Super Green Butternut and Avo Sauce

This was my first year growing butternut,  I must say, my sqaush didn’t look exactly like the ones I’ve purchased at the grocery store in the past.  They had lots of funny lines and bumps on the skin.  At first, I was a little nervous about it.  What if it was some deadly disease and we would all die a sudden and painful butternut death. Once I cut the squash open though, it looked just like any other butternut squash I’ve ever cooked.  I decided it was probably safe and was thrilled to see how excited Leif was about it once it was cooked.

With an abudnace of butternut, I wanted to try to make a “sauce” to go on our veggies tonight.  This is super simple and quite frankly, I could eat it by the bowl full. I’m really into sneaking super foods into anything I can lately so I added a teaspoon of spirulina and a teaspoon of Chlorella.  Boom-Bam-Bing, full of life giving chlorophyll and loads of phytonutrients.  I also used Shoyu sauce which contains both soy and wheat.  You could leave this out or replace it with a gluten free option!

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 cups butternut
  • 1 avo
  • 1 TBLS Shoyu or replacement
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic

Instructions:

Blend in blender or food processor!  Thats it!


Plan-Baby-Plan

In my mind, “the holidays” start on Saturday.  That’s when the sugar, treats and stress really start rolling in.  If you’re like me and get overwhelmed when bombarded by all the excesses the holidays bring, you’re going to want a plan.  For me, this means making a commitment to myself, planning meals and exercise and setting myself up to succeed by filling my kitchen with all the healthy foods I need to stay well and making time to exercise every day.

If you struggle to stay healthy and grounded in the holidays, take this week to start planning.

  1. Make a commitment. Example:  I will drink 20 plus ounces of water before breakfast and between each meal or I will abstain from refined sugars this week
  2. Make a Meal Plan, Workout plan and “to-do” Plan for the week.  And leave time to shop before Monday comes around!  I usually do this on Friday afternoon for the following week and then do my shopping over the weekend.
  3. Purge Your Kitchen and Replenish With Foods That Align With Your Goals. This is that “Get the Shit” out I talked about in my Thrive Through the Holidays Post.  Remember, it’s not waste, its actually saving your waist and your sanity.  I know this is tricky if you have kids with a bazillion pieces of Halloween candy.  Offer them a trade– trade their candy in for a really fun family adventure or special outing of some type.  Then, hit the store and stick to your list.  I know the chocolate is on sale, don’t buy it thinking you’ll just “save it” for later.  If its not part of your plan, you don’t want it in your house.

That’s it!  Below is my list of “staples.”  I make sure we have most of these things in our kitchen at all times.

Grains:

  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Steal cut oats
  • Wildrice
  • A maranth
  • Teff

Produce:

  • Red Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Variety of Squash and Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Cucumbers
  • lemons
  • Greens
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Frozen Berries
  • Beets
  • mushrooms
  • Dates
  • Dried Figs

Proteins/Fats:

  • Raw almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
  • Raw nut and seed butters
  • Organic Tofu
  • Beans
  • Vega Protein Powder

Superfoods:

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  • Spirulina
  • Chorella
  • Hemp powder
  • Raw Cocao Nibs and poweder

Other:

  • Fermented foods– vegan kimchi, sauerkraut, beet slaw, kombucha
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Teas and Coffee
  • Almond Milk (I’ve been making mine at home)
  • Vegan B12 and D3 liquid vitamins*

*even omnivores should be taking B12 and D3 supplements.  B12 is made from bacterias and due to modern day hygienics, it is actually pretty tough to get enough of it.  If you eat meat, you do get a little bit as bacteria in the cow’s gut produces it but most of us still need a supplement.  D3, we synthesize from the sun.  I get plenty naturally during the summer since I’m outside several hours a day.  If you live in a northern climate, you’ll need to supplement during the fall and winter months.

Want more?  I’ll send you my weekly meal/workout/to-do list as an attachment!  I put mine on the fridge on Sunday night so I have a road map for the week!  Follow the blog and send me a message and I’d be happy to send it your way!

Happy Planning!


