Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Film Review

Last night S and I watched a great documentary called "Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead." The film is about a man, Joe Cross, who is 100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease. This is the description from the official site:

"With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long- term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body's ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle."

You can guess what happens along the way. He saves his own life and the lives of several others. It's a pretty incredible story and truly inspirational as well. 

I have done many fasts including juice fasts and always highly recommend them, to everyone! It's so important for your body to detox and be able to relax and recharge every once in a while. I try to cleanse every three months. Usually it involves eliminating sugar, wheat, dairy, meat, alcohol, and caffeine but I have also done more intense cleanses that involve just juice or various other plans. I've never had a poor experience. 

Sure, it's not super fun but I always feel amazing after a few days. And I know it's crucial for my well being. Otherwise I wouldn't feel so much better afterwards.

It's like not exercising for a long time and then getting back on track. For the first few days you feel sore. But after that, you begin kicking yourself for waiting so long to start back up again! You're body let's you know that it appreciates you.

If you watch this film and feel inspired, do a cleanse! You don't need to drink only juice like they did. But try just cutting one thing out of your diet. I bet if you didn't eat meat for a week you'd find that you'd be eating a lot more vegetables and fruits after you were done. If you cut out sugar and soda for ten days you wouldn't crave it so much on the 11th day. I guarantee it. It's just a way of training your body and taste buds to appreciate whole, natural foods. 

Here are some links to one of my favorite cooking blogs, Shutterbean, and Tracy's experience with juicing. These are a great introduction for some one who has never drank fresh juices before. 

Green Lemonade

Kale Apple Ginger

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkins & Things

Well, I'm officially one month from my due date. What does this mean? I'm freaking out. And when I'm freaking out, I cook. A lot.

So that's what I've been doing. Cooking a lot. Specifically with pumpkin, squash, and the like. Is this too obvious? Sorry, I like pumpkin things. They are delicious.

So among some of the other delights I have dreamed up during my marathon freak out cooking sessions, a few are Pumpkin Mac & Cheese (Whoa! What?!!), Pumpkin Protein Pancakes (NOM NOM), and Pumpkin Green Smoothies (Yes!).

I'll start with the obvious. Pumpkin + Cheese. Yes, I went there. And it rocked! I dreamed up this little number last night after (ahem) we had a perfectly healthy dinner. Oops. Mama needed more than kale, fish, and rice. I have some pumpkin puree in the fridge and have been adding it to everything all week. So when I saw a quick glimpse of mac and cheese on my Pinterest, I knew what needed to be done.

Now, on a side note, I have a love/hate relationship with brown rice pasta. Do you like it? I don't really care for it so much from a textural and flavor stand point. But I do appreciate that it's wheat free and more nutritious than regular pasta. Which leads me to be extremely picky about when I will actually use it. When the pasta is the shining star of the dish, I definitely go with fresh pasta or a great dried (regular) pasta. But I've discovered that if it's a baked pasta dish, such as lasagna, or if the pasta is secondary to cheese or sauce, such as mac and cheese, I'm usually okay with a brown rice or gluten free pasta because the structural (texture) integrity of the pasta isn't compromised. In fact, it's generally okay if it's on the mushier side in these cases.

Anyway, I digress.

Back to the good stuff. This pumpkin mac and cheese rocks because not only is it made with brown rice pasta, it is half the fat of the regular stuff. WHAT?! I know. You're mind is blown right now. Well, since you are adding enough pumpkin puree to the cheese sauce, you eliminate half the cheese and therefore fat. Yeaaaah!! And of course, it's super creamy, cheesy, and rich while providing you with plenty of fiber, anti-oxidants, mineral, vitamins, and virtually NO calories. Good stuff.

Lastly, you could make this dish vegan by replacing the milk with non dairy milk, butter with canola oil, and replacing the cheese with your favorite non dairy melting cheese (like Daiya) and nutritional yeast.

So here we go:

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese 

  1. Cook 2 cups of your desired pasta (brown rice or whole wheat, etc) to package specifications. Drain.
  2. Melt 1.5 T butter over low heat.
  3. Whisk in 1.5 T All Purpose Flour until it's incorporated. 
  4. Add 1 cup of your favorite milk (whole, skim, etc.) while whisking. This will turn into a base sauce for your mac and cheese or "roux."
  5. Mix in 1/2 cup of cheese (I used sharp cheddar) until melted.
  6. Mix in 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. Yum!
  7. Let all the flavors come together over a few minutes. The sauce should be thickening up.
  8. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg. You won't regret it. 
  9. Taste. WOW! Amazing right?
  10. If the sauce is too thick, add a little milk. If too thin, let it cook down for a few minutes. 
  11. *You can stop at this point, mix your pasta in and go to town. Or you can do as I did and put in a baking dish with bread crumbs, broil, and have an amazing crunch crust.
  12. If you're still here, you're looking for the real thing. Baked mac. You won't be sorry. After mixing in your pasta, spread your mac and cheese in a lightly creased baking dish, top with bread crumbs, (maybe a light spray of oil) and broil for a few minutes.
  13. After cooking for as long as you can possibly wait (let's be real) devour and let people praise you for being such an amazing cook.
I hope you enjoy this as much as S and I did last night. I'll be posting my other pumpkin recipes too. since I know you can't get enough. I obviously can't. I'm making pumpkin, goat cheese, and spinach "hot pockets" tonight for dinner. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Kashi

Welcome to Wellness Wednesday! A new feature that I'll have here to write about health, wellness, cooking, and anything else that inspires me to live well!

Full disclosure: Kashi sent me samples of their new product Kashi ® TLC® Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Granola Bars. I was super excited to try these out because I love peanutty anything and obviously dark chocolate, hello! I also wanted to say that I wouldn't review this product if I didn't feel comfortable recommending it.  

One thing I am always concerned about with any packaged product is the sugar content, among other ingredients. With only 7 grams of sugar, 7 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein, it's not too shabby! I have been munching on them any time I am on the run, need an in between snack, or just want a treat. Truth: They are tasty. AND they don't taste super sweet, even with the chocolate. While I prefer to make my own granola bars usually, I don't mind these as a store bought option! I would definitely buy them myself.

Besides my own opinion, I asked a group of my girlfriends their opinion and most importantly, their kiddos opinions. You know, the real decision makers in the family. I'm happy to report that they all said they would purchase this product for their own household and family. Go Kashi

I would also like to mention that when possible, we try to be picky with the companies we support and the products we bring into our home. I have bought Kashi products in the past and was happy to learn even more about the company. Here is a direct quote from the company that says it all:

  • For more than 25 years, Kashi has stood up for real food, offering a variety of naturally nutritious foods and educational resources for everyone to enjoy.  
  • Kashi’s products are natural, minimally processed, and free of highly refined sugars, artificial additives, and unnatural preservatives. 

So there you go folks, a little review about a tasty treat. It's the perfect size for a kid's snack or for a pregnant lady like me! They retail for $3.89 and are available nationwide. Woot woot!

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.

Gratitude & Me Loves My Hubs

I started writing a completely different post hours ago and minimized it for a while. Then Scott got up from working and cleaned up after breakfast. And just like that I felt like an overwhelmed hormonal pregnant lady. Welcome to my life right now.

I know what you're thinking, um...that's great. He put the butter away. And I'm fortunate that Scott does a lot "around the house" but let's be real. Most of the time I have to, ahem, remind him (read: nag) to do certain things. Since I've been pregnant he has been much more proactive in helping with housework. Let's hope this trend continues.

Anyway, it's never a bad time to reflect on what you're grateful for. S and I try to practice this every night before bed. Some days our lists are shorter than others, i.e. "I'm grateful that I got dressed today." haha But I believe that it helps us keep things in perspective, especially when the day passed was less than amazing. Try it! It also helps me not have so many worried thoughts before bed that are so difficult to avoid. Everyone is always thinking about something before bed, usually something stressful like bills, projects, kids, etc. If you close out your days thinking about positive things, you will have much sweeter dreams. I promise.

Today I'm grateful for...
  • having roughly a month left until we meet baby boy. Obviously this is first.
  • celebrating hubs' birthday yesterday. Yay!
  • reconnecting with old friends recently.
  • "meeting" so many new people in this crazy blog world.
  • cooler autumn weather...although not today.
  • Scott putting our stroller together yesterday. Sweet boy.

  • feeling pretty okay these days. Other than a sore back and unlimited bathroom trips, I can't complain.
  • seeing a lot of my girlfriends lately.
  • finally starting to see a bit of space clearing up in our apartment after all this packing.
  • all the sweet and tasty birthday pastries we picked up on our way home from dinner last night. Yum!

If you feel like posting a gratitude list today, let me know! I would love to see what you're grateful for.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Institute for Integrative Nutrition

(I wanted to preface this by stating that the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is not reimbursing me in any way to write this blog post. This is my own opinion and story.)

After reading my article about my job, many of you have written to me asking about my experience at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and at the Natural Gourmet Institute. I love sharing my story about how each of these amazing schools shaped my career and life.

