Category Archives: holidays


January Kitchen Cleanout

If you’re like me the thought of a new year brings hopes for shiny and new beginnings.  Part of that includes the kitchen.  After all it really is the heart of the home.  But the kitchen and pantry tend to get cluttered over time.  The disorganization and clutter happens slowly.  We become so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize how out of order things have become.  Disorganization makes it overwhelming when you’re trying to cook or meal plan. 

A fresh start

With the beginning of a new year is a great time to make a fresh start. Time to get rid of everything that’s getting in the way of your organized, healthy kitchen.  Once it’s cleaned out, you’ll find it easier to make wonderful, healthy meals to feed yourself and those you love.  I love cleaning out my kitchen and always set aside some time in the first week of the year to get things back on track.  After all of these years I’ve gotten to a point where it’s quick and super easy.  In order to help you enjoy a sparkly fresh start with your kitchen I’ve made this handout.  With just 15 items it’s a simple and easy to understand way to get your fridge, freezer, pantry, and kitchen ready to go for the year ahead.

A kitchen cleanout can seem a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.  Break the task list down to make it easier on yourself.  Set your timer for 30 minutes and go down the list.  At the end of 30 minutes you’re done for today (or do another 30 minutes if you’re feeling motivated).  With just a few cleanout sessions you’ll be amazed at how organized your kitchen is.  Before you know it you’re ready for the year ahead.

 
january-kitchen-cleanout

You can get free copy of this printable here.

mindfulness, the word of the year

The Word Of The Year – Mindfulness

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of choosing a word to serve as my intention for the year.  This year the word is mindfulness.  As I go through each year I reflect frequently on my word and see if I am meeting my reasons for having chosen it.  

Choosing a word

In past years it has sometimes been a struggle to come up with a word.  There are so many to choose from! And finding just the right one that resonates is not as easy as you might think.  Usually I wind up taking the time from Christmas until somewhere after the New Year to identify a word.

This year, as I worked on my new book on meditation I kept coming back to the word and it really resonated with me. Each time I thought about it, wrote about it, saw it on my desk or my computer it caught my attention and made me stop for a moment. 

I realized that it flows well from my previous word of Focus.

The dictionary defines mindfulness as

noun
1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

2. Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:
    The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique

 

Benefits of mindfulness

One of the things that appeals to me about choosing this word is how much it resonates with our need for self care.  When I work with clients I encourage them to be more mindful about their eating which, of course, has an impact on health. I encourage some sort of self care practice, breathing, meditation, yoga, all of which require a degree of mindfulness.

Moving forward into the new year there will be more of that.  Both for them and for me.  While I am a holistic health practitioner and I support others to achieve their wellness goals, I know I benefit from these practices as well.

The truth is that mindfulness is a very supportive piece of our overall health and wellness.  Studies have shown that it can help lower stress and reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, is good for heart health. [1]  Mindfulness can also help with nutrition, satiety, and even weight loss.  There are a number of studies about this and even a book on the subject

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the year ahead I’m looking forward to deepening my own sense of mindfulness.   And I’m excited to share with others, supporting them to develop their own mindfulness practices as part of their wellness plan.

Words from past years

If you’re interested these are the words that I’ve chosen in the past.  I find it fascinating to look back at previous years, at the reasons I chose certain words and reflecting on the growth that brought to my life.

I’d like to encourage you to pick a word of your own. It’s an interesting exercise and can have some amazing results. If you want to take it one step further you can even go to OneWord365 and put it out there into the universe.

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Resources

[1] Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension 

 

Focus – The Word Of The Year

Screenshot 2016-01-01 13.45.04

New day, new year, new word.  Each year I pick a word of the year.  One word that I use to help me pay attention to my goals and to give me a touchpoint to refer to throughout the year.  It sounds simple but it’s harder than you think to pick just one word.  To think about the overall goals for the year ahead, to find something meaningful that resonates within me as my inspiration.

