Category Archives: holidays


The Thanksgiving Leftovers Plan

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  That delicious feast where we cook all of our favorite foods and enjoy family and friends gathered around the table.  A bounteous array of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, family favorite recipes, and an almost endless parade of desserts.  It is a holiday of plenty.

 Erma Bombeck once said, “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not a coincidence.” While I agree with the eighteen hours to prepare, hopefully, your meal lasts longer than twelve minutes. 

In our rush to get to the big feast we sometimes forget some of the other important stuff. I’ve put together some thoughts on things to remember for the holiday so we can all have a happy, healthy, safe, and delicious day surrounds by those we love and enjoying our favorite foods.

Food Safety

According to the CDC, 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 can present an enormous 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 it all combines to make a perfect storm for food safety problems.

The CDC recommends the following rules regarding food safety:

  • Cook – make sure all foods, especially meats, are thoroughly cooked, a meat thermometer is especially helpful at this time of year
  • Separate – don’t cross-contaminate your cooking surfaces and be sure to 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, repeatedly
  • Report – if you or someone you know becomes sick and you suspect foodborne illness report it to your local health department

My suggestions  are:

  • Have multiple sponges, one for surfaces, one for pots, one for dishes
  • Microwave your sponges often, on high for 2 minutes, to kill bacteria
  • Have multiple towels for separate uses, hands, drying produce, drying counters, drying dishes

Feeding our fur-babies

While we’re enjoying the plenty that comes with this particular holiday, we need to 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.  No matter how much they try to convince us we need to remember that the following can be dangerous for dogs:

  • Turkey skin, gravy, drippings – loaded with fat and spices, it’s difficult for them to digest and could lead to pancreatitis
  • Turkey bones – these are very brittle and can splinter causing damage to the stomach and intestines
  • Bread, bread dough, stuffing, cookies, or other baked goods – dogs cannot digest these very easily and they can cause bloating or severe digestive distress
  • Onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, mushrooms, and nuts – these all contain different substances which can make your dog very ill
  • Chocolate – dogs cannot process the theobromine in chocolate. Consuming it can, depending on how much and how big your dog is, cause serious digestive upset and possible toxicity
  • Alcohol – especially beer, is very toxic for dogs

Leftovers

And after the big feast there will be leftovers.  Probably lots of leftovers.  Because let’s face it, 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).  Partly because we enjoy the cornucopia of favorite foods. But also because after cooking for two days, it’s a great feeling to enjoy all these delicious treats again as leftovers. When we’re planning for leftovers, however, we need to have a plan.

Substitutions

In order to make sure you have the healthiest leftovers possible be sure to start with the healthiest ingredients:

  • This soup base is an excellent substitute for that chemical-laden standby cream of mushroom
  • If your family are biscuit fans do this instead of the whack-and-bake variety
  • Don’t buy the stuff in the can, it only takes a few minutes to make your own delicious cranberry sauce
  • If you eat gluten avoid the chlorine bleaching and bromates found in many commercial flours by choosing unbrominated and unbleached flours instead
  • Skip the crispy onions which come loaded with GMO ingredients and negative additives. Make delicious caramelized onions as a topping instead
  • Canned gravy usually has MSG, trans fats, sulfites, and caramel color, you can easily make your own 
  • Pie fillings often come loaded with GMO ingredients, MSG, plus artificial flavorings and preservatives, making your own is fairly easy. 

The plan

Most people plan their cooking day in great detail. What needs to go into the oven when, what gets cooked in which order, when family is arriving, and how to make the feast all appear on the table at the same time. While it’s great to pay all that attention to the meal, we also need to be mindful of how to plan for after the feast. These are my top tips for dealing with leftovers after the holidays:

  • Don’t throw out those bones, use them to make this delicious broth
  • And here’s a couple of recipes using it plus a wonderful one for my favorite meatball soup
  • Leftover wine can be frozen into ice cubes and used later. A standard ice cube tray is 1 ounce which is the equivalent of 2 tablespoons
  • Instead of storing each leftover item in its own container make them into Meal Jars using wide mouth pint jars for a quick and easy lunch or dinner 
  • Pie for breakfast – okay so it’s not nutritionally very sound, but when you’ve got a delicious gluten-free, lower sugar pie, there’s nothing wrong, in my humble opinion, with enjoying a slice of pie with breakfast
  • Here’s a blog post on one of my favorite leftover strategies, Sequential Eating
  • And another article Musings on Leftovers

However you celebrate, whatever is on your table, whoever your gather with, I wish you a holiday full of joy and gratitude, health, and happiness. 

