Monday, November 23, 2009

Seaweed for Dessert?

Thanksgiving Kanten

Seaweed for dessert? Heck Yes! This dessert uses the Japanese ...

See Thanksgiving Kanten on Key Ingredient.

I know it sounds CRAZY but I am telling you, this is good stuff. It's like jello without the connective tissue (if you didn't know that's what they make jello out of...sorry). Honest engine, every single person in my family loved this and the best part is that is good for you!

So what is it you ask? It's called Kanten in Japan where it originated or agar agar here in the US. It is basically a flake or powdered seaweed. It is tasteless, has zero calories, zero carbs, zero fat and over 80% fiber. Because if its high fiber content and its ability to absorb water it keeps our tummies feeling fuller for longer. In fact, it is being touted as the weight loss secret of the Japanese.

You can buy it your local natural health food store. I got mine at Whole Foods. It is also available online at if you like to click and buy. Be sure to ask for it by its American name agar agar. You will find it in the Asian aisle by the seaweed.

This recipe is adapted from one I got from Andrea Beaman. You can change out the fruit and the juice but this combination seems especially good for Thanksgiving. Don't be scared! I promise it doesn't taste like fish or even seaweed for that matter. It just tastes like fruit jello. Yum!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fish For the Whole Family

White Fish with Tomato and Olive Salsa

A delicious and healthy meal that is easy to prepare ...

See White Fish with Tomato and Olive Salsa on Key Ingredient.

Not everyone in my house likes fish. Big surprise there right... it seems that there is always someone who doesn't like something but fish is actually one of the things that quite a few people don't like.

I make it every week anyway. I never tell the little ones it's fish. We call salmon pink chicken and I usually call white fish chicken. It's funny because my 7 year old always asks me if he has to be careful for bones in this kind of chicken. I plan on letting him know very soon that he eats fish. I just wanted him to get used to the food before he found out what it actually is.

Last night I made a new fish recipe that everyone really liked. My husband thought it was great which is a miracle and thrilled me to no end. None of the kids even complained. Well, OK, I cannot tell a lie. A few of them were not too thrilled with the collard greens but the fish they liked.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Frantic Holiday Eating

The countdown to holiday eating has begun. We are only days away from eating out big Thanksgiving feasts which leads right into holiday baking, holiday parties and an endless supply of food.

What's a girl to do? You want to be healthy. You don't want to gain weight but you wait all year for those special cookies and your grandma's famous dessert. What would the holidays be without all those special foods you ask yourself.

Trust me, I've been there more times than I would like to admit. I've gone through the holidays gorging on every bit of food on the table until I was so full I felt sick. I've also gone through the holidays on a strict diet, refusing to eat anything that might make me gain weight. Neither of these plans has worked for me and I'm guessing that I am not alone.

As much as we would like to think of food as pure fuel for our bodies there is no denying that food holds a special place in our hearts. Just the smell of something baking in the oven can bring us back to a happier place let alone that first delicious bite. Do we really want to deprive ourselves of that warm fuzzy feeling? Well there must be a way to have our cake and eat it too.

Here are my top tips for getting through the holidays without depriving yourself or gorging yourself.

1. Don't be perfect- Look, I know we all want to be perfect but trust me, there is no such thing so I am giving you permission to let perfectionism go this holiday. Aim for 90-10, 80-20, or even 75-25. Make the majority of your meals healthy so when you are at your holiday party you can enjoy your favorite dessert without the guilt.

2. Hydrate yourself- When the weather turns cold and we stoke up our furnaces the air becomes dry and we naturally become a bit dehydrated. The irony is that when it is cold we don't really feel like drinking big glasses of cold water. Often we confuse hunger for thirst so by making sure you are getting enough fluids you will automatically cut down on the amount of food you eat.

Try drinking your water room temperature. It is better for you anyway and won't give you that chill. Try warm water with some lemon or a new herbal tea. Add lemon, lime, orange or cucumber to your water for an interesting twist. Just remember to stay away from soft drinks and caffeinated beverages. These don't hydrate and in fact can deplete the body of hydration.