This year I’ve chosen the word focus.  Last year’s word was balance  and I certainly put a lot of thought and effort into staying mindful with that word.  I feel like I did better with the whole work-life-spirit-me-others balancing act (although there is always room for improvement).  But being in balance and being focused are two very different things.

When I chose the word focus I had not really thought about all of the different meanings.  I was concentrating on the verb, to become more focused.  I meant it to be more attentive to things and to narrow down on what’s important.  To try to winnow through some of the distractions and what I call “The Octopus.”  You’re probably familiar with it.  The Octopus is where you feel like you have everything under control, then you get distracted by other things but you fold them in to what you’re doing.  Then you start spinning another plate or two and the next thing you know you’re overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to corral everything back under control.

But it’s a noun as well, bringing something into focus and I like that idea as I begin on the path that is this delicious new  adventure of a new year.  And it turns out I also like another definition as well.  To become a central point. I see that as being your resource, your go to person for reliable information about ingredients, food, nutrition, and health.  That loops back to the first time I did the word of the year challenge and chose the word inspire (you can read about that word here).

If you’d like to pick a word of the year consider writing it down.  You can even go online to OneWord365.com and find others who are using the same word as you are.  Whatever your goals are for this new year I wish you many good things along the journey.

Be well,

Mira e-sig

 

 

PS – If you’re nerdy like me you probably want to read what the official dictionary definition is.

focus

[foh-kuh s]  
noun, plural focuses, foci
1.  a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity:  The need to prevent a nuclear war became the focus of all diplomatic efforts.
2.  Physics. a point at which rays of light, heat, or other radiation meetafter being refracted or reflected.
3.  Optics.

  1. the focal point of a lens, on which rays converge or from which they deviate.
  2. the focal length of a lens; the distance from a focal point to acorresponding principal plane.
  3. the clear and sharply defined condition of an image.
  4. the position of a viewed object or the adjustment of an opticaldevice necessary to produce a clear image:
    in focus; out of focus.
4. Geometry. (of a conic section) a point having the property that the distances from any point on a curve to it and to a fixed line have  constant ratio for all points on the curve.
5. Geology. the point of origin of an earthquake.
6. Pathology. the primary center from which a disease develops or in which it localizes.
verb (used with object), focused, focusing or (especially British)focussed, focussing.
7. to bring to a focus or into focus; cause to converge on a perceived point:  to focus the lens of a camera.
8. to concentrate: to focus one’s thoughts; to focus troop deployment in the east.
verb (used without object), focused, focusing or (especiallyBritish) focussed, focussing.
9. to be or become focused:  My eyes have trouble focusing on distant objects.
10.  to direct one’s attention or efforts:  Students must focus in class.

Ten Tips For A Happy Healthy Holiday

Cultivate Wellness

The holiday season has arrived.  Along with the excitement and anticipation of celebrations we find ourselves surrounded by tempting food choices that we might not otherwise indulge in.  For many these foods seem to bring out self-defeating negative statements. We tell ourselves things like, “I’m cheating” or “I’m so bad” or “I’m probably going to regret this.” Instead of feeding your mind with these negative thoughts consider making a mind shift.  Focus on the company of the people you are gathered with, appreciate the setting, and feed yourself good foods and positive thoughts.

Ten Tips

To help you stay on track and feel great while celebrating the season:

1. Eat breakfast: The most important meal of the day, often we’re tempted to skip breakfast so we’ll be “really hungry” when we get to that big meal or buffet. The roller-coaster effect on your blood sugar may cause you to overeat which adds to weight gain during the holidays. Chose a breakfast that is high in fiber and protein.

2. Eat before the party: Just as you want to be metabolically stable by eating breakfast, you want to have a small snack before the party to stave off any potential hunger that might lead you to make less desirable choices. Snack on something with a little protein like a handful of raw nuts.

3. Start off raw: When arriving at the party or event start by eating a salad or raw vegetables. These foods are high in fiber and very alkaline both of which are beneficial for your body. Just go easy on the creamy, fatty dressings by choosing healthier dressings such as vinaigrette or hummus.

