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Warm Spiced Milk: the Perfect Evening Beverage

Warm Spiced MilkI have just discovered my new favorite nightcap. I have been listening to my teachers tell me for years to drink warm spiced milk in the evening. Something about it just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t drink dairy products and it seemed a little gross. But tonight I gave it a try and I’m wondering why I didn’t trust that this would be delicious.

Warm milk is easy to digest and the added spices increase the digestibility even more. The spices are very soothing and grounding. The whole combination is said to be nourishing and rejuvenating for the body and mind. The combination of warm milk and nutmeg is known by many as a sleep aid. I can see this becoming a regular thing.

Here’s the recipe for 2 servings:

  • 2 cups of whole organic milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp ghee (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a couple of shakes of cinnamon
  • a shake of black pepper
  • dash of Himalayan salt
  • 2-3 strands of saffron (optional)
  • sugar, maple syrup, or agave to taste

Heat the milk, water and spices (except sweetener) just to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Use a whisk or fork to stir frequently. Transfer the milk to your cup and add the sweetener to your liking. I used a teaspoon of maple syrup.

Good night!

Gratitude for the Bounty of the Season

IMG_1011When we realize that we are a part of nature and not something separate from it, when we see that we aren’t protecting or destroying something different from ourselves, we can really start to sink into nature’s rhythms and enjoy a deeper connection with all that exists. There are days that this is clearer than others. Or maybe some days just allow us time to reflect on this more than others. The Autumn Equinox is one of those days. A brief period of time that light and dark are in equal balance. We can give thanks for our bounty and set intentions for what we would like to experience in the coming months. I suppose we could do this on a daily basis and I’m sure some people do just that, but for me, I tend to get caught up in daily living and I appreciate the reminder to create space, feel the connection, and move forward with a positive focus. Rituals are important to me as they set the structure and framework for my life. Everything else drapes around that foundation.

On a different note, but still working with the bounty of the season, I have started to ferment my own veggies so that I can reap the amazing health benefits. I started with an easy sauerkraut recipe. Previously I had only had pre-made sauerkraut purchased at the grocery store. I never liked it. I could never even stand the smell of it. I kept hearing and reading how delicious it is if you make your own. The recipe met all of my requirements to try which is a low number of ingredients and minimal time to complete. Besides, it seemed like a fun science experiment on my kitchen counter that I had to check daily. I enjoyed this process. The problem was that I still didn’t like it. I want to like it, but I don’t. In my determination to use what I had made, knowing that there is no way my family will eat it, I found a recipe for coleslaw made out of sauerkraut. It’s delicious!! I’m so happy to have found a way to use the homemade sauerkraut without cooking off the beneficial bacterial that tastes so good.

Ayurvedically speaking, these veggies are “cooked” through the fermentation process so they are great for optimizing digestion and building the digestive fire. This makes it a perfect food to incorporate as we move into cooler weather. I’m curious if you are interested in fermenting veggies and if you already are, what ways are you enjoying them?

Challenge for the week: Replace one toxic product

I recently ran a program that focused on overall wellness. We covered things like our mindset, nutrition, exercise and our environment.  I learned so much during the four-week course. I hope the participants learned half as much as I did. As the facilitator of the process, I had to take a good look at my own life and the choices that I make for myself. As you know, having knowledge of a subject and putting the knowledge to use are two very different things. I realized that I have a lot of room for growth in all areas. This isn’t something to be upset about, in fact, I’m glad to have things to work on and a direction to move in.

Seasonal Local DishI am inspired to take a closer look at the foods I am eating. I encouraged the women in the group to check out seasonal, local foods and find recipes to share with each other. My dish was Wilted Red Swiss Chard, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa sprinkled with Nutritional Yeast for added punch in taste as well as nutritional value.

I encouraged the group to continually return to their breath and create space in their day to just sit and focus on the breath for a few minutes. Talking about this reminded me to do it in times of stress or frustration.

