Friday, February 27, 2009

Roasting up Some Sweetness in Kitchen

This is a nice way to prepare veggies in the colder months. The slow roasting gives a rich, deep flavor and brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables. It's a feel good food. It's so easy to do and while there is a long cooking time, you just pop it in the oven, set the timer and walk away. Now that is my kind of cooking.
I made a variation of this the other night for a side dish and it was really good. The kids liked it enough to actually eat it and my husband who HATES sweet potatoes actually ate them! I even chopped up a rutabaga and threw it in and no one was the wiser.
Veggie Bake

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4-8 servings

any leftover veggies that need to be used
1 large can chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
3 or 4 large yams, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil

1. Chop veggies (except yams) and stir-fry in a bit of oil until soft.
2. Add can of tomatoes and drained can of chickpeas.
3. In a casserole or lasagna dish, layer yams then veggie mix (same as if you were making lasagna but use
potatoes as lasagna sheets and veggie mix instead of meat).
4. Finish with a layer of yams, lightly drizzle olive oil on top.
5. Bake for 1/2 hour at 300 degrees. Then take off cover, turn up temperature to 400 degrees for 10
minutes to crisp up the top layer.

Add your favorite herbs or spices, like basil, oregano, fennel, cumin, chili pepper, sea salt, etc., when adding tomatoes and peas for an extra kick. For a bit of added texture, add roasted sunflower seeds when adding tomatoes. Veggie Bake keeps great in the refrigerator for a few days.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Move Your Body

One of the things I am learning to love is exercise. I have not always had the greatest relationship with the many forms of exercise that are out there. Now that I am focusing on not only eating right but also in complete body care, I am searching for ways to get my exercise without feeling like I am torturing myself.

This weekend during class at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition I got a huge lesson on what it takes to get a good workout. We had a trainer come in and work with us for 15 minutes. We were standing up in front of our chairs and let me tell you there wasn't much room. We started jumping around, raising our knees, doing some punching, and getting our butts kicked with some squats.

Let me tell you, at the end of those 15 minutes everyone was sweating. It was so simple. There were only about 5-8 different moves and we just repeated them until the time was up. It doesn't get much easier then that does it?

Later, I was on the plane heading home and I ran across a reader's tip in the Body and Soul magazine. She had a history of struggling with establishing a workout routine. She never felt like she could fit it in. She decided to change her mindset and commit to doing just one minute of sit ups a day. Now on days that she struggles she only does the one minute but on other days she ends up doing 10, 15, or 30 minutes of exercise. Very interesting.

In one day I got my lesson twice. I don't need to go to the gym. I don't need to have the perfect workout DVD. I don't need to complicate my life. I only need to move my body. What a great lesson for all of us. Start small, commit to something, and get moving.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not Just for the Birds

Since I have joined the Institute for Integrative Nutrition I have been experimenting with my diet. We are learning about over 100 different dietary theories and most importantly we are learning about bio-individuality. In a nutshell, bio-individuality means that there is no one perfect diet for everyone. One man's food is another man's poison.

The reality of it is that no one can tell me which foods are right for my body. I can read all kinds of things and learn different theories but in the end I need to learn to listen to my body and feed it what it needs.

Over the last week or so I have taken gluten out of my diet. I am staying away from wheat, oats, rye, and barley. I have actually not had much in the way of grains at all except a bit of brown rice here and there.
I am heading out to NY tomorrow and I started wondering what the heck I am going to eat for breakfast while I am there. I have been having a problem with eggs for a while now, can't have gluten grains, just eating fruit isn't enough to keep me going until lunch. Hmmmm, quite the quandary.

I bought a package of millet from the health food store and did a little research. I knew millet was a gluten free grain and that it was in the bird food I used to give my cockatoo but that was about it. What I found out is wonderful!

Millet is actually a seed that has been around for ages and has been used in countries all over the world such as China, India, Greece, Egypt and Africa. It is even mentioned in the Bible. Millet is easily digested and alkaline in the body. It provides serotonin to calm and soothe your moods and helps to hydrate your colon to keep you regular. It is full of nutrients that our bodies need such as magnesium, calcium, maganese, tryptophan, phosphorus, fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants.

Sounds great right? But what do you do with it?

Millet is as easy to prepare as a pot of rice. It is a good idea to soak the grains over night to release phytic acid that can make it difficult to digest. Simply rinse the millet in a strainer and put into a bowl of water. Let it sit 8-24 hours. I put it out overnight.

Millet absorbs a lot of water so you will typically need 3 cups of water for 1 cup of millet. After soaking you may be able to reduce it to 2 or 2 1/2 cups of water. To cook it, boil the water, add the grains, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes until all the water is absorbed and it has reached the desired texture. That's it!

