Wednesday, October 29, 2014

5 WAYS TO ENJOY THE CHANGE OF SEASON


 Fall is officially here, meaning it's time to trade in flip flops for warm boots and iced teas for Pumpkin Spice Lattes (but please, not from Starbucks!!! Try this recipe). Instead of triggering a case of the October blues, try making few positive changes in your life to boost happiness. Keep spending time outdoors (just dress properly!)and with your friends, take extra days off from work (if possible), attend interesting classes, learn something new (how about that Indian cooking class?) and commit to a regular workout routine (even if it's just one yoga class a week or a 15 min walk a day). You don't have to lose your summer glow as the seasons shift. Try these tips and share yours in the comments: 
1. Plan a few mini-vacations

Make time for at least one or two short, affordable weekend trips during the fall, like driving to a nearby city or the countryside for the weekend. It does wonders for your health, well-being, and productivity. Personally I love the quietness of the countryside and we often find ourselves in the peace of small towns of Pennsylvania. The mere anticipation of a vacation can boost happiness for up to eight weeks before you leave! Do you notice how your energy is different when you have something to look forward to. I sure do!
2. Get outside

Yes, it's not that warm anymore, but you can still enjoy the benefits of nature throughout the fall season. The crisp, cool autumn air can make for a refreshing walk as long as you're appropriately dressed for the weather. Make time to enjoy an early-morning stroll, even if it's just 10 minutes. Walking through green spaces has been shown to reduce stress and put the brain into a state of meditation. Try doing deep-breathing exercises while walking and notice the benefits.
3. Prioritize friends-and-family time 

When the weather is nice and everyone is out and about, we tend to naturally gravitate towards spending more time with our friends and family. Once the temps drop, it's easy to stay hibernating indoors. Unfortunately that's exactly what I tend to do. But no matter the season, making as much time as possible for your tribe will benefit not only your mood, but your health. Strong social ties have been associated with lower stress levels, increased longevity and improved mental health. If you feel lonely, just create your own circle of sisters! There's nothing stopping you.

4. Enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables 

 Find few good recipes and cook a meal using nutrient-rich autumn produce such as butternut and kabocha squash, grapes, brussels sprouts, apples, pears, beets, fennel, sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Get creative and add your own personal touch. For example I almost always add cinnamon to anything I'm roasting in the oven. It's my favorite and makes the house smell like heaven. Cooking can be a great de-stressor if you don't rush it and make it a chore. Put on some music and enjoy the process. It's a sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch and visual delight.

 5. Unplug and recharge

This has been a real issue for me and so far the most helpful thing I've done is scheduling my internet time. I put reminders on my phone's calendar that tell me what my tasks are throughout the morning. For example from 9am-10am: write a blog post about homeopathy. 10am-10.15am: make breakfast and eat. 10.15am-11.15am: write a blog post about Halloween events in NYC for hotel blog. 11.15am-11.45am: schedule Facebook posts for the next week, and so on. Too much screen time has been linked with stress and depression. Have you also noticed when you go on a vacation somewhere without WIFI how great you feel not checking your email and social media notifications every hour? Unplugging from work and social media on the weekends can be helpful for supporting well-being and boosting productivity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

JUIL GROUNDING BOOTS

 It's been hard to let go of the summer and prepare for the fall. Summer is my favorite time of the year, spring coming as a close second. To get ready, I've replenished my supplement (Zinc, Turmeric, D3, Chaga), candle and tea storage (lots of ginger, yerba mate & rooibos), packed away all the colorful summer dresses and sandals and dug out out the heavy scarves and boots from the storage boxes. This is also the time of the year when I like to pamper myself in order to balance the discomfort cold weather brings me. I have scheduled massages, short road trips, hiking, more cooking classes and gentle, slow flowing yoga classes at a new yoga studio in our town. And my latest feel-good (and look-good) obsession: Earthing (thanks to Juil!).
Unfortunately we don’t get a chance to spend enough time in nature nowadays. Don't you just love the feeling walking barefoot on the beach? Feet are our foundation because they keep us connected to the earth. The surface of the earth is like a giant battery. It carries a strong negative charge with a limitless supply of electrons. By connecting with the Earth’s surface, your body is able to absorb the negatively charged, free electrons that are continually renewed within the earth. When grounding or earthing, the harmful and unhealthy free radicals in your body are stabilized and a natural, balanced electrical state is established.  
Juil offers Earthing in their shoes by placing copper conductors through the soles of the shoes. Because copper is a conductive metal, you’re able to go about your day and experience the relief of Earthing on the go. My Lelo boots are super light and equipped with memory foam footbed. Hands down the most comfortable boot I've ever worn. So together with my yoga and meditation practice, these shoes play a role in keeping me calm, grounded and balanced in this life of constant ups and downs. Check out all the beautiful styles of Juil shoes here!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

