Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finding the Light in the Darkness


So here we are in the season of light...just newly passed through the winter solstice when we experienced the shortest day and the longest night and from here on the days will be getting longer ever so slightly.....it still feels quite dark to me...and cold and damp thanks to our recent heavy snowfall. In the midst of the holiday season and in many different celebrations of light one cannot ignore the impulse to go within to celebrate or even find the source of light. For me the source of light in the darkness is also the source of warmth...you think of fire in any shape or form which brings warmth and usually the feeling of comfort. Perhaps the warmth also helps us to thaw out the cold places within us as well as helping us to be more pliable and flexible as opposed to being stiff and rigid. Being flexible obviously helps us in accomplishing our goals because it helps us to see outside the box. Being flexible is being open and able to grow and stretch our minds and hearts beyond our present state of status quo, quite possibly giving us the ability to change and let go of our preconceived thoughts and habits. It is exciting to embrace this time of year as we look back on the year and our accomplishments as well as looking ahead to plan and shape the year ahead simultaneuosly searching and finding the light within and the light without. Interesting and very compelling time of year.

My dear friend Nancy friend emailed me a forward about a week ago titled HANDBOOK 2010. I don't know the source or who to credit for it but I'm going to copy it here. It is broken down into 4 sections and I'm going to do a section at a time starting with the section on HEALTH. So here goes:

1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the three E's--Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy.
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books than you did in 2009.
8. Sit in silence at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 min walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

For anyone still up for some holiday baking....I have a great recipe to share. This was given to me last year by one of my patients. It was copied from the cookbook The Peaceful Palate.
This recipe is like finding the light in the darkness. These cookies seem so rich and decadent yet they have only three ingredients, pecans, pitted dates and orange peel. No sugar, no butter and no flour!!!! and they are absolutely delicious.

Pecan Drops
makes 30 1-inch cookies

2 cups pecans
1 tsp finely grated orange peel
1 cup pitted moist dates
30 pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 325. F. Grind the pecans and orange peel in a food processor until the pecans are coarsely chopped. Add the dates and process until everything is uniformly mixed and a ball of dough forms. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet; they will not spread so they can be placed close together. Press a pecan half onto the top of each.

Place the baking sheet in the upper third of the oven to prevent the bottoms from burning. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the bottoms are lightly browned.


Enjoy the cookies and the rest of the holiday festivities!
Check in soon for the next installment of HANDBOOK 2010.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe!

Peace,

Lisa

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

GIVING THANKS



Ah, Thanksgiving! What a special holiday a day set aside for the sole purpose of giving thanks. Giving thanks is a practice that is a surefire way to feel better about almost any trying situation you may find yourself in. Counting your blessings brings about a feeling of abundance and overall well-being. When I find myself whining, complaining, worrying or any other fruitless behavior the mindful act of gratitude always seems to soften my edge and bring me into a state of hopefulness. Knowing that things could always be worse seems to be the trick to turn me in the direction of feeling better. And so the goal is to make everyday a day of thanksgiving.

I have so much to be thankful for....as we all do. Personally I feel very grateful to have this opportunity to share with you and to have this avenue for creativity in the hopes of inspiring you to perhaps eat a little better, get healthier, be happier, breathe easier and to offer you a stream of support. Last year right before Thanksgiving I decided to put together a cooking class for some healthier, low glycemic index recipes for my patients. I had a lot of fun coming up with the recipes and I chose to include a Tofu dish instead of turkey because alot of folks know how to roast a turkey but not too many even know what to do with Tofu. So below you'll find all of my recipes for a simple yet delicious and very healthy Thanksgiving meal that I hope you will enjoy.

Thanksgiving Tofu Turkey and Sesame Gravy
2# extra firm tofu
4 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs. tamari
1 Tbs each onion and garlic powder
1 cup onion, minced
1 cup celery, cut chunky
1 cup carrots, cut chunky
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 pieces dry whole grain bread, cubed
1 tsp fresh or dried sage, thyme, basil
1/4 cup water or broth
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 350.
1. Cut the tofu into thick slabs and brown in olive oil, sprinkle the tofu with tamari, onion and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat till brown and crispy on both sides. Cut into thick cubes and set aside.
2. Saute in 1 Tbs olive oil onion, garlic, mushrooms, celery and carrots .....cook til carrots are almost tender....Add cubed bread, water and all of the herbs and spices....cook for 5-10 minutes til everything looks combined. Prepare a lasagne or deep baking dish by oiling lightly.
3. Add veggies to pan gently mix the tofu into the veggies.
4. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.


Click here for the printable version of this recipe!

Sesame Gravy
Saute in 3 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs earth balance:
1 finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp sage
1 tsp salt
When onion is light in color, add:
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbs. ww flour
Brown for 5 minutes. Then add:
3 cups sesame milk:
1/2 cup sesame seeds blended in blender with
2 1/2 cups water and 2 tbs tamari.
Stir until thickened. Adding more water if too thick.
Serve hot over Tofu Turkey.


Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Strueseled Sweet Potato Casserole

Assemble the potato mixture and sprinkle with the streusel, then freeze the casserole up to 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. Thaw in refrigerator and bake as directed. Or cook just the potatoes a day ahead, mash and refrigerate and proceed with the recipe as directed the day you're serving the dish. Add 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper if you want to add a bit of heat to this sweet dish.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)
14 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 5 pounds)
2 scoops vanilla ultrameal or protein powder
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flaxmeal and 1/4 cup ww flour
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate
1/4 cup chilled earth balance, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375°. Place potato in a large pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Combine the ultrameal or protein powder and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add potato to egg mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Spoon potato mixture into an oiled13 x 9-inch baking dish.
Combine flour, flax, apple concentrate in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add chilled butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in pecans; sprinkle over potato mixture.
Cover and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes until golden and crusty on top.

Collard Greens

A healthy alternative to the delicious southern greens.
SERVES 4 -6
Ingredients:
1 lb collard greens
2 Tbs olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch strips, 1/4-inch wide
1/2 large onion, slivered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T balsamic vinegar

Directions: Slice off the stems from the collards right below the leaf, and discard the stems. Fill the sink with cold water and give the leaves a good soaking and washing to get rid or all the grit clinging to the folds of the leaves.
Drop the greens into a couple of inches of boiling salted water. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and chop coarsely.
Pour the olive oil into a large skillet. Toss in the peppers and onions, seasoning them with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Once they're soft, toss in the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Dump in the greens and give them a stir. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, the vinegar. Stir one more time and serve up a mess of healthy greens.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
1 12-ounce bag fresh whole cranberries
2 tablespoons water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup orange marmalade, sweetened with juice
1 to 2 tablespoons apple juice concentrate

Place the cranberries, water, apple juice concentrate and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan.
Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring,
until the cranberries pop. Remove from heat, stir in the marmalade, and cool.
(This can be made up to 4
days ahead.) Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.
Time-saver: Using marmalade to flavor the cranberries is a quick way to add a
sweet, complex dimension to a traditional side dish.


Yield: 2 cups

Apple Crisp with dried cranberries
Serves 8-10

4 large baking apples
¼ cup dried cranberries juice sweetened or unsweetened
¼ cup apple juice concentrate
¼ cup ww flour or rice flour
¼ cup flaxmeal
½ cup oats
¾ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup earth balance or canola oil

Core, peel and slice apples into a baking dish.
Mix remaining ingredients and spread over apples.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375.
Best served warm.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe!

Well all.....please have fun cooking all the yummy Thanksgiving foods, and gathering together with your family and friends for a lovely and very nourishing holiday. It is truly wonderful to have a day to stop and Give Thanks!


With Gratitude,

Lisa

Sunday, November 1, 2009

FAITH is believing when common sense tells you not to


Early this Autumn I was having a stressful day, it was rainy and cold and I was feeling discouraged about how a few things were going in my life and my faith was a tiny thread....I rationally knew that I needed to have patience that all would work out in it's own time but my heart was heavy and I was weary. While I was out doing errands that day a few treasures were laid before me that seemed to say ....."don't lose heart because help was on the way". The treasures I found were a beautiful heart shaped leaf with tiny beads of rain on it and some pennies from heaven not common cents/ common sense at all!

How many times did you start out having faith and you lose steam and stop believing and then give up on your dream? This has happened to me too often and I question my faith in general as well as my belief in myself. Something happens that creates tension in me whether it be a conflict with someone or something , perhaps I don't feel well or I have some form of limitation that is frustrating me and as a result I decide to change my response, my habit, my thought pattern. I do know that I can change, I've seen it , I've done it and I've been there. I know that improvement is natural and that wellness and joy is my true nature physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually....so what trips me up and disempowers me? Doubt as well as a lack of patience trips me up and seems to be a pervading presence that undermines my focus. Why do I doubt so much? I think deep down that I have belief systems in place that work against me. Rationally all is fine and good but when push comes to shove my pattern is to cave in. And why am I so impatient? If I could just sit back and relax and know that time will take care of everything and that some things just take more time and that things usually get easier after awhile and with practice.

For instance, one activity I would like to incorporate in my life is the practice of meditation.....I seem to find every excuse in the book not to be regular. I need only to get started and have a taste of the peace that comes and then I would get hooked and a new habit would eventually be formed. Maybe somewhere in there I don't believe I really have the ability to quiet my mind despite the fact that on a daily basis I am learning to focus and become aware of negative chatter so I need to look to my accomplishments and dwell on that and move forward.....easier said than done...but definitely doable. Does this require faith alone....I think it also requires my willpower and my inner resolve. Things are meant to go well and if I find myself in a state of unwellness- I know that the nature of life itself.... is CHANGE. Making changes in myself does require faith. The dictionary states that faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. So where is my faith? A good question to ponder.

