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Taming the Sweet Tooth

I have a total sweet tooth, and if I'm not mindful, over time it can creep up, much like a caffeine addiction, where you need more to be satisfied, blah blah blah.... So to keep it in check I found the best way is to satisfy the need for something sweet in ways that don't over-excite those parts of the brain that scream "SUGAR!!" Honestly, I don't avoid carbs at all. I just know that foods like brown rice, oats, and any other whole grains really feel good to my body whereas eating a store bought muffin for instance will set off a little "crazy" in my brain. I mention Amy Green below- you'll see her link- because I can relate to what she says- "I don't avoid this stuff to lose weight- I avoid it to gain peace." Maybe we ladies have a sensitivity to it, maybe an allergy, who knows or cares. At this point the reason doesn't change the solution. 

Naturally and mildly sweet whole foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squashes and fruits, spices like cinnamon and mildly sweet sweeteners like blackstrap molasses are winners for my body I've discovered after much trial and error of the right balance between having nothing sweet and a sugar buffet- they are all delightfully sweet enough but also nutritious and don't send me looking for more.

Believe me, its taken years to figure out just the right balance for me- everyone is different. I've tried no white sugar, no sugar during the week but ok on weekends, only sugar alcohols, total elimination (low carb), etc. I've found there is a certain threshold I can have sugar and my body is like, "ok that's cool, enough." It's a pretty low threshold, though. Once I pass that, my brain/body wants more and then just a little more, then just a little bit more than that, on and on. Then comes  the energy ups and downs, mood swings, weight gain, cravings, and just a general disorganization of my appetite in general. But, if I'm proactive, like adding the blackstrap molasses to my plain whole or 4% fat Greek yogurt when I'm feeling like it, I'll completely avoid a sugar craving all together. The body is so amazing (and perplexing). Another craving preventer is a ridiculously easy to assemble lunch that Amy Green from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free's blog/website/cookbook eats (she's so great!).  It's cottage cheese, topped canned pumpkin puree (organic tastes WAY better than Libby's) sprinkled with pecans or walnuts and cinnamon on top. She sprinkles a bit of stevia on it too, either way is fine for me. Sounds strange, but its so good! You can even put the whole thing on a bed a baby spinach leaves and its a nutritional powerhouse lunch. 

So, I just made this smoothie the other day and it was just right for my emerging sweet tooth craving- it satisfied that sweet tooth right then and there. I felt so much better afterwards than if I'd gone for a chocolate milkshake, which ends up making me feel nauseas and sluggish, and being post-partum, way more difficult to lose the baby weight (which is hard anyway!). 

Try it and tell me what you think....

Serves 2 regular people or 1 nursing mama who has a sweet tooth and no time to make lunch! Feel free to add a tablespoon or two of flax if you want for more protein, fiber and Omega-3's. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Smoothie

2 cups almond milk (unsweetened- vanilla or plain) 

2 bananas

1 cup ice

2 tablespoons raw cacao powder, dutch processed cocoa or natural cocoa (unsweetened)

pinch of sea salt 

2-3 tablespoons almond butter- unsweetened or mildly sweetened with a little honey or maple syrup already mixed in it. Check the label- every brand and type is different. I have both a totally unsweetened one that I love and one with maple syrup (Justin's brand). 

I know the title of the recipe is misleading- almond butter tends to be a better alternative nutritionally but tastes the same in a smoothie. This seems like a lot of fat- but its good kind. And you'll probably share this smoothie anyway, it makes plenty. There's a difference between this and the same amount of fat from Crisco! Ground nuts in this form are a whole food fat- similar to a whole food sweetener like the bananas- offer more nutritionally and are absorbed more slowly than concentrated fats and sugars. Fiber is your friend. 

Mix in a high speed blender and enjoy. 

12 Weeks of Summer Challenge!

Summer is almost here and its roughly 12 weeks for June, July, and August. This summer I’ll be stepping back from active client work for my maternity leave, but I still care deeply about your health and wellness and so I’ve created a simple 12 weeks of summer program that is free, you can try any portion/week of it, or the whole thing. This is my gift to you- a path to better health that you can do on your own this summer. I want to hear about it if you choose to partake in any part of it! Send pictures or post to the Betterment Wellness Facebook page. 

The challenge is really about trying something new for your health and wellness. Summer is a time of energy, growth, and outward change…this is true in nature and for us. You can feel it coming, right? The energy and warmth of the sun making us and everything around us grow and change. A perfect opportunity to try out some new habits and see what sticks. This is not a health bootcamp, detox or anything involving discipline or denial. We are adding some habits, trying and discovering what appeals to us and our bodies/minds. We won't make changes unless we feel the positive effects and/or enjoy the process. It's also hard to make so many changes all at once. We learn better by baby steps, and this is why I developed this summer challenge- in baby steps. But small changes over longer periods of time result in big changes. This Fall could look or feel different (better!) for you if you try all these weekly "experiments" as we go.  

I’ve compiled 12 lifelong habits of healthy behaviors and I want you to try one each week. The goal is just to focus on that one habit each week, but if you find they are sticking and you enjoy them, feel free to let the habits continue and multiply- you’ll see even bigger results in how you feel and look. Nothing’s guaranteed- but this is a way to focus your energy and time and learn something new and positive about your health journey, not a quick fix. Let’s dive in- its that simple. Each week starts on a Monday and ends on the following Sunday. 

