Healthy and Holistic

Month: May, 2012

Springtime Herbed Brown Rice

Typically my Saturday mornings look like this: sleep in a little, make a steamy cup of Gevalia café with my beloved Tassimo coffee machine, and ease into the morning watching recorded episodes of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa.

Ina Garten emanates warmth and grace as she shows viewers how to entertain guests with ease.  She comes across as a good friend (with a fabulous East Hampton lifestyle) that shares her simple tricks to throwing a great party.  Her recipes are simple, delicious, and she always emphasizes using quality ingredients.

I was watching a recent episode where she made herbed basmati rice.  She served the dish with scallops provincial, but I thought the dish would also be good as a light dinner with some salad greens.

I took her original recipe found here and changed a few things to make it a little healthier.  I switched the white basmati rice for brown long-grain, the butter for Earth Balance and added a small shallot for an extra kick.  Pair it with green salad or a nice piece of salmon and you have the perfect springtime dinner.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 ½ cups of filtered water
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped dill
  • 2 Tbs. chopped scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1 small shallot chopped
  • 1 Tbs. Earth Balance (or vegan butter spread)
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Combine the rice, 1 1/2 cups water, the salt, and Earth Blance in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low, stir once, and simmer, covered tightly, for 20 minutes or until cooked. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the parsley, dill, scallions, and shallot. Fluff with a fork, and serve warm.
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White Bean Hummus

I am a big fan of freshly made hummus.  When it’s done right, it’s delicious.  I’ve tried making it in the past, but have not been able to recreate the middle-eastern restaurant authentic taste and texture at home.  I resigned to only enjoy it when I go out for falafels or get a schwarma craving.

The weather has been so warm here lately, and I’ve been craving light bites that don’t require a lot of cooking, that I’ve decided to try to make hummus one more time.  And this time it worked!

I opted for a white bean humus, made with cannellini beans instead of the traditional chickpea.  Cannellini’s have a creamier texture than garbanzo’s and make a smooth rich hummus, which is good because you can add less olive oil and reduce the fat in the recipe.

I added a few other ingredients, parsley to add some freshness, cumin for a spicy warmth, and of course garlic!  Garnish with some extra olive oil, pine nuts, and paprika and serve with some crunchy carrot and celery and sticks, and you have yourself a delicious snack.

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, roughly 2 Tbs. chopped
  • 3 small cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbs. tahini
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine the cannellini beans, parsley, garlic, lemon, cumin in a food processor and puree.
  2. Add tahini and olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Elements of a Healthy Relationship

A healthy relationship of any kind contains three things: respect, trust and open communication.  Each element plays a pivotal role to nurture a healthy connection.  Read on to learn why each of these three things are important and what you can do to improve in each area.

Communication- One of the key elements of a healthy relationship is open and honest communication. Each party must feel that they can openly communicate with their partner and that their partner listens and supports them. A lot of people whether they are in romantic, family, or peer relationships have a difficult time communicating their feelings with another person.

Some ways that you can improve your communication in your relationships is state what is on your mind in a non-accusatory tone and how it makes you feel. Likewise, when the other person is talking, listen to what they are saying and acknowledge their feelings. To be happy, we all need to feel seen by our partner and this is accomplished when we feel that someone we care about listens to us and understand how we feel.

Respect/Boundaries- Mutual respect is another critical part of any relationship. Without this crucial element, the relationship becomes an abusive one. If one or both parties feel unsafe physically or emotionally, the relationship does not serve both people and is not their highest good.

It is important to maintain boundaries during times of disagreement. During arguments, it is important to stay on the topic at hand and not go into personal attacks on one another. For example “You didn’t do ….you’re stupid!” Such attacks as this belittles the other person and they will not feel that their partner respects them and will not emotionally safe in the relationship. It is best to always maintain a level of respectfor one another and set appropriate boundaries so that your relationship does not become damaged.

Trust- Without a doubt, the most important part of any relationship is trust. If you cannot trust the other person, your relationship will not go very far. The way we build trust in a relationship is by being honest and dependable. When we can take trust someone’s word and feel that they are not hiding things from us, we feel safe with them. Also, we someone says that they’re going to do something and follows through, they become reliable in our eyes and it builds the relationship.

Top 10 Best Brain Foods

We all know that what we eat can effect our waistlines, but did you know that it can effect your brain too?  What we eat can have a powerful effect on how our brain functions and protect us from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Here are 10 highly effective brain foods that improve memory, mood, concentration, and overall clarity.

