Friday, March 14, 2014

3 minutes to pain relief

Maybe you've had a really long and stressful work week and your neck, back, and shoulders are feeling it. Or the constant weather changes are flaring up pre-existing joint and muscle pain. Anyone living with chronic autoimmune conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia; or old injuries to the neck, back, and spine knows this deep, unrelenting ache. Being the tough guys we are, we push through pain; often with the aid of over the counter and prescription pain meds. But these take a toll too. Stomach bleeding is one side effect of medications such as Aleve and Advil. Liver damage is a very real possibility from Tylenol and has led to a recent FDA crackdown. And of course, we won't even talk about the addictive possibilities of drugs like Percocet, Oxycodone, etc.

No matter the root cause of your pain, ultimately your body is screaming out for a little gentleness and balance. Think of pain and its location as being a physical manifestation of other conflicts in your life (Literally, are things a pain in your neck). Qigong (pronounced chi-gong) can be helpful. If nothing else, it gives you a (likely) much-needed time out from the constant racing of your brain. Never mind the fact that Dr. Oz introduces this clip. The exercises are led by Kung-Fu master Karl Romain are simple and gentle and shockingly effective. 3 minutes. Less time than it takes you to pop open that bottle of aspirin and limp over to get a glass of water. Try it and see.

Qigong exercises to relieve pain

Thursday, March 13, 2014

what those food cravings actually mean

Food cravings can send us all down a wicked path of self-destruction. Here's a helpful guide for understanding what your body may ACTUALLY be craving. A chocolate craving (during PMS or when you're super-stressed or experiencing muscle cramping and soreness) may mean you really need magnesium - a mineral that helps regulate many biochemical reactions in the body including muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and protein synthesis. Chocolate with a high cacao content (more than 70%) contains magnesium. But so do raw nuts and seeds, legumes (beans, peanuts), and some fruits. 
Try switching out some of your craved foods for the healthier alternatives and see how you feel. Send me your feedback!



Friday, March 7, 2014

reflections on winter. and the "Spring Forward" morning smoothie (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free)

It's been a crazy winter here in NYC: snow, ice, arctic cold. I even managed to break my arm maneuvering the icy black glacial patches covering the streets.

Broken arm. At its leisure.
If you think getting around in the sub-zero temperatures is rough, try doing it with your arm in a cast and your coat wide open. Gave me a whole new appreciation for the enormous physical struggles so many people face. I feel incredibly lucky that my situation was only a temporary inconvenience.

There were also some beautiful moments this winter. When the enormous drifts of snow collected and a silence - unusual for this city - blanketed buildings, cars, Central Park.

Central Park: Sound of Silence
Whenever I had a free moment, I'd try to go out by myself to take it all in. As someone who grew up in New York City and often longs for the days when not every patch of grass and concrete were filled to capacity, it was really special to have these quiet moments. I don't think I ever even realized there were so many statues in Central Park (Ignorance. Not always blissful.).


Columbus contemplates snow

I happened to be one of the lucky ones and my broken wrist healed extremely quickly. The evening that my cast was taken off, I decided to take a walk. A gratitude-filled ramble in the twilight, if you will. And this is what I discovered. A little Magritte, a little C.S. Lewis. Doesn't get much better if you ask me.

Magritte in Narnia


So maybe it's not quite Spring yet, but in anticipation of losing an hour of sleep this weekend, I give you the Spring Forward morning smoothie. I practically lived on these all winter. They are full of whole food, anti-inflammatory ingredients and are both warming (thanks to the cinnamon) and refreshing all at once. Chia is loaded with omega-3s and is very high in fiber without the "fishy" taste and phytoestrogens in flax. Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins and are relatively low impact on the glycemic index. The recipe is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free. I'm convinced these smoothies helped me heal quickly. At the very least, they are happy making. And in the still dark and chilly mornings, that's always a good thing.