 

Week 1 June 1-7 DRINK MORE WATER

By drinking more water we naturally decrease the sugary, caloric, or chemical filled drinks we usually consume. Add fresh lemon, mint, or cucumber instead. A great resource book: “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. I find for some reason the cup I drink out of either makes me want to drink more or lose interest- find a favorite cup/water bottle. If you are cold, try it room temp or hot water like tea. Now that its getting warmer, maybe ice water is where its at for you. Don't like tap water? Invest in a Britta or Pur to take out the taste from conventional tap water. 

 

Week 2 June 8-14 PRACTICE COOKING SWEET VEGETABLES 

This was a fun one for me when I began focusing more on healthy eating. My body loved sweet veggies- still does. If you have a sweet tooth this might help mitigate it. Try sweet potatoes, carrots, cooked zucchini, fresh peas in the pod, beets, sautéed onions and yellow bell peppers. Try them with a small pat of grass fed butter like Kerrygold and kosher salt- brings out the sweetness.

 

Week 3 June 15- 21 INCREASE GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES

Try butter lettuce, romaine, kale, spinach, mustard greens, chard, frisee, red leaf, etc. 

The majority of Americans don’t get enough leafy greens, which is unfortunate because they offer us so much nutrition that we need. Whether you add them to your smoothies to hide them, kick your salad consumption up a notch, or sauté them, just try eating leafy greens everyday this week. So many things can benefit from greens thrown on or in- eggs, sandwiches, wraps, under cottage cheese, sautéed in curries, or soups. If you eat out, go to Subway and load on the greens. Make it easy on yourself by purchasing pre-washed bagged salad greens if you want- just get the ones that are only greens and add your own dressings and ingredients. Some of those pre-made salads have as much sugar and fat as a dessert…A simple and delightful vinaigrette is  1/3 cup any vinegar you like, 1 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake and toss. 

 

Week 4 June 22- 28 GET MORE SLEEP

Figure out how much sleep you get a night (not hours in bed, but asleep). Add an hour each night this week and see how you feel. Are you more productive during the day? Easier to get up in the morning? Figure out what kind of evening routine you need in order to get to bed at a regular time, to unwind and prepare for peaceful sleep. Mind the smart phones and laptops in bed- they tell your brain to stay awake and alert. Try reading a real paper book, a bath, quiet music, talking with your loved one, stretching, journaling. 

 

Week 5 June 29- July 5 REPLACE YOUR DESSERT(S) WITH FRESH FRUIT

Summer is a bounty of fruit. Treat yourself to the most appealing and gorgeous fruit you can find. Decide if you like it room temperature, cold, or even frozen! Nosh on the fruit instead of dessert anytime this week dessert presents itself. How do you feel? I love cherries, berries, and all the stone fruits- peaches, nectarines, etc. If you particularly love a certain kind of fruit, buy it in bulk at the farmers market and freeze it so you can indulge during the winter too. Organic tends to taste better, but may be smaller. Don't let size determine how they will taste- larger doesn't always mean more sweet. 

 

Week 6 July 6- 12 EXPERIMENT WITH PROTEINS 

Everyone has a protein amount that suits them best for their time in their life. What’s yours? Are you getting enough? Too much? Right or wrong kind for you? Try out some plant-based sources proteins like tofu, edamame, beans, peas, tempeh, or quinoa. Instead of more traditional meat  like chicken, turkey, pork or beef, think outside the box by adding kefir (a probiotic drink with more protein than milk), or Greek yogurt, nuts, or eggs to breakfasts, or fresh seafood to salads. Even upping your whole grains vs. refined will add more protein. Add flax or hemp seeds to smoothies.  Look up some foods you like online- how much protein do they contain? Think outside the meat box;). Even broccoli has protein, especially when tossed with a tahini (sesame) dressing. 

 

Week 7 July 13- 19 EAT FEWER PROCESSED FOODS

People are sometimes confused with what is considered a processed food. Basically, its anything thats been altered by the food industry and often that means you don't know what went into it, or what was taken out of it before it got to you. A banana let's say, is not processed. You peel and eat it. Anything that comes in a box, wrapper, things like that are an easy way to tell. See if your refrigerator this week looks more like INGREDIENTS (produce, milk, eggs, meat, whole grains, etc) than BOXES and CONTAINERS with marketing. Anything with a kids cartoon character on it is a dead giveaway. Or anything that tells you its “healthy,” “diet,” “lite,” “lowfat,” etc - broccoli doesn’t need marketing. By making this switch (which can be a big deal for some people), your trash will decrease quite a bit too. Just try, shoot for effort and not perfection, most Americans rely heavily on processed foods so its a bit deal to switch. You may notice how "fake" or sugary, salty, or just different processed foods taste after making your own. 

 

Week 8 July 20-26 NURTURE YOUR BODY 

This is going to look different for everyone. Me, I tend to run my cylinders on high most of the time so nurturing for me looks like a bath, sleep, massage, or a relaxing walk. Maybe you need to talk out your emotions with a friend, maybe you need some alone time, or more social time. Maybe you need some romance. Maybe you need some inspiration or beauty in your life. Maybe you need some novelty or a time out. Take the first day to decide what nurturing yourself looks like. Spend the rest of the week making it happen! 

