Friday, July 24, 2015

If I Were King

I want to be KING of the universe. Not queen. Queen sounds like second-in-command and I want to be in control of everything. (My husband calls me The Dutchess but this is not nearly good enough. I have tried to insist that he call me The Goddess instead. For some reason, this only gets me a laugh.)

1) If I were King, I'd make sure that Karma was a total bitch. And Karma would work INSTANTLY. Not in some future lifetime. I believe if someone is an ass, they should be amply punished. Right away. Not get away with it. And never, ever, ever should anyone who is being an ass be rewarded for that behavior.

2) If I were King, stuff would be made well and everything would last a lifetime. If you bought a phone or a computer or a toaster, those appliances would never break down or need to be replaced. Sorry to all the Maytag repairmen. You would not exist.

3) If I were King, each human would be born with an animal soulmate. This animal would live the exact same amount of years, months, days, and hours as its human. If you were a dog person, then your soulmate would be a dog. Horse person, you get a horse. Yes, you only get one animal soulmate, so don't get greedy. At least you never have to put your soulmate to sleep. The two of you will pass away simultaneously. And peacefully. There will be no violent death in my kingdom. (Only torture for those who are asses. See paragraph #1.)

4) If I were King, pollution would be extinct. All travel would be accomplished by teleporting, which requires no form of fossil fuel. (Or you could ride your horse/soulmate.)

5) If I were King, there would be no war. If you insist on fighting with others, you will first be tortured (see paragraph #1 again) and then exiled to Antarctica for all of eternity. You can fight with each other down there. Don't forget your coat.

6) If I were King, winter would last one month. Not a minute longer. The extra months would be divided evenly between spring and summer. If you are one of those crazies who likes the hideous white stuff that falls from the sky, you can join the other crazies in Antarctica. (See paragraph #5.)

7) If I were King, all food would be grown organically. Even McDonald's would only sell grass-fed burgers and pasture-raised chicken nuggets with organic apple slices. Oh, and while we're on the subject of food, all delicious treats would be low-calorie and healthy. Obesity would be a thing of the past.

As you can see, my kingdom would be a fabulous place to live. As long as you agree with me on all issues. If you don't, please review paragraph #1.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Paying it Forward

Yesterday, after my nap, I stumbled down the stairs, made an iced coffee, and flipped open my laptop. I'm addicted to Facebook (as well as caffeine) so that's where I headed. And immediately, the very first post in my newsfeed was an offer of a FREE photo collage by an artist I've been watching for weeks in the Choose Yourself group. (Based on James Altucher's book of the same name.)

I responded right away and WON the free photo collage! The artist known as Stellabelle created not one but 2 gorgeous pieces of artwork just for me! Can you believe this? I told her about a few of the images in my (unfinished) novel, and she made a stunning photo collage for me to use as a book cover! (I'm not going to post the artwork here as I want to reveal my cover when the novel is ready for publication.) Huge thanks to Stellabelle. You can check out her website: http://leahstephens.weebly.com/ or tweet her @stellabelle or view her videos on youtube: youtube.com/user/stellabelle.

And this is not all! At the very same moment, I received a message from an old HS friend. She offered to send me some FREE essential oils for natural healing purposes. I swear, when it rains, it pours. When I receive my oils, with instructions, I'll check them out and write another blog to let you know how they work.

In the meantime, I'm going to pay it forward. I'm going to offer a free weight loss coaching session to the first person to respond to this offer in the comment section below. If you read this blog on Facebook, please do not request your free session as a comment on the Facebook post. This will not count. You must sign in and comment directly on this blog.

If you're wondering exactly what a weight loss coaching session might look like, don't be afraid. I'm not going to insist that you weigh in half-naked in front of your entire community. There will be no fraternity-style hazing. No one will hit you or scream at you. We will simply go over your daily habits and current life style choices, then make some decisions together about the best place to make SMALL changes. Little tweaks. Nothing scary. The initial session is only about identifying where to begin.

