Archive for ‘Healthy Eating’

November 6, 2012

The Stars Are Aligning

Do you love what you do?  Do you do what you love?  Do you wake-up excited to start your day?

I got a lot of sleep last night.  The most I can remember in ages, nearly ten and a half hours, which is unheard of for me, lately anyway.  And me feeling rested, really rested, is much like Magda on speed in the movie There’s Something About Mary.

In any case, the sleep did me well.  And today, I woke up, surfing through my thoughts.  Anxious for the chicken coop to be done so that the trio of hens can join us soon.  And my next thought was relief.  I applied for the Urban Farm Certification Program last week and then I got a response from the program director, letting me know that she received my application.  She had a St Louis area code.  Uh, oh.  Maybe my dream is a pipe dream.  I can’t go to St Louis for a year to learn about Urban Farming!  But alas, I got another email yesterday which showed two sites that completed the certification last year… in the Twin Cities… Whew!  Okay, back on track.

So I’ve been thinking.  When I started Walnuts n Pears, the blog, it was phase one to my dream business of having everything for living a healthy life,  mind, body and soul, all under one roof.  And my plan this year was to start teaching some classes, of which I did a handful, but now, I’m thinking maybe this concept could become a reality even sooner.  If I take the certification course, if I start teaching classes, if I turn my yard, garden and home into a classroom, then perhaps this thing, this dream, could become a reality.  Maybe I could offer the parts and pieces (a small store) to go along with the classes… I’m thinking out loud, or on paper, or well, virtual paper anyway, as a way to get my thoughts out there.  As a way to have you and the universe give me a little feedback.

Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply is one of my favorite stores.  I love their concept and they are a great resource, but they are in St. Paul.  What if there was something similar, yet different, in the Minneapolis side of the world?  Would you come?  The owners of Egg|Plant are great, I wouldn’t want to hurt their business, I would like to add to it.  Feed off each other, maybe?

This concept excites me.  Urban Farming excites me.  Plants and animals excite me.  Meditation calms me. 😉

It’s funny, I saw a link on my Facebook page today for Urban Farm Magazine.  I love that magazine.  I love growing things and I love teaching others how they can do the same.  I’m always anxious to learn more.  I think if you stop learning, if you think you know it all, then you truly stop living.  I hunger for more.  I love learning new things, whether it’s better ways to do what I’m already doing or something brand new.

So this might be it.  The stars just might be aligning.  The “What do you want to do when you grow up?” might be coming to fruition.  The funny part is, I have never really known what I wanted to do when I grew up.  As a child I wanted to be a teacher.  I guess that part of me is still there, but just not in the traditional sense.  I come from a family of teachers on my Mom’s side.  All of my Mom’s sisters either were or are teachers and while my Mom wasn’t a teacher for her career, she’s a tutor now that she’s retired and she absolutely loves it.  It makes sense that I too would want to teach, right?  But not always, not day in and day out.  But occasionally, yes!  I have too many other ideas and too much bottled-up creativity that I need to be able to use as well.  So what better way than turning Walnuts n Pears into the place I want to go.

Walnuts n Pears – Living today for tomorrow’s generation.  A place to come, learn and share ideas and resources for today, tomorrow and the days that follow. A little gardening, a little planning, a little planting, a little crafting, a little cooking, a little meditation, a little of this and a little of that, all fun stuff that is centered around living a mindful and sustainable life.

Obviously, I have to do a little more in the planning and prep and see what I can and cannot do on my own turf, but what do ya think?  Any ideas?  Thoughts?  Feedback?  Pros and cons?  Would you come?  What would you like to see?  What would you like to do?

I’m excited about the possibilities.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s to making subconscious dreams come to fruition!

Kate

November 2, 2012

End of The Challenge: Final Reflections, Life Lessons and New Habits Going Forward

The 8 Weeks to a Better You! Challenge ended this past Saturday, October 27th, but I have to say that I learned a lifetime of lessons on this challenge.

