Blueberry Banana Muffins

Here is a simple recipe with very few ingredients.  It’s also free of oil, added sugar and added salt.

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 tbsp flaxseed meal

1 tbsp baking powder

2 very ripe bananas

2/3 cup unsweetened nut milk

1 cup frozen wild blueberries

1 tbsp vanilla extract

stevia to taste (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 12 muffin tin with cups or parchment paper
  2. Grind rolled oats in a coffee grinder to a flour-like consistency.
  3. Add oats to baking powder add flax meal.
  4. Mash bananas with a fork and add vanilla, milk and 4-8 drops stevia (if using)
  5. Combine with dry ingredients and mix well.
  6. Mix in blueberries.
  7. Use a 1/4 cup measure to place batter in muffin cups.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

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Simply Delicious Granola

This is my second granola recipe and this time it’s oil-free!  Granola is still a higher-calorie snack due to the nuts and seeds so pace yourselves.  It’s still way better than some store-bought brands that have 32 ingredients with strange names.  Plus it’s portable, convenient and so so easy to make.  I do use brown rice syrup as a sweetener and binder.  It’s not super processed and is low-glycemic.  It’s also a great snack for children.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup oat flour (ground rolled oats)

2/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup raw sliced almonds

1/2 cup raw chopped cashews

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp flaxseed meal

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

sea salt to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Heat syrup in a microwave (for 30 seconds) or stove top until it’s runny and just starting to bubble.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Throughly mix in syrup until there are no dry or powdery spots.
  5. Transfer to a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. With wet hands press the granola as flat as you can and make it no more than 1/2 inch high.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hard but not burnt.  It should have a nice crunch.
  8. Let it cool and break into pieces of your choosing.  It makes about 8 servings.
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Stop ‘Should-ing’ Yourself

I recently hosted a lunch and learn event at my workplace.  The guest speaker was a local chiropractor, Dr. Victor Sage.  He spoke about conquering stress.  Amongst the take aways I gained from his talk, the most memorable was that the worst word in health care is ‘should.’ Not ‘death,’and not ‘cancer’ as many of us guessed when he posed the question.

Unfortunately, many people do not take action to improve their health until something is seriously wrong.  I addressed this issue in an earlier post titled You may not be what you eat (now) but you will be.

We can relate to this in other aspects of our lives.  The saying goes.’procrastination is the thief of time.’  It’s also the thief of health.  Another, perhaps forgotten, cliche is: An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.’ We take preventive measures when it comes to automobile maintenance, home security and countless other things.  When it comes to healthcare, there is this over dependence on cures, aka surgery and pills.  The 6 billion people in the U.S. are about 5% of the world’s population and we use 50% of the world’s medicine and we are the sickest country in the world.  That’s a hard pill to swallow, pun intended.   Newsflash, medicine does not cure illness.  It relieves symptoms such as pain but does not correct the source of the problem.  There is surely a place for medicine in the modern world but when someone knowingly choses it over making a permanent improvement in their life to cease an ailment, then there is a fundamental problem is how we define health.  I decided I wanted to crate my own definition of health.  here is it: Health is purposely living a lifestyle that enables you to thrive physically, mentally and spiritually.  It is enjoying foods and activities that proactively nourish the body and support vitality, longevity and resiliency.  When I began focusing on my health at a higher level by drastically cleaning up my diet, I was not sick or overweight etc.  What I found was that my ‘normal’ way of feeling as pretty crappy compared to how I feel now.  I didn’t know I could have this much energy, have better skin and a leaner physique.  Many people who feel less than optimal have accepted that as their ‘normal.’  It does not have to be that way and it’s easier to make the changes than you think.  Of course, easy is a relative term but it’s surely not complicated and requires patience and discipline just like anything else that’s worth while.  Once you get used to it, then you no longer have to try so hard.  It will be second nature and you will create amazingly healthy habits that will serve you well.  Aren’t you worth it?

What are you should-ing yourself about?  Make the changes now and be the best version of yourself.  You don’t have to wait until Monday or January 1st.