This past weekend I attended a conference in New York with 4000 other students and left feeling so inspired! So today I thought I would begin with Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I completed this program after already working as a natural foods chef. I had some friends who had gone through this program to become certified health counselors and really enjoyed working with their clients to help them achieve not only their dietary goals, but also help them focus on their lives, families, careers, and passions. This was out of my jurisdiction.

I love cooking for my clients and being able to provide them with nutritious food to fill their bellies. But there were so many occurrences when I could tell that there was more missing in someone's life than just more kale. I knew there was something else that could feed their soul.

So I decided to look more into IIN. Fast forward to me signing up for the distance learning program. I was able to continue my day-to-day work as usual while listening to lectures on an ipod (part of your tuition) and connecting with other students on a special online forum for our "class."

The reason I was so interested in this program over a traditional nutrition degree was a couple of reasons:

  • I didn't want to go back to school, I already spent a ton of money and time on a degree
  • It is much fast than a four year degree (It's about a year)
  • It's much more affordable than college classes
  • You can begin taking PAYING clients while you're in the program
  • You get assigned your own health coach!
  • I didn't want to become a clinician, I wanted to incorporate health coaching into my cooking business
  • And the part that was most interesting to me was their approach and curriculum...

This part I am going to take from their site because I couldn't describe it better :)

Nutrition Concepts
Click on the link to read more: Bio-individuality,Dietary TheoriesPrimary FoodDeconstructing CravingsCrowding OutFood EnergeticsFood/Mood ConnectionSuperfoods
Nutrition Science
Our online nutrition course reviews science and anatomy to provide you with an understanding of how our bodies function and why certain dietary habits work and don’t work for individuals. Specific topics include, but are not limited to:
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Blood sugar & glucose
  • Digestive system
  • Toxins
  • Thyroid health
  • Genetic influence on diet
  • Metabolism

Modern Health Issues

Click on the link to read more: American Health CrisisFood/Mood ConnectionGovernment PoliciesHypoglycemiaOrganic vs. Non-Organic vs. Local FoodsEmotional EatingSchool Food
So there you have it. Just a bit of why I chose this program that led me to becoming a holistic health coach. I love that I can help guide people on their path to becoming their best selves. In the process, I believe I have become a better version of myself as well. My relationships have become stronger with my family, husband, friends, as well as myself. I have used the tools I've learned at IIN to foster my own dreams for my career and life, like becoming a momma! I also have a better relationship with my body and have an awareness of what it needs (and doesn't!). 
Lastly, if any of you are interested in attending IIN, contact me! They are giving away some limited scholarship money right now and I can put you in touch with someone to talk to!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Autumn, Again

We woke up in NYC to a chilly morning. The perfect morning to put on a sweater and have coffee. Yum.  Autumn is my most favorite time in New York. Crunching through the leaves in the park, everyone with scarves and boots on, and finally a break from the insane summer humidity. This is welcome news for a ninth month pregnant lady such as myself.

I wanted to say a big thank you again to the lovely Danielle for featuring me on her blog yesterday and a big hello to all of you who stopped by to check out PH&C! Welcome :) I hope you come around again.

This morning, in the midst of my autumn excitement, I decided to roast a butternut squash that I picked up at the market this week. I am planning on using half of it for a soup and half for savory, make ahead, breakfast muffins to freeze. I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out on Monday!

In the meantime, I hope you have a lovely weekend. And if it's chilly where you are, I hope you are enjoying pulling out your sweaters and cozying up with some soup.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog Love: Sometimes Sweet

This is so exciting! Check out my little guest post over on Sometimes Sweet today. Danielle's blog is one of my most favorite daily reads and I have enjoyed following her journey from pregnancy and through her (almost!) first year with baby Henry. 

Thanks so much Danielle! I had so much fun writing about my job and why I'm so passionate about both cooking and health coaching. I'm grateful and honored to be featured on your little piece of our blog world. :)

If you aren't already (you're crazy!) check out Sometimes Sweet and read all about the lovely adventures of this adorable family. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm Exhausted

My friend wrote a funny post last week about trying to catch up on her sleep in the weeks before baby comes while it's impossible. You see, in the weeks leading up to the big day there is, of course, the requisite stress and lists running through your head. However, the more painful reason you can not sleep is because you are actually in physical pain. Yes, your baby is beating you up from the inside. Fun times. And then there is waking up in the middle night because of heartburn, hip pains, back pains, anxiety, and freaky nightmares involving giving birth to everything but your own kid. And forget actually falling asleep. It could take hours to find a comfortable position.

Okay, I'm done whining.

Kind of.

For now.