Treadmill Workouts That Won’t Make You Want to Poke Your Eyes Out.

imageThe treadmill can be VERY boring.  But Lately I have found it to be the only way I can get a run in.  Josh leaves for work at 7:30,  like just a few minutes after sunrise, and doesn’t get home until after the sun has set or close to it. I’m not comfortable running alone in the dark and Leif refuses to go for long luxurious runs in the stroller these days. In order to get the exercise I need, I have been going to the gym at 5:30 AM to run on the treadmill. On Monday and Tuesday, I watch lectures for IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition).  My brain is most open and creative while I’m running so it actually works out quite nicely.  I get my school work done and get a run in before the sun comes up.  But what to do on my other runs?  While I still try to get outside when possible, the treadmill is becoming a major part of my training.  Here are some things I do to keep it interesting.

Mile Mix-ups

Mile 1:

Build up– starting with a walk and building up to about an 8 minute mile.

Mile 2-5 (or 6 o 7): .

.25 at 6:15-7:00 min mile

.25 miles 7:30

.25 mile at 7:30 with a 2-4% incline

.25 mile at 7:30 (flat)

Repeat

Last Mile:

Gradually slow down every .25 mile to end at 8 min mile

The Gradual Build Up

Mile 1:

Gradual Build Up starting with a walk and building up to 8 minute/mile

Mile 2-5,7, or 7

Speed up one or two notches for every .1 miles starting at 7:30 min/mile

return to 7:30 min/mile

repeat

Feel free to throw in some inclines as well

Last Mile:

Gradually slow down to 8 minute mile

All speeds can be adjusted to your fitness levels! Go get’em!


Thrive During the the Holidays.

Holidays. Oh, Holidays.  As a teenager, and for the first part of my 20’s, I dreaded the holidays because it meant heaps upon heaps of food that I had determined was unsuitable for any thin, self-disciplined girl.  In the grips of an eating disorder, the idea of being surrounded by “trigger” foods was anxiety provoking to say the least.  One Thanksgiving, in high school, I binged on Costco muffins (um, cake?) and then hid in the bathroom as my extended family began to arrive.  My mom coaxed me out but it was a day full of shame, humiliation, anxiety and a very upset stomach.

Fast forward 12 years and while I have overcome the debilitating hold of anorexia and bulimia, the holidays still remain a stressful time centered around food, excess, and relationships.  My battle with disordered eating, is much like the battle of any addict.  Like someone who has battled alcoholism or drug addiction, there will always be times when it takes a great deal of willpower, support, meditation, and strategies to overcome the thoughts that once plagued my every moment.  They creep into my mind, searching for their old room, telling me I’m not enough and I’m only beautiful if I attain a certain body type and practice extreme self discipline around food and exercise.

I’ve traveled galaxies from the tormented, depressed, medicated girl to a confident, healthy and strong woman.  Still, those demons like to show their faces in times of stress and food can quickly become the thing that fuels negative self talk and adds to more stress during the holidays.

People with a history of eating disorders are not the only ones who find the holidays to be stressful.  Really, for all their wonderful qualities, the holidays are sort of a perfect storm in America.  For one, their are the social expectations.  Lets’ not even dig into gift buying and the stress that spending might but on families.  I’m talking about the parties, the family gatherings, the perceived obligations.  Parties and families can bring a sense of warmth and belonging, but they can also pose stress.  Maybe your spouse would rather not go to your a family gathering with you (stressful) or you feel the need to split the holidays 8 ways as to include every limb of your family tree.  Maybe you know that Uncle Ted is going be loud and bigoted at Thanksgiving Dinner.  Maybe you have a lot of loss in your life and the holidays remind you of that.  Maybe the extra holiday parties leave you with less time for self care (oops, it seems I haven’t exercised in 2 months?).  And even if you do not have any emotions/shame around food (ahem– you’re probably lying), all that out-of-the-ordinary food and extra booze are doing more than adding inches to your waist (bleh–another reason to be stressed), they are also putting an extra-ordinary amount of stress of your already tired and neglected body.  All of these stresses compound, weaken your immune system and leave you even more STRESSED because now you have a crap-ton to do for the holidays and you’re sick.

