Inspiring Women: Kris Carr

Everyone who cares an ounce about their health should know about this major wellness mover-and-shaker: Kris Carr.

Her story begins with, but certainly is not defined by, a diagnosis of incurable cancer. She chronicled her journey to find health and vitality through various types of holistic treatments and nutrition in the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer (which I highly recommend).  While not afraid to show the raw realities of a cancer diagnosis, she retains her strong sense of humor and optimistic attitude in the midst of breakdown and uncertainty. She shows that a “take matters into your own hands” approach to your health can be as emotionally liberating as it is physically healing. She refers to herself as a cancer thriver, which I love, because though her cancer may be incurable, she has been able to maintain her health and improve her wellbeing.

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Since her documentary, Kris has written 5 books about her healing journey, helping and inspiring others with and without cancer. Her website kriscarr.com is my regular go-to for information, recipes and tips on healthy living. She is the Green Juice Queen, and one of the reasons I got a juicer last year.

I recently had the privilege to see her at an event with Gabrielle Bernstein called Crazy Sexy Miracles. While the majority of her brand is focused on nutrition, she spoke primarily about living a joyful and extraordinary life. She gave great advice on understanding your purpose and passion, and how to live a life of balance and alignment. Along with a side busting sense of humor, her authenticity and empowering voice is as inspiring as it is down to earth.

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My new bff and I. JK, I wish.  Sorry for the horrific quality of this photo (*sigh* cell phone cameras).

She’s like the friend you wish you had that drags you to yoga with her, makes you try her new green juice recipe and gives great advice, but also drops f-bombs like a trucker and makes you laugh until it hurts. We all need a Kris Carr in our lives.

Snow Day Pancakes

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All snowed in, so what to do? Experiment in the kitchen of course! I wanted to get creative with only using the ingredients I had in the refrigerator because there’s no way I’m going to the store right now. Simple recipes always resonate most with me, because as much as I love to cook, I really just want to get to the eating part. The more ingredients there are the more mess there is to clean up, and the longer it takes to actually get to eating it! So I found some basic ingredients and whipped up some delicious and healthy pancakes. Perfect for a snow day!

Makes 1 serving (three small pancakes)

Ingredients:

1 banana mashed

1 egg

1 tbsp coconut flour (feel free to use another type if it’s what you already have)

Optional add-ins: blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and  allspice

If you want them flatter and not quite as thick add some milk (any type will do).

Directions: Mix all 3 ingredients until they are well incorporated. Melt some coconut oil in a pan and make small pancakes with the batter. Cook for several minutes on medium heat and flip occasionally until they look done.

I added chopped walnuts, almonds and maple syrup to finish it off. It was heavenly.

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Inspiring Women: Gabrielle Bernstein

I thought I’d write the first of the “Inspiring Women” series about someone who I think is the best role model of this generation.

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If you havent heard of Gabrielle Bernstein go to her website or google her right now. I stumbled upon her glorious message on New Years Day 2014 and have been a diligent follower ever since.  I was ready to deepen my spiritual practice, as well as jumpstart a lifestyle of positive thinking and creating miracles.

She is a teacher of A Course in Miracles, which is what ultimitely lead me to her. I had begun reading the course and wanted to understand it better. Gabby (we’re on a nickname basis now) breaks down the message from A Course in Miracles for everyone to understand. All boiled down it teaches transcending lower thoughts of hatred, judgement, and fear that come from the ego, and achieving a state of love, forgiveness and inner peace. But don’t assume that she’s some aging hippy dippy earth mother with gray hair down to her ankles, eating the bark off a tree (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). She fully lives in the real world, and does so in a fabulous wordrobe.

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Her following called “spirit junkies” (of which I consider myself a part) is a group of higher minded individuals, looking for deeper meaning, peace and beauty in everyday life. Her active and uplifting content on all social media outlets makes her followers feel like they have a life coach/spiritual guru/wise girlfriend in the palm of their hand. Along with her beautiful instagram pictures of health foods, scenes of nature and adorable boho inspired outfits, she posts quotes that seem to be just what you need to hear at that very moment, such as “My light illuminates the world” and “Life is far more fun when you have faith in the guidance that is around you.”

She is also a best selling author of 4 books aimed at helping you achieve your best and most fulfilling life. They are all significant and enlightened messages, told in an easy to understand way. Get ready for “aha” moments.

Each week she posts blogs and video content on subjects such as  meditation practices for manifesting abundance in our lives, how to mindfully handle difficult situations, and tips for growing your spiritual practice. The content is short, sweet and increadibly powerful.

Along with being a author, speaker and web entrepeneur, she is a Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher. She’s definitely up there on my “dream best friend list” right next to Jennerfer Lawrence and Emma Stone.

Digital Hoarding and Happiness

As a fully immersed and loyal subject of the social media kingdom I look forward to the hours (yes, hours) I spend on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and various blogs and websites. I feel an innate hunter gatherer tendency to accumulate as much information I can.  If I see something I like I have to pin it, save it to my favorites and share it on facebook and twitter. Am I a digital information hoarder?

