Counting My Blessings

What seems like a few years ago (could have been much longer though) I remember my mother telling me that she heard Oprah keeps a journal of everything that she’s grateful for and writes in it every day.  Since then, I have made an effort to at least remember a few things that I am grateful for a few times a week.  I think of it as “counting my blessings” because most of the time I  remember these things just before I fall asleep; I literally “fall asleep counting my blessings.”  This practice brings positivity into our lives and regardless, it’s always nice to remember and appreciate moments that can forever change our lives.

At the beginning of this year I began tweeting things that were highlights in my day and called them “happy days.”  One “happy day” (more of a moment really) took place on a cold night just after the new year.  My husband and I found ourselves at Max Brenner in Union Square enjoying some really decadent hot chocolate (our favorite way to enjoy chocolate).  Even though it was just a quick hot chocolate it turned into a spontaneous little date and it was really nice.  Sitting there enjoying my chocolatey goodness made me think about how lucky and grateful I am that we are together and that he is my best friend and husband.

Anyway, I decided to use my blog as way to express the gratitude and spread the love I have for things, people, moments, etc. that I encounter throughout the week.  It’ll be a weekly post and I hope it will inspire others to do the same.  If anything, it’s great for mental health.  So, without further ado (in no particular order):

  1. My job, even though it’s taking years off my life, ;-) I want to express gratitude for giving me such a strong motivation to “go confidently in the direction of [my] dreams.” To “live the life [I've] imagined.”  (quote by Henry David Thoreau);
  2. My blog followers, friends and loved ones who support and given me some great feedback this week;
  3. My husband and cat (Nimbus) who are always ready with hugs when I get home;
  4. Tara Stiles;
  5. Wishful Chef;
  6. Mental health days;
  7. My Breville juicer;
  8. Fruits and veggies;
  9. My Spotify playlist of favorite tunes that gets me through the day; and
  10. My Anatomy and Physiology teacher and lab partners (98% on the bones/integumentary system test!).

Okay, that sums it up for this week.  We have family visiting this weekend.  I’m excited to see them!  And I have my Anatomy & Physiology class tomorrow…learning all the muscles.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  :-)

Chickpea Kale Salad

A friend recently posted this chickpea and kale salad on Pintrest and I have been meaning to try it ever since.  Courtesy of the Wishful Chef, I made it last night and it was sooooo good.    I loooove chickpeas and this is by far the best way I have ever eaten kale.

With one can of organic chickpeas, I chopped and mixed 4 leaves of organic kale, a few leaves of organic basil that I am growing in my kitchen window, and a handful of organic mixed baby lettuces.  I mixed it with a clove of garlic, a little olive oil and 1/2 a fresh, organic lemon.  I added a little salt and pepper.  I also used my zester to shred some parmesan (as I didn’t have romano) on top.

You all have to try this.  I will be making it all summer…and fall….and winter….Okay, so it’s a really great salad, all year round.  Thanks, Wishful Chef, for a really healthy, new salad.  Love it!  I can’t wait to go home and eat my leftovers.

Lemon Sole

The other night my husband and I made a lemon sole dish for dinner.  We found it  in our local market listed as “local” and “wild caught” so we had to get it.  It was really yummy so I want to share.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (I leave it to your good judgment)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter (I leave it to your good judgment)
  • a bit of flour (optional)
  • 2 lemon sole fillets
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 1 tbsp water and/or white wine
  • basil
  • spinach
  • a small handful of pasta
  • salt & pepper

Begin with boiling the water for the pasta.  Next, heat a large frying pan with the olive oil and 1 pad of butter.  If you choose,  wash and lightly flour the lemon sole.   Lay the fish in the pan and salt/pepper the top.  Cover and lower the heat to medium.  Depending on the thickness of the fish (lemon sole is pretty thin) let the fish cook on one side for about 5 minutes then flip to the other side, recover and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  I’m not a professional chef and I won’t be in your kitchen while you’re cooking, so I’ll let you decide what’s right.  Go with your gut.