Last week, in Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2, I posted the first two lessons I learned:

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

Then, in The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, I posted the next few lessons I learned:

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Not wanting to drag out the lessons forever, I thought I’d do a quick summary of the rest of the lessons I learned.  As a refresher, here are The Rules:

  1. Get at least 45 minutes of exercise per day.
  2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Drink 8 glasses of water per day
  4. No sugar, no white flour
  5. No soda, fast food, junk food
  6. Eat at least 2 fruits and 2 veggies per day
  7. No eating after 8pm
  8. Journal daily
  9. Read at least 15 minutes of scripture or uplifting reading each day
  10. Do at least one Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness or  each day

And, here’s what I learned:

  1. Exercise is my friend.  This challenge, I decided to take it easy on the exercise.  I have a tendency to push myself too hard, which usually means injury or burn-out.  When I was trying to figure out what I would do for exercise I knew I needed something I could sustain for eight weeks. I thought of the story The Turtle and The Hare.  I chose walking.  Ironically enough I’ve had two doctors tell me not to run, just walk, I actually listened.  I loved it, looked forward to it and missed it when I didn’t do it, just like a friend.
  2. Exercise in the morning.  I realized that if I don’t exercise in the morning, I usually won’t do it.  I learned that I love my morning walks, it wakes me up, fills my lungs with fresh air and lets me sort out my thoughts and plan my day.  When I’m done, my mind is clear and I feel good.
  3. Not enough sleep is not enough sleep.  With eight weeks to practice getting 7 hours of sleep, I paid close attention to what I felt like when I did get enough sleep and the days that I didn’t.  And now that I know what it feels like to get at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, I’ve learned that my patience, creativity, understanding and happiness depends greatly upon how much sleep I get.  If I don’t get enough I’ll be setting myself up for disaster the next day.
  4. Water is key.  I’ve always had a tough time drinking enough water in a day, or rather, tracking how much water I drink, but I used a few tricks this time.  I have a couple of 16 oz. “beer glasses” at home.  I realized that if I drink four of those in a day I’m done.  And the nice thing is, most restaurants serve water in the same glasses so whether I’m home or out and about I can still keep tabs on it.  The other trick, as crazy as it sounds, is that I like to sip hot water.  I grab a coffee mug and sip away just like I would a cup of coffee.  If I combine my pint glasses and a couple of cups of hot water throughout my day, I know I’m set.  Amazingly, I now rank hydration right up there with sleep.  Being hydrated makes me feel fresh and energized.  When I get enough water I’m not groggy, my skin looks full (for a lack of a better way to put it) and I feel good.
  5. Sugar and white flour are not your friend.  Oh, I know they are tempting, trust me.  Pre-challenge I had the sweetest of sweet tooths and love bread and pasta.  What I’ve learned though, is that when I eat white sugar and white flour I feel hallow.  I have cravings that don’t stop, but when I replace white sugar with honey, agave, etc. and replace white flour with whole grain flours or other grain flours I feel satisfied without cravings.  I feel in control.
  6. Soda, fast food and junk food are poison.  I know it sounds extreme.  Everyone knows that these things “aren’t healthy”, but we still eat them.  I focused a lot of my energy in the past 8 weeks on food and it’s downright appalling that most of the stuff on grocery store shelves is legal much less labeled as “food”.  Food is nourishment for your body.  The junk that fills the middle of our stores is not food, it does not nourish our bodies and in most cases we can go so far as to say they are toxic.  There is study after study that shows that this is the stuff that causes Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, contributes to ADD, ADHD, the list goes on.  What’s sad is that so many of us trust that if we find it on our store shelves it is okay to eat.  Wrong.  Basically it’s there because it won’t kill you, today, but keep eating it day in and day out and you’re just running an experiment, waiting to see which disease you will get. We all have to do our due diligence to read labels.  If it has more than 5 ingredients, has “hydrogenated” anything, high-fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back!  If you happen to frequent fast food restaurants, do yourself  favor, go online and look up the nutritional information for the things you usually order, if they’re bad, find some alternates and circle them.  Keep them in your car so you aren’t tempted to order the bad stuff when you go there.  And please, skip the soda, especially diet.  Your body and bones will thank you.