 

Week 9 July 27- August 2 WRITE 3 THINGS YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR EVERY DAY 

Write in down, reflect on your "gratefuls." Is there a theme, something you are genuinely regularly grateful for or is it hard to think of 3 everyday? If you are grateful for a particular person, go the extra step and tell them. See how it make both of you feel. This is free good feelings, people! You can't bottle and sell this! 

 

Week 10 August 3-9 GET OUTSIDE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE 

The weather should be consistently good by now (no guarantees:). Spend every moment you can outside. Notice natures patterns and how they mirror our own when we are at peace. What can you take with you from the outdoors when you go back inside? Try being outside at a novel time. Early morning? After sunset? At sunset? At dawn? I love the moment when frog croaks turn to birds singing, I know sunrise is on its way. 

 

Week 11 August 10-16 GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING and/or MUSCLES TIRED 

Did you enjoy being outside last week? Did it inspire you to move more? Maybe take a walk, or hike? Bike ride or go fishing? Walk to do an errand instead of driving? You can choose this week- something that will get your heart pumping or something that challenges your muscles (maybe both?). See how many times you can get in this week, try for daily. Don’t call it "working out" or exercising. Move your body and see what it is wanting. How much time is good for you? I can’t believe how sometimes 10-15 minutes is all I need for a complete mood and energy makeover, and its less intimidating than longer workouts so I am happy to do it again the next day.  

 

Week 12 August 17-23 TRY A NEW WHOLE GRAIN (or two or three)

This can be for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be hot or cold or room temperature. Have you tried a grain salad? Just take the vinaigrette from the earlier salad week, chop some veggies and add a grain you've already cooked, no need for green leafy lettuce in this salad! For breakfast, cook up a heartier grain the day before, like chewy wheat berries, drizzle maple syrup over with a dollop of yogurt and fruit. If making soup, throw in some bulgur or pearl barley. Grains are a really satisfying way to show off other flavors of sauces or dressings. White rice is not technically a whole grain. Try brown, or one you haven’t heard of before. I love couscous- takes 10 minutes! Just make sure you flavor it with a flavorful broth like a rich chicken broth- it will take on any flavor because it is so mild. With no salt it won’t taste like much. Whole rolled oats are another option, or even air popped popcorn. Have fun! Find the Bob’s Red Mill section of your grocery store- its a great brand with a lot of choices. 

 

BONUS WEEK August 24-30: combine together your favorite weeks- how many can you incorporate?!  How do you feel August 31st? 

 

I want to try this in the Winter too, but for inner growth, when our roots grow deeper and our outward energy slows a bit. Stay tuned and keep me posted with this first one- have fun with this! 

 

Be Well,


Rachel 

Gastronomy in this Economy- Tomato and Bread Soup

I know, I know, eating healthy is synonymous with expense. And people will fiercely debate this- there's no arguing that organic choices are usually always more expensive than conventional. And like most anything important worth talking about, I see it as a big grey area, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Yes, its really hard to eat well on food stamps, from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. I've read the "experiments" as you probably have too, from people who are not otherwise on SNAP but trying it out to prove a point that its not adequate assistance. For my family of 5, it would be about 5 dollars a day. And yes, it's almost impossible to have that exclusively as your source of grocery money. 

I have a couple viewpoints, and then I promise I'll get to the recipe this month that I'm in love with. This is relevant, I promise, hang in there. I do care about this issue and like opening up discussion.

1. The name of the benefit SNAP itself is self explanatory- its supplemental, its not the end all, be all of solving food insecurity.

2. The real problem is, most people don't have the primary piece that SNAP is supposed to supplement-  instead its expected to cover all the families food costs for the month. Most people assume this missing component is more money, and of course that would be helpful.  I'd agrue this was more of a missing skill and education around food frugality and cooking, something historically passed down generation to generation about food and waste. Much of the world lives on very little for food. The sweat equity and knowledge capital are also valuable I argue.

3. This problem has existed in one form or another for all of history- is that too bold a statement?  Whether from droughts, plights, or rocky economic times, people, and truthfully- often women and mothers, were the ones who had to find a way to make food last and they didn't have ample grocery money. 

I had a reminder of this when I traveled to Tuscany this summer and read up on regional Tuscan cuisine, had a woman come to our rental cottage and teach us rustic cooking, as well as I devoured the book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Grace and Economy by Tamar Adler, who has a strong Tuscan influence to her style of cooking. 

Despite whatever impression you have of Tuscany, know that its food culture history stems from peasants in a farming community. Peasants. Your (if you were a Tuscan peasant, of course) olive oil came from your tree (as common as our pear and apple trees here in WA) and your eggs from your chicken pecking under the tree. Making meals last and stretch was so common it became an art form. Adler talks about home cooking having an inherent frugality and I can't agree more. You can have on had only the simpliest and humblest of ingredients and make beautiful and nutrious food. Yes, it might not be the super food trend of the month or year, but it is wholesome food. Where the challenge lies is knowing what to do with peels, bones, fatty bits, stems and otherwise cast off pieces of food to recreate them into your next meal, adding nutrition and substance. It seems peasants just knew this inside and out and it was facinating to learn what they could do with so little.  