I found myself looking for more opportunities to move my body and fit some fitness into each day.

One of the coolest things for me is putting more effort into making sure I am doing what I can to prevent using toxic chemicals in my home. Many products boast that they are green but are in fact causing harm to you and your family. My new favorite all-purpose cleaner is

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 20 drops essential oil (I’m using Purification from Young Living Oils but lemon works well too)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place in a large spray bottle. This can be used on counter tops, kitchen appliances, toilets, etc.

What are you working on? How are you challenging yourself? In what ways are you taking better care of yourself today than you were a year ago?

Balancing tip-Challenge yourself to replace one unhealthy (aka-chemically laden) product that you use either in your home or on your body with something natural this week. You don’t have to make it yourself, although there are many great recipes available for DIY personal care products as well as cleaning products that are effective and simple to make. Leave a comment about what you are replacing and what you will use instead. I will be posting my switches as well.

Overnight Oats

Overnight oatsI put this recipe in my newsletter but I wanted to make sure I added it here too. This is perfect for those busy, back to school mornings.

I recently found a similar recipe on Lauren Conrad’s website (you should check it out if you have a couple of hours to get lost in cyber space). As much as I love a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cold morning, this chilled version has been great during the warm months. I also enjoy the ease of being able to pack it on my way out the door. It met all of my criteria: delicious, easy, minimal number of healthy ingredients and a minimal number of steps.

  • 1/2 cup of dry uncooked oats
  • 2/3 cup of milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla depending on your taste)
  • cinnamon to taste
  • optional: 1-2 teaspoons chia seeds

Combine all ingredients and cover. Place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, you have a quick grab and go breakfast. You can easily mix in fruit,  raisins, or anything else.
Delicious, healthy, and easy.

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Oats and Nut Butter Snacks

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Oats and Nut Butter SnacksMy friend, Sara, submitted an awesome snack recipe for me to share with everyone. I really appreciate her contribution and would love to share more recipes or ideas that any of you have. These Oats and Nut Butter Balls were really simple to make and disappeared quickly.

  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or raisins)
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I used 1/4 cup peanut butter and 1/4 cup almond butter)
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed (I used 1/4 cup ground flaxseed and 1/4 cup chia seeds)
  • 1/3 cup honey (more or less depending on sweetness of nut butters)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients and roll into balls. Refrigerate to set. Perfect for work/school lunches.

Balancing tip-Pause. Before you take the next bite of food, before you say something negative to someone you love, or before you purchase another item, pause. Take a moment, take a breath, be still. You may begin to make some different choices. Let me know what changes for you.

Easy, Breezy Zucchini

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Zucchini Dogs

Zucchini Dogs

In the hot summer months no one wants to be standing around the oven or stove cooking. I like to head out to my grill. It’s nice to be out of the kitchen and there is usually a lot less clean up. Unfortunately, BBQ foods tend to be a little meat heavy for me. Sure, I could through on some veggie burgers but I am trying to stay away from processed foods. Today I made Zucchini Dogs with Cole Slaw. It was really easy and satisfied my picnic food craving. This recipe made 4 sandwiches with leftover cole slaw.

For the Cole Slaw:

  • small head of cabbage chopped (I used 1/2 green and 1/2 red for a prettier picture)
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon honey
  • Juice from half of a lemon
  • Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes (I made mine a little spicy)

Mix the oil, vinegar, honey and lemon together. Pour over chopped cabbage and season to taste.

For the Zucchini Dogs:

  • 2 Zucchini quartered lengthwise
  • Preferred cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • Garlic (chopped, minced or even powder)
  • Hot dog rolls (I used millet and brown rice flour rolls)

Rub oil on the cut zucchini to coat and then rub with some garlic. Place on the grill for a couple of minutes on each side. Be sure to let it sit on each side for long enough to get the char marks. At the last minutes, toast the rolls on the grill.

Assemble zucchini and cole slaw onto the rolls. If your rolls are large, you may want to place two pieces of zucchini on each. Enjoy!

