A Few Of My Favorite Things 2017

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The holidays are nearing and you might be wondering what to put on your wish list or what to buy for the people in your life. I’m no Oprah, but I do have some opinions on the things I love using in my daily life (hint: you won’t find any $600 coffee makers on my list.) Read on for some of the things I would rather not live without!

Sockwell compression socks. I’ve been doing a lot of running lately, training for my first 10k. If I run anything over 3 miles my legs ache and I have trouble falling asleep. I bought myself a pair of Sockwells and wore them after my last 4 mile run. No achey legs! $21.95 – $24.99.

How To Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, 10th Anniversary Edition by Mark Bittman. I love Mark Bittman’s approachable style of explaining recipes and methods. In fact, I just made his whole roast chicken recipe last night for dinner. This is a great idea for the person who loves to cook, or who is striking out on their own and needs a good solid cookbook to help them learn how to cook. $23.49

Eos Ultra Moisturizing Shave Cream. The vanilla scent is my favorite, and I love how moisturizing it really is. $14/pack of two.

Aaptiv personal training app. I wrote about this last year, too. If it weren’t for this app, I would not be training for a 10k right now. Having a personal trainer in my ear (with dozens to choose from) keeps me motivated. I learn proper form and other essential information, and the music the workouts are set to is music you actually want to listen to! From cycling to yoga to running to elliptical and everything in between, you can’t go wrong with Aaptiv. I love it so much I actually became an ambassador. Try it for free by clicking the link above. $8.33-9.99/month depending on subscription plan.

Ugg Amie. I love the newer slimmer fit Uggs and I love that they  have a bit of a heel. I have had the same pair of Uggs for over 10 years now and still love them dearly. I felt like maybe I was allowed to buy a new pair with a more modern fit since I’ve worn my other ones nearly to death. So, I keep the old ones for walking the dog. Prices vary based on style and color.

Gut Shots by Farmhouse Culture. I always thought I was weird because I grew up drinking pickle juice out of a glass. I guess there are enough weird people out there that Farmhouse Culture created a healthy drink on the idea. I am a huge fan of the garlic dill pickle flavor with the smoked jalapeño coming in a close second. These probiotic “shots” are full of good stuff to make your belly happy. Around $4.99 at Whole Foods

Rosebud Salve by C.O. Bigelow. I’ve been using this lip balm for ages, and I have three or four scattered around the house and in my purse at any given moment. I love the old fashioned tin and that I can use it anywhere (lips, cuticles, dry spots). Around $8 on Amazon.

Hamilton Beach Set It And Forget It Slow Cooker. At this very moment, I have chicken stock bubbling on its 21st hour in this slow cooker (remember the whole chicken I baked last night? I threw the carcass and juices in the slow cooker with water and will use the stock to make chicken soup tonight). I use this slow cooker for making stocks, roasts, soups, whole chickens, etc etc etc. I know the Instant Pot is the kitchen appliance du jour, and it’s actually on my Christmas list this year, but I will always love my slow cooker. It’s programmable and I really like the thermometer feature as well. At around $49, this is a must-have for any kitchen in my very humble opinion.

Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino cherries. I’m not ashamed to admit I really love a cocktail cherry. Always have, always will. I found this brand at Whole Foods and have never gone back to the neon red cherries from my youth. Yes, they are more expensive. But they also contain no artificial flavors or dyes. I use them in my cocktails and in my holiday baking. Not only are they better for you, they taste amazing. About $14

What’s on your list of favorites? Leave your comments below! I always love trying new things.

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These are a few of my favorite things

*Clicking on the Amazon links above will take you to my affiliate site, where it’s possible I might make a penny or two.

Nourishing Lentil, Ham and Potato Soup

Last week it was our turn to host Crappy Dinner Party, so we pulled out a bone-in ham from our deep freezer to smoke in my husband’s smoker. We were worried the ham might be dry but it was ridiculously good. Since we had some leftovers, we put the bone and the leftovers back in the freezer for another time.

Fast forward one week, and I was craving soup. I checked out my pantry and saw that I had green lentils, potatoes, and onions. In my fridge I had carrots and celery and Better Than Bouillon. I knew I had what I needed to make something really yummy. After reading several recipes and adjusting for what I had, here is the recipe that I created.

NOURISHING LENTIL SOUP

SERVES 12

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2-3/4 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 celery ribs, chopped

2 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over

12 cups stock (meat or vegetable) homemade, or store-bought. I like Better Than Bouillon

1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cups cubed ham

1 ham bone, if you have it

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a dutch oven or soup pot, place the soup bone, if you are using, and 12 cups of water (if using Better Than Bouillon) or stock and heat until boiling. Lower heat to simmer for at least an hour (I left mine on for several hours). Using a slotted spoon, remove the soup bone. If you are not using a soup bone, skip ahead to sautéing your vegetables. Add a few tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon if you aren’t using stock. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes minutes. To the pot of stock, stir in lentils and softened vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at least 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in potatoes and ham and simmer covered until potatoes are softened, at least 10 minutes. This soup can stay on simmer for a long time before serving.