Starting small seems to really help. Small goals help to set the pace and build on small accomplishments. If you're learning to eat better....how about trying a new recipe each week? It feels overwhelming to try and do it all....all at once.....but a recipe a week is not hard. If you are drinking coffee everyday and want to kick the habit...weaning yourself is the way to go for more surefire success. So if you're used to the daily grind full strength...how about cutting back to making a couple of those cups decaf? and slowly, slowly cutting back....How about taking relaxation breaks ? If you don't have 30 minutes, how about a 5 minute stretch and breathe break....there is always something you can do that helps you feel like you are accomplishing your goals. And what a gratifying feeling. Having faith in the little things can help you with the big things. Before you know it you have some confidence in yourself aka faith in yourself!!!!! Bingo!!!!! Success!!!!!!! Bravo!!!!!!! You did it and know you're on your way.

Talking of new recipes....I have one for you. The other day I had made some nice broiled fish, baked potatoes and greens and I needed one more dish. I felt I was needing more color on the plates to look pretty and also I was having a major craving for a crunchy salad thus Crunchy Cabbage and Apple Salad. I was very pleased with the way it came out that I think you'll enjoy it too.....just be careful because you may want to eat too much!


CRUNCHY CABBAGE AND APPLE SALAD
1/2 medium head red cabbage, shredded super thin
1 celery stalk, sliced super thin on the diagonal
1-2 apples depending on size, cored and sliced super thin
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 scant tsp sucanat, optional can also use 1 tsp. apple juice concentrate

Mix everything in a bowl being sure to slice the veggies super thin as texture is everything in this salad. If time is available place in the frig to meld the flavors and chill the salad, but this is not necessary. You can also substitute green cabbage or use a mixture of both red and green cabbage. Toasted walnuts or sunflower seeds might be a delicious addition as well. Enjoy this refreshing salad.


Remember also that cabbage is one of those wonder foods .....it cures just about everything that ails you, it is high is vitamins, fiber and iron and being in the cruciferous family it contains phytochemicals that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Cabbage is great for the digestion especially in the form of sauerkraut. The best part is that is great for the budget and for the waistline. So make sure to eat your cabbage!

So as you believe your dreams into existence just remember that.............. Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.


All my best,

Lisa



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Autumn is here and the leaves are a' changing....




Changes abound in life. Some are self imposed like a healthier diet plan, an invigorating fitness program or perhaps a decision to change an unhealthy behavioral trait like always being late or being afraid to speak in public, or even a job change or a re-location. Then there are changes we have no control over like the seasons changing or your car breaking down, you break a leg or you lose your job. Change is a given....it could be for the best or perhaps not but one thing is certain it always comes. Just when you think you have figured something out ....it changes again. So the importance of adapting and going with the flow can not be underestimated.

How we adapt or transition into change is what truly counts. Just look at nature....the animals always know when a storm is coming and they take cover to get out of harm's way. The birds know when night turns to day and we can listen and know too. The adapting part is paramount to survival and a key to maintaining wellness. As the autumn winds blow and the days have that morning chill it's important energetically to prepare the body, mind and spirit for the coming winter. We start to drink more warm beverages and less chilled ones, we roast and bake more and grill less...this is a natural response. The time to start thinking of soups and stews is upon us and rightly so to start using warming herbs and spices like cinnamon and ginger. Protecting the physical body from the elements is vital to staying well. Keeping the neck covered with a scarf as well as keeping the low back and kidney area warm with layers is wise to protect the vital Qi or life force. Wearing socks, stockings and warm shoes and hats keep the body temperature stable as well as keeping the pernicious elements at bay. We have no control over the changing seasons but since it is a time of vulnerability mindful care must be taken to transition smoothly.

All change whether self imposed or not puts us in a state of vulnerability thereby requiring utmost attention and support. Enlisting the support of family members or friends is essential if you truly want to make the change go smoothly and have a positive outcome. The support person can help hold you accountable and also can greatly inspire sticking to your resolve to change. Recently I read in the Daily Progress, our local newspaper, about a woman who lost 73#, her story was remarkable and she emphasized support. Her husband and friends helped her greatly. It would be extremely hard to stick to a diet plan if your significant other is going to offer you candy and sweets.

Being able to reach out to others and make them aware of your need for support is a step in the right direction. Enlisting the help of a coach, checking in with them on a consistent basis is extremely helpful. Joining a group of people all going through a similar change is a good idea. It is a rare person who can go it alone and succeed wholeheartedly. Be aware also that sometimes there are people around you can somehow feel put off by your changing self and they can unconciously say things that are less than supportive, perhaps it brings up feelings inside of them of changes they'd like to make but find difficult. Change anyway and in time your efforts will inspire the best in them also. Sometimes your friendship circle will change to encompass new friends that support the change and that's very exciting.


