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How to Soften Your Judgement Using Mindful Self-Compassion

A simple mindfulness practice helps to create create connection for ourselves and others The …

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A Morning Routine for Reaching Your Goals

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How to Soften Your Judgement Using Mindful Self-Compassion


A simple mindfulness practice helps to create create connection for ourselves and others

The practice of self-compassion is becoming a hot topic and with good reason given the timing! Personally I was familiar with it, but didn’t consider it relevant enough to my work to go deeper.  Now as I’m writing “From Stuck to Unstoppable” on the topic of managing the mind-body connection, I’ve learned this work applies to most people during times of change.

Change creates stress, stress often leads to self-doubt. The more I learn, the more I recognize how powerful this practice is and how badly it’s needed for stress management. But as I often say in workshops, knowing what you should do has little to no impact on what you will do when the time comes.

Like today, when I sat through a Compassion in Therapy workshop lead by Tara Brach, a pioneer in self compassion theory. It ended right before I was scheduled for my weekly Toastmaster’s meeting, where I had been asked to participate in a speech contest.

With such short notice, I wasn’t able to commit much time to preparing for the contest. So I told myself I’d show up, do my best and have fun, without getting attached to the results. That was before I came in 3rd out of 3 contestants. Just 90 minutes after the Compassion session, my last-minute contest ranking immediately shot to a place of self-judgement!

“Am I unlikeable? I must be, I’m always coming in last at Toastmaster’s. Why am I putting myself through this anyway?” All flooded in as self-doubt clouded my judgement and I began adding every memory of failures past to a growing mental list.

I was swirling in self-pity for a full 15 minutes before I was able to step back and say to myself, put down the baguette and find a healthier way to feel better. Since I still had the morning self-compassion training queued, I started to open it when I suddenly got a message from a friend that pulled me out of my funk. It was a random, sweet check in that snapped me back into perspective.

And from there I was able to step back and appreciate what just happened! It was a perfect life lesson. I got the opportunity to apply the self-compassion process in real time. So the failed contest became a doorway for insight and even a bit of humor. Which was the best use of an hour I could have asked for.

How to Soften Your Judgement Using Mindful Self-Compassion

I sat down to re-watch the training. As Dr. Brach talked the audience through the process of getting that pain out – recognizing our judgement as masking a more vulnerable feeling, a place of hurt or rejection, I suddenly got it.

I was able to apply the self-compassion process to understand my rush into judgement, which is my go-to stress response. Whether I was critically judging myself or someone else, I realized this auto-reaction was a habit pattern masking something deeper.

When we’re able to be present and notice situations that stress or distress us, we’re able to investigate, what is the pain underneath the our immediate reaction? For me it was jealousy. And as I moved through the process and stayed with the difficult feelings I was able to open up to it. I could accept that I felt something I was embarrassed by, there was shame at the root.

I was able to see that underneath the jealousy was a fear of being invisible, of being irrelevant. As a middle aged woman, I know I’m not alone in this feeling. And I know it’s just a feeling, one that I can choose whether to make true. I also know, it’s human to compare ourselves with others and if we’re not intentional, to feel jealous. It’s not a cause for shame, nor does it make you a bad person.

Now that you’re aware of your thought patterns and what drives them, when those thoughts come up you can recognize them, then let them go.

We’re so often in conditioned mind, where we’ve developed habit patterns that let us avoid doing things that make us feel vulnerable. To see these patterns requires mindful awareness, presence, and intentionality.

Dr. Brach has developed a self-compassion practice around the acronym RAIN, which stands for:

  • Recognize what is happening
  • Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
  • Investigate with interest and care
  • Nurture with self-compassion

Ultimately, as in so many mindfulness practices, self-compassion is about letting go of harmful hidden beliefs. Yet is also requires meeting that painful place with compassion and responding to it in the most nurturing way possible.

When you can let go of past judgement, when you can truly offer yourself and accept compassion, you reach a new state of awareness. You have to be present and self-aware just to do it! When we bring presence and compassion inward we create an embodied presence for ourselves and others. We can extend grace and kindness both inward and out and in the process become that much stronger.

Dr. Brach also acknowledges that when you’re struggling, when you’re been dealing with stress or self-doubt for a long period of time, it’s not easy to be there for yourself. In fact, sometimes even for advanced practitioners, it isn’t possible.

During those times, it’s important to find a bridge to self-compassion. When you’re unable to be there for yourself, find a source outside yourself, whether that’s through a greater energy source, another person, or your religious beliefs. How can you find solace; from who or what, and how would you best be supported?

There is vulnerability in this practice as you allow yourself to ask for help. Some people worry this “let’s them off the hook” or undermines their drive in some way. Yet instead of weakening us, being vulnerable allows us to bring kindness to suffering while building our resolve and resilience in the process. As Dr. Brach puts it “soft front, strong back.”

My personal post-contest nurturing involved reminding myself that my passion for my work is my real driving force, not being popular at Toastmasters. And recognizing that seeing both the lesson and the humor in things, like I did in myself, is another pathway to compassion.

This timely a reminder may not happen when you’re in the thick of your regular response pattern, the one you’re ready to change. When you’re too triggered to reframe or recognize the humor, the best approach is through a breathing practice. Numerous studies confirm the effect of systematic deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing on the nervous system. Diaphragmatic breathing lets you downregulate your stress level and slow down your thoughts, making way for new perspectives.

Learning new thought patterns is a process. The more you practice, the more you’ll begin to change outdated, negative patterns. So start where you’re at. Learning to bring mindfulness and compassion inward lets us create an embodied presence for ourselves and the world.

Make 2021 your year for change! Talk with me today to learn more about my new midlife transformation coaching programs and how to change your life at any age!

A Morning Routine for Reaching Your Goals


7 simple steps to the energy and focus you need to sustain change

Whether you’re changing habits, changing jobs or changing your life for the better, research supports taking an integrated approach to change

Let’s say that for 2021, after months of feeling isolated your goal is finding community by expanding your network to meet other people who are also interested in getting in shape. You think about your goal every time you feel lonely and isolated, but when you’re in that place, the last thing you have the energy to do is reach out to someone new.

Building new habits means trying on new behaviors, which requires mental and emotional energy. You need all systems on board to sustain you when the going gets rough.

Your Morning Routine
How do you start your day?  Do you roll out of bed to find yourself immediately swept into a sea of distractions?  With barely time to down a cup of coffee, you forge forward, dealing with the day as best you can before you run out of steam or the hangries set in.

We tell ourselves we don’t have time for a morning routine. Really we don’t.

Yet starting your morning right, as in positive, organized and energizing, doesn’t need to be time-consuming and will ultimately make you more productive.  Make it a short and sweet must-do to reduce stress,  maximize happiness levels and keep you track with your goals.

A mindful morning routine helps to manage your emotions and get ahead of the reaction curb, which can derail your attempts to prioritize your goals.

Start your day with a proven, 7-step morning routine for reaching your goals;

1. First hour device-free
If your typical routine is to roll out of bed and head straight to your cell phone, try a pattern interrupt. This simple shift puts you in the driver’s seat, as you intentionally decide what and when to address your to-do list, instead of being sucked into reactionary mode by your cell phone.

2. Grab some gratitude
According to Harvard Health, gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Wow!
In the words of the Dalai Lama, “Just on small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day”. So ask yourself first thing, what are you grateful for?

3. Reach for the light
There’s a fundamental relationship between light and energy. As you wake, the light you see signals you visual system to provide the most fundamental level of instruction about when you should be alert.
Adding natural daylight to your routine can be an important signal to your brain to wake up, but most indoor lighting is much dimmer than natural lighting, so as soon as you have the opportunity, take in some daylight, even on overcast days.

4. Just Breathe!
A morning deep breathing routine helps to waken your body by boosting the sympathetic nervous system. Try a seated breathing practice, or try Breath of Joy; a quick energy boosting standing exercise.

Breath of Joy

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, knees slightly bent.

• Inhale one-third of your lung capacity and swing your arms up in front of your body, bringing them parallel to each other at shoulder level, with palms facing the ceiling.

• Continue inhaling to two-thirds capacity and stretch your arms out to the side like wings to shoulder level.

• Inhale to full capacity and swing your arms parallel and over your head, palms facing each other.

• Open your mouth and exhale completely with an audible ha, bending the knees more deeply as you sink into a standing squat and swing your arms down and back behind you like a diver.

Repeat up to nine times: Don’t force or strain the body or breath; simply be absorbed by the peacefully stimulating rhythm. Return to standing. Close your eyes and experience the effects. Notice how quickly your heart beats; feel the sensations in your face and arms, and the tingling in the palms of your hands.

5. Find your focus
Take a moment to think about your day and what you plan to prioritize. Studies suggest that people who have mentally prepared for and thought about the upcoming day—or “reattached” to their goals—are more productive throughout the day.

6. Rethink your drink
So simple! Start with a large glass of water to stabilize blood sugar and energy levels all morning long. Skip the juice, coffee drinks and smoothies. All contain surprisingly high levels of sugar, so whole fruit is a much better energy balancing choice.

And if you wait an hour for your healthy cortisol levels to peak before your first cup of coffee, you’ll get the most of that caffeine boost and maintain your energy levels on through to the afternoon.

7. Pump up the jam!
My favorite! If you use a music streaming service or subscribe to music channels, find a happy station. Or take the time to create your own playlist. It’s an instant energy boost and those favorite tunes will keep playing in your brain long after the music ends.

Try some or all of these quick morning happiness hacks to start on an upswing and carry it through all day long.

Wondering if these tips really work for you? Track your progress! For the next 10 days, schedule a mid-morning check in at the same time each day. Assess your mood and energy levels on a scale of 1-5 and write it down. Compare and contrast to see what works for you. Send me an email, I would love to hear how it goes!

Make 2021 your year for change! Talk with me today to learn more about my new midlife transformation coaching programs and how to change your life at any age!

Living with Toxic People? Here Are 7 Ways to Cope


Have you been homebound these past months with testy teenagers, a difficult spouse or a couple of cranky-in-laws? Instead of using coping strategies, these people wallow in negativity, blame you for their problems or snap at you when all you need is a hug.

With the combined stress of Covid and a holiday season spent in relative captivity, life is hard for a lot of people. The stress is enough to turn any one of us into an anxiety-fueled fighter pilot looking for a target.

In my case, my otherwise typical teenager has been understandably angry. She can’t see her friends, she can’t get her license, she can’t use the new roller skates she got for Christmas since all the rinks are closed. And that’s just the start to her list of well-founded grievances.

As a life coach and yoga teacher, I’ve given her every tool to mitigate stress I know. But at this point, I’m the last person she wants advice from, well maybe second to last. So any suggestion I make results in blame and accusation. In fact, any word I utter tends to get a similar reaction.

This lashing out is a response I’ve come to recognize as driven by chronic stress. Maybe you have a similar family member casting a shadow on every interaction with you. It feels hurtful and unfair. After all, aren’t we all dealing with some version of the same thing?!

The answer is, not really. In order to understand why stress levels among people in similar situations are so different, this article from National Center for Biotechnology Information will help:

A “stressor” is any stimulus or event that evokes a state of “stress” or “anxiety.” A stressor may be a physical or psychological threat to safety, status, or well-being; physical or psychological demands that exceed available resources; an unpredictable change in environment; or an inconsistency between expectations and outcomes.7,19,20 Whether the stressor is pain or non-pain related (eg, work overload, financial troubles, social embarrassment), the perception of uncontrollable or unpredictable environmental demands that exceed coping resources is likely to evoke a physiologic stress response, manifesting as a feeling of uneasiness or impending doom, rumination or worry, and avoidance of stress-provoking stimuli.1,2,7,20 

However, the perception of environmental stimuli as threatening or frightening varies by individual; therefore, the same fear-based stressor that evokes a stress response in one individual may be innocuous to another. Fear of the worst possible outcome (eg, unemployment, bankruptcy) activates this response.

The bottom line is, chronic stress and repeated surges of cortisol can result in cortisol dysfunction. No amount of talk therapy or reasoning can work until those cortisol levels are reduced enough let the anxiety settle down.

In a perfect world, I’d be able to convince my daughter to manage her stress level with a solid sleep routine, deep breathing practices and exercise. These are all proven interventions that are also free and not that hard to do.

In a world not so perfect, this a good time to focus on taking care of yourself. Prioritizing sleep, a daily stress reduction practice and regular exercise routine are not surprisingly top of list. Yet how can you protect yourself from the slew of emotions, often directed at you, which feel so toxic?

  1. Put on your mask first. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself with stress management practices like 20 minutes of deep breathing or meditation each morning, a good night’s sleep and regular exercise so you’re able to manage your response and walk a way when you need to.
  2. Don’t add fuel to the fire. If you’re feeling attacked or triggered, do a fast-acting breathing practice if it helps you to respond calmly. The key is to keep your voice neutral in pitch and speak at a normal pace even if the other person is screaming.
  3. Ask before you tell. Ask them what they need, and listen. Rather than tell them to calm down, or take a deep breath, recognize their state first. For example; “I hear you’re upset, but can you slow down and tell me how I can help?” Sometimes people just need to be heard. If the conversation turns to blame or heightened emotions, request setting a time when they can speak to you respectfully and without accusations.
  4. Set boundaries. Leave the scene if you need to and let the other person know you’ll be back when they can connect from a place of calm. Until then, keep conversations as neutral as possible.
  5. Let go of resentment. If the person is in a state of chronic anxiety, their behavior isn’t entirely within their control, so as hard as it is, tap into empathy and answer with love. If this is different from your typical response pattern with this person, let them know you need to take care of yourself and your own stress levels during this time. It’s hard for all of us!
  6. Forgive yourself. You may feel responsible for your teen’s depression or your spouses financial stress. If only you’d parented differently or saved more money. This may feel like taking responsibility for your actions, the mature thing to do. But holding on to blame creates shame, or anger directed inward. This triggered state limits your ability to think creatively and to objectively assess your options by activating your stress response. Tara Brach’s work on self compassion is a great resource.
  7. Find support in connection. Even in social isolation we can use the phone or Zoom to connect with friends who will listen and understand. If you’re able to get out for a socially distant walk with a friend even better.

2020 has been a long hard year to say the least. The most important thing any of us can do right now is show compassion, both to ourselves and to others. As studies show, our bodies handle stress in different ways, and for some the go-to is toxicity.

As mercilessly as these challenges can stretch us, learning to deal with difficult people will always serve you. It all starts with self-care. Make 2021 your year for change.  Talk with me today to learn more about my new midlife transformation coaching programs and how to change your life at any age!

Maintaining Resilience in Covid Time


Feeling frustrated with plans on hold or overturned? Even in normal time, everything takes so much longer than we expect it to. In this time of Covid, make it a double.

And depending on how you manage this time, waiting it out can make you feel like a failure.

I woke up this rainy Monday morning to a one-two punch. It all happened over email. First I learned I wasn’t going to get my $250 deposit back after having to cancel my family Thanksgiving plans, then I opened the results of my most recent e-newsletter to find 23 unsubscribes.

It was enough to trigger my go-to story of stuckness. “It’s taking so long to build my coaching practice. Maybe I’m just not good enough.”

I felt so defeated as I shared my story with my sister, the one about always losing money and never getting traction on my business. Finally after a few rebalancing practices, I began to put things into perspective.

As we navigate the long, messy middle of change, those emotional triggers will release your story of stuckness. The one where you’re unable to meet your goals or get your needs met. And now more than ever, the changes we’re enduring as a result of Covid suck us in.

Almost every client I work with shares this frustration. It comes in the form of;

Why isn’t my business growing?

Why don’t I have a job yet?

How can my body look no different when I’ve been working my ass off for the past month?

How is everyone else doing so well during this nightmare?

What’s wrong with me?

When you’re triggered by things either going wrong or going nowhere, it’s hard NOT to fall into the story trap. The one that gets your anxiety up.

The problem is, this script ultimately turns the normal time it takes for change to happen into a flaw in your personhood. Remember, everything takes longer than we think it will.

We’re hardwired to react to a triggering event with a fight, flight, freeze stress response, like I did this morning. So it’s from this high anxiety state that we interpret what happened and why. Unfortunately, this all plays out so quickly we have no time to stop that old story of self-blame and stuckness from unfolding like it did for me this morning.

1. Once I used some favorite stress management techniques, I was able to think of a different approach to my challenges. With the stress response de-activated, I could put things in perspective; although I have had some unfortunate short-term rental experiences I don’t frequently lose money. I’ll make sure to be more aware of the fine print next time.

And I’m shifting direction in my coaching and my newsletters to a more whole-person approach to transition. Some people are not interested in that approach, so of course they’ll unsubscribe.

2. I reviewed all the things I have accomplished. I have to remind myself weekly that this new shift takes time, and to remember to reward the effort and build my resilience to stay the course.

Studies show you can manage the release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine when we anticipate a reward, which is how we stay motivated.

Yet in the face of long-term goals, you’re putting in the work but the reward is too out of sight to trigger this response. This is when it burnout happens and you’re tempted to give up entirely.

Fortunately, you can anticipate this challenge and use recognition and positive feedback to reward the process along the way instead of waiting for the outcome. Your goals may be very distant, but you can manage our dopamine levels to stay motivated over the long haul.

If you know it takes an average number of months or weeks to land a new job, drop a dress size, or get your business off the ground, give yourself double that time, not so you’ll slow down your efforts but so you’ll be able to stay the course. Reward your progress along the way by sharing it with others or treating yourself in a way that aligns with your goals.

Now more than ever, we need to build our resilience to stay the course. So use your tools, stay the course and you’ll emerge from this Covid time warp that much closer to your goals.

Physiological Sighs


“Just take a deep breath and calm down!” How many times have you heard this advice? How many times was is helpful? The answer depends on how you were breathing.

When we’re feeling stressed, our body’s autonomic nervous system responds by preparing us for adversity. This is the fight, flight, freeze response you may be familiar with. Before you’re aware of what’s happening, your heartrate has accelerated, and your breath has quickened to deliver more oxygen to your blood.

Alternatively, when an unexpected has triggered the freeze response, you might hold your breath or restrict breathing.

So depending on whether you’re revved up in anxiety or frozen in fear, taking a deep breath may either make you feel more anxious, as in the sped up response, or calmer if you were holding or restricting your breath.

Fortunately, we can control our breathing to manage our autonomic response. When you’re anxious, the physiological breathing technique is the fastest way to calm.

Introduced into the mainstream by Stanford researcher Andrew Huberman, this super simple breathing method has been called the fastest path to stress reduction. Especially helpful because you can do it anywhere!

This practice works to reduce stress by decreasing the CO2 levels in the lungs, bringing the autonomic nervous system (ANS) into balance and downregulating your emotional state.

  • Calms the mind
  • Oxygenates the body
  • Brings your nervous system into balance
  • Creates equilibrium between alertness and relaxation

The Practice

  • Sitting or standing, begin by exhaling fully
  • Eyes open or gently closed, take 2 full inhales through the nose followed by an extended exhale through the mouth, breathing all the air out.
  • Complete 2-3 rounds
  • At the end, drop your hand down, take a big breath in through both nostrils, hold in a few seconds and sigh it out. This is a great time to do a short meditation if you want to make this part of your daily routine.

The Breath

  • Breathe fully into your belly, extending it to create space as the diaphragm lowers, then continue breathing upward into your chest, which begins to expand as your belly moves slightly inward.
  • For each breathing cycle, be sure to take a full breath in and to exhale completely; bringing the maximum volume of oxygen into the lungs.
  • With practice, extend the length of the breath, making the inhalations and exhalations full gentle, slow, and extended.


The neural circuits that control the heart work a little more slowly than those which control the lungs, so the heart rate will take about 40 seconds to come down.

If you find it hard to breathe through the nose due to congested sinuses, you can keep your teeth clenched, open your lips and breathe in through the mouth, followed by a normal exhale.

Alternate Nostril Breathing – Nadi Shodhana


One of my daily, go-to breathing practices both for starting my morning and for calming in the face of stress. Breathing in a calm, rhythmic pattern through one nostril at a time brings your autonomic nervous system (ANS) into balance and downregulates your emotional state. In less than 5 minutes a day, this simple practice:

  • Calms the mind
  • Oxygenates the body
  • Brings your nervous system into balance
  • Creates equilibrium between alertness and relaxation

The Practice

  • Find your comfortable seat, spine straight but not stiff so you’re alert yet relaxed.
  • Gently close your eyes.
  • Exhale fully through both nostrils.
  • Use your thumb to close your right nostril, and your ring finger & pinky finger work as a team to close the left.
  • Inhale slowly and gently in the left nostril for a full inhale.
  • After a full inhalation, close the right nostril with thumb and exhale slowly and gently out of your left nostril.
  • This completes one round: inhale left nostril, exhale right, inhale right, exhale left.
  • Practice 5 to 12 rounds as needed, or for 5-10 minutes as part of your morning practice.
  • At the end, drop your hand down, take a big breath in through both nostrils, hold in a few seconds and sigh it out. This is a great time to do a short meditation if you want to make this part of your daily routine.

The Breath

  • Begin by breathing fully into your belly, which extends to create space as the diaphragm lowers. Then continue breathing into your chest, which begins to expand as your belly moves slightly inward.
  • For each breathing cycle, be sure to take a full breath in and to exhale completely; bringing the maximum volume of oxygen into the lungs.
  • With practice, extend the length of the breath, making the inhalations and exhalations full gentle, slow, and extended.


  • Tradition methods suggest using the right hand even if you are left-handed, but either is okay.
  • Practice begins and ends with the left nostril.
  • While doing the practice, keep your elbow slightly out to the side to give yourself plenty of space.
  • If either nostril is clogged, you can relieve blockage by lying down on the opposite side.
  • If you find it hard to breathe through the nose due to congested sinuses, you can keep your teeth clenched, open your lips and breathe in through the mouth, followed by a normal exhale.

Finding an Upside to Post-Election Anxiety


In the spirit of coping with post-election anxiety I’ll share what I learned in 2004. I strongly disagreed with environmental policies of the Bush Administration and was devastated that Gore’s promise of a greener future hadn’t materialized.  So, in 2004 I poured my heart and soul into campaigning for the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, based on his environmental platform.

I was joined by a small team of people committed to the same political goals. The 8 of us spent most weekends selling raffle tickets to raise money for my Committee to Defeat George Bush initiative. We raised thousands of dollars, and then as a grand finale, held an art auction gala.

I was 6 months pregnant on the night of the big event, and excited to donate the more than $13,000 we’d raised to our candidate. And then election night came and we gathered to watch as the results rolled in. We were devastated.

After election night, I decided to pick myself up and redirect my energy. That money could have had a much bigger impact had we donated to an environmental non-profit directly. We were successful in raising the funds, why not just change our strategy and keep the momentum going?

I was excited to share my brilliant insight with the team. However, among the few people who answered my calls, one woman shared that her dad, who had been part of the team, had to go on Prozac to cope with the disappointment.

So in the end, the impact it had on this terrific group of caring people distressed me more than the election results. And it dawned on me that we were fighting the wrong battle.

Of course, in hindsight, the contentious (for then) 2004 election was a walk in the park compared to now. Which on the surface sounds bleak for our future. Fortunately, when we look back through history, we can see that change is never linear. In fact, some thought leaders and historians view this point as pendulum turnaround time.

In their new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett argue that, though the U.S. suffered a similar confluence of political, economic, cultural, and social upheaval in the past, Americans were able to come together and organize to create change. And, these authors believe, we can do it again.

This article is a must-read for understanding our current national turmoil in the big-picture context and helping to stay our course, regardless of the uncertainty surrounding us.

The uncertainties and upheavals of 2020, the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, the very real awakening to the inequities of racial-social-economic injustice, the threat of catastrophic climate change, and the divisiveness in the fabric of American society, certainly challenge us all in understanding our place in our rapidly shifting world.

Yet the takeaway from my 2004 election lesson is that we can’t count on a broken political system to right these wrongs. Pouring countless hours and dollars into a political race is ultimately diluting your ability to make a real difference. It’s the causes themselves that need you. Advocacy groups like Green America offer opportunities to make a real difference to the issues that matter to you.

To be sure, this week will continue to challenge us, regardless of our political leanings. These practices to strengthen resilience will help you to weather the storm.

The reality is, in the days, weeks and probably years following the election life will go on mostly as usual. Both candidates have held the seat before. Our friends and relatives with opposing political opinions will hopefully remain our friends and relatives.

