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A summer to make friends with pain.

chestplate_cupping

It’s the final day of summer, and this photo was taken right at the beginning of this summer, which was a great one for us on the whole. It was a unique summer in that, for whatever reason, I was compelled to address some chronic pain issues I have been living with for … well … almost 20 years, if I am honest about it.

This summer, I was inspired to face my chronic neck, jaw and shoulder pain in a new way. I have never been an Advil kind of girl, and I have always known that stress was a major contributor to my pain. Over the years, there were times when I  couldn’t even open my mouth to eat because of the pain. Dietary changes have helped me greatly, so in that sense, I have been on a positive track, experiencing decreasing pain over time, instead of increasing pain. However, that just reaffirms for me how much pain I actually started in.

Many of us are in pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, or both. I have found that my physical pain causes the emotional kind and vice versa, so it’s a relentless feedback loop.

There are many ways to address pain, and anyone who tells you there is just one way to fix it is oversimplifying it.

This summer, I decided to get really intimate with my pain, and see what I could learn from it about why it was there.

I read Norman Cousins’s 1979 book “Anatomy of an Illness” which was written almost 20 years ago, but you’d think it was a new release because it is still so relevant. I read and re-read the chapter on “Pain is not the Enemy”. I highly recommend this book to anyone in pain.

Even though I wasn’t the type of person who used medications to cover my pain, I had always tried to cover it and hide it in other ways, and worst of all, ignore it all together. And, by the way, this is not a referendum against pharmaceutical pain killers … remember, anyone who tells you there is only one way to go about this is misrepresenting the process.

This summer, Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbalism have been the cornerstone of my way “in” with my pain. These modalities have offered me a vehicle to walk towards it, move into it, get up close to it, and communicate with my body. Really communicate.

For me, Chinese medicine (hence the cupping mark on my chest plate), herbalism, specific types of exercise, an early bedtime, adequate heat and sunshine, space for joyfulness and plenty of nourishing foods are the players in my pain management system.

I did not learn everything about my pain this summer, but I learned a lot and will do what I can moving forward to view pain as an ingenious communication tool, rather than what I viewed it as before. I don’t even know what I viewed it as before, to be honest, I actually just panicked every time I had pain. And since I have been in chronic pain for 20 years, I guess I existed in a perpetual state of panic!

So, the final day of summer which means the first day of fall tomorrow. The autumnal equinox … the equinox is equal parts night and day. The yin and yang. The balance. The change. The evolution. I am ready for autumn and all it has in store … It’s season of gratitude and the season of harvest. It’s also the season of letting go. Perhaps the trees will let go of their leaves, and I will let go of panic from pain. I am looking forward to all that and more.

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Summer Bock’s Sauerkraut

21days_2

Sauerkraut is a great first fermentation project because it is so easy to make and the results are pretty fool proof. All you need to do is shred a head of cabbage and an onion and add salt, caraway seeds and dill to a mason jar, and cover with the method I outline below, and voilà!

Why add an onion to this recipe? Well-known fermentationist Summer Bock points out that raw onion is pre-biotic. Pre-biotic foods feed probiotic bacteria, so your lactofermentation process will be helped along by this prebiotic addition.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head green cabbage
  • 1/2 yellow onion peeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or pink Himalayan salt (using a non-iodized salt is important as iodine is a disinfectant and we don’t want to kill the good bacteria!)
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • handful of fresh dill