Balancing tip-If you feel like I have gone too far over the healthy line with this recipe, it’s ok. Maybe you can pull one thing out of this and add it to your usual BBQ. Maybe you NEED mayo in your cole slaw or maybe you can’t live without white flour hot dog rolls. Wherever you need to draw the line today is fine. This is not the recipe I would have made 5 years ago. And there is no way my family would have eaten this last year. Think of the recipe suggestions that I post as a buffet (everyone loves a buffet). You can take what you like and leave the rest.

Fresh Turkey Meatballs

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turkey meatballsI made these awesome meatballs for my family last night. Everyone loved them, which is very unusual for us. I would love to give credit for the original recipe but I can’t remember where I saw it. I know that the author referenced Gwyneth Paltrow’s cook book. I looked on her website, goop.com, and wasn’t able to find this variation. I also changed it for my needs. So here is my gluten free, dairy free variation on Turkey Meatballs:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • few shakes each of basil, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper
  • 3 handfuls of greens (spinach, arugula, kale, spring mix, whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • coconut oil
  1. Place greens in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Place all ingredients except coconut oil in a large bowl.
  3. Gently mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  4. Form into small balls.
  5. Heat oil in a large pan and saute the meatballs in batches until browned and cooked through (approximately 10 minutes).
  6. Enjoy however you like. We had them with marinara sauce.

Balancing tip-Spend a little time this week finding out where you can purchase quality meat products in your area. Good quality meat not only tastes better but it is better for you. Here is a good article on why it’s important and what to look for when buying meat: Healthy Meats: What to Buy, by  Food Renegade.

Adventures in DIY Products

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DIY Sunscreen and bug spray

DIY Sunscreen and bug spray

Because I am always searching for healthy, affordable options, I have been wanting to experiment with some natural homemade products. Until recently, I have only seen recipes that required odd ingredients that didn’t seem easy to get. Or even worse, excessive steps that needed unfamiliar equipment. This combination turned me off and left me to wander the aisles of health food stores reading labels and sometimes purchasing things that I felt were overpriced and just didn’t deliver the promised results. Don’t get me wrong, I have also found some great products that I am happy to pay top dollar for. This past week I stumbled across two DIY recipes that I happened to have all of the ingredients for and that seemed really easy to make. Yay! I made a natural sunscreen and a natural bug spray. I have found both to be easy to make, effective, and affordable. Not only that, but I feel good about putting them on myself and my family.

Let’s start with the bug spray. In a 1 ounce bottle, I added 20 drops of lemongrass essential oil, filled the bottle halfway with witch hazel and filled the rest with filtered water. When I need to use it, I shake and spray. For people who live in ares known for ticks, you may want to add tea tree essential oil (20 drops). This can be used on pets too!

Now for the sunscreen. I used a recipe that I saw on Facebook by Earth Remedy. If you would like to see the original article with all of the variations, click here. This is the recipe I used:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh aloe gel. I took it from my garden. I cut a leaf in half and scooped out the gel. I’m sure you can buy this gel at health food stores.
  • 5 tbsp of coconut oil. This is the thick, white form used for cooking.
  • 3 capsules of vitamin E oil (discarding the casing).
  • 20 drops of carrot seed essential oil.

I mixed the above ingredients and placed them in a jar. As many of you know, I am really fair so I am trying this slowly. It worked well when I was out in the sun for 45 minutes. It was during a run so my face was sweaty and I wiped it a few times. I did get a little more sun than I would have liked on my face, but it worked great on my arms and shoulders. A few days later, I went to the beach. I started with this DIY sunscreen but I ended up using commercial sunscreen after a while. This is due to the fact that I hadn’t tested it for long-term use and I was in and out of the water a lot. As someone who has had melanoma, I don’t feel like I can fool around with this stuff.