Gift Ideas For Dad

Fathers deserve to be showered with love every bit as much as we shower our Moms. Sadly, when it comes to the official day for Dad celebrating, Father’s Day, most of the time we’re low on ideas, having used all our creativity for Moms on their official day the month before. So, Dad usually gets a funny card and maybe a new tie. Dads are troopers.

I’m here to support you and Dads everywhere. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite gifts for Dads (and any and all of the unofficially titled dad-like people in our lives). These products all meet The Ingredient Guru guidelines and are products I either own, use regularly, and/or gift on a regular basis to others. Give him a gift that he’ll really love and shower him with the hugs and appreciation that all Dads deserve.

 

HOT SAUCE
Give Dad some heat with hot sauce made from spicy, flavorful real-food ingredients. One bottle won’t be enough, Dad really needs an ultimate hot sauce sampler pack. Start with two of my favorites, Brother Bru’s Original African Hot Pepper Sauce, Very Hot and Sky Valley by Organicville Sriracha Sauce (finally a siracha sauce without potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite)
Shop Hot Pepper and Sriracha Sauce

 

BBQ TOOLS
If Dad is the master of the grill, he should have a top-notch set of grilling tools. This is the ultimate of grillmaster tool sets, made from heavy-duty food-grade stainless steel, strong, sturdy and dishwasher-safe – just what Dad needs to up his barbecue game this summer.
Shop BBQ Tools

 

CHEF’S KNIFE
Every Dad who knows his way around a kitchen deserves a really good chef’s knife. I love my Wüsthof.  With an 8” blade and perfectly balanced, this is my absolute favorite and I use it all the time.
Shop Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

 

HEALTHY SUNBLOCK
Is Dad an outdoor enthusiast? I love that. Everyone needs sunshine, but sunburn and overexposure to those UV-A and UV-B rays? Not so much. Get Dad the BEST sunscreen (imho)  3rd Rock Essentials Sunblock. Invented by my good friend, Dr. Guerry Grune, an outdoor enthusiast and research chemist, who wanted something better than the garbage ingredients found in the conventional sunscreens he used to have to put on his skin. Made from 100% food grade edible ingredients, no GMO’s, no parabens, no hormone disruptors, this is the best stuff ever.
Shop 3rd Rock Essentials Sunblock

 

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
Who doesn’t love seafood? Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics is a wonderful, nourishing gift for Dad. When giving seafood it’s important to get sustainably fished, wild caught for the best quality. My friend Randy Hartnell knows fish. Before he started Vital Choice, he spent more than 20 years fishing wild, pristine Alaskan waters for salmon, herring, and other regional species. He’s an expert, AND he’s generous – he is offering a free gift just for Father’s Day! Use the code DADGRD18 with your order and Vital Choice will tuck in their popular Organic Salmon Marinade. That’s an added $10 bonus for Dad, and you, to enjoy.
Shop Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics

 

BECAUSE…  BACON
Did you know that bacon is the healthiest food.? Because it’s been cured.
Eggs and Bacon walk into a bar…… and the bartender says, “Get out – we don’t serve breakfast here.”
I don’t know who became more famous, Sir Francis Bacon or his son Chris P. Bacon
Obligatory Dad jokes over….  
Socks. A regular pair of socks might fall into that ho-hum category of Dad gifting, like a tie. Luckily, these are no ordinary socks, these are bacon socks. Bacon makes anything cool, even socks. Imagine if they also smelled like bacon… that would revolutionize the sock world!
Shop Bacon Socks

 

LEATHERMAN MULTI TOOL
For a Dad who does everything why not get him the tool that does darn near everything? Collapsible, portable, extremely useful. It’s named The Wingman for good reason. Because every Dad needs a knife, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, wire stripper, scissors, package opener, bottle and can opener, file, ruler, ready for anything and more tool.
Shop Leatherman Wingman Multitool

 

OLIVE OIL JARS AND OLIVE OILS
I fell for these gorgeous olive oil jars as soon as I saw them. Handmade by Doni Langlois, talented artist and owner of Artful Life Clay, each and every unique bottle is practical, functional, and beautiful to look at. Not something you’ll find in your local shop. If you don’t see the bottles on her webstore, she’ll help you out if you send her an email inquiry, Doni@ArtfulLifeClay.com

