Monthly Archives: February 2016

Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potato, Kale and Chickpea Stew

Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potato, Kale & Chickpea Stew

Sweet potato, kale and chickpeas are some of my favorite foods. And this stew is a great way to eat them all at once! Plus, you get a complete meal in one pot – your starch from the sweet potato, protein from the chickpeas and your veggies from the kale. Not bad! This recipe also makes 9 dinner sized portions. That means you can feed your family for a few days, or you can freeze half of it and save it for another day. If you want to make a smaller amount, just halve the recipe. Also, feel free to make any adjustments you like. If you don’t like heat, skip the red pepper flakes. If you don’t have garam masala or ras el hanout, you can use a mix of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and a little bit of clove.

Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potato, Kale and Chickpea Stew

Makes 9 dinner sized portions – feel free to halve the recipe or freeze half!

Ingredients

4 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped onions*
1 tablespoons ras el hanout or garam masala (add more or less depending on personal taste and the strength of your spices – older spices tend to be weaker)
2.5 tablespoons minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
9 cups diced sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 cups water
2 cups (1 can) full fat coconut milk
3 cans chickpeas
11 cups chopped kale – prechopped and prewashed are great!
Salt to taste

Directions

1. Heat the coconut oil, then add the spices, salt and onion. Cook onion until translucent, about 10 minutes.
2. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
3. Add sweet potato and two cups water, cook 10 minutes.
4. Add chickpeas, coconut milk and almond butter (mix almond butter and coconut milk together first so the almond butter integrates).
5. Cover and cook 10 minutes, until sweet potato is tender.
6. Add kale, don’t worry about mixing it, just cover the pot and it will steam and shrink. Once kale starts to wilt, mix together and cook until kale is tender.

Serve over brown rice or quinoa, or eat on it’s own!

*no need to measure the onions or anything else! 1 medium sized onion is about 1 cup. Once small sweet potato is about a cup, and a handful of kale is about one cup. You can also measure tablespoons by using a regular spoon, just make it a heaping spoonful. And the good news is that all the ingredients are delicious, so adding a little extra won’t hurt!

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Mindful Eating

I was recently speaking with someone in one of my cooking classes and the topic of mindful eating came up. I wrote this post a year ago, but somehow it got lost in the internet world. But, I’ve found it and here it is!

Last month I had the pleasure of being interviewed by my good friend and colleague Paul Sanchez at Be Yoga Fit about mindful eating. I had a great time speaking with him about the benefits of mindful eating and ways to start integrating mindful eating into your daily life. You can check out the recording here.

In case you don’t have time to listen to the whole podcast, here are the cliff notes 🙂

Benefits of Mindful Eating

1. Digestion starts with your senses!
Think about your favorite meal… really visualize it and remember what it smells like. Do you notice that you start to salivate? Saliva contains enzymes that help break your food down. If you’re eating in a hurry, you’re likely not salivating (especially if you’re eating at a desk while doing work). Eating mindfully can snap you out of your work/life craze momentarily and allow you to really enjoy your food and digest it well.

2. Peace of Mind
Mindful eating is like any mindfulness practice, it’s an opportunity to come into the present moment. You can even look at mindful eating as a type of meditation. Being present is a great way to take a break from the incessant voices and to-do lists in our head. Food is just another avenue to get there.

3. Weight Maintenance
When we eat mindfully, it’s so much easier to notice when we are actually full. When we eat while watching TV (as one example) we often just keep eating because it’s something to do. We’re paying attention to the TV, not to what’s going on it our bodies. When we eat slowly and mindfully, we know how much our body needs. This is a great practice if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your weight.

Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

1. Connect with your breath
Taking a moment to breathe anytime of day helps recenter and ground us. Breathing between bites of food or before sitting down to eat is a great way to be present with your food and get your body ready to begin the digestive process.

2. Chew
I like to ask my clients to count how many times they chew a bite before swallowing if they are not consciously trying to chew more. The answer is usually 2-3 times. The more we chew our food, the easier time our bodies have breaking it down and the easier it is to absorb nutrients from the food. Some people recommend chewing upward of 50 times per bite! Give it a try and see how you feel, especially if you have any type of digestive issues.

3. Gratitude
Food takes work. It doesn’t just magically show up in grocery stores like money on trees (though fruit does grow on trees!). There are the people who make our food, deliver food to the grocery stores, the people who work on the farms that grow our food, the farmers who take care of the land and soil that gives rise to our food, the water and resources that nourish the plants that produce our food and on and on and on. If you eat animal products, an animal had to be born and raised, nourished and care for over the years and then sacrificed to feed you. Creating a meal takes more time and resources that what we usually think about. Taking a moment to recognize the chain of attention and effort that goes into creating a meal is a great way to become present to the beauty of what we are about to consume.

What are the benefits you’ve noticed of eating mindfully? What are your favorite ways to be present while you eat?