The changing season has really been inspiring new ideas in me. The farmer's market has been bursting with vibrant colors of the harvest and each week I come home with an abundance of nourishing food. I've been busy washing and cleaning the veggies and planning the week's menus and as I am spending more time in my kitchen again I am super motivated to reach for more ease and efficiency in my small kitchen. I surprised myself as I thought of a new way to organize some of my cabinets to create more space. I'm ditching my huge spice rack for a peg board on the wall to hang my pans. Of course it's going to take a little work to find space for my spices but I've already cleared out some stuff I hardly use. I was convinced there was no more room in my kitchen but by simply looking outside the box.....poof...I found many new possibilities. The kitchen is just a start and a metaphor to a whole new me!

And now for a recipe!!!!!! Last week at the farmer's market I found escarole! How very excited I was! I grew up in a close knit Italian family and we lived in an attic apartment in my grandparents' house and would often come home to delicious aromas coming from my grandparents' kitchen. My grandfather did quite a lot of cooking and escarole and beans was a family favorite. Escarole is a bitter green that gets less bitter as you cook it....it soothes the stomach and the palate and in this recipe is quite fast and easy to prepare as long as you have a some essentials in your pantry.

Escarole and Beans
serves 3-4

1 head escarole, cleaned and coarsely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 15 oz. can of Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 quart of broth, preferably chicken broth
sea salt to taste

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil and lightly cook the garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the chopped escarole, the broth, beans and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add more water or broth if it's too thick. Adjust the salt to taste.

Enjoy the soup! And especially enjoy the season! And in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "When you're finished changing-you're finished!"

All my best, Lisa

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Synchronicity


Are you in sync? It's interesting,  you know when you're in sync and you definitely know when you're not.....I was thinking of my ipod and wishing how easy it would be to be a ipod just download what we need, plug our self in and bada bing we're in sync....how easy that would be....if we were deficient in a certain nutrient and we add it,  plug in and deficient no more.  In some ways it can be that easy. Once I realize it's up to me I can get back in sync fairly easily.....The questions that come up almost without thinking are....  Do I fit in? Do I belong here? Is this a good fit for me?  It can be any number of things such as my job, my home, my diet, my exercise program?  If my situation feels fine then no problem but when I feel out of sorts, minor or major adjustments can be made to feel more in sync.   I realize it's my job to create the changes needed....I can't expect other people to change for me or know what I need... So much depends on me and my attitude.

Have you ever dreaded going to a party where you didn't know anyone and just knew you'd feel left out but instead you came away feeling like you made some new friends and had a wonderful time?  I've always been sort of shy and I usually cringe at upcoming events such as the before mentioned party but this happened to me recently and my husband actually ended up having  a hard time seperating me from my new friends and our very lively conversation.... I went to that party reluctantly except I made a decision  before hand to put my best foot forward and what a pleasant  and rewarding surprise I encountered.  I'm proud of myself for changing my attitude because it made all the difference.  We can choose the way we feel, the way we think and the way we act....it's an on/off switch.....When it comes to health and  making dietary changes to support health goals it's really as easy as visualizing a switch and keeping it turned to the on position.  The on switch supports new healthier choices as well as  giving up the sugar, the white flour products, the junk food, the eating late at night whatever it is.....plug into synchronicity and you'll see positive results, it's inevitable and it gets easier.  

What about cooking?   Are you cooking your own food?  The simple act of cooking your own food puts you more in sync with the energy of the food and is more potent nutritionally.   I cook everyday and have been cooking now for about 35 years and as much as I sometimes complain about all the fuss and bother I think it truly centers me and ultimately grounds the family.  I love experimenting with new food combinations and I feel comforted by old favorites like roasted lemon chicken, baked tofu or minestrone soup to name a few.  To make meal planning easier take some time to list at least 7 family favorites and put the list in clear view so whenever you're stuck for what to make you'll have that list accesible as new favorites come along they get added and your list grows and grows.  Cooking  a few things  on the weekends can really help a busy week go smoother especially if you're trying to fit some exercise in there too.

What about shopping for food?  Obviously when you want to eat well you've got to have all the good food on hand...so shopping is important.  If you really want to feel in sync with your food try going to the local farmer's market.  It doesn't get any better than that unless you grow it yourself.   The farmer's market is a great experience, first of all being outdoors is a more natural setting, next, all the smiling faces of the vendors who are very in sync with their product and their enthusiasm overflows into the food and  the goods they are selling.  Then the most important reason you're going there.....is the food itself....it is of outstanding quality; it is fresh, seasonal and locally grown..... alot of it being raised without chemicals and the prices are generally lower than the grocery store. Check it out sometime, most towns nationwide are promoting this type of market especially in these greener times.  To find a farmer's market near you check out the following link:  http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/ 