1. Salmon Salmon is rich in Omega-3 that protects the brain and protects it from Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive disorders. Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids lessen the effects of bi-polar disorder and depression

 

 

 

2. Flax Seeds Packed full of ALA, flax seeds contain healthy fats that aid the cerebral cortex in functioning better. The cerebral cortex plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.

 

 

 

3. Blueberries Blueberries are known to boost your memory, motor skills, balance and are rich in free radical fighting antioxidants.

 

 

 

 

4. Gingko Biloba Gingko Biloba works by increasing oxygen and blood flow to the brain, regulates neurotransmitters, alertness, and decreasing mental fatigue.

 

 

 

 

5. Eggs Egg yolks are rich in choline which aids in improving your memory.

 

 

 

6. Coffee Contains antioxidants which are good for the brain. Also, regular coffee drinking has been linked to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

 

 

 

7. Chocolate Chocolate is full of antioxidants and improves focus and concentration.

 

 

 

 

8. Walnuts Just ¼ cup of walnuts contain 91% of your daily value of brain boosting Omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain magnese, which is a component of antioxidant enzyme manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD). Low levels of magnese contribute to an increase in seizures.

 

 

 

9. Whole grains Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats improve circulation and essential B vitamins that protect the brain.

 

 

 

10. Legumes Legumes are rich in vitamin B5 which assists the brain in the transmission of nerve cells. They also contain vitamin B6, which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin, an important neurotransmitter.

Explore Your Spiritual Core

Each person must determine what they believe is their own sense of meaning and purpose in life. You can do this by exploring spirituality.

If you are wondering where to begin, start by asking yourself the following questions:

What makes me happy?—Things, People, Places  Think about the activities that you enjoy doing, the kinds of people that you want to be around, the places you like to travel to, and an occupation that excites and interests you.

What values and beliefs are important to me?  Ex. Honesty, integrity, spending time with family, giving to the community.

Are my actions in line with my values?  Ex. I believe in taking care of the environment, so I’ve made the decision to recycle and buy eco-friendly products.

Am I tolerant and accepting of others?  Do you accept other people’s beliefs and values if they are different from your own? By honoring another person’s beliefs, you find more peace in your life.

 

Am I looking for deeper meanings in daily occurrences?

Do you notice that certain situations keep coming up over and over. Instead of thinking that it’s random coincidence or life keeps happening to you, look for the deeper meaning or a pattern. For example, if you find that you keep attracting the same kind of dysfunctional relationship, ask yourself what is the lesson that you are needing to learn from that type of relationship. It may be that you are to learn how to set appropriate boundaries and this type of relationship is testing you.

Am I taking action to fulfill my dreams?

You know what you want out of life, but are you taking the necessary steps to see that it comes true? Once you have determined what it is you would like to do, the next step is to take action towards that goal. Too often we get caught up in learning, studying, and planning what we want and keep in the process for far too long. It’s important to take that first step and then the next one to achieve your goal.

Am I living in the moment?  You’ve heard that saying before, that life is only in this moment, that everything is as it should be. This keeps you in present and not focused on the past or worried about the future. Try to live your life one moment at a time and you’ll find that you will be a lot happier. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, but too often we get stuck in the past or worried about the future that we forget to live our lives for today.

Do I have enough fun and play in my life?

I know this sounds like a silly question, but the soul needs playtime. Ever noticed you feel rejuvenated after a fun vacation or get inspired from an art class? That’s because we when are engaging in playtime, our spirit expands.

Do I make time for myself each day?

Ex. Meditation, relaxation, getting out in nature, and other activities that are nurturing or centering.

Exploring spirituality means taking the time to sit down and think about what you really want in life.

Our soul’s purpose is to experience joy and fulfillment and it’s up to you to determine what this is for you. In order to do that, we must first figure out what is important to us, what are our values, and what we would like to experience. By exploring spirituality, we will get in touch with our true nature and will lead us to our soul’s purpose.

5 Step Beginner’s Meditation


When beginners first start to learn how to meditate, they often feel frustrated and think that they are doing it incorrectly when they find that they cannot ‘clear their mind.’

Don’t worry about trying to meditate correctly. There is no right or wrong way to do it. If you can just there by yourself for an extended period of time, you are meditating. Meditation is simply allowing yourself to just sit there and ‘be.’

