Valentine’s Day is a day to treat our loved ones and ourselves, but do you really want that same old box of candy? While a piece or two of high quality dark chocolate now and then is good for you, trust me: the chocolate that comes in the box with the big red bow is simply dressed-up sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
This year, if you really want to love your sweetheart AND yourself forgo the bonbons and consider these non-food ways to show your love… without sugar coating it.
♥ The American Heart Association (the authority!) votes for a gift from the heart, such as a poem or love letter. Choose one of your favorites and hand-write it on beautiful paper, or create a poem, letter or love story of your own. Need some inspiration? Check out this collection of love poems on Amazon. In between relationships? Write yourself a loving, “non-negotiable” list – all the things you will never put up with in a relationship ever again. Get inspiration from Ginger Emas’ book, Back on Top.
♥ Go old school with a “mix tape” of your favorite songs – romantic, funny, dance-able, sensual. Make a play list and download it to your sweetie’s iPod, phone or tablet, or wrap it up on a flash drive. If you are too young to remember the 80s check out The Lost Art of the Mix Tape. And everyone knows that dancing is sexy! Make a mix tape for yourself to listen to on your walks or during your workouts, or to dance around to in your living room!
♥ Do something different together or by yourself! Always wanted to take up scuba-diving or Italian cooking? A comedy class or glass-blowing? I took dance lessons last year and it was a blast (not to mention it burned a few calories and created some new brain paths – good for memory retention.) Check out your local dance studio — partner optional!
♥ Frame a favorite moment. The one downside to all of our digital devices is we rarely take time to print and frame our photos anymore. Choose a picture from your gallery files and print it on an oversized canvas for a modern, museum-y look. Then hang it in your home (or his) and wait for the surprise reveal! Look for February sales at www.canvasondemand.com or your local drugstore.
♥ Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for a Girl’s Night Out or a house party for friends. Make a fire, serve heart-healthy treats with sparkling water and raspberries, and play a game of Catch Phrase. Check out the Top 10 Board Games for Adults for more ideas.
The above suggestions are non-food nourishment (also known as Primary Food) – and it’s important to find ways to treat yourself on a daily basis! As a health coach, I always encourage my clients to explore food-free ways to take care of themselves. You don’t always need to reach for something sweet, salty or gooey. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge in fun!
By Morgan Potts for Mind Body Green
The best way to scare away a cold or flu is to nip it in the bud as soon as you start to experience symptoms. Everyone knows it’s a good idea to drink lots of water and take it easy when you feel like you’re getting sick, and this is great! But sometimes we need a little more for the fight.
Here are some quick, easy, and effective cures and preventative remedies for these wintertime bugs. As soon as I feel a little cold coming on, swollen lymph nodes, or a post -nasal drip, I go for these tough little fighters.
1. Raw garlic.
Garlic is a lovely natural antibiotic, and a wonderful immune system booster. To take garlic, simply peel and chop ½ large clove into small pieces. Now, gather up the pieces and swallow them whole, as if you were taking your vitamins for the day. If you’re brave, you can even chew the pieces and take them like that.
2. Oregano leaf extract.
Oregano is another powerful antibiotic, and boy, is it strong! You can buy tinctures of oregano leaf at your natural foods store. Simply take half to 1 full dropper of oregano liquid under the tongue. Hold it there as long as you can! It will sting, but you can handle it. Wash it down with a glass of fresh water.
3. Magic cold flu paste.
This one’s my favorite. This is something you can make right in your kitchen with a combination of a few healthy antimicrobial ingredients:
1 TBSP raw honey
½ clove raw garlic (minced)
1/8 TSP cinnamon
½ inch fresh ginger, (peeled and minced)
¼ inch fresh turmeric root (peeled and minced)
Mix all 5 of these ingredients together and stir it into a nice paste, then eat it! Its actually quite delicious, the honey does a nice job of making it all very palatable. Do this at the first sign of symptoms, and again before bed that night. Take some again in the morning and until you feel well. This has worked miracles with me. Magic! If you only have some of these ingredients, go ahead and make it anyway, each of these has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties and heal in their own ways.
Whether it is homemade elderberry syrup, frozen elderberries you picked last summer, or a tea made from this lovely plant, it’s a wonderful fruit to help pass a cold along. Take it any way you’d like.
5. Warm water with lemon.
This is simple, uplifting and soothing. Warm lemon water is comforting to a sore throat, and helps move congestion along, with an extra vitamin C boost. Adding raw honey to this tea will also soothe the throat and bring on the healing. Ginger root is nice, too!