Last week I bought some okra which my family loves.   Okra seems to get a bum rap as many people think the only way it is cooked is deep fried or in such a way where it might get a bit gooey.  There are many ways to cook okra that can easily offset the gooey-ness. Interestingly enough the gooey nature of okra  is one of it's health promoting qualities as the mucilage as well as it's dietary fiber, Vitamins A,  B6, thiamine,  C, calcium and zinc make this vegetable highly beneficial for regulating the blood sugar, maintaining a healthy  gastrointestinal tract, normalizing cholesterol levels and facilitating joint mobility.  This podlike vegetable comes to us from West Africa, Egypt and  Ethiopia. It was said that some of Cleopatra's beauty can be attributed to her consumption of okra, this reason alone makes me want to eat alot of it.   I recently made a delicious okra recipe that I got from my Mom's Food Network magazine .....it looked so vibrant and colorful and it tasted delicious and I bought all the produce at our local farmer's market.
OKRA WITH TOMATOES:   Saute 4 smashed garlic cloves in 3 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat until golden.  Add 4 cups okra (halved lengthwise) and 1 small onion (cut into wedges); season with salt and pepper and cook until the okra is tender and bright, 10-12 minutes.  Add 1 pint cherry tomatoes; cook until just bursting, 3 minutes.  Finish with a splash of cider vinegar. 


Getting back to the topic of synchronicity, I have a personal story to share. A few weeks back I took a trip to NJ for a family wedding and it just so happened to be my birthday as well. I flew there alone which was very restful, the time with my family was very nourishing and the wedding was great. At the end of the reception one of my cousins caught wind that it was my birthday and then a deeply moving thing happened.....my whole extended family sang "Happy Birthday" to me right then and there. How exhilirating! To top that off, after my lovely sister and Mom dropped me off at Newark airport the next day....I stopped at the security checkpoint and the man who checked my ID said,  "HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Did you enjoy  your day?" I was so surprised and to me that was such a gift from a complete stranger. I was on cloud nine and felt a genuine feeling of synchronicity....I was in the right place at the right time and I received positive affirmation for all of it. Those little moments are rare but when they happen it goes along way towards knowing that (quoting the cards on my desk)......
The whole world is conspiring in your favor.

                                                                     Lisa
                                                                                    

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How rested are you?



How rested are you? Now that's a question to ponder. I just got back a week ago from our annual family vacation which left me quite frankly wanting for more. First of all I absolutely love the beach and really 6 days out of the year is not enough of the beach not to mention a vacation. You wait all year for the vacation....you spend days packing then you get there after either hours in the car or at the airport.....it takes a few days to unwind then it's time to pack it up get yourself home and unpack it all over again.....Something is wrong with this picture. Then what if something really does go wrong while you're on vacation? Last year my longed for and deeply awaited beach vacation found me sitting in a beach chair the whole time as I injured a muscle behind my knee the first day and was unable to walk. I sure got a deep rest that week after I got over the initial trauma. But what a way to get a rest!

So what's the solution I ask myself while I wrestle these feelings of unfulfilled needs. How do I fill these needs.....obviously I'll try to arrange for a longer vacation next year and would honestly like to do as the Europeans do and take off a whole month.....that would be great ideal to work towards but I must come up with a plan in the interim. I must make some basic lifestyle changes to incorporate rest, relaxation and downtime on a regular basis be it daily, weekly, monthly as well as yearly especially so as not to be so desperate when vacation time rolls around.

I am reading a wonderful book called Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller. We've had this book for quite sometime now and it's interesting how I was talking to a dear friend of mine who said she wanted to give me a copy of a book that was really inspiring her........I immediately got it from my shelf and started reading it. The timing couldn't have been more perfect to help me feel better....It was just what I needed to get some relief from these feelings..... I highly recommend this book to everyone. This book is very user friendly with short and to the point chapters with beautiful poems and prayers and exercises for re-establishing Sabbath into one's life. The author talks about how we violate our mind, body and spirit by overthinking, overworking and overdoing. He explains how we are making war on our selves as we are doing more than is truly possible. He goes on to say that the majority of our society thinks of vacation, rest and leisure time as a luxury and that much of sickness is borne out of perpetual busyness. The question to ask is- Am I getting the rest that I need? Is it my pattern to wait until I'm so desperate, so out of shape, so overweight, so sick that I'm stopped in my tracks by an injury or a chronic disease? It might seem counter intuitive to a weight loss program to emphasize rest and sleep as an important therapeutic tool but the time honored standard to remember is- "all things in balance." If we're not getting the rest we need we may then reach for the wrong activities, food choices, alcohol, sugar, etc. One doesn't really need research though there is plenty of it, to back up these statements. One simply needs common sense and the ability to tune into the natural world. Day gives in to night, spring turns into summer and so on. There is a time to work and a time to rest. But.....one must stop and listen- stop and observe and then as the familiar phrase states, "take time to smell the roses."
It might not be so easy to slow down or we may also unconsciously avoid it even though there is much to be gleaned from rest and stillness and quiet. Sometimes the non-doing can be uncomfortable.... we may feel worthless, invaluable or lonely. We might even feel useless doing nothing....but it might just give us a chance for some deeper insights to come when we're quiet. We have to be empty to allow for the filling up once again. The wind might be speaking to us....the ocean....the mountains.....the crickets....the birds.....our children.....our spouses.....our hearts. Our divine guidance might be trying to contact us but if the line is busy we're likely to miss the call....How sad is that?

