Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spicy Lentils: Quick Comfort Food

Lentils are our friend.  They’re versatile, tasty, and nutritious.  They’re low maintenance, easy going, fast cooking and don’t require any pre-soaking.  Most lentils are ready in just about 30 minutes, while the red variety can be ready in 20.  For busy lives, they are great to have on hand when looking for a healthy meal that is full of protein.  One 1/2 cup cooked lentils has about 12 grams of protein. 

Lentils are full of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  The soluble fiber in lentils helps to lower cholesterol and since it is a complex carbohydrate it also helps balance blood glucose levels.  Insoluble fiber encourages regular, healthy digestion.   

Lentils have significant levels of folic acid and magnesium.  Both nutrients are good for the heart and help promote a healthy cardiovascular system.   They support our arteries while also allowing blood to flow freely, while bringing nutrients throughout the body. 

Lentils can be added to just about anything…  They can top salads, baked potatoes, mixed in with quinoa, rice, roasted veggies, added to wraps and even coleslaw (why not?) ….

The first recipe is a delicious, hearty no fail lentil soup topped with a little Parmesan cheese.  Accompanied with a baked potato, salad, roasted vegetables, or with a bit of gluten free corn bread and you've got an amazing meal on your hands…….!!!

The other recipe is one of my favorites and for me, is major comfort food.  I don’t know that there is a “true” name for it, so let’s call it Spicy Lentil Pasta Sauce.  In this recipe, we add our lentils to our favorite red sauce and serve over pasta.   Oh gosh, this is so satisfying and not too heavy.  It’s an easy recipe that everyone loves.  
I believe a little comfort food goes a long way for our emotional and mental health, what do you think??

Delicious Lentil Soup
8 Cups Water
16 oz. Uncooked Green Lentils 
4 Medium Carrots Chopped
3 - 4 Large Celery Stalks Chopped
½ Small to Medium Onion Diced
4 Garlic Cloves Chopped or Sliced.  Use more or less depending on your taste….
3/4 Cup Tomato Sauce / 1 Cup Tomato Juice or 2 Cups Diced Fresh Tomatoes
2 – 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Salt  or To Taste
Pepper To Taste
½ cup Parmesan or Romano Cheese to Garnish

This recipe works great in a food processor.  Just add the fresh ingredients: carrots, celery, onion and garlic and let it do the work for you.  Add the olive oil to a saute pan and lightly cook until vegetables are tender.  In a separate kettle, bring liquid to a boil and add your lentils.  Cook for 25 minutes or until desired, when lentils are done, add the vegetable mixture and tomato sauce to the lentils and cook for another 15 minutes or until all the spices and lentils are combined.  Adjust spices and water as needed.  *If using fresh tomatoes vs. tomato sauce, more onion and garlic may be needed.  1 Tablespoon fresh herbs such as parsley and basil go nicely with this soup too....

Spicy Lentil Pasta Sauce
1 Cup Uncooked Green Lentils 
2 Cups Water
2 Cups of Your Favorite Recipe or Ready Made Red Pasta Sauce 
Hot Pepper Flakes and Parmesan Cheese to garnish
Brown Rice Pasta
3 – 4 Servings

Cook lentils in 2 cups water until tender about 25 - 30 minutes. Drain any excess water.  Add 2 cups red sauce and combine thoroughly.  Serve over pasta and garnish with hot pepper flakes and Parmesan....

To Your Health,
Enjoy!
Alyssa

Friday, March 28, 2014

11 Tips: Quick Nutritious Meals



Okay, so this is a practical essay…but it has to be done - because it’s important.  It’s actually an integral part of why our country has the health challenges it does...In fact, it’s also part of the reason why they call our diet SAD – The Standard American Diet...

I believe much of it has to do with time.  
You probably don’t have as much as you'd like?  And you may find yourself a little tired just about dinner time?  Not just tired, but hungry too and craving something good for dinner. Our lives are busy these days.  Heck, our kids lives are busy.  With the plethora of quick and unhealthy options that are out there it would be easy and understandable to fill our bellies first and ask questions later… 


However, food is medicine.  You literally are what you eat. So, it’s probably a good idea to know what’s in it!? Using simple nutritious foods and cooking at home are part of the tools and steps we can take to make healthy meals, more quickly and satisfying!

1. So let’s take stock first.  What’s in the fridge?  Whole foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, lean meats, healthy fats and broths are a great way to begin.  These are whole, healthy, nutrient dense foods and the building blocks to much of our meals.