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Raw’ GROAT-meal’: Even if you are eating raw, you can still have grains

I’ve been eating an 80-90% raw diet over the past couple weeks as I prepare to host a raw plant-based cleanse.   As the temperature here in the Northeast gets warmer, its the ideal time to eat more raw and hence, cold, cool or room temperature foods.  The fruits, veggies and nuts are easy since they are commonly eaten raw.  I happen to enjoy eating whole grains and I am very active so I need the carbs.  While thinking of what raw foods I would eat other than the usual suspects, I remembered that some grains can be eaten uncooked after rinsing and soaking.

Oats and buckwheat are two such grains.  In their groat form they are unprocessed and still raw.  Oats’ first level of processing is steel cut.  The next step is rolled oats and then they are super-processed after that point.  Buckwheat is often toasted and made into Kasha cereal or flour.

The groats for both soften after being soaked for at least 4 hours.  The oats become chewy and make for a very hearty meal that can be mixed with whatever you  would add to or top cooked oatmeal with, such as, nut milk, flax meal, chia seeds, fruits, nuts and spices.  The buckwheat becomes gooey and have a slimy texture which is normal.  You can also blend the groats with flax meal and spices to make a creamy porridge or cereal and then add your toppings.  They are simple and quick to prepare.  Now you know you can have your grains raw too!

Avail yourself to serendipity

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I’ve been reading a terrific book called the Resiliency Advantage by Dr. Al Siebert.  In one of the chapters he writes about the fact that resilient people tend to experience the gift of serendipity.

Serendipity can be defined as the ability to discover good fortunes accidentally and from unfortunate events.  It comes from the wisdom to convert an unexpected event or mishap into something positive.  There are three elements that create serendipity.

  1. Something unexpected or accidental happens to you.
  2. Your perceptiveness and optimism lead you to discover…
  3. The unexpected benefit or blessing.

When you are open-minded and solution oriented you believe you have control over what happens to you.  You don’t believe you are at the mercy of good luck and bad luck.  Not only will you survive a negative occurrence, but you will see opportunities and end up thriving as a result of that experience.  By doing so you discover strengths you didn’t know you had and you steer your life in a different and more positive direction.

As I read this chapter I immediately thought of a life changing misfortune that I experienced in 2011 that ended up changing my life for the better.  Anyone who has known me for several years knows I was an avid distance runner during my teens and twenties.  I ran numerous distance events and placed very well in all of them.  Finally, I ran my first marathon in Vienna in April of 2011.  My goal was not only to run the marathon but to qualify for the Boston marathon.  (That is on every distance runner’s bucket list).  While training I developed a mystery injury.  Even though I knew something was wrong I did the race anyway.  I reduced my training during the month before the race to prevent the injury from worsening.  I completed the 26.2 miles in 3:30 and qualified for Boston!  Then I had my injury diagnosed.  I had a pelvic stress fracture that ultimately took 3 years to heal.  Not only was Boston, not an option but I was now missing out on the social aspect of my running.  I missed the company and friends I’d made and felt a little empty because a significant part of my identity was that ‘I am a runner.’

After feeling depressed for a couple a weeks I found myself wandering into Barnes and Noble seeking a new nutrition book to read, mainly because I was bored and I find nutrition to be extremely interesring.  I figured if I can’t exercise I may as well learn something more.   The book I decided to buy- The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder changed my life.  After reading it, I converted from and vegetarian to a mostly vegan and gluten free diet.  I became more inspired to learn about this lifestyle and help others to understand it and try it too.  I became a certified health coach.  Since then, I have elevated my health, found my happy weight, improved the appearance of my skin and hair and been able to coach others to achieve their wellness goals.  I also discovered Bikram yoga.  Since I had more time on my hands I began a yoga practice that is so amazing and vast.  I can’t imagine life without yoga now.  I still stay in touch with my running community and now I am part of a yoga community where I have met terrific people.

