Sunday, December 9, 2012

No-Pasta Spaghetti and Meatballs

Many people are aware of the gluten free movement we see in the nutrition and health fields lately, and with any popular diet comes marketing and new products to meet your dietary needs. Most grocery stores have at least one or two gluten-free pasta options on the shelves made with flour rendered from other grains. These products went through a lot of machines and processes to get to your table though. This can make them hard to digest and often full of extra ingredients that your body doesn't need.

Here is a true gluten free, whole food, seasonal option to meet your spaghetti and meatball comfort food craving this winter.

No-Pasta Spaghetti and Meatballs

Yum! Leftovers for lunch at work the next day. Cook once, eat twice... or even thrice! 

Simple Meatballs 
1lb of ground beef or your choice of ground meat, grass fed and local if possible
2 eggs
frozen chopped spinach, thawed with excess water squeezed out
basil, oregano
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. Add more eggs or more dry cheese to make the right consistency. Roll into 1.5 in balls and place in a glass baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes. 
I made a ton of meatballs a few days ahead and froze them. I took out what I needed for this meal and have plenty more to thaw for other dishes in the future.

No-Pasta Pasta
1 Spaghetti Squash
1 large crown of broccoli
4 shallots
basil, oregano, thyme, red chili seeds
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350, cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Pierce the skin all over with a fork. Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with a 1/4 inch of water. Place the squash, cut side down, on the cookie sheet and roast for about 45 min (until sides are kind of squishy and easy to pierce with a fork). Let cool for a few minutes, then use a fork to scrape out the flesh of the squash, like magic it comes out in long spaghetti fibers.

While the squash is cooking, chop up the broccoli florettes and shallots. Saute in a wok or large pan with olive oil and your favorite Italian-style herbs like basil, oregano, and/or thyme and some salt and pepper. When squash is done, toss in with the veggies.

Serve with a few meatballs and top with parmesan cheese and red chili seeds.

Automatic Language

Have you ever had a conversation like this?
"Good morning. how are you?"
"Fine thanks, how are you?"
"Pretty good. Have a great day."
"Thanks you too!"

Or like this?
"Here's your popcorn, enjoy the movie"
"Thanks. You too... Oh wait, your not seeing a movie, you're at work."
Yeah, I did that.

I also had this conversation: I was on the a crowded train headed to Boston Logan Airport during the morning commuter rush. I was carrying a duffel bag, my handbag (which is the size of another duffel), my phone, my poster for my ASHA presentation... And a to-go cup of tea. as the train lurched, one of my bags slipped off my shoulder down to my elbow, jostled my arm just so, and I watched in slow motion as a fat droplet of tea erupted from my cup and landed on the knee of a passenger seated nearby. I felt awful and apologized profusely. "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry! Total accident. Oops, I'm sorry." I expected the usual "It's ok" (whether or not it actually is okay) but she looked up and me and replied "just be more careful." I was shocked! She didn't follow the script. Her response didn't 'take care of my feelings.' And anyway it wasn't that big of a deal (I thought), and it IS "ok"..... Isn't it?

I've had lots of time to think about this exchange. And as I did, I started to notice how much of what we say is automatic, scripted turn taking. And there is certainly a role for these highly practiced exchanges. When working with people with aphasia (loss of language due to brain injury such as a stroke), we often start with automatics like counting to 10, days of the week, and simple greetings like the one I described above. This language is so hardwired into our brains by the time we are adults that it can often be accessed more easily than more complex, novel language.

But what are we really communicating in those scripted automatic conversations? Not much. Especially when it is not aligned with our real truth.

It can be hard to do the unexpected and really 'say what your mean' and some situations are easier than others. There are a few factors that seem to help me. First of all I need to slow down. So many times I think of a thousand things I could have said after my communication partner has already walked away. Silence and conversation pauses can feel a lot longer in our minds than they are in reality. In our instant gratification world it can feel very challenging to take the time, even if it's just a few seconds, to process and formulate an authentic response. But it's a powerful experience to take a breath and trust that I have all the time I need. I also need to be present in this moment, to actually allow my truth to come up so I can see what it looks like. That depends on a letting go of beliefs around how I should feel, how I should react, and how I learned to be in this world. It can also take courage. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to say something unexpected. I really respect my fellow traveller for not subscribing to the "it's ok" social script. But in other more vulnerable situations, it can feel hard to stand in my truth despite the reaction I might see. But no matter the reaction, my truth is my truth, and it deserves the space to be actualized.