So, let's get it started! Get in touch NOW and change your life!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sneaky Greens for Grownups

The idea of sneaking veggies into meals has been around forever. Probably caveman mothers tried to hide wild greens in their cavekids' brontosaurus burgers. Jessica Seinfeld wrote a whole cook book (Deceptively Delicious) around this concept. But I realized I do the same thing for myself, whenever I cook. I make a habit of getting greens into almost every meal I eat.

If you are less than enthused about scarfing down huge leaves of kale, I understand. I'm betting most Americans are right there with you. I am one of those weirdos who actually LIKE kale. And yet, I sneak it into my meals. My theory is that it's better to get a little kale (or other healthy greens) several times a day than eat a giant plateful and get tired of it quickly.

Some of the ways I sneak greens into my meals include: chopped up and hidden in my turkey breakfast muffins; wilted on my grilled cheese and turkey sandwich; chopped and sauteed in my Mexican taco bowl.

I made this Mexican Taco bowl for dinner a couple of nights in a row this week. The version above contains sauteed black Tuscan kale as well as fresh Roma tomatoes from my garden. I'll give you the recipe for this particular version, but keep in mind that you can play around with the ingredients.

Side note: I am an avid fan of Chopped and I'm imagining what Chef Aaron Sanchez would say about my "Mexican" taco bowl: "Gringa! There is nothing remotely Mexican about what you have prepared here! This is a very poor representation of an entire culture!" So let me first apologize for using the term "Mexican" so loosely. But to be fair, I did use "Mexican" shredded cheese!

Ingredients:
(makes 1 serving)

1 frozen mahi mahi burger (both Costco and Trader Joe's carry these)
1 small bunch black Tuscan kale, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coconut oil

Melt oil in cast iron skillet. Heat frozen fish burger in center of pan. Toss in chopped greens and stir them around while burger cooks. Flip burger after about 4 minutes. Cook on both sides until golden brown and heated through. Greens should be soft.

Layer cooked greens in bowl with fish burger on top. Sprinkle on Mexican shredded cheese, chopped fresh tomatoes, chunky salsa, guacamole, and crushed organic corn tortilla chips. That's it! So easy.

You can substitute other ingredients such as: grass fed beef or bison burger, chicken or turkey burger, salmon, crab, or shrimp burger. Any type of greens will work, such as kale, collards, swiss chard, spinach. You can even use other cooked veggies like brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, or peas. Some fresh, raw veggies are nice, especially tomatoes, but you could skip them in a pinch. The guacamole adds some fat to the dish, along with the cheese. The chips give a nice crunch. But use what you have on hand.

If you come up with a version that you love, please share it with us in the comments!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Local Grass Fed Beef

Last week, at the Glenwood Farmers' Market, I stopped by Carroll Farm to Table, a local (Howard County) purveyor of pasture-raised meats. The man behind the stand was quite the salesman. He insisted the grass-fed beef burgers would be the best we've ever tasted. Now, at $6.99 per pound, they are also probably the most expensive I'll ever taste! Despite normally being a very frugal shopper, I somehow throw all sanity to the wind when shopping at the Farmers' Market. So I purchased a package of 4 frozen burgers, each patty weighing close to half a pound.

As our salesman insisted, the burgers did not shrink much when cooked. I was careful not to overcook them (a cardinal sin in my book!) but kept them medium rare, still pinkish red in the center. The burgers were VERY juicy. The lack of shrinkage is due (I assume) to the lack of added water pumped into the meat as is standard in the supermarket.

However, this beef is not 100% grass-fed. We were told the cattle are also fed a small amount of grain every day. There is no "grain finishing" as is standard on a feed lot, but the animals at Carroll Farm receive some grain along with grass. They do not receive any hormones or antibiotics, though, so this is a plus. The grain is to add marbling (fat) to the muscle meat.