If I hadn’t gotten that devastating long-term injury I may not have found these two passions that have such an immensely positive impact on my life and the lives of others I’ve helped to influence and inspire.

So how do you avail yourself to serendipitous outcomes?  The art of resiliency involves looking for the elusive benefits when faced with difficulties by asking three questions:

  1. What’s good about this?
  2. How can make this benefit me?
  3. What unexpected and unique opportunity has this created.

These questions prepare your mind discover benefits in events that may cause others to get upset and give up.   We have all heard the cliche “You can’t control what happens to you.  You an control how you respond to it.”  I also believe that when you expect good thongs to happen to you, it’s easier to have a positive outlook and find the benefits in event that occur.  In other words, two people can have the same unfortunate event happen to them.  The resilient person will see the potential positives and make the declaration that they will overcome it and come out better and stronger.  The less resilient person allows it to overwhelm them with stress and feels victimized and helpless to control what happens next.

Fortunately resiliency is a strength you can learn and get better at.  I highly recommend this book.

How is your self care and lifestyle balance?

How well do you measure up with your self care and balance?  Are you drowning, barely getting through the day, living in a sustainable way but with some room for improvement or thriving and enjoying life?  Everyone’s concept of balance is different and we find enjoyment in a variety of activities.  This self assessment is a great tool to help you identify some strengths and some opportunities hat exist in your lifestyle.

The best part is that you can begin making some of these changes right away.  Other changes may take some planning and collaboration with other individuals, but at least you will have the awareness and you will be able to create a game plan.  When you are healthy, happy and whole not only do you benefit from a more fulfilled life, but your family, friends,  and community are better served by you too.

1. Take a few minutes to complete the survey and read the interpretation of your score.  Read the brief directions, and answer honestly.  It will only take 5-10 minutes.

2. Identify 2-3 things you can do to improve your self care and take action!

3. After implementing these changes, you can retake the same assessment in 3-6 months and see if there are any changes.

For example for myself, I identified that I need to get more sleep, let little annoyances go and not bring home stress from work.

http://www.headington-institute.org/files/test_self-care-and-lifestyle-inventory_best_76305.pdf

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How to make perfect quinoa

Have you ever tried making quinoa at home only to have turn out mushy or too dry?  I used to have the same issue and I wondered how restaurants produced the perfect quinoa.  I figured it out about a year ago.  I realized others faced the same challenge so I’m sharing  my secret step by step process with you.  No offense to the quinoa retailers, but following the directions on the packages did not work for me and you probably followed the same directions if your quinoa hasn’t been satisfactory.

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Step 1

Soak your quinoa for at least 4 hours before cooking it and rinse it after soaking.  Drain it well in a strainer.  Soaking it makes it easier to digest.  The bitter saponins are more easily removed when it’s soaked and rinsed.

Step 2

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the quinoa.  Use 1 1/2 times more water than quinoa. For example, if you started out with 1 cup of uncooked quinoa before soaking it, boil it in 1 1/2 cups water.

Step 3

Here’s the part where we all mess up.  DO NOT REDUCE THE HEAT TO BRING QUINOA TO A SIMMER!  That’s what the package tells us to do and them your quinoa is ruined.  Keep the water at boil and make sure it doesn’t boil over.  You can reduce the heat but make sure it’s still boiling.

Step 4

Stir occasionally and watch it closely as the water gets close to vanishing.  Divide the quinoa so you can see the bottom of the pot to see if there is still water underneath and turn the heat off the moment there is no more water underneath.  The cooking process takes no longer than about 12 minutes, but may be faster.  A few grains may stick to the pot.  Grains should turn translucent and have a little tail.

Step 5

Let it sit for a few hours then fluff with a fork.

That’s it.  The secret is boiling it all the way through and not turning down that heat.  Try and let me know how it goes.

 

 

Are you a ‘regular’ person?

Yes, this post is about poop and yes we need to talk about it.  Having a consistent and regular elimination is a significant sign of good health.  The bigger and more frequent your bowel movements are, the healthier you may be.  According to Dr. Gregger in his book ‘How not to Die’ as stool weight drops, colon cancer rates soar.