I won't go on and on, I'm really not trying to be on a soapbox, but rather present a way of thinking about food issues a little differently, to make it as commonplace as the outrage many express over the problem. I believe outrage gets us nowhere- in anger is always fear. Proactive changes, education, and historical perspectives I think make opportunities for improvement possible. 

Now to our exercise in food frugality, my first of what I hope will become Gastronomy in thie Economy series- recipes for eating wholesome and frugal and simple. This rustic soup uses bread that's stale and no one will eat, but was great a few days ago when you made it yourself (because we are still pretending to be Tuscan peasants, right?) out of flour, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and an egg. We use the entire basil plant- stems and all. We use a ton of tomatoes- a typical summer bumper crop in my area that many people can in late summer to have all year, but cook them two different ways to get a depth of flavor. And garlic and oil, of course. This soup is cheap, wholesome, and let's nothing go to waste from a previous meal consisting of fresh bread and hopefully whatever was in the garden, or the cold storage from warmer times. Of course, here at my house, good olive oil isn't as cheap as directly from your own olive grove in Tuscany, where you could press your own for minimal cost and have enough oil for the year, but you get the idea hopefully. People historically have learned to use what is locally available and plentiful. And surprisingly, a plant-based diet with a foundation in grains, beans, and vegetables is also historically the most frugal way of eating. They saved the fatty meat, sugar, alcohol for celebrations, if at all. 

[Side note, which reminds me of my Grandma, who's Slovak origins meant that most everything she made traditionally had either potatoes or cabbage in it. She could do so much with cabbage and potatoes it would blow your mind.]  

Thought for the day- what (native to your area) plants can we use and benefit from cheaply for our own use? What can be grown in community gardens, found in the wild, or taught to grow in pots on their porches as commonly as we teach people to obey traffic laws? Why are supplemental programs giving people money to buy prepared convenience foods in a grocery store more common than food/cooking education with raw ingredients. When and why did food and cooking become an upper class hobby? Do we really think people will thrive indefinitely if we give them money to buy or donate to them canned convenience foods and stale donuts from Starbucks? How can we prioritize food economy and frugality as a cultural value? Why does this all seem backwards and confusing to my brain- why are those on the most frugal diets the most unhealthy? I don't have the answers, I just have a lot of questons that I don't hear being asked enough. Now, make the soup and meditate on these.  

Tomato and Bread Soup (thanks to Rouxbe.com for the recipe and for unriveled cooking education )

-read through the whole recipe first-

Roasting the Tomatoes:

1 lb cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic

1 bunch fresh basil

olive oil

sea salt

pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degree Celsius). 

Prick the cherry tomatoes with a fork and place into a bowl. Emince the garlic and sprinkle over top. Remove the leaves from the basil stems (reserve the stems) and add one-quarter of the leaves to the bowl. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat evenly. 

Place onto a roasting tray and roast for approximately 20 to 30 minutes to concentrate/caramelize.

Making the Soup:

2 cloves garlic

28 ounces canned or jarred tomatoes

3-4 cups stale rustic bread

salt

pepper

olive oil

water (or broth)

Finely dice the reserved basil stems and mince the garlic. 

Place the olive oil, basil stems and garlic in a heavy-bottomed pot. Turn the heat to medium and gently fry the garlic until fragrant but not brown. Once fragrant, add the canned tomatoes and break them up slightly with a wooden spoon. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

In the meantime, break up the bread into bite-size pieces. Once the soup has simmered for about 15 minutes, add the bread to the soup. Tear the remaining basil leaves into the soup and stir (reserve a few for garnish, if desired). Reduce the heat to low and let sit for about 10 minutes to thicken. 

Once the tomatoes are roasted, add them to the soup, scraping any nice caramelized bits into the pot. Stir to combine. Season to taste. 

The soup should have a thick, porridge-like texture to it. If it is too thick, adjust the consistency with a bit of water. 

Remove the soup from the heat and add the olive oil. Serve the soup in warmed bowls. Garnish with the extra basil, if desired.


Three Greens Pesto (or Winter Pesto)

I have one tiny container of my frozen pesto left in the freezer and panic is setting in. More pesto needed STAT! 

In the summer when my basil plants are going crazy, making pesto to freeze is a ten minute activity that gives me the bounty of summer all through the fall, especially on nights when I need something wonderful, but quick.

Once winter hits, my summer pesto stash is depleted and basil isn't growing outside. What's a pesto fanatic to do?! Use what you have in season! 

This is my winter version of pesto that takes the same amount of time, is nutrition-packed and just as delicious. This will get me through the winter and spring until basil is back on my deck and begging to be made into pesto again. 

A little time-saving trick for getting the stems off kale without using a knife and driving yourself nuts- hold the very end of the stem in your left hand and pull up tightly on the leaf with your right, pulling it right off the stem. You can juice the stems or compost them if you want. 

My favorite way to eat this pesto? Stirred into warm quinoa with a side of roasted sweet veggies like sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, etc....