spring-forward morning smoothie (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free). makes 1 serving.
1 cup coconut water (not coconut milk!!)
1 cup frozen organic blueberries
1-2 big handfuls organic spinach
1 tblsp chia seeds
1 heaping scoop organic, raw wheatgrass powder
1/2 heaping tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Note: You may need to follow up this smoothie with a serving of protein within an hour or two. Because I am able to tolerate yogurt and peanuts (but not tree nuts), I have a cup of plain greek organic yogurt or a tablespoon of peanut butter about 2-3 hours after the shake. I don't recommend adding (or using) protein powders because they are not a whole food, but you should do what is best for you. A hard-boiled egg, or a handful of nuts or seeds, a serving of tempeh or salmon would also work if you find yourself needing more protein, but do try to space it about two hours after the smoothie unless you are hypoglycemic.

Enjoy and be well!



Sunday, February 2, 2014

the most decadent blondies & brownies (vegan, gluten-free, grain-free)

Wellness is physical, emotional, and spiritual. It's about nourishing all parts of you. Cold weather, shorter days, darker skies, call for something easy to warm and strengthen the body and soul. Here's just the thing. No flour in sight (or mouth). Nut butter and legumes (beans, yes beans) to provide a plant-based protein/carb/fat powerhouse base, and the richness of the darkest chocolate (I use best quality 85% dark chocolate) to give an antioxidant boost and magnesium rich calm. Sea salt rounds out the flavors. 
These recipes are based on the original genius of Monique at Ambitious Kitchen (ambitiouskitchen.com). One night, a week after I broke my wrist (but still having to work), I cooked up a batch to re-center and ground myself after a long day of emotionally-charged work at the hospital where I counsel and advocate for crime victims. These were easy to make and warmed the whole house. With a cup of ginger tea, they were the perfect "inside" hug. 

dark chocolate peanut butter & sea salt blondie  (vegan, gluten-free, grain-free)

dark chocolate peanut butter & sea salt blondie
ingredients
1 bar 85% soy free dark chocolate (I use Lindt), roughly chopped
1 can organic chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup grade b maple syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt (more for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil 8x8 inch brownie pan.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor except chocolate. Blend until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chunks reserving 2-3 tblsps for top. Pour batter into pan and smooth top. Sprinkle chocolate chunks on top. Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven immediately and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle sea salt on top and refrigerate until firm.


double chocolate peanut butter & sea salt brownie

ingredients
1 bar 85% soy free dark chocolate (I use Lindt), roughly chopped
1 can organic adzuki or black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup grade b maple syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt (more for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil 8x8 inch brownie pan.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor except chocolate. Blend until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chunks reserving 2-3 tblsps for top. Pour batter into pan and smooth top. Sprinkle chocolate chunks on top. Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven immediately and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle sea salt on top and refrigerate until firm.

double chocolate peanut butter & sea salt brownie

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

wednesday wellness*: dark chocolate & black currant biscotti (vegan, gluten free)


hello gorgeous

Today on Wednesday Wellness...We're moving next week. I could probably just leave it at that since anyone who has ever moved - especially in NYC - knows the incredible financial, emotional, and physical challenges that this usually involves. Tons of boxes. Bare walls. Crap to sort through. Papers long forgotten and yet not lost that have collected enough dust to double as a small furry pet. I discovered socks, some gym clothes, and a pair of swimming goggles last seen 7 years ago. I vaguely remember being distressed at their disappearance. I got over it. And now here they are again and I don't know what to do with them. My closet needs counseling to re-integrate my lost and now found items. That said, what a time capsule. Who knew socks could go so wildly out of style. And the gym shirt has an interesting mock turtleneck that isn't helping the situation.  I also found one earring that I wore religiously in 8th grade. It's a peace sign. It went well with my perm. It is now in the garbage. Though I will cop to holding it up to my ear and singing a few bars of Depeche Mode before realizing I was becoming an anachronism before my very eyes.

