Well: nope. Not me. It’s just not my cup of honey vanilla chamomile tea. However, I’ve got some short cuts that will fit the bill so you, too, can have some fresh local veggies in the cold of the moment, come February, even if the only can-can you are interested in is dancing.
Here, please find, the Cliff Notes version of my attempt at “Canning:”
Garden Ripened Olive Oil
Yes, the man who made the leafy green, spinach a main character in his cartoon strip, Popeye, also loved his beloved Olive Oyl….and, really, don’t we all love her too….olive oil, that is. It can withstand high heat, provide a great source of fat, and fashionably dress any salad or sautéed/roasted vegetable, it is true. Take some garlic tops—otherwise known as “scapes” and let them sit in a jar of olive oil for the next few months. You can do the same thing with onions, and what you’ll have is a beautiful, ready-made, flavored olive oil that will accompany some good looking vegetables come the first snow.
Along the same lines, you can take any of your garden herbs….basil, thyme, sage, etc. and have wonderful infusions of olive oil with the remnants of your summer garden.
Remember that olive oil is a preservative. So, you can put just about anything in there and keep it well. Who needs a freezer when you have a barrel or two of olive oil hanging around?
You know the tops that are on carrots, fennel, celery and the like? NOT the leafy greens that we know that we can cook and savor. But the veggies whose tops we don’t think twice about chopping off and tossing away? THOSE tops can easily be the base for a vegetable stock/broth that can be the foundation for wonderful soups, stews and/or casseroles all winter long.
-Put tops of veggies in a pot.
-Fill the pot with water
-Toss in some sliced up onions, garlic and a bit of Celtic Sea Salt and pepper
-Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-45 minutes
-You’ve got the basis for the most simple and delicious stock that you’ll enjoy all winter
True frozen vegetables
You can take any/all of the vegetables that you are getting in your own or Community Supported or Farmer’s Market gardens and simply freeze them. It’s a lot nicer, tastier, and healthier to pull out a ziplocked bag of beet greens, organic corn kernels or zucchini in the middle of the winter, rather than fishing into the back of the grocer’s freezer section to processed dull lifeless veggies. Leafy greens are the easiest to freeze and hold up the best to freezing, so here you go:
-Take your leaves of kale, collards, bok choy and the like.
-Blanch them (Put them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two and then immediately put them in a pot of cold water to stop the cooking process.)
-Spin them dry in a salad spinner or lay them out to slowly dry.
-Lay them flat in ziplock bags and freeze until needed for use
Give it a whirl. Then when we hit the post-holiday season, I’ll ask you to pull some of your frozen and/or “canned” goods out and we’ll make soup. It’s hard to image now, but we’ll be cold. So, soup will be good.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The film makes an amazing point of showcasing the truth behind factory farming; the road map explaining how it is that tainted corn—we’re not talking your mama’s corn from summer weekend picnics and cookouts in the 50s, 60’s and early 70s —is found in all foods sold in supermarkets around the country. Foods that you wouldn’t expect to find corn in too. And the sad truth that for busy families on a budget, a factory-farmed, government subsidized beef industry hamburger can be purchased for less money than it costs to buy a head of broccoli.
I am convinced that some of the most significant health threats facing us today: adult-onset diabetes in children, the rise in autoimmune diseases, food allergies over the past 40 years and, yes, even the increase of various forms of cancer over the last several decades, are all a result of the fact that food is no longer mainly produced by nature. It is, instead, contrived by scientists in a lab and sold by people in corporate boardrooms, hundreds and thousands of miles away from the animals and crops, with no history, understanding or long term data of its effects on the lives of people who will be eating it over the course of days, weeks, months and years.
I think it’s an important message, so I hope that by blogging about it, you folks that may not have “Food, Inc.” on your radar will check it out. To get a preview now, just Google: “Food, Inc. trailer”
Now, here’s the good news! By understanding these simple facts, we can make better decisions about what we put in our bodies. And that is what I’m all about: whole, natural foods that are good for you and will make you stronger, healthier, and frankly more satisfied because it just plain tastes better. (I told you this topic is near and dear to my heart).
And so I have decided to focus the remainder of this post on a few simple steps you can take now in order to make sure you are eating the best foods available:
-Buy local. It’s growing season. Go to Farmer’s Markets, if your area has them. TALK to the farmers. They put all of their pride, knowledge and energy into the crops that they harvest and sell to you. It is not often enough that you have an opportunity to speak with the person that grew the food that you are going to eat. And you’ll find a bounty of natural produce, without the chemicals and other things you don’t need in your bodies. You’ll also find that the food just tastes better!
-Buy organic. Buying organic is the best insurance that no antibiotics and hormones have been put in your food. This is key information. If someone handed you a bottle of antibiotics, would you take it? In effect, this is what we’re doing when we eat food that has been treated with them. Remember the old adage: you are what you eat. The cleaner your food is, the easier your body will digest it, absorb the nutrients from it, and keep your metabolism working effectively. So by eliminating the harmful chemicals that are fed to animals, you are making sure that those chemicals don’t find their way into your system. The best areas to focus on first are meat and dairy, where these chemicals are so prevalent.
-Buy clean, whole foods. The rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients the better. As you read through the ingredients (ideally….no more than five) they should be able to be pronounced and you should know what they are. If you don’t know what it is and you can’t pronounce it, the likelihood that you would want it in your body is slim to none. The less processed the better.
A key message that can be taken away from the film is that, really, we have a choice in the foods that are produced and made available to us; and we “vote” on these foods every time we go to the grocery store. Every item that is scanned and recorded either fuels the corporate machine (packaged, processed foods) or supports the organics and local foods (chemical-free meats and fresh, local fruits and vegetables). Your purchases send a clear message about how you want your food treated.