If you’re going to gift Dad an olive oil jar, he’ll appreciate it even more if he has delicious olive oil to fill it with. Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Orchard, 50 acres of olive trees nestled in on a 200-acre homestead south of San Antonio, makes olive oil with love and a Texas accent. Sandy’s Olive Oil is made from Arbequina olives, soft, meadowy and sweet, and Picual olives, brisk and robust, producing a blend with complex buttery flavor. The Orchard also sells olive trees if you really want to help keep Dad’s bottle full.
Shop Olive Oil Jars and Olive Oils

 

SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL UTENSILS
Is Dad always on the go? If so, he needs the right equipment for eating on the go. Eco-friendly To-Go Ware is made from lightweight, strong bamboo, so perfect for toting around. The carrying case is made from recycled plastic (to help keep plastic bottles out of landfills) and has a handy carabiner on the back so Dad can just clip and carry a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks wherever he may roam. Perfect for Dad’s busy lifestyle and our precious planet. It’s unique combination of ecology, innovation & compassion.
Shop To-Go Ware

 

MINDFULNESS MATTERS
Dad’s need mindfulness too. Life is busy. Meditation can restore balance to the mind, to relationships, to the workplace, and to health. In just minutes a day. Packed with dozens of ways to incorporate mindfulness, great essays, inspiration pages, and worksheets, Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone is an easy-to-read, easy-to-implement resource for all, even Dads.
Shop Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone

 

Although we officially recognize the greatness of Dads on Father’s Day, remember that dad’s day is really every day. Show your appreciation, tell your dads you love them, and celebrate Father’s Day all the days of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your support of these companies through my links helps me bring you free information on this site.

 

 

Gift Ideas For Mom

Mother’s Day is always special. Of course, I believe that’s because moms are special. They nurture us, feed us, and encourage us to grow into better people. They kiss boo-boos, drive away under-the-bed monsters, and generally help to make everything alright with the world.

It’s always been strange to me that we choose only one day to celebrate. That’s mostly because I think moms, well parents actually, should be celebrated every day. But we have this habit of celebrating all the moms, aunts, grandmas, heart-moms, and mom-like people in our lives in May. And they definitely deserve a little pampering.

Here’s a list of my top twelve great gifts for moms. These products all meet The Ingredient Guru guidelines and are products I either own, use regularly, and/or gift on a regular basis to others. (Hint, you will want to buy some for yourself. They’re just that good.) 

 

HERBAL TEAS and a CUTE TEAPOT
I love making my own tea blends. For delicious high-quality herbs, Mountain Rose Herbs is my number one go-to. If mom prefers a pre-blended option, they have a tasty selection of those to choose from also. And if you’re going to give mom some tea why not a beautiful teapot to go along with it? Hayneedle has a truly lovely and eclectic assortment of teapots.
Shop Mountain Rose Herbs & Hayneedle

GLASS STRAWS
Plastic is so passé. It’s chock-full of unhealthy ingredients, like BPA, and it’s really environmentally unfriendly. Re-usable glass straws are here to save the day!  Glass straws made of borosilicate are non-porous, hypoallergenic, shatter-resistant, break-resistant, and usable in cold and hot temperatures. Borosilicate? That’s Pyrex to you, me, and your grandmother’s casserole bowl. I have a set of four straws, which came with a teeny brush to keep them nice and clean. I also keep one straw with me in a travel pouch, so I have it with me when I visit my favorite green juice bar.
Shop Hummingbird Glass Straws & Organic Cotton Travel Pouch

COCONUT OIL CREATIONS
I am so in love with this stuff. It’s a really delicious and convenient way to get coconut oil, along with anti-inflammatory, immune boosting spices into your daily diet. I spoon it into tea, herbal beverages, and oatmeal. I have to keep fighting off my husband who puts it in his coffee. The flavors are deep and scrumptious, created with loads of organic spices. My current favorite flavor? Chai. Next week it may be Mocha. Really, all the flavors are so good. Mom probably needs one of each, so she can taste-test her way to finding her favorite.
Shop Coconut Oil Creations

GLASSTIC
Glasstic bottles are my favorite way to take my water along with me, everywhere. It’s a glass bottle surrounded by a tough BPA-free plastic shell. My water stays delicious, I don’t have to worry about breaking the bottle AND I help keep the earth free of throw-away plastic bottles! Great for hot or cold beverages, and there are a seemingly endless number of designs to choose from.
Shop Glasstic