ENJOY!

Ham and Lentil Soup

 

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Your Immune System — Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

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Your Immune System — Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

We’re in it, people. It’s cold and flu season and everywhere you go someone has a cough, the sniffles, a sore throat, or worse. How do we keep ourselves healthy and energetic all season long? One approach is through our food choices. Excess sugar, processed carbs and too much alcohol will suppress our body’s ability to fight off infection (which is a shame because aren’t the holidays MOSTLY ABOUT SUGAR, CARBS AND COCKTAILS?!?!). I’m not advocating giving up your favorite holiday treats, because part of what keeps us healthy is not being stressed out. Also spending time enjoying ourselves with people we love is pretty high up on the list for immune-boosting activities, and if we are hyper focused on every little thing we put in our mouths, we will ruin it for ourselves and those around us.

However, what I would like to encourage is making the majority of your food choices healthy ones. So, when you are cooking/eating at home, which should be most of the time, make those meals impactful. Start every day with a healthy breakfast because it helps keep the rest of the day on track (click here, here, here or here for great breakfast choices). For lunch, choose something like a big salad with good quality proteins like chicken and chickpeas, and choose olive oil and vinegar dressing. Or, make a huge batch of soup on Sunday and eat it all week long. I love the hearty lentil soup I make all winter.

You want high quality protein, you want good sources of fiber and fat (the good kind, like olive oil, those found in nuts, coconut oil, and organic and grass fed meats). And pile on the vegetables and fruits. The more antioxidants you eat the better. They will reduce inflammation which will help fight off cold and flu bugs. They also contain natural antiviral and antibacterial agents.

Check out this recipe for Carrot Ginger Turmeric soup. Carrots are very high in vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Ginger and turmeric contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s warming and soothing for the coldest days and will keep you nourished.

Stay tuned for more immune boosting recipes and information!

*If you don’t like coconut oil or are allergic, feel free to sub with olive oil.

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Ginger Turkey Stir Fry — A New Recipe For Depression Support

I received a lot of feedback and traffic to the blog when I posted the High Protein Smoothie recipe for depression nutrition support. The post seemed to strike a nerve, and it’s no wonder. Depression and anxiety are on the rise. Kids, especially, are suffering at ever increasing rates. According to a New York Times article today: “In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.”

In 32 years, the rate of U.C.L.A. freshman who feel overwhelmed rose by over 200%. This is startling.

I can’t begin to address the issue of depression and anxiety in depth like mental health professionals can. It’s an intricate problem with many factors, and I primarily focus on the nutrition aspect. But, I can say that we as a civilization seem to be moving further away from spending time together in person. People feel isolated and alone. This is one reason why I proposed Crappy Dinner nights, which have taken off like gangbusters and are now a weekly occurrence amongst my friends. Another factor that has been studied is our lack of time in nature. Children are given less time to play outside during school and adults spend most of their days indoors as well (I wrote a post about this, you can read it here).

One thing I know for sure is that our diets, what we eat and drink, is negatively affecting our mental health. Inflammation plays a role in our mental well-being, just as it does with cardiovascular, metabolic, and brain health. When we eat mostly pro-inflammatory foods like highly processed flours and sugars, our brains aren’t being fed what they need to be happy and healthy. Our gut health, which is a key factor in the health of our other bodily systems, is worse for the wear when we eat these pro-inflammatory foods. If our gut microbiota is out of whack, so is the rest of us. You can read about it in the paper titled “The Gut-Brain Axis: The Missing Link in Depression” in Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience. In the conclusion, the authors write: “Poor diet is a risk factor for depression; thus, a healthy diet may prevent depression. Regulation of the gut microbiota using diet, probiotics and FMT may have important benefits for preventing and treating depression”.  For those wondering what FMT means, it’s fecal microbiota transplantation, which is a process used for certain gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

To be clear: I do not believe people who are depressed or anxious can magically cure themselves with diet. If it were that easy, no one would be suffering. But I do believe diet can play a role in mental health and wellness, just as it can when we are battling cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. It’s a piece of the puzzle.

So, my advice to anyone with depression or anxiety is to, little by little if that’s what’s feasible, add in some anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. Try to crowd out the cookies and crackers with whole foods like high quality proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates. These foods will nourish your brain and help reduce inflammation. Use lots of herbs and spices a.k.a. “booster foods”. And please, don’t ever go off any medications or treatments without the express consent from your doctor. 

See below for an easy and delicious Ginger Turkey Stir Fry recipe. If it were me, I’d make the brown rice using frozen pre-cooked rice from the grocery store. It saves a lot of time and leaves you one less pot to wash. If you feel like having chicken or beef, use that instead. Opt for high-quality, grass fed meat as much as possible. They are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. 

**I am not a doctor nor am I qualified to give medical advice. Please see a licensed medical professional for any medical concerns you might have.