4. Eat slowly: Savor your food and be mindful of what you are eating. The point of the party is to spend time with friends and family; to socialize rather than to stuff yourself. Eating quickly and mindlessly can lead to overeating; savoring your food and taking your time to eat will help prevent this.

5. Avoid sabotage: Frequently at family gatherings you may be encouraged to overeat the family food-pusher asks you to have “just one more” slice of pie, serving of casserole or whatever dish they are promoting. Learning to gently refuse seconds, thirds or more will help you feel better and avoid excess.

6. Size matters: If your host has different size plates available always choose the smaller one. You are more likely to finish your plate no matter what size it is. Using a smaller plate allows you to have more control over your portion sizes.

7. Beware of buffets: When presented with a large array of choices most of us tend to try to take “just a little bit” of everything on the buffet. The problem is that by the end of the buffet line your plate is overfull and you are more likely to overindulge. Successful buffet techniques include looking at the buffet first and choosing those items you really want to eat. Make sure that at least half of your plate is salads, if available, to help cut down on the foods with fatty, rich sauces. Also try to avoid going back for seconds.

8. Don’t deprive yourself: Moderation is key. Allowing yourself to have small tastes of certain foods, especially fatty, sugary desserts can help prevent a deprivation-induced binge. If you put a whole dessert on your plate you’ll be tempted to eat it. Instead cut it in half or quarters and have just those few bites on your plate.

9. Share the wealth: In addition to party invitations many people receive gifts of highly caloric foods like chocolate, candy, cookies, alcohol and more. Sharing them with office mates and others helps remove temptation.

10. Moderate your alcohol intake: alcohol has a lot of calories and can reduce the number of calories that you burn. Alcohol can also increase your appetite, once again leading to overindulgence. To avoid this (and a potential hangover) limit the number of alcoholic drinks and alternate each one with water or sparkling water.

With a little preparation you can successfully make it through the holiday season without regret. Happy Holidays and be well.

 

Thanks to my friend Melanie Dawson who blogs at Cultivate Wellness for the graphic

Four Ways To Enjoy Your Holiday Season

Screenshot 2014-11-17 14.36.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people are overwhelmed by the mere thought of the holiday season. Are you one of them?

The main problem that creates stress during the holiday season is not saying “NO” enough.

Do you like it when your calendar is so jam-packed? Did you really have fun at the Smith’s holiday party last year? Do you really need to buy presents for all your work colleagues? Do you actually want to attend every one of your families’ gatherings? Was decorating your home really that much fun for you?

This comes down to your priorities – instead of filling your calendar with obligations, decide your priorities for the season and schedule them FIRST, then allow yourself to decide how much more you really want to do.

Is this the year you decide that the season will be FUN and to let the rest go?

Here are four ways to enjoy your holiday season even more this year:

1. Prune your To-Do list: If you’re not excited about the activity when you see it on your calendar or list of things to do, consider eliminating it altogether – IT’S OK TO SAY NO!

2. Keep decorating simple: If you decide to decorate at all, consider storing away two of your “everyday” decorations and replacing them with one holiday decoration – make the holidays the focus and cut the other clutter.

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate: There are many services out there to help you finish tasks you may not have time to do yourself. Cleaning, yard work, gift-wrapping, catering – just to name a few. Ask yourself if a lower stress level is worth spending a few extra bucks – in many cases it is definitely worth it.

4. Release the desire for perfection: Take a deep breath and be ok with everything not being perfect. If you’re having a party at your home – clean the public areas and bathrooms and be ok with the bedrooms or other not-so-public areas in the house not being pristine.

 

This article was written by Clutter Coach Tracy K. Pierce. Tracy assists holistically minded and motivated people who are sick and tired of their clutter reclaim space for what matters most. She’s hosting a free de-cluttering program in January 2015. Click here to learn more and sign up.