Millet can be used in savory dishes like stuffing, soups, and pilafs or it can be sweet like a breakfast porridge or snack bars. I chose to make some millet fruit balls for that I can bring with me to NY. I followed a recipe that I got off the package of millet I purchased but I ended up changing it up quite a bit. They are very versatile so I wrote up a recipe that allows you the freedom to use whatever you like or whatever happens to be in your pantry.

Millet Fruit Balls

2 cups prepared millet
1 cup your choice of chopped nuts. (I used 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup pecans)
1 cup chopped dried fruit ( I used 1/4 cup apricots, 1/4 cup raisins, and 1/2 cup cranberries)
Grated orange rind from one orange
Agave to taste
Additional finely chopped nuts

Just put everything in a bowl except the additional finely chopped nuts. Stir it all up and then form it into bite sized balls. Roll the balls in the nuts and enjoy. You could use your food processor to mix it up too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Oh the pain, the sinus pain!

My husband Ed picked up a little friend this week. It was an ugly little virus that hopped a ride home with him from the office. Throughout the week it worked its evil magic and has given him some annoying gifts. He has had chills, fatigue, congestion, cloudy thinking, sniffles and more.

Now Ed is what I call a sinus guy. I have a UR (upper respiratory)guy, and a stomach guy, but Ed is the sinus guy. Whenever he gets sick it ends up turning into sinusitis.

When I first met him he had the worst sinus problems. He was ALWAYS suffering with his yucky sinusitis! Over the years I have helped him by changing his diet. He was a hard core milk man. He loved his milk and drank a lot of it. He couldn't believe how much better he felt when he drastically cut back on the dairy. He was having less and less infections. Adding more fruits and veggies helped to boost him immune system too. Now he will usually only get sick once or twice in a year as opposed to once or twice each month. I am not kidding, he was sick all the time.

This week his suffering was lingering on a bit so I made a quick stop at the health food store and picked up some eucalyptus essential oil. I heated up a pot of water, added about 5 drops of the oil and had him put a towel over his head like a tent. He sat for 5 minutes breathing in the warm water with the oil. We refreshed the oil a few times by adding more. At the end of it he was covered in sweat but he felt so much better. He only did it once and he was amazed at the relief it brought him.

If you are a sinus sufferer or you have loved ones that may be in need of some help give that a try. Here are a few other things you can do to find relief:
  1. Drink a lot of water and hot herbal teas to thin the mucus and promote drainage.
  2. Eat chicken soup or vegetable soup. Yes, your grandma was right. There are actually studies that show that hot chicken soup promotes sinus drainage.
  3. Eliminate all milk and dairy.
  4. Make a drink of hot lemonade: Combine the juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons with an equal amount of hot water. Sweeten with maple syrup or agave. You can also add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper if you can tolerate it. Drink this three times a day.
  5. Look for foods that may be triggering chronic sinus problems: Dairy and wheat are the two most common offenders.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Taking a Breather

Tonight I headed of to my local Whole Foods for a talk on Balancing Hormones Naturally. He got up and introduced himself and immediately the women began asking questions. He answered a few of them and then smiled and said, "Before we get too far into our minds, let's all take a moment to close our eyes and take a deep breath." So, there we were in Whole Foods with our eyes closed, taking a moment for gratitude and slowing down the chatter in our mind.

So often we speed through life, scheduled to the limit. We have doctors appointments, dentist appointments, shopping, errands, cleaning, cooking, homework, chauffeuring our children to one event after the other, and on and on. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to load up our calendar with every to-do that there is to-do? And have you ever caught yourself in the midst of these high paced days taking a deep breath?

This is our natural response to stress. The body knows it needs to slow down. The body knows that it can't keep up this pace forever. The body know that the best way to release the stress it to slow down the breathing.

When we are in the midst of stressful situations our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, causing a physical response. Our heart rate goes up, our muscles tense up and our breathing becomes fast and shallow. If we continue to go on in this way, over time we can find ourselves out of balance and physical symptoms can begin to show up.

Breathing is the only bodily function that we do both voluntarily and involuntarily. By choosing to slow down our breath we can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which creates relaxation and reverses the effects of the stimulated sympathetic nervous system.

Now look, there are certain ways you "should" breathe to create relaxation for the body and I will dive into that further in a future post but let's be real here. If your body instinctively takes a deep breath when needed, we don't have to worry about getting it right. For now, just try to take some time everyday to take a few breaths. Don't wait for your body to cry out to you. When you're driving in the car, breathe deep and let it out. When you're standing in line at the store, breathe deep and let it out. When your home making dinner, helping the kids with homework, answering the phone, planning who needs to go where and when, and...

just breathe deep and let it out.
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