BRUNCH PERFECT: BLOODY MARY SMOOTHIE

It is now almost a "tradition" that we have Bloody Mary's when we carve our pumpkins (because we did it once before here). This time I wanted a Bloody Mary that actually tasted good so I made it from scratch using my favorite kind of tomatoes: heirlooms. The plan was to juice them, but I got too lazy to dig my juicer from the back of the cabinet and decided to use Vitamix instead, making it a smoothie instead of a juice. It didn't end up being thick at all like I first though, but very juice like. I didn't use any other liquids than lemon juice, very little vodka, some acai juice and the natural juice from the tomatoes I blended. I had no recipe and was missing Worcestershire Sauce (replaced it with organic tamari)so just go with your hunch on how much you need and try it often until desired taste has been acquired. That's what I did and the end result was deeeelicious.

Bloody Mary Smoothie
serves 2

3-4 large tomatoes
1/2 small horseradish pickle
3 tbsp tamari sauce
2 tbsp hot sauce
dash of salt
2 dashes of cilantro
3 dashes of cayenne
vodka (to taste)
1/2 cup acai juice

Throw everything in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour in a glass of ice. Decorate with cilantro or dill sprig, celery stick, pickle spear or olives.

P.S. One medium whole tomato provides 40% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 20% of the RDA of vitamin A, 2% of the RDA of iron, and 1% of the RDA of calcium. Lycopene is the natural substance (part of the carotenoid group) responsible for the deep red color in many foods, including tomatoes. It provides cancer fighting agent and a powerful antioxidant. Bottoms up!

Friday, October 17, 2014

PUMPKIN POWERHOUSE

 Cheerfully orange pumpkins are packed with carotenoids and are a good source of vitamins A, C, E and the B vitamins and fiber. They're rich in minerals as well (potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, sodium, zinc). So go ahead, carve your pumpkins, but also make sure to eat some! Did you know that you can juice them? Raw pumpkin juice is a great way to consume it. Pulp you can use for baking bread or pumpkin brownies. Pumpkin is super good for you! For example:

-Pumpkin seeds have anti-inflammatory properties that are very useful against the arthritis and joint inflammation. 

-Pumpkin has high amounts of phytosterols that is similar to our human cholesterol. It can normalize the cholesterol to a healthy level. 

-One of the cause of depression is the lack of trytophan in our diet. Pumpkin is rich with L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our body cannot manufacture. When this chemical compound is supplied, it activates the feeling of happiness and well-being, reducing the depressed mood. 

- Aids in gastrointestinal disorders (indigestion, constipation etc.) due to its high dietary fiber content and also lowers LDL, "bad" cholesterol and regulates blood sugar level

-Beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are some of the finest nourishment that help keep the optic system in good health.

-Does wonders for boosting the immune system by increasing the production and performance of white blood cells; building resistance to various kinds of infections. 

-Pumpkin seeds are also great for kidneys. By taking about 5 – 10 grams of pumpkin seeds daily prevents stones formation in the kidneys. 

-The high quantity of anti-oxidants (vitamins A, C, E, and zinc)are great for the skin