And we have the opportunity to, in the words of Margaret Mead, “be the change you want to see in the world”. Meaning we don’t have to take on the whole world in order to make a difference.

Breath to the Rescue, a 3-part strategy for finding calm in the midst of crisis


Several months ago, I wrote an article highlighting the morning meditation practice I’d established with my teenage daughter. It was a healthy way to reconnect and find calm amid uncertainty, as I shared in my post. 

New here we are just a few months later, my daughter’s half of the meditation practice long abandoned, and mom feeling silly for spreading fake news. Because as we all know, these days nothing is set in stone. Now as I look back, it’s also a good reminder that in these shaky times, the boat can flip at any moment. 

My latest boat flip was a doozy. It was a classic mother daughter clash ending with both of us in tears. Heavy sigh, followed by a long talk and big hugs. Back to square one.

Fortunately, as luck would have it, this was also the weekend I began my yoga teacher training. My enrollment was a last-minute decision based more on opportunity than career goals, but I took it. 

I embarked on the first of 8 weekend sessions beginning on Friday morning at 6:30 am and ending on Sunday evening at 5pm. I love yoga and have signed up for enough similarly scheduled weekend retreats to know what to expect.

But this time, instead of concentrating on yoga poses, we focused on what I came to know as the most powerful practice of all. The breath.

The schedule allocated 25 hours from Friday morning through Sunday evening for breathing practices. 

Find your seat

As someone who hates sitting still for too long, in the beginning I felt some serious resistance. “Do I really want to do this” I asked myself more and more frequently as the expectation became clearer. No poses, lots of sitting and breathing. How would I make it through?

Finally, I committed to staying with it, even when it felt hard, and do what I could, no promises, no pressure. I created a space where I could sit comfortably, in private, uninterrupted by my phone (this is key!)  To my surprise as the weekend progressed, I became increasingly committed. With the world on fire around me, I found a space to quiet my mind.

Quiet your mind

A quiet mind creates space to focus our awareness on the present. Away from whatever I wish was or wasn’t happening, which I couldn’t control. Thoughts that only makes me anxious.

According to happiness expert Dr. Christine Carter. The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty; it’s presence. Instead of imagining a scary and unknown future, we can bring our attention to our breath. From there, we can check in with ourselves.

Who knew this most accessible of practices could be so transforming? 

Maybe this sound woowoo to you – I could have just as easily checked out to Grey’s Anatomy reruns and made it through the smokey weekend entertained and equally unscathed. But here’s the difference. 

After the training session ended, when I woke up to another day of smoke choking out sunshine, I saw the option to make a choice. I could either get discouraged and shut down, or I could, despite the sucky circumstances, show up for myself. 

Breathe into calm

I chose to show up. Starting with breath work and meditation. And from there I kept going. I made a commitment to myself that I would practice every single day, even if I only have 10 minutes, even if I don’t feel like it. No matter how imperfectly, I would continue to show up.  

It’s hard to quantify the benefits this practice delivers. It gives me the focus and energy to stay on my game through numerous coaching calls and meetings, manage the kids and their friends and the dog and make dinner and do all the things we need to do to stay sane right now, because I set my course for the day with 20 minutes first thing in the morning.

It’s no instant fix, you won’t see results overnight. Instead it’s an investment. Training your brain to stay calm in the midst of uncertainty, including potentially threatening circumstances is like weight training.  Over time your capacity gets stronger. And a calm mind always outperforms an anxious one. 

There is so much turmoil in our world right now it’s almost impossible to avoid the ups and downs. But when stress and anxiety are high, deep breathing and meditation invite you to focus on the present moment. Learning to use the breath to regulate your emotions is a coping skill you can tap into whenever you need to find clarity in the face of uncertainty, one deep breath at a time. 

Are you ready to explore your options for changing your life for the better?  Contact me to schedule a free 20-minute breakthrough session today! 

Berry Blossom Protein Smoothie


Serves 1
Preparation time: 5 minutes

If you’re looking for a mid-morning protein boost, this rich blend of berries and botanicals will do the trick.

Whip it up in a blender in 5 minutes or less, include ½ cup of ice and frozen berries for an extra thick and chilly treat. If you like a bit of green, a cup of raw spinach or kale adds extra fiber and nutrients without changing the flavor. At ½ the sugar of most fruit smoothies, this antioxidant-rich drink weighs in at about 200 calories, yet the protein and fiber keep you satisfied long after the shake is gone.

• 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or silken tofu.
• ½ banana
• ½ cup raspberries, blackberries or blueberries, fresh or frozen
• 3/4 cup brewed Berry Blossom tea (room temperature or cooler)
• Stevia to taste
• ½ cup ice (optional)
• 1 cup raw spinach or kale (optional)

Combine all ingredients in your blender, puree on high for 2 minutes, serve immediately and enjoy!

How to Tap into the Simple Joy of Tea


A daily loose-leaf tea habit keeps you healthy-hydrated with loads of wellness benefits: tea contains antioxidants, has been shown to strengthen your immune system, may help with weight loss, and soothes the digestive system. 

A cup of tea is associated with ceremony, positive energy and relaxation.  It’s inexpensive and delicious, a low calorie treat to enjoy hot or iced.  So why don’t more of us drink it? 

Years’ worth of conversations over 100’s of chai samples shared with passers-by wherever Tonic & Bloom was vending taught me a lot about the way most people think of tea.  People love the taste of it, they love the idea of it, but they haven’t made it a habit because they find the brewing process…cumbersome.

Sharing samples of anything during a pandemic is clearly off the table, but something else has changed relative to those bygone sampling days as well.  As a nation, we’ve been forced to slow down.  It’s hard to point out the positive without sounded naïve, there is no dismissing the harsh reality.  Yet where we can we, in spite of the chaos, create some space for new beginnings?

One of the most effective ways of changing unhelpful thought and belief patterns is through a daily mindfulness practice.

The simple act of making a cup of tea presents the perfect opportunity to create a mindful moment.  It’s a multi-sensory experience that requires a small amount of effort to prepare; the perfect opportunity to create a ritual, or reflective routine to embark on your day.  

People have harnessed the power of ritual, or reflective routine, to add meaning and intention to their lives since ancient times.

Ritual, or reflective routine, requires you to pay attention to the present moment.  It’s a time to listen to your inner voice, to reconnect with your values.  From there you can start the day from a place of intention, less likely to be swept away by worries and distractions. 

Study after study shows the benefit of incorporating mindful practices into your daily routine.  This time of forced slow down is also an opportunity to let go of negative thought patterns and reconnect with your inner voice.

If you’re a tea lover, or even liker, a morning tea ritual lets you tap into the simple joy of tea and set the course for your day with meaning and purpose.    


  • Create your space

This could be any space, but dedicating it to the experience is essential.  Find a space that’s private and at least temporarily free from distractions.  Clear any clutter, turn off your phone.  If you enjoy background music, include it!  If you like to journal, be sure to have a notebook and pen handy to write down your reflections, gratitude list or an intention for your day. 

  • Find your Focus 

Remember, everything should be done with attention and intention.  Decide to focus on the present throughout your tea drinking meditation, clearing your mind, focusing on your breath and returning to the present whenever a distracting thought or worry seeps through.

Pay attention to your breath.  Practice diaphragmatic breathing; very deep breathing during which the belly expands as opposed to the chest.  Breathe through your nose if possible, in long counts of 5.

  • Brew your Tea

Choose high quality loose leaf tea that you enjoy drinking and cold, filtered water, if available.   

Find a mug that has meaning for you.  Boil your water on the stove or in a tea kettle.  Add 1/2-1 tablespoon of tea into an infuser or tea filter; place in your mug and add boiling water.  Let steep for 2-3 minutes per cup.  Add a touch of stevia or honey if you like a sweeter brew, and plant or dairy milk to taste if you prefer a latte.

Don’t rush the process. When you find yourself getting impatient while waiting for the boiling or brewing, return to the present and focus on your breath, the aroma of the tea, the quiet calming space.

  • Set your intention. 

This is your time – instead of rolling your eyes because your tea is still too hot to drink, use this time to set your intention.  Is there something you need to let go of?  A story you’re telling yourself that’s no longer serving you?  Is there something you need to step in to?  A new identity you’re hesitant to claim?

Decide, set your mind, make a commitment to harness this day to get one step closer to the outcome you’re seeking. 

  • Drink your tea. 

Finally, right?  The moment you’ve been waiting for, so savor it.  How many subtle scents and tastes can you notice? The tea has a lot to offer. Steep in this awareness and let the pleasure of the moment both fill you and ground you at the same time. 

  • Appreciate the journey

Consciously recognize your part and the external pieces at play to creating this simple time of joy and connection, which would not be possible without EACH of the other steps you took.  

If you have a journal handy, you may want to write down what you’re grateful for.  Like my teacher Kelly Blaser always says, “Gratitude to the self for the willingness”.  You may want to capture any reflections that come up, or write down your intention for your day.

When you’re ready to complete your meditation, return to your breath and ground yourself in this moment. Use this experience as a touchstone to embark on the rest of your day with joy, intention and purpose.

Learn more about the benefits of high quality, hand-crafted tea at!

7 Career Goal Confidence Hacks


Experts know, the biggest key to building confidence is taking action!  Yet it’s a chicken and egg problem, if you’re not feeling confident, it’s hard to put yourself out there.

We all know how important networking is to landing your next career opportunity.  That said, I frequently work with people who aren’t ready to dive right in.  For most people, these high-stakes strategies take some building up to.

As a natural introvert with my own share of self-confidence struggles, I get it.  For most of my life I stayed hidden from the spotlight, letting my fear of judgement hold me back.  Yet a few years ago I reached a point in my career when I knew public speaking would take my work to the next level.  While I knew it was the right direction, the idea was too daunting to jump into straight away.

As much as I cringed at the very thought of it, I started attending my local Toastmasters meetings.  After hiding in the back row for at least a month, I began pushing myself to participate weekly in some low-risk way.  I would volunteer for the task that required the least visibility, and even that felt scary.

Eventually I worked up the courage to complete a year-long Toastmasters certification program, a challenge that occasionally reduced me to tears, but I kept moving forward one baby-step at a time.  Finally, after some dedicated practice, I now enjoy speaking in front of an audience, having found the confidence to own my voice.  This complete turnaround is not only possible, it’s predictable, and it’s now a regular part of my coaching practice.

Studies show taking action builds confidence, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone with a regular diet of low risks is the sure path to reaching your potential!  So instead of pitching yourself against a prospect too daunting to deal with, try adding low risk action item(s), or confidence hacks, to your calendar on a weekly basis until you feel ready to step up to meet your challenges with the confidence you need to succeed.

Ready to move forward on the path to your career goals? Build Your Brand with these 7 Career Goal Confidence Hacks

  • Set up a LinkedIn account if you don’t already have one. Click here to download your LinkedIn Basics Worksheet
  • Send a LinkedIn connection request to someone in your industry you haven’t yet met.
  • Share an article on an online professional networking platform, like an industry specific blog or LinkedIn group.
  • Update your resume or online professional profile to highlight a success or accomplishment
  • Ask for an introduction to someone in an organization or industry you’d like to know more about
  • Attend an industry-specific workshop and meet at least one new person
  • Ask a former colleague out for coffee and get caught up on industry news

I know firsthand this isn’t easy but venturing outside of your comfort zone is where the growth happens.

It’s a new mindset, requiring planning and practice.  Yet applying this process is well worth the effort; developing self-confidence is a critical key to reaching your potential!

About the Author

NextCareer Coaching founder Elizabeth Borelli is a professionally trained Career Coach, curriculum developer and workshop facilitator. Frustrated by a lack of resources for candidates ready to return to work after a career break, she created CareerBuilders Bootcamps; a set of interactive, online courses to accelerate job search success.

Engaging, online courses combined with one-to-one coaching calls prepare job seekers to find the right new career opportunities, helping them to stay positive and engaged throughout the process.

Are you considering returning to work in 2019, but not sure you’re ready? Take the quiz!

No Mud, No Lotus; 3 Simple Morning Habits to Optimize Your Day


As a busy mom on the brink of menopause and more pointedly, a member of modern civilization, I sometimes get stressed.  And I’m not alone.  Ask anyone you meet how they’re doing and chances are the word “busy” will pop up at least once throughout the conversation, usually within the first 3 sentences.

We live in a caffeinated society, and the pace can sometimes feel overwhelming.  Studies show that more than 40% of adults report chronic insomnia brought about by daily life stress.  Sleep is a huge health predictor, and when you don’t get enough of it, it’s harder to deal with those everyday stressors, which carry over into nighttime when they keep you lying awake yet again.

Eventually you may find yourself caught in a self-defeating cycle that if left unchecked, can result in depression and anxiety.  And while there are sleep aids, both natural and pharmaceutical, to help us manage insomnia,but studies have shown prevention is both more effective and side-effect free.

So then, how do you get through the day without letting stress set your neuroendocrine system all a-flutter?   Of course we’re all maxed out time-wise, and adding more work to you list may seem counterintuitive,  but luckily effective doesn’t have to mean time-consuming.

I invite you to try starting your day off right with these 3 simple habits designed to help keep you even-keeled throughout the day, no matter what life may spring on you.

1. Meditate.  As little as 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference.  And meditation is a surprisingly simple practice.  Find an online resource, or follow these basic steps to get started

  • Create your special space.  Find a peaceful spot, anywhere you can enjoy a few minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time.  Set up a blanket or cushion if you need it.
  • Set a timer so you can focus on your breath without checking the clock
  • Sit up straight and comfortably.  Legs crossed is the classic pose, but worry more about keeping your spine aligned and well-supported, so if you need to lean again something, feel free.  The goal is to be relaxed and alert.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath
  • Practice taking deep, 4-5 count breathes through your nose, allowing your lungs to fully expand, then completely empty with each round
  • Focus your attention on your breath, and practice putting aside all the other thoughts that bombard your brain.
  • When your mind wanders, return it to the breath, unfazed.  This is the practice, which when practiced daily, will help you to feel calmer, less reactive and more in control of your emotional self.

2. Enjoy a healthy breakfast.  It can be challenging to rethink our standard notions of cereal and milk, bacon and eggs or nothing but coffee for breakfast, but I invite you to give it a try.  The first meal of the day can set the tone for how the rest of it unfolds.  By setting yourself up with a high-fiber, nutrient-rich and satisfying start, you focus your day in a healthy direction from the get-go.

Leave your notions of time constraints aside for a moment as you envision yourself enjoying hearty fruit and nut oatmeal, Chia Breakfast Pudding or a supercharged smoothie all can be prepped the night before to whip together the next morning in under ten!

3.  Practice gratitude. This simple practice is so powerful, you’ll begin to experience benefits such as increased awareness, a heightened sense of appreciation and focus on the positive soon after starting.  How to do it?

  • Pick up a notebook, plain or fancy doesn’t matter, and create a Gratitude Journal.
  • Take a moment each morning to set an intention to notice moments of gratitude throughout your day.
  • On Friday morning, simply write down five things you experienced in the past week for which you’re grateful.
  • For more tips on gratitude journaling, check out this article on Greater Good.

These little tricks take under 30 minutes combined.  I suggest you try all three, even if it means waking up 30 minutes earlier, as I initially forced myself to do.  Unpleasant as that sounds, I promise you that after a week or so, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.  In the words of modern day philosopher Thich Nat Hahn, “no mud, no lotus”.

I hope you won’t wait one day longer to prioritize your health and begin moving closer toward living your best life, starting today!

Happier this Holiday; 4 Simple Tips


With holidays in full swing, it’s hard to ignore the hailstorm of glittery magazine ads, TV commercials and gift lists.  So it’s barely surprising that this time meant for focus on family, appreciation and sharing tends to turn into a combination stressfest spending spree.

Fortunately, it’s easy to try a different kind of holiday this year, one that involves less over-commitment, guilt and anxiety.  When you focus on giving your attention and intention to the ones you love, including yourself, less stress and more time to enjoy life will naturally follow.

Here are four simple steps toward a less stressful holiday season, no inebriates required:

  1. Make your happiness a priority!

Over commitment is one of the major causes of stress and stress leads to unhappiness.  It’s okay to set limits for yourself and uphold them, which sometimes means having to say no.  As explained in The Happiness Project:  One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

  1. Presence over perfection.

We’re so bombarded with media images at this time of year, all designed by the best minds in the business to make us feel the need to achieve a certain level of perfection.  Decide what is important for your family and make that the center of your celebration.  When we make a conscious decision to appreciate what’s most important, a lot of the little things that otherwise stress us out become less noticeable.

  1. Meditate, even for a few minutes.

Research shows that meditation, even just ten minutes a day, is one of the most reliable ways to increase our natural tendency toward happiness.  And don’t worry about being good at it  Because even if you are terrible at meditating and your mind races and you struggle to sit still, those few minutes are still beneficial in improving physical, mental and emotional well-being.

  1. Skip the super-size….on everything!

Shop less.  You’ll have more time, extra money and create less waste.  We’re so programmed to believe we have to meet some set of expectations that may not even be accurately understood, we often unnecessarily overdo it.  Communicate with people you’re exchanging gifts with and see if down-sizing is an option.  Or if not, get creative.  Coupons for activities together (your treat), resale gifts or even home-made items make meaningful, less expensive gifts.   There are many ways to reduce spending and save time over the holidays, reducing your consumption is one of them.

So consider adopting even one of these habits this holiday season and see how it goes!  (and of course if you shop local and buy organic, all the merrier!)   However you do it, be present, stay calm and enjoy your holidays!

Byron Katie on Making your Goals a Reality


When it comes to things like health, happiness and productivity, we tend to habitually undermine our efforts without even realizing it!

Ask any busy person why they aren’t living their best life; exercising as much as they’d like to, staying in touch with friends, or getting enough sleep and you’ll get the same answer; “I don’t have time”.

We make that declaration without even cross-examining it.

Enter bestselling author and thought leader Byron Katie, who recently addressed a crowd of thousands in San Francisco at Wisdom2.0. Katie’s process, which I first encountered 5 years earlier, is as rock-solid logical as I remember.  It’s amazing to watch a change agent insightful enough to turn disempowering reasoning on its head with one simple sentence; “is that true”?

Plot spoiler; it almost never is.  Katie excels at talking volunteer audience members through what they perceive as their fixed reality, and opens their eyes to new options.  This simple technique is so highly effective I invite you to look at your own “I don’t have time” reality, and see if you can find some room to reprioritize your well-being.

And if you’re still convinced you simply can’t splurge on self-care, you’ll be relieved to know that daily health habits like good nutrition, adequate rest, exercise and meditation actually boost productivity, so don’t worry, you’ll make up for it.

Fortunately basic self-care habits don’t need to be time-consuming. Have you been putting off committing to a regular exercise practice because you don’t have the 90 minutes in your day to devote to a spin class?  Or waiting until your calendar is clear of pending social engagements to being a healthy eating plan?  Is it because you don’t have time?

If the answer is anything other than no, consider the words of Byron Katie, is that true?

Here are 3 simple ways to begin making your goals a reality, starting today!

  1. Think Big, Start Small. Your 5-year vision may place you in a stimulating work environment, a great relationship, a size 5 jean or a regular workout routine, but no matter how big the goal, your first step needs to be a small one.

For example, start with:

  • 10 extra minutes per day of work-related reading
  • Schedule a regular weekly date night
  • One push up per day (there’s an entire book based upon this one)
  • Swapping sugar-sweetened beverage for stevia-sweetened tea

The idea is to choose one simple, sustainable step toward developing a new habit and then integrate it into your sub-conscious routine.  This could take weeks or months, it’s different for everyone, but once it’s ingrained, that’s when you just do it – no willpower required.

From there, you can layer another small step as you move closer to your long-term vision.  And each step, as in any change of motion, becomes successfully easier.  You can do this!

  1. Pre commit, which means set yourself up for success by streamlining your environment for a win. One major barrier to getting started is the procrastination trap.  Your subconscious mind will find any excuse to avoid taking that first step to new habit formation, so remove any obstacles to success or anything that might test your willpower and just get started.

Here are some tips you can use to overcome the motivation trap and set yourself up for success:

  • Schedule your new habit in advance
  • If payment is involved, pay in advance
  • Enlist a reliable friend to join you
  • Join a group
  • Remove or hide any temptations or diversions
  • Keep the choices you want to make the most accessible
  1. Set yourself up for success. Another big barrier to new habit development is keeping your goal top of mind.  Unless we use cues in our everyday environment to remind us, chances are we’ll forget about our goal so often that eventually we just give up altogether.  One effective strategy is to create cues that work for you.

For example, say your regular routine when you come home from work is to drop your keys on the counter and head for the fridge.  Place a cue, like a reminder note in the entryway, put your workout duds near the door, and turn that snack break into a 15 minute walk around the block before you have time to talk yourself of it.

Here are some simple reminder suggestions to keep you on track:

  • Plan ahead the night before
  • Use your cell phone or mobile device to remind you to remember your new habit
  • Post notes in places where you can’t miss seeing them
  • Keep your gear or accessories highly accessible

Change takes commitment, and yes work too; but if you’re not working toward your goals, you’re working against them, so take the time and make the commitment to prioritize you, starting today!

More on Byron Katie and the work at

More on Elizabeth Borelli, and returning to work after a career break:

Insomnia SOS, An 8 Step Action Plan


Several summers ago just after turning 50, I hit bout of insomnia that can only be explained by a combination of heat and hormones. After 5 torturous nights I began to see sleep-deprivation for the sanity-testing problem it can become.

Before this my sleep plan was simple; keep a regular schedule, no caffeine after noon, unplug at least an hour before bed. I had recently even adjusted my regular sleep schedule so I was getting up earlier and getting more done, which was nice. Looking back, I suppose I was feeling pretty smug.

Suddenly smug no more, I found myself reduced to tears at 3 am after a week of sleep deprivation.

It was the same every night; falling asleep, no problem. Staying asleep? Bloody hell. I tried all my usual tricks and practiced the deep breathing techniques that typically work. Nothing.

I take my slumber very seriously, and given the studies associating lack of sleep with all kinds of unpleasantness, from weight gain to depression, I was determined to resolve this, fast.

I found an article written by Dr. Shelby Freedman Harris, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at a highly accredited medical center in New York. Since reliability on these matters can vary and there are dozens of suggestions for cures, I thought Dr. Harris’ advice was both succinct enough to manage and safe enough to trust.  Steps 1-5 of the Action Plan below are based on her suggestions, and I added a few more culled from various sources to incorporate the additional measures that in combination delivered results.

Insomnia SOS, An 8 Step Action Plan featuring 8 proven practices for falling and staying asleep:

1. Dim your lights an hour before bed time to start winding down, but not so dim you can’t read. A good magazine is an easy-reading treat if you don’t have a good novel.

2. Avoid looking at anything with a screen. This includes phone and TV. This is the most challenging suggestion for me, since I like to watch videos to relax before bed, which clearly was not the right strategy.

3. Practice a body-scan meditation right before bed to help you to relax. Here is a link to a good one:

4. Then try these simple breathing exercises to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

5. If that’s not working, try getting out of bed and repeating the body-can meditation again. As counterintuitive as it sounds, Dr. Harris recommends staying in your seated meditation until you’re sleepy.

These exercises did help somewhat. But again I found myself up for close to 2 hours over the course of the night.

I knew needed to step it up so I did some more research.

6. Light therapy It turns out that just by looking into the morning sunlight (or in Oregon, the morning cloud cover) within an hour of waking up triggers the production of the stress hormone cortisol. If you’re able to get out for a morning walk for 30-45 minutes, you’re capitalizing on two sleep practices; light therapy and exercise.  If you’re stuck indoors much of the time, letting the sunlight in or using a light therapy lamp during the day also helps.

These strategies helped me tremendously, as did the following tip:

7. Take a hot shower or bath right before bed.  Health News Research suggests a warm bath or shower an hour or two before bedtime can help you unwind and fall asleep faster. Why? It will help lower your core temperature, and that’s a circadian sleep signal.

I also recognized another possibility right there in front of me; supplements. I’ve read both positive and negative reviews about the efficacy of sleep supplements, so I thought I’d better review the options. It was hard to find valid research concluding that herbal sleep remedies really work. In fact according to an expert on Harvard Health Publications, the studies are actually inconclusive:

8. Valerian root “Some studies suggest that valerian is mildly sedating and can help people fall asleep and improve their sleep quality. But the evidence is mixed. An analysis of multiple studies of valerian’s effect on sleep published in 2010 concluded that people fell asleep only about a minute sooner than with a sugar pill.”