THREE GREENS PESTO

approx. 1 bunch kale, any kind, washed and dried with stems removed

approx. 1 bunch spinach, washed and dried

3 cups basil (store bought) 

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 cup almonds or walnuts (you can add all pine nuts if you prefer, it's just pricey) 

3 cloves garlic

3/4 cup good quality first-pressed olive oil, or more to taste

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (for vegan) or parmesan cheese - only add if not freezing. If freezing, add after you thaw when you want to use it

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

You'll need a food processor. Chop the garlic and nuts into a fine meal in the food processor, then add the leaves and pulse. Begin adding olive oil slowly while the processor is turned on until its at a desired consistency. Add a bit of salt and taste, adding more if needed. You may need to use a scraper to make sure everything gets well incorporated. 

Pour into ice cube trays, baby food trays or containers, or any freezer-friendly small containers, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup each. Defrost only as much as needed and will be used in one recipe, keep the rest frozen for up to 6 months. 

 

The 10 second healthy habit that you can do during the holidays (even if the rest of the day goes downhill in a spiral of cookies, red meat and alcohol...)

So many people believe in some form of an all-or-none philosophy and I'll admit, its hard not to fall prey to it at times, especially when it comes to our personal wellness. To that end, many of my private clients won't even begin a wellness program in December because they want to wait to "start fresh" in January. While I think every once in awhile giving yourself a fresh start is needed and part of our cyclical nature, its also not how it has to be. So, what is something I tell everyone they can do now, and not have to wait, because its such a small change, but can make a big difference? 

Upon waking, drink a big glass of luke warm water all in one big gulp. 

I've been doing this for about 10 years now, at times more regularly than others, and just like any good-for-you habit, I notice when I don't do it, and feel better when I do. I began doing it when I lived overseas in China and saw how often the locals would drink warm or hot plain water throughout the day. I thought it was unappetizing, coming from the land of iced water with lemon. There's nothing wrong with iced water with lemon, but Eastern Medicine practitioners typically are big proponents of drinking water that is closer to body temperature than cold. You can research it. 

The next time I was told to do this by my clinical nutritionist after experiencing a few kidney stone episodes that were *extremely* painful. She said if I flushed everything before I started filtering food, tea, vitamins, etc, I'd have a better chance of staving off future kidney stones. I haven't had one since. 

The next time I heard about this was all my colleagues at Integrative Nutrition who were trying to get better night's sleep but were getting up to pee too much. These are usually the ladies. They were trying to stay hydrated thoughout the day but ended up continuing to drink that last glass of water before bed. Sleep is as crucial as water. We need good sleep, so here's a way to stay hydrated earlier in the day and not disrupt your sleep cycle. 

The most recent time I heard about doing this was when I learned more deeply about the pelvic floor and it was recommended by a PT to help those with regular, but mild constipation (many of us!). 

So, over time, I figured that if multiple professionals and disciplines were recommending it, it might be good idea to try to stick with it. Now I wake thirsty and can tell right away I'm ready for some water first thing. 

Drinking water in big gulps does a few things. And correct, I'm not a doctor. I'm not a scientist either. I do believe, however, from experience and observation that most of us are dehydrated and could use a good flush of our system. After a night's sleep, especially, we wake dehydrated and ready to eliminate. The water gulp does both, thanks to the Gastrocolic Reflex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastrocolic_reflex). It signals to your body that you are taking in a big meal (hence the gulping, not sipping) and need to move something out to make room for what's coming in.  During the night our bodies detox and heal, restore and rest, and some of the byproduct of this process ends up in our colon. Within about 10 minutes after drinking your glass of warm water, you are more hydrated, and can often eliminate, getting rid of yesterday's food. Doing this regularly is a better "detox" than a once-a-year detox. And sure beats what I see my clients do usually, which is usually, wake, drink nothing, have coffee first thing (dyhydrates you more) and then begin their day already dehydrated. By afternoon or night they may feel thirsty and drink more, and then have to wake up in the night to pee. This helps reset that cycle. 

Again, this isn't rocket science, this isn't medical advice, its a way to get what we need (water) and to help eleviate naturally what many people suffer from, mild constipation and dyhydration.

Health coaching is here to help you strategize and shift your habits to get what you need and want from your health and life. Best to you in 2015! 

 

 

Mashed Parsnips

Do you love mashed potatoes? Try this and you might find a new love....

My only issue with potatoes in general is, they just don't taste like anything, they are a vehicle for other ingredients to make it taste like something, so inevitably you need a lot more butter and salt to make mashed potatoes taste like, anything. I know, call me a hater. I've just never related to people who melt at the sight of mashed potatoes, its more like they just like salt and butter....ok, don't we all like salt and butter....but maybe an option thats flavorful on its own would be nice too- enter parsnips!

I like to think of them like a cross between a potato and a carrot. They are whitish like potatoes but are shaped like huge carrots. 

peeled parsnips

peeled parsnips

If you already make mashed potatoes without a recipe, you won't need one for these either- you can prepare them in exactly them same way, you'll just find that to get a great flavor you can cut back quite a bit on the extras. I've included my favorite way to prepare them in case you want an idea. It's simple and really shows off the parsnips naturally sweet flavor. 