What would happen if we really said what we mean all the time? No more "it's ok, don't worry about it" when it's not ok. No more mindless verbal-volley. No more "I'm-fine-thanks-for-asking" when we are crumbling inside. Language is for connecting, learning, supporting each other, and sharing our truths!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reaching Out for Support

Hi y'all. It's been a while. I took a big break from posting these past few months for a few reasons. Life can be a roller coaster sometimes and I have been on a particularly loop-de-loop-ey part lately. I needed to use all my precious energy to focus inward. And I also needed to learn a valuable lesson: when we need support, the strongest thing we can do is reach out for help.

Weee! Life is a roller coaster!

I am a health care professional. Providing guidance and support for people in some of their most challenging times is exactly what I love most about my job. But we live in a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps world. I had a subconscious false belief that I didn't (or even shouldn't) need that same level of support lurking around in the corners of my mind. I'm so glad I finally found it, shined a bright light on it, and shooed it away.

I would often recommend supplemental healers and professionals for my patients when I felt that their emotional or energetic health or their relationships were playing a role in their communication challenges. Now that I have experienced the benefits these modalities have had for me in my own life, I can wholeheartedly speak to their value. I'd like to introduce you to my healing team. Here are descriptions of some the modalities I have used recently to heal on all the levels that make up my body/mind/spirit.

Talk therapy or Counseling: I am sooo grateful for my generation's changing opinion of therapy. I hear more and more of my friends seeking and benefiting from individual, couples, and family therapy. It's not just for "crazy people" anymore! Therapy can help us work through big life events, and/or can be used as health maintenance. We don't have to be facing death, divorce, or catastrophe to start to tackle our "stuff."

Heath Coaching: Yes, I have my own health coach! One of the best investments I have made in myself, maybe ever. Health coaches can have different foci depending on their clients' needs and can include nutrition, lifestyle, fitness, career goals, and spirituality. Health coaches can help you 'get in the drivers seat' of your life wherever you feel stuck.

Yoga: My yoga is not just stretches and twisty poses. Although the physical benefits are undeniable, from improved joint and muscle health to the nervous system benefits of yogic breath work, there is a lot more to it. Many yoga instructors encourage their students to bring their yoga off the mat, meaning that the lessons they learn in practice can be so applicable to real life. For example, learning to stay through an intense strength building pose, and not giving up, can teach us to stay present in a challenging moment off the mat too.

Energy Healing: Reiki is an ancient form of energy healing that is gaining more and more attention in western health care. There is controversy in the scientific community regarding how reiki works however I have personally found this modality to be extremely helpful. Here is one article on the scientific support for reiki

Massage: The ultimate self care practice. Our emotional and spiritual stress can manifest itself in the physical body. Massage with an excellent therapist can be deeply emotionally stirring and healing.

What healing modalities have you found valuable? Leave your comments here!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Refreshing Gazpacho

Let's make the summer last a little bit longer, why don't we? After all, here in New England the gardens are still spitting out lots of summer veggies and the sun is still shining. Here is a cool and flavorful dish packed with raw vegetables... and fruit, although tomatoes so desperately want to fit in with the vegetable crowd. Tomatoes often get a lot of attention as a chameleon food, acting like a vegetable but scientifically defined as fruit, but many familiar vegetables act this way. Fruits, by scientific definition, form out of the base of the plant's flower and contain the plant's seeds. True vegetables are the 'other' edible parts of our garden plants such as bulbs (as in onions), stalks (as in celery and rhubarb), roots (as in beets and carrots), and leaves (as in cabbage and kale). So that makes peppers, cucumbers, and eggplant all fruits too. Now you know the rules. But there is no scientific reason to segregate your produce in cooking. 