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MY FIRST HEALTHY COOKING CLUB WITH ROBYN YOUKILIS

Last week I ventured out to my favorite part of Manhattan, the East Village. I was not there for bar hopping, as some of you might have thought, but to attend a cooking class. Yes! My interests have totally changed at my old age :)! I haven't done cooking classes since vocational school and been desperately searching for inspiration to start creating more goodness in the kitchen (and not those same five dishes that have been done over and over again). I've watched cooking shows, bought tons of colorful cooking books, followed vegan cooking blogs, but nothing has gotten me as inspired as in-person cooking class. I've found the answer! 
I found Robyn online and been following her on Instagram for a while now. She seemed like a sweet person so I thought it would be really cool meet her and learn from her in person. Robyn's Cooking Club is held at a very homey environment: her home! I was the first one to arrive (the ever so punctual Finn) and was offered a glass of wine/water while waiting for the rest of the gang. After getting to know everyone we started preparing for the meal. This included kabocha squash (completely new veggie for me to try) and garlicky kale tacos, kale salad as well as gluten-free chocolate muffins with cinnamon coconut cream topping. Yum!
Robyn is funny and has a laid-back, no-fuss attitude on cooking. Things fall on the floor and spill around, but hey, that's what happens in everyone's kitchen. That kind of took the pressure off trying to be perfect. Because perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence :). I loved the evening with Robyn and the girls and will definitely be at the next one! Thank you Robyn for inviting me to your beautiful home and creating this experience. XO

Monday, October 13, 2014

MEATLESS MONDAY : MISO TAHINI SOUP


Miso Tahini Soup
Serves 4
Prep time 10 min - Cook time: 15 min

Ingredients:

1 delicata or butternut squash, seeded and cut into cubes
1 medium white turnip, peeled and cut into cubes
4 cups water
4 tbsp white miso (or any miso you like and adjust the amount accordingly. Some misos are saltier than others).
1/4 cup tahini
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Optional accompaniments:

3 cups of cooked brown rice
1 avocado (sliced or cubed)
1 bunch of chives, minced
Toasted nori (or kale), crumbled for serving
Toasted sesame seeds
Preparation:

1. Toss the squash and turnip in oil, salt and garlic and broil in the oven for 10 minutes. This step is totally optional. Recipe did not call for it, but I feel that the flavors intensify when roasted.

2. Once roasted add the squash and turnip to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a gentle boil.

3. Simmer for few minutes (or 10 if you didn't roast them i the oven) so the stock gets flavored. Remove from the heat and let cool just slightly. 

4. Pour a few tablespoons of the hot stock into a small bowl and whisk in the miso and tahini. This step is to avoid clumping. Stir the thinned miso back into the pot along with lemon zest and juice. Taste, adjust the broth to your liking by adding more miso (for saltiness) or tahini, or something else. I added some sea seasoning for saltiness and cayenne for a little kick, because I like spicy foods.

If you have leftovers and need to reheat the soup, you'll want to do so gently, over low heat, to preserve the qualities of the miso.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

PUMPKIN PICKING 2014

A cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which aids vision. Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids that give the gourd their bright orange color, including beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of vitamin A for additional eye protection. Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in phytosterols that have been shown in studies to reduce LDL, also know as the "bad" cholesterol. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains nearly 20 percent of the daily recommendation of vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

PHILLY FILES : P.S. & CO.

P.S. & Co. wears many hats. It is an organic, gluten-free, vegan, kosher parve bakery and cafe in Center City Philly. I absolutely adore their charming rustic chic decor. This might be the cutest cafe I've ever been to. If I lived in Philly I could see myself here regularly for breakfast getting my day started and getting inspired. They offer smoothies, fresh juices, and even milkshakes. Food offerings range from house-made coconut yogurt to chia porridge to salads, wraps and soups. 
This time I just ran in for the juices, but next time when we're back in Philly I'd love to come in for lunch and try everything. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAY : 7 STEPS TO MEDITATION

Since starting to do yoga and listening to Gabrielle Bernstein's guided meditations I've been convinced that meditation does good for the mind. Scientific research has shown that meditation can improve your mood, boost immune system, improve regulation of stress hormones, enhance the ability to empathize, calm anger and anxiety, and help you cope with pain and depression.

1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still. Even if it's just for 30 seconds. You got to start somewhere.

2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice. You can think words if that helps you to stay focused. For example I fall asleep repeating these two words in my mind while breathing: "let" (inhale) and "go" (exhale). 

3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.

4) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go. Start again.

5) Experiment. You don't have to be sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonzi tree. Beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, with music, in the nature (beach, forest) etc.

6) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits. When I'm at work I take few deep breaths and express gratitude every time I make another cup of tea or when I see numbers 11:11 or 1:11.

7) Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up 5-30 mins earlier to meditate.

 I also use meditation to help me fall asleep peacefully at night. I use the words "let go" together with my breathing practice so I don't bring all the negative thoughts and anxiety into bed with me. I do this lying down so I can fall asleep mid-meditation. Works every time. There might be correlation between losing the ability to focus on meditation and your inability to focus in other areas of your life.