I look forward to taking some time in the days and weeks ahead to consider ways that I can get more rest and create more Sabbath moments for myself and my family. I'm also thinking of planning more openings in my schedule for being restful with friends and taking such opportunities as nice walks or having board game nights regularly with friends. Sometimes when I go to the lake I'll see a large group of people who have overtaken one of the shelters and have come prepared to spend the day doing nothing but playing cards, sharing food, playing volleyball and swimming.....now that's also very restful and vacation-like without going so far away. This is lacking in my life and I'd like to do something to change that. Other ways to get more rest is just to examine the rhythm of your life....Do you have certain days for shopping, laundry, cleaning, and meal planning? Having rhythm is a natural way to get more rest in as you're not always flying by the seat of your pants, which ends up creating stress and more busyness. For instance, if you take the time to plan menus you can consolidate shopping time and have more time after work for putting your feet up, being quiet or going for a meditative walk instead of having to stop at the store again. One easy way to create a Sabbath moment is to light a candle at suppertime, say a grace and then mealtime can be transformed into a restful, nurturing event. These are just a few ideas surrounding the topic of rest.....I would love to hear ways that you have discovered that work for you to get more rest and Sabbath moments in your life. Please feel free to post your ideas in my comment box to share.


Since my daughter Gabrielle has moved back home to do her student teaching I'm getting a little bit of a rest from cooking as she really loves to cook. The other day she made Chicken Kabobs that were so delicious I wanted to share the recipe with you. For vegetarians please feel free to use extra firm tofu or tempeh instead of the chicken.



Chicken Kabobs
Marinade:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp.dried oregano or 1 tsp fresh
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

Skewers:
1/2 red onion , cut in chunks
1/2 large red or green pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
button mushrooms
1/2 medium eggplant, cut in 1 inch cubes
large cherry tomatoes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Prepare marinade by placing all marinade ingredients in a large ziploc bag and refrigerate for at least an hour. Prepare grill or broiler. Remove chicken from bag, discard marinade. Thread veggies and chicken on skewers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place kabobs on grill rack that has been brushed with olive oil. Grill for 12 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once. Serve over rice and with a salad.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe!

So while you're sitting at your dinner meal of lovely kabobs and you've lit your candle and said your grace and are enjoying your special Sabbath moment.....remember (to quote the card on my desk by Sharon Valleau)....... Answers whisper in the silence of our hearts.

Restfully yours,
Lisa

Monday, July 27, 2009

In what direction are you heading?


In what direction are you heading?   This is a question that keeps popping up for me and has been on the forefront of my mind for quite some time now.  When I ask myself this question it forces me to consider the steps I'm taking on a daily basis to reach my goals.   First of all....I need clarity on that....what are my goals....... why are they important and am I turned in the direction of them.  When I reach for something I want whatever it is.... it is always oriented towards my  quest for feeling good.   When asked we can all come up with goals that we are all striving to achieve.  Some examples of  goals would  be needing to lose 2o lbs., managing ones' anger, lowering cholesterol, running a marathon, incorporating more relaxation into one's day, learning to knit and so on.   So at any given time you can stop and ask yourself.....in which direction am I heading?


Human nature is a funny thing especially  when things are going well and we're feeling tuned in, tapped in and turned on....we just revel in the good feeling of it all...but when things aren't going well, if we're sick, unhappy, disappointed, overwhelmed and all those harder feelings is what often brings us to our knees and forces us to pause and take time to reflect.   Thank goodness for the contrast because it literally propels us to change if and only if  we do the work. What is the work?


If you are like me I want this to be as easy as possible.....and I think in the long run it really is once we come to one simple realization and that is that there really is no easy way out and no quick pill to swallow, it does indeed take effort but half the battle is just accepting the work as opposed to being in  resistance mode.    The work is different for everyone.    So let's paint a scenario here.....you've decided that you haven't been getting enough rest lately..... you've come to that conclusion because you're feeling low energy, irritable, resentful of the family, the house needs cleaning,  you haven't had time to go grocery  shopping etc. etc.   You know you need rest and yet you just keep pushing and now you  have to rest because now you're really sick with a bad cough so all you can do is go to bed.  As an adult you know intellectually all the right things you should do to stay healthy and on top of your game but somewhere in there things broke down and you were led off course.....and that's when we're forced to look at the direction we're headed.