In the meantime, if the water is boiling, add the pasta.  Then wash and dry the spinach and basil and set aside.  When the fish is finished, take out of the pan and turn off the heat.  Set the fish aside on a plate and cover with some tin foil to keep in the heat.

Judging by what is left in the pan you may want to add a little more oil and/or butter.  Then add a little water or white wine and 1/2 of the juice of the lemon to de-grease the pan.  Scrape up all the floury bits from the bottom and discard.  Add the spinach and basil to the mix and let the spinach cook down for about a minute.  When the pasta is ready scoop it in with the spinach, etc. and swirl it around until everything is combined nicely.

Plate up the pasta and spinach and lay the fish over top.  Garnish with a wedge from the other half of the lemon and add a little more freshly ground pepper.  Here’s my finished product: this fish is so light and flakey, it pretty much fell apart when I was transferring it to my plate (like I said, I’m not a professional chef) but it’s still super yummy!

Other options: instead of pasta you could use rice, cous cous, or you don’t have to use anything and just eat the fish and spinach/basil.  

If you try it, let me know what you think or feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments or suggestions.

Keep Breathing

Whenever I feel overwhelmed and there’s a lot going on, I take a few deep breaths.  Sometimes it works and some times it doesn’t, depending on my level of anxiety. Some days the breaths have to be a little deeper and come from deep within.  I used to sing, so I equate this type of breath with a “singer’s breath”: a deep breath from the diaphragm that you can also feel in your back.  When you feel your lower-back expand, you know you’re doing this correctly.  I make an effort to take at least one breath this way in each position in yoga class.  It really helps to work the stress out, mentally and physically.

Along with these breaths, I try to picture myself in a setting like the one in this picture.  I close my eyes, breath-in and mentally surround myself by quiet and beauty.  This is great when you are looking for a quick escape from fast-paced city life.  Actually, I sometimes do this on the subway.  I put some relaxing music on my iPhone and close my eyes.  It works until someone bumps into me or steps on my foot.

But I will be honest right now and say that I am experiencing some mental angst and need a reminder to take a few minutes to breathe and bring myself back to center.  As a warning, I’m about to vent a little. I apologize in advance.  I’m not a complainer, but I need some help and advice from anyone who can help.

Currently, my job can create a lot of anxiety.  It forces me to take many deep breaths, many, many times a day.  It’s not stressful work but some of the people I work with make it stressful, which, I feel is terrible because it doesn’t have to be this way.  It’s an unfulfilling job and every day is harder than the last.  I know some people would say that I am lucky to have a job, that I shouldn’t leave until I have something else lined up and that everyone has similar issues in their work place.  And that’s totally all true, but I’m a young person, stuck working at a job that’s not my life’s passion.  Nutrition, overall health and well-being, yoga, meditation – those are my passions, obviously.  Okay, sorry….so I’m remaining calm and breathing….just keep breathing, breathing, breathing….

So, please offer some advice.  I think we all go through times like this at one point or another.  I hope to benefit from some wise words of wisdom.  Not to mention, does anyone have any ideas on a new job, for someone like me, who needs to break into the health field but doesn’t have any background besides taking a few science courses as pre-requisites to a Masters program and a blog?  I really appreciate everyone’s help, love and support.

No Meat – Day 34

The 40 days of Lent are almost over.  Technically it’s over on April 1, Palm Sunday, and I haven’t decided if I want to stretch it to Easter Sunday for a 47-day run.

Around my last update about my 40-day abstinence from meat, guacamole and chocolate (which was circa day 20) my mind and body were so used to eating meat and chocolate that I was having major cravings and even dreams about eating a salad with pork, or accidentally eating chocolate.  I found myself desiring sweet substitutes for chocolate because I couldn’t have that little piece of chocolate.  Thank goodness for that juicer!  It has thankfully thrown off the sweet cravings.   And we all know the nutritional benefits of juicing are far better than a cream puff.

