Getting into the Spirit

So as my readers know I post a lot about health, wellness, good food and nutrition. But in order to lead a healthful balanced life, a large component which cannot be overlooked is spirituality. I have found that the further I dive into the world of healthy living the more I see how important a connection to the higher self is an integral part of overall wellbeing.  Coming from a Jesuit education, where significance is placed on “care of the whole person” (mind body and spirit) it’s fitting that I find myself at a place in my life where I am placing significance on caring for my whole person. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that spirituality is too woo-woo and new-agey but let’s get real here. We all have souls right? At least I think so. And I’m not talking about organized religion. As author and medical intuitive Caroline Myss says, organized religion is a costume party and nothing but the politics of God. All major religions boil down to the same ideals: love, peace and kindness toward one another. They are just dressed up in costumes like judgement, hate and exclusivity.  Peel away all the nonsense that has been taught for the last couple centuries and we are looking at the teachings of Buddha, Jesus, Mohamed and other spiritual leaders, and realizing that they are all kinda the same.  So I want to dive in to better understand the connection between our spiritual health and our physical health, becuase my gut is telling me that they are way more related than we ever thought.

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Since I don’t know what kind of picture would best accompany this post, please enjoy this sunset. 

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When is it important to buy organic?

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I ask myself this question all the time. There are some basic rules of thumb that I follow when it comes to fruits and vegetables. But it’s easy to feel insane, as I often do, when we don’t have so much control over our food. Eating at restaurants and friends houses can be a challenge for people, like me, who are always reading labels and ingredients lists, wondering if this is organic or GMO-free (I know, if it gets any worse I probably should see a shrink). I’ve done a little research to set some boundaries I can feel at ease with. Certain foods are a no-no if they aren’t organic, some are a “try your best to get organic” while for others it doesn’t matter all that much.

#1: Know the Dirty Dozen. If buying organic is hard, then just go for the holy grail. These guys typically contain the highest levels of pesticide residue: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches/nectarines, spinach (including frozen and canned), peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes and blueberries. So if you are going to buy only a few things organic, make it these ones.

#2: Clean 15. You can feel at ease knowing the clean 15, produce you don’t have to buy organic: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas (frozen), onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe (domestic), cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.

#3: Pick what you eat the most of and buy just those ones organic. These are the foods that are frequent fliers on your shopping list, and are consumed in your house on a weekly basis. So if you eat a lot of spinach, cucumbers, celery and apples, like I do, then always buy those organic, no exceptions. But if you hardly eat potatoes or snap peas, then once in a blue moon it’s ok to skip the organic if you have to.

#4: When dining at a restaurant try to let go of the anxiety of not knowing if your food is organic. It probably isn’t, unless they specially state it on the menu. This situation always gives me problems. There are essentially 3 choices here: 1) Don’t ever go out. Yea Right! 2) Go out but worry the whole time over what you cannot control. 3) Go out, chose healthy options when available, and allow yourself a day off from worrying. It’s not easy, I often find myself hovering around option number 2, but I’m trying to go with the third option more. Part of what I am trying to do about easing my (and your) anxiety, is being ok with moderation. I’m writing this post as much for me as for you.  It’s easy to get obsessed with reading alarmist articles  and websites that scare the pants off of you. If I know one thing

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it’s that worrying is like junk food in your body. Anxiety messes with us physically and can cause as much damage as a big mack with fries. If I eat a non-organic apple one day and worry about it, then I’m causing more harm to my body then If I just ate the apple and didn’t give a crap. Happy shopping!

Things I love: Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

I love healthy cookbooks. I have to restrain myself at the book store because I want them all. It’s important that the recipes in a cookbook are realistic. I won’t buy one if each dish has a long list of ingredients that I have never heard of and multiple complex steps, resulting in a multi-hour process. As much as I love learning about new ingredients and experimenting in the kitchen, I know I will rarely use it, and only collect dust on the shelf. And lonely books are just sad.

One that I use consistently is Against All Grain by Danielle Walker. I keep it on my kitchen window sill because I use it so much. I have endless praise for Danielle and her paleo pioneering. Although I am not  fully paleo I definitely lean in that direction, consuming far less wheat, grains, and processed foods than I used to. She creates easy to make recipes using ingredients I’ve heard of. Some of the recipes are more time consuming than others, but when you want to make your health a priority it’s a given you will spend some time in the kitchen.

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Being inspired by the season I decided to spend my Sunday in the kitchen (since outdoors is no longer an option for a while) prepping for the week with lots of seasonal ingredients and flavors.  Danielle’s recipe for spiced pumpkin muffins seemed easy, and I already had most of the ingredients in the pantry (I don’t really have a pantry, it’s a cabinet.  But I like the sound of pantry better.  I can pretend I have a huge kitchen).  Anyway, they turned out great. I ate three as soon as they came out of the oven.

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Another recipe of hers I made over the summer when I had zucchinis growing in my garden was this little gem:

Greek Gyro “Pasta” with Lamb Meatballs

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It perfectly combined the flavors of summer like mint, tomato and zucchini while satisfying the yearning for some comfort food in a fresh yet hearty meal. I cannot say enough about this one!

Overall, I highly recommend this book as it contains feasible paleo recipes for snacks, breakfast, soups, salads, main dishes, cakes, breads and kid friendly food. She also includes background on her own health struggles and how a paleo diet has transformed her health. Probably the most informative part of the book touches on practicle lifestyle tips for living paleo such as what pantry staples to always have on hand, how to buy consciously and what equipment to use in preparing grain free delisiousness. Bon a petit!

 

Pumpkin Granola

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So I had a little pumpkin puree left over after making pumpkin muffins and I did not want it to go to waste, so I concocted a pumpkin granola from the contents of my cabinets. Granola is one of my favorite improvised kitchen experiments. It’s very simple as long as you follow a basic formula: dry ingredients + wet ingredients. So simple! The dry ingredients can be any combination of nuts, seeds, grains, spices and dried fruit. The wet ingredients usually consist of an oil (I like coconut) and a sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave).  I tend to use what I have lying around, unless I’m using a specific recipe.  I added some of the pumpkin puree to the wet ingredients for some nice fall flavor.

Here’s what I did, but feel free to add, remove, adjust the ingredients to your liking. The more you experiment without using a recipe, the better you will get.

Dry ingredients:

1 cup oats

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp cinnamon

Wet ingredients: 

1 tbsp coconut oil melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stir so incorporate all the way through. Spoon the mixture into a baking dish or lined cookie sheet. Bake under a low heat for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until it is as toasted as you want it. Some granola is crunchier than others, depending on the wet ingredients and the baking time. I found that using pumpkin made the granola more soft than crunchy if that’s what you like.

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