10 Things to Love about the Season

1. The Winter Solstice is a time of returning light. This means after Dec 22nd the days will once again start getting longer and daylight will begin to increase.

winter solstice

2. Things slow down….or they should this time of year. We have extra time off work to celebrate the season and rest. Use this time to slow it down and draw inward as nature does, rather than inviting more chaos into your precious time. Read here on how to not self-sabotage during the holidays.

snowy meditation

3. Hearty, Warming Foods. Slow roasted root vegetables, thick stews, hot soups, and savory meats are all winter foods that give us grounding energy and stability. Enjoy the warmth of these.

homemade chicken noodle soup

4. Reconnecting with old friends. Christmas gatherings, parties, or cards allow us to catch up with friends and family we may not see other times of the year. Welcome these connections into your life.

5.  Contemplation. This is when we reflect over the last year and note the areas of our life that were gratifying, fulfilling, and productive. It is also when we can resolve to leave behind that which no longer serves us as we move into the new year.

peaceful wish

6.  A New Fresh Start. Everyone feels recharged and ready to make positive changes January 1st. Setting goals and creating vision boards is exciting this time of year when the future is truly a blank page. Be creative!

new year7. The Christmas Spirit. Whatever Christmas means to you, there is no doubt that a lot people are happy and joyful right now and that can be contagious. Absorb that good energy while it’s here!

8. Curling up and staying warm. What’s more comforting that thick socks, a warm blanket, hot tea, and a fire? This time of the year just begs for us to feel cozy, soft, warm, and nurtured.

sleepy kitty

9. Hot tea. OK, I drink hot tea all year long but it’s especially good this time of year. Warming from the inside out and enjoying spicy flavors like chai and cinnamon is just better in the winter.

hot tea

10. Dark, leafy, winter greens! Full of phytonutrients and calcium, dark leafy greens grow best in colder weather.

kale

*11. Bonus reason: My birthday is right around the corner! And that means cake.

*12. Extra bonus reason: The pretty falling snow that WordPress provides!

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Natural Naked Beauties

OK I used the title to get your attention, but real food really excites me! Especially right now when all the produce is so boastfully and beautifully displayed. Wearing no stickers, labels, or plastic wrap; they proudly sit, unabashedly baring themselves for us to admire. And I do.

The market this week was so beautiful with ripe, local produce that I wanted to buy one of everything. But I am leaving town and that wouldn’t be a good idea. I did, however, get my blueberries and a couple cucumbers which I knew I would eat quickly.

homegrown cucumbers

I am reminded how nature always knows what’s best for us and what we need- if you follow her, you will never have to over-think how to be healthy.

A bright rainbow of colors gives us all the nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins we need- no supplements necessary!

peppers and tomatoes

This is the time of year when just about everything is bursting with “readiness”- Do you feel that way at all? Our bodies and energy are meant to be one with the seasons and now is the time to show off your ripeness like these beautiful juicy blackberries-

local blackberries

It’s the season to relax and enjoy life’s offerings without caring so much about perfection- like these beautiful heirloom tomatoes, imperfectly perfect

heirloom tomatoes

Summer provides us with balance to the heat with these cooling greens and refreshing herbs- we can also find balance emotionally by enjoying quiet downtime amidst the sometimes overheated pitta energy of summer. The greens below are amaranth, the seed can be eaten as well like millet or quinoa.

cooling summer greens

And summer has special things that we don’t get other times of the year, like this okra. I try to enjoy it as much as possible before the season is up. Check out my recipe that was featured on “Freshly Pressed” I think they are tiny works of art!

okra

Summer is a great time to experiment with new produce and to try out new cooking techniques. Keep it simple and make it about the vegetable, not the “add-ins”. Simple steaming, grilling, or gentle sauteing is usually all that’s necessary.

What is your favorite summer fruit or vegetable?

Chilled Quinoa Pesto Salad

This might be my new favorite thing to eat this summer!  I stumbled onto it accidentally, or actually because of a rabbit….

I had purchased a beautiful basil plant and put it on my back patio with great excitement at watching it grow and thrive during the long summer months. 2 days later I awoke to an empty pot with no evidence of any plant other than all of the leaves being left on the ground around it. A rabbit had come and eaten all of the stems and conveniently left me with the soft fresh leaves. What else could I do but make pesto?