I have to thank my former student SLP for the inspiration for this dish. Aside from being one smart cookie and a really gifted and motivated budding SLP, turns out she was a great cooking muse.
One day, about a week before our work potluck, I wondered aloud: "what's a good summery dish to share?"
Lindsay said "how about gazpacho?"
"Brilliant!" I said. And it was so.

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 purple onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 green pepper seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste
4 cups tomato juice (you may add more slowly while blending to get the desired consistency)
***Optional: 2 Tbsp each of chopped chives and parsley

Use a food processor to blend vegetables to a smooth/chunky consistency. You may need to blend vegetables separately depending on the size of your food processor and veggies. Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight in a glass or plastic container. Flavors blend even more beautifully if you wait to serve it on the third day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's Hot! Hydrate!

Have you noticed? It's hot out!
Now more than ever it's crucial to hydrate. We have all heard that water makes up as much as 60% of our body. So staying in a constant state of under-hydration is really depriving your body of essential ingredients and can have really significant effects on our health and wellness.
  • Have a headache? Try drinking water, you may be dehydrated.
  • Feel weak or fatigued? Try drinking water. Many of my clients feel that they need less coffee and other caffeinated or sugary pick-me-ups when they start their days with water.
  • Voice tired or sore? I always ask my voice patients to really focus on getting hydrated to get the most out of their voices. The vocal folds are mucous membranes and respond especially dramatically to being under-hydrated.
  • Want to lose weight? Yep. You guessed it, drink water. It helps us feel full and boosts our metabolism. Drinking water helps us crowd out high calorie sweetened beverages too.
When I ask my patients and clients how much water they drink, the almost invariably say "Not enough." Usually upon further probing we determine that, yes, it's true, they are not drinking enough water. But many are mystified about how much is enough. There are a few techniques and formulas for determining how much is 'just right.' My favorite is just tuning into your body. How do you feel? Try sipping on water throughout the day and then check in. How do you feel now? It can be hard to pay attention to our bodies signs at first, it takes practice, because we spend so much time ignoring the warning bells and signals that come from within. Another technique is to look in the toilet. What color is your urine? You want to strive to "Pee Pale," with urine the color of pale straw. Finally, for those mathematically minded folks, try this formula: Drink half your body weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 120 lbs, try to get about 60 oz per day (about 8 8-oz glasses). If you weigh 200, you'll need 100 oz, or about 13 8-oz glasses. You might need more or less though, depending on the weather, any medical conditions, or just how you feel.

Many people have good reasons for why it's hard to prioritize drinking water in their daily life. They don't like the taste. They are too busy. It makes them have to pee too much. But the fact of the matter is it is so important for your health, and it feels better too. If you would like some support around how to prioritize hydration in your busy life, contact me for a consultation and lets figure out a solution together.

Agua Fresca!

Enjoy this refreshing twist on water. This beverage is very cooling and hydrating, great with breakfast or as a substitute for ice cream. Plus, watermelon is rich with lycopene (an anti-oxidant), lots of minerals, and vitamins like folic acid, vitamins C and B, and beta carotene.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

2-3 cups watermelon roughly chopped
1.5 cups of ice
1.5 cup of water
a few mint leaves
tsp of agave or honey (optional)

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend. Pour. Enjoy. Garnish with a mint sprig if you are feeling fancy. Try adding other fruits like strawberries or lime.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Power of Water

Water, in all its forms, seems to have a special power about it. If you have ever stood and watched waves crash on the cliffs of England Beaches or seen the little ribbon of the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon you know how physically powerful water can be. Water feeds all kinds of life. Borders of rivers are rich with wildlife, and port cities are usually rich with culture. And water is an important part of many spiritual traditions from Wiccan rituals, to Astrology, to Christian Baptisms.

Walden Pond in Concord, MA - one of my "Happy Places"
This week I needed a recharge. Even though the summer sun has been blazing, most of us have to continue to do the ol' Real Life Grind. I was needed get out of the routine of air conditioned office, to air conditioned car, to sweltering kitchen, to air conditioned bedroom, just to do it all over again the next day. On my way home from work, I stopped at Walden Pond in Concord, MA for a lovely solitary swim. I rediscovered Walden last spring when I was training for a sprint triathlon. Spending time in the water has become familiar and refreshing "me" time. And now, since I am not training for any race-date, my swims are more about being present in this deep and nurturing element.