Being a vegan has helped a lot.  Not consuming the meaty and creamy cheesy food options at parties usually means I don’t feel like crawling in a hole the next day.  Unless I’m at a vegan friendly party, it also means that the desserts are off limits to me–again, saving my body the added stress of processing the gunk.  With that said, I still get quite stressed around the holidays.  I spend A LOT of time cooking and stressing over family.  I suppose I don’t want to feel left out and I want my little vegan family to feel included so instead of making one dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, I make an entire vegan spread and you better believe I sample everything as I go.  By dinner time, I’m uncomfortably full but still want to eat dinner with everyone else and I’ve probably already had a glass or two of wine.

Without fail, since moving back from overseas (while I missed my family on holidays, those days were a lot less stressful when we lived abroad), I have come down with a bad cold on Christmas night or the following day.  Its just too much for my immune system.  January 1 rolls around and I’m all about the juice and smoothie regime and trying to repair my stressed out cells.

Does this sound familiar? Holidays can be really hard but they do not have to be!  I’m working to re-invent the holidays for our little family.  I’m trying to let go of traditions that do not serve us and the shame I feel when I do not live up to the expectations I’ve set for myself.  As we approach the holiday season (retail stores started the push a month ago), I’m spending time thinking about how I can create memories with my family but reduce stress, overconsumption (food, alcohol, and gifts).  What parties can we politely decline? What foods will I feed myself and my family?  How can I maintain the practices that keep me sane (running, yoga, healthy eating, sleeping)?

Here are some practices that have worked for me.  

  1. Hydrate like a CRAZY: I’ve been known to hit the coffee hard during the holidays.  Coffee all day and a glass or two of wine in the evening.  Suddenly, I’ve gone all day without drinking water and I feel like yuck. I’m dehydrated and my adrenals are a muck.  I make it my mission to start every day with a big glass or room temperature water.  Lemon and cayenne pepper score me extra points. I set water goals for myself between meals (I’ll drink this entire mason jar of water before lunch).  I also grab myself a glass of water before having an alcoholic beverage at a party.  Since we often confuse thirst for hunger, staying hydrated will also help to avoid over eating.
  2. Stick to your Food Values: I often hear, “I just couldn’t do it, you’re so disciplined.”  Here’s the thing, its less discipline and more living within my values.  I can easily say no thank you to food I know contains animal products.  I know eating it will not only leave me feeling physically ill but when we live out of alignment with our values, its an emotional and spiritual yuck fest.  Now, put a slice of vegan cake in front of me and I’m in trouble…
  3. Connect with loved ones in healthier ways. Skip the lunch or drinks date and go for a walk.  Yeah, I know its raining, but you’re not made of sugar! I’ve had some profound moments with my girl friends on runs and walks. Partner up with your friends to provide accountability.
    I've gone for walks with this girl in Korea, South Africa, Washington and Alaska. Therapy, thats what it is.

    I’ve gone for walks with this girl in Korea, South Africa, Washington and Alaska. Therapy, thats what it is.

    Christmas Eve Hike 2014--a great way to spend Christmas Eve morning!

    Christmas Eve Hike 2014–a great way to spend Christmas Eve morning!

  4. Make eating a meditation:  THIS IS HARD FOR ME!  I am known to scarf my food–who has time for chewing, right?  Well, it turns out, chewing is REALLY important.  It helps us digest our food properly and maintain proper gut health.  And gut health is wicked important to keep us functioning properly–after all, our gut is the home of our immune system. Two things I’m working on:  Putting my fork/spoon down between every bite and chewing my food at least 15 times.  Only 15, this is less than the recommended chew buts for a scarfer, this is progress. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with 3,000 chews per bite. Baby steps.

    Melissa, Put your fork down and chew.

    Melissa, Put your fork down and chew.