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Natural Beauty Products

How to Make Beauty Products with Kitchen Ingredients

Some people may call me crunchy, and I have to say, I truly wear that label as a badge of honor! Over the past few years I have been experimenting with natural beauty products. It started as I really began to focus on my health. I would get allergic reactions to most things with fragrances and I started to learn that external skin reactions were really a result of something much bigger happening internally. I was also diagnosed with endometriosis, and a lot of chemicals used in traditional beauty products are known to be endocrine distruptors (you can read about that stuff here or here). I started to see that I could take my personal care routine into my own hands. And all health stuff aside, it’s just pretty amazing to be able to make beauty products out of stuff I have in the kitchen! Talk about being self reliant! No more expensive drug store trips for me 🙂 Plus the natural products actually tend to work better than the traditional products! So, let’s explore!

Shampoo

There is actually a huge movement for natural shampoo – it’s actually called “no-poo”! You can’t make something like that up! Chemical and fragrance laden shampoo can actually damage your hair, and make you dependent on it (it’s kinda like the chap stick stories – after a while you start to need the chap stick to keep your lips moisturized). Anyway, I won’t get into the pros or cons of traditional shampoo, I just know that I like to know what I’m putting in my body and on my skin and I’m particularly sensitive to fragrances and dyes.

Ok, so, natural alternatives? The most popular one is a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse. I personally still use a traditional shampoo some days (without dye, fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfate, paraben and other potential endocrine distruptors), and use an apple cider vinegar or aloe rinse on other days. I used to use traditional shampoo everyday. Now I’m down to 2 to 3 times per week. Hooray! If you have dry hair, coconut oil works great! You can leave it in for an hour and then wash it out or if you have dry ends, you can just rub some on.

Dry Shampoo

Don’t want to get your hair wet? Try a dry shampoo! Arrowroot works great on its own (or cornstarch). If you have darker hair mix in some cocoa powder (not hot chocolate mix! plain unsweetened cocoa powder please).

Deodorant

I’ve been making my own deodorant for years, and selling it, too! It’s actually quite popular 🙂 And, you could eat all the ingredients! It’s just arrowroot, baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils. I also know other people who rub lemon juice under their arms instead of using deodorant. Just be careful not to use either of these options right after shaving. Ouch!

Toner

Apple cider vinegar diluted in water is a great toner. Smells a little funky, but otherwise it’s great!

Face Wash

I personally like to use the oil cleansing method. If you haven’t heard of it before, you basically use a specific blend of oils, massage your face with them, then apply a hot towel to give yourself a little steam bath and take off the oils. It’s such a great way to treat your face at the end of the day and it really works! I use a blend of either grapeseed or almond oil, castor oil and tea tree oil.

Exfoliation

I love to exfoliate with a combo of vitamin C powder and almond oil. Just mix them together, rub in gentle circles on your face and remove with a damp cloth.

Moisturizer

Coconut oil is my go to moisturizer for everything! I LOVE coconut oil. If it makes you break out, try almond oil or jojoba.

Toothpaste

I have yet to make a toothpaste that I like, but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there! The very basic combo is coconut oil and baking soda. I’ve also heard great things about activated charcoal. But do some research and play with some recipes! It’s very powerful to be able to make your own beauty and hygiene products.

Gel

A friend of mine was looking for a gel alternative and we came across a chia and flax seed gel! How cool is that!? We just soaked the seeds in hot water so they got all sticky and gel-like. From there you can use pantyhose or a cheesecloth to strain out the seeds and you’re set to go! I found the recipe online and it called for aloe and vitamin e as well. I didn’t have that stuff so I went with the bare minimum, but it worked great!

Make up

Again, I’m not big on makeup so I’m not speaking from personal experience here. That said, I’ve heard from tons of women about making their own make up with cocoa powder, coconut oil, arrowroot and mica powder (ok, mica powder probably isn’t in your kitchen). Wellness Mama is one of my favorite resources for DIY and natural products. Here’s her post all about natural DIY makeup.

Makeup Remover

I personally like coconut oil, but here are a bunch of other recipes!

I hope this post was helpful in getting you started on a new DIY journey! Let me know if you were inspired to try any of these ideas!

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Crunchy Crunchy Chips!

Our Love Affair with Crunchy

Do you ever wonder why you love eating crunchy foods? I love crunch. LIke, really really love it. I hadn’t thought too much about it (I assumed it was the salt) until a few days ago. I happen to be reading an amazing book called Gulp, by Mary Roach. She is one of my favorite authors. Somehow she manages to take really taboo subjects and make them accessible and hysterical. Gulp is all about digestion. Another favorite of mine is Stiff, which is all about what happens to our bodies when we die. Sounds morbid, but it’s so so informative, interesting and funny!

gulpAnyway, back to crunch. According to Roach and the experts she interviews, there are a few reasons we like crunchy foods. One reason is that humans have a penchant for destroying things. Think about video games, going to the gym, boxing, popping bubble wrap (thanks, Alex), or any of the other things we do to “let off steam”. When we eat crunchy food, we are getting sensory feedback that we are destroying something, from the sound of the food breaking into pieces, to the feeling of the pieces in our mouth. Way to go! Who needs violent video games when you can eat crunchy food!