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Directions

  1. Remove any wilted, limp outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into half and core it. Slice into thin ribbons.
  2. Peel your onion and cut it into thin slices as well.
  3. Add cabbage and onion ribbons to a large bowl.
  4. Add salt, caraway seeds and chopped dill to the mixture.
  5. Work the salt into the cabbage mixture with your hands, and you’ll notice that the water from the cabbage will start to extract from the cabbage. The salt is pulling the water out of the cabbage leaves and this will be your brine.
  6. Grab handfuls of the cabbage mixture and pack it tightly into the Ball jar (see photo). Using a wide-mouth Ball jar is helpful for this.
  7. Tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your hand. More brine will be pulled from the cabbage as you tamp the mixture down into the jar.
  8. Once the large Ball jar is full (leaving about an inch of space at the top) slip a smaller (4 ounce) jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with your hands to push the cabbage mixture all underneath the liquid brine. This will help keep the cabbage submerged beneath its liquid.
  9. Keep the smaller jelly jar pressing down your sauerkraut and cover the mouth of both jars with a cheese cloth or paper towel and secure it with a rubber band. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting into the jar.
  10. You can keep your sauerkraut for up to 21 days in a cool, dark place or even in your  refrigerator. Best to keep the it away from direct sunlight and at room temperature for 2-3 weeks — ideally 65°F to 75°F — and then refrigerate once it tastes sour enough for you.
  11. If it ever smells rancid, discard it.
  12. Be sure everything stays beneath the brine line to keep bad bacteria out.
  13. After it’s sour enough for you, cover with an airtight lid and refrigerate.
  14. Enjoy!

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Simple Chimichurri Chicken

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This recipe is a very simple version of traditional chimichurri, and I like to use it when I pick up an organic rotisserie chicken on a busy evening and want to spruce it up.

After the chicken has cooled from its journey from store to home, or maybe it has even spent the night in the refrigerator, I carve it up, and I put the legs, breasts, and wings (skin on is my preference, but you can remove the skin) in a pot over medium heat.

Even though chimichurri is traditionally an uncooked sauce, I like to add mine to the meat in the last 10 minutes of cooking, generously brushing it on top of my chicken pieces. It is great if some of the chimichurri falls to the bottom of the pot so the garlic can become lightly toasted, which adds another layer of flavor.

This sauce is also great on beef, and I bet you could use it on mushrooms if you want a vegan chimichurri dish. Tonight, I am going to try it on roasted salmon.

Remember: if you are roasting your own meat or fish be sure to adequately season it with salt and pepper as this chimichurri preparation does not have seasoning.

If you like a little kick, don’t forget the dried crushed red pepper flakes, which is a key ingredient to add a yummy twist to chimichurri sauces.

Ingredients

  • A generous handful of fresh organic flat leaf parsley, stems removed
  • Half a handful of fresh organic cilantro, stems removed (The quantities of parsley and cilantro do not need to be precise, but you know you have the right proportion if you have about half the amount of cilantro as parsley. When finally chopped, the total amount of parsley and cilantro is about 3/4 cup.)
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Rinse your parsley, cilantro and finely chop it. Also mince your garlic cloves. You can use a food processor for this step, but I like to use a chef’s knife and to thoroughly chop everything.
  2. Add dried crushed red pepper flakes.
  3. Add olive oil and stir all ingredients to combine.
  4. Add to your meat during the last part of cooking or use as part of a marinade.
  5. If you want to use later, cover and refrigerate for up to one day.
  6. Enjoy!

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Grain-Free Breaded Summer Squash

breaded_zucchinisquash

Hello! This recipe is a take on the one I sent to Recipe of the Week subscribers last week, with almond meal and parmesan breading on chicken. Only this time, I used green zucchini and yellow squash, which are two varieties of summer squash. The category “summer squash” usually includes both green and yellow zucchinis and pattypan, zephyr and cousa squashes. You can use any type of summer squash for this dish.

Ingredients

2 pounds summer squash (I used 4 zucchinis and 1 yellow squash)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon real salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup almond meal

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. Remove the stem ends and slice the squash cross-wise in 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
  3. In a bowl, toss squash rounds with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange the squash rounds in an 8×8-inch rectangular baking dish or 10-inch pie dish.
  5. In another small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and almond meal.
  6. Sprinkle the parmesan/almond meal mixture over the squash rounds.
  7. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and bake another five minutes.
  9. Switch to broil and broil until the top is crispy.
  10. Before serving, lightly mix squash rounds and crispy covering if desired.
  11. Enjoy!
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Grain-Free Breaded Chicken

breaded_chicken

This recipe is delicious and easy. The breading can be used for fish and pork chops as well. You could even use it to bread vegetables if you want to experiment with vegetarian options. You’ll simply adjust cooking time according to what you are preparing! Enjoy.