  7. I love coffee in the morning. The Challenge eliminated coffee.  They lumped it in with soda, because of the caffeine, which I personally had issue with because there are so many bad things about soda and no redeeming qualities, but I’ve found more benefits than drawbacks to drinking coffee.  In any case I ditched coffee for about 6 of the 8 weeks, that is until I discovered a link to coffee having a calming effect with my personality type, the reverse effect that it has on most people.  Like anything though, too much of a good thing is… too much.  Going forward I’ll keep it to two cups a day.
  8. Fruits and veggies are miracle workers.  I mentioned in my previous post, The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, why plants are good for us.  Go there, read the post, watch the movies listed in the post.  Not to sound dramatic, but it just might save your life.
  9. Vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.  As I navigated my way through food over the course of the past eight weeks, I started looking into a variety of diets.  Not diets in the sense of dieting, but diets in the sense of the way of eating.  When I realized I should be eating more plants, I naturally made my next stop at Vegetarian websites, cookbooks and magazines.  I found some great new recipes, have since subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine but soon realized that “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” like I thought it did.  The vegetarian diet still allows for junk food, processed foods and foods high in fat.  So while vegetarian can be better, I still need to make sure it’s healthy.
  10. Eating out is a challenge.  A couple of weeks ago I went out with a few girlfriends for dinner.  I had decided before we got there that I was going to look for the vegetarian items on the menu to make choosing my meal a little easier.  Sadly, other than a salad, my options were veggie flat-bread (which was really good) or cream cheese stuffed, deep-fried mushrooms.  Tasty?  Yes.  Healthy?  Not by a long-stretch.  Menus are gradually changing, restaurants are gradually adding more organic food and healthier options, but we still have a really long way to go.  Unfortunately, if we all keep ordering the other stuff, the owners and chefs think that’s what we want.  If we want change, we need to request healthier options both in restaurants and in grocery stores.
  11. 8pm has become the witching hour.  I realize until I did the challenge, how frequently I used to snack after 8pm.  Thankfully this challenge taught me to plan better.  I try to eat dinner a little earlier, leaving enough time to get a snack in by 8pm which tides me until bedtime.  If I find myself getting hungry after 8pm I drink a glass of water or simply head to bed (depending on the time).  I realized that often times I would eat when I was up too late.
  12. Journaling is cheaper than a therapist.  It’s amazing the healing effect that jotting your thoughts on paper can have.  Whether its daily frustrations, random thoughts, future plans or what have you, journaling can really help clear your mind so you can continue with your day.
  13. Take time to read scripture or something uplifting. So many people I know say they don’t have time to read.  I used to be one of those people too, but when I saw “15 minutes” in the rules I thought, “I can squeeze in 15 minutes.”  Some days it can feel impossible, but I found if I could squeeze it in the reward is so worth it and often it makes me want to read more.
  14. Random Acts of Kindness are addictive and contagious.  I love to see people smile.  And one of the easiest ways to make someone smile is to be kind to them, but sometimes we can do a million kind things and not even get a glance, or acknowledgement, much less a smile.  Sometimes people don’t respond the way we think they should and that’s okay.  To truly do an Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness it takes letting go of expectations.  Doing it just to do it.  Not for recognition, not for reward, not so we can run and tell someone that we did it or so we can get a pat on the back.  Simply doing it to be kind to someone else.  If we go into it in that manner it will feel good no matter what the response and that feeling is highly addictive.  And what’s better is that once you get in the habit of being kind for no reason at all, it becomes easier and easier to do it.  And I’ve found, that when you are kind to others, that kindness is returned, not from the same people necessarily, but from others, almost as though kindness is contagious.  It keeps spreading until it comes back to you.  Karma, I guess you might say.
  15. I choose friends over rules.  The bond of friendship is far more important than any rule we might put upon ourselves.  If I’m offered dessert, thoughtfully made by my Mother, or if a friend asks, on the spur of the moment, if I would like to join her for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop when I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee, I’ll always answer, yes.