As I mentioned, the burgers were extremely juicy. But the weird thing was they lacked the beefy flavor we were expecting. The texture was great, very tender, but the flavor was almost nil. Maybe I needed to season the meat more? But that beefy taste one expects, especially from grass-fed meat, was just not there.

As a comparison, I have enjoyed several burgers at Bistro Blanc where the local beef is sourced from TLV Tree Farm. These burgers have a distinct beefy flavor. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the burgers at Bistro Blanc are some of the best I've ever had. Anywhere. Period. And I am a MAJOR burger fan. Now, I'm not sure it's fair to compare professionally cooked burgers with my own home-cooking...

Carroll Farm to Table also offers chicken and Woodland Heritage pork raised on pasture. I assume these animals are also fed grain along with grass. While cows do not naturally thrive on grain, and often end up sick from eating corn, chickens are omnivores and can eat almost anything. (We raised chickens ourselves for 10 years and witnessed them eating some horrific things. I won't go into details for those of you who are squeamish.) Whole chickens are normally $4.50 per pound, but I just received an email announcement saying they are on sale this week for $3.50 per pound.

Carroll Farm to Table has a store on the corner of Manor Lane and Frederick Road. Check out their website at www.CarrollFarmtoTable.com for store hours and other locations. You can also sign up (as I did) to receive email announcements and updates. And you can catch them at the Glenwood Farmers' Market every Saturday.

#hocofood

Monday, July 13, 2015

Your Weakest Link

I just read a blog by James Altucher. He mentioned this idea: you are only as strong as your weakest link. This phrase took me back to my college days. Back to the time when I auditioned for several days in order to get into the resident improvisational dance company. At the end of this grueling process, during which I tried my hardest to be spontaneous, creative, interesting, and vulnerable (knowing these were the characteristics the director looked for) I was one of only two women selected. I was ecstatic! Until our first residency with a big-time New York choreographer.

Don Redlich was a name I'd read about in dance history books. My first experience working with one of the greats in the field almost made me quit dancing altogether. His favorite expression was "The whole is only as strong as the weakest link." When he was watching the company attempt to perform the piece he was choreographing on us, the weakest link was ME. At the time, I had only been dancing for about 2 years, had transferred from a tiny college to the University of Maryland, and felt WAY out of my depth. The solution he came up with was to put me under an enormous cardboard box. Truly. My role was to crawl across the stage under this box. I was no longer allowed to dance with the others.



Yes, my ego was severely pummeled by this experience. But instead of quitting, I stuck with it. I kept crawling around on my hands and knees in the dark. And as soon as Don Redlich returned to NYC, the company director pulled me out from under the box and let me dance again. Against the choreographer's specific instructions. That director, Mim Rosen, was my hero and my champion. She knew I could do everything he had been asking of me. I just needed a little nurturing. Some encouragement. Instead of constant belittling.

But James Altucher was using this expression to talk about the places in your life where you need to focus more attention. The places where you fall down. It might be that you are brilliant at school, getting straight A's, acing every test. But you stress eat and gain weight, sacrificing your health in the process. Or it could be that your diet and exercise routine are perfect, but you max out your credit card and can't pay your debts.

The first step would be identifying the places in your life where you feel less than awesome. In my opinion, your health has to come first. Take a good look at your diet, your exercise level, your sleep habits, your stress level, your overall wellness. What do you need to add or take away in order to improve in this area? Think small: start with tiny adjustments and see how you feel. Get some extra sleep or cut out some excess junk food. Each day, do a little bit better.

If you are looking to become stronger or more fit, you can apply the same process. What is your weakest link? It could be low back pain, or an old injury that acts up, or tight hamstrings, or weak abdominals. The human body is a miraculous machine. No matter where you are injured or weak, your body is able to heal and work around those limitations. Again, taking tiny steps in the right direction is the key. You're not going to run a marathon on the first day of your training. But you CAN start walking TODAY. Maybe you can jog for 30 seconds. Or one minute. Tomorrow you can do a little more.

