Monday, November 17, 2014

Living Out Loud

Photo: A.S. T.
I'm just wondering... 
What makes you feel happy, inspired, passionate and more alive? 

When do you feel big, expansive, creative and juicy?

When or what makes you laugh and smile?

Do you ever lose track of time doing something you enjoy? 

  

And to the answers above, how often do you include these activities, things, people, places in your day? in your week? in a year?

Remember....

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
~ Annie Dillard

So,

Live each day
Be PRESENT 
Be BOLD
Focus on SOLUTIONS 
BELIEVE in yourself 
& Live your DREAMS....


Enjoy,
Alyssa

Ps. Please share! What or When do you feel Happy.......?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Simple Healthy Recipes for Your Sugar Cravings






I’ve committed to a 10 day sugar elimination challenge. Basically, you cut out all foods that have added sugar.  It can be kind of tricky, since it’s not just sweets like candies and pastries that have added sugar.  Many prepared and processed foods do as well.   Some foods that you would never think have sugar do and the amount of sugar added could be very surprising.  On the other hand, it’s okay to have foods where sugar is a natural component, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy.  While honey and syrups are natural, they are also, essentially, sugar.  So, for this challenge we’re leaving them out. 
Today is day 7 and while it’s been pretty good so far, it hasn’t been without its rocky moments ….of course that’s why they call it a challenge,  because it is - lol.  It’s also Halloween.  So, it’s been impossible to go into a store without being tempted by a sea of candy or with the many pumpkin delicacies they have this time of year  like pie, cookies, and lattes.  I’ve done these challenges before, so I know that it’s a good idea to keep some go to items around to make things, well, a little sweeter….
Fruit can be immensely helpful.   There are plenty of ways to get creative and mix it up in the kitchen.. Although, the following are healthy alternatives, they still contain natural sugars, so, I recommend indulging in moderation.  That’s key and one of the satisfying lessons here.  It’s that, sometimes, you can’t eat your cake…but you can find healthier alternatives that help you on your path towards wellness.  And having these alternatives, may just keep you going on your path even further and farther along.  It’s all about balance.  Since eating well is a lifestyle choice, it makes sense that it should be enjoyable as well as flexible….

Recipe #1
½ Avocado
1 Banana
1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk Or The Milk Of Your Choice

Blend well the avocado and banana, add milk and continue mixing until smooth.  The consistency should be thick and creamy.  It turns out somewhat thick like a milk shake (more so, if you freeze the banana before pureeing) or even like a pudding.    There are so many options with this one.  It’s endless.  I love it plain.  It’s so refreshing, creamy and mmmmm, so, satisfying.  Toppings can include: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, peaches, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, dark chocolate chips….Or change the whole complexion of the smoothie by blending in fruit, fruit juices, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla or almond extract or even Chai spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,  and star anise…. Nutrient dense, full of good fats, and beneficial for weight management as well as healthy skin, avocados are a great superfood to add into our diets…

Recipe # 2
One pitted Medjool Date
1 Walnut, Almond, Or Cashew
Cocoa Powder (optional)

Here is another delicious treat.  Medjool dates are incredible, buttery sweet, almost like caramel.  Split the date in half and remove the pit.  Add the nut of your choice to the date and seal back up by pushing the sides together.  Roll in cocoa powder and wallah…..Simple, easy and really satisfies…..

So, I challenge you to eliminate added sugar from your diet...even if it's just for a few days.......I'd love to hear back on how it impacted you and your health!

Be Well and Much Joy,
Alyssa



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Who Mother’s You?

"So, in asking “Who Mother’s You”, maybe one of the most important lessons we learn on our path is to nurture, mother, and take care of ourselves along with taking care of others.  Kind of ironic, huh.  But maybe, just maybe, the better we are at showing ourselves love, tenderness, forgiveness, and compassion, the better we become at caring for others.  " 


Mother bird and her nest.....
So, I know a lot of folks out there these days that are taking care of a lot of things.   They are adept at the fine details and logistics required when nurturing and caretaking: people, jobs, relationships, children, homes, bills, parents, grandkids, etc.....  


It’s important to help and support others.  It’s a nicer world because of this, but what about when you need a little TLC yourself?  We know on some level that we need to be nurtured, but we don’t always take the time or know how….
Or perhaps, on some level we believe that self care is wrong or even selfish….
So, I’m asking….
“Who takes care of you?”  

There are many reasons why we don’t get the mothering or nurturance we need. For many of us, very simply, we are the caretakers.  For others, we’ve reached an age where either by society’s standards or our own, we feel we’re not “supposed” to be taken care of or nurtured any longer.  And there are those of us, who sadly, no longer have their mother or she is unable to care for them this way.

But does this need really ever go away?  I don’t believe it does.   Whether it’s truly for your own mother or for simple nurturance, I believe we crave this kind of care, kindness, tenderness and love.
And maybe most deeply, we crave the freedom our mothers gave us as little children, to be ourselves, to play and dream, to be loved and cared for.  It’s the recognition, the thread of time and love, of someone deeply knowing us, of loving us in a way and in a light that only a mother can.  

I’m not saying it’s all roses and buttercups.   Not everyone got the nurturing they needed. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be from our mother either.   Perhaps it came from a father or a grandmother or an aunt or a friend or sibling.  But hopefully it came from somewhere and serves as an example of the kind of love and care that is important in this world.  It is important not just for others, but for you too. 

So, in asking “Who Mother’s You”, maybe one of the most important lessons we learn on our path is to nurture, mother and take care of ourselves along with taking care of others.  Kind of ironic, huh.  But maybe, just maybe, the better we are at showing ourselves love, tenderness, forgiveness, and compassion, the better we become at taking care of others.  

There are so many ways to nurture yourself and I bet you know best when it comes to you…But here are a few tips to get you started. 

Play me a sweet song….Sing to yourself a lullaby or play some gentle, relaxing music..… …..
Get an audio book, curl up, relax, listen and just be….
Any self care services: massage, energy work, hair, nails, skin….
Aromatherapy anyone? What’s your favorite scent?
Home spa: soaps, scrubs, lotions, hot bath…
Pick some wildflowers or buy some flowers and put them next to your bed..
Take a day off, Go for a walk, Have a play date…Studies show recess is invaluable to our mental and physical health….
Fix a favorite meal just the way YOU like it….or go out to eat if that is more of a treat…
Buy yourself a card for your birthday, or a get well card or a thinking of you card….(last year I did this, because my dad is no longer able to, each time I open my desk drawer to see it, I am reminded of all the years and all the cards he sent me) 
Make sure you have the right gear….a new potato peeler, sharp scissors or kitchen knives, umbrellas, warm hats, gloves, coats, warm socks, new underwear, cozy slippers, the right mug etc…..

We would love to hear the ways you nurture yourself, please share and comment below.....

Be Well,
Alyssa

Related articles: 
Ooo La La, Basic Sugar Scrub
Do it yourself aromatherapy
A Quick Guide to Popular Essential Oils


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
Related Posts: Love Poems for Valentine's Day







  

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.