5 Step Beginner’s Meditation

1. Find a quiet, comfortable place for you to sit undisturbed.

2. Close your eyes and tune into your breath, as you breath in and out.

3. Let whatever thoughts come into your mind flow through—don’t try to         ‘stop thinking’, but do not sit there and dwell on them. Simply let them       surface and pass.

4. Continue to breathe.

5. Slowly come into your awareness and you open your eyes.

If you find that it is difficult for you to sit still or to do nothing start with small increments of time and build up.

When I first started meditating, I had a hard time sitting still and would meditate for 5 minutes. I slowly added more time and can now meditate easily for an hour or more.

Gradually, the process will become more enjoyable and you will gain a sense of calm.

I just want to mention, that even if you don’t feel the benefits, you are still experiencing them. Your body and mind are adapting to the process and learning how to slow down. This doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t be discouraged!

Top 10 Most Common Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins are chemicals and other materials created from the modern industrial world.  You can’t see, feel, or smell many of the toxins, but they are just as harmful.

As scientists are getting better at detecting different chemicals in our bodies, they’re discovering that even tiny quantities of toxins can have detrimental effects on our health.  Read on to learn about the top ten most common environmental toxins and how you can protect yourself from them.

1. PCB’s

This industrial chemical has been banned from the US for decades, but persists in our environment.

Risks: Cancer, fetal neurological impairment

Sources: Farm-raised salmon. Farm-raised salmon are fed meals of ground-up fish that have absorbed PCBs in the environment. When buying salmon, look for wild Alaskan salmon or any other type of wild fish to avoid this hazardous chemical.

2. Pesticides

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the majority of all pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides are carcinogenic. Pesticide residues are detected in 50-90% of US foods and are a common environmental toxin.

Risks: Parkinson’s disease, miscarriage, nerve damage, birth defects, blocking the absorption of food nutrients, cancer.

Sources: Commercially produced fruits, vegetables, non-organic meat and poultry, and bug sprays.

3. Mold and other Fungal Toxins

One in three people have had an allergic reaction to mold. Mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can cause a range of health problems with exposure to only a small amount.

Risks: Cancer, heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes.

Major Sources: Contaminated buildings, food like blue cheese, peanuts, wheat, corn and alcoholic beverages.

4. Phthalates

These chemicals are used to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastics. While Phthalates are a common preservative and manufacturing chemical, they are dangerous to human systems and threaten our environmental wellness.

Risks: Endocrine system damage (phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children).

Major Sources: Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers. All of these can leach phthalates into our food. Use glass storage containers and bottles whenever possible.

5. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)

VOCs are a major contributing factor to ozone, an air pollutant. According to the EPA, VOCs tend to be even higher (two to five times) in indoor air than outdoor air, likely because they are present in so many household products.

Risks: Cancer, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment.

Major Sources: Drinking water, carpet, paints, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellants, air fresheners.

6. Dioxins

Chemical compounds formed as a result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil).

Risks: Cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, chloracne (a severe skin disease with acne-like lesions), skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, mild liver damage.

Major Sources: Animal fats: Over 95 per cent of exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats.

7. Asbestos

This insulating material was a common environmental toxin that was widely used in housing insulation from the 1950s to 1970s. Problems arise when the material becomes old and crumbly, releasing fibres into the air.

Risks: Cancer, scarring of the lung tissue, mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer).

Major Sources: Insulation on floors, ceilings, water pipes and heating ducts from the 1950s to 1970s.

8. Heavy Metals

Metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our environment, can accumulate in soft tissues of the body.

Risks: Cancer, neurological disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, foggy head, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels.

Major Sources: Drinking water, fish, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirant, building materials, dental amalgams, chlorine plants.

9. Chloroform

This colorless liquid has a pleasant, nonirritating ordor and a slightly sweet taste, and is used to make other chemicals. It’s also formed when chlorine is added to water.

Risks: Cancer, potential reproductive damage, birth defects, dizziness, fatigue, headache, liver and kidney damage.Major Sources: Air, drinking water and food can contain chloroform.

Major Sources: The primary sources of chloroform released in the environment are pulp and paper mills, pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, chemical manufacturing plants, chlorinated wastewater from sewage treatment plants, and chlorinated drinking water.

10. Chlorine

This highly toxic, yellow-green gas is one of the most heavily used chemical agents making it a common environmental toxin that can threaten our wellness.

Risks: Sore throat, coughing, eye and skin irritation, rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchi, wheezing, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pain in the lung region, severe eye and skin burns, lung collapse, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) (a type of asthma).

