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.

High Protein Smoothie png format

 

Weekend Cocktails: The Ginger Margarita

weekend-cocktails

I have done a pretty mediocre to poor job of posting actual health and wellness information recently, thanks to a busy summer and back to school madness. That’s ok, though. Hopefully the joy of trying new cocktails will blur this failure until I can get back on track.

Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow cocktail-lover who happens to be one of my favorite golf and paddle partners (Hi Ellen!) and I asked her what her favorite cocktail ingredients were. She answered “tequila and ginger”. Wow! What a fun combination. Tequila, with its smooth taste, and ginger with its spiciness.  I guarantee you she isn’t messing around with subpar tequila, either. Only 100% agave tequila is the way to go for exceptional cocktails.

I couldn’t really remember a time I ever had a cocktail that included tequila and ginger. So, I told Ellen I would do some research and come up with a cocktail that she might like. In searching I found the Ginger Margarita, served up, which seems perfect. Just the other day I introduced Ellen to my favorite cocktail in the history of cocktails, the Aviation. I love it because it’s bright and smooth and slightly sweet, and because it’s served up (I sometimes get frustrated with rocks cocktails because I like to sip my drinks, and the ice tends to dilute the flavors too quickly for me). Ellen really enjoyed it which doesn’t surprise me because she has excellent taste.

The good news is that ginger is highly anti-inflammatory as well as excellent for the digestive system. And tequila has been thought to be better than other liquor for you because it’s lower in simple sugars. As always, moderation with alcohol is the key, regardless of what you are drinking!

So Ellen, this Ginger Margarita is for you. I think the baker in you will really enjoy making your own ginger simple syrup. Cheers!

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Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Smoked Salmon Egg Bake

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Midweek Mashup: Taco seasoning recipe, a cell phone contract for teens, and 13 easy yoga poses for stress.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

School is back in session and that means we could all use some tips on how to make things easier and more streamlined. Even if you don’t have kids in school, these tips are sure to be useful!

Why buy taco seasoning at the store which contains fillers and other weird ingredients when it’s cheaper and almost just as easy to make your own? Yesterday was Taco Tuesday at our house and I whipped together this easy recipe, with some left over for next time. Make a huge batch and seal it up and use it for several months! TACO SEASONING.

Does your twee/teen have a cell phone? Are you struggling with setting limits and enforcing them? If so, here’s one option: a cell phone contract. I like this particular one, and plan on having my almost 13 year old read and sign it today. Many parents (myself included) might even benefit from some of the points in the contract, such as etiquette and mandated times to turn off the phone.

If back to school or the changing season is causing some stress, here are 13 simple yoga poses everyone in the family can try. I’m going to break these out when my tween gets overwhelmed by homework and responsibilities.

Have a great week!

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Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

Peanut Butter and Banana Wraps For Back To School

 

 

New Year’s in September?

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School starts tomorrow! The beginning of a new school year always feels a little like January 1st to me. It’s a time for me to set new goals, decide how I want the year to go, change old habits that don’t serve me, and think of new ways to approach the daily grind. It’s very exciting.

I started to get really excited about this just yesterday, when I was cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot for chicken noodle soup while simultaneously making my family’s favorite Pasta Caprese for dinner. This summer was a perfect storm of a very busy activities calendar for my 12 year old, a giant volunteer project for me that required hundreds of hours of work, and some weird virus I fought from May through August that left me feeling totally depleted. Cooking for me is a joy when I feel like doing it. Otherwise it just feels like another obligation. So, cooking (truly cooking, not just assembling quesadillas and sandwiches) was one of the first things I ditched when I felt overwhelmed. I have to be honest, it was fantastic for a while. But, now I am feeling better and so I got the itch to cook again yesterday, and it felt good to be back.

As I do every year at this time, I’ve been considering what is important to me this year, and what I can ditch. Cooking is definitely at the top of my “important” list. Getting back to the gym is up there as well. I put my nutrition school on hold because I found I couldn’t balance my volunteer gig and my lethargy with studying. I can’t wait to get back to that. And I have decided this year I am committed to doing small projects around the house that will keep it in better order. Closet clean outs, painting touch ups, and decluttering on the regular are all on the list. Bonus: getting to listen to my favorite podcasts while doing projects will hopefully motivate me! (Pod Save America, Song Exploder, West Wing Weekly, S-Town, and Radio Lab are all on my fave list).

What to ditch? Procrastinating. Saying “yes” to requests when I really want to say “no” (hello PTA). Guilt trips.

Have I missed anything? What’s on your list this fall? Please leave a comment below so I can steal your ideas!

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Maybe It’s Time To Try A New Snack

Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

 

 

 

Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

I am #blessed to have the most fabulous neighbors. When we moved in almost seven years ago, my immediate next door and kitty-corner neighbors welcomed us with enthusiasm. Since then our families have played together, eaten together, traveled together and spent Christmas Eve together.