L-Theanine and the other commonly recommended natural remedies fared no better in terms of scientific evidence.

Regardless, I had to give it a fair shake and I purchased a bottle of valerian tablets right away. As I’m posting this, I’ve had 2 successful nights of sound sleep for which I credit my combination of relaxation techniques, including the morning light exposure, light therapy, and a valerian root supplement. Sometimes it takes a village.

I’m cautiously optimistic, but just to be on the safe side I’ve also gone 100% decaf. I can thank this little experience for teaching me to work a good night’s sleep into my daily routine, because now I know first-hand, few things are as important to happiness and well-being.

This medically reviewed article provides more information on light therapy. Highly recommended!

Feeling Discouraged? Try these 3 techniques to stay on track with your goals


Recently I was reminded of just how difficult the change process can be.  Ten years ago, I struggled relentlessly with healthy eating and body image.  After devoting the last decade to understanding good nutrition and healthy eating habits, my set of challenges has changed.  My passion for developing effective methods for using this information to help others presents a new set of struggles, and the emotions invoked can be just as painful.

Working toward a goal, whether it’s changing your eating habits, maintaining an exercise program or improving your skillset is always a challenge.  In the age of the iPhone, we tend to live in instant gratification mode.  This is why it’s easy to believe that the short-cut solution to achieving your dreams is out there – you just need to find the right one.

Newsflash, when it comes to changing habits for the long-term, there is no such thing as instant success.  Change is both a process and a struggle, but it’s not one we need to go alone. .As I face the challenges of growing a business, feelings of failure and gnawing self-doubt are inevitable. Unpleasant as they may be, they’re part of the process.  It’s tempting to look at other people who have achieved the goals you’re striving toward with something akin to envy as you wonder how they got so lucky.

Yet what we don’t see when we look longingly at the lives of successful people, is the blood, sweat and tears they put out to meet their goals just like you are.  The difference lies not in your ability, but your willingness to work through the hard times and keep moving forward.

So when the going gets tough, temptation is great and you just feel like giving up altogether, how do you get through the rough spots and stay the course?

Here are 3 techniques for staying on track with your goals:

1. Set a daily intention.  Do you have a wakeup ritual, or a short morning practice you do each day?  It’s a key strategy for super-stars from Tony Robbins to Marie Forleo.  This can take as little as 5 minutes of simply checking in with yourself and envisioning your goal for the day.  This simple practice reminds us to take one day at a time, and stay on track with our intention, even if it’s just for today.

2. Out of sight, out of mind.  If you’re regularly tempted by anything that threatens to stand between you and your goal, it’s time to restructure.

  • Don’t have anything in your fridge or cabinets you don’t want to eat, and if your living situation renders that impossible, at least place tempting foods and drinks out of plain view and swap in some healthier alternatives..
  • If driving by a favorite treat spot is too tempting, find another route.
  • Set up your environment so distractions like the TV, computer or other time-consuming activities are less visible, replaced by the goods that support your new habits – running shoes, meditation cushions, your gratitude journal.  We’re always being triggered by our environment; put your cues to work for you!

3. Find your tribe.   In their bestselling guide to forming new habits, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, the authors stress the importance of finding friends vs. accomplices.  Accomplices are those acquaintances that enabled your old habits, whether as participants or encouragers.  Friends are the people who will encourage you to reach your goals.  So even if  you need to join a support group or change who you spend your time with, ultimately this can make or break your success.

Remember, your goals are worth fighting for, and while forming healthy habits is a process and a challenge, when you change your life for the better, you’ll know it was worth every step.

Grilled Summer Stone Fruit Salad


If the title intrigued you enough to read on, I hope to inspire you enough to get your hands on all the summer stone fruit you can find, and grill it.  In short, its practically impossible to overstate the culinary merits of grilling peaches, plums and nectarines when they’re fresh and abundant.

Whether tossed into a savory salad with arugula and walnuts or added to a warm dish of couscous and feta, there are too many options to list.  Serve them warm, serve them cold, pair with veggies; cooked or raw; eat with cheeses, vegan or dairy; mix with grains, whole or baked, or simply enjoy them warm off the grill (possibly atop a frozen treat).

The simple act of grilling thick juicy slices of fruit imparts a subtle smokiness as it caramelizes the natural sugar and intensifies the flavor, no marinating required.

Here are some suggestions for fruit grilling success:

  • When choosing fruit, go for firm before soft, as in not rock hard, but solid enough to hold their shape in the face of a gentle squeeze.
  • Be sure to give your grill a good scrape before you use it to avoid any residue from foods past.
  • Grill on low to medium heat (by grill standards, of course), charring is not encouraged, light grill marks just right.
  • If you’re not all that grill-savvy, try a grill pan on the stove for a next-best alternative.

Now, for a simple serving suggestion, try this delicious recipe, or make up one of your own!

Grilled Summer Stone Fruit Salad


  • 2-3 large or 4-6 small peaches, nectarines, plums or apricots
  • 4 cups arugula leaves
  • 6-8 green onions
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, chopped
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon juice ( a teaspoon or so)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Turn your (clean) grill to medium heat, and swipe is with a hint of coconut oil to prevent sticking. Sprinkle the green onions with lemon juice and salt. Once the grill is heated to temperature, place the onions on the least hot part and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes on each side (I know they’re round, so assuming 2 sides total). Remove and set aside. Cut stone fruit in half and remove the pit, then slice it into 1” thick round pieces.

Add to the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes each side until you see grill marks, then remove and set aside.

Add the arugula to a large bowl, leaves can stay whole if small, or cut/tear into bite-sized pieces if not. When onions and fruit are cool enough to handle, chop the onions into ¼” rounds and add to arugula. Chop fruit into 1” chunks and add to the salad.

Add remaining ingredients and toss to mix.  Serve right away.

How to Make Friends with Stress, 4 Simple Tips


In today’s busy reality, pressure and stress have become the new normal.   It seems the more energy or effort required of us, the more stressful our lives become.  All of which sounds rather depressing, or at very least more bad than good.

But upon closer examination, how accurate is that assumption?  Research actually shows the opposite is true.  It turns out that challenging or difficult situations actually have a positive relationship to stress.

All of which makes perfect sense when you reframe things slightly.  One popular example is the fact that regular exercise releases endorphins that cause us to feel good.

But even seemingly high pressure situations like preparing for a big presentation, exam or event can be healthy.  Stress and energy are undeniably intertwined, but by channeling the healthy aspects of stress you can boost energy in a positive way.

Here are 4 easy ways to put that stress to work for you.

1.  Breathe You’re probably familiar with the connection between the breath and stress reduction. As it turns out, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to affect the brain, the heart, digestion and the immune system.

New to deep breathing practices?  Try this simple technique known as Equal Breathing.   Start by inhaling for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four.  Breathe through your nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath.

Stay with it for at least 6 cycles, breathing in and out with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress.

2.  Pause  Taking intentional time out of a hectic project or during a transition time and stopping for 2 minutes to reconnect with breath helps us to stay present so we can focus on the task at hand.  Boost your focus muscle, which will help to keep you grounded and present.

The habit of taking a step back whenever you have the downtime will help you to be able to stay present and reduce your reliance on mindless behaviors that might not be the healthier ones.

3.  Move  Of course all exercise is a bonus, but even a 10 minute walk can clear your head and boost your endorphins (AKA happiness hormones).  If you have a chance to walk in a scenic outdoor environment, all the better for improving your mood.

4.  Organize and prioritize  Often in our busy lives we keeping piling on tasks to an overflowing list, without stopping to consider how important it really is to complete each and every one of them immediately.

Take the time to re-evaluate and prioritize the truly pressing items.  Reschedule those that aren’t time critical so they’re not looming over you adding additional pressure unnecessarily.

When life demands more than we really want to give it, it’s important to realize these challenges don’t need to drain or weaken us.  We can actually use this impetus to create a result that is not only better for dealing with stressors, but also healthier for us long-term.


Protein-Packed Quinoa Salad


Serves 4-6

Protein: 8.5 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked

Quinoa looks a lot like couscous, but its way more nutritious, containing 8 grams of protein per cup, including all nine essential amino acids.  Full of fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese, quinoa is a terrific substitute for rice.

Lentils are an amazing source of protein as well, with 9 grams of per half cup, along with nearly 15 grams of fiber, they’re both versatile and delicious.

Highly flavorful and super-healthy, Protein-Packed Quinoa Salad takes center stage when served over mixed greens as a main course.


  • 1 cup black lentils (or use green and add 10 minutes to the initial simmer time)
  • 1 cup quinoa (any color)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 small red onion (skin removed) chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2-4 cups of cabbage or your favorite winter greens, chopped
  • ½ – 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • Top with tempeh or tofu for extra protein (optional)


Add lentils and water to a large saucepan and bring water to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then add quinoa and again bring to simmering, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, if the water fully absorbs before then, add an additional ¼ cup and finish cooking.

Toss in onion, fennel and cabbage or greens, cover and cook at lowest possible temperature for 5 more minutes, stirring half way through and adding more water if needed (to prevent browning).

Remove from burner and let sit covered for 5 minutes longer, then add salsa and salt to taste.  Serve warm or chilled.

Cinnamon Chia Pudding


Makes 3 (200 calorie) servings

If you’re new to the benefits of chia, you’re in for a treat.  Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, containing more omega 3s than salmon, more antioxidants than blueberries, plus ample calcium, fiber and protein (4 grams in just 2 tbsps).  Relatively low in calories for all of the amazing nutrients they deliver, chia seeds are an excellent addition to baked goods for the nutty flavor they impart.

But the real fun of chia seeds comes in the soaking.   Placed in liquid, they’ll absorb up to 12 times their weight and thicken to resemble a tapioca pudding texture, the mild flavor of which pairs perfectly with fruit.   This delicious Cinnamon Chia Pudding takes just a few minutes to make, then store in the fridge for a healthy snack or quick breakfast option.


  • 6 tablespoons chia seeds
  • ¾ cup plant-based or dairy milk
  • ¾ cup strong ginger or chai tea, warm or cool
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Berries or fruit for topping

Combine chia and all liquid in a pint sized glass jar.  Shake to combine, wait a few minutes and shake again to insure the chia seeds don’t form a clump on the bottom during the first 5 minutes of soaking.

Once they’ve begun to expand you can leave them soaking for at least 30 minutes, top with your favorite berries or diced fruit, and your Cinnamon Chia Pudding is ready to enjoy!  Store refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Sassy Spring Salad


Serves 2

Super easy, fresh and light, this Sassy Spring Salad is packed with fiber, protein and flavor! It’s a perfect lunchtime pick to keep you going strong all afternoon, whether you’re spending it at work or outdoors enjoying a lovely Spring day.

  • 2 heads of endive, sliced crosswise into ¼” pieces (2-3 cups)
  • 1 tangerine or small orange, peeling sectioned and sliced crosswise into ½” pieces
  • 1 avocado cut in quarters, pitted, peeled and sliced crosswise into ¼” pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts, raw or toasted
  • ½ cup chopped smoked tofu or 2 oz. smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon walnut, canola or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, toss and serve immediately.

North African Date Tangine


6 servings

Tangine is a North African word for both a special type of ceramic cookware and the succulent stew that’s traditionally cooked inside. The exotic spices make this version of North African Date Tangine beautifully fragrant and very delicious.


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed; or 2 teaspoons powdered or granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Beanalicious Curry Spice Blend or curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups garbanzo beans, precooked
  • 2 cups jarred or 1 15-ounce can BPA-free crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen is my favorite)
  • 2 cups whole-wheat couscous
  • ¾ cup dates, pitted and cut into quarters
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped (a mini food processor is recommended, if available)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare beans from scratch, soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans, then add to a large stockpot and fill with water to cover the beans by at least 6 inches. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1½ to 2½ hours. Drain and rinse.

Sauté onion in oil in medium saucepan, stirring often, until it begins to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and Curry Spice Blend and sauté for 1 minute longer. Add tomato, cinnamon, garbanzo beans, and ¼ cup water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes longer.

In the meantime, prepare couscous by bringing 4 cups of water to a simmer in medium saucepan. Add couscous and return to boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add dates, salt, and lemon juice to the tangine, stirring thoroughly. Serve over couscous.

4 Simple Tricks to Increase your Inner Strength


With the holidays safely behind us and a fresh new year unfolding ahead, you may be thinking about how you want to show up differently in 2015.  This is a beautiful time to step back, reflect, and decide who it is we really want to be going forward.

Maybe you’re still cultivating the seeds of change you planted for the New Year; integrating them into your days with such commitment they’re beginning to form healthy new habits.  Or maybe that first propagation didn’t yield the way you were hoping, so now you’re revisiting your intention to more carefully assess the best way to fulfill it.

Personally, I spend a lot of time in the car listening to psychology lectures, so either way, I have some insight.  In truth, I earned my bachelor’s degree on the subject and have always been fascinated by the study of behavior and motivation.  And lately, the topic of self-control, or inner strength, has been top of mind for me since it’s pretty central to most of life’s resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise.

Why?  Of all of the life goals we can focus on, what makes the practice of self-control so special?  For one thing, self-control can be thought of as inner strength, which is key to the ability to persist in the face of failure.  Inner strength helps us to stick to our beliefs, and to behave in cooperation with our highest selves.  And who doesn’t need more of that kind of mojo?

The beauty part is, there are easy ways to build this characteristic, which as a deplete-able energy source, benefits from our commitment to keep it fueled.  There is no pop-a-pill remedy for cultivating self-control, but there are some scientifically proven techniques that when practiced daily, help us to develop it.

Here are 4 simple tricks to increase your inner strength:

I’ll begin with the easiest one, which may be a given for you, but this might also serve as a good reminder of why it’s so important:  get enough sleep!  7-8 hours of regular sleep time is inextricably linked to higher levels of self-control.  And since self-control diminishes as we become physically or emotionally tired, you’ll probably find yourself more vulnerable to making decisions that don’t serve you as the evening progresses.

Quick tip:  Don’t hit send on that late night email until the next morning!

Snack wisely:   Strong self-control requires energy, and energy requires sufficient levels of glucose in the brain.  Since blood glucose, or sugar levels adjust in direct response to the food we eat, it makes sense to select your snacks accordingly.  Refined foods, whether or not they’re high in sugar to begin with, convert very quickly to sugar, causing the spike and resulting crash in blood sugar levels we inner strength gardeners will want to avoid. 

Set yourself up for success and keep your stash of whole, fiber-rich snacks handier than any packaged foods you can’t otherwise completely avoid.  Need suggestions?   Click here for a list of helpful tips to make selecting smart snacks a breeze!

Daily affirmation:  Taking the time out to reflect on your core values and beliefs and reaffirming why they’re important to you is key to staying on track with your long-term priorities.  I know when I stop and take five to reflect on the importance of staying calm in the face of morning pre-teen insanity making us late for school again, things go much better than if I hop the meditation cushion and head straight for the kitchen.

Just a few minutes of checking in after you wake up will work wonders, and if you really want to take it up a notch, write it down.

Self-monitoring:  Self-control energy is a function of both body and mind.  Plenty of sleep and the right foods help to keep the physical side in check, but diminished mental energy, known as ego depletion, can benefit from a bigger boost.  This explains why the best of intentions to exercise or eat healthy can be sidelines when a big presentation or an intense day at work takes a toll.  Suddenly our inner strength just flies out the window and we find we can’t seem to leave the couch.

This is where a mindfulness practices can help.  Activities requiring intense concentration or focus drain our energy reserves, leaving us feeling on edge and weakening our resolve, but a simple self-monitoring practice can steer you back on track.

When you feel yourself fading, try taking some time out to mentally check in, and monitor your present state of mind. Intentionally stepping back your emotional attachment and simply observing your breath, free of judgment, is a great way to replenish your energy.  Click here for more mindfulness and meditation techniques, or check out this simple meditation video.

Butternut Custard Torte


Serves 8

This custardy cold-weather torte is made completely in the blender, keeping the prep work to a minimum. Bake it in individual custard cups or use a pie plate and cut into slices.

So versatile, you can serve it warm as a yummy breakfast alternative, alongside your favorite winter entree as a slightly sweet side dish, or add an extra 1/4 cup dates or sugar for a healthy dessert.  Use almond meal instead of flour for a gluten-free option.

Butternut Custard Torte Ingredients

  • 2 cups baked butternut squash
  • ½ cup pitted dates, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes, then drained, or 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 cup soy or dairy milk
  • 1 cup Tonic & Bloom Chai Tea, brewed using 1 rounded tablespoon of dry tea steeped in 1 cup of water (heated to boiling) for 3-5 minutes
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup almond meal or flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Coconut oil or similar to oil the baking dish
  • ½ cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.  Puree all ingredients in a blender. Pour into an 8” pie shell (Pyrex recommended) and oil with pan with coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Pour the mixture into the pie plate, sprinkle with chopped nuts if you choose. Baked at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until torte is lightly browned and slightly cracked. Sprinkle with nuts or extra maple syrup, or simply enjoy as is, either warm or at room temperature.

4 Mindful New Year’s Resolution Strategies for 2015


The transition out of the old year and into the new offers space to take pause.  Lots of us use this time to take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to be. This is a chance to let go of the past as a clean new slate opens up just waiting to be filled.  So can you guess what the number one way most of us want to show up differently in the coming New Year?  The number one resolution this year is the same one most of us made in years prior; weight loss.

Unfortunately the one thing that New Year’s resolutions and diets have in common is that fact that most of them barely make it past the 6 month mark, which doesn’t bode well for next year, or the following; you get the picture.  Clearly something’s amiss.

The upside to all of this is that so many of us are motivated to make positive changes in our health, in addition to weight loss, improved eating habits and engaging in more exercise also made the list.  We want to improve our health and our wellbeing, but we need more than willpower to make what scientists refer to as these “adaptive challenges” stick.

So if willpower won’t cut it, what will?    One answer lies within an increasingly growing trend based on practices thousands of years old; the practice of mindfulness.

In scientific terms, mindfulness is defined as a series of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being  (resulting in such benefits) as calmness, clarity and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).

In approachable terms, mindfulness practices span from meditation to gratitude, or any activity that allows you to tune out and tune in.  In other words, taking a break from the noise and confusion as you focus on your breath, or the things in life you’re grateful for.  Mindfulness gives us the ability to just be in the moment, free of judgment or drama, allowing us to step back and objectively observe.  Ultimately the practice of redirecting our attention to a more positive state, allows us to access calm amidst chaos, even when we’re not engaged in practice.

The reality is, most of the time (up to 90%) we’re operating on auto-pilot, simply falling back into old habits that no longer serve us. Developing a mindfulness practice teaches us to step back and calmly assess a situation before we react, giving us space to rethink our automated responses.  And it works!  As a former emotional eater, I ran the exact same pattern when I came home from a stressful day at work – self-soothing with food.

But after years of developing these simple practices, I give myself the option of another choice.  I can head to my meditation cushion and breathe myself into a state of calm in a few short minutes.  Then I no longer feel the need to self-medicate with a sweet treat, a glass of wine, or whatever the go-to happens to be.  I have a great new alternative that doesn’t leave me with a hangover, and instead moves me toward a healthier future.  Meditation is scientifically proven to help practitioners to resolve addictions, lower stress and maintain a positive outlook, as this practice helps build a natural defense against the lure of addictive habits.

Here are 4 Mindful New Year’s Resolution Strategies designed for your busy life, so you can begin reaping benefits that grow with each day. 

Develop a Short Morning Meditation Ritual

Establish a readily accessible space at home where you can set up a cushion and sit comfortably, keeping your spine upright.  Begin your day with a simple breathing exercise, like deep breathing (see below) or basic breath awareness.

Sit comfortably in a chair, or cross-legged on a cushion. Rest your hands lightly on your knees with your palms facing up. Touch the tips of your index fingers to the pads of your thumbs as you create a circle of unity within. Straighten your arms and feel the energy radiating from your heart to your hands.

Gently close your eyes and take a normal breath. Now begin taking slow deep breaths, known as Ujjayi breath.  From the Chopra Center, here is how:

  • Take an inhalation that is slightly deeper than normal. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose while constricting your throat muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you should sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars.
  • Another way to get the hang of this practice is to try exhaling the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now make a similar sound with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Once you have mastered this on the outflow, use the same method for the inflow breath, gently constricting your throat as you inhale.

Practice this style of breathing as you make every effort to focus on your breath, ignoring the thoughts that will insistently try to distract you.  Every time you feel caught up in a thought, a feeling, or anything other than the present moment, just take your attention back the breath.  And you’ll do this many times, this is the practice.  Sit for 5-10 minutes each morning and discover the benefits throughout your whole day.

Engage in a Deep Breathing Practice (from the Harvard School of Public Health):

To practice this technique, begin by finding a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Start by observing your breath. First, take a normal breath. Now try taking a slow, deep breath. The air coming in through your nose should feel as though it moves downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.

Now breathe out through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Alternate normal and deep breaths several times. Pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.

Continue this for several minutes. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Your chest will rise slightly, too, in concert with your abdomen. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.

Try to practice this breathing technique for 15 to 20 minutes every day. You might also try shorter bouts lasting a few minutes when anxiety begins to build, to see if this feels calming.

Start a Gratitude Journal

By taking some uninterrupted time each day to really reflect on what you’re grateful for, you actually help your brain to reframe the rest of your day in a more positive light.  It can be as simple as recording 5 things you feel grateful for in a journal, which you update on a daily basis, or a deeper reflection on one of your gifts, where you really ruminate on all of your reasons for appreciation.

If you really feel inspired to embrace this practice, try the challenge below:

14-Day Gratitude Challenge (from Personal Excellence)

  • Day 0: Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Day 1: Write 10 Things You are Grateful For in Your Life
  • Day 2: Give Thanks for Your Food
  • Day 3: Write a Gratitude Note to Someone
  • Day 4: Reflect on the Meaning of Gratitude
  • Day 5: Identify 3 Things to Appreciate about Your Adversary Day 6: Give Thanks for Your Life
  • Day 7: Give Thanks to Yourself
  • Day 8: Transform an Ungrateful Thought
  • Day 9: Share Something You are Grateful For with Someone Day 10: Give a Gratituity Tip
  • Day 11: List 3 Things You Tend to Take For Granted (and What You Plan to Do About Them)
  • Day 12:  Take Action on Your Plan from Day 11!
  • Day 13: Do a Gratitude Meditation
  • Day 14: Give Thanks for Your Mistakes

Try a Body Scan Meditation: (based on the work of John Kabat-Zinn)

Find a quiet space where you can close your eyes for 5-10 minutes to engage in this simple practice, designed to reduce reactivity and stress in everyday interactions.

Steady your breath by slowly and consciously breathing in and holding  at the peak of the inhale for a second or two.  Repeat on the out breath, holding briefly at the peak of the exhale before repeating.  Take a few minutes to slowly scan your entire body, starting at your toes.  Notice any sensations in your body without trying to change them.

If you prefer a guided practice, try this 8 minute seated body scan:

If you’re new to the concept of mindfulness, you may try adopting the practice that sounds easiest to incorporate into your day.  Personally, I keep my meditation cushion at the foot of my bed, so if I don’t stop and sit first thing in the morning, I’ll trip over it.

Learning to slow down and live more mindfully will affect every aspect of your being, so whatever your resolution this New Year, using meditation to improve the quality of your mental state will have a positive effect on your entire life.

Hoppin’ John, a Healthy New Year’s Soul Food


Ready to enjoy some hearty Southern soul food as you ring in the New Year?  Hoppin’ John is the simple rice and bean dish served as a Southern tradition on New Year’s Day to insure good luck in the year ahead. The black eyed peas symbolize coins and the greens take the place of the non-edible kind.  A coin might find it’s way into the pot or  under the dinner bowls for an extra dose of good fortune.

This dish is typically served with bacon, but all those nitrates contribute nothing to the promise of good luck, so try this tasty vegetarian version to ring in the New Year in healthy down-home style.  Cheers!


  • 2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked for at least six hours or overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cube or 1 tsp. vegetable boullion
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic or 2 cloves crushed
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
  • 2 strips tempeh bacon, chopped or Coconut Bacon
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large bunch dark leafy greens (collard,mustard, kale or cabbage), chopped
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Season with Tabasco or smoked paprika (optional)


Place black eyed peas into a large pot. Add 6 cups water, bouillon, onions, celery and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until black-eyed peas are tender but still whole, about 45 minutes. Add rice, tempeh bacon, peppers, greens, cayenne, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot with Tabasco or smoked paprika on the side and enjoy.  Happy New Year!