Major Sources: Household cleaners, drinking water (in small amounts), air when living near an industry (such as a paper plant) that uses chlorine in industrial processes.

Information Source: Mercola.com

My First Blog Award and Award Giveaway!

I am delighted to receive a beautiful blog award from Julie Hansen Intuitive, a thoughtful blog full of spiritual insights.  Julie is a gifted clairvoyant and that I’ve had the pleasure of working with—she blew me away during my reading!

The rules for the Beautiful Blogger Award are:

– Thank the blogger who nominated you.

– Share 7 random things about yourself. (My list is at the end of the post)

– Nominate 7 fellow bloggers.

– Inform the bloggers of their nomination.

– Add the Beautiful Blogger Award pic on your blog post.

And the list is…

1. Julie Hansen Intuitive

2. Snapdragons

3. Kiss my Spatula

4. blackberriesandbloodoranges

5. allpointshealing

6. Feer no Weebles

7. Kyle Martel Photography

Here are 7 things about me that you may not know:

  1. I went to the junior Olympics for fencing in high school.
  2. I am outgoing and talkative when I meet others and come off as an extrovert, but overall, I consider myself a shy person.
  3. I spent my weekends working at a skydiving dropzone when I was 19 and would jump out of perfectly good airplanes.
  4. I don’t like broccoli… Bleh.
  5. I’m a cat person.
  6. When I see someone I know crying or with something in their eye, it makes my eyes water.
  7. I have ADD when it comes to watching movies.  I have to be doing 5 different things while watching a movie and rarely see a movie in the theater.

Brussel Sprout Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts

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Sundays are reserved for me.  Typically my errand day, I spend the day doing laundry, grocery shopping, and prepping for the week ahead.  I also always manage to make a healthy recipe or two to help my body detox from my weekend indulgences.

Today I went to my favorite produce market and Trader Joes where I picked up a few goodies.

Two things in particular that caught my eye at Trader Joes were a beautiful bunch of fresh flowers and a bag of shredded brussel sprouts.

My mind went immediately into thinking want I could do with them and I grabbed both along with a few other things and was on my way.

Once home, I arranged the flowers into two bunches, a big dramatic bouquet featuring a juicy blue hydrangea, and a sweet small bunch of daisies to brighten my bathroom.

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Both go a long way to making my apartment (and me) happy.

Now, onto the brussel sprouts.  Today feels like summer, the sun is shinning and it’s almost 80 degrees outside.  It’s definitely warm weather food.  I immediately thought to make a raw brussel sprout salad.

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I picked out a few other ingredients and threw them all together to make the salad.

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It turned out to be delicious! I’m on my second bowl now as I writing this post.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded brussel sprouts
  • 1 cup scallions sliced into rounds
  • ¼ cup whole raw hazelnuts
  • 2 Tbs. dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley

Dressing

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. Agave syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Toast hazelnuts in a dry pan on the stove over low to medium heat.  Let cool and then chop into bit size pieces.
  2. Add shredded brussel sprouts, scallions, cranberries, and parsley in a big bowl.
  3. Mix dressing in a separate bowl and pour over salad.
  4. Add chopped hazelnuts and toss salad.

Crunchy Kale Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

I am totally smitten with Kale and this salad is my absolute favorite way to eat this leafy green veg.  I often find myself craving it and will make a big bowl to keep in the fridge for the week (although I finish it within a few days).  It’s chewy, crunchy, creamy and garlicky good. You’ll want to eat bowl after bowl–and that’s great! Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around.

Kale is chock full of phytonutrients and vitamins, like Vitamin A, B6, C, K, folic acid, and calcium, to name a few.   One cup of this leafy green contains only 36 calories and 5 grams of fiber, making it friendly on your figure too.  I could go on and on about all the benefits of this superfood, but let’s just get to recipe!

Crunchy Kale Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Salad Ingredients:

  • One bunch of Curly or Dino kale
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 Daikon (substitute radishes)
  • 4 scallions
  • ¼ red onion

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. raw tahini
  • 3 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste)
  • Kelp granules (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash, dry, and chop (or tear) the kale into bite size pieces.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrot and daikon into thin strips.  You’ll want about ½ cup of each.
  3. Chop up the scallions into thin rounds and the red onion into slivers
  4. Prepare the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, oil, and tahini.  Crush or finely chop the garlic and add it to the dressing.  Finally season to taste with salt, pepper, and kelp granules.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.
  6. Place in the fridge for a few hours to allow dressing to soak in and soften the kale.  Enjoy!
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