 

 

RECIPES FOR ANXIETY_DEPRESSION

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The Importance of Zinc

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

Yesterday when I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I typed in “garlic parmesan pasta” because those were the ingredients I definitely had on hand. I wanted something very simple but still tasty. Everyone likes pasta. Plus it’s wonderful comfort food for a cool fall Monday.

The recipe that I found is a “one pot” pasta recipe which means literally everything goes in the pot, including not just the liquid and the pasta but all the seasonings. You wouldn’t think this would work but I swear on my life it works — and beautifully at that. But you must trust the process.

The one thing I added to this One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta recipe is frozen meatballs into the bubbling mixture because I felt like the meal needed some protein, and my 12 year old and my husband love meatballs. So do I, but since I try to stick to a lower animal protein diet, I added some vegan meatballs to mine.

Speaking of changes, I also opted to put the parmesan at the table instead of into the recipe — my daughter doesn’t love a cheesy mess (unless it’s pizza? Sometimes she’s weird) and letting people determine the amount of cheese means less cheese usually gets used. So it’s a win for the pocketbook as well as the overall calorie count of the meal.

So, try this recipe next time you need something super quick, simple and easy to clean up  after.

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The Importance of Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral which acts as an antioxidant in our bodies. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. Since our bodies don’t make zinc, we need to get it through our diet or supplementation.

Why is zinc important? Because it’s an antioxidant there are many benefits to getting enough zinc. I’ve outlined some of them in the handy infographic below.

My doctor recommended taking no more than 50 mg of elemental zinc to boost my immune system. You would be hard pressed to get that much zinc from diet alone. 

What happens when you don’t get enough zinc? Lots of stuff can occur, such as low fertility, low immune system, depression/anxiety, and decreased wound healing, for starters. 

Read and print out this handy guide on zinc for more information.

***I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on t.v. Please ask your doctor or qualified medical professional before starting any supplements!

Zinc 1 page

New Recipe: High Protein Smoothie (And A Bit On Nutrition for Anxiety and Depression)

If you’ve ever been depressed or suffered from anxiety, or have seen someone you care about suffer, you know that treating it can be difficult. There are so many components that go into the treatment of neurological disorders such as depression and anxiety. It’s not like a sprained ankle, where the cause is clear and the treatment is pretty straightforward. There can be many causes of anxiety and depression such as genetic predisposition, prior head injury, metal toxicity, nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, blood sugar imbalances, chronic stress,  and there is even some evidence that having cholesterol levels that are *too low* can contribute to anxiety and depression.

It is important to work with a doctor or trusted medical practitioner to find a plan that works for you, but alongside that you can support your efforts with good nutrition. For instance, when a person’s blood sugar is imbalanced, they will oftentimes experience anxiety (this happens to me). An anxious or depressed person needs optimal levels of good quality protein (organic meat, eggs, fermented dairy like yogurt) and high quality fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty fish) to help their brains function well. Many times we see a correlation between low B vitamins and depression and anxiety. So make sure to get plenty of whole grains in the form of brown rice, oats, and other non-glutenous grains. You can also get B vitamins in beans/legumes as well as dark leafy greens.  And, what might be most important in the nutrition discussion is our gut flora and how it affects our mental health. More and more research indicates that there is a very strong connection between how healthy our gut is and how healthy our brains are. It’s called the Gut/Brain Axis, and I think it has a lot of merit.  In an article in the Annals of Gastroenterology in 2015, we are told that:

“Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that enteric microbiota has an important impact on GBA (Gut Brain Axis), interacting not only locally with intestinal cells and ENS (Enteric Nervous System), but also directly with CNS (Central Nervous System) through neuroendocrine and metabolic pathways.”

Basically, our gut is a very important center of activity for our nervous system, and directly communicates with the rest of our bodies, including our neurological system. A healthy gut microbiota can have a very beneficial effect on our mental health.

I’m not trying to insinuate that all of our mental and emotional problems stem from the Standard American Diet (SAD). That would be simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. BUT, I will say that research has proven that diet does have an effect on our mental well being. So, alongside any other remedies you might be trying such as medication, yoga, exercise, counseling, and supplements, it would be a really good idea to work on your nutrition. I understand that when you are in the thick of anxiety or depression, adding one more thing to your to-do list might well be too overwhelming. My advice is to make small changes as you are able.

Start with ditching your highly processed cereal for this high-protein smoothie. It’s got yogurt, which is good for your gut. It’s got a lot of high quality protein in the form of yogurt and whey. It has spinach and blueberries, both of which are high in antioxidants and really great for reducing inflammation. Add some coconut oil and you’ve got a good start to your day.

I plan on writing more about anxiety and depression because I think it’s such an important topic and so many people are struggling. And there is so much that can be done nutritionally, so stay tuned.

***I am not a doctor, nor am I prescribing any one treatment. My advice is never intended to take the place of the medical care you might already be receiving.

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