Diet Trends, How to Separate Help from Hype


Today I received a new book I ordered online, The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life. Sounds amazing right? While I don’t need to lose a pound a day right now, I do try to keep up on new diet trends. Since this book has some great reviews, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some helpful new tips and information to share with my audience.

So as soon as the book arrived I immediately tore it open and began skimming through. Pretty quickly I discovered this author’s views were extreme (a bad sign in my book) and differed extensively not only from my own, but more importantly, from the many experts whose researched-based work I closely align with.

This initial scan landed me on a page listing the only fruits the author considered healthy as berries and pineapple, both unavailable to most people throughout most of the year except from the freezer, which first caused me to take pause. Frozen fruit is actually much higher in sugar than fresh, and often ends up used in smoothies, which unless tempered with the right ingredients are essentially sugar bombs. But I moved on.  Then I hit the part where he suggests that all rice is bad except for white rice I and I stopped and raised an eyebrow, maybe both.

‘Just who is the author of this revolutionary new dieting advice?’ It belatedly occurred to me to wonder. Turns out he’s a Silicon Valley millionaire who lost a substantial amount of weight using these tactics, and who also spent some time in the Himalayas, which was listed in his bio apparently to convey further credibility. Now he’s designed his own line of supplements and special coffee that he claims will do all of the things he promotes in the title of the book, you just have to buy the products.

And herein lies the problem with diet trends. Many of them were started by people just like this author, who combine a tantalizing promise with the means to fund a large outreach and suddenly we’re all gluten-free, even though we may not be sure why. After all, anyone can all themselves an expert, including yours truly! This is why you need to know how to separate diet hype from help before you waste time or money on trendy gimmicks.

Diet fads make it seem as though good nutrition and healthy weight management are a mystery waiting to be solved, and they’ve uncovered the magic key; avoid gluten! While highly credentialed nutrition experts like Marion Nestle, Dr. Walter Willet and the 25 US News and World Reports Best Diet Rankings experts base all of their recommendations on years of sound scientific research instead of their personal experience or intuition, this information isn’t considered trendy or sexy.  So while their findings are always accessible, you have to look for them as opposed to the other way around.

Essentially, crazy restrictive, single nutrient-demonizing or other extreme dietary measures seldom work long-term. But that doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie and follow some denial-based regime to get your eating habits under control. In essence, changing eating behaviors takes a combination of physical, psychological and environmental measures into account in order to be successful long-term. None of this is a mystery, although no one diet works for everyone.

The point is there is no magic weight loss bullet, and when diets become so trendy that there are publications, specialty food products and entire aisles of the grocery store devoted to them, take note. These trends have become a multi-billion dollar business that vendors will keep promoting, because that’s what they’re in business to do.  And as long as they keep drowning out the (fact-based) naysayers, they’ll continue to get the attention and sale they’re after, regardless of how well the programs work.

In fact, I’ve seen highly credentialed experts dismiss the Paleo diet in blog posts that were then so engulfed flames by angry readers they quickly removed the article. Some of these trend-followers are downright rabid, but it’s important to remember that shouting the loudest doesn’t make someone right.

When you consider a new trend like Paleo, gluten-free or low fat, do your independent  using independent expert theory checked against findings by institutions like Harvard Institute of Public Health, Yale’s Rudd Center or Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences, it’s important to consider your source.  While you’ll find products and promotions for diet trends everywhere, including your favorite health stores and workout studios,  they’re simply responding to customer demand, which keeps them in business.  Conversely none of the independent health and nutrition institutions advocate any of the aforementioned trends. In fact the US News Best Diet Rankings listed Paleo as one of the least effective regimes all-around for the 2nd year in a row (when it’s been trendy enough to make the list).

The bottom line is, in this day of self-pronounced experts, you need to weigh credentials and do your diligence to separate the diet trend help from the hype. It may take a little extra time, but considering you’ll save money and possibly health problems in the long term, it’s well worth it.

Easy Beanie Chili


10 servings

Nothing warms you up from the inside quite like homemade chili.  This dish is so rich and hearty, you’ll never miss the meat.  It’s easy to prepare, too, and makes great leftovers (and also freezes well).  Feel free to like to mix different beans—black with pinto and kidney, or any combination you like.  Serve with a side salad and a slice of corn bread for an easy meal.


  • 4 cups dried or 8 cups cooked black beans, kidney beans, and/or pinto beans in any combination
  • 2 large onions, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 28 oz. BPA-free can)
  • 4 cups bean cooking broth; or 4 cubes or teaspoons vegetable broth
  • 2 cups salsa,  or 1 16 oz. jar of your favorite organic variety
  • 1 6 oz. jar or BPA-free can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional:  2 cups ground seitan, or try my favorite; Upton Naturals seitan-
    based ground beef/sausage

To prepare beans from scratch,  soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse beans, then add to a large stockpot and fill with water to cover the bean by at least 6 inches.   Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 ½  to 2 hours until tender.  Let sit on the stove if you’re making the chili the same day, or refrigerate beans in cooking liquid until ready to use.

When you’re ready to make your Easy Beanie Chili, sauté the chopped onion in olive oil in a large stockpot on medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients,  including 2 cups of the bean cooking liquid (can be replaced with broth or water); cover and cook on medium heat, simmering, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding bean cooking liquid, broth, or water as needed.

Continue to simmer on low heat until ready to serve.    Spoon into serving bowls and top with shredded cheese if desired.

Italian Inspired Stuffed Acorn Squash


Makes 4 servings

This festive favorite is surprisingly simple to pull together.  Acorn squash is easy  to prepare, just hard to cut, so enlist a hand if you need to!

The combination of olives, sundried tomatoes and oregano creates a savory stuffing reminiscent of the best Italian cuisine, while the lentil and grain combination adds the pleasing texture to this delicious vegetarian stuffing.  Serve Italian Inspired Stuffed Acorn Squash as a meat-free main dish friends and family will love.


  • 2 small acorn squashes, halved, pulp and seeds removed
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils
  • ¼ cup quinoa or millet
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • ¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry sundried tomatoes, chopped (a blender or food processor is perfect for this)
  • ¼ cup whole grain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. powdered garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 385.  Place squash halves, cut side down on a glass or metal baking sheet (glass is easier to clean), and place in the oven.

Cook for 35-40 minutes until squash is soft, then remove from the oven.  This step can be done ahead or while you’re preparing your stuffing.

Give your lentils a quick rinse to remove any debris.  Add 8 cups of water to a large saucepan and pour in the lentils and quinoa.  The water should cover the lentils by at least 4”.

Bring the water to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes before adding the onion, celery and sundried tomatoes.

Return the lentil mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes longer, until the lentils are tender.

Remove from the heat, drain and pour the mixture into a large serving bowl and add the remaining ingredients.

Turn the squash halves over to cut side up, and fill with stuffing mixture.  Place back into the oven 385 degree oven and cook for 10-15 minutes longer until the stuffing begins to brown.  Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Gingered Persimmon Whole Grain Salad


Serves 4

 This nutty, chewy and flavorful salad is remarkably easy to prepare.  All of the ingredients cook in the same pot, so it’s just a matter of chopping, steaming and seasoning before you’re good to go.

You may be unfamiliar with high fiber and nutrient-rich heritage grains like nutty farro, earthy spelt or chewy wheat berries.  If you’re new to the wonders of whole grains, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.  You can’t go wrong with any of the suggestions below, simply allow 45 minutes through an hour cook time (whole grains don’t easily overcook), add your favorite veggies and seasonsings, and you can’t go wrong.

Gingered Persimmon Whole Grain Salad Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups farro, spelt or wheat berries, soaked up to overnight, if possible (soaking is recommended but definitely not required!)
  • 1 whole persimmon Fuyu (Fuyugaki), non astringent variety, chopped into ½” pieces
  • 1 1 2 cups zucchini, broccoli, carrot or parsnip, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (options: choose your own favorite, or use none at all)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or use balsamic in a pinch)
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg’s liquid aminos (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger (optional, best combined with rice vinegar and sesame oil)
  • 1 cup arugula, chopped (set aside)

Pour the grain with a pinch of salt, and enough water to cover it by at least 2”, into a medium-sized saucepan with a lid.    Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then turn the heat down to medium, cover and let it simmer for the following times (or until tender):

  • Farro:  30+ minutes
  • Spelt or Wheat berries:  50+ minutes
  • Brown rice: 30-50 minutes, depending on variety

Stir occasionally, until grains become tender ( 5-10 minutes from being done). Don’t worry about overcooking whole grains, cooked heritage grains like wheat berries and spelt can be chewy, but be careful not to overcook rice or Farro, which may cause them to break down.

Once your grain is almost cooked, add persimmon and vegetables, and stir into the pot.  Cover again and cook for 5-10 minutes longer.  When veggies are cooked (onion will be translucent), drain the grain mixture and toss in all of the remaining ingredients except for the arugula.  Pour into a serving dish and toss in arugula right before serving.

Delicious warm or cold!

Shitake Mushroom Appetizer


Serves 6

This savory dish is such a favorite in our family we simply call it the Mushroom Appetizer.  It’s essentially a bruschetta, but the combination of flavors, especially when shitake or oyster mushrooms are used, is nothing short of sublime.

Shitake Mushroom Appetizer:


  • ¼ pound(roughly 2 cups) shitake, oyster or mushrooms of any kind
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced into thin ¼” rings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Masala wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced or crushed
  • 8 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 6 1-2” slices of your favorite baguette


Gently wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth or paper towel, and then thinly slice.   Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Masala, mushrooms, green onions and garlic to a medium-sized sauté pan.  Turn the heat to medium high, sautéing until mushrooms are soft and cooked through, 5-7 minutes.

Add basil, tomato and salt and continue cooking for another minute or two until everything is heated through.  Finish with freshly ground pepper and let sit the mixture sit while you prepare the bread.

Wipe out the sauté pan and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, tilting the pan to evenly coat it.  Turn heat to medium and add the bread, toasting for 2 minutes each side until lightly browned.

Remove the baguette slices from the pan and top with mushroom mixture.  Serve

Pumpkin Chia Breakfast Pudding


This uber-healthy and sinfully delicious breakfast pudding is protein and fiber-packed enough to keep you going all morning long.  If you’re new to the wonders of chia, these tiny seeds are extraordinarily high in both of these key nutrients.  And just 2 oz. of chia seeks pack more than 8 times the omega 3 content than an ounce of salmon.

Another unique chia characteristic is the gelatinous coating they developed when soaked in liquid.  Thus the pudding connection which offers endless options for a yummy breakfast, portable lunch or even a healthy dessert.  Soak your chia seeds in water, plant or dairy milk overnight for best results!

Pumpkin Chia Breakfast Pudding

Makes 3 generous cups (3 servings)


  • ½ cup strong ginger tea
  • 1 cup rice or your favorite plant-based milk
  • 6 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 6 dried, pitted dates
  • 1 cup fresh cooked or (BPA-free) canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • Dash salt

Combine tea (warm or cold), milk, chia seeds and dates in a glass jar or bowl, cover and let stand for at least an hour, or, preferably refrigerated overnight before using.

When you’re ready to prepare your pudding, add the chia mixture and the remaining ingredients to a Vitamix or blender and blend until just combined or super-smooth, depending on your preference.


Sweet and Savory Brussels Sprouts Sauté


Brussels sprouts rank high on the list of cabbages with a bad rap, and undeservedly so.  The trick is to bring out the sweet nutty flavor in these earthy veggies by cooking them until almost al dente, but definitely not overdone.  Fresh and in season ( like now!) is the best time to give those Brussels another try.

Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin C, just six contain 90 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C per day. And according ot the authors of “Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer,” eating three servings of crucifers like brussels sprouts per week can reduce the risk of developing cancer by increasing the rate of chemopreventive glucosinolate in the body.

All of which is fine on paper, but you have to like them first.  Try tossing them in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a dash of salt before roasting at 400° for 35-40 minutes ‘til the edges are brown, then serve.  Or use this easy recipe:

Sweet and Savory Brussels Sprouts Sauté:

6 servings

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces (optional)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp Braggs Amino Acids
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt (optional) to taste
  • 1/8 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/8 c. dried currents

Trim the stems, then halve the sprouts lengthwise to each half has part of the stem to hold it in tack.  Steam sprouts in water in a large sauté pan for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.  Drain and return to heat, add remaining ingredients and briefly sauté ‘til lightly onion is cooked and sprouts are lightly browned (5-8 minutes).

Enjoy warm or serve at room temperature tossed into a hearty green or grain salad.

Savory Pumpkin Curry Sauce


Makes 4 cups

Pumpkin recipes are all the rage this time of year, and with excellent reason.  Pumpkin is a nutrition powerhouse that rings with Fall flavor, sending the culinary creativity soaring.  This Savory Pumpkin Curry Sauce is a family favorite at my house, where my kids love the creamy texture and savory blend of flavors in the cozy Fall dish.

Easy to prepare, this sauce is perfect to simmer your favorite veggie blend in (see suggestions below), and serve spooned over brown rice.

In keeping with my theme of planning ahead, the recipe makes enough to freeze a batch for use whenever you need it. For best results, freeze in a glass jar, lid left slightly ajar until fully frozen to avoid breakage, for up to 2 months.

Ingredients :

  • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in just enough water to cover them, for at least 30 minutes
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cut in half
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups cubed cooking pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1” cubes, or 1 cup cooked pumpkin (cooked or BPA-free canned)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 3 cups rice or your favorite plant-based milk
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or a dash of stevia
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger or 1-inch piece of ginger root (unpeeled is fine)

Optional for added heat :

  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper or cayenne powder

Ingredient suggestions for creating your Savory Pumpkin Curry stir fry:

  • (Steam, covered in 1” water for 12 minutes before adding sauce)
  • Sweet potato cubes (1” cubes)
  • Broccoli or cauliflower florets
  • Carrot (halfed lengthwise and cut into 1” pieces)
  • Asian eggplant (halfed lengthwise and cut into 1” pieces)

(Steam, covered in 1” water for 8-10 minutes before adding sauce)

  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped cabbage
  • Sliced mushrooms

(Steam, covered in 1” water for 5 minutes before adding sauce)

  • Diced green onions (1” cubes)
  • Diced tofu
  • Chopped basil

Add 1 inch of water to a saucepan. Add cubed pumpkin or butternut (if using) onions, garlic and cover, turn heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until onions are softened and translucent. Let stand on the stove for 5 minutes longer, covered,  then remove the cover and let it cool off for at least 5 more minutes.

When you’re ready, pour the steamed veggies into a blender or food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. Savory Pumpkin Curry Sauce freezes for up to 2 months, or can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for You


If you’re anything like 90% of us, you think you’re doing a pretty good job with your eating choices.  Granola over cookies, juice or tea over soda, hold the mayo on that whole wheat sandwich.  But do you really know for sure?  As recent studies show, probably not.

Research shows that people make an average of 247 food related choices per day, yet are conscious of only about 5% of them.  And according to a recent Consumer Reports study, 9 out of 10 of us think our choices are good.  But by adapting your everyday environment to help you adopt new behaviors, you can turn mindless habits into healthy ones!

Brian Wansink, Ph.D and author of bestselling Mindless Eating has generated a new science from this very phenomenon.  Shifting mindless eating habits from bad to good is really doable.  And none of us, regardless of how well we know the pitfalls, is truly immune to mindless eating.  Our ever-present food environment makes sure of it.

The good news is, we can take steps to avoid having to remain constantly vigilant to the lure of temptation in the first place.  It’s called creating an environment for success, and you’d be surprised at the difference a few simple changes to your routine can make, without you even noticing never mind feeling deprived or dissatisfied.

Of course there are those times you have no choice but to eat on the go, even if you know you should sit down and enjoy every bite.  When you’re too rushed in the morning (or afternoon), to sit down for the short time it takes to spoon down some oatmeal, you’d rather not miss the boat altogether.  And then there are other times, when you might want to veg in front of a movie and snack on some popcorn, even though this falls squarely into the mindless eating category.

Then there are all the rest of the times when you don’t even know you’re doing it, hence the unmistakably descriptive term.  For most people mindless eating is a habit that could benefit from some fresh visitation, but even the best of intentions probably won’t produce a complete turnaround starting now.  It will be a transition process, a journey worth making for a personal transformation capable of affecting everything from weight loss to energy level.  These simple tips can help you along the way, and after you’re up to speed on conscious food choices, they’re good guidelines to live by.

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for you

  1. Adjust your go-to snack plan.  When you dip into the cabinet or hover in front of the fridge, you’ll often grab the first easy-to-much option, so this is not the best place to leave the cheese puffs. Keep pre-cut veggies readily available for your next mindless munch out, and you’ll benefit from the extra fiber and nutrients these healthy snacks provide.
  2. Read labels, always.  Studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients list, and if it contains items that sound like chemicals or other foreign objects, know you’re better off without it.
  3. Prioritize fiber foods  Studies show a strong association between an increased consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of corn syrup, a decreased consumption of dietary fiber, and an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the United States.  Despite what you commonly hear, protein is not the dietary shortfall, fiber is.  Choose whole grains instead of refined and select packaged snacks with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving.
  4. Keep serving dishes off of the table.  Most of us eat more food than we think.  You can avoid doing this by putting a single serving of food on a plate, forcing yourself to leave the table to refill instead of continuing to eat after you’re satisfied (a common problem when good food is within reach).
  5. Never nosh straight from the package.  I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it may be time to revisit it.  Measure out a portion according to the label on the side of the package, put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy every bite!
  6. Use the power of illusion to feel satisfied, not overstuffed.  Studies show that people eat 25-30% more food off of large plates than they do off of small ones, but feel equally full.  Therefore, use smaller plates!  We’ve been doing this at my house for years, works like a charm!
  7. Skip the diet soda. New studies find artificial sweeteners actually linked to obesity.  While it makes sense to keep sugar at a minimum, Nutrasweet is not your best option.  Stevia, on the other hand, is a naturally derived herbal sweetener that has no dubious ties to medical conditions.  Give it a try!
  8. Replace, or reduce don’t deprive.  Take the time to try out healthier alternatives to what you’re currently eating until you find ones you like as much as your former go-to favorites.  In the case of the plate, just redistribute your proportions to 50% veggies, 25% starch and 25% protein (plant-based where possible).  You’ll still enjoy the same volume of food, and the additional fiber will keep you satisfied.
  9. Start with small changes, 3 goals for better food choices is the number experts recommend initially adopting, until you find yourself comfortably acclimated and ready to take on more.  This is a plan for life, so slow going is recommened.
  10. Interested in weight loss?  Keep a daily food journal and lose 2x the weight.  Just the act of writing it down produces results.  Successful food journals ask you to record everything you eat, at the time you eat it, including portion sizes and calorie counts.  The best ones ask to you record hunger levels, related emotions, cravings and food triggers.  Here is a free one from food psychology guru, Dr. Brian Wansink, or there are dozens of programs and apps to choose from.  However you do it, record your data!

Congratulations for beginning your journey to a healthy new you.  Make your mindless eating habits work as a cornerstone of your transition from our refined carb culture to real, nourishing food choices, beginning today!

Veggie Taco Pizza (gluten free)


Makes 2 12” pizzas, 4-6 servings
Preparation time:  20 minutes
Bake time:  30-40 minutes

Easy Vegan Taco Pizza is so savory and satisfying, you won’t believe how nutritionally stellar it is.   This recipe is very abundant, so if you’re only cooking for one or two, freeze half of the crust, then just thaw, top and bake when you’re ready to serve it.


  • 2-3 medium-sized carrots, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 large parsnip, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • Coconut oil for the cooking dish
  • 1 cup whole grain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups pico di gallo or salsa fresca
  • 2 cups plant or dairy based shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup chopped olives (optional)

Preheat the oven to 385 degrees.  Lightly oil 2 cookie baking pans with coconut oil.

Place chopped carrots, parsnips and sweet potato pieces in a saucepan with 1” of water.  Heat, covered, on a medium high stovetop to simmer, then lower the heat to medium low and steam for 7-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.

Turn off the heat and drain the liquid from the veggie mixture.  Let the pan sit for a few more minutes to allow the vegetables to begin to cool.

Add the steamed veggies and the sage to the blender or food processor, and process until well blended, but there is no need to completely puree here!

Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in the flour, salt, seasoning and garlic until blended.   Divide the dough in half and using your hands, flatten each half onto one of the oiled cookie sheets to create a 12” round pizza crust (it will be about ¼” thick).

Bake for 10 minutes, before removing from the oven.  Sprinkle with cheese, top with pico de gallo or salsa fresca (and olives if your using them) and return to the oven to be for 10-15 minutes longer, until cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Coco Nut Protein Bites


Makes 16 pieces

Prep time:  15 minutes

Yummy, protein-rich morsels are a great option for a healthy snack or dessert.


  • 1 cup dates, pitted and soaked in just enough water to cover for at least 15 minutes
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate (bar or chips)
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseeds

Drain the dates and add along with oats, almonds and dark chocolate to a food processor or blender, and pulse just until the mixture reaches an even consistency.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir until well-combined, then roll into 1 ½” balls and enjoy!  Store finished Coco Nut Protein Bites covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Southwest Sweet Potato Hash


Serves 2

Prep time, 10 minutes

Cook time:  20 minutes

Who says breakfast needs to be predictable?  Spicy, smoky and slightly sweet, this Southwest Sweet Potato Hash is a family favorite at my house.  Prepared with smoked tofu, or topped with a free-range over-easy egg, it’s a fiber rich, nutrient-dense and satisfying way to start the day.


  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
  • ½  green pepper, seeded and diced
  • ½ onion, red or white, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons jarred or (BPA-free) canned tomato paste (or use organic ketchup in a pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove or ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup or a sprinkle of stevia
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon diced fresh or dried sage, or Italian seasoning blend
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

½ cup smoked tofu, cubed (optional)

Add the potato cubes to a large saucepan, fill with 1/2” of water, then cover and place on the stove.  Heat on medium high and steam the potatoes for 7 minutes before stirring in the onion and pepper.  Turn the stove off but replace the pan on the burner, covered, for 3 minutes longer before draining the water and adding remaining ingredients.

Turn the heat back to medium high and sauté the hash for 10 minutes longer, until the potatoes soften to your preference.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Kung Pao Noodles


4-6 servings

Prep and cook time:  15 minutes

This delicious dish is so quick to make it actually takes less time than stopping for takeout, and you control what goes into it.  Typically a dish high in salt, sugar and fat, this version of Kung Pao Noodles is optimized for taste and nutrition without compromising the yum factor.

You can easily convert this kid-friendly, vegan recipe to a gluten-free version by just substituting rice or quinoa pasta for the whole wheat spaghetti listed below.


  • 1 pound package whole wheat (or your favorite) spagehetti noodles
  • ½ cup real peanut butter (no sugar or high fructose corn syrup added)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  •  3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper sauce (Sriracha is our family favorite)
  • 2 cloves crushed or teaspoon powdered garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated or powdered ginger

Cook the pasta according to instructions on the package. While it’s cooking, wash your veggies, shred your carrots (no need to peel them first), and chop the green onions.

Measure peanut butter and add to a glass dish (you can use a 2 cup or larger glass measuring cup as your mixing bowl if you have one).

Add the remaining ingredients to the peanut butter and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave, until warm.

Mix the sauce until the consistency is smooth.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it back into the cooking pot.  Add the shredded carrot and green onion to the pan and cover it for 2 minutes so the hot pasta slightly steams the veggies.

Finally, add the peanut butter sauce and toss with large serving forks to combletely combine.  Serve warm or cold, topped with chopped smoked tofu if you like.


Savory Harvest Veggie Bake


4 servings

Prep time:  20-30 minutes

Cook time:  45 minutes

This savory and satisfying alternative to your everyday meatloaf is not only simple to prepare, it’s loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins and too many other good things to list here.  Don’t make it for the health benefits though; it’s so delicious no one ever needs to know.

Savory Harvest Veggie Bake is essentially a heavy-duty blender or food processor recipe, which on the upside makes clean up a snap.  Cook it in a glass casserole dish with a cover if you have one, so you can store any leftovers in the fridge as-is and save yourself a step.

I use high protein garbanzo bean flour in this gluten free version, but you can substitute brown rice flour or any other whole grain flour you have on hand just as well.


