Holiday Bliss…?

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Ah, the holiday season is upon us.  I’ve struggled for ideas to write anything enlightening on the subject of holidays that hasn’t already been said a hundred times.  I could talk about how to beat holiday stress or how to be your best during the holidays in order to avoid January resentment, but I’m guessing we all know what to do and what not to do in order to feel our best come January 1.  Or at least January 2.

Stumped as I was, I started typing and let my thoughts flow.  Christmas.  It’s here again.  It’s sad really.  As the years go by this important holiday slowly evolves from total festivity for children to total stress for adults.  How to bring back the joy?

As a child Christmas was very traditional for me.  An eight-hour trek up to snowy Northwestern Pennsylvania to visit family.  Lots of sledding, hot cocoa, endless chocolate chip cookies in Grandma’s tin treasure chest on the kitchen counter, hours of fun with cousins, pizza on Christmas Eve, Grandma’s homemade biscuits, turkey dinner and pies, oh her pies.  And alas, my thoughts are wandering toward food.  I guess as a chubby kid and now a healthy chef it’s no surprise my most vivid memories center around food.  Do I eat like this now during the holidays?  No.  Would I eat my Grandmother’s pie, cookies or biscuits if she were still with us to treat me to these family delicacies?  You betcha.

And it hits me.  The perfect Christmas themed wellness blog isn’t one of how to’s, to do’s and not to do’s.  It’s about cutting ourselves a break and finding joy.  Kind and gentle are words many of us strive to achieve during the holiday season in this cruel world.  What better place to start than with yourself?  Be kind, gentle and slow down.  Be present.  Family and friends make much effort to express their love and gratitude this time of year.  How about expressing a little love and gratitude toward yourself?

What kinder act to your spirit than to relive a childhood holiday memory through your taste buds?  Or maybe it’s not your taste buds, maybe it’s spending an hour reliving the memories of your handmade ornaments from childhood, or skipping the office party in favor of a quiet date night with a loved one.  It’s about feeding your soul folks.

Now then, kind and gentle doesn’t mean eating every cookie or candy cane that crosses your path.  But maybe it does mean allowing yourself a piece of fudge, a glass of champagne, a morning of sleeping in or a skipped workout without guilt.  Find YOUR kind and gentle. Where do you need to lighten up on yourself?  Refocus the guilty energy on time with family or friends, take a deep breath and enjoy the freedom and gratitude this moment gives you.

Go ahead, be bad.  Give yourself permission once or twice this holiday season and don’t even think twice about it.  You can refocus and reshift goals come January, and for that I can help.  But while we’re at it, let’s make a resolution to be more kind and gentle to ourselves all year long.

My gift to you is one of my favorite treats year round; especially tasty during the holidays.  The perfect desert for cocktail or dinner parties.  Recipe compliments of my dear friend Jill.

Healthy Nut Butter Cups

  • 1 package of medjool dates, cut in half, pits removed
  • 1 jar organic almond, peanut or cashew nut butter

Spread nut butter into pitted dates.  Arrange on a plate, garnish with love and enjoy.

Happy Holidays my friends.

So Long Creepy Crud

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Scratchy throat and sniffles and body aches, oh my.  Say it isn’t so.  Yep, it’s that time of year.  That festive time of year that starts with cute kiddos decked out for Halloween, moves right on to turkey and pies for Thanksgiving and manifests with the decorating, shopping, parties, baking, gift-wrapping and joy of Christmas, with a few college football parties sprinkled in.  No wonder our bodies wear down and force a time out with cold, flu and the creepy crud.

This needn’t be my friends.  Time to arm ourselves and invest a little TLC in our immune system before the creepy crud gets the best of us.

What is this thing called the immune system anyway, and why is it your neighbor Janet hasn’t been sick in three years while your sick days are maxed every year?