Ingredients 
  • 2 organic chicken breasts with or without tenders
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond meal, hazelnut meal or I use this grain-free baking flour
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon real salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lightly beat the egg in a shallow dish and set aside.
  3. Make grain-free “breading” in another shallow dish by mixing almond meal or grain-free flour, parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper.
  4. Remove the tenders from the breasts if they are still attached.
  5. Heat a large oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the butter and oil and bring to a shimmer.
  7. Run each tender and breast through the egg to coat it thoroughly.
  8. Cover tenders and breasts in dry mixture, turning each over and covering them entirely with the breading mixture.
  9. Add the chicken breasts to the pan. Then add tenders to the pan.
  10. Cook each piece without turning until beginning to brown, about 4-5 minutes.
  11. Turn each piece and cook until equally brown on the other side, about 4-5 minutes more.
  12. Keep breasts and tenders in the sauté pan and place in the oven. Remove tenders after about 15 minutes, or until their internal temperature is 165F. Remove breasts after about 30 minutes, or until their internal temperature is 165F.
  13. Let sit for about 5 minutes and serve with a vegetable. Enjoy!
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Gluten-Free and Nut-Free Granola Bars

granolabars

These granola bars are so tasty and easy to make! They are inspired by a recipe from Sally of Real Mom Nutrition, but I have omitted flour and honey, and made a couple small edits to rebalance the recipe after my changes. They are still so very yummy, and my kids love them for breakfast, snacks or to take with them to school. They are nut-free which means they’re a great option if your child is in a nut-free classroom! Enjoy!

Dry ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned gluten-free oats
  • ½ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon real salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8×8 baking dish or pan with parchment paper.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  4. Light beat eggs and then combine all wet ingredients in a small bowl.
  5. Then, combine dry and wet ingredients in the medium bowl and stir until fully combined.
  6. Pour batter into parchment-lined baking dish or pan and bake for 25-27 minutes.
  7. Gently lift bars out of dish/pan and move to a cooling rack. After cooling, slice into squares. It is great if you refrigerate them over night and cut into squares in the morning!
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Avocado Chocolate Pudding

chocolate_pudding

Hello! I used to make this recipe with raw, local honey, but I wanted to modify it so that my 28-Day No-Sugar Group could enjoy it too, and I finally came up with something rich, creamy and sweet, with no added sugar! Not even raw honey.

Ingredients

  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk (feel free to substitute coconut milk, cashew milk or another type of milk)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of raw cacao. I like this brand.
  • 3 large medjool dates, soaked in warm water and pitted
  • berries and shredded unsweetened coconut as toppings (optional)

Directions

  • While you are slicing your avocado and adding vanilla, almond milk and raw cacao to your blender, drop the dates into a jar or bowl of warm water to soften them.
  • Remove dates from warm water.
  • Use your hands to pull the stems off and pits out of the softened dates and add them to the rest of the ingredients in the blender.
  • Thoroughly blend ingredients, pausing blender, when needed, to help combine ingredients.
  • Continue blending until combined and smooth.
  • Top with berries, shredded coconut or bananas.
  • Makes about 4 servings.
  • Enjoy!

 

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Mango Salsa

There is no photo that can capture the yumminess of this salsa. The flavors of these ingredients belong with each other.

It’s amazing on fish, fish tacos, black bean dishes and by itself on corn tortillas. I eat it with a spoon out of the mixing bowl. When I am making a dish that calls for this salsa, I have to keep myself from eating the whole bowl before dinner is served.