  5. Get that Shit out of your house.  You know what shit I’m talking about.  I’m taking about the leftover Halloween crap. I’m talking about the holiday treats, the party food, the soda, the egg nog…whatever it is that calls your name and then leaves you feeling horrid.  This is not serving you.  Get. It. Out.  Send that shit to work with your husband or just throw it away.  I used to feel guilty throwing junk food out but I don’t anymore.  In my mind, its not food but a mixture of dangerous compounds that will make my family sick.  High Fructose Corn Syrup, food coloring, refined sugar does not need to hang out in my house or body. Don’t feel bad dumping it, you’re doing it as an act of love for yourself and your family. I like to say out loud “F*&% you (fill in the blank with whatever the perpetrator is)” as I launch it into the garbage can.  It feels good. You should try it.
  6. Move your body every day.  Just do it.  Join some type of running/yoga/walking/piyo/booty shaking challenge for the holidays. Choose a challenge you know you can stick with.  Challenge your friends to a fitbit face off.  Whatever it takes to get you to move every day.  Pssssp, I’m launching a group next week!image
  7. Get Self-Care Crazy.  Book a massage…or heck, once a week if your insurance allows this, take a bubble bath, meditate, hang out in a steam room.  Whatever it is that leaves you feeling renewed, do it.  I actually have a massage booked once a week for the rest of the year.  Yep, I’m pretty serious about this self-care thing.

    Now, these two know how to kick back and relax.

    Now, these two know how to kick back and relax.

  8. Crowd the Shit Out. I know, two strategies involve getting rid of shit.  Never go onto the battle field hungry.  Eat nourishing meals that leave you feeling fresh and satisfied.  Honestly, I would much rather overeat roasted veggies, beans, and kale than trigger an all out binge on _________. I’m not saying you should not enjoy treats.  I am saying you should not use the holidays as an excuse to eat in a way that leaves you feeling like crap–physically and emotionally.   When we add high nutrient plant foods to our diet, we simply don’t feel the need to overeat heavy animal foods and sugary stuff.  Sure, I love me some dark chocolate or vegan goodies, but if I fill myself with green smoothies, veggies, raw nuts/seeds, legumes, I just don’t have the space for the other stuff nor is the struggle as intense.

    I eat one of these smoothie bowls most days. Always with 4-6 servings of greens, banana, berries, Vega Protein Powder, and toppings such as sesame seeds, figs, raw cocoa nibs, or if I'm feeling sassy, granola. I feel ENERGIZED after eating.

    I eat one of these smoothie bowls most days. Always with 4-6 servings of greens, banana, berries, Vega Protein Powder, and toppings such as sesame seeds, figs, raw cocoa nibs, or if I’m feeling sassy, granola. I feel ENERGIZED after eating.

  9. Stop with the Negative Self Talk, Self-shaming, Comparing.  You guys, these things are NOT serving us.  Its like a freakin’ plague.  I remember clearly the day I took the dive into disordered eating (it had been building up over a life time).  It was a direct response to hearing another girl, who I perceived as skinnier and prettier than me, talked negatively about her body and how she was dieting.  We can acknowledge a non-healthy weight (if one is indeed not within a healthy weight range), but beating ourselves up and shaming ourselves does nothing to help us be healthy.  As a matter of fact, when I feel bad about my body and criticize myself, I usually find myself searching for chocolate in the pantry or eating spoonfuls of nut butter out of the fridge.  Shame does not move us to change and be healthy, it drives us to numb.  When you have negative thoughts about your body, close your eyes, imagine how you would respond if your child or best friend was having these thoughts.  What would you say to them?  Say that to yourself.

I know that’s a lot and that only scrapes the surface.  I am so so grateful I am not that 17 year old girl hiding in the bathroom with a body painfully full of Costco muffins.  My worst days are no where near my worst days a decade ago. I plan to take some time over the next week to really plan out how I will care for myself this holiday season.  I encourage you to do the same.  I will also be launching a free holiday support group for those who would like a place to share struggles, ideas, healthy recipes, or just seek accountability. More details soon!