MYGREENFILLS
Let’s face it when you’re a mom laundry is a way of life. You can make things easier for mom by gifting her with the last laundry bottle she will ever use. MyGreenFills’ refill program delivers eco-friendly, toxic-ingredient-free laundry wash right to mom’s front door. The refills are in powder form, so you don’t pay extra shipping for the weight of a liquid filled bottle. How smart is that? Plus, this company has an amazing mission statement and social cause. Absolutely worth standing on a soapbox and supporting.
Shop MyGreenFills

GAIAM
I really appreciate Gaiam’s (pronounced “GUY-um”) company message. They believe in nurturing, protecting and respecting the Earth and everyone and everything that exists on the planet. For now and for our future generations. They also make some of my yoga and fitness products. They have such a broad range of products good for gifts – comfy clothing, balance balls, colorful yoga mats, foam rollers, videos, even pet massagers – there’s definitely something here for every mom.
Shop Gaiam

DARK CHOCOLATE
Chocolate is a delicacy. The Mayans believed chocolate possessed healing abilities. In 1753, Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus named the cacao tree: Theobroma cacao (food of the gods).  Today, dark chocolate is considered a Super Food. Loaded with nutrients and high in antioxidants, dark chocolate is good for your heart and your brain, just for starters. Also, it’s delicious. Choose minimally-processed, dark chocolate with at least 70% pure cacao, free of emulsifying agents.  Thrive Market has an incredible selection of delicious, clean, healthful dark chocolate for every palate – from fun and flavorful to dark and dreamy. Delicious.
Shop Dark Chocolate

INSTANT POT
Because I absolutely LOVE mine. I received my Instant Pot as a gift last year. As soon as I tried it I immediately added it to my Favorite Kitchen Tools List and added Instant Pot variations to my Fast, Fun Freezer Meals recipe collection. Every kitchen should have one. Every mom should have one. Check out my Pinterest Board’s ever-growing collection of Instant Pot recipes. You can practically taste the deliciousness.
Shop Instant Pot

HIMALAYAN SALT LAMP
Looking to give mom a calm refuge in the hurry and stress of everyday life? Consider a salt lamp. Not only pretty to look at, the soft, gentle glow of a salt lamp adds negative ions to the air and lends a peaceful tranquility to the room. I have several and love their welcoming glow when I return home after a long day. A salt lamp is perfect for every room of the house. Mom’s probably going to want more than one.
Shop Himalayan Salt Lamp

REAL PLANS MEAL PLANS
This online meal planner is a plan with superpowers. If mom loves to cook but struggles with menu planning (and really, who doesn’t?) this is the gift that keeps on giving. It makes menu planning a snap no matter what your dietary plan. Just remember to take her out once in a while too.
Shop Real Plans Meal Plans

SKIN FOODIE
Oh my gosh this is the Best. Stuff. Ever. I met Skin Foodie’s creator, Amy, at a conference and have been a huge raving fan of her healthy skin products ever since. Everything is food for your skin – made with ingredients from nature, and love. Ditch those over-the-counter products full of toxins! And Skin Foodie knows moms – they even have a Mom Fixes Everything Balm!
Shop Skin Foodie

TOTEM
TOTEM has fabulous gemstone jewelry – the prettiest mala necklaces, chakra bracelets, and so much more. TOTEM Sacred Jewelry and Smudge Bar designs pieces with good vibes and lots of love. It’s the place to get mom something really special.
Shop TOTEM

BONUS
I couldn’t resist making this list a baker’s dozen, so here’s one final gift idea: a copy of Gratitude: A Mindful Pause. This journal is the perfect little gift for mom to write down her everyday experiences and the many things she’s grateful for (including you!) Paired with some beautiful pens or pencils and it’s a gift that will keep on giving.
Shop Gratitude: A Mindful Pause

 

Although we’re officially celebrating now, remember that mom’s day is really every day. Show your appreciation, tell your moms you love them, and celebrate Mother’s Day every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your support of these companies through my links helps me bring you free information on this site.

 

 

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

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.