There you have it, eight weeks of life lessons packed into three blog posts.  Hopefully, despite their lengthiness, you found some value, some tidbit to brighten your day or something to make you think.

I wish you a thoughtful, joyful day packed with your own life lessons and healthy habits.

Peace,

Kate

October 29, 2012

The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants

This past Saturday marked the last day of the 8 Weeks to a Better You!  challenge and what a journey it has been.  If you’ve been following me throughout the challenge, you know that I shifted things slightly in the beginning to make it a Mindful Living challenge for myself.  I didn’t change the rules, I just changed my focus on them, and I’m so grateful that I did.

I started off with my sights set solely on living mindfully.  My goal was to make sure I was present in every aspect of my life and every aspect of the challenge.  Well, that became a challenge in and of itself.  I started getting messages from the universe to focus on food, but that wasn’t my goal so I kept struggling, brushing it off and trying to guide myself in the direction that I wanted to go, follow the path that I wanted to learn.  I felt like I was already eating a healthy diet and didn’t need to focus on food, didn’t need to listen.  (For your information, this is not how mindful living goes.  You don’t get to choose what you learn, you need to let go of your control, stop the power-struggles and learn what is brought to you.  It took me a while to figure that out.)

A couple of weeks into this last challenge a lot of things came about that changed my focus.  I found out that a dear friend of mine has been diagnosed with rectal Cancer, another friend from our old neighborhood has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and my mother-in-law had to have angiogram and stents put in.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost more family and friends to Cancer than I care to admit, but when your friends, people your age and younger, start getting Cancer, it’s downright scary.  If that isn’t a message from the Universe, a wake-up call to check-in on your own health, I don’t know that is.

Around this same time, I was lucky enough to have a close friend of mine, who lives in Boston, visit not once, but twice.  We started talking about our friend with Cancer.  We started talking about the other people we know with Cancer and heart problems and allergies and ADD and ADHD and more.  And when I asked “Why?”  We started talking about food.  And that’s where my journey shifted gears.

My friend and I talked and talked about food.  And we talked about movies we’ve seen.   Movies… about food.   She recommended I watch The Gerson Miracle, Forks Over Knives and The Engine 2 Diet.  I highly suggest everyone on this planet watch all of them.  They are all available on Netflix and you can even watch The Gerson Miracle for free here.  All three movies talk about what our food does to us and for us.  Some of it is literally killing us (meat and dairy), some can heal us (plants).  There is scientific research that backs up the information in all three movies and if we let go of our fear of change, acknowledge that nutrition that was taught in school in the 1950s and the food pyramid we were taught in grade school might be wrong and trust our intuition, we’ll find that plants just might be the key to our future.

Unfortunately, many of us focus our diets around meat, dairy and other animal products and add in plants like we would add salt and pepper.  Unfortunately most of the health problems we face (Cancer, Diabetes, etc.) can be tied to eating animals and processed food.  One of the films reported Cancer studies done in Norway over a period of a few decades around World War II.  In the 1940s, during World War II, Hitler invaded Norway during that time the Nazi’s took all of the animals (beef cattle, pork, etc.) from Norway for themselves to eat and left the Norwegians with nothing to eat but plants.  Ironically, prior to the invasion, Cancer was prevalent, during the time of the invasion and for a number of years after, Cancer rates dropped, significantly.  But after the war, when the animals returned, so did the Cancer.

Now here’s where I get excited (where my plant-geekiness really comes through).  In each of these films they talk about plant phytochemicals.  I know, you’re saying, “Phyto-what?”  Phytochemicals are the natural chemicals in plants that protect them from the elements, insects, etc.  and they have found that these same phytochemicals have protection and healing properties for us when we eat them.  (The more phytochemicals the darker the plant/fruit… think dark leafy greens, blueberries, etc.)  And what’s even better is that eating plants can repair damage that has already been done, even Cancer.  In 1928 Dr. Max Gerson discovered that by juicing and eating a plant-based diet that he could heal many chronic diseases, including Cancer.  Now, believe me, it makes me a little nervous to put this in print because according to our society’s standards I don’t have the right credentials to say this.  But what I can say is that it makes perfect sense to me.

I think of anything I’ve ever heard about food that was the best thing I could hear.  We often hear that if we eat this or that it will help prevent Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease or Cancer, but in the back of my mind I wonder, “But what if it’s already there and I just don’t know it yet?”  To learn that eating the right foods, a whole group of them, not just one or two, plants specifically, can repair damage that’s already done is incredible.  Remember as a kid when you were playing and you goofed up, but you didn’t want to lose the game so as quickly as possible you’d yell, “Do over!”.  Now we, as adults, can also yell “Do over!” to our bodies.  And you can start the repair with your next snack or your next meal!  How cool is that?!?

At one point someone told me I was trying to hit too many topics with this blog, that maybe I should just focus on one… say, gardening, or mindful living, or healthy eating.  But to me, they are all intertwined, which is why the tagline is, “Living today for tomorrow’s generation.”