2. Once you've taken stock on what foods you have and what foods you would like to have more of, plan some meals.  Making shopping lists and planning a weeks worth of meals will not only save you time, but it also could save you some money too.  

3. Okay so where do we start, how about with veggies?  Most of us our not getting our daily recommended servings. One of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves is add more vegetables to our diet. 

Taking time once a week to chop up a bunch of broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, onion, carrots, etc. or lightly sauté a large pan of them can be a great way to get a head start, save time and eat healthier.  Either raw or sauteed they can be stored in the fridge and easily added to meals the rest of the week such as a stir fry, with rice, quinoa, as a side dish, on top of pasta or pizza, roasted, with some parmesan, ….mixed in with scrambled eggs, a smoothie or a frittata.  You get the picture….there are endless ways to add vegetables to our diet. 

4. Soups and casseroles are another great idea to save time and money.  The ingredients in these types of recipes are usually less expensive.  Big pots of sauces, stews, and soups can be eaten all week or freeze enough for another night’s dinner.  

What a bonus it is when you are short on time (and energy), but have a whole meal in the freezer.  Put that homemade, healthy casserole in the oven and pat yourself on the back for being so smart and thrifty.  Maybe crack a beer or beverage of your choice to celebrate - cheers!...Cooking twice the amount of one recipe does not take twice the time or twice the electricity.  Sometimes it doesn't even take twice the money for ingredients….Think lasagna, soups, chili, sauce and meatballs, and stews…. 

5. Roasts are also a good way to save time and money.  A whole chicken is going to be a lot less money per pound than chicken breasts. If roasting one chicken, why not roast two.  The first one can be part of that night’s meal and the second one can be used for burritos,  in sandwiches, part of a stir fry, in a scramble, Shepard’s pie, made into a stew…

6. Grains and beans! Yep, these are inexpensive staple items for the pantry and our diets. Good as a stand alone or delicious together.  Make big batches. Dress them up with veggies, leftover meats, sauces, dressings, olive oil or as part of the main dish.  Beans and lentils are full of fiber, protein packed, and help balance blood sugar too.  (1/2 cup of lentils has about 12 grams of protein)

Here are some more tips:)

7.  Bonus to you if you stock your fridge with a salad in the beginning of each week.  It’s not only a convenience, but saves on prep time and can be the star attraction in this evening’s supper.  If you feel like mixing it up, make coleslaw or even a broccoli slaw….

8. If nutrition and convenience are really what you are after and your budget allows for it, many grocery stores now offer pre-cut vegetables.  Even though this convenience costs more, they are still way cheaper and much more nutritious than dining out.  They are still whole foods, albeit cut into smaller pieces!

9. Go ahead and chop the entire onion, broccoli, carrot or bouquet of herbs for that dinner you’re making….What’s leftover can be used in another meal later in the week or kept frozen.  Freeze in smaller portions so that you take out only what you need – ice cube trays make great containers for this especially the herbs….. 

10. The best beans and lentils I have ever gotten are from Whole Foods.  They cook up so much faster and softer then what I’m used to from conventional grocery stores…..Seriously, what used to take days to cook, are now ready in a matter of hours……  

11.  Make your own broth out of leftover roasts.  These are perfect for soups, sauces, gravies, and as the liquid portion in recipes such as rice and quinoa.  Broth made this way is guaranteed to have only wholesome, natural ingredients.

In summary, home cooking is best.  It gives you control over what’s on your plate and in your food. In order to save time: plan and prepare ahead, make larger portions if not double batches, freeze, be creative and mix and match recipes and ingredients to create delicious wholesome meals. Then go ahead and pat yourself on the back once again for taking care of yourself and control of your health!

Do you have your own tips for cooking quick nutritious meals? Have a recipe to share? Let's hear about it!!! 

Much Joy!
Alyssa

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Poems for Valentine's Day

“Even when a river of tears courses 

through this body, the flame of love 


cannot be quenched.” 


~ Izumi Shikibu



You Better Start Kissing Me 

Throw away
Your begging bowls at God's door

For I have heard the Beloved
Prefers sweet threatening shouts,

Something on the order of:
Hey, Beloved,
My heart is a raging volcano
of love for you!

You better start kissing me -
Or else!"

by Hafiz



Buoyancy


Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.
I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.
A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.
I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.
I saw you and became empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,

~Rumi

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!