Our immune system is one of the magnificent phenomena’s of the human body.  Each of us is equipped with a defense system that constantly fights disease-causing microorganisms when we don’t even know they’re attacking.  The immune system resides in many parts of your body, including the tonsils, thymus gland, lymph nodes, appendix, spleen, small intestine, bone marrow and white blood cells.

There are a zillion ways our immune system breaks down, leading to not only cold and flu but also allergies, inflammation and ultimately disease.  Today I’m going to look at how to keep our immune systems strong and healthy for the sake of fighting off cold and flu, but by practicing the right diet and lifestyle you’ll find that your body is strong enough to fight not only common illness, but also long-term disease.

Let’s look at them most common offenders.

Stress.
Stress is a naturally occurring phenomena that our bodies are equipped to handle.  When we’re in a state of stress the brain signals the adrenal glands to secrete endorphins to help temporarily handle the stress.  Think fight or flight.  We get sick when the body is constantly in a state of stress, working so hard to fight it that other bodily functions like the immune system become weakened.  Stress levels tend to run particularly high during the winter months as we have less daylight, lowering serotonin levels in the brain, which has been linked to depression.  On top of this we tend to work longer hours and overcommit during the holidays, all of which piles up as added stress.  According to WebMD 75%-90% of all doc visits are stress related.  Commit to not over-committing this winter, and when you’re feeling stress try these simple techniques to relax.

  • Get outside for some fresh air and sunlight, even if just for ten minutes.
  • Breathe!  Breathe deeply from the diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Bonus if you can try breathing exercises outside.
  • Meditation
  • Relaxing music

Lack of Sleep.
This one goes hand in hand with stress, as one inevitably leads to the other.  Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, period.  This is when our bodies recover, rebuild and repair.  Sleep is essential for almost all bodily processes to function properly. Surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reveal that 60% of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.  Lack of sleep not only impedes the immune system, but it also negatively impacts memory, metabolism and mood, all leading to more stress.  Having trouble with sound sleep?

  • Start to unwind as it gets dark outside.  Our bodies are naturally programmed to wind down when it’s dark and refresh as the sun comes up.  Save the housecleaning, working out or other strenuous activity for daytime.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep routine, even on the weekends.
  • Take naps if you need to.
  • Lack of Vitamin D can be a factor in poor sleep.  Try to get outside when the sun is shining and take a Vitamin D3 supplement if you don’t live in the southern part of the US.
  • Magnesium may help in restful sleep as it aids in brain relaxation, helping to turn it from “on” to “off”.  Get magnesium naturally through leafy greens and almonds, but for sounder sleep try a supplement.

Lack of movement.
I’m talking exercise, even though I try to avoid using the E word in fear of scaring my clients away.  Stats show that people who work out regularly take half the number of sick days as people who don’t engage in regular physical activity.  Exercise strengthens your heart, allowing for stronger blood circulation throughout your body.  It also strengthens the lungs, allowing for greater oxygen distribution.  No need to spend an hour at the gym every day if it’s not your thing.  Getting out for a 30 minute walk four to five days a week will make a world of difference to your immune system.

Poor diet.
I can’t possibly underestimate the importance of good nutrition when it comes to immune health.  The old clichés are so true: we are what we eat, and an apple a day does keep the doctor away.  Following are a few food based home remedies that can help to build a strong immune system and ease the symptoms of cold and flu when they do set in.  Take that Janet.

Anise seed or fresh fennel clears congestion and helps ease a cough.  Add 1 cup crushed anise seed to 1 cup hot water with garlic, cinnamon or honey.  Raw fennel is delicious sliced and eaten on sandwiches or mixed into salads.

Apple Cider Vinegar is a powerful cleansing and healing elixir, a naturally occurring antibiotic and antiseptic that fights germs and bacteria.  It also cures diarrhea, soothes a sore throat, aids in sinus drainage, and acts as a natural pick- me-up.  Add 1-2 teaspoons to warm water and drink first thing in the morning or throughout the day.

Blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses, helping to protect cells from harm caused by free radicals, or molecules responsible for illness, aging and certain diseases.

 Cacao, ounce for ounce contains more antioxidant power than green tea or berries, and it’s loaded with zinc.  Add cacao nibs or powder to a morning smoothie, in yogurt or snack on cacao nibs on their own.  You can find powder or nibs at your local health food store.

Celery is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, fights viral and bacterial infection, supports the digestive tract, boosts your immune system, aids in hydration and as a bonus fights cancer and helps to lower blood pressure.  Juice celery or eat it chopped in a salad or try sliced celery sticks with hummus.

Cinnamon has a healing effect on the body because of its warming property.  Try making a tea with 1” slice fresh ginger, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ¼ lemon, 1 cup hot water.  Or sprinkle cinnamon in your morning yogurt, over brown rice with honey or on roasted sweet potatoes.

Fluids are key when fighting a cold.  Drink plenty of fluids to maintain a moist respiratory tract, helping to repel viral infection.  Staying hydrated also improves the function of white blood cells.  Stay away from concentrated sugars in soda pop and store bought juice, which can weaken the white blood cells ability to kill bacteria.

Garlic is a highly potent antioxidant offering anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-yeast properties.  Strive to eat two cloves a day.  Garlic is most powerful eaten raw.  Try a supplement if garlic isn’t appealing or make a habit to cook with it.

Ginger eases GI distress, treating nausea and promoting healthy digestion.  It is highly anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.  Ginger is known to be cleansing, warming and has been used to treat symptoms of cold, flu, PMS and arthritis pain.  Try juicing fresh ginger root or make a tea with a 1” slice of ginger, ¼ fresh lemon and 1 cup hot water.

Green tea is full of catechins, powerful antioxidants that help rid the body of free radicals and are thought to help kill influenza viruses.

Honey.  This age old flu fighter contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals, a full-range of vitamins, and 5,000 live enzymes.  Be sure to buy raw, local honey if possible.  Try making a tea with ¼ lemon, 1 Tbsp raw honey and 1 cup hot water.

Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient dense foods on earth.  The darker the green the higher the nutrient content.  Leafy greens have a purifying affect, amp the immune system and promote lung health.  Eat cooked or try raw in a salad or green smoothie.

Lean proteins: be sure to eat enough in the winter months to help build antibodies and fight infection.  Protein also has a warming effect on the body.

Lemon is the most concentrated form of Vitamin C when juiced.  Try lemon in warm water to soothe a cold.  Lemon with sea salt in warm water soothes a sore throat.

Mushrooms are full of antioxidants and have major anti-inflammatory properties and cancer fighting power.  Eat mushrooms in endless amounts raw in salads or sautéed with stews, soups or animal protein.

Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, a side effect of colds.   People that regularly take a fish oil supplement are also shown to suffer from less anxiety, which itself breaks down the immune system.  Fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna, mackerel or anchovies are high in Omega-3’s, or add a high quality fish oil supplement to your diet.

Pineapple is effective in helping treat bronchial conditions as it contains the protein digesting enzyme bromelain, which helps to break down thick mucus and offers some mild antibiotic effects.

Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in our gut.  This healthy gut flora makes up 70% of the immune system.  It works to keep harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream and helps the body absorb nutrients.  Get your daily dose of probiotics by eating “live” food like cultured greek yogurt, fermented foods like sauerkraut or kim chi, through drinks like kombucha or kefir, or you can take a high quality, whole foods based probiotic supplement.  Look for one that needs to be refrigerated, which means the cultures are live, not freeze-dried.  Take an acidophilus supplement when on antibiotics to prevent the risk of yeast overgrowth.