Creamy Heirloom Tomato and Cashew Cream Pizza (or anything Sauce)

Or as I like to call it, “Holy Crap!” Sauce.  That’s how much I like it. I was getting a bit playful with pizza sauce this weekend.  We typically do a kale pesto-style pizza but I was wanting something different and I had a bunch of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes that were on the verge of rotting so I started dreaming.  The result was a sauce that made me say, “Holy Crap!”  I put it on our pizza this weekend and I used it on my veggies today for lunch (I had leftover pizza toppings that that quickly whipped into a delicious bowl). With out further adieu- I’m going to let you in on the magic.

IMG_0784

Fennel, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, kalamata olives, and daiya cheese. For. The Win.

Fennel, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, kalamata olives, and daiya cheese. For. The Win.

Puuu-lease...we don't care if our pizza is round.  We just care if it's delicious.

Puuu-lease…we don’t care if our pizza is round. We just care if it’s delicious.

Ingredients:

  • I cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 plus hours
  • 4-5 medium/large heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • handful of fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Chop the tomatoes into large chucks and roast along with garlic, basil, salt and pepper at 350 degrees until they are nice’n gooey.
  • Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth!
  • Use as a pizza sauce, over pasta or a grain, or just over veggies!

Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats

Last week my friend sent me a message about overnight oats.  She was in overnight oats heaven.  As the weather begins to cool, I find myself wanting to eat more warming foods and shy away a bit from my normal smoothie bowls (which I still usually have once a day because, DANG, they are good).  Overnight oats are so simple and take very little prep time.  In the morning, all you have to do is warm them a bit and you’ve got yourself a delicious, warming, fulfilling and healthy breakfast.  I seriously could not stop thinking about them while I was running this morning.  Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup steal cut oats

6 oz container of vanilla coconut milk yogurt (any non-dairy yogurt will do)

a splash of almond milk

a dash of pumpkin spice

a smidgen of chia seeds

a splash of vanilla

banana

dates

walnuts

black strap molasses

Instructions:

Mix the oats, yogurt, almond milk, spice, chia, and vanilla in a bowl

Cover and place in the fridge overnight

In the Morning, warm in a pan on the stove

Top with banana, dates, walnuts, and blackstrap molasses

I did not have any pumpkin cooked up but you could so easily replace the yogurt with pumpkin puree or apple sauce!


What’s New and Good?

Last month, I finally took the plunge and registered with Integrative Nutrition for their one year health coach training.  It’s something I’ve been looking at since quitting my teaching job in Korea.  About once a year, I call the school and inquire about any tuition specials they are running.  Every year, I came up with a reason as to why it wasn’t a good time.  Money, time, energy…  Then, last month, I got the itch.  I called and a very friendly lady explained the financing specials they were running.  I got off the phone and nervously called my mom.  After explaining to her that I’d get a big tuition break if I paid in full but that I wasn’t quite comfortable taking that much out of savings…’so…uh..maybe…if you are able…could I borrow part of it from you and dad…'(the uncomfortable stumbling of a grown woman asking to borrow a  chunk of money from her parents), she said she’d talk to my dad and call me back.

Later that evening, they called me back.  “Sure! How much do you need?” What? My parents are the best.  I was filled with warm, fuzzy gratitude. Not just because it was going to save me a lot of money, but because I knew immediately that they believed in me and supported this new venture.  With the support of my parents and Josh, I signed up and binged on the two weeks worth of lectures and assignments since I was a little behind. I feel like a part of me became “unstuck”.  I’m so excited to watch the next year unfold and to begin building a career in health coaching!

Sometimes, when one area of life opens up, others begin to follow.  Another adventure Josh and I have been discussing for years, but like so many things, always had a reason to not follow through with it, is traveling to Peru to trek to Machu Picchu.  Pregnancy, money,  time off of work, to take a toddler or not…these were all perceived obstacles.  And then, we did it.  I talked to the grandparents about loving on Leif while we traveled, I talked to my midwife and Jannine about what it would look like if I was to get pregnant before our trip (they both agreed I’m healthy enough and bad-ass enough to do it), we found reasonably priced flights, and a trekking guide on a less traveled path for half the price as the Inca trail.  And then… we bought plane tickets to Peru.  Because life is really not long enough to worry about the “what ifs” too much.