3. Do a Swap- I used to make this sweet potato side dish that was to die for! I mean...yum. Well, it was loaded with sugar and fat and I just don't want to go there anymore. I would rather save my splurge for a decadent dessert so now I make a lighter dish with agave for a sweetener and a bit of olive oil. It tastes delicious and I can feel good about eating it. Look at your menu and see where you can make small changes to make it a bit healthier.

4. Plan, Plan, Plan- We've all heard the saying, "fail to plan, plan to fail." Take a moment to look at your calendar and figure out some easy meals you can make that will nourish you without stressing you out. Don't be caught staring into the refrigerator wondering what to eat, only to grab something junky that won't even give you any satisfaction.

5. Slow Down and Enjoy Your Food- So many of us tend to wolf down our food barely even tasting it. If you are going to wait all year for your favorite food, don't you think you should take the time to truly savor it? By slowing down and experiencing all of the flavors the dish has to offer you will not only bring yourself some much needed joy but chances are you will be satisfied with a lot less of it too.

5. Take Care of Yourself- Last but certainly not least, in fact, this is probably the most important thing you can do. One of the most powerful things I have learned since becoming a holistic coach is that when we take impeccable care of ourselves we are less interested in filling up with food. When we are constantly on the go, stretched thin, stressed and tired, we turn to food to make us feel better, to calm us, to give us a little bit of joy. But when we learn to fill our lives with gratitude, joy, passion and excitement, we realize that there isn't a food out there that can measure up to that.

I know the holidays can be stressful. This year I invite you to carve out little bits of "me time." Go for a walk in nature and collect pine cones to put in a bowl on your table. Put on your favorite holiday music and take a candle-lit bath, sneak off to the movies all by yourself and enjoy every minute of it. Find something that makes you smile and makes you happy and just do it! You will be surprised how much more you will enjoy this holiday season and how much less you will be inclined to eat.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What's one thing you will do differently this year to make your holiday season even better?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Now What?

I know you are wondering what the heck you are supposed to do with all that chili I gave you the recipe for. That recipe makes a big pot of chili and even I can't get my whole family to eat it all. So, we make chili-mac. Just boil up some noodles and mix it in and you have dinner number 2. That's how I do it. Nice and easy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Family Favorite Chili

Growing up in the restaurant business, one thing I learned really early on is that people like different things. What one person raves about another will be repulsed by. One of my dad's favorite sayings was, "You can't please all of the people all of the time." Oh how true that statement is. I have brought that saying along with me in my family kitchen.

It is not often that all seven people in my family actually all like something I make. It is inevitable that someone will complain about something. They don't like the onions, they don't like peanut butter, they don't like broccoli. I am sure you all know what I am talking about.

Well guess what? This chili recipe is loved by all! Little kids, big kids, the dad that acts like a kid. They all love this chili. Me too. And better still, it is made in the crockpot which makes it so easy! I hope you enjoy one of our favorites...but if you don't, my feelings won't be hurt. :o)

Family Favorite Chili
3 lbs organic ground beef
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 large onions chopped
2 large red peppers chopped
3 cans black beans (or assorted beans)
3 cans chili style tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 chipolte peppers from a can, chopped (for light spice. Add more if you like it spicy)
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper

1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Drain. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add to the bottom of a 5 quart crock pot. Sprinkle the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and smoked paprika over the beef.

3. Add the chopped onions and peppers.

4. Put the beans in a colander, rinse well and drain. Add them to the pot. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the tomato paste, and the chipolte peppers. Sprinkle the sugar over the tomatoes.

5. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Serve with a fresh salad and some cornbread for a delicious meal.