I stuffed the washed leaves into my food processor-

fresh basil pesto

I added olive oil,

basil and olive oil

walnuts, and fresh garlic cloves and blended on high speed. Done!

walnut basil pesto

Nothing tastes as good as fresh homemade pesto! It can be stored in an airtight container or frozen in ice cube trays for later use.

homemade pesto

For the salad I cooked 2 cups of quinoa after rinsing the grains thoroughly. I added a scoop of fresh pesto and halved cherry tomatoes that had been marinating in balsamic vinegar and chopped basil (Thanks again bunny!)

quinoa pesto salad

After blending well,  I added feta cheese and raw cashews for more protein. I snipped some fresh parsley and threw that in too-

quinoa pesto salad

Let chill in refrigerator for more flavor- stir well before serving and garnish with fresh basil!

pesto quinoa salad

I have been eating this straight out of the fridge with a spoon! It’s so refreshing! I did end up buying a new basil plant and placing it high up on a table out of the way of any visitors who think my herb garden is a salad bar!

container herb garden

Leave Room for Growth

A couple years ago when I parted ways with my longtime corporate career, I had a huge amount of new found space in my life. Not only was my calendar clear, so was my head, my ego and my agenda. I literally had no plans or aspirations and it was a scary feeling. Thankfully, it was beautiful fall weather and I decided to create a new perennial bed in my front lawn.

A lone, scraggly lilac bush stood in the area by the curving walkway to the front door. I began fervently digging up clumps of crab-grass in order to make room for new plants. I didn’t plan or design the space, I just wanted to be busy and not focus on getting my life in order. The garden became a metaphor for where I was at the time; unplanned, uprooted, and not sure what was going to take hold or even blossom.

I moved perennials from my backyard to this new space as well as buying some bargain bin plants at the local nursery. I hastily shoved root balls into the hard ground and shoveled dirt on top, ready for the garden to be up and blooming soon. I needed some type of movement in my life, I was counting on these plants.

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Fall turned into winter and the plants began to die back for the season. The space now just looked like a big patch of ugly lawn that someone had haphazardly taken a shovel to. The weather eventually killed any sign of green and I began to regret what I had done. I didn’t think it would ever recover.

The following season, to my surprise, most of the perennials came back. Not big and strong like I had envisioned, but they survived. I enjoyed a couple coneflowers and my little rosebush gave out more blossoms in it’s new home than before. Again in the fall, I covered the new bed with dried leaves and let it rest while I went about my business of still trying to figure out my life.

This spring, just as things in my life are really beginning to take root and put forth lots of new growth, so is my garden! The little lilac is now a sweet smelling large shrub, the yellow rose has about 100 buds on it, and the other perennials are thick and lush! Everything has filled in so nicely and evenly, it’s hard to believe this was once a bare plot of land I had created out of nothing.

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It reminds me that when things seem slow or empty to not be in such a big hurry to fill them up. To not cram our schedules full of appointments so we leave no room for spontaneity. To leave space and room for things to happen naturally, in their own time, without being crowded out by our own plans.

Weekly Nosh-Up

Happy Spring! I am enjoying the green grass and wild violets that have taken over my backyard and it’s been warm enough to go barefoot, which is my favorite thing in the world!

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I had an interesting food week this week with lots of mini-meals and cravings for green vegetables and comfort food. I guess I was in need of all of it. I enjoyed warm steel cut oats in the mornings as it was still a little chilly here and I know when summer arrives I won’t want hot cereal much. But I also made overnight oats a few times with my new dried goji berries and raw pumpkin seeds. Goji berries are considered one of the superfoods because of all the nutrients and antioxidants in them. They have a slight tartness so they are good in recipes. See a list of more raw superfoods from David Wolfe here.

goji berries in oatmeal

I was also craving greens so I bought: Broccoli, shredded broccoli and carrots, baby bok-choy, kale, and brussel sprouts. I ate the kale and bok choy in coconut oil as usual and I roasted the B.Sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil and topped with slivered almonds. I noshed on them all week, hot and cold.

brussel sprouts w/sliced almonds

For the sweets I was craving, I swirled frozen berries, banana, honey, cinnamon and walnuts into some plain greek yogurt. This has become a daily ritual for me. I want to try shredded coconut in it soon.

berry yogurt swirl

I found some cara cara oranges and bought a huge bag as they are in season right now and won’t be back again until next year. These taste like CANDY to me, they are so hydrating too. I think the extra vitamin C has kept me from getting sick all year while most everyone else I meet has suffered colds or flu.

cara cara orange

Earlier in the week I attended a vegetarian dinner at a local university and got a lot of good ideas I want to try at home. I spent most of the meal trying to figure out the ingredients of what I was eating.