* * * * *
Resources

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

 

Homemade gifts for the holidays - Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru

Homemade Gifts For The Holidays

Holiday Gift Giving

The holidays are just around the corner.  Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa whatever you celebrate, the winter season of gift giving is here. People love to get, and gift, food gifts. One of the challenges with food gifts, however, is that many of the pre-made options come with ingredients that are not all that great for our health.  Making homemade foodie treats is one great way around that issue.  When you make food you’re the one in control of the ingredients. And there’s really something special about a homemade gift that makes both the giver and the recipient happy. As a matter of fact it turns out that baking for other people is good for our mental health

If you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas here are some great suggestions for tasty treats.  Packed up in a jar with a pretty ribbon, in a special tin, or simply in a basket covered with some decorative fabric these are gifts that allow you to share the love with a healthy and delicious treat.

Gift ideas

Granola or Muesli are great choices.  Because you can flavor it any way you like you can make a widevariety based on just this simple recipe.  Put in a jar with a pretty ribbon or a decorative piece of fabric on top it can make a simple, healthy holiday treat.

Granola

There’s still enough time to make a batch of vanilla.  While it won’t be ready right away it will still be delicious and they’ll think of you every time they use it all year long.

You can also make vanilla sugar by placing opened vanilla beans into evaporated cane juice crystals and letting it infuse for some time before removing the vanilla bean and packaging up the sugar.  And in a similar vein, but with a twist, why not make flavored salt.  I got the idea for this after seeing all the different bottles at the grocery store.  They’re rather pricey and yet so simple to make at home.

Seasoned SaltTasty Seasoned Salt:

1/2 cup coarse grind sea salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried onion
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
generous pinch dried thyme
fresh ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a mortar or a coffee grinder and pulse until blended.
Delicious for soups, salads, and on the table as seasoned salt.
note: I have a coffee grinder clearly marked Not For Coffee and use it for grinding all my herbs and seeds

Coffee Seasoned Salt:
note: for this one I use the coffee grinder that actually IS for coffee

1/4 cup coarse grind sea salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
generous pinch vanilla powder

Place all ingredients into a mortar or coffee grinder and pulse until blended.
Delicious on desserts, especially if they are chocolate (just a pinch though)
I don’t drink coffee but for those who do this apparently is a delicious addition to your cup

BrowniesWhen looking for tasty snack ideas you don’t have to go any further than these Crockpot Nut Mixes.You can make any flavor combination you, or the person you’re giving them to, likes.

These Flourless Brownies are sure to be a hit.  You can either make them and gift them right away, or put together a gift box with all the ingredients and the instructions so your giftee can make them later after the holiday sugar overload has come and gone.

If you’re really in a hurry, is to purchase mulling spices at the grocery store.  If you get them in the bulk food section they’re very reasonably priced.  Placed into tea pockets, or into cut squares of cheesecloth tied up with kitchen twine, and delivered with a container of cider the recipient can easily make mulled cider whenever they wish.

I’m not the only one who has some fabulously delicious food gifts that are just right for the holidays. Here are some of my favorite recipes created by friends that are also wonderful tried and true options for gift giving.  

  • Peanut Blossom Bites from Theresa Houghton – So delicous, they’re fabulous any time of the year, not just for the holidays
  • Pumpkin Mousse from Karen Brennan – A wonderful way to enjoy the flavors of the season 
  • Creamy Turmeric Latte from Kirstin Nussgruber – This one is great to assemble as a gift in a basket, be sure to include the instructions so they can make it themselves
  • Holiday Nut Mix from Margaret Floyd – Highly addictive.  You’ve been warned. 
  • Avocado Chocolate Mousse from Kerry McClure – Because who doesn’t love chocolate mousse?
  • Grain Free Thumbprint Cookies by Julie Matthews – Everyone loves this holiday favorite and this is a wonderful way to enjoy them
  • Quick and Easy Almond Butter Coconut Balls by Dr. Keesha Ewers – These things are seriously addictive

And one final option. If you’re looking for amazing gluten free goodies for the holidays but feeling short on baking time I have the answer. You can order a customizable tray of deliciousness from the Gluten Free Sourdough Company. Offering brownies, biscotti, and cookies (including a wonderful ginger snap) all their recipes are free of gluten, artificial ingredients, soy, eggs, dairy, and food gums. 

Whatever you celebrate, whatever your reason for the season, I hope that it is filled with warmth, laughter, love, and joy. Happy Holidays.

Happy Holidays

Focus – The Word Of The Year

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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.

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.

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 https://www.theingredientguru.com/
photo: ultramagicalbonbon