I know that times are tough right now, and many are wary of spending extra on higher priced organics, but when you really think about it, how better to spend your hard-earned dollars than on your health and well-being. When the choice becomes spend a little extra on clean, good food so that the extra dollars don’t have to go toward paying for prescription medication for an allergy, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the like, we’ll be moving in a better direction. Don’t you think?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
“How do you want to move your body today?” This is a question I ask of clients who have a block around regular exercise. While I seem more naturally to be a gym rat and more relaxed in that controlled environment it is simply not the only form of exercise that works for my body—or, way more importantly, my soul. Your whole body works when you are moving your body regularly in one or more ways. Mixing it up can add lots to your spirit and sense of fun. It can even shift how you view a situation, solve a problem and challenge your outlook.
This leads me to a most recent experience. It started the week prior to last when a new friend asked if I wanted to go kayaking on the Hudson River. Sure, I said. I believe that either right before or right after the invitation was extended I was asked whether or not I have ever gone kayaking before. Nope, I said.
So there we were. Car parked. Life vests secured. Water bottles in hand. That’s when I realized there was no valet who was going to help carry the kayak down to the bay launch site. Honestly, this isn’t as princess-like as it sounds. I had actually spent some time visualizing this experience and had forgotten that somehow, some way the kayak had to go from land to water. Woops. This turned out to be the strength building and balance portion of the program.
Squat down. (Leg training came in handy here.) Core tucked in Uddiyana-bunda style. (Ah, my beloved yoga practice.) One-two-three: lift! (Bicep and tricep training…check.) Walk down a grouping of steps and then onto a short ramp floating on water. (Uh, oh……..need a little help with both balance and going in a downhill direction it still seems…..) I was sweating and we were still on dry land. But there I was out and about on a beautiful summer Saturday in nature and moving my body. Miraculously a town patrolman/guard/my kayak angel was suddenly there helping my friend and I carry the kayak the rest of the way and assisting with placing it in the water (Psuedo Valet?! CHECK!!!! )
Then we were in and I experienced a triple play of feelings and sensations all at once. There was the practicality of getting an arm workout while paddling, utilizing muscles that I absolutely do not use daily. There was the thrill of moving forward under a train trestle from the quiet calm of the bay to the fluid and more powerful flow of the mighty Hudson River. And there was the special bonus and pure delight of sharing time, conversation, laughs and musings with another person as we yak-yak-yak-ed in the kayak.
Moving out of a comfort zone in general can make your heart beat a bit more rapidly. Great for the spirit. Add to that using your physical body and we have cardiovascular, yes, “exercise.” But the organic cherry on the cake is sharing the experience with another person , adding to the true fun and soul-soar of it all. The stuff that money and a gym membership can’t buy.
Think about it. How do you want to move your body today? If you choose to go outdoors, the sky really is the limit.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I base all that I do from a holistic stand point meaning that it’s about all parts of your life being in balance, not just the food you eat. However the more time I work in this field I do believe it begins with the food that you eat. Hence, today’s topic: the concept of cooking once and eating several times. The idea is to make sure to always have something nutritious and delicious on hand in a pinch. Even without cooking a full meal, there should always be several viable choices of something to eat/snack on whenever you open up your refrigerator. Good, healthy, fast, whole and yummy choices.
Here are some staples that work when you need to grab and run:
In your Fridge:
Hard boiled eggs (travel well, great source of lean protein)
Baked Sweet potatoes (like the eggs, they travel well and have the dual ability to ground you because they are a root veggie, and satisfy with sweet natural taste)
Cut up cucumbers and radishes (both are cleansing in nature, satisfy “crunch” and offer variety of color in veggies – the more color the better)
Cut up red, yellow, orange peppers (look festive in a snack bag and are available and “on call” to dip into hummus, salsa or guac w/no notice)
Olives (good source of fat)
Pickles (the already refrigerated kind. Basically they have fermented/active “live” enzymes in them
Pesto (it’s a great time of year to make your own but there are several delicious kinds in addition to basil—like sun dried tomato—that are pretty whole and work well with a grain or to simply dip veggies in or as a sandwich spread)
Roasted chicken legs/breasts (great as a meal, fine as a snack)
Turkey breast (not just for Thanksgiving anymore….)
Roast pork tenderloin (the other white meat…)
Tempe (you can cut into bite size triangles, sauté ahead of time in olive or coconut oil. Provides a non-animal protein & fermented food choice)
Sauerkraut and or Kim Chee (along with the above fermented food theme—has active digestive enzymes, aiding in digestion—purchase already refrigerated. The shelf version does not have the active digestive enzymes)
Outside of the fridge:
A few Lara and/or YouBars (http://www.youbars.com/) Minimal processing and good in a pinch as you dart out the door
Home made trail mix (with organic, raw nuts and maybe some shredded coconut, raisins, apricots, and gogi berries, provides great source of protein and good quality fat with some sweet taste in there too.)
Apples, oranges and bananas (hearty fruits that don’t go bad quickly, can be thrown in a bag and nut butter tastes great with two out of three)
Figs (good with honey when you absolutely need a sweet fix and don’t want to move out the natural sweetener realm)
Dates (you never want to turn down a good date. Amen.)
If you get in the habit of at least having a variety of the above things ready and available you are not going to be caught off guard on a day when you are going to be out, say at a child’s sports practice, at a meal time or working late, etc, etc, etc……There will always be several choices for you to choose from (which keeps you from feeling deprived) and that are available easily. So what do you think of that?
As you continue to follow my blog, I’ll give more tips on healthy yummy eating and will continue to explain the subtleties of nutrition all the while focusing on wellness and balance in your living…