Spirulina, a blue green algae has been called one of the most nutritious and concentrated food sources on the planet.  It has 58 times more iron than raw spinach, 25 times more beta-carotene than carrots, 3 times more Vitamin E than Wheat Germ and is high in cancer-fighting selenium.  Spirulina has antimicrobial properties, known to destroy a wide range of viral, bacterial and fungal infections while boosting the immune system.  It aids in respiratory health, fighting asthma and the histamines that cause allergies.  Spirulina is a complete protein with a very high protein efficiency ratio.  It is anti-inflammatory.  Add spirulina powder to your green smoothie or try a supplement.  Both can be found at your local health food store.

*This content is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health.

Eating in the Here and Now: Zucchini Basil Soup

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Of all topics in the world of nutrition one of my most passionate is that of eating for the season.  It’s a principal of many ancient and modern dietary theories including Ayurveda, an ancient Hindu practice that emphasizes diet, herbs and yoga to maintain equilibrium with nature. Macrobiotics, a Japanese practice that highlights the relationship between diet, lifestyle and nature as a means for health and longevity also places seasonal eating as one of its philosophical pillars.

Eating for the season.  The principal is so simple we shouldn’t even need to think about it.  But let’s do for a minute.  What would we be eating 200 or 300 years ago?  We’d have no grocery store access.  If we did, the only food shipped from afar would be spices.  200, 300 Years ago we’d be eating what we and our neighbors grow and harvest.  This, my friends is by design.  Our earth provides all the nutrients we need, when we need them.  Yes, people lived much shorter lives 200 and 300 years ago but please believe me, it wasn’t because of what they ate.  Heart disease, cancer and diabetic complications weren’t taking lives in the 1700’s.  Even if antibiotics were available, I could argue that heart disease, cancer and diabetes still wouldn’t be a leading cause of death back then.

Back to 2013.  Now that we’re in the dog days of summer our bodies are heated, maybe even over heated.  How to cool?  With the colorful produce you find at the farmer’s market: fresh berries, peaches, melons, cucumbers, greens, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers all cool us from the inside out.  Again, all by design.

I can’t talk seasonally without talking locally.  Here’s a fun fact: 70% of the world’s transportation is used to move or obtain food.  However, feeding yourself locally grown, locally raised food isn’t only gentler on the environment and it doesn’t only support your community, it truly is healthier food.  An apple is still living and growing when attached to its tree.  It only makes sense that a freshly picked apple holds maximum energy.  This energy is affected by all the handling that happens as the apple is harvested, shipped and merchandised at your grocery store by clerks that may or may not handle it with care.  At the grocery store that apple sits under a fluorescent light until it is purchased and stored in your refrigerator.  This is a long lifespan, especially for produce that’s shipped from overseas.  There you have it. Eating locally guarantees fresher food and maximum energy.

But don’t get me wrong.  Eating fresh fruits and veggies in general is indubitably important for good health. Don’t pass on the produce aisle if the product isn’t local.  If interested in finding local product, check into your local CSA at www.localharvest.org.  And of course the freshest food is food we grow ourselves.

My sister recently joked that leaving her car unlocked this time of year is sure to result in a car full of zucchini.  I want to live in her town!  Zucchini is packed with water, which puts the courgette high on the list of cooling foods.  They’re also high in fiber; Vitamins A and C that act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories; folate and potassium.  If zucchini is taking over your world (if not please let them in) try this zucchini basil soup recipe, adapted from epicurious.  One of my late summer favorites, this soup is velvety yet dairy free.  Your turn.  What are your favorite August recipes?

Zucchini Basil Soup

Adapted from epicurious.com
4-6 servings

  • 2 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth, divided
  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves
  • Juice from two lemon halves
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Optional: greek yogurt for garnish

Optional for garnish: peel ½ zucchini, slice the peel into match sticks, then toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and drain in a fine mesh strainer until wilted, about 25 minutes.

Coarsely chop remaining zucchini into 1” chunks.

Heat a 3-4-quart heavy saucepan over low heat.  When pan is warm, add oil and sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes, adding more broth if necessary.