A Happy Life

A happy life is just a string of happy moments. But most people don't allow the happy moment, because they're so busy trying to get a happy life.
--- Abraham

I used to have this idea that someday I would be happy. Someday when my life was perfect I would finally have this ideal life and I would be happy. I would be the perfect size, my kids would be the perfect age, my house would look like a model home in a magazine, I would be travelling to exotic places, I would have free time to spend just as I wished and then...I would FINALLY be happy.

I tried to make it happen. I started taking all kinds of workshops and educational programs looking for the key to find my happiness. Each of them brought me something special and for a short time I would feel like I found my answer. Inevitably, something would go wrong in my life and I would be thrown for a loop. All my hard work was for nothing, I would never truly be happy!

This year I turned 40. Yep, the big 4-0. And guess what. Something changed in me. I have been having these moments of clarity I guess you can call them. They are like little flashes of reality and it seems my eyes have opened up to see what I couldn't see before. I have realized that there really is no final happy destination. It is what you make of everyday that determines how happy you are. I can determine how happy I am whether the weather is warm or cold, the house is clean or messy, the work is done or not. It is truly up to me.

So what have I been doing to make that process a bit easier? I've been bringing moments of joy into my day as much as possible. Nothing drastic. Nothing that can't be easily added into my day. It doesn't take a lot to make the changes. Here are my top 5 happiness helpers.

1. Creating the Soundtrack of My Life- I have been really using music to create my mood lately. I have been listening to calming and uplifting music in the mornings while I am getting the kids off to school. It really helps me start the day off feeling grounded and peaceful and I have noticed a difference in the kids' behavior as well. Some favorites are So Much Magnificence by Miten and Deva Premal, Have I told You Lately by Rod Stewart and Into the Mystic by Van Morrison.

I have also been taking mid-day dance breaks. I go to You Tube and search a favorite song, crank up the computer and start boogieing. It takes just minutes and really lifts my spirits and gives me a second wind.

Dinner has been amped up with the addition of music too. I get the kids dancing around the kitchen with me while I prepare the food and we have lots of fun. One warning, don't get too wrapped up in the dancing, you might burn your me, I speak from experience. :o)

2. Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude- I can't say enough about taking the time to stop and think about what you have instead of what you don't have. It changes your entire perspective and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. In the beginning I had the hardest time with this, I was so negative that I often couldn't find anything to be that grateful for. I had to come up with basic things like, "I am breathing. I can walk. I can see. The sun is shining." It didn't take long for me to get with the groove and now I find gratitude in just about everything these days.

3. Picking Media Wisely- I haven't watched the news in years. I decided a long time ago that I wasn't being served by the negative messages and fear inducing hype that goes on in most newscasts. It is amazing but I have managed to survive and know enough about what is going on to carry on intelligent conversations. I just recently learned of a magazine called The Week from a fellow IIN student. It is a weekly news magazine that reports with a positive spin. I am going to get my free 4 issues and check it out.

4. It's Tea Time- My grandmother is from Australia and in Australia you drink tea. You drink tea all day it seems. When I headed down under as a teenager I couldn't appreciate the ritual of taking time off for a cup of tea but now that I am, ahem, "older", I get it.

In this instance it really isn't about the tea. It's more about ritual of taking the little break in my day. I spend about 10 to 15 minutes just relaxing and enjoying my tea. If you're not into tea then find something else that can give you that warm happy feeling and feeds your body. That is good stuff.

5. Stay Connected- In this day and age it seems we are all so busy that it can be easy to go through life without really connecting to the people we love. We give a quick kiss goodbye as we head out the door and say our "I love you's" when we hang up the phone but without really making an effort to connect on a regular basis we can easily lose touch.

Our family likes to play dinner games while we eat. It's a fun way to spend our time together and we all have a little laugh at the same time. I also make an effort to spend time with the kids when they get home from school to see how their day went.

My husband and I usually go out twice a month on a date. Sometimes we go to dinner, to the movies, or even to the bookstore. Occasionally we will listen to some live music. The nights where we end up sitting around and talking are the best dates. We end up feeling like we did when we first met and we really feel connected.

What kinds of things do you do to make your days a little happier?
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