You can be your own hero. Your own champion. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. So get out from under your own box! Get out and get moving toward your goals.

I'm here to help if you need it. Leave me a message if you're looking for a holistic personal trainer or a weight loss coach.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Raspberry Breakfast Cake (Paleo! Grain-free!)

I know what you're thinking: how could this woman be baking yet another cake when she keeps talking about weight loss? And you're right, sort of. A traditional cake would not fit into my plan of losing weight this summer. But the recipe I've been using is different.

The raspberry breakfast cake does not contain any wheat flour. This is the same recipe I've already shared with you twice! I used the same cake base for my rhubarb and also my blueberry snack cakes. I made just a couple of small changes this time to enhance the raspberry flavor. I have reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup. I think the cake is sweet enough, but I no longer enjoy the over-the-top kind of sweetness most of us expect in a dessert.

And I started with freshly picked raspberries from Larriland Farm. Picking was scattered by the time we got there on Friday afternoon. But we (three of us) still managed to pick more than five pounds total in about an hour. My friend Michelle plans to make raspberry jam with hers.

This is my breakfast: organic, whole milk yogurt on the bottom, topped with chunks of raspberry cake, plus fresh raspberries and blueberries.

Ingredients for the Cake:

6 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup avocado oil (or coconut oil)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (you could use brown sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup coconut flour (do NOT substitute another type of flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh red raspberries

Begin by preheating oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 pan with coconut oil. Cover bottom of pan with thin layer of raspberries. In a large bowl, mix liquid ingredients. Add dry ingredients and beat well. Pour batter over the berries in pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cake cool before slicing into chunks. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream or yogurt. Great for dessert, snacks, or breakfast! Enjoy!

#hocofood

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Husband is my Role Model

I hate to brag but I'm pretty sure I hit the jackpot when it comes to spouses. I know you're probably sick to death of hearing people say they married their best friend (everyone on Facebook makes this claim on each and every anniversary) but I'm sorry, this is true for me, too. My relationship with my husband is easily the longest friendship I've sustained over the course of my life so far. Maybe this is because he's the only one who will put up with me?

Needless to say, my husband is easy going. He is forgiving. While mostly frugal, when it comes to friends or family in need, he is always abundantly generous. He has a great sense of humor and makes me laugh out loud on a daily basis. He is the one who taught me to laugh at myself, and boy am I an easier person to live with now! (Still a royal pain, but just a smaller one...)

But all these reasons are not why I'm writing this blog about how much I admire my husband.

I'm writing about him today because he is preparing to make a life-long dream come true. He is about to check a huge accomplishment off his bucket list. He's going to fly halfway around the world to visit the country he has wanted to see for over 30 years. He's finally going to Japan.

Way back in college, my hubby fell in love with everything Japanese. It was a fluke, really. He signed up for a Japanese language course because all the other language classes were full. And this class made all the difference in the course his life would take. Soon he was studying aikido, a martial art which originated in Japan. He discovered a profound connection to this practice and eventually moved to Washington, DC to follow his sensei. Thirty-some-odd years later, he is now a sensei himself, although he would never describe himself this way.

 Did I mention he loves to fold things? This is a picture of his hakama--a long garment worn when practicing aikido--folded in the traditional manner.

Is he nervous about the trip? Sure. Is he going to let a few nerves stop him? Never! And this is what I admire.

We can all come up with a million reasons not to exit our comfort zones. I know I find travel very stressful, and that's a quick trip to the beach. Not a trip around the world to a country where the language, food, customs, everything is completely unfamiliar.

I'm still hoping some of his courage will rub off on me. Maybe one of these days I'll be ready to take a big leap of my own. Japan? No. But I hope I'll eventually be brave enough to publish a novel.

Thanks for putting up with my boasting. May we all be inspired by someone brave in our lives. I hope we can support each other in the quest to conquer new ground and cross things off our bucket lists.