I also visited a new juice bar in my neighborhood (Finally!) called The Urban Juicer

The Urban Juicer

and had a yummy raw cacao powder smoothie. Cacao is another superfood so I guess I’ve had a Super week!!

5 Ways to prepare for Spring

Preparing my body for spring is my favorite thing to do! It’s all about renewing, shedding excess layers, and creating space for new growth. All of that is exciting as we get to lay the groundwork now for the rest of the seasons. The foods we eat, how we exercise, and how we care for our health is all affected by the changing seasons. Spring is a transition from the restfulness of winter into the vibrant growth of summer.

1. Add in more sun-reaching, tender vegetables to your diet. Think of plants that reach up, as opposed to the rooted winter veggies like potatoes and carrots. Baby kale, bok-choy, collards, asparagus are all good options to start off the salad season. Eating raw plants is literally feeding your body ‘life force’- all of the nutrients and cells of the plant go directly into your system and fill you with life energy.

Baby red kale and bokchoy

Baby red kale and bokchoy

2. Begin to awaken with the earlier rising sun. The now active birds can certainly help with this. All of nature works with the natural cycles of daylight except for humans. We force artificial light when it is dark outside and change our clocks so that our natural circadian rhythm no longer functions as it should. Try to see how it feels to rise closer with the timing of the sun.

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3. Incorporate more twists into your yoga practice. It’s time to “wring out the dishrag” as I like to say in class. Squeezing and compressing the internal organs allows freshly oxygenated blood to flow to them and to release stagnant energy, creating spaciousness.

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4. Purge! Your clothes closet, your kitchen cabinets and even your bookshelf. Go through and discard items that are weighing you down physically or emotionally. They call it “spring cleaning” for a reason. Take it literally this year and really make some space in your life to make room for the new!

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5. Eat less. Yes, I said it. We no longer need the extra calories that were once used to keep us warm during the long winter months. It is time to lighten up and that means less food at each meal. I feel best when I eat several small meals spread throughout the day and keep my later meals small.

SImple kale salad with carrots, pumpkin seeds, raisins and balsamic vinegar

SImple kale salad with carrots, pumpkin seeds, raisins and balsamic vinegar

How do you prepare for spring?

10 Spring-Cleaning Tips for your Diet

Spring is almost here and we are ready to renew, refresh and clear-out clutter. Cleaning up the yard and home is awesome and necessary, but have you considered cleaning up your diet? I am not talking about a deep cleanse or fasting- I don’t do those. I believe a gentler, more moderate approach creates lasting effects. Here are some things you can try out and see what feels right for you:

1. Start the day with a cup of warm lemon water on an empty stomach. It naturally and gently cleanses the lympthatic and digestive system.

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2. Switch from fruit juices to the whole piece of fruit. Instead of a glass of orange juice, which is high in sugar, eat an orange and get the benefits of the fiber. (Same with apple, grape, etc)

fruits at farmers market

3. If you eat meat add in 1 or more meatless day to your week. Substitute veggies in your sandwiches and explore other sources of protein like beans and nuts.

beans and rice

4. Keep eating your greens and add in more raw greens too. Kale, spinach, broccoli, parsley, dark lettuces all have tons of phytonutrients and chlorophyl which is a natural cleanser. Just as in winter when we eat more grounding, root veggies, Spring begs for lightness and growth with sun-reaching plants like greens.

Dark leafy greens

5. Lighten up on the dairy products. If you still drink cows milk, try coconut or almond milk instead. Dairy causes mucous build-up and with spring allergies this can be a major issue for some people.

6. Eat less food more frequently. Smaller meals are easier on your system and as the weather warms up, we naturally need less food.

small lunch

7. Drink more water. We will begin needing even more hydration than usual in the coming season so get into the habit now. Carry a bottle with you and keep it full.

8. Use fresh herbs. Throw some parsley into your next juice or smoothie, it is one of the most cleansing foods we can eat. Add cilantro, basil, thyme into your cooking for exciting flavor without salt.

thyrme and cilantro

9. If you haven’t already, try eliminating white flour and white sugar from your diet. These are both very processed and sugar is potentially addicting. Try whole wheat flour, oat flour, almond flour for baking. Switch to natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, agave or brown rice syrup.

10. Eat outside! As the weather permits, why not enjoy your meal in the fresh air and sun? Get away from your desk or, worse yet, Television set and eat in nature!

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How do you “Spring-Clean”?

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