In the last two weeks, my mental/physical states have calmed down and gotten used to this routine.  Though, I decided full-on vegetarianism wasn’t quite for me, I think my palate expanded.  I needed fish, so I ate fish.  So we’ll say I experimented with “pescatarianism” instead of vegetarianism for this time.  I didn’t like fish when I was little and stayed away from it for a long time.  In the past 34 days, I’ve eaten more fish than ever before and feel great!  After a nice fish meal (usually tuna, swordfish, salmon, orange roughy or lemon sole) I haven’t felt gross, engorged, bloated or nauseous.  You know, that feeling we all get after eating a heavy, meat-oriented meal?  Also, I have started to eat tofu.  I like tofu, but I always looked at tofu like it’s that thing that vegans and vegetarians eat, therefore not something I can eat; it’s their’s and not mine.  I realized that I had made up some dumb subconscious rule that I lived by and have no idea why.  This mindset could stem from the fact that I am a meat eater and tofu is probably the last thing  I’d order in a restaurant.  But I surely will now.  It’s great!  And such a great substitute when meat isn’t “what’s for dinner.”  (My husband hates it though, so it’s obviously not for everyone.)

After all these days of no red meat, chicken, or any other type of meat that would creep in, because my intestines aren’t working so hard to break down and digest meat, I feel lighter , more energized, and never better, really.  I haven’t lost weight, but I don’t feel heavy and weighed down.  I started to run this season.  It’s been great so far and my husband and I get to enjoy our beautiful park together.  Yoga is going well too.

Has this time period without meat converted me to be  vegetarian?  No.  Will I eat meat again?  Yes.  I have just realized that there are many more delicious food options out there that don’t have to include meat.  Will my consumption of meat be significantly less after this experiment? Yes, for sure.  Why put myself through feeling gross and sick after a meal?  Why would anyone want that?  Will I abstain from meat for a period of time again?  Absolutely.  ….Gosh, I hope I still like meat after all this….

I leave you with this morning’s breakfast: orange, apple, kale, carrot.  Yum!

Do you eat meat?  Have you ever stopped eating meat for a period of time?  What were your experiences like?  Let me know in a comment.

Look, I Made Some Juice!

In case you didn’t know I got a juicer on Sunday and I just want to say that I hugged my juicer this morning.  Really, I hugged it, and told it that I loved it.  The past two mornings I have made juice using my brand new Breville Juicer and…heaven…I’m in heaven…  It is really one of the greatest inventions ever; not to mention the health benefits it spurts out into a glass of delicious freshly-made juice.  Juicing is a good way for the body to absorb the nutrients in fruits and veggies.  It can reduce the risk for cancer, increase immunity, remove toxins, etc…

Yesterday I made organic apple, celery & carrot juice using the recipe/directions in the instruction booklet that comes with the juicer.  It made 16 ounces of a sunset orange, delicately sweet juice.  My husband had already left for work, so more for me!  

Carrots  have a ton of essential vitamins and nutrients including vitamin B6, Thaimin, Folic Acid.  But of course, carrots are most famous for their Vitamin A and Beta-carotene which give it that beautiful orange color.  These are great for the skin and vision.  Celery is slightly anti-inflammatory and a source of Vitamins K and A, Potassium and Calcium.  It may also help to lower cholesterol, high blood pressure and aid in cancer prevention.  Finally, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Apples are a good source of Vitamin C.

And here’s the finished product:

                                

Today I made all organic strawberry, kiwi, celery, apple & kale juice.  Strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C and also has some Calcium, Magnesium, Folate and Potassium.    Did you know that kiwi’s are technically a berry?  I didn’t!   They’re a native to Southern China.  (Learning something new every day!)  Along with other aforementioned nutrients, kiwi’s contain Vitamin E which is good for the skin and heart.  Kiwi’s are also good for thinning the blood.  Finally, kale with it’s dark green leaves is a great source of iron.  It’s also high in fiber.  It may help to prevent heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia.

