Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Cheers to doing things a little differently... just because different is what feels right. 
There are many ways this mantra has come up for me this year, in my relationships, my career, and my food. 

Traditionally, The Holidays are a time to gorge oneself on nutritionally empty foods. Of course this can be fun in the moment. But that 'good' feeling passes soon after the food passes one's lips. This holiday season I can't help but to think deeply about how I am feeding myself in terms of the food that I put in my belly and my primary foods. To learn more about primary foods, click here and/or ask me to explain more.

Thank you Rachel Kurtz, the author of the fabulous vegetarian cooking blog at, for this delicious gluten free fall dish. I served the stuffing, sans squash, as a side at our organic Thanksgiving Feast this year.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa Stuffing
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water to cook quinoa
2 large acorn squashes, halved and seeds scooped out and insides rubbed with olive oil
1 TBS olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1/2 lb. mushrooms, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
2 TBS lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 apple, cored and chopped
6 dried apricots, minced

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are you "terrible at remembering names"?

'Tis the season for socializing! Weekend after weekend we spend the holiday months meeting new people and reaquainting with long lost relatives, often in busy distracting party environments. This can be either an energizing prospect or a terrifying one for many reasons. One of them being: all those new names and faces to file away in our memories! I am often intrigued by how many people, immediately after the handshake, will say "I'm terrible with names." In my head , I reply "well yeah, with that attitude you are!" Like many things in life, when we set the intention about our skill or weakness it is likely to come true. I invite you to take a different approach. Start saying "I like remembering names" or maybe even "I'm GOOD at remembering names." And you can be, if you use some simple tools and techniques.

1. Set the intention. "I'm good at remembering names." Doesn't it feel good when you remember someone's name without skipping a beat? Have you noticed how good it feels when someone remembers your name? It might make you feel important, valued, and special. Set the intention that you will remember a new persons name by using the power of your mind, because everyone benefits.

2. Pay attention. You know it's coming. The handshake or hug and that single precious moment when the name is uttered. "I'm Susan, nice to meet you" or "Im so excited to introduce you to my partner Joe." Be ready. Avoid thinking about what you will say next or worrying about the impression you are making. When you pay attention in that moment you give your brain the best shot at encoding the information.

3. Repetition. Repeat the person's name out loud. Each time you repeat a bit of information, either silently or aloud, the information sticks a bit more. You might even say "Joe, ok, I want to remember that." Not only will you get an extra repetition in, but they may even think "hey I'm important enough to remember!"

4. Association. Use this tried and true memory strategy to "link new information to old knowledge." There are a few ways to do this. There is the standard link: Joe, like my childhood friend Joe. The more abstract link: Christine who I met at the Christmas party. Or a more creative link, like the one my partner and I often use to introduce ourselves: Dillan and Brenda, like the famous couple from 90210.

5. Be Humble. If you forget, just ask. Apologize and say "could you repeat your name for me?" Your communication partner may have forgotten your name and be relieved at the opportunity for an introduction do-over.

Give it a try, and see how setting intentions, using memory strategies, and being humble can benefit you in other parts of your life. I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to post any reactions or additional strategies that work for you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Express Yourself!

This weekend I waited in the lobby while my partner Dillan auditioned for a part in a new improv troupe. I sat in the lobby knitting my newest project: a pair of leg warmers. Purple, of course. As I sat in the chair, listening to the laughter and creativity just bursting from the audition room and knitting away, I felt so grateful for this moment of 'healthy expression' we were both creating. Both of us are self-proclaimed artists and are experienced with a wide variety of media. For me, these include drawing, painting, sewing, knitting, dance, general styling, etc. Sometimes I go a while without prioritizing Healthy Artistic Expression. But I know that when I create the time and space in my life for my creative outlets my mind is noticeably freer.
Art can manifest itself in many ways. The important part, in my opinion, is letting oneself get lost in the process of creating something and making it transform from an idea into a reality. In fact sometimes I even think of my work as a speech pathologist as art. It often requires a great deal of creativity and flexibility, and I often end up with a beautiful product (in the form of a relationship with a patient, or an unexpected learning experience).
Maybe you are also a self proclaimed artist. If you make time for art and creativity regularly in your life, wonderful! If not, what small ways can you bring in more moments of creativity, and therefore more outlets for freeing your mind? Where can you notice and cultivate unexpected moments of creative freedom in your everyday work or routine?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stroke: Uncontrollable vs. Controllable Risk Factors

Today I met a 46 year old woman who was admitted to the hospital because she had a small stroke. I was asked to see her to assess her language and thinking skills, to see what kind of support she needed to transition back home. One of my favorite evaluation questions to learn more about a person's communication and verbal organization skills is: "What kinds of things do you like to cook? Tell me how you make a ______." Let's just say she didn't mention many vegetables in her response.

I am asked to work with a stroke patient under the age of 65 a few times per month, sometimes two in one week. This is far TOO OFTEN, in my opinion.

Read the National Stroke Association literature and you will find that there are a number of risk factors. They divide these seventeen risk factors into "controllable" and "uncontrollable" risk factors. In fact, I wonder if nearly all of the risk factors are controllable. For example, "Family History": I wonder if this is judged to be a risk factor because if healthful food and lifestyle choices are not a priority in a person's family, they are more likely to inherit that outlook around health and therefore more likely to have diabetes, hence a stroke. "A Previous Stroke", I'd argue, could have been prevented. Even "Race" is likely related to SES, education, and access to healthy foods.

See the NSA's Risk Factors Below:

Controllable Risk Factors:
Uncontrollable Risk Factors:
Cited from:

Controlling these controllable risk factors can seem mysterious to many. The prevalence of the Standard American Diet (SAD), marketing of processed food as "health food," and the limited access to education about health are all working against us.

But there is hope! Education, accountability, and moving toward a less-processed, plant-based diet for each of us are important first steps.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Slow Cooker Season!

The weather is cooling off, like it or not, which means your body might be craving more warm cooked foods to maintain balance. Let me introduce you, or reintroduce you, to this fabulous machine: The Slow Cooker. There is nothing like coming home from work or play and opening the door to the thick fragrance of spicy delicious dinner. For people with no time the slow cooker is a great solution for lovely home cooked meals. It makes a LOT of food, so it's great for a family, or for making freezable servings to take for lunches all week long.
You can work all kinds of magic with your slow cooker, but my favorite slow cooker meals are a kind of cross between stew, soup, and chili. Start your slow cooker adventure by using recipes (see one of my creations below), but before you know it you will just develop a "knack" for orchestrating your own simple culinary masterpieces. The basic formula is: toss in a big bunch of raw chopped veggies, add a few cups of chicken or veggie stock, and beans or animal protein. You can even add dry grains (rice is best) in with the rest of the ingredients, just don't forget to add enough extra liquid for the grains to absorb. The secret is in the spices. Experiment with cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, oregano, fresh pepper.... the possibilities are endless!

Brenda's Soupy Chili
1-1.5 lbs of Ground Turkey, browned on stovetop (optional)
1 Onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 carrots, chopped
1 bunch of kale or chard
1 tsp each of cumin, cayenne, oregano, fresh pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 can diced tomato
1 1/2 cups of veggie or chicken stock
3 cans of your favorite beans (I like Kidney and Cannelini)
Add in any other veggies you have around: bag of frozen veggies, half a bunch of broccoli, white or sweet potato... whatever is around.

Put all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low for 10 hours.
Mix in hot chili flake and serve with shredded cheese on top, with a side of toast or cornbread.