Eight weeks ago I started off on a mindful living journey.  When I started paying attention to my health, the health of my friends and family, I discovered I really needed to take a harder look at our food.  Then I realized that I need to limit my meat intake to just a few ounces a week.  I need to incorporate more plants into my diet.  And what’s the best place to get fresh food?  Why our own garden of course!  If we take care of the soil, don’t use herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, then we are growing food in a sustainable manner.  If we are being mindful of what we are doing to the earth, to the soil and what we are putting into our bodies, then we are living sustainably and mindfully.  You see… all connected.

The final part of my food and plant journey includes the next steps in my life.  I’m transitioning my diet to a primarily plant-based diet, which I will elaborate more on later.  But on a business note, I have decided to begin the Urban Farming Certification Program in my area, which starts in January.  What that means for you is that I’ll be adding more ammunition to my plant knowledge, specifically edibles, which will add more services to my business. More knowledge, more experience…  more food!

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Kate

September 28, 2012

Recipe from the Garden: Tim Valley’s Bleu Rocket Pizza

Fall Morning – Fog on the Lake

The sun is shining, the trees are changing colors and leaves are gently dancing to the ground.  The crisp mornings lead to warm afternoons, but one sniff of the air and you can tell something is different.  The warm, floral scented breezes have been replaced by cool earthy, woodsy smells.  No need to check the calendar, its officially fall.

Fall is by far my favorite season.  It’s cool and calm, the earth’s energy is slowing in preparation for winter.  Squirrels and chipmunks run a muck burying acorns and walnuts in every nook and cranny (making a mess of my gardens and containers, mind you).  The cool evenings invite fleece and flannel and back yard bonfires.  And nothing spells a better weekend meal for me than my cousin, Tim Valley’s Bleu Rocket Pizza and a glass of Cabernet or Merlot.  Simply put, it’s heaven.

The only thing that could make it better is making this pizza in my backyard pizza oven, but that dream is yet to come to fruition.  Some day… until then, I will continue to warm the house with the wonderful smell of garlic, the smokey prosciutto, the nuttiness of the walnuts and unmistakable scent bleu cheese.   Top it all off with fresh wild rocket or arugula from your garden or local farmers market and its pure bliss.  By the time this pizza hits the table I’m usually drooling.

Tim, thank you so much for sharing this recipe, which has come to be a favorite in my house.  And for everyone else, I hope you enjoy it enough to put it into your recipe repertoire.

Without further adieu…

Tim Valley’s Bleu Rocket Pizza

Crust
Individual packet quick yeast
1/2 c water
A little salt
1 T honey
Flour

Light Fire in Oven

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Add the first 4 ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in flour until whisk is sticky. Let rise 15 min.  Roll as flat as possible onto lightly floured surface.  Spray pizza pan with cooking spray or oil.  Lightly flour the top of the crust, fold crust into 4ths (for ease of handling) and place onto pizza pan.  Unfold crust.

Pizza
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
Prosciutto, cut into wide strips (recommended Trader Joe’s Stock Meier – smokey flavor)
Bleu cheese, crumbledhttps://walnutsandpears.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
Walnuts, chopped
Mozzarella, shredded
Baby Arugula/Wild Rocket
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Drizzle Olive Oil onto Crust

Drizzle olive oil onto crust.  Using a pastry or silicone brush, brush crust with olive oil.  Spread chopped garlic over the oiled crust. Lay prosciutto strips in a single layer over the garlic.

Spread Small Amount of Bleu Cheese

Spread a small amount of  bleu cheese over prosciutto (careful not to use too much or it will overpower the other flavors.) Sprinkle chopped walnuts.

Thin Layer of Mozzarella

Spread a thin layer of mozzarella over the top.

Browned on Top

Bake in 500 degree oven until brown on top.

While pizza is baking, soak baby arugula/wild rocket, spin dry in a salad spinner or place on absorbent towel.

Topped with Arugula, Salt & Pepper

When pizza is done, remove from the oven and spread a layer of arugula over the top.  Lightly season with a minute amount of salt (don’t over do this, there is already salt in the cheese and prosciutto) and pepper.

Slice and Serve

Slice and serve hot.

Enjoy!

Kate