Once I had all of the ingredients in my home, I would say that it may have taken me 25 minutes total to make both of these items. This is something that the kids can get involved in too. If you don’t want to let them help with the mixing and blending, maybe they can decorate the labels. If you are interested in purchasing essential oils, I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. This is where I purchase most of mine from. They are high quality and this company is known for being environmentally aware. Just click on their name and it will take you to their website.

I would be really interested to hear how either of these work for you. I would also be interested to hear about anything you are making yourself that you find relatively easy to make and effective.

Balancing tip-Pick one chemically laden commercial product that you use on your body frequently and commit to switching it out. If you are pressed for time or just not interested in making your own products, there are plenty of excellent products on the market these days to choose from. Do a quick Google search and you are half way there!

asking for help

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These past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activities and events. Many of which have given me cause to reflect on what is happening in my life. I celebrated a birthday, Mother’s Day, and my 16 year sobriety anniversary within two weeks. I am so grateful to be where I am today and I have been enjoying all of the mayhem that goes along with juggling family and career. Mixed in with the feeling of gratitude was some uneasiness. I’m sure many of you know the feeling and have heard the voice. The one that says, “Who am I to be thinking of expanding my business?, Who would want to learn from me?, What makes me think I have that much to offer?” This voice sucks. I hear it less and less as the years go by, but every once in a while I find myself caught up in self-doubt. Luckily, I have acquired some tools over the years for just this very situation. As I sat in my morning meditation the other day, I asked the Universe to show me if I was ready. I asked that my ego step aside and I become a channel for something greater than me. With that, I got up and got ready for the day while continuing to beat myself up. (It’s funny-or crazy-how quickly I can vacillate from one extreme to the other.)

My morning was unusually smooth, everyone off to work and school without a hitch. I arrived to work feeling less capable than normal but wanting to find clues that I was on the right path. I had three massages scheduled. All of them were new clients. As I talked with the first woman before her session, she revealed that she was struggling with some emotional issues and that she would be open to any suggestions that I may have. I stepped out of the room to let her undress and thought to myself, “I don’t know what to tell her.” Just then, I passed a regular client in the hall who had a session the week before. She said, “Thank you so much for the visualization exercise you gave me last week. It really helped. Every time I feel pain, I think of what you said and within minutes the pain is gone.” Then she gave me a hug and walked into a yoga class. My first clue. I was on the right path. I can help the woman who is in the treatment room waiting for me. That client left with a renewed hope and willingness to continue to make time for wellness. My next client came in for stress relief and floated out, stating that she thought my “hands had eyes because they stopped at every area in need.” My second clue. I do have something offer. My final client of the day is very much on edge. While I am talking to her before her session, she sternly stops the conversation and says, “With all do respect, I just need a massage.” Thankfully, I was beginning to feel better and her attitude didn’t bother me at all. Shortly after putting my hands on her, she began to release. She cried like a baby and hugged me three times before she booked another appointment. My third and final clue. I thanked the Universe for providing encouragement and I stated out loud, “OK, I get it, I’m moving in the right direction!”

My point in sharing this is to offer some hope and tools in case you experience similar negative self talk. I think a lot of people feel this from time to time. Please know that it is ok to ask for help from a friend, a professional, or whatever your idea is of a Higher Power. I have always received the help and support I needed when I have had the courage to ask. It hasn’t always been what I wanted, but it has been exactly what I needed.

Balancing Tip: Since I am still obsessed with my new juicer, I am going to share my current favorite morning juice. 1 large cucumber, 1 large carrot, a handful of leaves (romaine, spinach, or other green leaf), 1 granny smith apple, 1/2 lemon, about an inch of ginger. I have been pouring it over ice thanks to a tip from the writer of babeandablender.com (Thank you!). Super delicious!

Nutritional Tip of the Month

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I just finished watching Hungry For Change. It’s the new film from Food Matters. Please do yourself a favor and watch this free online premiere. The filmmakers are offering this free screening for a limited time. It ends at midnight on March 31st (that’s 8 days from the time of this writing).

I would love to hear your thoughts after you view it!

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