But, even more importantly (to me, and maybe you if you’re reading this because you’re into health), we have evolved to prefer foods with a crunch. In nature, we can tell if a food is fresh by its firmness. What a carrot is just picked, it’s full of nutrients and has the most nutritional value it ever will. At that point, it will be crunchy because it’s cell walls are all intact and full of water. As the carrot gets older, some of the cell walls break down, leaving the carrot limper and limper. In this case, there is no longer a nice crunch. This is the case with many vegetables. So, pre-nutrition label times, our wonderfully smart bodies evolved to prefer crunch as a sign of maximum nutrition.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years and in comes processed food. Now our bodies are confused! We’re wired to love crunch, and now there is more crunch available than ever before, all in shiny bags! What do we do!

Right, what do we do?

With all the crunch readily available, we’ve become desensitized. The crunch of a pepper or piece of celery is nothing like the crunch of a chip. It’s the same with sweetness! A fresh berry used to be one of the sweetest things we could get our hands on. The sweetness gave us the feedback that this berry was ripe, delicious and nutritious. Now, a ripe berry barely tastes sweet at all because of all the sugar we consume on a daily basis.

Well, now that we’re aware, we can start the process of re-sensitizing ourselves. What does it take? It takes looking at the foods in our diet and refocusing on the things that are actually good for us. Take note of your cravings. When you’re craving something crunchy are you looking for stress relief? Is your body craving nourishment? Instead of reaching for a bag of chips, try reaching for a fresh carrot or pepper. At first it may not satisfy you, but over time, your body and taste buds will recalibrate. Then, the crunch of a pepper will by music to your ears, and berries will be lusciously sweet again.

 

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me kitchen

I’m Back! Reflections from Retreat in Mexico

Last week I had the pleasure of cooking for an awesome Chakra Yoga Retreat in Todos Santos, Mexico. We stayed in this beautiful surf colony right on the water, and I spent my days in a nearby hotel cooking meals for the participants. The hotel was gorgeous, and the kitchen was so stunning. The first full day I was there, someone took this picture. I thought it was hysterical that my shirt and food literally matched the kitchen. I guess it was meant to be!

The days are blurred together looking back. I arrived two days later than expected due to flight cancellations and delays from the storm in NY. I do know that every morning I got to watch the sun rise and set on the water from the kitchen, which is a pretty incredible thing. The waves were so alive! I can’t believe how high and mighty they got! I ventured into the water once, which was so much fun, but I felt safer in the kitchen!

yes 26 IMG_1533

I had an awesome sous chef, who was also co-leading the retreat. Anthony was so much fun to work with. He never complained about walking up and down the stairs to get the food, and he soaked up all the fun kitchen hacks I shared with him (you all know that peeling ginger with a spoon is one of my favorites, right? And, my personal favorite this trip was teaching participants how to “chupar un mango” which literally means suck a mango – it’s what you do with the leftover flesh on the seed – it’s the best part!). I also had some lovely participants as kitchen helpers – which is always appreciated!

sous chef

The second day I taught a cooking class on making my favorite bliss balls. We couldn’t get all the ingredients we needed, but when in Mexico! (I’m not sure how that sentence ends). The balls ended up being too soft to roll, so we just scooped them in our mouths and ate them with frozen banana! Way to improvise! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter, toasted coconut, cashews, raisins, coconut oil and maple syrup!

yes 27Day three I taught a workshop on spices! Can you guess my favorites? (hint: they all start with “C”). Cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cardamom! Garam masala is my favorite spice blend. We also did a quiz to figure out our dosha according to the ancient practice of Ayurveda. Do you know yours? You can find a free test online pretty easily. We spoke about how food relates to the different doshas. For example, if you’re primarily Vata (air), it’s best to eat well cooked foods since raw food will promote your air like qualities. If you’re primarily Kapha (earth), raw food helps give you more energy. It’s pretty amazing how many ways we can support our bodies with food – from Ayurveda to eating in season. It’s so fun to talk about!

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Day four I gave a workshop on herbs and greens. Storing greens properly is a great way to preserve their life! For salad greens, put a dry paper towel in the bag or plastic container. This will help absorb moisture and prevent the greens from wilting. For greens with thick stems, wrap the end in a damp paper towel (think kale or collards) and then store in a plastic bag. I always try to cook at least a few servings of greens with each meal. Sure, you can eat them in salads, but you can also bake them into frittatas or put them in soup. There so many ways to incorporate them! (And if you’re struggling with coming up with ways, just ask me!).

IMG_1596We also discussed the amazing benefits of herbs. One of my favorite herbs is oregano. Oregano oil is a natural antibiotic. It’s always my go to for a cold or stomach problems. Thyme also has a secret weapon built in – it’s actually great for coughs! Just steep some thyme in hot water and you’re good to go! And parsley and cilantro are super detoxifiers. Greens are really quite miraculous.

I was sad to leave Mexico, but I really loved preparing food for all the participants and sharing some of my favorite tips and tricks. Many of the participants let me know that their digestion had improved substantially while eating my vegetarian fair on the retreat, which is always great to hear! A happy gut is one of the first steps for achieving optimal health!

mexico retreat foodmexico retreat food

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