The bad news suddenly becomes  good news because now you have time to think and make adjustments to point you back in the right direction. Change is in the air once again and that's also good news.    A good exercise that I'm regularly trying to employ  is envisioning the end result of my goal.  For instance if I'm sick  obviously I'd like to be well so instead of wasting time worrying about the outcome .....I start seeing myself as a very healthy woman ....I'm visualizing myself strong and vibrant filled with energy for the things I want to accomplish.   During a  recent time of exhaustion and depression I remember  seeing every single meal I've yet to pay for, prepare and  clean up after and with that feeling came total despair and I was stopped in my tracks.   Today while contemplating this post I had a rather happy thought about the same subject but in it I visualized all the new ways I've yet to discover to pay for, prepare and clean up after meals.  This simple change of thought pattern created a very different feeling in my spirit.   Once I changed my thought process the task became easier.

The work is really about  being present, focused and consciously aware.  This exercise is simply asking yourself the question quite often.....am I heading in the right direction?   When you are in your car you are rarely just going out for a joy ride......driving around aimlessly......you usually have a destination and you are always oriented towards that and when you are going the wrong way you can usually tell pretty soon and then you simply steer the car back in the right direction.   Hopefully the intention of one's life should be like that .....always striving to go in the right direction....at least that's the idea.  As you're driving your car there are roadsigns and if we don't heed the signs we can pretty much count on getting in an accident or getting a speeding ticket, hopefully just a minor wake up call.  Does this sound familiar?   Sometimes we don't listen to the signs along the way and we crash.  This really is quite a good metaphor for life.


So you can use your inner compass and ask yourself at any moment......... is this thought I'm thinking, is this action, is this job, is this food choice bringing me in the direction of my goals? And then you make the adjustment necessary to get back on track.....whether it be.....meal planning, going for a walk, moving away from the computer, doing something fun or spending time with your loved ones for example.  Whatever it may be only you will know where and what is needed to get you there and if you don't know then consult a trusted friend, expert, or me and most assuredly you will turn in the direction of your dreams.


For a long time now I've been wanting to share this recipe with you.  I got this recipe from a book my daughter Gabrielle checked out of the library,
Your Organic Kitchen by Jesse Ziff Cool. It was such a great book I ended up purchasing it used from Amazon. The recipe has become a standard and it's so easy I don't even follow the recipe anymore and they always turn out delicious.   They can be served as you would serve a typical burger or just with a melange of veggies which is how I eat them.  They are great leftover for lunch the next day and can even be made up ahead of time and frozen for later use.






Ingredients for Turkey Burgers:

1# ground turkey breast
1 small red onion, finely minced
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine all 5 ingredients.  Shape into 4 burgers.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Ingredients for Melange: 

1 red onion, sliced in strips
1 # mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet.  Saute onions and mushrooms until 
caramelized, sprinkling with salt and pepper.   Remove from pan
and place in bowl.   Cook the burgers in the same skillet for 10 minutes,
turning once, or until no longer pink.   Serve with the veggies.



Enjoy the burger recipe and as the great poet Thoreau has said, " 
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!"
                                                Lisa


Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Fun



Ah, the long  days of summer have arrived and with them the mode of  "fun in the sun", vacation time, time off, family reunions and the list goes on. Summer at the least conjures up fun and carefree memories of summers past,  mostly childhood  memories of happy summer days with no school, nonstop playing and absolute fun.



How many recent memories can you recall when you felt totally happy with no inhibitions whatsoever, thoroughly and hopelessly enjoying yourself with no thought of the past or future, and completely lost to the joy of the moment?  Recently (almost 2 months ago) I went out to dinner with 3 girlfriends.  I was feeling down during that time yet being in the company of these women friends changed my mood completely.  We laughed so hard that night that I literally felt as if I had come back to life.   When I got home I noticed my heart was beating with more vigor and it was as if all the cells in my body were vibrating from all the fun. It truly felt like my metabolism had sped up and that a distinct change had occured within me.  It is interesting to note that the word metabolism comes from the Greek and means "to change."




I talk alot about metabolism in my work promoting therapeutic lifestyle changes, especially in relationship to body composition and weight reduction and how increasing the metabolism helps burn fat.  It is fact that since muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body that increasing muscle mass is important in speeding the metabolism and  that a movement program is imperative to do just that.   But I had  this major  'aha' moment after my girlfriend evening when I felt the physical change in my metabolism simply by having fun!  This also made me think about kids and how their whole life revolves around having fun and most healthy kids have very active metabolisms.  Thus, having fun is absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy and lively metabolism.




I suggest that in the next few days that you take some time to become aware of the people, places, events and activities that quicken your metabolism.  Have you ever noticed feelings of anticipation when driving to a friend's house that you almost can't wait to get there? or how you can't wait to sit down and read the next delicious chapter in your book? or what about looking forward to......(fill in the blank)?   What things excite you and bring you feelings of joy and pleasant anticipation?





The other day my son and I had the loveliest summer afternoon visiting friends, offroading in my Kia, swimming in their pond, picking peaches, then driving home along the beautiful rolling countryside.  I came home that day so enlivened and with a brightly humming metabolism......and in my inbox there was a link to a recipe idea for baked peaches from my Italian cooking teacher.......how cool is that?