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Wowza! We're headed here in March!

Wowza! We’re headed here in March!

So, those things, among so many others, are new and good.  Really good.  Let me tell you about something that doesn’t feel so good.  Josh and I have been trying for another baby for a while now.  It took me a long time to get my cycle back after having Leif (19 months).  At first, it was pretty regular but I was recovering from surgery so we needed to wait a few months to start trying.  As my hip healed, I increased my mileage and also started doing more strength training.  My period became less regular and then disappeared all together over the summer as I got pretty lean and muscly.  If I wasn’t trying to make a baby, this would be welcomed. I self diagnosed and started adding more healthy fats to my diet–more nuts, seeds, and avo.  I also added an extra serving of protein in the form of Vega smoothies.  I reduced mileage and strength training and BOOM! Auntie Flow showed up.  However, my estrogen and progesterone are still quite low and I do not know if I am ovulating or when my next period will be.  I was running a lot when I got pregnant with Leif and it took exactly one heat of the moment “oops–we didn’t use a contraceptive” to make that kid.  So, this is a little frustrating/disheartening/shame provoking.  Shame?  I have been reflecting a lot on why shame would show its ugly face in this.  Its interesting, I feel like I do (almost) everything right when it comes to health.  Like so many of my friends who struggle with fertility issues, I have pretty optimal health.  Most of my friends who had babies around the same time as me, are either pregnant or have already had another.  Comparison is a bitch.  I know that nursing Leif this long has played a role in my fertility.  I also know that many women get pregnant while they are still nursing–trust me, they’ve told me.  Anytime I have mentioned my fertility struggles in a public space and linked them to nursing, I’ve received messages like, “Well I got pregnant nursing!  You can too!” And then I fight back tears because although they mean well, it is not helpful.  It plays into my shame–“There must be something wrong with me…or maybe God doesn’t want me to have another baby…” Fertility issues are heavy with emotion.

I’m working with my midwife and Jannine (my doctor)  to prepare my body to make a baby.  I’ve increased fat intake even more, holding my mileage right around 40/week as opposed to the 65/week I was doing this summer and I significantly reduced weight training.  I’m also taking chaste tree berry supplements to regulate my cycle and Xiao Yao San (Chinese herbs) to help with circulation and mood.  Why mood?  I don’t feel depressed at all…but… after talking it over with both my midwife and Jannine, we all feel that I might benefit from trying a couple of rounds of the fertility drug, clomid. The hope is that it will help my body ovulate.   This is bit of a shock, even to me, since I hardly ever take ibuprofen.   One of the side effects of clomid is mood swings…and when you’re trying to make a baby, its important to not be a raging witch.  Its very counter productive, if you know what I mean.

I feel so grateful for both my mid-wife and Jannine.  She is the same mid-wife that stood by me during my 24 hour labor and let me keep pushing when many would have sent me to the OR. She trusted me and that helped me to trust her. I trust her now just as I did then.  I was nervous to bring it up with Jannine, a naturopath, worried she wouldn’t support it. But that’s not the kind of person she is.  We went for a woodsy walk with the dogs and talked about the benefits and draw backs as well as the things I could do to help balance out the side effects (herbs, acupuncture, any activity that keep me from becoming a raging witch).  I am nearly in tears just writing this (maybe I’m about to start my period…).  Not sad tears because I want so badly to give Leif a sibling(s), but tears of thankfulness for the incredible women in my life.  Thankful that none of my medical providers  n push me one way or the other but let me make choices about my body and stand by me in those choices. I know not all women are as lucky.

I know that I am so fortunate to have Leif.  He was truly meant to be. I know women struggle with fertility for years and years, often with no baby on the other end.  I also know that I’m not done and that I want to have a couple more, preferably in my early-mid 30’s.  So…here’s to really great new things in my life and also to the things that lay ahead!

36 weeks with Leif.

36 weeks with Leif.