Anyway, we had a really fun past few weeks house/cat sitting for my parents in the burbs. It was nice to get out of the city, watch cable, and relax. We also drove down to the boardwalk, played mini golf, and shared an ice cream. It was really nice. And last weekend, two of our lovely friends got married and we got to go to their beautiful wedding. It was super fun to do my hair, put on some make up, and make myself feel as fancy as I possibly can at this point. Meh. There's only so many dresses you can try on...

Anyway, it was so much fun dancing all night with friends, taking photo booth photos, and stuffing ourselves with nom nom treats like mac and cheese balls and chocolate peanut butter pie. YUM. Best of all, my pregnant friend was also there and we had fun harassing the photographer to take photos of us and dancing with our bumps. haha

With baby boy "arriving" roughly a month-ish from now, I am trying to catch up on my never ending list. Even with all my free time right now, it seems like it takes forever to accomplish anything between being exhausted, hungry, having to pee a million times a day, and just getting overwhelmed. Told you I wasn't really done whining....

Cute image via

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Favorite Veggie Burgers

We are not full time vegetarians at the P house but we do eat a lot of vegetarian meals. We choose to eat less meat most of the time because:
- we are really picky about the quality of our meat and where it comes from
- it helps us get more vegetables in our daily diets
- it makes us feel better
- it saves money!

Now trust me when I tell you I can get down with some beef burgers, turkey burgers, and I have even been know to eat a tuna burger. But there is another patty in my life friends, and that patty is named Veggie. I make a huge batch of these burgers every few months and we keep them in the freezer for whenever the mood may strike us, or when the fridge is bare (oops). This recipe is adaptable for so many flavors! I have made it with basil pesto to make it more Italian, more curry to make it more Indian, and even added coconut to give it a Thai spin. Play around with the base to make wholesome, nutritious, home made veggie burgers that are vegan and gluten free too! You'll feel much better knowing they don't have any soy, preservatives, or artificial ingredients (as most commercial brands do). These burgers are full of protein, fiber, and vegetables. I have made anywhere from a dozen to two dozen patties with this recipe. The seasonings are, of course, interchangeable but I have found that these work nicely to balance the flavors. You can also switch the black beans for others, such as garbanzo or pinto. You can eat it on a whole grain bun, like a burger with all your favorite toppings. Or you can even use this mixture crumbled in a tortilla, like a burrito. I have even used it to make vegan sloppy joes!

1 can black beans
1 c rolled oats
1/4 c ground flax
1 c shredded carrots
1/2 c frozen peas
1 T crushed garlic
1/2 c chopped onion
2 t curry
2 t cayenne
 2 t cumin

Mash all of these ingredients together and form patties of your preferred size. Bake patties for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Or sautee in a medium hot pan for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baby Shower, Hurricane, 33 Weeks


What a crazed past two weeks. Seriously. We just had an earthquake AND hurricane here in NYC. And our baby shower, which was just as exciting. (At least for me!)

My parents are out of town so S and I decided to head out of the city to their house to make sure everything was okay, and also to be with Lucy the cat. I'm so glad we did because there ended up being quite a bit of damage after the storm. There are huge trees surrounding my parents property which ended up falling (not on the house) and breaking off giant branches (er...directly INTO the house!) which was scary. S and I tried to get some sleep on Saturday night but ended up getting out of bed around 3ish and watching the news. I made some coffee and we sat with the kitten until the sun came up, all with the power flickering on and off for hours. After we surveyed the area, we went back to bed. And then it was clean up for the next two days. The basement flooded, trees were down all over. It was pretty crazy. Anyway, all is over and we are okay. Not the case for thousands of people still without power up and down the east coast.

Thank goodness that the weekend before was our baby shower! Yeah! It was amazing. Having so many people who love us and are all excited for baby boy there was an overwhelming amount of love. And since we are moving away, it made it all the more special. I can't say enough about how grateful we are. My mom, aunt, and I (and S!!) cooked all the food and I think it was a success. We had badminton set up, an ipod playlist, and plenty of afternoon drinks. My kind of baby shower. My friend Arielle made (and let me borrow) the amazing necklace I'm wearing. Isn't it so fun?

We asked everyone to write a message to baby that we can put in a book later. After the party, we read them all back and, of course, I was a mess of emotions thinking of not having all these amazing people be a part of baby's everyday life. But they still will be. In a different way. They will all be his cool New York/New Jersey aunts and uncles. Gah. I can't even think about it right now...

As the weeks are creeping up I am in full stress out mode. Have you ever tried to prepare a space for a baby? Fun, right? Have you ever tried to prepare that space in an apartment you are moving out of? Not fun. More like, "Why are you even doing this?". Ugh.