One Word – Inspire

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It’s that time of year…the time we arbitrarily close the cycle of days that has come before and look forward to a New Year.  One filled. one hopes, with promises, joy, and many good things.  As I’ve written about before, I’m not much of a one for resolutions, I prefer goals.  Each year I do sit down and think about what I would like to accomplish for the upcoming months.  To set out a roadmap that I can at least use as a guide to moving forward.

This year, a random post by my friend Trudy Scott posed the question what would you pick as your defining word for the upcoming year.  She heard about it over at Intent.com.  I was immediately struck by how powerful this could be.  The idea of focusing in on just one word.  One defining concept and trying to achieve the goals set by that word.   After much thought, writing and crossing out, saying aloud, and defining, I’ve hit on a word.  Inspire.

The dictionary defines this as:

inspire – verb (used with object)
1.  to exert a stimulating or beneficial effect upon
2. to produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc)
3. to guide, influence, or impel
4. to take or draw (air, gas, etc), into the lungs; inhale
5. archaic to breathe into or upon

I find myself motivated by this one word.  I see so many permutations of how it might be used as a focal point over the next 12 months.

As a nutrition educator and real food advocate I am always seeking to help those around me.  To support them so they can make educated choices for themselves and their loved ones when it comes to their food and health.  Through my work, my writings, lectures, and connections I hope to inspire people to make those choices for health.

I frequently ‘shout out’ about a wide range of topics all related to food, nutrition, and holistic health in an effort to motivate others.  [An example is all those who are now aware (and disgusted) about the use of chicken poop as cow feed – if this bothers you please tell the FDA how you feel by signing this petition].  While it’s often upsetting information, I am very sincere in my desire to share this not as a means of upsetting people but in the hopes that they will be, indeed, inspired to make different choices and to speak out in their turn, to have an impact.

Inhaling, breathing, is a good thing.  I believe we all need to do more of that.  Especially deep breathing.  Taking a moment in time to draw air deeply into our lungs has a beneficial effect when it comes to lowering stress.  We should all do more of that, myself included.  Breathing in sharply can be a sign of surprise, of interest, an aha! moment.  I hope to find, and share, more of those moments throughout the year ahead.

But inspire is a word that I chose not only because of how I hope to use it to connect with those around me, but because of what I hope that focus can mean for me.  I want to be inspired.  I want to find that surprise, those guiding, influencing moments that I know lie ahead.  To do that means I need to be aware, open to the possibility, to the gifts that bring those moments of inspiration.  I also need to be open to the opportunity to share, to give, to be inspired.

It turns out that other people are interested in the idea of a one word focus.  You can connect with them through the OneWord365 website.  You can find a word that speaks to you, connect with others who share your word, or just set your intention for the year.  I’d love to hear your word and why you chose it, leave a comment below and share.

Wishing a healthy, happy, peaceful and joyous New Year to you all.

Be well.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving.  And there will be leftovers.  Probably lots of leftovers.  Because, after all, isn’t that how most of us prepare for the big day?  We pretend we’re feeding an army (and maybe some of us are).  But just as important as making sure that all of our favorite foods are on the table and our favorite people are around it, is the need to stay healthy and safe.  That means having a plan to deal with the leftovers.

Don’t just plan out your cooking day, what needs to go into the oven when, what gets cooked in what order; use this infographic to plan appropriately for food storage before you start cooking.  And have a happy, healthy holiday.


Source: PartSelect.com

Food Safety During Thanksgiving

Just a couple more days until Thanksgiving. While the focus is on spending time with friends and family and feasting, it’s important to remember food safety, especially during the holidays.

According to the CDC website approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from foodborne illness. That’s about 48 million people. As many as 128,000 of these people will wind up in the hospital. And raw foods of animal origin (such as poultry) are most likely to be contaminated. The holidays present the potential for foodborne illness. Combine a busy kitchen with a hectic schedule, a possible overload of guests, and high levels of cross preparation with raw meats and vegetables, and the situation presents a possible hazard.