I began following various yogis and food/wellness experts on these platforms to gain inspiration and knowledge to further enhance my own crusade to be as happy and healthy as I can. Alas, what began as a well intentioned sunday stroll has now become an all out sprint to the front lines with a serious case of a-need-to-be-in-the-know. I am starting to notice that every free second I have, my brain is craving constant input. At any given moment I’ll have 10 tabs open in my browser. Even when I’m not in front of the computer, my iphone is practically glued to my hand at all times. I spend hours “window shopping” the internet without actually investing in much quality content. When was the last time I read a whole article anywhere? Probably never. So I came to a conclusion: Pinterest has ruined my brain. Well I can’t blame pinterest in general, but it got me thinking; The ways in which we communicate and connect these days are boiled down to a single picture, status update or 140 characters. When we spend 1-3 seconds looking at something do our brains begin to only respond to small quick bits of input? I find this kind of scary, and I’m sure I’m not alone.  Are we unknowingly deprogramming our brains from attending to something for longer than a minute? And in turn, are we craving bits of things without actually getting to something real and substantial? No wonder I’m never satisfied. It’s like popcorn; little pieces of nothing that you crave but doesn’t fill you up, only leaves you wanting more.

I also wonder what it’s doing to our happiness. We are constantly evaluating our lives in comparison to others because we are so connected with each other. Every time I see a cool yoga posture on instagram I think “I wish I could do that.” Or when a blog shows someone’s gorgeously decorated living room I think “I want my living room to look like that.” And food is the worst! Food pictures evoke thoughts such as “I should be eating more of that superfood” or “yeah right pinterest, my reindeer cookies will never look like that!” Whether we realize it or not we are constantly bombarded with opportunities to compare our lives with others. And let’s face it, nobody wants to follow someone who complains about the crap in their lives. We choose who we follow because they have great pictures, or are aspirational to us in some way. The problem with that is our lives will never measure up to those on our social networks.

I guess my observation is two-fold: 1) With our addiction to social media our brains are constantly craving short bits of satisfaction without achieving any real satisfaction. 2) We are beginning to lose sense of our own happiness by always seeing the great things others are doing, and comparing ourselves to them.

Is there a lesson in all of this? I don’t know. Maybe just by being aware of it we can become better at realizing when we are mindlessly cruising the internet, or feeling inadequate because  Susie-yoga-instructor is doing an inverted body back bend handstand.

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. 

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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Sautéed Apples

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My favorite dish right now. The perfect fall breakfast, snack or dessert. Now, I did not reinvent the wheel with this one, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking. It’s simple, but that’s why I make it almost every day. If you can’t make this, then I don’t know what to tell you. You will not regret this one, I promise!

1. Peel and cut the apple into bite size pieces. (If you want to get creative you can shred it, or use the apple peeler on the entire thing to make very thin slivers, but I personally like it in chunks.)

2. Put the apple pieces in a pan over medium heat with a bit of coconut oil (about a teaspoon will do) and as much cinnamon as you like. Cover with a lid to keep the moisture in.

3. Wait about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The apple will release its juice and natural sugars, so no need to add sugar to this one. It tastes like apple pie without the crust. ENJOY!

Finding Joy When the Seasons Change

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I love Autumn. There’s something so refreshing about fall colors, the smell of leaves, and getting out the sweaters and boots. I especially love fall inspired cooking; winter squash, pumpkin and apple flavors, and roasting everything! Despite all of its wonderful qualities, many people (myself included) find that for whatever reason, the change in season may at times bring on negative emotions. Feeling uprooted and lacking stability with all the change going on is very common. Sometimes for no reason at all I will feel blah, unmotivated, or lacking energy and my usual zest for life. It’s not the fall that I don’t like, it’s the change from summer to fall. This prompted me to look toward natural ways to combat this and make the most of this time of year.

Celebrate the good things the season has to offer. This may sound extremely “DUH!” but it’s easy to forget this when you’re in a rut. The sunlight can be incredible with its warm yellow golden hues, unlike any other time of year. Go for a walk in a park, a hike in the woods and view the foliage, or pumpkin/apple picking.  Even when it’s chilly outside, bundle up in a cute sweater and scarf and spend a little time in nature.IMG_2939

Make fall inspired foods. While in the summer we tend to eat more salads and raw veggies, this time of the year is great for roasting. Try some winter squash, they come in so many interesting colors and shapes, it’s hard not to be inspired to cook with them. One of my favorite dishes to make right now is roasted apple slices with some cinnamon. IMG_2955

Get cozy. It’s natural crave stillness and warmth this time of year. As nature is preparing for the long rest of winter, or bodies will want to sync with that energy and need to feel rested and grounded. With all the movement in the air, temperature changes and windy days, we must balance that by finding stillness and stability. Allow yourself some quality couch or bath time. Change up your usual power yoga workout for a more slow-flow/grounding practice. Whatver you choose, know that you’re not being lazy, sometimes it’s just what you need to feel balanced and restored.

What are some of your favorite ways to infuse a little happiness into the changing seasons? Share your ideas in the comment section.