Now check out this documentation:

Looks good enough to eat, right?

And the finished product:

                                      Voila:  

I happily shared this morning’s  juice with my husband.  When all stirred together the pink juice from the strawberry was overpowered by the dark green from the kale.  It looked like Naked Juice Green Machine and tasted like it too.

Tell me about your juicing adventures.  Any good recipes I should try?

Here Comes the Sun (and Vitamin D)

Recently in my Anatomy and Physiology class we have been learning about the bones.  My teacher brought up the disease Rickets.  He explained that  during the turn of the century children were developing leg bone deformities in places like  Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia due to lack of sunlight.  Before child labor laws they would work down in mines beginning before sunrise and finishing after sunset.  In this pivotal time of growth in childhood, they were never exposed to sunlight that activated the vitamin D in their bodies.  This caused them to develop Rickets.

Because we have been blessed to have some really beautiful weather days, along with daylight savings time, it made me think how important vitamin D is to our bodies.  I had to do a little research.

Vitamin D aids in the body’s absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus and maintaining strong, healthy bones.  We synthesize it in the skin when we are in the sun, which is why it can be known as the “sunshine vitamin.”  This is why the bones of those children weren’t developing properly.  Our body’s are like plants that need sunshine to grow and maintain strength and nourishment.

Those of us who work in offices and are cooped up all day long, only  see the sun on a lunch break, if that’s even possible.  So what happens during the winter when we almost never see the light of day?  Thankfully, turns out, that if you’re drinking milk and juice fortified with vitamin D, eating eggs, certain types of fish (tuna, salmon, swordfish, sardines) and yogurt, you are a-okay on the vitamin D scale.  Though, if you take cod liver oil, that’s probably the best option with the maximum amount of IUs of vitamin D you can ingest.

But it’s so nice out now!  Just being outside in direct sunlight for 10-15 minutes without sunscreen is a great way to get the vitamin D working in the body.  Though, the UVB rays do not go through glass, so sitting in your car or by an office window with sunlight beaming through doesn’t work.  I strongly recommend everyone get outside, take a walk, breathe in the fresh air.  You are doing something good for your mind and body on so many different levels.

Lenten Practice – Halfway Update.

Wow, not eating meat, when you are a meat-eater, is hard.

I was at my parent’s house yesterday.  My mother had out a beautiful multi-colored bowl of M&M’s chocolate covered pretzels.  On top of that, she bought an abundance of Boars Head Brand cold cuts for lunch and slow cooked a pork roast for dinner.  All that was missing was a vat of homemade guacamole.  I felt like an AA member dragged into a bar.  Thanks Mom.  But, instead, I ate mozzarella and tomato salad with a little balsamic and olive oil for lunch (which is a favorite of mine so I didn’t feel that I was missing much) and the roasted potatoes with onion, red cabbage and salad (the sides for the pork).

After, I found myself shocked at the will power to abstain from these foods.  While it looked and smelled so delicious, and I wanted to try a piece of that slow cooked, tender pork, I just didn’t.  I’ve found that the desire is mostly mental.  My brain was saying “that smells good. Eat it!”  My body was saying “…egh…”  My body didn’t need to eat the meat.

Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies and with this Lenten practice I started of not eating meat, chocolate or guacamole, I have been pushed to listen to my body more than ever before.  A few nights ago I practiced yoga at home to Deepak Chopra and Tara Stiles’ new DVD: Yoga Transformation.  On this DVD, there is a great meditation, guided by Deepak Chopra.  He puts emphasis on listening and being aware of your body.  And most importantly to ask “how hungry am I?”  It’s so helpful in getting through these 40 days.

Hope you are doing well and the weather is as nice as it in in NYC.  We are so lucky to have this weather right now.  Spring time, here we come!

PS – If you’ve been paying attention to my Tweets, class is going well and I am learning a lot.  I’ve become interested in Vitamin D and how it works in the body, especially needing the sun to activate it.  I’m doing research and drafting a new post.  Stay tuned.