Ingredients

  • 3 small or 2 medium ripe and soft mangoes, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 2 small or 1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt or real salt to taste

Directions

  • Add cubed mangoes, cubed avocados, minced onion to a mixing bowl.
  • Squeeze the juice of one lime over the mix. If your lime isn’t soft, hold it under warm water and massage the peel for a few minutes.
  • Add olive oil.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • This salsa is so delicious. It is amazing over white fish, on black bean tacos, with tortillas chips or even on chicken.
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Before and After: Cupboard

pantry

Oh, to live in a tiny home. So many things are sacrificed with small living — of course so much is gained as well — and there is no disputing that with small living, a walk-in pantry or closet is most certainly on the list of sacrifices.

So, instead of a pantry, I have a cupboard. It was a cupboard that needed serious TLC.

I was so hesitant to post a photo of the before (on left) because it was in such disarray. But I am happy to report that that same cupboard is looking way more orderly and zen after I spent an hour last night pulling everything out, wiping down the shelves, repositioning one of the shelves, and removing expired foods. Ahhhhhhh…..

I was inspired by the ladies of Mom’s Kitchen Handbook and Real Mom Nutrition to get my kitchen in order this month, one small area at a time.

Large kitchen or small kitchen, what areas of yours need some TLC?

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Health-Promoting Fats

good_fats

One of the best things you can do for your body is give it healthy fats. When I tell my clients that the good kinds of fat are not only okay, but are actually a necessary part of a healthy diet, they are often surprised. Healthy fat is critical for weight management, for childhood development and for overall health.

It is important to note that not all fats are created equally. There are categories of fats and specific fatty foods which will not contribute to good health. In fact, there are fats which should be avoided all together, including vegetable oils, shortening and margarine. I know that is counterintuitive… Yes, eat your vegetables! But avoid vegetable oils which are inflammatory. Transfats, including partially hydrogenated oils, have a very long shelf life and add an appealing taste and texture to processed foods, should also be avoided.

To ensure you are eating health-promoting fats, especially fats from animal products, always consider the source. I recommend limiting foods with pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, so be particular about your dairy choices. Choosing organic, fresh, whole foods, and animal products that come from safe, sustainable sources is an important key to this. Don’t forget to also consider the source when eating from the sea, to ensure that your fish and seafood is lower in heavy metals.

Lastly, if you have been on a low-fat or fat-free diet for any length of time, it is important to start slowly when reintroducing healthy fats to your meals. Fats are digested with the help of enzymes your body may be a little low on after not needing them for a while. The best approach, like with most things in life, is to take small steps in adding some of these nutrient-rich foods back into your diet.

This list includes healthy foods I have in my kitchen, and it is by no means exhaustive. Some healthy fats you will find in my kitchen are:

+Nuts and Seeds

  • unsweetened almond and cashew milk
  • almonds and almond butter
  • walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • chia seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • flax seeds

+Oils

  • organic, virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil
  • organic, extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • organic flax seed oil
  • avocado oil

+Whole Food Fats

  • avocados
  • olives
  • dark chocolate

+Animal Fats

  • grass-fed, organic, sustainably raised lamb and beef
  • organic chicken and turkey (the dark meat is very nutritious)
  • omega 3 pasture-raised eggs

+Fish and Seafood

  • wild fatty fish: sardines, black cod, and wild salmon
  • shellfish: oysters, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and crab; calamari or octopus

+Dairy

  • grass-fed butter
  • ghee
  • pasture-raised eggs (cage-free is not enough. I prefer the eggs where chickens have been able to forage and roam, and eat grass as opposed to grain)

-Avoid

  • safflower oil
  • soybean oil
  • sunflower oil
  • corn oil
  • cottonseed oil
  • hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
  • margarine
  • shortening

 

A Nutrition Consultant does not diagnose or treat disease, but is an educator who can work in an integrative and complimentary fashion with a person’s medical treatment program. Information on foodandhearth.com is to be taken as recommendation and not medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.