The water will be there all year round, but has a special significance in this hot season.  People flock to lakes and beaches to be rejuvenated. It has the power to cool and center us. If we allow it.

I recommend that we each take some time this month to be with the healing power of water. Swim in it. Watch it lap against a shore line. You might even take a few extra centering moments in your routine shower.

Shower Meditation
If you are landlocked, try this meditative shower practice

  • Choose a time of day outside of your usual hygiene routine to break the predictability and promote mindfulness. I prefer the evening to help "wash the day off" (makes getting into clean sheets especially lovely).
  • Light candles or use dim lights in the bathroom as you prepare for your healing shower. 
  • Try using cool water. This can be pleasant and energizing. Trust me!
  • As you step in the shower set the intention to be present with the physical sensations you are about to experience.
  • Remember to take cleansing belly breaths.
  • Rinse from head to toe stopping at points that feel like they need extra attention.
  • Step out of the shower, pat dry, and try to stay with the renewed feeling.
  • You might choose a mantra or statement to close your practice. It can be deeply spiritual, or totally silly. True story: I often sigh deeply and say out loud: "I feel like a new woman"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Eating Seasonal Foods

Our grocery stores never fail. We can have strawberries in the dead of winter, apples all year long, and tropical fruits even if we live in gray New England. It's all because of the miracles of modern agriculture and technology. So what's the fuss? Why should we eat seasonal foods?
My attempt at growing some very local veggies. I will keep you posted on the results!
1. Foods that have traveled less have more nutritional value because they are picked at the height of ripeness.
2. Foods that have traveled less, and are picked at peak ripeness also taste better.
3. Many ancient traditions such as Ayurveda teach us that our body needs foods with different properties in different times of the year. Eating seasonal foods helps our bodies align with the seasons.
4. Buying seasonal foods can also mean buying local foods, which supports your local economy.

Spring is a great time to start because many more produce options are in season in the next few months.

Check out this interactive map on Epicurious' Website that shows what foods are in season in your state during a month of your choice. Click Here

The Ripple Effect

Ever heard of "The Ripple Effect" as it relates to our health and happiness? High school physics taught us how a point of physical disruption creates concentric circles of an associated effect. We have all probably seen it happen in our physical world. Imagine it: a drop of water landing in a still pool then ripples expand outward affecting everything in their path. Maybe a blade of underwater grass is swayed or a little creature's path is diverted. In this way, a relatively small thing (the droplet) can have a far reaching affect (the whole pond community around it).
By the same principle you can have a very grand effect on the people and world around you. We each touch so many other lives every day, members of our immediate families, our friends, our coworkers, neighbors, even the people we happen to cross paths with in the grocery store or on the bus. As we make positive changes in our lives and embody health and holistic happiness, others will certainly notice. A friend of mine recently send me a message: "If I eat quinoa at work, I can guarantee a coworker will ask 'What are you eating?!" I'm sure this usually opens the door for a lively discussion of whole grains, the available varieties that many don't know about, and maybe even the health benefits of eating whole grains. I know it has for me!
The ripple effect is usually passive, all you have to do is be yourself! But it works best when you give ourselves permission to live out loud, to do you best every day, and to be brave and honest when others ask questions to try to understand.
Who in your life has made ripples that have changed the way you live? What ways have you seen your positive influence on the lives of others?
If you feel like you are needing some healthy ripples coming your way in life, consider booking a health history with me to learn more about how I can support you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Carrot Dessert Bites

So sweet and innocent looking, but packed with nutrition!

Try these dessert bites for your next work potluck. That's what I did. People will be shocked to learn that they are gluten free, mostly raw, have no processed sugar, and contain a vegetable!

Can you believe these are ALL the ingredients for this recipe? No cake mix or cups of sugar needed.