  • 6 carrots, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
  • 3 or 4 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups raw cashews, pre-soaked in just enough water to cover
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • Coconut oil for the cooking dish
  • 1 cup garbanzo bean or brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper (optional)

Soak cashews for 30 minutes in just enough water to cover them.  I soak mine right in the Vitamix!

Preheat the oven to 385 degrees.

Place chopped carrots and sweet potato pieces in a saucepan with 1” of water.  Heat, covered, on a medium high stovetop to simmer, then lower the heat to medium low and steam for 7-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.

Turn off the heat and add the green onions.  Replace the cover and let the pan sit for a few more minutes to allow the onions to soften and the other vegetables to begin to cool.

Add the steamed veggies and the sage to the blender or food processor, and blend with the cashews (and soaking liquid) just until completely blended, no need to completely puree here!

Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and stir the flour until blended.  Pour into an oiled casserole dish or loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top begins to look dry.

Remove from the oven, let sit for ten minutes before slicing into squares and serving.

Overnight Breakfast Bread Pudding


4-6 servings

10 minutes prep time

30-35 minutes to cook

Whether it’s work, school or play that gets you hustling in the morning, a healthy breakfast is key to sustaining energy (and willpower!) all morning long.  While the best breakfasts don’t often come in a box, it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or complicated process either.

Take this high fiber, high protein, low sugar breakfast pudding – simply prep it the night before, pop it in the oven when you get up, and voila!  Overnight Breakfast Bread Pudding makes a warm and satisfying breakfast your whole family will enjoy.

I prefer to buy bread a whole loaf and slice it thick,  the hearty Whole Wheat Walnut at a local bake shop is my favorite.  But whatever you choose, I suggest you keep an eye on the fiber count if you’re buying pre-packaged.  At least 4 grams of fiber per serving  and 0 added sugar is a good benchmark.


  • 5 1” slices of whole grain bread, preferably whole loaf (or 6-8 slices, pre-sliced)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups plant or dairy milk
  • 2-3 whole bananas, peeling and thinly sliced (1/2” thick), optional
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • ½ tsp. stevia powder or 1 tbsp. maple syrup.

Break the bread into 1” cubes and set aside.  Whisk the egg in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients (except for the bread) and continue to whisk until fully blended.  Add the bread and toss to fully coat the cubes.

Bake, covered at 375 for 35-45 minutes, until eggs are cooked solid and slightly browned.  Serve hot or warm, topped with fresh or thawed frozen berries for an extra yummy treat.

Easy Lunch Kabobs


Many among our older generation are surprised to see today’s parent frantically whip up an entirely different meal for their kids than they’re eating.  The kids’ food category is after all a relatively new construct, and although it creates exciting marketing opportunities for food companies, it isn’t such a win for kids and parents.

Most “kid foods” contain more sugar, fat and sodium than the adult versions, tastes which shape their food preferences into what can become a vicious cycle as time goes on.  Taste buds become so saturated that healthy, whole foods with their more subtle flavors have a hard time delivering enough sensation to satiate.

I agree, it’s hard to get children to eat kale and quinoa when they really just want a Happy Meal, but fortunately for all of us, there are happy mediums too.  When time and patience are at a premium, it helps to have some tricks up your sleeve to keep the Mac ‘n Cheeze at bay.   Mama Bears Tips for Healthy Eaters is here to help, or check out this fun and easy Kabob suggestion, because as the photo-shoot props and my nine-year old reminded me, kids are infinitely more likely to enjoy food that comes on a stick, even tofu.

Kabobs are a great way to pack a healthy, kid-friendly lunch using last night’s leftovers or fruits and veggies straight from the fridge.  Share the menu below with your kids and let them check off their choices so they can be sure to add them to your grocery cart or market tote, and create their own lunchtime masterpieces.

Easy Lunch Kabobs                                                                                                                                       Choose your favorites:

  • Bell pepper
  • Cheese
  • Grapes
  • Steamed cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Rolled lunch meat
  • Smoked tofu
  • Melon
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cubed whole grain bread
  • Chicken or turkey cubes
  • Steamed potatoes
  • Celery squares
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Pineapple chunks

Bamboo skewers are easy to find at your local market or retail store, but often too long to pack in a lunchbox.  Use kitchen scissors to snip them into two pieces, then skewer your favorite combination, leaving just enough of the stick free for easy pick-up.  Pack or wrap in a BPA-free reusable container for an easy lunchtime treat.

10 Minute Farmer’s Market Chick Pea Salad


6 servings

10 minutes prep time

5-7 minutes cook time

This flavorful salad assembles harmoniously with the seasonal produce so abundant at the height of summer. Just a quick trip to the market turned my plain garbanzo beans into a flavor extravaganza for under $5 in less than 10 minutes. It’s no accident that Mother Nature provides the best ingredients for the job just when we need them, and as good fortune would have it, fresher means more nutritious too.

But what about all the hard work it takes to make food from scratch when it’s so easy just to pick up a package? The fact is, the only way to really know what you’re eating is to make it yourself. Packaged food, even the “healthy” kind, usually contains preservatives, colorants and other additives used to keep it looking and tasting fresh.

The quality of your diet directly correlates to your health, so it’s time to rethink the convenience factor, especially when home cooking doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming! My delicious Farmer’s Market Chick Pea Salad came together in less than ten minutes, including cleanup. I had the beans already prepared, another easy DIY method that takes little hands on time for the most delicious results.

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 3 cups pre-cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 large handful or 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts
  • 3-4 small tomatoes, diced (dry farmed are especially good here)
  • 3 small zucchinis, diced

Check out the process below:

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First, I washed, then diced my zucchini and put it right into a large saucepan with ¼ cup water.Then I covered it, put it on the stove and turned the stove to medium high.While steaming the zucchini for 2-3 minutes, I washed and chopped the tomatoes.


I turned off the zucchini then, and left the pan covered on the stove.


Next I rinsed the basil and added that and the olive oil, walnuts and salt to a mini food processor I love to use, but you can use a blender or Vitamix too. I let it blend everything but didn’t pulverise it like I usually would a pesto.


I opted for a chunkier texture since I knew the final result would be lovelier color-wise, but you could even use pre-made pesto here to save a step.


I added the basil blend to the steamed zucchini. If there is water left in the pan, you can stir that in too.


Finally I added the garbanzo beans and tomatoes and gently stirred them in.


This is what the final salad looks like. It tastes amazing too! Serve room temperature or chilled. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Beanalicious Hummus Trio


Makes 3 cups

There’s no big secret to making good hummus. If you puree garbanzo beans in a blender along with a bit of salt, it tastes pretty good. Add some savory seasonings and you’ll quickly make your way to delicious.

Here’s a favorite basic recipe, but feel free to experiment by adding other ingredients (roasted red pepper, black olives, or fresh basil are my top picks). As I’ve said before: as with most bean dishes, it’s hard to go wrong.

Lots of hummus recipes call for tahini, which along with lots of olive oil can be heavier than the calorie conscious among us prefer.  This lighter version makes a nice alternative without any compromise on flavor. It’s a great dip for veggies or whole grain pita chips, and always yummy as a wrap or sandwich spread. This Beanalicious hummus trio fits the bill for kid-friendly, healthy and delicious!


  • 3 cups garbanzo beans, precooked
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh if available)
  • 1/4-½ cup water (to desired consistency)
  • 2-3 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced; or 1 teaspoon powdered or granulated garlic


  • ½ cup roasted red peppers, homemade or jarred
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/4  cup pitted, dried Kalamata olives

To cook beans: soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans, then add to a large stockpot; fill with water to 6 inches over the top of the bean blend. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1½ to 2½ hours. Drain and rinse.

To prepare hummus:  Add all ingredients to your blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Hibiscus Sun Tea


The dried crimson leaves of the hibiscus plant make a wonderfully tart and delicious tea.  The health benefits of this drink have been celebrated for centuries in cultures all around the world.

With studies linking the acids contained in hibiscus to lower blood pressure, this healing plant also contains phytochemicals like quercetin, shown to reduce inflammation and support kidney health, and antioxidants known to reduce the effects of aging*.

This simple Hibiscus Sun Tea is perfect for overnight steeping, no heat required.  It’s a beautiful thing to wake up to, with lots to spare for all day enjoyment.


  • 8 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup hibiscus tea leaves
  • 1/4 cup dried peppermint leaf
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1-2 teaspoons of stevia (to taste)

For stovetop or microwave:  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the the hibiscus and peppermint leaf for about 10 minutes while it cools.  Remove the strainer and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method:  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, add tea leaves in a stainer, or as loose leaf and pour intro a strainer to remove tea leaves when serving.  Leave water and tea mixture covered in a sunny spot if possible for 6-8 hours.

For either method:  once your tea leaf is infused, add remaining ingredients and serve iced or hot. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*While hibiscus tea is completely safe for most people, if you’re currently using prescription medications, be sure to check with your doctor before enjoying too much of this potent tea.

Eggplant Fiesta Ragout


4 servinJuly 30 2014 034gs

This zesty ragout—a fancy word for “stew”—with its south-of-the-border flair makes a  simple and savory protein-packed dish. Take advantage of summer’s bounty, when eggplant and peppers are abundant.   Eggplant Fiesta Ragout is delicious over rice or served with whole grain tortillas, add a garden-fresh salad for a memorable warm-weather meal.


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 pound Italian or Asian eggplant, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (a mini food processor or spice grinder is helpful, if available)
  • ½ cup of your favorite prepared salsa (choose your preference, from mild to hot)
  • 1 cup black beans, precooked
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare beans from scratch,  soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse beans, then add to a large stockpot and fill with water to cover the beans by at least 6 inches.   Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Drain and rinse.

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, then add eggplant, onion, and red pepper.  Sauté until eggplant is cooked through and onion is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and mix in cilantro.  Let the caponata stand for 10 minutes to blend, then add salsa, beans, and salt.  Serve at warm or at room temperature with tortillas, rice, or your favorite grain.

Sensational Summer Chickpea Salad


This salad is a snap to make and especially delicious with freshly cooked garbanzo beans, but canned (BPA-Free) work as well.  The fresh corn adds a hint of summer sweetness, a nice balance to the tang of your favorite salsa.  I love it for sharing at picnics and potlucks, since you get lots of flavor, fiber and protein for your buck.  Serve as a side dish or over a bed of mixed greens or shredded kale for a simple, satisfying lunch.


  • 5-6 cups cooked garbanzo beans
  • 2-3 large celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 4-6 green onions, thinly sliced (I use the whole thing, green and white)
  • 1 ear of fresh corn, (steamed,  kernels removed, cob discarded) or 1 cup frozen corn (organic or GMO-free)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh salsa (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare beans from scratch, soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse beans, then add to a large stockpot and fill with water to cover the beans by at least 6 inches.   Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1½ to 2½ hours, until tender.

Drain and rinse your garbanzos, whether they’re cooked or canned, then add to a large salad bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, stir to thoroughly combined and serve at room temperature.

Note:  Sensational Summer Chickpea Salad is even better when it’s prepared an hour or so ahead, or better still the day prior, to really let the flavors meld.

Strategies for Healthy Eating When Organic Isn’t an Option


Pesticides in produceFast fact:  nearly one half of people polled in a 2012 survey believe it’s easier to do their taxes than it is to eat healthfully.  I’m guessing there are some stellar accountants comprising the other half, because on this processed food planet, healthy eating really can be intimidating.

Truthfully, after scrutinizing enough health news to warrant a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition to keep it all straight, I’m still slightly confused by tofu.  In our information-overloaded society, the last thing we need is more nutrition nuance to sort through.

The good news is when it comes to healthy eating, you don’t need to stress over every detail.  While a perfect diet is a noteworthy goal, the mere concept is so out of reach for many of us (hello parents!), it’s tempting to tune out entirely.  But please don’t, because whether its availability, time or budget you’re challenged by, you really can keep your food rules simple and still stay healthy.  Your version may look different than organic, home-made perfection, and that’s perfectly okay.

Recently I found myself facing this very dilemma. I count myself lucky to live in Northern California, a health food nirvana by most standards.  Local, organic food prices are only slightly higher than conventional, and we’re never far from a health food store.

When I visit my parents in small town Rhode Island each year however, the reality is very different.  Organic food prices there are double or triple the cost of conventional, and they’re not necessarily even local.  Much as I wanted to, I found I just couldn’t pay up for organic when it was overpriced and over-packaged.  So inspired by the challenge, I left the organic section and scoured the grocery store for my go-to travel foods; beans, grains and the makings for fresh cabbage slaw.

As I’ve learned from my years of rural summer vacations, when organic isn’t an option, healthy eating simply requires a little extra creativity.  So don’t let a lack of access to organic or even locally grown foods stop you from enjoying a delicious, healthy diet.

Here are a few simple strategies for healthy eating when organic isn’t an option:

Know which foods don’t need to be organic:  Two-thirds of produce samples in recent government tests had pesticide residues, so it’s important to know what you’re eating.  In independent consumer group EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce lists the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables to help you make informed choices, including avoiding over-paying for organic if you don’t have to.

Buy local and eat in season.  This may be a given, but also a good reminder that the more recently harvested the food, the tastier and more nutritious it is.  Visit farm stands and markets, or frequent grocers that carry local goods.  You may pay a bit more than you would for mass-produced monoculture foods, but for flavor and nutritional value, it’s worth it.

Go for Frozen.  When fresh organic fruits and vegetables are too expensive or unavailable, frozen makes a great option.  Conventional berries, especially strawberries, retain high amounts of toxic pesticides.  Frozen organic berries are loaded with antioxidants and wonderful in smoothies, oatmeal or baked goods.  Frozen organic corn is wonderful added to rice dishes and steamed green beans are a great alternative out of season.

Read the label!  Polls show that most people find it easier to do their taxes than to read nutrition labels!  Yet at the same time, studies show that women who read labels on a regular basis weigh an average of 15 pounds less than people who don’t.

Bottom line; although the print is tiny and it’s annoying to take the time to try to decipher it, you’ll probably be surprised by what you’ll find, even on products that say “healthy” or “natural”.  And you only need to do it once to know whether that product belongs in your kitchen.

Be on the lookout for high levels of sugar, more calories than you expected or chemical preservatives you’re better off avoiding.  The important thing is to weed out the bad stuff; high fructose corn syrup, transfats, food dyes, unpronounceable ingredients.

You don’t have to know what all of the numbers mean, just checking the ingredients, sugar level and calories counts should tell you all you need to know.

Can’t find Grass Fed?  Go for plant based proteins.  Most animal products sold in the US contain growth hormones, which are administered to animals to cause them to grow faster or produce more milk.  This practice frequently causes them to get sick more often and need antibiotics.

These hormones and antibiotics are passed onto us through the meat and dairy products we consume, and the results of these fairly recently introduced practices are still largely unknown.

Fortunately we have plenty of options to hormone and antibiotic-laden meats.  Beans and lentils are an excellent source of protein, with added fiber and no saturated fat.  They also contain key nutrients like zinc and iron in a nutritional profile similar to seafood and poultry.  But that’s not all, beans are an excellent sources of dietary fiber and other key nutrients such as potassium and folate, so in that way they rank among vegetables.

But the best news is, beans are simple to make, incredibly versatile and very delicious.  So start whether you jump right into bean-based cooking using the Bean Cooking Chart and Guidelines below,  or begin with programs like Meat Free Monday and work your way up to the four servings recommended per week from there.  However you decide to do it,  start today!  Your body will thank you for it!!

Cooking dried beans from scratch is easy! Refer to the handy chart below for cooking and soaking times for your favorite beans and legumes:  Click here for a handy Bean Cooking Chart

Sprout it! Sprouts abound with antioxidants; they’re full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. And talk about good for you:  ounce for ounce they provide more nutrients than any other whole food known.  Sprouts also contain beneficial enzymes, requiring less digestive energy so they actually invigorate you while your body processes them.

Your home grown sprouts are up to the minute fresh (they grow until ready to eat) and delicious.  Grow them right in your kitchen using just seeds, jars and screens, here’s how!

Avoid processed meats  More than just the nitrates used to preserve them,”Multiple studies have found a relationship between processed meat intake and increased risk of colorectal cancer,” says Amanda Cross, an investigator at the National Institute of Health. One possible explanation: “In addition to nitrate and nitrite, it is possible that there are other components of processed meats that are responsible for the associations observed with colorectal cancer.”

What can you do?  Opt for a non-meat alternative.  Avocado, grilled eggplant or baked Portobello mushrooms make wonderful sandwich fillings.  Otherwise look for meats labeled “preservative or nitrate-free” and avoid cooking nitrate-dense foods like bacon at high heat, which can cause form carcinogenic nitrosamines to form.

In short, enjoy the season’s abundance! When you rely upon fresh, whole foods and avoid those too heavily sprayed or chemically enhanced, you can’t go wrong.

Zesty Citrus-Grilled Zucchini


This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy garden-fresh zucchini.  More of a simple preparation style than a recipe, I suggest making more than you may eat in one sitting.  Chilled Zesty Citrus-Grilled Zucchini makes a wonderful addition to green salads, quinoa or rice dishes you would like to embellish.



  • 3 or 4 whole organic zucchinis, split lengthwise, each half cut into long triangular strips (see image for example)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic power

Pre-hear your grill to a medium temperature (low flame), ten minutes prior to cooking.  Place zucchini strips in a flat-bottomed baking dish with sides to contain liquid.  Combine marinade ingredients in a cup or small bowl, then pour over the zucchini and toss to coat. Place zucchini strips on the grill crosswise to rack so they won’t fall in.  Cook 3-5 minutes each side until browned but not burnt.  Remove from heat after all sides are browned.  Serve warm or chilled.

Mama’s Italian Zucchini


Summer Abondanza!

My mom used to make this delicious dish as frequently as our zucchini was plentiful when I was growing up. It reminds me of long summer days and lively family dinners outdoors in the warm night air.  Although she’s not actually Italian, I suspect mi mama got this simple recipe from her mama-in-law, who most definitely was.

The cook time here is much longer than I typically recommend for vegetables, but the results are melt-on-your-mouth delicious.  Sprinkled with bread crumbs or cheese, Mama’s Italian Zucchini turns kid-friendly favorite too!


  • 4-5 cups of zucchini, sliced into ¼ – ½” rounds
  • ½ red or yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves of crushed, or 1 tsp. powdered garlic
  • ½ – 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 8 oz. (BPA-free) can of diced tomatoes
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped OR 1 tablespoon pesto sauce
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Garnish with:  ground black pepper, seasoned bread crumbs or grated parmesan cheese

Add the first 5 ingredients to a large saucepan (with cover) and lightly sauté for 5-7 minutes, until onions begin to soften.   Stir in tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat.  Cover and cook at a low simmer (you’ll probably have to lower the heat) for 20-30 minutes, until veggies become soft and almost translucent.  Add the basil during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

Serve warm, garnished with bread crumbs or grated parmesan cheese.

Almost Oprah Chai


Inspired by the original Oprah Chai, my hot and spicy Almost Oprah version makes a wonderful morning pick me up or a welcome afternoon treat (minus the extreme packaging!)

If you haven’t tried making your own chai, it’s as simple as assembling the ingredients, but a good loose leaf tea strainer or a pot with one built-in is also key. These ingredients should be pretty easy to find in bulk in most health food stores, but if you don’t have a good local option nearby, Mountain Rose Herbs is a wonderful online source.


  • 1 cup loose leaf Assam tea
  • 1 cup cinnamon pieces (crushed cinnamon sticks)
  • ¾ cup dried ginger root
  • ½ cup red rooibos tea
  • ¼ cup dried licorice root
  • ¼ cup green cardamom pods, ground
  • ¼ cup cloves, coarsely ground
  • ¼ cup dried chicory root
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground  black peppercorns

Blend all ingredients and store in a glass jar for up to 6 months.

To brew:  place 1 tablespoon of chai per cup of water into a teapot with a built-in strainer (a must have for all tea lovers!).   Either heat water separately to boiling or heat your teapot on a medium-high stove just until water comes to a simmer before you turn it down to low heat.

If you’ve separately heated the water, pour it into your teapot and steep chai for 5-10 minutes.  If you’re heated your chai on the stove top, steep for 2-5 minutes longer, depending on how strong you like it.

Enjoy your chai with ¼-½ cup warm rice, almond or dairy milk and a dash of stevia for a bit of sweetness.

To purchase my favorite chai pre-mixed, visit

And to donate to one of Oprah’s favorite charities without having to buy the tea, click here.

Sizzled Sprout and Carrot Slaw


Sautéed fresh mung sprouts, scallions and fresh raw carrots combine to form a  sweet and savory Sprout and Carrot Slaw the likes of which you’ve never seen.  This simple recipe comes together in ten minutes or less, but you may want to let it marinate for an hour after you make it to really let the flavors meld.


  • 2 cups sprouted Mung beans
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Braggs or 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 carrots, shredded (about 2 cups)

Heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add Mung beans, green onions, garlic and Bragg’s or salt.  Sauté on medium heat for 5-8 minutes until beans begin to soften, than add remaining ingredients and cook, covered for 5 minutes longer, lowering heat to medium. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Serve warm or cold.

Nutty Sprout Crunch Salad


 Makes 6-8 servings

Nutty Sprout Crunch Salad is a great way to prepare fresh bean sprouts. Both lentils and mung beans are simple to sprout, requiring only a few days before they’re ready to eat,and so easy to prepare.  Steam them with the rice and toss into the veggie blend.  Add a touch of sweet citrus to complete this savory, satisfying one-dish meal.


  • 1 cup cooked long grain brown rice
  • 2 cups lentil or mung bean sprouts
  • 1 ½  cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1 ½  cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • ½ cup diced red pepper
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive or sesame oil
  • 1 large orange, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped tofu (optional)

Prepare your rice by rinsing it in a fine sieve until water runs clear, then transferring to a medium pot. Add 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the water is absorbed,  40-50 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes then uncover and fluff with a fork.

When the rice is done cooking, mix your sprouts into the rice in the pot, cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  This mixture can be made ahead as well.

Divide the orange into sections and cut each into 4 pieces.  Prepare the rest of the ingredients before adding each of them to your large salad bowl.  Pour in the rice and sprout combo, the warmer the better, then combine all ingredients and mix well.  Enjoy!

UltraVeggie Maki Rolls


Makes 2 large rolls, 2 servings

Inspired by the Japanese tradition, these colorful rolls are as fun to make as they are good to eat. Sprouted lentils and brown rice deliver high quality protein to complement the nutrient-rich seaweed and veggies rolled into a highly flavorful package.

Pack UltraVeggie Maki Rolls for lunch or serve with a big salad for a light evening meal.   Be creative with your fillings; add your favorite veggies, nuts or even some smoked tofu for an extra protein punch.

You’ll need a bamboo mat for this, but they’re easy to find in the Asian food aisle of most grocery stores, and inexpensive (around $2) too.


  • 2 sheets nori seaweed (available at most grocery stores)
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup red lentils, sprouted or pre-cooked
  • ¼ cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup cabbage, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts, pecans or sunflower seeds
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for dipping


Prepare a pot of brown rice by simmering 1 cup of rice and 1/2 -1 teaspoon salt  in 2 cups of water,covered for 45-50 minutes until the water is absorbed.

When rice is just finished cooking, remove ½ cup from the pot, and blend with red lentils.  (chefs note:  If you like the rice and lentil combination, add 1-2 cups of sprouted red lentils to your freshly cooked rice to use in additional meals).  Store remaining rice covered in the fridge for future use.

Scoop out the avocado and add it along with the salt and garlic powder to a small mixing bowl. Mash the ingredients together until well blended.

Place a sheet of nori onto your bamboo mat, and spread the half of the avocado mixture evenly over the bottom half.

Layer half of the rice mixture over the avocado, then sprinkle half of the pepper, cabbage and nuts (or whichever fillings you choose to substitute) over the spread.

Moisten the top half of the nori with a little lemon juice or water, and you’re ready to roll!

Roll the nori starting at the bottom, and rolling up burrito-style, making sure the filling is wrapped in tightly.  Slice in half or into small cylinders and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

Bountiful Sprouted Lentil Salad


Bountiful Sprouted Lentil Salad is all about abundance; abundance of flavor, of satisfaction and of uber-rich nutrients all in one amazing dish.  To be sure, sprouted lentils, tofu and millet all top the list of protein-rich foods fueling this wonderfully savory one-dish meal.