You'll need:

1.5 lbs parsnips, washed, peeled and chopped into 1-inch disks

enough stock or broth to thin the parsnips

2 teaspoons butter (I use Earth Balance)

salt and pepper to taste

Boil the parsnips for around 20 minutes, they should be very soft and you shouldn't be able to lift them out with a knife- they should fall off the knife. Drain the water. 

Mash or rice them  into a big bowl. I use a ricer like I do with anything else I mash. I just like the results. Feel free to mash how you typically do. 

Add a bit of stock to thin to the consistency you like, stir the butter and salt in, tasting as you go. You might find you don't need any butter. You can always keep the butter out and just add it at the table if you like as well. Grind some fresh pepper on top and you're done! 

Watch the magic happen below: 

chopped parsnips into thick disks 

chopped parsnips into thick disks 


riced parsnips.JPG

Simple Baked Tofu

If you eat tofu, you must try this simple preparation. Its become my favorite and was our dinner last night. 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Slice 1-2 blocks of extra firm organic tofu into slabs just a little smaller than a deck of cards. I usually slice the whole block lengthwise in half to make it into two thinner blocks, then I cut them into smaller squares the size of a big brownie approximately. 

Make the marinade-
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teas. Liquid smoke (great to have on hand and lasts forever in your cupboard)- this is key- it really makes it have that gorgeous smell and BBQ'd flavor. 

Pour the marinade over the tofu in a shallow glass dish and let sit for 10-20 minutes while you get the rest of dinner started. For us last night, I warmed up food I had batch cooked on Sunday when I had more time- baked brown rice and stir fried bell peppers, celery, and carrots.

Place the tofu on w cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes, flip and bake again for 15 minutes. It'll smell amazing and have an al dente bite to it- lovely! 

You could stop and eat it right there but I had some sweet and sour sauce I had made and frozen awhile back so I heated that and poured a touch on top. The kids devoured theirs but I managed to save enough for lunch today....speaking of...I need to go! 

Autumn's Comfort Food: Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage

Everybody gobbled this up last night, including myself. I didn't have any arugula so it wasn't as pretty as I've made it before but no one seemed to mind. This is one of my favorite dishes from Rouxbe.com, the online cooking school where I was certified as a Professional Plant-Based Cook this last summer. I made this in the heat of summer so I didn't truly appreciate it until last night, now that the colder, darker, and rainier days have set in.

Risotto isn't completely hands-free like other dishes that you may bake or roast, but its great if you have people over for dinner, everyone can take turns stirring! If you have children who love to cook with you, give them the wooden spoon (and a lesson on safety around the hot stove). 

To make it easier, I do all the squash prep (both the puree and the roasting) on a previous day when I have more time. Then the day of, I only need to make the risotto itself. MUCH easier. Don't get too hung up on the amount of squash. I just buy a whole good sized squash and use half for the puree and half for the roasting. It'll be fine- don't worry. Taste as you go. 

I didn't alter the recipe below from Rouxbe's version, except that I didn't fry any sage leaves for garnish or make a sage brown butter (Earth Balance is a great vegan butter we use) which is in the original recipe in the picture below. I kept it a little lighter this time around, its already a comfy dish even without the added fat. If you are making a flourish of a meal, though, by all means melt some butter in a pan with fresh sage leaves and make a sage butter to pour over the top! Your guests will be spoiled and feel the love. 

Also, know that you can substitute baby spinach or even a stronger green like Kale or chard, or do without the arugula if you want- it won't be as pretty like I said, but don't let it stop you. And please, please...use fresh sage throughout. 

The Puree- do ahead, can be kept in freezer

  • 3/4 lb butternut squash
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 large sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter (regular or vegan)
  • 3/4 cup stock (approx.)
  • sea salt, to taste

First preheat your oven to 475°F (245°C).

To prepare the purée, first wash and peel the squash. Cut the squash into approx. 3/4" -inch cubes. Peel the garlic. 

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the squash, the whole garlic cloves and the sage leaves. Add the stock and season liberally with salt. Bring the squash to a gentle simmer. Loosely cover just the top of the squash with a piece of vented foil. Simmer gently until the squash is completely fork tender. 

While you are waiting for the squash to cook, jump to Step 2 to prepare the rest of the squash. 

Once the squash is tender, remove the sage leaves and discard. Transfer the squash mixture to a blender (you may have to do this in batches) and puree until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Make sure to hold the lid with a cloth to ensure the top does not explode from the heat of the mixture. 

Taste the puree for seasoning. Transfer to a small pot and keep warm.

Roasting the Squash- do ahead, can be kept in freezer after it cools

  • 1/2 lb butternut squash
  • 1 to 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste

Cut the squash into 1/2" -inch cubes. Toss with the oil and season to taste with salt. 

Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for approximately 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. 

Once done, remove from the tray and set aside.

The Risotto- do the day-of only, serve warm from the pan

  • 2 1/2 cups stock
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup risotto rice (see note)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth (I used dry sake in a pinch once and it was perfectly fine)
  • 2 cups arugula
Getting everything measured out and ready before you cook will give you better results. This a chef's secret called Mise En Place- everything in it's place...AKA get organized and you'll have less mistakes. 