Carrot Dessert Bites
Makes 20+ balls
4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (about ¾ cup)
1 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
7-8 large dates, pitted
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
Zest of one orange
Unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling
In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process carrots until finely ground. Remove and set aside.
Process the walnuts and cashews in the food processor until finely ground. Add the dates and process until finely chopped and incorporated into the nuts scraping the sides occasionally. Add the carrots, ginger, cinnamon, and orange zest (if using) and process until dough forms.
Shape the mixture into small balls. Roll in shredded coconut to coat. Refrigertate. Serve like cookies. 
Modified from original recipe written by Hallie at

Friday, April 6, 2012

Try This Comfort Food: Fried Rice

What would it look like if we changed our idea of what "comfort food" means? For me comfort food is usually a warm, rich, stick-to-your-bones kind of meal. Toss out the fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Those foods can be delicious, but very nutritionally limited. Here is a warm rich comfort food kind of meal that is also full of whole grains, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. Feed your body and your soul!

Fried Rice

2-3 cups Cooked Brown Rice
2 Eggs
1 Bunch of Bok Choy, chopped
2-3 Carrots, cut into match sticks
2 Red and Yellow Peppers
1 Onion, thinly sliced
5-6 Shiitaki Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of snap peas
1 tsp of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
Peanut Oil for Sauteing
Soy Sauce
Soy Sprouts (to top your dish)

Use your biggest frying pan, or a wok if you have one. Scramble and fry your eggs in a tiny pit of peanut oil, remove from pan, chop into small pieces and set aside. Add more peanut oil and cook onions until translucent, add in garlic, ginger, and all of the other vegetables except for the bok choy and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes (they should still be a little crisp). Stir in rice and heat through if it came from the fridge. Return the eggs to the mixture. Add in the bok choy, mushrooms, and stir in some soy sauce. Once everything is combined and cooked to your liking, scoop into dishes and top with soy sprouts or scallions. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vitamin C: Communication!

For one week every summer of my childhood, I attended a multi-generational retreat called UUMAC. Of course there was official programming, "camp outings" to the local attractions like six-flags and white water rafting, and evening entertainment (I served as DJ for a few years in a row). Think Dirty Dancing but for Unitarian Universalists. (Fun fact: that's where I met my partner Dillan!) It was a blast, yes, but most importantly it was a week of face-to-face relationship building communication with all kinds of folks. This was the kind of communication that goes far beyond "how are ya?" and "gosh, there was so much traffic today." It was communication about beliefs, experiences, values, and feelings.

There was a core youth group of about a dozen beautiful individuals whom I would see once a year at UUMAC every summer throughout high school. Those were the years when no one seemed to understand us back home, but these relationships fueled me throughout the year. We all went on with our lives after high school, went to universities all over the East Coast, then moved to Colorado or Massachusetts or wherever. Some of us have gotten married, bought houses, had babies, just generally continued on our respective paths.

The UUMAC Youth, +/- a few, all grown up. Sort of.
Last week I traveled from Boston to Northern Virginia for my first UUMAC reunion in almost a decade. I was so grateful that so many of us prioritized this time, and traveled all those miles, just for the sake of our little community. I have to admit that I was nervous. These people were at the center of my world during my adolescence, but that was years ago. I have grown and changed, and I was sure they had too. It's a big commitment to spend a weekend with 'strangers'. But the visit proved to be even more meaningful than I could have imagined. Despite some serious sleep deprivation and a major change to my usual food routine, I came home feeling energized and renewed.

There were hugs, games, laughing, creativity, and even a dance party. There was also A LOT of catching up to do. We spent one night basically recounting the last 10 years of our lives into the wee hours of the morning. I was reminded: living out loud allows others to do the same. Most of us started out with the basics, but as we felt safer and remembered that bond from years ago, we got more real-- and that's where the magic happens. I noticed that as I shared intimately about the more vulnerable or confusing parts of my recent decade, I heard others share similar hardships or experiences. Even though some of us are taught to "keep it together" or "not to air our dirty laundry" I find that sharing openly in a safe space can bloom into a really precious exchange.

Beauty is in the balance. Yes, the weekend was lots of fun. But real joy happens when we have both the yin and yang. The laughter and the tears. If we hadn't made time for the hard stuff, the laughter wouldn't have felt nearly as light and the connections not nearly so deep. So I was grateful that no one shied away from those hard parts. Instead those moments were met with hugs and warmth.