    Were I with thee
    Wild Nights should be
    Our luxury!
    Futile – the Winds –
    To a Heart in port –
    Done with the Compass –
    Done with the Chart!
    Rowing in Eden –
    Ah, the Sea!
    Might I but moor – Tonight –
    In Thee!
~Emily Dickinson

Much Joy!
Happy Valentine's Day!
~Alyssa
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Friday, January 31, 2014

Mindfulness, Good Habits and Goals


When trying to create lasting change and 
good habits, keep your goals ever present.
It's this, like the north star, that leads in
the direction of our dreams....

How do we make good habits stick, especially when it’s a habit that doesn’t come so naturally?  We could tie a string around our finger or write sticky notes to ourselves and post them on the bathroom mirror or we can become heartfully aware ……

Awareness is a valuable tool when working towards goals because with awareness comes truth and clarity.  With clarity we can better choose behaviors and habits that benefit our goals and create lasting change.  Two tools that can help us to define and become clear about the changes we desire are meditation and journaling. 

Meditation creates a space while quieting the mind and body in order to hear the voice within. Given the opportunity, our inner voice can be heard pretty clearly and directly.  It may speak straight to our hearts, guiding us with its love, compassion and inner wisdom, aligning us with our goals, purpose and path.

Journaling is another great tool in order to become more aware of what we need.  It also creates a space for that inner voice to be heard more clearly and distinctly….
I encourage the practice of at least one of these tools.  See what happens even after just a short while…When you actually create that space of sitting in the present moment or putting pen to paper, something begins to happen.   An opening is created.  The energy flows, changes and forward momentum is given its opportunity. 

Once we've discovered what we truly want, we can begin to make changes.  Never underestimate the ability of small changes.  They are the first steps towards an empowered life.  Choosing just a couple of habits at a time to work on keeps things simple.  This is especially important during busy or challenging times.  It allows us to be more mindful of the changes we want and focus more closely on the good habits that support the goals we desire. 

Being mindful of our goals puts us on the path towards success. Actually visualizing what they look like and feel like is a great way to get motivated and excited.  Keep your goals close to your heart too…The heart, like our intuition and inner voice, wants what’s best for us while aligning us with our path.   

I read recently that each step we take during the day has an accumulative effect on our well being, whether it’s exercising or just our daily rounds, each step adds up.    This is the way with our habits too, they have the power to change our lives one step at a time….It’s the way of the tortoise that ultimately leads to the life we want to live.  While making choices we can ask ourselves “does this bring me closer or further away from my goal?”  It takes grit and perseverance, failing and beginning again.….The present , they say, is a gift and the universe is always giving us this moment to begin again.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Foraging: Feeding the Soul

Foraged Goodness: Nettle Tea
I cannot tell you the Joy I felt foraging this fall.  It gave me a feeling of connection to the earth, to our ancestral past that was, well, deep.   It took me further into some of the most beautiful local areas around.  
I witnessed the changing of seasons and learned to ameliorate myself to my surroundings and make friends with the weather.  It gave me an appreciation for the intrinsic wisdom of nature and to the people of the past who survived this way in part or completely for a millennia…It felt like an epic adventure from our childhood… It is, I believe, Romantic and Sensual to be in the woods this way - the colors, the textures, the sights, the scents, and the sounds enlivening the heart. Stirring our creative juices and the primal DNA stored in our soul. 

I learned a lot too, about the way we eat, about the accessibility of food and even a little bit about survival….

Foraged food doesn't come in pretty boxes on store shelves.  You get a healthy bit of exercise foraging for food. You've got to find it, get there, harvest it, and carry it home.  Of course it helps to know where it is, which may seem obvious, but it wasn't so much.  It turned out to be more challenging than I could have imagined…Some of the plants and especially the mushrooms, I never did find…..

It was a couple of weeks of hiking through different areas before I found a huge patch of Stinging Nettles and with them I made tea and frittatas…The nettles were nourishing and delicious, somewhat like spinach….Although I’m known by my children and husband to have “good ideas” like these, my family was a bit skeptical.  I mean they don’t call them stinging nettles for nothing.  You’ll need gloves, thick ones.  The nettles I picked stung quite a bit actually before they were cooked, but my enthusiasm buoyed me somehow from the full extent of the pain.   (Although, my fingers did tingle for a good 24 hours afterwards...OUCH!)

The wild apples and black walnuts were easier….There is an old orchard I know of with several varieties … We were helped by a neighbor who also enjoys such things and has much knowledge about them too…He was the one to actually climb the ladder and shake the tree…It rained apples and we were all delighted …  There are precautions; however, no noticeable stingers like the nettles, but deer like apples too, so sweet and delicious….So, it’s necessary to carefully wash the apples if you haven’t placed a protective covering like tarps on the ground first….Otherwise there is probably some deer scat around and one needs to be conscience of this….As far as the black walnuts go, the hulls made my hand all shades of black, brown and yellow….and boy are they one tough nut to crack (hee hee hee ;) Seriously though, you need a vice or a hammer……But they have a unique and delicious flavor once you get to the “meat’ inside….