Lisa's Baked Peaches ( my version of hers)

medium firm ripe peaches, cut in half, pit removed
almonds, chopped fine
flaxmeal
vanilla or almond extract, dash
apple juice concentrate, to moisten
cinnamon
Mix the last five ingredients together.  Stuff and mound on peach halves.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until done.
Serve and enjoy!




Peach Salsa

2 ripe medium peaches, peeled
1 T olive oil
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4  finely chopped red onion
1/2  diced red or green pepper
1 T fresh cilantro
1 t finely minced jalapeno pepper (opt.)
1 t seasalt
fresh ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and let marinate a few hours before serving. Serve over grilled fish, chicken,
lamb or enjoy with  black beans and other mexican recipes.


Will you take the challenge?
I  invite you to go a little deeper with the thrust of this post and I challenge you to use this metabolism quickening exercise as a way to sharpen your focus and clarify your goals....seeing them so crystal clear and making them so extremely desirable that you absolutely can not fail to achieve them.  Let me know what comes of this....... and I ask you also to consult the child within while taking this challenge....always and forever asking how can I have more fun?


The Hallmark card appropriately and fittingly  reads:
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?"                                       Satchel Paige



                       Having fun in the sun,

                       Lisa




Saturday, June 13, 2009

Away from Home and Out at Sea

           The Hallmark quote card on my desk this week reads.....
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."    Andre Gide



I've been wanting to write for awhile now but just couldn't seem to put pen to paper. I suppose you can say that I feel as if I've left the comfort of my home as I continue to journey into the unchartered waters of myself and that I've had some difficulty translating my new thoughts, experiences and ideas. As I surface here I'm writing quickly to document some of what I've
come to learn.


Making lifestyle changes is a real commitment. Some changes are easier than others and require a small shift in thinking while other changes take larger amounts of effort and can be quite challenging. The style of life that we choose for ourselves should ultimately bring well being on all levels...a sense of being in your "power"...living up to your true potential-feeling healthy, vibrant and strong in body, mind and spirit. These feelings of well being often don't just happen...especially when life with its inherent difficulties and problems pull at us in all directions and stress threatens to swallow us whole and sometimes it actually does. Our resolve is challenged, we give in, it's too hard. We crumble, we succumb, then we rest, we wait, we regroup....we gather our energy once again. What does it take to get back up again? It is of course an individual journey. For me it's a constant dance of learning the balance between giving to myself and giving to others which ends up touching all aspects of my lifestyle. For instance, if I'm sad or stressed or feeling resentful, I may start making poor choices, eating too much or too little and  it can really throw me out of whack. But then  I  realize I need to take the time to check in with myself and see what it is I truly need.

Doing things the way I've always done them is sort of like living on autopilot or in the default mode. This does feel safe but I know I must go outside my comfort zone to really change and it takes courage to find new ways to live, to react, and to be. And in this process alot of feelings come up.....Can I really change? What if I fail? What if I never get there?.... there being where I want to go, who and how I want to be? How long will this take? Can I be patient and trust? Can I get through the ups and downs along the way? Who can I ask for help that I may need along the way? Do I have a good map to navigate the unfamiliar waters....do I have an anchor? Do I have faith?

Making dietary changes can bring up alot of issues as we often eat to comfort ourselves, to relieve stress and dispel negative emotions. We all have alot of "comfort foods". Of course some comfort foods are perfectly fine....such as soup on a cold wintry day for example. Some comfort food recipes can be adapted to healthier versions and of course new comfort foods can be substituted...and other things can be used to comfort and soothe such as a hot bath, soothing music, a favorite comedy show, meditation or prayer. Comforting activities center us and bring us home to ourselves and provide the anchor when we find ourselves lost at sea.

Just recently I made what I call Lisa's Comfort salad...it's a salad I make when I really want something extra special....some comfort food...I used to put all of this on a french baguette back in the old days when I used to eat alot more bread and to be honest I don't even miss the bread anymore.







Lisa's Comfort Salad
serves 1

1-2 handfuls of mixed baby greens and spinach
1/2 can of tuna
1/4 avocado, diced
1/4 cup cooked chickpeas
3-4 calamata olives
4-5 strips of roasted red pepper
slice of crispy red onion
1-2 tsp olive oil
2-3 tsp balsamic vinegar
seasalt

Arrange the greens on a plate. Sprinkle tuna and the rest of the veggies on top.  To make crispy onion heat up a small frying pan, drizzle a tad of olive oil and place the red onion slices in and turn the heat up high and cook quickly stirring till crisp. Garnish the salad with the onion, drizzle olive oil and vinegar and sprinkle salt over everything.   Feel free to add any other veggies you may have on hand like steamed green beans, chunks of cooked potatoes and even hard boiled eggs would taste great as well.  Serve and enjoy!