Anyhoo, some gentle comfort food, easy to make, and easier on the constitution was in order for today. This is a recipe I cobbled together from what we have left in the cabinets. Not overly sweet, crisp and chewy at once, grown up flavors, and a not-terrible option as sweet things go (We will get back to healthier options next week). We enjoyed with a good strong black coffee and a gunpowder green tea. A cup of almond milk cocoa would also be nice. Take a wee break, close the door, put on some soothing music, breathe and enjoy.

dark chocolate & black currant biscotti (vegan, gluten free)
1 cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free flour
1/2 cup best quality cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar OR sucanat (sugar can be reduced to 2/3 cup)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup canola OR olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened almond, soy, or coconut milk (plus 1 tblsp extra if needed)
1 tsp vanilla extract

add-ins & dark chocolate dunk
1 bars 70% - 90% dark chocolate, roughly chopped in food processor OR 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1 bars 70% - 90% dark chocolate, melted (Either over low heat on stove or in microwave, 30 seconds at a time)
1/2 cup dried black currants


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients (up to sea salt) in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl. Add dry to wet and mix to combine. As the dough is coming together, add chopped chocolate (or chips if using) and currants. Continue to combine using hands.

Place piece of parchment paper on baking tray. Spread dough out on parchment. About 9-10 inches long and about 5 inches wide.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Slice biscotti diagonally. Separate and flip to opposite side. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely. If desired, dip one end of biscotti in melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with cinnamon.



*Wednesday Wellness is all about checking in with yourself in the middle of the week, taking good care of your body, and grounding your mind. Grounding, versus relaxation, is an active way to bring yourself back to the present. Cooking, especially simple cooking, is a great way to ground yourself. It's active, engages all five of your senses, is low stress, and has a beginning, middle, and end which allows for a sense of accomplishment and completion. Every week I'll post a new recipe. Hopefully with pictures!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

wednesday wellness*: spelt grain & dark chocolate blondie bars (vegan)

The Virtuous Blondie. And a shout out to Murray.

Yes, today is Thursday. Some technical glitches and a super busy day delayed this post. But, as the spirit of Wednesday Wellness encourages us to be gentle with ourselves and others, a little late is better than never. So let's breathe and bake!

As a kid, I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE blondies. They were a rare treat in my house as chocolate anything was usually the name of the game. Mostly the only time I ever got to have a blondie was after going to the pediatrician, Dr. K., a nebbishy guy with the smallest feet ever seen on a grown male who liked to over-use medication and under-use common sense. Like the time I had a cyst on my hand that he "treated" by smashing it with a medical encyclopedia from which he had just blown a century's worth of dust. But I digress. 

So after the fun house that was a visit to Dr. K, my mom would take me to the local grocery, B&B's. B&B's was an Upper West Side joint that - I can only figure - was caught in one of those time warps of which Einstein was so fond. The old man who ran it was named Murray and had half of one index finger and a mesmerizing gold tooth. There was also sawdust on the floor, some questionable eggs and milk, and a nose about the place of 19th century tenement.  What B&B's (or Murray's as I called it because I figured anyone with half a finger deserved name rights) lacked in charm and hygiene, it made up for in the MOST delicious baked goods I had yet to discover. And my favorite of all was The Blondie - a brown sugary, chewy, chocolate chip filled creation that was the only thing that burned the image of my tiny-footed doctor from my brain. I'd eat the thick, golden square in a couple of enormous bites and then lick the Saran Wrap (the smell and taste of which reminded me why we really didn't buy much else at Murray's). 

Clearly, nothing could come close to Murray's blondie. Especially when dairy products started making me sick. There went the blessed, blessed butter and I do believe Murray used real butter, milk, and eggs in his goods. Nowadays, a store-bought blondie often reeks of cheapness. And forget finding a decent vegan blondie. Until...now. Based on a Post-Punk Kitchen (the genius that is Isa Chandra Moskowitz) wheat-free chocolate chip cookie recipe, I give you The Virtuous Blondie. This One's For You Murray. 