Getting everything measured out and ready before you cook will give you better results. This a chef's secret called Mise En Place- everything in it's place...AKA get organized and you'll have less mistakes. 

To prepare your mise en place, place the liquid into a pot, season with the salt (if needed) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and keep hot.

In the meantime, finely dice the onions and garlic.

Place the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and heat over medium to medium-low heat. 

Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until soft and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Next, add 1/4 cup of the hot cooking liquid to soften the onions further. Let the cooking liquid completely evaporate before moving onto the next step.

Once the liquid has completely evaporated, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the rice all at once. Stir to coat the rice in the hot fat. Monitor the heat so the aromatics do not burn. Toast the rice for a few minutes until the perimeter of the grains are translucent. 

Once toasted, add the garlic and cook, stirring just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze with the wine. Stir the rice until the wine evaporates.

Once the wine has evaporated, add one cup of the hot liquid. Stir often to coax the starches out of the rice. Once almost absorbed, add 1 to 2 cups of the warm butternut squash puree and continue to stir. Once the puree thickens and reduces, go back to adding the hot cooking liquid. Add the next cup of liquid only when the last cup has been absorbed by the rice. Stir frequently. During the cooking process, make sure to adjust the heat so the liquid is always gently boiling. 

Continue to add liquid and cook the risotto until it reaches the al dente stage (or until it is done to your liking). Start tasting the rice for doneness around the 15 minute mark. 

MMMMM, almost ready. 

MMMMM, almost ready. 

Once the risotto has been cooked to your liking, taste it for seasoning. Stir in the butter (or olive oil). Fold in the roasted butternut squash and arugula. Cover and let rest for 1 to 2 minutes. 

Just before serving, add a bit of hot liquid to loosen the consistency, if necessary. Plate on warmed dishes. Top with parmesan shavings, fried sage leaves and a drizzle of warm sage brown butter. Serve immediately.

Seen here with all the fixin's...and even a little parmesan, just omit it if you prefer the vegan version, it'll still be amazing, I promise. 

Seen here with all the fixin's...and even a little parmesan, just omit it if you prefer the vegan version, it'll still be amazing, I promise. 



Empty the Fridge Soup

If you feel like you'd be more inclined to cook if you didn't have to be a slave recipes, then this post is for you. 

Learning to cooking is more like learning various techniques, the exact ingredients often don't really matter. You know this already: a recipe calls for kale but all you have is spinach. No biggie, right? Now imagine everything in a recipe being optional or able to be substituted with like ingredients. So much freedom! 

Now, don't get me wrong, I love cookbooks. I read them in bed while relaxing, and they inspire me to try new combinations or remind me of something I love to eat but haven't cooked in awhile. Once in the kitchen, however, I usually ditch them. Most people do. I may pull one out for special company, but for daily routines, way too much work. 

Cooking will feel more doable if you can get some basic "templates" (a soup, a braise, a roast, a salad, etc) memorized and experiment from there. 

Take 5 minutes now and understand how a basic broth soup is made and you have endless healthy dinners all Fall and Winter ahead using what you already have on hand, or can stock up on next time you are out. You can keep it seasonal, too, which is cheaper and greener than let's say trying to find asparagus this time of year that actually tastes good (I dare you). 

The Foundation 

Take whatever oil you have on hand and use enough to lightly coat the bottom of a pan and add a chopped up onion, leek, shallot, fennel, etc. Any or a combination of these will do. Soften over medium heat, don't burn your first ingredient! I like to add a pinch of salt here to concentrate the flavor of the foundation of my soup. 

Add hard vegetables like chopped carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cabbage, winter squash, cauliflower, turnips, etc. Cook until slightly softened. 

Add some hardy fresh herbs like thyme, chopped sage, oregano, rosemary. Add some salt, start with a teaspoon (I like kosher for soups). Add some pepper or garlic or ginger. 

The Soup

Add whatever stock you have, fresh, or canned, begin with 4 cups and adjust dependig on how many veggies you added- you decide if you want it more like a stew or soup. 

Add any dry grain you have, up to a cup. I like barley or brown rice. Cook for at least 20 minutes, simmering. You could also add pasta or canned beans here too. Check for doneness, this isn't an exact science, use your senses. 

Add any delicate veggies like fresh spinach or frozen peas (more like 2 minutes), edamame, zucchini, asparagus (more like 5 minutes). 

The Finishing Touch

Please, taste your soup before serving it. It should taste good, or even amazing. If it needs something, start with salt and pepper. Add a bit at a time. If it still needs something, try a squeeze of lemon (always have a lemon lying around!) or a splash of white wine.

You'll find that the quality of each ingredient affects the final product. If you are using freezer burned veggies, or a stock or white wine that you don't really like, you won't be as please with the final product as much than if you'd added ingredients along the way that tasted good by themselves.  

Try it and tell me about it! 

Rachel 

 

My Chicken Noodle Soup

Today my littlest one has the flu. Red and watery eyes, expressionless face, hot, cold, just uncomfortable. She’s young still so I wanted to make sure she gets her liquids, but she’s already sick of my herbal tea. What’s a mom to do?…chicken noodle soup from scratch for dinner.

This particular soup has a squeeze of lemon in it at the end, which ignites the flavor but also just tastes so good when you feel so bad. I don’t know why.