There are things to consider carefully before going into the woods looking for wild edible food. The three words that come to mind are safety, precaution and respect. 

Respect for the earth, respect for the areas you are hiking through and if it’s someone else’s property, permission and respect for them.  This means you want to leave no trace.  And you want to leave some of what you’re foraging behind…so that it continues to grow, thrive and propagate.

Take precautions - careful of your surroundings, know that these are wild places.  Weather can change. There may be insects or animals to contend with…..protect yourself…… Don’t take chances.  What seems like a good idea may seem foolish if you find yourself in a jam. That goes double if you’re alone. 

Safety!  There are many poisonous species around that are look a-likes to edible plants. So, do your homework.  That goes double for the mushrooms….there are deadly varieties …so double check or even ask an expert before eating anything that you are unsure of.


Have fun foraging and if you have info or more helpful hints to share, please do and comment below.......

Much Joy,
Alyssa


Monday, January 13, 2014

Best Motivational Quotes: Finding Your Inspiration

Quote: Henry David Thoreau / Photo: A.S. - Walden Pond 

Get Started, Keep Going And Stay Positive

We can all use a little inspiration 
now and again. 
If you’re going through a challenging time, working through a situation or towards a goal, here are some quotes that 
I hope inspire you.

The Crux Of The Matter...
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver

 “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin

"There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them."
- Dennis Waitley

What Dreams May Come ~ Never stop Dreaming...
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined."    
–Henry David Thoreau

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."               
 - Mark Twain

When To Begin?
“What day is it?" "It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh. ― A.A. Milne

On Perseverance...
"Fall seven times and stand up eight." –Japanese Proverb

“It's not how we fall.  It's how we get back up again.” ― Patrick Ness

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”   ― Ovid
“Success is not measured by the position one has reached in life, rather by the obstacles one overcomes while trying to succeed” ― Booker T. Washington

On Courage...
"Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace”   -Amelia Earhart

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will  try again tomorrow.” - Mary Anne Radmacher

 “Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.  Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.” ― Rabindranath Tagore


Listening To Your Inner Voice….
“When many voices are speaking at once, listen to the one most quiet and gentle. That’s the one worth listening to."  
― Miranda Linda Weisz

“I think fitting in is highly overrated. I’d rather just fit out... Fitting out means being who you are, even when people insist that you have to change. Fitting out means taking up space, not apologizing for yourself, and not agreeing with those who seek to label you with stereotypes.”  ― Golda Poretsky

Optimism and Confidence..
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot."  -Eleanor Roosevelt

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." 
-Jack Layton


And Remember....Anything Is Possible.....
"We all have possibilities we don't know about. We can do things we don't even dream we can do." - Dale Carnegie

"If not you, who? If not now, when?" - Rabbi Hillel

“I dwell in Possibility –"
 - Emily Dickenson

Have a favorite quote that's gotten you through a challenging time or helped you reach a goal? Please share below....

Much Joy,
Alyssa

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Friends: Sharing Your Gift....


“Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  ~ Anais Nin
So, what’s your gift?  Are you a good cook?  A great listener?   Maybe you have a beautiful voice or play an instrument…..Maybe you have this way of seeing the positive in a difficult situation or you have a great sense of humor that makes us all laugh…..Maybe you’re soft spoken, caring, courageous or have a curiosity about the world? Whatever it is, this gift was meant for you and the people that you touch. 

It actually makes you pretty special.  I mean it.  And when you share your gift with the people around you, well, you’re doing your work.  You know -  your  work.  The one you were meant to do here with all of us.

Often our gifts are something we’re good at, enjoy, or we were born with.  Usually, we get Joy from using our gifts and talents and the people in our lives feel this Joy too. Although, sometimes these gifts can actually feel difficult or even somewhat vulnerable and part of our work is to own and grow into these talents or qualities during our life time.  

When we use these special talents not only do we heal ourselves, but we heal the people around us too.  There are countless ways that your unique qualities, interests and talents benefit, add to, inform, enlarge and make better the world and lives around you by just being you….

There is a quote that I love by Anais Nin “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  Isn’t it true?   How often are our lives touched by those around us?  How lucky are we when our friends and family share this with all of us?

So what’s your gift?  
We would love to hear....!  
Please share in the comment area below! 

With Love, 
Alyssa