However, we are a busy bunch, and it can be difficult to find time when we can all come together. Between high stress jobs, kids’ activities, and family commitments, weeks and sometimes a month or two can go by before we can see one another. For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the concept of the Crappy Dinner Party, wherein everyone pitches in whatever they have in their fridge (no shopping allowed!) and the host family does no cleaning, no fussing and no elaborate anything. The point is to allow us to spend time with one another without stress. I’m happy to say that this Sunday my family hosted the Inaugural Crappy Dinner Party. I made some vegetarian tostadas from a meal kit service that I was planning on making anyway. Catherine brought turkey taco fixings that she was making for her family that night regardless and some drinks for the kids. Tom brought gin (because, COCKTAILS) and grapes and veggies. I threw some buttered noodles in there for the kids. We cut up a watermelon. I didn’t even wipe up the crumbs from the dinner table from the previous night BECAUSE CRAPPY DINNER PARTY RULES ARE NOT TO BE BROKEN. We used paper plates (that we composted, please don’t yell!) and it was probably the most relaxed dinner party I’ve ever had in my life. And this was with 6 kids and 5 adults!

Some integral people in my friend zone were missing, as I threw the dinner idea together somewhat last minute. Deanna had to work (so she sent her husband and kids), Shawn and family had plans, and Erika (a new friend to me but a dear friend to my friends so obviously she’s on the list!) couldn’t come, but here’s the thing: now that we’ve started this it’s going to happen more frequently. Once you release the pressure of cleaning and putting together an elaborate spread, it becomes a joy and not a burden. Catherine has already planned the next one at her house.

How do you host your own Crappy Dinner Party? Let me summarize the rules for you:

  1. DON’T CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Move some piles if they get in the way of eating but otherwise hands off.
  2. NO GROCERY SHOPPING. Make what you have, even if it’s beans and rice.
  3. EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE. Even especially if it’s gin.
  4. ENJOY YOURSELVES.
  5. REPEAT again and again because it’s fun and you realize your friends just want to see each other, even if the house is messy.

Do you have your own Crappy Dinner Party rules? Let me hear them!

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Cooking? What’s that?

New Recipe! Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Dill

Refrigerator Pickles

I am back in the kitchen this week and it feels great. I usually cook less in summer because our schedules are so weird and unstructured. Also because it’s Minnesota Minnesnowta and when the weather is warm we tend to want to be outside all. The. Time. I’d much rather be drinking a rosé and watching my daughter splash around at the pool with friends than be home in the kitchen. You know?

But this week I felt a pull to the kitchen, and so I went. Luckily we had one day that experienced torrential downpours so I had nothing but inside time to spare. My generous and kind friend Shawn gave me her CSA box when she went out of town and her loss was definitely my gain. It was full of tomatoes that were so sweet we couldn’t help but eat the entire amount in a day. Aren’t these beautiful?

tomatoes 2

The box also contained two heads of kale, which I added to that night’s pasta primavera.

Then there were many cucumbers. So many cucumbers. And dill. So obviously I made refrigerator pickles. Super easy and totally delicious, anyone could make these including a child just learning to cook. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Stir the water, vinegar, sugar, and sea salt together in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and cool completely.

Combine cucumber slices, smashed garlic cloves, and fresh dill in a large glass or plastic container. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Seal container and refrigerate for at least 3 days. 

Look at this!

pickles

I’m going to experiment with spicy squash pickles next, because of course the CSA box came with squash. And I really don’t like squash, but I love pickles, so maybe this just might work.

Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Wild Rice Salad

Maybe It’s Time To Try A New Snack

Weekend Cocktails: Watermelon Frosé

weekend-cocktails

Watermelon is in season right now, so I think it makes sense to try a cold, icy, refreshing cocktail made out of summer’s most famous fruit. Add the “wine of summer” (I literally just coined this term so I should probably TM it or something) and you have yourself a cocktail that will please just about everyone. Recently, on vacation with extended family, we made this recipe. It was really refreshing and perfect after a long day on the beach.

If you want some health reasons to drink this, just remember that watermelon is full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. It also has a very high water content so it will help rehydrate you (just remember alcohol is dehydrating and toxic in large quantities so please don’t think you can go drinking a gallon of this or anything). Moderate wine drinkers (no more than two glasses a day) have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers according to this article. It also tells us we have lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and brain decline. So, you know, enjoy this drink! I love that this recipe has no added sugar. Watermelon is sweet enough. And wine, while labels aren’t required to list added sugar , almost always has at least a little.

watermelon

+

rose wine

=

fireworks

The thing about using wine in a cocktail recipe is that you can use a less expensive bottle and no one will be the wiser. So grab that $7 bottle of rosé from Trader Joe’s and let’s get started.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 2 cocktails)

4 cups frozen watermelon cubes

10 oz rosé

Juice of one lime

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cube the watermelon (or if you’re feeling really luxurious, buy it already cubed).

Spread the watermelon evenly on a jelly roll pan. Place in freezer for an hour or more, until solidly frozen.

Place the watermelon, rosé and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with lime wedges and sprigs of mint.

ENJOY!

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Maybe It’s Time For Friday Cocktails Again. The Classic Daquiri

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