Substitutions:  Lentils are easy to sprout in just a few days, but if all you have on hand is dried, don’t let that stop you from trying this deliciously simple dish.  Quinoa or wild rice can be substituted for millet too.


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced scallions or chopped red onions
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids (optional)
  • 4 cups sprouted lentils
  • 1 package baked tofu (Schezuan flavored if available), chopped
  • 1/3 cup mango chutney (available in the Asian food section of most markets)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 cups dried millet, quinoa or rice

Add 2 ½ cups water to a medium sauce pan, pour in millet, and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes longer before removing from the heat.  You’ll mix this in with the salad when it’s prepared.

Add coconut oil to a medium sauté pan.  Turn the heat to medium and all cabbage,  scallions, salt and Braggs (if using), then saute for 2 minutes to coat.  Add lentils, tofu, water and chutney and cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Add millet and stir to combine.  Serve warm or chilled.

Options:  Add fresh cilantro, ginger and garlic or basil for more flavor if you’re so inspired.


Simply and Savory 3-Bean Curry


This recipe was adapted from Mark Bittman’s Mixed Whole Bean Dal recipe, I simply streamlined it and added my own flavor flair.  This simple 3-bean curry is equal parts salad and stew; low on liquid, nicely textured and surprisingly rich.  It makes a wonderful lunch served alongside some whole grains at room temperature or heated, it’s simply delicious. Don’t be intimidated by the short soak step, it’s very hands off and doesn’t add much prep time, but simply soak your usual way if you prefer and start from .

  • ½ cup each Mung Beans, adzuki beans and small white navy beans or black eyed peas
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cups green cabbage, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Short soak and boil your beans;  pour beans  and 8-10 cups of water into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.    Bring to a boil then turn off the burner.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 2-4 hours.

Drain and set aside in the large glass bowl you plan to use for serving. In the meantime, sauté onion and cabbage in coconut oil in your large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan until soft, 5-7 minutes.

Add curry powder and sauté for 1-2 minutes more, before adding tomato paste, salt, walnuts and currants.  Sauté for a minute or two longer to combine, then add your beans, and just enough water to cover the mixture by about an inch.

Bring the bean mixture to a boil then lower the heat and cover the pan.  Let your curry simmer for 20-25 minutes before adding salt and additional water if needed.  Cook for 15-25 minutes longer, until beans are a combination of soft and slightly firm.    Enjoy over basmati or brown rice as a hearty, delicious meal.

5 Overlooked Reasons to Eat Plant-Strong


Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine predicts today’s kids to be the first generation to experience a shorter life expectancy if the rising obesity rates don’t begin to reverse.  Scary stuff to be sure.  Yet while growing diet-related disease rate is the most obvious result of a standard American diet, it isn’t the only issue at stake.

There are so many smart reasons to improve your eating habits beyond just the amazing personal health benefits.  Issues involving water conservation,  greenhouse gas emissions, and even the national economy are becoming more prominent as new societal challenges emerge.  All of these issues connect back to the food on your plate.

So why not start making changes that make sense not just for your health, but for everyone on the planet?

Here are 5 great reasons to go meatless:

  1. Conserve water!   The amount of water required in beef production drastically outweighs all other foods.1-NyAoyj4flmnD1WRwm
  2. Fight global warming!  18% of all global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions come from animal product production.
  3. Reduce your risk of some major diseases.  Meat and meat products are linked to a variety of health problems. And, according to the American Dietetic Association, “a vegetarian diet may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”4
  4.  Fight pollution!  Factory farm animal waste and runoff (water contamination from the thousands of pounds of manure produced each day are a major source of air and water pollution.  Just drive along some highways in California and you’ll encounter miles and miles of firsthand experience of the air pollution part.
  5. Get healthy!  A 2010 American Society for Nutrition report shows that 96% of us are fiber-deficient, eating too few legumes and whole grains while surpassing recommended daily allowances on meat and dairy products for optimal health.

So take a stand!  On Monday, April 21st, join  me and 5,000 other Americans in taking the US VegWeek 7-Day VegPledge.  You’ll be in good company:  65+ federal, state, and local elected officials — including US Senator Cory Booker and 14 US Representatives — are taking the pledge too. Vegan athletes such as Olympian Seba Johnson and NFL player David Carter are also on board to keep you inspired.

Join the fun, after all, it’s just a week… – Click here to take the pledge!

Vegan Energy Breakfast Bars


Serves:  6-8

Preparation Time:  10 minutes to mix, 2+ hours to soak, 45 minutes to back

One of my go-to food staples.   These Vegan Energy Breakfast Bars really are all good; high in nutrients, fiber and protein with very low sugar and no saturated fat.  The ingredients are easy to find, even a good chain grocery store should have them. While the ingredients list looks long, the prep is very easy and the results are delicious!

These hearty vegan energy bars store and travel really well too, perfect for on the go or on the road.   I like to whip up a batch on the weekend and enjoy them all week long!    If you bake more than 5 days’ worth, consider freezing some of the bars for later.

Note:  I recommend using an 8 or 9” square baking pan or dish, but don’t let that throw you off track.  Substitute a cake pan or similar in a pinch.

Oven Ready

Oven Ready


  • 2 cups muesli (found in most grocery cereal aisles)
  • 2 cups rolled oats or spelt flakes
  • 1 ½ cups, plus 3 tablespoons soy, oat, or coconut milk (keep 3 tablespoons reserved)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup 100% peanut butter or almond butter (made without added sugar or other ingredients)
  • 2 medium-sized ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 teaspoon stevia or 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ tbsp. coconut oil or non-dairy butter
  • 3 tbsp. vanilla protein powder (Vega is a favorite)
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (optional)

Add muesli and oats to a large mixing bowl and pour in 1 ½ cups rice milk and vanilla.  Mix well to combine, then let stand for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.   Thinly spread coconut oil along the inside surface of an 8 or 9” square baking dish to prevent sticking.  Add banana, peanut butter and remaining ½ cup rice milk to your high speed blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Pour into muesli and oat mixture and add remaining ingredients.  Stir until well blended.

Spoon the mixture into the pan, spread evenly and pat it down with a large spoon or spatula.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the pan in for at least 15 minutes longer (or until the oven is cool).  Cut into squares and serve.  Store covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Mung Bean Griddle Cakes



Mung Bean griddle cakes

Mung Bean griddle cakes

I’ve been smitten with Mung Bean pancakes, or griddle cakes as it were, since the ever-inspiring Mark Bittman first introduced me to the concept in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  Why not? I reasoned, after all there are plenty of versions of veggie pancakes and Mung Beans are so easy to sprout.  And since I do like a good shortcut, neither was I opposed to using a mix.  So I turned to my stash of Bob’s Red Mill for starters. 

I used a multigrain pancake mix and whipped it up according to the recipe on the package.  I added scallions and sprouts and cooked them to a lovely golden brown.  Without actually specifying that the pancakes were made with sprouts (code name Asian Veggie seemed to suffice), I served them for dinner.

Never ones to refuse a good pancake, my kids and husband enjoyed them as politely as kids and a husband can, meaning there were none left and no one complained.  Serve your Mung Bean pancakes griddle cakes with a side of plain yogurt, chutney or your favorite salsa for a fun and savory dinner treat.


  • 1 cup multigrain pancake and waffle mix (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup rice, soy or dairy milk, more if needed
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups sprouted Mung Beans
  • ½ cup chopped scallions (white and green)
  • Coconut oil to prevent sticking

Condiment suggestions:

  • Fresh salsa
  • ½ cup plain yogurt combined with 1 tbsp. onion jam
  • Tomato chutney

Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl until batter is smooth.  Add sprouts and scallions and mix thoroughly.  Add 1-2 additional tablespoons of milk if needed for pancake-thick batter.

Add about 1 tsp. of coconut oil to a large frying pan or skillet and heat to medium high.  Spread the melted oil evenly around the pan, and drop the batter, 2 tablespoons at a time, into the pan, leaving about 1” between the pancakes.

Lower the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook for 5 – 10 minutes until bubbles form the surface of the cakes, then flip and cook for 3-5 minutes more on the 2nd side, until cooked through and lightly browned.  Enjoy!

Fiber Up to Skinny Down


And boost energy, digestion and satisfaction in the process

Whether the latest diet debate centers around gluten-free or Paleo, carbs are a hot topic these days.  The problem is, the discussions typically cluster all carbs into one category:  bad, and thus all grains are also labeled.  The reasoning goes like this: all carbs, and therefore all grains, are unhealthy, fattening and strictly to be avoided, to the point where some shoppers will shell out $10 a package for Paleo Wraps.    The fallout of this oversimplification  keeps a lot of us steering clear of a really important fiber and nutrient source.

Carbohydrates are the starchy and sugary parts of food that break down into glucose, the sugar your body needs for fuel, so they do have their uses. And combining glucose with lots of plant fiber is the best way to keep blood sugar levels steady and long-lasting.  So as you may have guessed, neither all carbs nor all grains are created equal.

So what does all this have to do with fiber?  Well for one thing, we need to be eating a lot more of it.  The general recommendation for adults is 25 grams per day.  We’re currently coming in at around half of that.  Whole grains, which are made up of complex carbohydrates, which are naturally low in calories and high in fiber.  Along with plenty of plant-based whole fruits and veggies, grains are an important part of a healthy diet.  The fiber contained in complex carbohydrates, gives us the feeling of fullness that keeps us from overeating in addition to all the health benefits it offers. And researchers have linked high fiber consumption with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Then there are the other carbs—the simple or refined carbohydrates contained in white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries, crackers, most juices, and breakfast cereals. These are grains that started out whole, but then had the fibrous coating removed, so your body barely has to work to digest them.  Refined carbs enter the blood stream in a surge, leading to a spike in insulin that leads to a kind of roller-coaster effect on blood sugar: way up, then way down. Insulin surges can create a cycle of hunger and overeating in the short term, and long-term are associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.  To your body, refined grains like white rice are treated essentially the same way as a teaspoon of sugar: quick to convert to glucose, then leave you feeling hungry all over again.

Whole grains—as oats, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, and wheat berries, fall into the complex carbohydrate family, and have a more leveling effect on blood sugar and insulin than do foods like white rice or pasta. Since most women consume only about half the 25–35 grams of fiber most experts recommend, you may want to think about making the switch to whole grains, the more intact the better.   Look for bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient. Or, even better, buy bread that’s made with only 100% whole grains, like 100% whole-wheat bread.

Brown rice is better than white, but why not experiment with some delicious new alternatives?  A dish that contains millet, wheat berries, hulled barley or bulgar can provide about 1/3 of your daily fiber requirement.    Whole grains are also high in protein and other important nutrients like phytochemicals.

The less widely used grains offer an entire new experience in flavor and texture.  From Minted Quinoa Tabouli, to Oven Baked Oats or Orange Fennel and Kamut Salad, you’ll discover whole new favorites to replace those refined wheat products and fiber you up right!

Tangy Orange, Fennel, and Kamut Salad


Orange, Fennel, Kamut Salad

Orange, Fennel, Kamut Salad

6 servings

Whole-grain kamut is making a comeback, and Tangy Orange, Fennel, and Kamut Salad  is a flavorful way to enjoy it.   This highly nutritious grain is the perfect alternative to brown rice; the nutty flavor and substantial texture make a wonderful combination in this dish.  I prefer to soak my kamut for at least 8 hours or overnight before cooking, but it’s not a must-do if you find yourself in a time crunch.  Serve as a side dish or over some fresh arugula for a yummy main dish.


  • 1½ cups whole-grain kamut (soaked overnight if possible), rinsed and drained
  • 2¾ cups water
  • 1 cube or 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon
  • 1 large seedless orange, peeled, separated into sections, and sliced into ¼-inch pieces
  • ½ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries or dried currents
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 medium bulb fennel, finely chopped
  • ½ cup scallions, chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans or sunflower seeds, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Place kamut in a saucepan with 2¾ cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes over low heat, until almost all the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the burner, but leave the pan on the stove. Add fennel and scallions to the pot, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes longer.   Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Minted Quinoa Tabouli


minted quinoa salad

minted quinoa salad

4 servings

This savory salad tastes so fresh, you’ll love our high-protein version of the classic summer favorite.  Best to enjoy when cucumbers and tomatoes are fresh and in season.  I love using my mini food processer for chopping the herbs, which saves a lot of prep time; but it’s a pretty minimal effort either way.  The quinoa may be prepared in advance for this dish, since it’s served cold.


  • 1 large English cucumber, peeled and diced (2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup black lentils
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (fresh if available)
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped (a mini food processor or spice grinder is helpful if available)
  • 4 tablespoons mint, finely chopped (see above)
  • 1 tomato (variety of your choice; approximately 1 cup),  seeded and diced
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon salt

Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add quinoa and black lentils, bring to simmering, then reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Remove from heat and allow quinoa mixture to cool.  Mix in remaining ingredients and serve warm or cold.

Overnight Oatmeal


1-Sprout Kit 033This amazingly easy overnight oatmeal recipe takes the cooking time out of steel-cut oats on a busy morning.  You’ll love the less mushy texture too, almost like oatmeal is supposed to be made.   This breakfast is a truly a win-win, since oat fiber has been shown to help regulate cholesterol,  maintain steady blood sugar levels and keep hunger pangs as bay. Studies show that just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (as in one bowl of oatmeal) typically lowers cholesterol levels by 8-23%. Pretty impressive!

Oats also contain healthy antioxidants and plenty of other nutrients which I could go on and on about.  But in all honesty, my kids just eat them because they’re flavorful and satisfying, especially when combined with berries, nuts and cinnamon.  Yum!

Use this fun preparation technique to make 3-4 servings of instant oatmeal, no cooking required.


  • 2 cups steel-cut oats, or any combination of spelt, triticale, rye, or barley flakes
  • 2 ½  cups rice or almond milk (carrageenan free)
  • 1 fresh or frozen berries
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup, or 1 teaspoon stevia (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

The night before you plan to enjoy your oats, place all ingredients except for the nuts in a glass bowl or jar and and stir or lightly shake to combine.  Store in the refrigerator and serve cold or briefly heated in a saucepan the next morning, sprinkled with nuts.  No cooking required!

Interview: Empowering Health News and Views with Dr. Katherine Reid


I was recently delighted to discover that the brilliant researcher whose work I’d recently been introduced too, Dr. Katherine Reid is a fellow Santa-Cruzan, and further grateful still to have the opportunity to discuss her important findings mom-to-mom.  Dr. Reid’s groundbreaking work, which began several years ago when her youngest child began exhibiting autistic behaviors, led her to the discovery of an association between a common ingredient in the Western diet and chronic illness.

As an entrepreneur, biochemist, and mother of five, Dr. Reid was determined to investigate environmental factors that might be related to her daughter’s symptoms. This inspiring advocate then went on to found non-profit organization, Unblind My Mind, which is dedicated to helping others to learn how changes in diet can cure disease and improve quality of life.

Join me for this engaging 30-minute interview to learn:

  • Which widely used food additive is linked to numerous health and behavioral issues
  • How to identify the more than 60 different listings for MSG
  • Recommendations for reducing your exposure to feel better than you ever thought possible!

Hear the interview here:   DrKatieReedInterview.mp3


White Beans with Fresh Sage and Mustard Greens


White Beans with Fresh Sage and Mustard Greens

White Beans with Fresh Sage and Mustard Greens

I was scouring the winter produce at my local farmer’s market, when I spotted the most beautiful mustard greens, and despite my lack of familiarity, simply had to try them.  Duly inspired, I cooked a big pot of white beans until they reached the perfect creamy texture before adding chopped parsnip, fresh sage and the mustard greens for the loveliest flavor combination.  The very next day my typically picky grade schoolers packed the leftovers for lunch, need I say more?  Here is the simple recipe.



  • 1 ½ cups of dried white beans or 2 cans of BPA-free canned white beans
  • 1 bunch fresh mustard greens, chopped (I cup chopped)
  • 1 large parsnip, chopped (peel on)
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, chopped to 3-4 tbsps. OR 1/2 cup freshly chopped basil
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Pepper to taste

To prepare beans from scratch, soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse after soaking, then add to a large stockpot and fill with water to cover the beans by at least 6 inches.   Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours, adding the parsnip during the last ten minutes of cooking.

While beans are cooking, wash and roughly chop mustard greens into 1” pieces.  Wash and finely chop sage.  Add all ingredients to cooked beans and mix thoroughly.  Serve as a side dish,  atop a green salad, or add to a whole grain tortilla and with some avocado and greens for a yummy veggie wrap.

Nutrition Label Reading for Smarties


Step into any grocery store and you’ll see lots of products with claims like “Multi-grain,” “Healthy,” “All-natural” or “Gluten Free.”  The trouble is, many of these so-called “health foods” contain some of the worst ingredients, including excess sugar, suspect chemicals and additives banned in many other countries.

If this is surprising, consider who ultimately decides whether or not a food can be labeled as healthy in the US.   Not the FDA, as most people believe, it’s the manufacturer!  So the bottom line is, you can’t take what you read on the front label at face value—ever!”  And despite what the title of this article indicates, studies show that 84% of American shoppers are confused about their nutrition choices.  In short, these things are challenging by design.

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, most of us must do) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information listed, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some basic tips for healthier food selection:

  • For most of us, trying to avoid sugar is like avoiding sun exposure. We know we should, but it’s everywhere and it’s so much fun. But when on average we consume five times the daily recommended allowance of added sugars, limiting is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.  The recommended sugar intake for adult women is 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per    day, for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily, and for children, it’s 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day.                                                                                                                                      
  • Beware of the “natural flavoring” loophole.  Natural flavoring could be anything, and if it was anything healthy, it would be listed.
  • Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!
  • Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are more than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, it’s not a healthy choice.                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Most of us fall far short of daily fiber recommendations as the chart below indicates, so be sure you’re buying whole grains whenever possible. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole. Aim for 25-35 grams (g) of total fiber each day –or 6-8 grams per meal, and 3-4 grams per snack
  • Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense. That individually wrapped granola bar may proudly announce only 50 calories per serving, but you’d have to scrutinize the fine print to discover that’s really three servings there.
  • Avoid foods containing ingredients banned in other countries, even though they’re used regularly in the US in items from breakfast cereal to energy bars to Kraft Mac n Cheese. Food colorings like Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40, BHA, arsenic and more are found in the many of the vitamin fortified family foods we eat every day.   ABC News has a handy slide show with more details here.
  • Avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Eat more whole, plant based foods to meet you daily nutrition requirements!

Check out this chart published by the USDA Dietary Guidelines to see how most of us measure up:


Moroccan Harvest Salad


February 2014 032If you’re not familiar with the wonders of quinoa, it’s time to give this high-protein plant food a try!  Light, yet hearty, sprinkled with subtle hints of sweet, this exotically spiced quinoa salad not only tastes amazing, it’s a super simple one-dish meal.  Or serve it alongside a dish of beans and greens for a scrumptiously satisfying dinner.  Leftovers make a fabulous lunch throughout the week.


  • 1 ½ cups quinoa (any color)
  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 2 cups carrot chunks (peel on, ½-1” rounds)
  • 2 cups parsnip chunks (peel off, ½-1” rounds)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (either BPA-free canned or jarred recommended)
  • ½ cup currants
  • 1 cup chopped kale (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1-2 tsps. lemon juice
  •  1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. salt or to taste

Add water and quinoa to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes before adding carrots, parsnip, currents and tomato sauce.  Bring back to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes longer until veggies begin to soften, and turn off the heat.  Add remaining ingredients and let sit covered for 8-10 minutes before serving.

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing


???????????????????????????????????????Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing                                      6 to 8 servings

Minimalist that I am, I wasn’t remotely interested in cooking with steamer baskets until I learned this incredible recipe in a cooking class.  I love that the steamer method is low-tech, easy to learn, and fast.   At home I use a bamboo steamer, which creates an interesting and not unpleasant scent while steaming.  And believe me, this is a recipe worth steaming for!

Note:  you’ll need two stackable steamer baskets for this dish.


  • 2 heads of kale, Swiss chard, or collard greens, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 large garnet sweet potato, , peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise and then into ½-inch slices
  • ½ cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts (or substitute with another of your favorites)
  • ¼ to ½ cup Ginger Miso Dressing

Add 6 inches of water to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Place the sweet potato slices on the bottom steamer basket, and greens on the other one.  Place the sweet potato basket over the pot of water and cover; steam for 7 minutes.  Add the greens layer, cover, and steam for 5 minutes longer.  Check the sweet potato slices for doneness, and once tender, remove from heat.

Add to a bowl, toss in the scallions, and let cool for 20 minutes or longer before tossing in sprouts and adding dressing.  Serve salad at room temperature or make ahead and refrigerate, adding dressing right before serving.

Ginger Miso Dressing                                                                                             Makes ½ cup

This is the dressing flavorful enough to transform iceberg lettuce and cello tomatoes (remember those?) into delicious cuisine in certain Japanese restaurants.  Imagine how good it’ll be with fresh organic greens or mung bean sprouts.


  • ¼ cup white or yellow miso
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger; or ½ to 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ orange (approximately ¼ cup)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Combine all ingredients and serve.  Stays fresh in the refrigerator  for up to 10 days.

Fennel, White Bean, and Collard Green Sauté


4 servings

This lovely, appetizing dish is easy to prepare. Boiling the fennel stalks an1-DSC_0229d greens in water until the liquid becomes concentrated, is a marvelous way to make your own aromatic consommé in one simple step. Serve this nourishing dish with wild rice or crusty whole-grain bread.


  • 1 whole fennel bulb, stalks and greens included
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  2 cups navy or cannellini beans, precooked
  • 3 cups collard greens, stems removed, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic; or 1 teaspoon powdered or granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (1-2 tsps. to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend

To make consommé:

Remove stalks and greens from fennel bulb, rinse thoroughly, and add them to a large saucepan with 6 cups of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook down for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, chop fennel bulb into inch-long, very thin slices.

When consommé is reduced to 2 to 3 cups, remove from heat, and pour the consommé liquid only into a glass jar. Set aside. Toss out the remaining cooked fennel.

Add olive oil to the saucepan, and return to medium heat. Add chopped fennel and sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of consommé and simmer on medium-low for 5 more minutes, then repeat. Add ¼ cup more consommé, collard greens, and remaining seasonings and cook for 5 to 8 minutes longer, until greens are tender. Stir in beans and serve warm or hot. Label, date, and store remaining consommé in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.


5 simple steps for bringing more joy into your life


Life can be so literal – emails and texts, billboards, everywhere we look it’s all spelled out for us.  But what happens when we decide to take the time to let go a little, to loosen up the reins, to examine the space in-between?  Even when know you need a pause in the action in order to find your balance, it’s hard to make it happen, yet numerous health studies recognize it’s important.

In a sea of schedule overload, how do you find the time to slow down, take pause and gain access to your best self?  The answer won’t surprise you, it’s through practice.  The decision to commit to a regular practice in mindfulness can be life changing.  Yet biggest the challenge can be taking the first step to fit it into your hectic routine.  If you’re overwhelmed with life as many of us are, here you may need a hand.

Whether it’s a meditative walk, sitting mantra, pranayama practice or yoga, you can find a way to fit this time into even the busiest schedule if you use these five easy strategies:

  1. Make a commitment to yourself and put it on the calendar.  When will you start; date and time?  Studies show that fitting in a wellness practice early in the morning sets a more positive pace for the rest of your day.  Even if that means getting up a bit earlier in order to fit it in, it’s worth it!
  2. Determine how much time you’re able to commit to; 30 minutes?  An hour?  Which days of the week?  Try committing to two weeks to begin with and after that reevaluate if you need to.  Adjust anything that isn’t working and go for another two weeks and evaluate again.  (see #5)
  3. Decide right now which practice you’ll try, research the options on your area and narrow it down.  Which one fits best with your lifestyle?
  4. Journal your experience.  How is your current stress level?  What do you want to change in your life?  Do a self-assessment of now and calendar a check-in for 2 weeks into your new practice, so you can compare these same feelings at the end of each two week interval.
  5. Identify your space if you’re sitting, route if you’re walking.  Do you need anything to get started?  New shoes, a mat, a meditation cushion?  Prepare in advance to give yourself the best chance of success.

The biggest obstacle to incorporating healthy practices into your life is a lack of motivation to get started.  You’re ready, right now, to take the next step to enjoying all of the rich rewards that come when you create space for your mindfulness practice, so use these five steps to get started today!