You can use whatever type of chicken in your soup, but nothing beats the flavor of roasted chicken, and its pretty hands-off. I used wings for their quick cooking time and value and I wasn’t cooking up a huge batch so I just needed a small amount of meat. But feel free to roast a whole chicken and save what you don’t use or roast bigger pieces like breasts or thighs, whatever you have on hand or feel like buying.

Here’s a soulful and satisfying soup for your under-the-weather loved ones and you can make it in under 30 minutes. (That’s one episode of Dora for you parents!)

  • 4 chicken wings, organic and fresh, dried with a paper towel and at room temperature (about 1/2 a pound)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cans low sodium chicken stock, or about 4-5 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3 small, organic carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted organic butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly chopped parsely (optional for garnish)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a small sheet pan inside. Heat a 10 inch saute pan and add oil, approximately 2 tablespoons. Add chicken and brown on all sides, still pinkish inside. Transfer to the heated sheet pan and cook for 10 minutes or until cook through.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter and equal amount olive oil. Saute onion, celery and carrots together until onion turns translucent, 5-10 minutes. Add herbs and teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and add chicken stock all at once, bring to a simmer for 10 min.
  3. Meanwhile, cook up egg noodles in salted water. While they are cooking, take chicken out of the oven, place on cutting board and let cool a few minutes before cutting the meat off and coarsely chopping it, adding it to the stock and vegetables. Foodie option: Deglaze the sheet pan with the white wine. Strain the wine and deglazed mixture into the stock for flavor depth.
  4. When noodles are finished, add to equal proportions with meat and vegetables. Check seasoning, add sea salt to taste. Squeeze lemon to taste and grate fresh pepper, sprinkle parsley. Serve with a kiss on the cheek and a hand to the forehead of your little (or big) love.

What’s a pelvic floor fitness consultation like, anyway?

Relieved, grateful, open. That’s how many women leave their Pilates session on Pelvic Floor fitness with me. An hour earlier they were awkward, nervous, skeptical, and sometimes exasperated with their experience of an unclear diagnosis so far. Their primary care doctor was able to test for infections, but they don't have any. Their OB said they didn't see anything unsual. God forbid, but its common, they are told "its just in their head." They have seen multiple medical providers, perhaps had surgery, or are experiencing pain or incontinence on a daily basis. Often their lives revolve around minimizing the discomfort and they have lowered their expectations for how they should feel and live. Maybe they are new moms and have no idea if they are healing properly or if they'll "ever get their core back," or have sex comfortably again. Maybe they are women whose children are 25 years old now but they are just now experiencing symptoms and it changed overnight when they hit menopause. Maybe they've never had children but they have always been a person that holds their stress in their core and they experience both pain and constipation and can't really take a deep breath. They are beyond wanting to tone their body or lose the last few pounds. They want their body to simply work properly, they want to feel in control and strong. In the beginning often I’m doing the talking, asking them many questions and they soon realize that I’ve talked about this many times before and what they are wanting to tell me doesn’t surprise me and I’m expecting it, often smiling and reassuring them its all very common, they are having a common experience but feeling all alone and that feels confusing and isolating. They come to understand that we are creating a community for them to get help and be supported. 

I am part advocate, part teacher, part fitness consultant, and part healthy life coach. What do they want to achieve, what does a healthy, functioning body do for them? How will it make them feel? How do they feel in their body now? Then we get to work teaching them what they need to know and how to do it. They learn they are in control of their health and wellness and they've already made the first step towards greater wellbeing. 

I usually teach how to do proper core breathing, we look at their posture, check for abdominal separation called Diastasis. All of this plays into proper function of the core and pelvic floor. I give them tips for how to protect their pelvic floor from further injury or stress (no sit ups!) and how proper body mechanics are important. The core program I teach is Pfilates, an exercise method created by Dr. Bruce Crawford, a board certified OB/GYN who realized that solutions involving surgeries and medication were not addressing the root cause of many women's health problems. Many issues like incontinence and prolapse could be prevented or lessened through basic strengthening and awareness. Pfilates was created after years of research and does not require a woman to know how to do a Kegel. And, I might add, most don't. But we work on that, and its a supportive environment. Women choose the couple Pfilates exercises they really like and we talk about how to work them into their daily routines. I send them off to their day or evening and sometimes I feel like I can sense a weight lifting off their shoulders, and some I swear jump and click their heels...but maybe that's just me. 

So no matter your age, kids or no kids, if you are having symptoms you don’t understand and you are experiencing a lower quality of life because of the symptoms and think its related to your female system (a vague concept we are not properly educated on), find a reputable Urogynecologist or a Women’s Health Physical Therapist and get assessed. If they encourage pelvic floor strengthening (usually a given at some point), come see me. We talk (a lot) about your process and journey and set you up for growth, strength, and getting a deeper experience of health from the inside out. Trust me, I have been there, done that, and recovered stronger and more aware than I was before. Being a health coach and Pilates instructor I have the unique ability to help you on a fitness level and as a whole woman as well. 

Share this with a woman you love! 

Rachel 

PS update- all pelvic floor fitness news and articles and info are moved to www.kegelforacause.com - check out the info on the website for our next event November 8th, 2014!