When we can share our experiences and make the space for others to do so we can be fed at a very deep level, fortified with vitamin C (C for communication!) It's so amazing how both listening and being heard can feed us. Of course we should practice using our voice and communicating our ideas and feelings. It's the listening that more of us struggle with. I don't always do it perfectly, but I know when I practice mindful listening without needing to fix or have the right response or reaction I feel centered and present.

I'll encourage you to seek your own "Vitamin C" in the safe spaces in your lives, with old friends, new friends, a therapist, or your health coach. It looks different for each of us. Sometimes it may be challenging or messy. Sometimes we feel grossly unprepared or ill-equipped. Sometimes we don't want to brag, or be a downer, and we feel like "no one wants to hear about this stuff anyway." Some are trying to communicate around that big dark road block called aphasia, or a voice disorder. But I'll encourage you to just do your best anyway and experience the results.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spice Up Your Plate

I love recipes. There was a time when I used to be so committed to recipes to guide, or shall I say dictate, my cooking that I was lost without one. Now that I have spent more time in the kitchen learning what works for my palate and my patience, I feel confident taking more liberties with my recipes. Recipes still play a very important role for me, however they are now more of a guide or inspiration than a instruction manual.
I've pretty much got the 'food' part down when orchestrating a meal. I know I want to have some greens, some plant based fiber, some healthy fats, and protein (either plant or animal derived). I want to limit the processed elements, and most importantly I want it to be lip smacking delicious. You can't really go wrong with this formula, but whole foods with limited chemical flavors and extra ingredients can be 'bland' to the Standard American Palate. That's why the Universe has given us SPICES.
Using spices effectively continues to be an area of growth for me, as it is for many people. But the more I experiment the more confidence I drum up.
It's not just decoration! We use our spice rack everyday. We've even customized it with the spices that we use most often. I mean, who actually uses "Pizza Seasoning" and "Crushed Mint" in everyday cooking?

My Tips for Spicing Up Your Plate:
1. Do your research: Google search a few different versions of the recipe that you are attempting. If you are making chicken and rice soup, see what spice combos and ratios come up most often in different cook's renditions.
2. Stick with the same spice 'family': think about recipes you've used before. You will often see bay leaves, thyme, and basil together. Where there is chili powder there is often cumin. Indian dishes (some of the most spice-tastic of all) like curry, cardamom, ginger, turmeric etc...
3. Steer clear of seasoning mixes: they often have lots of salt. And don't get me wrong, salt is a beautiful thing, but you can add that at the end.
4. Don't be shy! if you skimp on your amounts, you may not taste it at all. Also, keep your spice supply fresh because as they age spices lose some potency.

And if you needed more reasons to spice up your plate, check out this review of a new study out of Penn State which demonstrated that meals rich in antioxidant spices resulted in significantly lower presence of triglycerides and insulin levels in the body after a meal. This is an important finding because it could lower heart disease and diabetes risk. That's some delicious science!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Whole Wheat Morning Glory Muffins

Breakfast can be tough to manage for us regular humans. Five out of seven days each week most of us are rushing out the door, rubbing sleepies from our eyes, and trailing coats, scarves and phone chargers. But that's no excuse for missing the most important meal of the day! A healthful breakfast will jump start our metabolism and give us energy throughout the morning, helping us avoid reaching for coffee or sugar at 9 or 10am.

Who doesn't love a delicious breakfast muffin? But those Dunkin' drive-throughs are dangerous - find lots of sugar and preservatives in their treats. 

Try this Make-Ahead Breakfast Solution. These morning glory muffins are great toasted with butter, or nut (almond or peanut) butter. Freeze half your batch to last longer. I modified the Whole Foods recipe by substituting the sugar and brown sugar with honey (read more about the benefits of honey over refined sugar here). 

Whole Wheat Morning Glory Muffins

1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
1/2 cup of honey 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 eggs 
2/3 cup canola oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled and diced 
1/2 cup seedless raisins 
1/2 cup grated carrots 
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dried flaked unsweetened coconut, divided 
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, honey, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, eggs, oil and vanilla, then add to flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add apples, raisins, carrots, walnuts and 1/4 cup of the coconut and stir gently until well combined. 