Mediterranean Lentil Salad


Misc 010This scrumptious high protein salad is surprisingly simple to pull together.  The combination of lentils and quinoa produces a nutty taste and pleasing texture for a hearty lunch or side dish.  Toss in some oven roasted cauliflower and serve over arugula for a wonderfully healthy meal.


  • ½ cup cup ea., French Green, Spanish Pandina and green lentils
  • ¼ cup quinoa
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • ¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped (a blender or food processor is perfect for this)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. powdered garlic
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Give your lentils a quick rinse to remove any debris.  Add 8 cups of water to a large saucepan and pour in the lentils and quinoa.  The water should cover the lentils by at least 4”.   Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat, add a sprinkle of salt, and simmer for 15 minutes before adding onion, celery and sundried tomatoes.  Return to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes longer, until lentils are tender.   Remove from the heat, drain and pour the mixture into a large serving bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and serve warm or cold.

Moving Toward Solutions, Pollan’s Edible Education Series and Simple Soul Food


There is so much more to food than meets the plate.  Food is emotional, social, political and environmental…among other ideas all brilliantly explored in Michael Pollan’s online UC Berkeley Edible Education Series.  This series of free videos unveils a smorgasbo1-rebecca_stark_MP_0170rd of theory from some of the most influential voices in the food movement.

These engaging hour-long lectures explore a wide range of food-related concepts through the experts who know this subject matter best.  The individual perspectives keep it interesting, where some of the presenters wax philosophical, others prefer to keep it fact-centered.  As a 101 class, nothing is taken for granted, and the ample time frame for lecture followed by Q & A lays a thorough groundwork for understanding.

From a practical standpoint, several concepts from the series stand out.  Dr. Marion Nestle’s work on diet related disease and food safety emphasizes issues created by industrial food marketing and politics.    She compellingly explains how federal and corporate policies have come together to create an “eat more” environment which is one of the main factors in the obesity epidemic we’re facing today.  How do we get healthy food to the people who need it within a system that subsidizes the foods that are making poor people sick?

Pollan recognizes there are no easy answers to these questions.  As a society we’ve made a series of choices that led us here, and reversing the ready availability of cheap, low quality food will be no easy feat.  He additionally reminds us that this is the second food movement of its kind, with a focus on slow, local and organic.  The original movement of the seventies fizzled, and he predicts it’s too soon to tell whether this one will follow the same fate.

Movie director Peter Sellers (oddly enough in this mix) animatedly discusses the spiritual nature of food, suggesting the answer lies there.  His closing comments came as surprisingly solutions-oriented after his colorful lecture.  He proposes that framing the obesity problem as caused by a limited availability of healthy food affordable is oversimplification.  He maintains that the greatest food in history is the working class food that has shaped entire cultures.

Think of how people in the Middle East and Asia eat, and how they enjoy and celebrate simple everyday foods like vegetables, beans, lentils, grains and rice.  Seller’s also points out that these are the foods often containing the most chemically sophisticated combinations of ingredients, nutrients with properties as yet undiscovered.

Inspirational as these lectures are, they do make apparent the both the urgency and complexity of a problem with no easy solution.  Yet rather than dwell on the negative, while waiting for the movement to bring about change.   Progress begins in multiple small ways, personal and community efforts, collaboration among like-minded people.  Clearly in the face of dwindling resources, and consistent with the Edible Education Lecture Series, it’s time to eat closer to the earth, as in more plant-based, nutrient rich, real whole foods.  And reawakening to all of the ways our everyday choices have huge impact all the way around the world makes us remember we do have power.  When we resolve to live mindfully and eat consciously we further the movement toward a solution, gathering momentum one step at a time.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower


I love how very simple this recipe is, and the taste will pleasantly surprise you.  Cauliflower has a rather long refrigerated shelf life, so I always have some on hand for those times I need a 5-minute-to-prep veggie dish that is also a kid favorite.1-Jan Food Pictures 024


1 medium head cauliflower (2-3 cups of florets, broken into bite-sized pieces)

2 tbsps. Braggs liquid aminos (optional)

2 tbsps. pesto or cilantro mint sauce

½ tsp. salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 385 degrees.  Toss all ingredients in a mixing bowl or use a glass casserole dish and place in the oven after mixing.  If using a mixing bowl, pour the seasoned cauliflower into a glass casserole or or baking dish, then place into the oven to cook for 35-45 minutes, until lightly browned.  Enjoy hot or cold.

White Bean Caesar Salad


4 to 6 servings

 A good Caesar Salad is always a treat, yet when loaded with all of the oil and cheese the traditional recipe calls for, not the healthiest of fare.  This delicious vegan version is simple to prepare, while the white beans add a hearty dose of plant-based protein.  Kids have been known to tussle over the last remaining lettuce leafs (and croutons), so be sure to prepare accordingly. whitebeancaesar


  • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before using
  • ¼ cup soaking water from cashews
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy, rice, or almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh if available)
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic; or 1 teaspoon powdered or granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1 rounded tablespoon jarred capers
  • 2 cups small white beans, precooked
  • 1  head romaine lettuce (6 to 8 cups), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Whole-wheat garlic croutons (homemade or a good store brand)
  • Ground pepper to taste

To prepare beans from scratch, soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse, then add them to a large stockpot and fill with water so it covers the beans by at least 6 inches.   Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours until tender.  Drain and rinse in cold water to cool.

Add the first 10 ingredients (cashews to capers/fish sauce) to a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Add the lettuce to a large serving bowl and toss with dressing and beans. Season with pepper, add croutons, and serve.


Copyright Elizabeth Borelli, 2013

3 Simple Tips to Enliven Your Life With Healthier Food Choices


Even though 9 out of 10 of us are convinced that our eating habits are healthy, we’re seeing our Mother and daughter in produce sectionalready high diet-related disease rates continue to rise.  I know, I get it; a few years back I was among those 9!

And since back then I was exercising, eating low-fat, high protein foods, getting plenty of fruit and greens and steering clear of anything obviously junky, I thought I was on it.  But it wasn’t until I discovered that my many of my all-natural, fat-free and healthy favorites were full of ingredients that just didn’t belong in food, that I really caught on.

Ten years of search and discovery, trial and tribulation, and a Cornell University Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition later, I’m sharing what I’ve learned.  What you eat makes a huge difference in how you look, think and feel, and if you care about those things, you can change your diet and change your life!

Upgrade your eating habits starting today with three healthier food habits

1.    Commit to cooking and eating more plant-based whole foods.  On average, the American diet is 70% processed foods, and we’re consuming a greater number of empty calories than ever before. We’re meeting less than half of the recommended daily requirements for most essential nutrients, meanwhile doubling down on the foods linked to diet-related disease.  While I don’t agree with the US Department of Agriculture’s recommendations on dairy and seafood (and since these food categories don’t really belong in a list of nutrients per se), it’s otherwise from clear from the USDA chart that replacing refined foods and meat products with fruits, vegetables and whole grains will make a major impact in reversing disease trends.   The best place to get started is right in your own kitchen, where you know exactly what goes into the food you eat.

  2.   Learn to use a healthy whole foods shopping list, like this one!  This list contains      everything I recommend including into your diet, with room to add the things you can’t live without.  Use it to begin to replace some of the items you’re been buying that you know aren’t good for you one or two at a time.   For example, try whole grain bread and pasta instead of white flour-based, or pick up some almonds in place of potato chips to snack on.  And if the preprinted list doesn’t include items you can’t live without (yet!), just list them on the blank lines.  Please don’t list Doritos.

Here are the rules for the getting the most from the list (should you choose to follow them):

  • You must keep this list where you will see it, like on the fridge or on a drawer with your keys in the kitchen.  If not, you will forget to mark it right away when you run out of something and it won’t work.
  • You must commit to stick to the list while shopping.  It’s best to decide up front not to even look at the items you know you shouldn’t buy and won’t miss, but if you happen to notice they’re on sale 2 for 1, all bets are off.  Do yourself a favor and if you’re better off without it, avoid that section of the store.
  • You must inventory your fridge and cabinets before you leave the house to make sure you have yourself covered until the next shopping trip you have scheduled next week.  Because if you plan ahead, you’ve got it!

Keep in mind this simple equation if you get stuck:  fewer trips to the store = less impulse buying = less money spent on bad food = more money to spend on new, possibly smaller sized clothes.

3.    Always read the label.  New studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients labels, and if it contains products that sound like chemicals, know you’re better off without it.

Remember, the food you eat is inextricably tied to health, energy levels, even happiness, so it’s important to rank it the top priority it deserves to be.  Which sounds easy but it involves knowing how to plan, shop and, for most of us who live within a budget, re-discovering how to cook.   I know you don’t have time.  Neither did I.  I’m a busy, working mom, and I had to struggle through figuring out how to make all those realities fit together.  The strategies and recipes I’ve created are here to help you.

Whether it’s cutting back on prepared foods, including more veggies and fiber in your diet, or swearing off fast food forever, the point is to get started, today!  One step in the right direction will yield numerous benefits.  You’ll also discover delicious new dishes that you didn’t have to pay a lot of money for, food that’s good for you, and you’ll have the satisfaction of having prepared it yourself.  It’s easier than you think when you begin at the beginning, by making a mindful commitment to adapt healthier habits because you’re worth it.  You’re on the start of a journey that could change your life, so take the first step today!

5 Simple Healing Foods and Proven Edible Remedies


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It’s all too easy to turn to a bottle for relief during cold and flu season, but the problem is, over-the-counter cold remedies are simply not curative.  When the immune system is compromised, you need nutritive foods to strengthen it.  The immune system resides in the small intestine, the same organ that absorbs key nutrients into the bloodstream.   So it only makes sense to use mama nature’s edible remedies during the winter months to fight off sickness even through the worst of the seasonal ills. While there are many healing foods and supplements for immune support to choose from, here are a few of my family faves:

Probiotics are microorganisms that resemble the beneficial bacteria which occur naturally in the human gut. Known as “good bacteria” probiotics are used to alleviate and prevent illness, especially issues associated with the digestive tract. Clinical trials have demonstrated that taking probiotics may decrease the incidence of respiratory tract infections.  Available in tablet form in the refrigerated section of most health food stores, use probiotics during cold and flu season to build your immunity and help you to ward off sickness.

Ginger tea  With a multitude of health benefits behind it, ginger is a go-to herb during cold and flu season.  According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, fresh ginger prevents human respiratory virus from infecting cells in the upper respiratory tract, while stimulating cells to secrete a protective anti-viral protein.  Ginger also hinders mucous production and helps to relieve congestion.  Grate some fresh ginger into a cup of hot water, add some lemon juice and honey for a simple wellness tonic.

Try turmeric tablets to reduce inflammation associated with a cold or flu.  Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that turmeric is a natural wonder, proving beneficial in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and has long been used in Chinese medicine as treatment for depression.

Chia Pudding  On low energy days, this is a perfect choice for breakfast, and if you haven’t tried chia seeds, you’re in for a treat.  These tiny seeds contain more omega 3s than salmon, more antioxidants than blueberries, plus ample calcium, fiber and protein (4 grams in just 2 tbsps).  Relatively low in calories for all of the amazing nutrients they deliver, chia seeds are naturally gelatinous in water, so blended with anti-oxidant-rich berries and oranges loaded with vitamin C, this delicious breakfast pudding will give you a boost to last all morning long.

Sample Savory Carrot Soup  This lively soup is a wellness bonanza, with ginger and spices that both enhance the flavor and give your immune system an extra boost.  Carrots are loaded with Vitamin C, Beta Carotene and antioxidants, a potent combination for healing.  Delicious sprinkled with sunflower seeds for extra crunch and protein.

Most importantly, be sure to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and avoid refined processed foods as much as possible, since sugar in all of its forms has been shown to compromise the immune system and drain your energy.  The key to wellness is healthy diet, so shop smart, cook often and enjoy all the goodness the cold weather brings your way.

Turmeric to the Rescue



If you’re new to the wonders of turmeric, there is more to this healing herb than meets the palate.

1-2014-01-13 10.39.40You’ve probably heard of this exotic-sounding spice, but you may not have had a chance to try it.  Aside from its growing popularity as a cooking herb, turmeric is actually becoming recognized is one of nature’s most powerful healers.   Turmeric is a plant root similar in appearance to ginger, typically dried and used as seasoning, most commonly in Indian cuisine.  The goodness doesn’t stop there though, this savory herb contains a whole bevy of health (and beauty!) benefits as well.

Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that turmeric is a natural wonder, proving beneficial in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and has long been used in Chinese medicine as treatment for depression.  Turmeric is readily available in capsule form at most health food stores, but it’s best to look for a high-quality, 100% organic-based turmeric supplement, such as India Organic.  I take it daily, as does my daughter with cold-induced asthma for its anti-inflammatory properties.  And as with most remedies, you should consult with a health care professional before using it.

Turmeric is also a beauty booster.  New studies show it may reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots when added to moisturizer.  It actually contains antioxidants that reduce DNA damage in skin cells and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling.  For a DIY idea, simply grate the fresh root and add it to your favorite organic facial mask, then store it in the fridge.  The color is rather shocking while on, but washes off quite easily and the treatment is so refreshing!  Find turmeric root at most health food store.   Internally ingested or outwardly absorbed, turmeric is a benefits-packed wonder herb that will help keep you healthy inside and out.

Savory Ginger Carrot Soup


6 servings

This lively soup is a wellness bonanza, with ginger and spices that both enhance the flavor and give your immune system an extra boost. The ginger is potent, so adjust according to your preference. Enjoy it hot, poured over a warm bowl of rice or quinoa as a nourishing meal, or hold the beans and serve it cold for a light and refreshing summer bisque.

Ingredients:1-Holiday Sprout Kit and Wellness Foods 310

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 ½ cups water
  • 4 cups carrots (peel on is fine), coarsely  chopped
  • ½- to 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 3 cubes or teaspoons vegetable bouillon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon honey or ½ teaspoon stevia
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cannellini beans, precooked
  • ½ cup roasted sunflower seeds for topping (optional)

To prepare beans from scratch, soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse after soaking, then add to a large stockpot and fill with water to cover the beans by at least 6 inches.   Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 ½  to 2 hours.  Drain and rinse.

Add the onion, carrots, and ginger to a large saucepan with ½ to 1 cup water (about ½ inch) and simmer, covered, over medium heat until soft and translucent, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes longer. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor with the remaining ingredients, except for the beans.  Puree until soup is smooth and creamy, then pour mixture back into pan, add beans, and reheat to serve.  Top with sunflower seeds if desired.


Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup


This yummy dish is supercharged with healthy ingredients, and a cinch to make, despite the exotic flavor combinations. Hearty enough to go solo, or serve Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup with some brown rice on the side and a simple green salad for a flavorful multi-course meal.


  • 1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut lengthwise then again into ½- to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 to 5 cups vegetable broth; or equivalent amount of water and 3 teaspoons or cubes of vegetable bouillon
  • 1 cup lentils, variety of your choice
  • currylentil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ cup Vegan Curry Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey or stevia
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper blend (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Add 1 inch of water to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add sweet potato and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, then add onion and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the apple and turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the stove, covered, for 5 minutes longer. Pour the mixture into a blender with 2 cups of water and puree, then return the soup to the pan. Add remaining water and vegetable bouillon. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 35 minutes longer, depending on the lentil variety you choose (red and yellow cook more quickly). Remove from heat and serve.

Navigating the Diet, Calorie and Nutrition Conundrum


UnknownGuestSpeakerThe New Year is the perfect time to take a step back, look at our lives and really evaluate.  Are you as healthy and happy as you want to be, or are you feeling stuck in sluggish mode?  Especially after the holidays many of us fall into the latter category.  This is not our natural state!  If you’re feeling heavy, tired, or depressed, then your health is out of balance.   Many of us don’t realize that diet plays a key factor in either promoting or alleviating these unhealthy conditions.  The amazingly good news is, you have the ability to rebalance your diet and feel your best right though the everyday choices you make!

Now is the time, and it’s more straightforward than you think.  As you may know, not all calories are created equal, which kind of skews the simple calories in, calories out equation.   Some foods are more high-quality, as in, more nutritionally dense than others.  While you would need to be well-versed in nutrition science to assess this correctly every time, most of us know in general say, that a piece of fruit is healthier than a fruit roll up.  Real food always beats the processed version, we’ll start with that.

Calories differ in other ways too.  Foods like fiber-rich veggies burn calories just through digestion, while other foods, including many ingredients of refined, processed foods, actually incite cravings, and since the body doesn’t get to process refined foods, they go unnoticed by your hunger center.  In short, they just don’t satisfy.

What about Diet?

Of course all of the ado about individual diets creates even more confusion.  And as Nutritionista extraordinaire Meghan Telpner reminds us in her Enliven interview, diets don’t come in one-size-fits-all.   More typically they come in fads, which lots of us try, but just like miniskirts and platform stilettos, they simply won’t work for everybody.  Gluten-free anyone?

The problem with most diets is you have to work to stay on them.  And when you finally take a break, it’s so much more enjoyable you’ve taught yourself to associate diet with denial.  It’s hard to willingly opt for that.  So adapting a new definition of diet may make sense.  It’s really about finding the most nutritionally dense foods that work for your body, without overeating.  And since in general, the most nutritionally dense foods are the most fibrous, filling and satisfying, with some planning ahead you won’t experience the dissatisfaction that leads to cravings and overeating.

How do you find the foods your body needs to feel your best?  First, begin by making sure you’re getting enough of the foods you may be deficient in.  This illustrative chart from the USDA measures the average nutritional profile.AmericanDiet_vs_TargetDiet-560x342

As you can see, Americans are way too low on whole foods, and way too high on solid fats SoFas), saturated fats, refined grains and sodium, all of the ingredients so prevalent in processed foods.  The best place to start improving your eating habits is to replace all of the nutritionally devoid foods shown on the USDA chart, with healthy foods rich in nutrients we’re getting too few of, mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.  I don’t personally agree with the dairy suggestion on the chart, for reasons discussed in depth by author Rita Rivera in her Enliven interview, but the remaining suggestions are generally accepted as good health advice.

So goal number one regardless of the rest of your dietary plan, is to replace refined processed foods with healthy whole foods as much as possible.  On average, 70% of the food we’re eating is processed.  Not all processed foods are bad, but it’s important to avoid the high percentage of overly refined processed foods that have become so widespread in our culture.  This can be tricky, because it does require a bit of working knowledge.  It also involves a habit many of us avoid, reading labels.

Read Food Labels

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, many of us must) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some simple rules of thumb so if you have to buy packaged foods, at least there’s less of a risk factor.  And even if you go no further and remember nothing else, it will always benefit you to keep in mind this inconvenient truth that we all need to remember: never believe the claims you read on the front of the package.  If you’re interested in making healthier food choices by understanding nutrition labels, here are some tips:

  1. Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense.  Bottled beverages, even those that look like they’re meant for one, often use this tactic to make calorie counts seem lower than they really are.  Even clearly individually packaged items like sports bars and muffins sometimes list two servings per piece, so it always makes sense to check.
  2. In the US, we consume on average 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar per day (more than 4 times the 5 teaspoons the American Heart Association recommends for women), so attempting to reduce when possible is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.    The most common tactic manufacturers use to sneak it in? Mixing the names of different sweeteners so the weight is spread out among several forms of sugar. Some to look out for:  honey, dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, fructose, maltose, and lactose.
  3. Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!  It’s also healthier to avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  4. Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are less than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, put it back.
  5. Make sure you’re buying whole grains. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole.
  6. Finally, beware of words you don’t know or recognize in the ingredients. If you wouldn’t stock them in your kitchen, it’s because they don’t belong in your food!  Of course it’s important to focus on what to include, and not just what to avoid.  For a comprehensive shopping list of healthy foods to include in your diet, visit

Updating your shopping habits with nutritious choices will make a tremendous difference in your energy level, weight and overall health.  It’s a step-by-step process, and involves a new level of awareness and commitment.  But once you start experiencing the benefits of a better diet, you may be surprised to learn your favorite thing about your new diet is how amazingly delicious that real, healthy food can be!

Beany Bruschetta


BruchettaCelebrate Meatless Monday any time with this quick and tasty appetizer, perfect for parties. It’s especially good made with navy or cannellini beans.


• 1 whole-grain baguette
• 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
• ½ cup bean dip
• ½ cup tomato, diced

Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the baguette lengthwise. Brush the entire surface lightly with olive oil and place, cut side up, in the oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and spread with a thin layer of bean dip. Top with chopped tomato, and serve immediately.

Basic Bean Dip


iStock_000012062508XSmall-Makes 2 cups This dip is wonderfully simple to prepare, and better yet, you can make it using any bean variety. It’s delicious served as a dip for veggies, a topping for Beany Bruschetta or as a sandwich spread. Placed in a vintage jar, it makes a thoughtful hostess gift. Double or triple the recipe and keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 1week. Ingredients:

• 1½ cups beans (white, garbanzo, and black beans are favorites, precooked)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons water
• 2 cloves garlic; or 1 teaspoon powdered or granulated garlic
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon dried sage or thyme (optional)

Add ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Note: See the Bean Soaking and Cooking Chart bean preparation instructions.

Maple Butternut Bake


This dish is so scrumptious and satisfying you’d swear it was loaded with everything you try not to eat.  Yet this festive dish is both simple to prepare and terrifically nutritious.    Butternut squash is good source of fiber and nutrients, including  vitamin Cmanganesemagnesium, and potassium. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A and E. Combine it with your favorite winter veggies, add a touch of sweet and bake until it almost melts in your mouth for a holiday dish you’ll savor any day.

There is some chopping involved in this recipe, but don’t worry about getting everything sized right – it will come together beautifully regardless.  And if you haven’t cubed butternut before, with a sharp knife and potato peeler, it’s easier than it sounds (at least the second time)!  Check out this demo and give it a try!

Tea and Butternut 016

Maple Butternut veggies, ready to bake


  • 1 2-3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and chopped into ½ – 1” cubes
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped (size is up to you)
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small or ½ large fennel bulb, chopped
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • ¼ cup dried currants or finely chopped pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and pour into 2 glass pie plates (recommended because they’re easy to clean)!   You can use a shallow baking dish here as well.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and stir to loosen anything stuck to the bottom of the baking plates or dish and ensure everything cooks evenly, then turn the heat up to 450 degrees.  Put the dishes back into the over for 5-10 more minutes, until browned at the top and ready to serve.


For more simple, whole foods recipes, visit



Holiday Brussels Sprouts Sauté


Brussels sprouts rank high on the list of cabbages with a bad rap, and undeservedly so.  The trick is knowing how to bring out the sweet nutty flavor in these earthy veggies by cooking them until almost al dente, but definitely not overdone.  Just in season (now!) is the best time to give those Brussels another try, done right.

Holiday Brussels Sprouts Sauté

Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin C, just six contain 90 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C per day. And according ot the authors of “Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer,” eating three servings of crucifers like brussels sprouts per week can reduce the risk of developing cancer by increasing the rate of chemopreventive glucosinolate in the body.
Which is very good news, but you have to like them first.  Try tossing them in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a dash of salt before roasting at 400° for 35-40 minutes ‘til the edges are brown, then serve.  Or use this easy recipe:

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 finely chopped red onion
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp Braggs Amino Acids (optional)
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt (optional) to taste
  • 1/8 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/8 c. dried currents

Trim the stems, then halve the sprouts lengthwise to each half has part of the stem to hold it in tack.  Steam sprouts in water in a large sauté pan for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.  Drain and return to heat, add remaining ingredients and briefly sauté ‘til lightly onion is cooked and sprouts are lightly browned (5-8 minutes).  Enjoy!

Easy Vegan Curry Sauce


Makes 4 cups

This is a simplified version of the luscious curry sauces used in Indian cooking, but delicious still and perfect to prepare ahead and freeze for use when you need it. Some of the oil can be replaced with coconut milk, although it can be hard to source a non-canned (or BPA-free canned) version. Keep in mind that while the coconut oil adds flavor, it’s also high in saturated fat, so find the calorie/fat balance that works for you. I like to add some heat with cayenne pepper or chili powder, but be sure to go easy—a little goes a long way!
Easy Vegan Curry SauceThis sauce is especially delicious served over stir-fried veggies and rice or noodles.