The size of your stool may be linked to transit time.  That mean how long it takes for the food you eat to leave your body through the other end. The faster the transit time, the heavier the stool.  Plant based eaters have a transit time of 1-2 days while those who eat more conventional diets have a transit time of 5 days.  This makes sense, since fiber is essential for regularity and it’s found only in plant based foods. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S.

So how do you know if your stools are large enough?  Simply weigh them!  Don’t be grossed out, it’s not what you think.  Hop on the scale before you use the bathroom and then immediately after and see how much less you weigh.  Of course I tried it and I was 5.5 pounds less, so I’m regular and have an optimal transit time.

If your stool isn’t heavy enough, eat more plants!

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Tempeh ‘Sofritas’

Here’s a high protein, high fiber and low fat meal.  If you pair with avocado and a salad it’s lower in carbs too (even though we love whole grains.)  It’s also ridiculously quick and easy to make.

Ingredients

1 block tempeh

1 cup salsa (mild or medium)

1 carton/can black beans

1 red pepper chopped finely

1/2 medium onion chopped finely

handful finely chopped cilantro

juice from 1 small/medium lemon or lime

3 tsp Trader Joe’s taco seasoning

Method

  1. Chop tempeh into tiny cubes. About 1/4 inch wide.
  2. Heat a skillet to medium heat.
  3. Add all ingredients except taco seasoning and cilantro.
  4. Mix well then add taco seasoning, mixing it in well too.
  5. Cook for 2-3 more minutes until onion and peppers are just beginning to soften.
  6. Turn off heat and mix in cilantro.

Serve with salad and avocado or brown rice and avocado.

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Free Your Mind

I’m hosting a 5-day plant based cleanse from Jan 4th-Jan 8th.  (Let me know if you want to participate.) One of the participants asked me if she would be restricted with coffee and caffeine.  This simple question got me thinking.  What if a healthy diet and lifestyle was perceived differently?

Is a healthy lifestyle a sacrifice or a desired journey?                                                     Is a healthy lifestyle restrictive or liberating?                                                                    Does a cleaner diet mean missing out on delicious foods or is it about discovering all the great foods that taste good and will make you feel amazing?

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Think about it.  It’s hard for me to fully describe the benefits.  It’s difficult to explain to people that I really don’t feel deprived.  If I did, I would not have stuck with this for so many years.  I feel fortunate that I honesty enjoy my lifestyle.  It’s not forced.  It’s certainly not something someone else is convincing me to do.  The hardest thing for people to believe is that I don’t miss junk food, meat and dairy!  I actually enjoy salads, veggies, brown rice and fruit.  To me that’s freedom from the addictive grip of foods that are harmful.  It’s freedom from worrying about being the ‘odd ball’ that doesn’t eat chatty everyone else is having.  It’s freedom from being stuck in a routine that doesn’t serve me and continuing to consume toxins.  Changing your mind is the first step.

It’s really something you have to experience for yourself.  I can tell you all about my experiences and some general benefits such as having more energy, feeling lighter and less bloated and being in a better mood.  Everyone’s experience will be different and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.  Thinking of it in a positive light is very powerful.

What if you could find satisfaction in a wholesome unprocessed diet made up of mainly plant based foods?  We all know about the long-term health benefits.  The major obstacle is our attachment to the instant gratification of the foods we have come to love, foods that are pumped with artificial flavor enhancers, sugar, oil, salt and oil.

I’ll end with this.  I recently watched a story on CNN where a former heroin addict who was also a gymnast was discussing how he relapsed after 1 1/2 years of being clean.  It happened after a shoulder surgery when he was given a strong painkiller that made him feel as good as heroin did and he became re-addicted.  This happened a few more times ( as he had more surgeries for injuries) and he decided that whenever he had surgery he would have to resort to other methods of numbing the pain and break free from the euphoric feeling of prescription pain meds and heroin.  He found his freedom.