Allow to slightly cool and purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids).  Return soup to pot and warm if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slowly add lemon juice, tasting as you do to season to your liking.

Optional: Bring remaining broth to a boil in a small saucepan and blanch the sliced zucchini peel for 1 minute. Drain in the strainer and set over a bowl.

Serve soup in shallow bowls with a dollop of greek yogurt and sliced zucchini skins mounded on top.

Where It All Begins

ImageWelcome to my inaugural blog post.  I’m so very happy to have you!  My name is Teri and here’s my story.  I have an amazing power to heal just by connecting with people through eye contact and touching big toes.  Just kidding.  Don’t we wish it were that easy?

Nope, I’m a Midwestern girl at heart, a lover of almost all things health, wellness and food.  I’m a holistic health coach and personal chef, and my mission is to help people discover their greatest health through the healing power of food.

The real story: I spent the first twenty-two years of life in the Buckeye state…Ohio that is.  Though we didn’t move around, l consider myself an Air Force brat, as my Father spent all thirty-some years of his career working for the Department of Defense at Wright-Patterson AFB.  I too worked on base for a few formative years in high school and college as a lifeguard, so I was part of the team, eh?  College was the University of Cincinnati where I graduated with my bachelors in Communications.  After tossing the graduation cap I wasted no time hitting the road for bigger and better things in the Great Pacific Northwest.  Portland, OR to be exact.  Ok, so I followed a guy out there, but what better place to land?  This was the 90’s and Portlandia was at its peak.  Oh yeah.  I got lucky.  Three weeks after moving I landed a temporary job at adidas, which turned into a permanent job and eventually a career as a brand marketing guru in the world of athletic footwear.  What fun and amazing travels, events, experiences and people.  But that’s for another blog.  Seven years I spent at adidas, then moved on to Nike for another three.  At age 32, ten years of blood, sweat and tears all in the name of sneakers was enough for me.  Culinary school was calling.  So was my new family.  I had just become engaged to a single father of three.  Three teenagers that is(!!!)  Left my sassy condo in Uptown Portland, moved to Vancouver, Washington and donned a few new hats.  I graduated from the Portland location of Le Cordon Bleu in the spring of 2008 and in the fall opened The Good Plate, preparing and delivering healthy, homecooked meals to busy people all over the Portland area.  The Good Plate was loved by many, and as word spread I was feeding all kinds of people, but noticeably more and more who were recovering either from illness, surgery or a traumatic life event, like loss of a loved one.  They were looking to me for nourishment through these difficult life events.  WOW.  Inspiring to say the least.  I’ve always been a believer in the healing power of food, which further inspired me to evolve my offering to the world by becoming a holistic health coach.  Which leads me to today.  My amazing husband Scot and I moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in January.  You’ll hear more about the hubs later I’m sure.  Though he’s the pickiest eater I’ve ever known and cooked for, life is certainly never dull.  Scot jumped ship from his 15-year stint as a footwear designer at Nike to take on the challenging role of US manufactured footwear at New Balance.  The move has been a most awesome, fun and growing experience, except for the small detail that all three kids and now a grandbaby are still on the west coast.  They are young adults now making their own way in life, but separation is still tough.  That aside, the Seacoast area of New England and its people rock.  I received my degree in holistic health this spring, and I’m aflame with excitement as I get my new business – Chef Teri up and running!

When I’m not writing, cooking or talking about food you might find me enjoying a glass of wine with the hubs, hanging out with my two dogs Billie and Finny, exploring the Seacoast and it’s fine people, running, sailing (or dreaming about sailing, since we left our boat on the west coast…boo) or doing yoga.

Expect tips, inspiration, recipes, stories of life, love, cooking, friendship, entrepreneurship, parenting teens, and lots of yummy meal ideas.  Follow me and I’ll help you discover your greatest self through the healing power of food.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  What about you?  What’s your story?  Do share!

Until next time, love and cheers.

Chef Teri