•      2 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
•     6 cloves garlic, peeled
•     ¼ cup coconut oil
•     3 cups water
•     2 teaspoons curry powder
•     2 teaspoons ground ginger or 1-inch piece of ginger root (unpeeled is fine)
•     ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in just enough water to cover them, for at least 30 minutes

Optional for added heat :

•     1 teaspoon chili pepper or cayenne powder
•     2 tablespoons red curry paste (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores)

Add 1 inch of water to a saucepan. Add onions and garlic and cover, turn heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until onions are softened and translucent. Let stand for 5 minutes longer, then pour the hot mixture into a blender or food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. This sauce freezes for up to 2 months, or can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Snappy Veggie Stir-fry


 4 to 6 servings

On those days when you’re caught without a plan (we all have them!) and the pressure’s on to whip something up in a hurry, here is an easy, throw-together idea for a delicious, nutritious, one-dish meal.  

More of a cooking method than a formal recipe, this dish invites you to use whatever you have on hand.  Add a sauce (pre-made if possible), some tofu, and a grain (brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta…) and you’ve got all your bases deliciously covered.


  • 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • 2 to 3 cups of any of the following, coarsely chopped:  carrots (peel on or off), cabbage, celery, onion (peeled), broccoli florets, cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts or sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of any of the following sauces:  Vegan Curry, Ginger Peanut, Cilantro Mint, or Basil Pesto

    Snappy Veggie Stir Fry

    Snappy Veggie Stir Fry

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat, add chopped vegetables and tofu, and stir-fry for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender.  If mixture becomes dry, add a tablespoon of water as needed to prevent burning.  Add mushrooms or sprouts if using, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.  Mix in salt and sauce and stir to coat.  Remove from heat and serve.

Hearty Fruit and Nut Breakfast Muffins


If you lack the patience for baking yet still relish the proceeds, this simple path to a super healthy breakfast baked good is for you.  And before you laugh at the idea of making muffins because you would never in a million billion years have time, consider this. This easy recipe gives you the opportunity to trade 30-minutes of your life in exchange for not accidentally consuming the antifreeze in the store bakery muffin, which can’t be all that good for you.

You’ll also get 18-20 hearty, delicious whole grain muffins to energize you through you many more mornings, requiring no prep time at all, at one quarter the cost of store bought, and with all of the extra protein and nutrients to boot.

Wholewheat blueberry muffins


  • 2 cups whole grain pancake and waffle mix (I like Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain or Buckwheat)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup rice, almond or dairy milk
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (blueberries or raspberries work well)
  • Optional:  2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Optional:  Paper muffin cups (I like If You Care brand), unbleached and FSC certified

Note:  You’ll save tremendous amounts of time and energy if you use muffin cups to line your pan and pour carefully for easy clean up.  Most grocery stores sell both of these items for under $10 total.  If you don’t have a muffin pan, you can use a 8” round or square pan instead.  Coat it with coconut oil before using to prevent sticking.


  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Combine rice milk and honey either right in your 2-cup measuring cup to save time, or in a small bowl.
  • Blend in eggs and oil, then whisk into the dry mix until combined.  Stir in the nuts and berries, then drop into muffin cups (almost to the top) and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can insert a toothpick, knife or chopstick into the muffin and remove it free from uncooked batter. That’s it!

Muffins stay fresh for 3 days, but since these muffins don’t contain propolene gycole, you can freeze the rest and just thaw in the oven or overnight for an instant, healthy breakfast on the go, anytime.

Chia Berry Breakfast Pudding


If you haven’t tried chia (the seeds not the pet), you’re in for a treat.  These tiny seeds contain more omega 3s than salmon, more antioxidants than blueberries, plus ample calcium, fiber and protein (4 grams in just 2 tbsps).  Relatively low in calories for all of the amazing nutrients they deliver, chia seeds are an excellent addition to baked goods also for the nutty flavor they impart.

But the real fun of chia seeds comes in the soaking.   Placed in liquid, they’ll absorb up to 12 times their weight and thicken to resemble a tapioca pudding texture, the mild flavor of which pairs perfectly with fruit.   Soak them overnight in a jar and store in the fridge so they’re ready to use when you need them.

Chia pudding is a quick and nourishing choice for breakfast, and a fave with the younger set who will see and taste pudding, so no complaints there.  I blend mine smooth using frozen fruit, banana and avocado for the creamy texture and good monounsaturated fats that round off this brain food powerhouse.  What better way to begin a day?2013-11-05 08.36.47


Serves 2

  • 1/4  cup of water
  • 1 whole orange
  • 4 tbsps. of chia seeds
  • 3 cups frozen  blueberries
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • ¼ tsp. stevia or 1 tablespoon honey (or similar sweetener)
  • ¼ cup mango (optional
  • ½ banana (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened flaked coconut (optional)

Soak chia seeds in water the night before, or at least 10-15 minutes prior to blending.  Add all ingredients to your blender or vitamix and blend until smooth.  Pudding will continue to thicken after it’s blended.  Serve plain or topped with coconut.


Smokey Bacon-Bean Simmer Pot


Smoky Bean Simmer Pot

Smoky Bacon Bean Simmer Pot

6 servings

How can a hearty bean stew made from scratch be made simple?  By breaking it down into 3 simple, 5 minute steps, neatly fit in to your regular routine. The lentil and bean combination makes a stew so rich and delicious, you won’t believe how easy it is to put together.  Simply cover your beans in water the night before you plan to serve them, rinse and simmer the next morning, turn the stove off before you leave  to start your day and wrap up your recipe with the remaining ingredients that evening.  Serve warm or hot.  Add a fresh green salad and some thick, crusty whole grain bread for a satisfying meal.


  • 3 cups dried bean soup mix, or a mixture of your favorite bean and lentil varieties you have on hand
  • 4 cups finely chopped cabbage or chopped kale (do your chopping in the morning while you’re waiting for your beans to come to a simmer)
  • 1 cup coconut bacon, or smoked tofu, chopped
  • 2 cups jarred or BPA-free canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp. salt (to taste)
  • ½ tsp. liquid smoke or smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Soak beans overnight in plenty of water (4” above the dried bean level), in the same saucepan you’ll use to cook them.  The next morning, rinse and refill the saucepan with water to the same level.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 ½ -2 hours before you start your day.  Scoop out a spoonful, rinse and decide if they’re soft enough.  When fully cooked, add the cabbage, turn off the heat, cover and leave them for at least 15 minutes more.  If the room temperature is less than 70° throughout the day, leave the covered bean and cabbage blend on the stove until you get home.  Otherwise, when the pot is sufficiently cooled, place it right in the fridge until you’re ready to reheat it to finish the dish.

Drain the cooled bean and cabbage mixture when ready to complete the recipe, and add remaining ingredients.  Heat again to simmer and cook covered for 5-10 minutes, then serve.

Miso Goddess Sauce


033Makes 1 cup

This quick and easy dressing also makes a delicious sauce for quinoa, pasta or your favorite stir fry. Truly a five minute wonder, it lends a sassy Asian-inspired twist to your meal.


• ¼ cup yellow miso
• ¼ cup tahini
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
• ½ cup orange juice (fresh is amazing, but pre-made 100% juice works too)
• 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
• ¼ – ½ tsp. salt (optional)

Blend the first 2 ingredients in your measuring cup with a fork or small whisk until smooth. Stir the remaining ingredients directly into the cup, and pour into a clean glass bottle to serve.

Christmas and Sprouting 138

About the ingredients

Tahini, miso and rice vinegar may not be things currently in your cabinet, and you may wonder if it’s worth it to buy them when you’re not sure you’ll ever use them again. So I thought I’d talk a bit about each and why I think it’s worth the investment!

All three ingredients combine health benefits with the rich flavor they bring to everything from dressings to bean dishes. They’re  versatile ingredients with staying power (as in long shelf life), so you don’t need to worry about using them right away.

Tahini, to start,  is packed with 7 grams of protein per serving, makes wonderful sauces and dressings, and lasts as long as peanut or almond butter (refrigerated). Miso is a naturally fermented seasoning high in B12 and acidophilus, a healthy gut bacteria, Use it to flavor soups, stir fries and sauces. Rice vinegar is high in amino acids, lovely on salads and in marinades.

As for the cost, I did the math so you don’t have to. It came to less than $3 to make 2 cups of Miso Goddess dressing, or about half of what you’d pay for an equivalent product in the store. So I say splurge on some new ingredients you know will help you transition from package to pantry, and enjoy the health and cost saving benefits long term.

Super Sprout Smoothie


IMG_34002 servings

Join me in a daily morning smoothie and get ready to glow!  A smoothie for breakfast makes sense for many reasons: fiber, enzymes, protein and antioxidants will keep you going all morning, no caffeine required!  Ingredient choices are flexible here, but be sure to keep it fresh, raw and mostly green to avoid sugar overload.

This recipe makes 4 servings, one for now, the rest to freeze for later.


3 packed cups kale leaves
1” piece of fresh ginger, peel on
2 organic celery stalks
1 organic green apple, cored
2 cups fresh alfalfa sprouts
½ c. fresh parsley
2 tsps. Hemp, chia or flax seeds
1 cup coconut water
1 cup water
Stevia to taste



Rinse ingredients and toss them in a blender, blend until smooth.


Easy Lentil Salad


R-Agape6 servings


This satisfying salad is a healthy, nutritious main dish or side.  Kale and cabbage are really interchangeable here, depending on taste and availability.  Pair it with brown rice and a roasted butternut for a fabulous meal.


  • 2-3 cups dried lentils
  • 1 c. green cabbage or kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • ½  c. mild red or white onion, diced
  • ½ cup organic tofu, chopped (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. Bragg’s
  • ¼ tsp. Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 c. chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds (optional)


Cook dried lentils according to instructions* 30-45 minutes.

Drain cooked lentils and leave them in the pot on the stove.  Mix in onion,  kale  and/or cabbage and immediately and cover for 5 minutes.  Prepare dressing in a large mixing/serving bowl and toss in lentil mixture.  Add tofu and pea shoots then toss.  Gently toss in avocado when cool, cover with sunflower seeds and serve.

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as an entrée.


Fruit and Nutty Breakfast Bars


heart food picture

Fruit and Nutty Breakfast Bars

Serves 8

Ditch your packaged bars and make the switch to a home-baked alternative – you’ll save money while trading up to wholesome, un-processed goodness.

These tasty bars are easy to make and a great source of nutrition for a healthy nosh on-the-go.

And if you haven’t tried spelt flakes yet, here’s your chance!  Higher in iron than rolled oats, but similar in taste and fiber-content, spelt makes a hearty oatmeal-style breakfast dish as well.

Time saving tip:  double the recipe and freeze the rest!


  • 1 Tbsp. walnut or sunflower oil
  • 1 ¼ c. spelt flakes
  • ½ c. raisins or dried cranberries
  • ¼ c. pecans
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • ¼ chopped almonds, raw or toasted
  • ½ c. honey
  • ¼ c. natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line an 8×8 baking dish with waxed paper.  (Eco-friendly paper goods manufacturer Natural Value has a great green alternative to standard waxed, which contains petroleum by products).
  2. In a bowl combine spelt, dried fruit and nuts and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a small sauce pan combine honey peanut butter, oil and vanilla.  Cook over medium heat until melted.  Pour mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.  Transfer mixture to baking dish and smooth the top to even.  Bake for 20-25 minute until golden.  Cool completely in pan.   Cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Fresh Pesto Sauce


PestoMakes 1½ cups

Summer is the ultimate season many things,  garlicky pesto sauce not least among them.  Fresh basil in abundance practically begs to be blended into this bold and vibrant treat.  It needn’t be complicated either, the ingredients list is short.

This version is lower in calories than most, since I like to keep the oil to a minimum and skip the cheese.  No one will miss either one.   I suggest maki enough to last you several rounds, which you can use during the week to whip up a pasta dish, a quinoa salad or a white bean and veggie stir fry in just minutes, then freeze the remainder  in small containers for use well after the season ends.

Try spreading it on a whole-wheat baguette, top with sliced tomato, and pop in the oven at 350% for ten minutes for a mouth-watering treat!


  • 4 packed cups fresh basil leaves (organic if possible)
  • 3 -4 cloves garlic
  • 1-4  cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  If working with a blender, you may need to stop it intermittently and push the leaves down with a spatula before starting up again, to help pulverize them.  Once all ingredients are incorporated into a thick, even consistency, turn off the blender and spoon the pesto into a serving bowl and use it within a day or two, or freeze in airtight containers (labeled and dated) for up to 2 months.

Blueberry Superfood Smoothie


Luscious, creamy, and delicious it’s hard to believe something that tastes this decadent is also a potent beauty and energy booster. This blueberry superfood smoothie is both low in sugar and bursting with antioxidants, a perfect anti-aging combination. If you don’t have access to sunflower sprouts, substitute kale instead and be surprised at how such an unusual combination can taste so great.

I like to make a double batch to enjoy again the next day (or freeze it for up to one month.) Believe it or not, this drink is kid-friendly since the blueberries mask the greens quite nicely.


  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts
  • 14 large  avocado
  • ¼ tsp. stevia
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds, whole or groung

Place all ingredients in your blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Crunchy Cashew Fennel Slaw


Crunchy Fennel SlawCrunchy Cashew Fennel Slaw with Cilantro Mint Dressing

8 servings

This simple salad is always a crowd-pleaser. In the off chance there are leftovers, it’s even better enjoyed the following day (or two!).


  • 1 large carrot, shredded or thinly sliced into matchstick-shaped pieces
  • 3 to 4 cups cabbage, shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup Cilantro Mint Sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon powdered or granulated garlic
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup Thai-spiced cashews, chopped (use plain roasted if unavailable)

Combine all ingredients in large salad bowl, then let the spices blend for at least 30 minutes before serving. Even better when left to marinate, store this crunchy salad in the fridge for up to 3 days.

* Cilantro Mint Sauce

Makes 1½ cups


  • 1 serrano chili pepper, seeds removed (optional)
  • 2 bunches cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice (fresh if available)
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 scallions, greens removed

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Easy Fruit and Nut Granola


Granola---opt10 servings

As it turns out, granola is one of those things so easy to make, that once you learn you’ll wonder why anyone would ever feel the need to buy it. Once you get the basic recipe down, you can experiment with spices, nuts, and dried fruit to find your favorite flavor combination. Enjoy Easy Fruit and Nut Granola served with a scoop of stevia-sweetened yogurt (plant-based or dairy) for a light, easy, and super-healthy breakfast, or pack some to go for a midday or lunchbox snack.


  • 3 cups steel-cut oats (or any blend of rye, barley, or spelt flakes can be substituted)
  • 2 cups raw mixed nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, or pumpkin seeds are good choices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ cup walnut oil
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, salt, and spices. Stir to combine. Add in oil and honey or maple syrup and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet (rimmed if you have it) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oven and stir in dried fruit. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Betty’s Bean Burritos


BettysBeanBurrito---opt6 servings

Betty’s Bean Burritos are a delicious opportunity to use leftover beans and rice for an easy dinner or satisfying lunch. As quick to make as they are healthy, I usually add shredded cabbage for an extra dash of green; as always, have fun creating your own version!


  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans, precooked
  • 2 cups brown rice, precooked
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 6 whole-grain tortillas
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese, vegan or dairy
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 1½ cups salsa (jarred is fine; choose your preference, from mild to hot)


  • ½ cup olives 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup smoked tofu, diced

Heat beans and rice separately by placing into a saucepan, adding ½ inch of water, and warming over medium heat, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. If beans are unseasoned, stir in salt before serving.

Warm your tortillas by wrapping a stack of 6 tortillas in aluminum foil and place in a preheated 350° oven until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Layer each warm tortilla with beans and rice and any other fillings you choose, spreading evenly in a line down the center. Top with cheese and salsa, tuck in the ends to keep the goodness in, roll up, and enjoy.

Shitake Kale Salad


Kale salad 26 servings

A true power blend, Shitake Kale Salad is one of my dietary staples.  Packed with amazing nutrients, it’s one of the few salads you can make ahead, since it will last, refrigerated, for several days.

Kale is considered one of the healthiest foods you can eat, since it’s loaded with antioxidants, which help to neutralize harmful free radicals and is a great source of calcium as well.  Some research suggests kale even helps reduce the risk of certain cancers.  One cup of raw kale provides more than 100% of the daily recommended value of vitamins A, C, and K.

Easy to prepare, Shitake Kale Salad makes a delicious, nutritious side dish or light meal.


  • 4 to 6 cups kale, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 6 to 8 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup scallions, thinly sliced (use both white and green parts)
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted or untoasted)
  • 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce (optional)

Combine kale and sesame oil in a large salad bowl. Lightly toss, then “massage” the kale a bit with your fingers to slightly wilt it. Add remaining ingredients, toss, and serve.

Thai Cabbage Salad


Cabbage salad8 servings

This simple coleslaw-style Thai Cabbage Salad tantalizes with a light and zesty finish. It’s so easy to prepare, I frequently mix one together as a last-minute salad option, since I always have cabbage and carrots on hand and all it requires is a bit of chopping.


  • 1 large carrot, shredded (by hand or in a mini food processor)
  • 3 to 4 cups cabbage finely chopped
  • ½ cup scallions, finely chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped (a mini food processor is recommended if you have one available)
  •  2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients in large salad bowl. Best to let the spices blend for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Nutty Party Mix


chexcroppedMakes 10 cups

This crunchy treat is a healthier tribute to the classic Chex Snack Mix, minus the  corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, excess sodium and preservatives—and you won’t miss them.  This Nutty Party Mix is not only scrumptious, it’s high in protein and amino acids too!  I use it in creating healthy, no waste lunches and my kids love it – in part because it’s snacky enough for happier noshing with fewer uneaten returns.

You can get creative with the ingredients but here is what I like to use:


  • 1 10- 13 oz. box of  healthy whole grain Chex-like cereal (look for low sugar and GMO-free), Cascadian Farms and 365 Brand are good options
  • 1 7-8 oz. package whole grain pretzels,  Snyder’s Organic or Newman’s Organic are a great choice
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp. Bragg’s amino acids (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder (optional)

1. Mix cereal, pretzels and nuts  together in a large mixing bowl
2. Add Braggs and olive oil and mix well
3. Add garlic and onion powder
4. Toss with your hands to make sure it’s all coated well.
5. Spread flat on the pan.
6. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes at about 300 degrees. This can vary with ovens and altitude, so check frequently.  It should just look toasty.
7. Remove from the oven and cool before serving.

Fruity Morning Smoothie


JuiceServes 2

Beginning the day with a yummy and super-nutritious  smoothie boosts energy, mood and brain function.  We don’t always know what happens once those kids are out the door, but if we can pack in some goodness to get them started, we’re on the right track!

The nice thing about this Smoothie is it disguises the foods kids might not be otherwise be into for breakfast.  I start with 2 good, blend-able fruits they love, like banana, mango, blueberry, raspberry or strawberry.  I add carrots and avocado to my daily version, which my kids like the flavors of better than the notion, but the extra nutrients are too good to skip.  Add some protein-rich flaxseed and a bit of sweetener, and you’ve got a super-blend your kids will love.

The trick to including the secret ingredients is to stay within the color family of the fruit you’re basing the drink on, and don’t add new or spicy flavors except possibly in small doses.  With a bit of experimenting with different fruit and even the occasional veggie combination, you’ll find what works for you.  Stevia is an excellent sweetener to use since the intense fruit flavors hide the aftertaste it can sometimes have, and this all-natural, low-glycemic alternative enables you to keep extra sugar out of the morning meal.


  • Choose 2 fruits (2 cups total): banana, fresh or frozen mango, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries are favorites
  • Choose 1 liquid (1 cup total): rice milk, almond, soy milk, dairy milk
  • Sweetener: ½- 1 tsp. stevia
  • Protein Booster: 2 tbsp. flax seeds
  • Options (1/2 cup total): carrot (peel on), beet (peel on), cucumber (peel off), romaine lettuce, buckwheat or sunflower sprouts, avocado

Add all ingredients to a blender, food processor or Vitamix and puree until smooth.

Quick trick: premake “smoothie packs” by pre measuring and packing your solid ingredients together, placed in the freezer until ready to use.  Note:   cucumber, lettuce and sprouts don’t freeze well, so if using, add fresh before blending. 

Ten Minute Spring Rolls


Ten Minute Spring Rolls 1The actual prep time for these delicious spring rolls depends upon your choice of veggies, but when time is of the essence, ten minutes is enough.  Cabbage, lettuce, avocado, tofu and sprouts are your speediest options.  Carrots, peppers, cukes and herbs take a bit longer, but not much.  The rest is a snap; just dip the spring roll wrapper in water for a few seconds as it softens like magic and you’re ready to fill and roll.  Here’s my eight-year old helper Talia to demonstrate her fabulous ten minute spring rolls, one simple step as a time:

Ingredients:Ten Minute Spring Rolls 2

  • 8 rice paper wrappers (available in the Asian-foods section of most grocery stores)

Filling options (choose 3-5 for best results):

  • 1/2 cups alfalfa or radish sprouts
  • 1 cup green-leaf lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup red or green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, shredded or julienned (sliced in thin strips)Ten Minute Spring Rolls 3
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned (sliced in thin strips)
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and julienned (sliced in thin strips)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped (a blender or mini food processor is great for this)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (see above)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, raw or roasted, chopped
  • 6 ounces firm tofu, plain or teriyaki-flavored, cut into 16 thin stripsTen Minute Spring Rolls 4
  • 1 avocado, seed and peel removed, cut into 16 thin strips (optional)


  • ¼ cup teriyaki sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids for dipping

Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip a wrapper into the warm water for just a second or two to soften, then lay it flat on a plate and get ready to wrap.Ten Minute Spring Rolls 5

Place your choice of ingredients in a row across the center, place, leaving about 2 inches on either side of the wrap without any ingredients.

Fold the “naked” sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, burrito-style. Repeat with remaining ingredients.   Served room temperature or chilled, with (0ptional) dipping sauce.

Time Saving Tip: If a stop to the market is on your agenda, visit the salad bar and stock up on precut veggies like carrots and red peppers to save the time of cutting them yourself.

Quickie Quesadilla


1-2 servings

Remember way back in the day before the microwave when the go-to appliance was the toaster oven?  While you don’t need a toaster oven per se, this recipe is definitely inspired by it.  Just use your oven or even a large, covered sauté pan to briefly heat your creation, and voila!  Quickie Quesadilla, just like that.  It’s so easy, you might encourage your kids to put together this tasty sandwich-alternative high-protein lunch or snack.


  • Whole grain or brown rice tortilla
  • ¼ cup shredded mild cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (plant-based or hormone-free dairy)
  • ½ avocado, peeled and sliced
  • ½ cup black, pinto or kidney beans
  • Optional:  mild salsa for dipping

For oven cooking:  preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle beans across the top of the tortilla, then cover with cheese.  Place the quesa on a cookie sheet, then cook for five minutes until cheese is melted,.  Remove from heat, fold in the middle, slice up pie-style and serve.

For stovetop preparation: place a saucepan (with a cover) on the stovetop, heat to medium.  Sprinkle beans across the top of the tortilla, then cover with cheese.  Place the quesa in the saucepan, cover then cook for five minutes until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat, fold in the middle, slice up pie-style and serve.

Baked Kale Chips


Kale Chips

2-4 servings

Baked Kale Chips make a tasty alternative to the standard bagged snack.  Some of the most die-hard veggie-phobes have been known to change their tune after just one bite.  Fortunately they’re a snap to make, and surprisingly kid-friendly too!


  • 1 bunch kale, washed and dried
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1 tsp. Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie or baking sheet with parchment paper.

Break or cut kale leaves from stems, break into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.  Whisk remaining ingredients together in a cup or small bowl.  Drizzle the mixture over the kale and toss to coat.

Spread kale leaves over the baking sheet and bake until the edges of the kale are browned but not burnt, 10-15 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.  Store for up to one week in an airtight container.

Four Beauty Foods to the Rescue!


Beets&cabbageIf you’re familiar with celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, you may have seen her recent segment with Dr. Oz on the four foods that combat signs of aging, the same ones I have and Kimberly obviously does not.  Crow’s feet are one example.  I was happy mine could be Photo-shopped off the picture we used for Beanalicious Living, but that still leaves the real life wrinkles to deal with.  For this problem and others, here are four beauty foods to the rescue, starting with watercress.

I like the idea of replacing pricey eye cream with nourishing beauty food.  Kimberly recommends using this zesty green as an alternative to lettuce in things like spring rolls, salads and wherever else you can fit it in.