Spoon batter into 16 paper-lined muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full. Top evenly with remaining 4 teaspoons coconut and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

Hey Honey!

Boston Honey Company:
 my favorite local honey people
So now you know more about how reducing your sugar intake could benefit your health (see my previous post about sugar here), but also that sweetness and sweet flavors are an important part of a balanced life and diet. Luckily there are a number of natural and possibly less toxic alternatives to highly processed white sugar such as sweet fruits (which have naturally occurring fructose) maple syrup, and honey. Honey is still a form of sugar, but unlike highly refined white sugar, it can be consumed in a more raw and natural form and has a number of beneficial components. According to the The National Honey Board (a federal research and promotion board under USDA oversight):

"Honey is composed primarily of carbohydrates (natural sugars) and water, as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Providing 17 grams of carbohydrates and 64 calories per tablespoon, honey is an all-natural sweetener without any added ingredients.
Honey also contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, scavenging and eliminating free radicals. Generally, darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys." 

Additionally some people find that eating raw local honey improves their seasonal allergy symptoms.

Now, we are not talking about the honey that comes in that adorable plastic bear. While cute, and reminiscent of my childhood, that honey is highly processed, can have extra fillers and ingredients, and is likely NOT local (many times from Asia). Local, raw, and organic honey can be found at your farmers market or in health food stores and sometimes in conventional grocery stores (just check the label).
Enjoy it, honey!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sugar's Effect on the Body and Brain

Sweetness is an important part of life, in our diets, our personal endeavors,  and in our relationships. The sweetness in life is an important counterpart to the sour and bitterness of life. According to Macrobiotic Philosophy, sugar has "yin" or contractive qualities, which balances our "yang" or expansive qualities.
We have all heard that too much sugar is "bad for us" and that as a society we are consuming "too much sugar." A nasty combination. Yes, sugar has “empty calories” and can contribute to weight gain, but I'd like to shed some light on some of the less talked about reasons we might want to reduce the amount of sugar we eat. 

·      Sugar can suppress the immune system and feed bacteria and fungi (such as candida or yeast) in the body. (4)
·      Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium, which can contribute to osteoporosis
·      Sugar can promote insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes (1)
·      Sugar contributes to obesity, because it has a high caloric content with no nutritional value leaving your body 'hungry' (1)
·      Sugar can raise blood levels of triglycerides which increases cholesterol and heart disease risk (3)
·      Sugar can impact ability to concentrate, especially in children
·      Chronic high blood sugar can contribute to Alzheimer's Disease (2)
·      Sugar has addictive qualities, similar to cocaine!
·      And many many more….

Consider how much refined sugar and added sugar you are putting in your body each day or week. What would your health be like if you reduced your sugar intake?

1.  USDA document suggesting the initiation of taxes on Sweetened Beverages
2. Alzheimers and High Blood Sugar
3. Is Sugar Toxic? NYTimes April 2010  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Butternut Squash and Kale Casserole

People in my life are very starkly split on the issue of "Chain Emails." But I recently got one that I just had to participate in: A Recipe Exchange. I thought to myself, what a great way for us to share information and encourage each other to experiment with food and home cooking. Recipes can make cooking feel 'safer,' but at the end of the day, it's just food! I will share my recipe with you.

Butternut Squash and Kale Casserole

This recipe originally called for 1lb of cooked penne pasta. I modified to make it more nutrient dense. But if you want it to spread out, try adding whole wheat or gluten free pasta before mixing/baking.

1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
3 hot italian sausages, casings removed
1 medium onion
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste!)
1 cup milk
2 tbs butter
1 1/2 cups grated asiago cheese
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 deg. Heat olive oil in a deep pot (med-high), add onion and sausage to cook till translucent/slightly browned. Add butternut squash and 1/2 cup water, cook until nearly tender. Add kale, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook several more mins until kale is tender. Combine squash and kale mixture with milk and butter. Pour into large casserole dish. Top with grated cheese. Bake 20 mins until cheese is bubbly.