These tools along with good rest and warm healing baths should have you feeling fine in no time. But remember to listen to your body, it may just be time to rest, relax, and enjoy the amazing healing our bodies are capable of.
Truth be told, I love preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Much of the Thanksgiving food can be prepared a few days ahead of time – pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, potatoes – but turkey and stuffing just taste better prepared the day of your meal.
Making stuffing from scratch is my preferred method, but this year I’m short on time and I don’t want to be overwhelmed on Thanksgiving Day. I’d rather relax, sip a Bloody Mary while the parade is on and not spend the entire day in the kitchen.
One shortcut I’m taking this year is using stuffing mix from a box and dressing it up by adding in my own fresh ingredients. There are so many different ways you can do this, but I’m sharing the most interesting here.
From Kristen Kuchar at Poor Taste, here are 5 creative ways to dress up your stuffing mix.
(For each of these recipes you’ll want to use one box of stuffing mix.)
1. Mushroom Stuffing
Melt 1/3 cup of butter into pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped green onion and 2 cups mushrooms, cleaned and chopped. I used baby portabella, but you can use your favorite ‘shroom. Saute for 5 minutes. Add 1 ½ cup water and bring to boil. Once it boils, remove from heat, add stuffing, mix thoroughly, cover for 5 minutes.
2. Cranberry Nut Stuffing
Melt 1/3 cup of butter over medium heat. Add cranberries and chopped walnuts (you can also use almonds or pecans) to the butter. Saute for 2 minutes. Add 1 ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, remove from heat, add stuffing, mix thoroughly, and cover for five minutes.
3. Jalapeno Bacon Stuffing
Start cooking 5 slices of bacon using your preferred method. I used turkey bacon and cooked it in the oven to make it crispy. Melt 1/3 cup of butter in a pan over medium heat. Wash and chop the jalapeno, removing the seeds. Remember, the seeds of a jalapeno can irritate your skin and eyes so wash your hands after handling. Add the jalapeno to the butter and saute for 5 minutes. When the bacon is done, chop it into small pieces. Add 1 ½ cup of water and bring jalapeno and butter to a boil. Once it boils, remove from heat, add stuffing and chopped bacon, mix thoroughly, and cover for five minutes.
4. Apple Onion Stuffing
Melt 1/3 cup of butter into a pan over medium heat. Chop one small onion very finely. I used a purple one, but any onion will work. Saute onion about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop one apple (a cooking apple like Cortland works best) into small pieces, same size as the onion. Add the apple to the cooking onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 ½ cup of water. Increase the heat and bring to boil. Once it boils, remove from heat, add stuffing, thoroughly mix all the ingredients, cover for five minutes.
5. Fiesta Stuffing
Melt 1/3 cup of butter over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup of diced green bell pepper, 1/3 cup of diced red bell pepper, and 1/3 cup of diced orange bell pepper, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, and 1 tsp. black pepper, then saute for 5 minutes. Add 1 ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, remove from heat, add stuffing, mix thoroughly, and cover for five minutes.
And from Serious Eats, here’s a list of more boxed stuffing add-ins you can try:
- Leeks and carrots
- Pears and walnuts
- Dried cherries and almonds
- Blanched broccoli rabe and toasted pine nuts
- Blanched escarole and golden raisins
- Crisp bacon and figs
- Sautéed chicken livers and dried currants
- Sweet Italian sausage and pecans
- Kielbasa and (very well-drained) sauerkraut
- Chorizo and roasted red pepper
- Apples and smoked eel (available frozen at many Asian grocery stores)
Are you sick of everyone gushing about how much they love fall? Me neither! Hibernating on the sofa under a blanket, reading a book, snuggly cat in my lap while dinner fragrantly cooks in the crock pot sounds like the perfect fall day to me.
The crock pot is my BFF during the cold weather months. I just toss in a bunch of ingredients and get busy being lazy the rest of the day. What could be better!
Colder weather means our bodies naturally crave more protein and root veggies. These foods are energetically grounding and physically warming. I crave more meat during fall and winter and I prefer cooking the meat in a crock pot because it retains its juiciness.
I’ve compiled 5 easy crock pot meals here. Four meaty entrees and one vegan dish that’s perfect to use as a Thanksgiving side or potluck contribution.
So here they are, all with fewer than 500 calories per serving.
Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken & Brown Rice
Adapted from Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 8 Serving Size: 1 cup chicken over 1 cup brown rice
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
15 oz can black beans, rinsed
8 oz frozen corn
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
14.4 oz can organic chicken broth
3 scallions, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (I like spice and usually add more)
salt to taste
1 cup brown rice, uncooked
Instructions: Combine chicken broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt in the crock pot. Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Prepare brown rice according to package directions 45 minutes before serving. A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning to taste. Serve over brown rice. I like to garnish with avocado and extra scallions & cilantro.
Easy Slow Cooker Brunswick Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight
9 servings, about 1.5 cups each
4 cups frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 1/3 cups chopped onion
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans, thawed
1 cup frozen cut okra, thawed
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound pulled smoked pork, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole-kernel corn with sweet peppers, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
Combine all ingredients in a 7-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 8 hours.
Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from RecipeGirl.com
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck steak, trimmed & cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound sliced cremini mushrooms
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup white wine
4 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream (or try Greek yogurt for a deeper flavor)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
cooked egg noodles for serving
chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
1. Combine beef, mushrooms, onions, tomato paste, broth, wine and 3 Tablespoons soy sauce in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 6 hours, or until beef is tender.
2. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, remaining 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, cornstarch and black pepper; whisk into the hot meat mixture and cook an additional 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly. Serve over pasta and garnish with parsley.
Pork Roast with 3 Mushroom Ragout
Source: Cooking Light, November 1998
1 (3 1/2-ounce) package shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 (8-ounce) packages button mushrooms, cut in half
1 (8-ounce) package cremini mushrooms, cut in half
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 ounce sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil, quartered (about 6)
1 3/4 pounds boned pork loin roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 cups cooked medium egg noodles (about 4 cups uncooked pasta)
Discard shiitake mushroom stems; cut caps into quarters. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes, and thyme in an electric slow cooker; stir well with a whisk. Add all mushrooms, onion, and sun-dried tomatoes. Trim fat from pork. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper; place on top of mushroom mixture. Pour 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes over pork. Cover with lid; cook on high heat for 1 hour. Reduce heat setting to low; cook 7 hours. Remove pork from slow cooker; cut into slices. Serve over noodles.
Vegan Crock Pot Fruit & Nut Pilaf
Adapted from CorePerformance.com
3 cups multigrain and wild rice blend
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pecans
5 cups vegetable broth
2 cups apple juice
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Combine 3 cups of multigrain and wild rice blend with 1/2 cup of dried cranberries, 1/2 cup of golden raisins, 1/2 cup of chopped dried apricots, and 1/2 cup of chopped pecans in a Crock-Pot. Stir in 5 cups of broth, 2 cups of juice, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours (or on high for 3 hours). Stir once midway through the cook time. Add more broth if needed. Cook until rice is soft. Serve and garnish with parsley.
My friend Heather and I have birthdays about a week apart, so we decided to have a celebratory birthday lunch last Wednesday at Patrick’s Bistreaux, a relatively new and oh-so-delicious Cajun restaurant in the Berry Hill neighborhood of Nashville.
Finding the healthiest menu options at any restaurant is one of my geeky nutrition hobbies and Cajun food with all it’s fried and saucy deliciousness presents a bit of a challenge. So, I turned to the American Heart Association for a few tips. Here’s what they had to say:
Cajun cuisine is spicy fare. Many Cajun dishes are high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium or all three, but almost all of them can be made with more healthful ingredients.
Avoid fried seafood and hush puppies.
Blackened entrees are usually dipped in butter or oil, covered with spices and pan fried; ask the cook to use only a small amount of oil.
Ask for all sauces and gravies on the side.
Instead of fried crawfish or shrimp, try boiled crawfish or shrimp.
Instead of gumbo, étouffée and sauces made with roux, try Creole and jambalaya dishes.
Instead of fried seafood, try boiled or grilled seafood.
Instead of fried shrimp or oyster Po’ Boy sandwiches, try turkey or roast beef Po’ Boy sandwiches.
Instead of dirty rice (contains chicken gizzards, livers, butter, etc.), try white rice. (I recommend brown rice instead – AR).
Instead of red beans and rice with sausage, try red beans and rice without sausage.
Ultimately I went with grilled chicken with a side of jambalaya and took home some crawfish étouffée as a little splurge to enjoy later.
What are your favorite tips for eating Cajun food? Do you have a favorite dish?