The CDC promotes the following rules regarding food safety:

  • Cook – make sure all foods, especially meats, are thoroughly cooked
  • Separate – don’t cross-contaminate and clean all boards and utensils between foods
  • Chill – bacteria can grow on foods left out more than 4 hours so refrigeration is advised
  • Clean – thoroughly wash your veggies, your hands, your utensils, your prep surface
  • Report – if you or someone you know becomes sick and you suspect foodborne illness report it to your local health department

Have a happy, healthy holiday!!

Don’t Feed Your Dog This Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is the big day.  Thanksgiving festivities, family and friends gathered around the table.  A bounteous feast of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, family favorite recipes, and an almost endless array of desserts.  It is a holiday of plenty.  It’s important, however, that we be mindful of the fact that many of the foods that we eat for the holiday are not good choices for our dogs.

Many people give their dogs “table treats” throughout the year.  On Thanksgiving, with so many people in the house, our furry friends may pull out all the stops when it comes to the piteous they-never-feed-me eyeball action.  Many of those around our table might be tempted to sneak them “just a little bit.”  The challenge is that all of these “just a little bit” pieces add up to quite a bit of food.  Add in the fact that many of these foods are, in fact, not safe for consumption by dogs and you wind up with very busy veterinary emergency centers.

Using the infographic below, make note of what you shouldn’t feed your dog so that everyone can enjoy a happy, healthy holiday.

 

8 Thanksgiving Day Foods That Can Kill your Dog

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

I Love Latkes!

latkes

It’s that time of year again.  Hanukkah!  The festival of lights.  And part of the holiday celebration calls for eating foods fried in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil the burned for eight days.  Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a favorite.  Everyone loves them and everyone has their own recipe.

I only make them once a year (although they’re great anytime).  Mostly because we don’t tend to eat a lot of fried foods in our house.  Every year my husband asks me not to make latkes because they’re so greasy.  And every year, as we’re eating them, he says, “I’m so glad you made latkes, they taste so good!”  

They do taste good.  I actually think they taste better because we only get them once a year.  If we ate them all the time it wouldn’t be that special.  Or that healthy.  They’re a treat and we enjoy them fully.  And at the end of the day that’s a part of what really matters when it comes to our food.  Yes, we want to make healthy choices, yes we need to get rid of the chemicals and additives in our food, but yes, we also need to celebrate with special foods.  And in my book latkes falls into that category.

This year I got together with a bunch of friends at the Jewish Women’s Circle and we made latkes together.  Four different kinds!  That kitchen smelled a-m-a-z-i-n-g when we were done —  potatoes,  potatoes with carrots,  potatoes with zucchini, and sweet potatoes.  I have learned from past experience that you can’t mix regular potatoes with sweet potatoes because they cook at different rates.  It’s also important to note that when you add things into the potatoes it changes the cooking time and sometimes requires you to turn down the heat a bit so you don’t burn the latkes.

You can make them however you like, I’ve seen recipes that call for green apple to be shredded into the mix, I’ve heard of putting jalapenos in there, herbs, other root vegetables, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  In our family we tend to be traditionalists and prefer the plain potato latkes served with organic sour cream and unsweetened apple sauce.  Here’s my favorite latke recipe.  And may there always be light in your home and your life.

Mira's Favorite Latkes
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and shredded
  2. 1 large vidalia onion peeled and shredded
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1/4 C. gluten free flour
  5. sea salt to taste
  6. grapeseed oil (enough for frying)
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients together
  2. Heat oil in a pan
  3. Drop mixture by very large tablespoons into pan
  4. After 2-3 minutes flip to other side and cook another 2 minutes
  5. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels
Notes
  1. I use grapeseed oil for frying as it has a higher smoke point. Normally I might use coconut oil but in this particular instance I do not care for the flavor when mixed with the latkes. For those of you who have The Pantry Principle, the chart of oil smoke points is on pages 72-73.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
photo: ultramagicalbonbon