Also, since we are now soy-free in our house (poor J. and her allergies), we use coconut milk instead of soy or almond milk but those would work as well. We also use chocolate chips that don't use soy lecithin. A hard find let me tell you. However, Sunspire 65% bittersweet chips do not contain soy and are delish. Enjoy Life Foods also makes a vegan and soy free chip but they are really sweet. You can also buy a soy-free chocolate bar (Lindt makes a 90% chocolate bar that is soy free) and chop it yourself.

spelt grain & dark chocolate blondie bar aka The Virtuous Blondie (vegan, NOT gluten-free)
3 cups organic spelt flour 
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar OR sucanat
2/3 cup canola oil or olive oil or 1/3 cup canola + 
1/3 cup unrefined, virgin coconut oil)
2 tblsps ground flax seed mixed with 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or almond or soy milk)
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 tsp bourbon or scotch (optional)
1 to 1 1/2 cup best quality dark chocolate chips.
Quinoa or oat flakes (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. Combine, sugar, oil, extracts, and flax/milk combo and whisk together until emulsified. Add dry ingredients. Mix well but don't over mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Grease an 8 x 8 brownie pan (preferably glass) and add batter. Smoothe. Sprinkle quinoa flakes (not grain!!) or oat flakes over top. Bake in middle rack for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool.

*Wednesday Wellness is all about checking in with yourself in the middle of the week, taking good care of your body, and grounding your mind. Grounding, versus relaxation, is an active way to bring yourself back to the present. Cooking, especially simple cooking, is a great way to ground yourself. It's active, engages all five of your senses, is low stress, and has a beginning, middle, and end which allows for a sense of accomplishment and completion. Every week I'll post a new recipe. Hopefully with pictures!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

sunday dinner: red cabbage with lingonberry vinaigrette, green apples & walnuts

delicious food. weird black frame.

It's starting to get just a little chillier out there in ye olde NYC which means it's time for me to start pretending we live in Scandinavia - a fantasy of unknown origin that usually manifests itself in the simple donning of a heavy sweater and making a meal fit for temperatures below zero following a long brisk walk. And hey, New York Harbor could be a fjord. If you squint really hard and pretend all the new high-rises are cliffs. Am I right? Anyone?

7 miles clocked today and 13 miles yesterday, I was in a fierce mood for some simulated Nordic fare. Plus, on Sunday I love to get my cooking and baking-on as a way to ease gently into the week. A little Miles Davis playing, sun setting in that way that signals autumn is really and truly no fooling here, laundry and cleaning done, it was time to get down to bid-ness (as they say in Norway...no they don't).

I pulled out a recipe from the NY Times from 2009 for this delicious and healthy salad. I made a few adaptations - using olive oil instead of walnut oil, apple cider vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, and no added salt. As I am not yet a quality food pornographer, all you're getting from me is sort-of blown out food stylin' that looks more like something out of Family Circle magazine in the early 1980s than sexy modern eats. But while you're pretending that NY Harbor is fjord, go ahead and pretend this looks good. Because it tastes good. REALLY good. The sweet tart of the lingonberry jam goes perfectly with the bite of the cabbage and the tartness of the apple. No need to serve with walnuts (though it is suggested and gives you a nice little dose of omegas). I also served this with some wild caught sardines (calcium and more omega 3s) and a Smuttynose Baltic Porter which, of course, you also do not have to do though I think it contributes to the Nordic-ness. Ikke?

red cabbage, lingonberry vinaigrette, green apples & walnuts (Adapted from the NY Times December 2009 adaptation of a Kurt Gutenbrunner recipe)
3 tblsps olive oil
2 tblsps apple cider vinegar
6 tblsps lingonberry preserves
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1-2 green apples, chopped or sliced thinly
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)

First, whisk together vinaigrette using first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add shredded cabbage and stir thoroughly to coat evenly. Add green apple and stir to combine or leave separate. Add walnuts if using or leave separate.
Serve alone or with fish - smoked or otherwise. The original recipe suggests cheese and brown bread which I am not suggesting for reasons beyond allergies. Serving carbohydrates or dairy with any cruciferous vegetable (cabbage, broccoli, and others) can contribute to bloating, cramping, and stomach pain. Best to serve alone or with a neutral protein such as fish but NOT beans or legumes. Don't say I didn't warn you.