5 Steps to Renew Your Kitchen

Before we can get to cooking, lets start with giving our kitchens a facelift. The time has come to get rid of all the unhealthy, preserved, nutrient deprived food from inside your freezer, fridge and pantry- this includes clearing out all those special hiding spots with your late night snacks. Clearing out your kitchen of all the bad stuff can mean a lot more then just removing the junk. You are creating a new start for yourself when it comes to how you use your food. Providing yourself with alternative solutions for the times that you are so comfortable with falling back on easy, unhealthy food choices is one of the most important elements in reaching your health goals. Lets create a new vibe for your kitchen- for the food you make everyday and the food you run to for a quick fix.

1.    A good rule of thumb when it comes to products like cereal, snacks, quick meals and other basics: Take a look at the ingredients. Single out anything that is sugar or a version of sugar (high fructose corn syrup, etc). The order in which the ingredients are listed on the box is directly related to the quantity that is in the product. So- the first ingredient has the highest quantity. A good rule a thumb- do not let sugar, or any form thereof be any MORE than the 3rd ingredient. This alone will rule out some of the WORST things in your pantry.

2.    Go fresh. With the exception of canned beans and tomatoes, get rid of everything that should be growing in the dirt but has found its way into cans, out of your pantry. This means all that canned fruit, fruit cocktails, compotes and sugar packed jams.

3.    Switch your sweeteners. Kiss your sugar, Sweet ‘n Low’s and Splendas good bye. Replace those cute little packets of sucralose  with stevia extract, a natural sugar alcohol that’s found in plants. If you like using honey to sweeten your tea or protein shakes in the morning, switch it over to agave necter. Agave necter is half the calories of sugar and with its lower glycemic index, it promotes a slower absorption of the sugar in it. Hence making agave nectar a great sweetener for diabetics, but also a definite smart choice for any other health conscious individual.

4.    Cut the fat. Get rid of shortenings, vegetable oils and lards. You don’t need these things to give your food a moist texture and taste good. Hang onto your olive oil and 0 calorie non stick cooking spray as you will find at least one in most of the recipes I share with you.

5.    Segregate. When it comes to vegetables, not everyone gets along. Separate everything from potatoes. Potatoes give off a lot of the moisture thats different fruits and veggies are hungry for (especially ones in the onion family), causing them to spoil quicker. Keep bananas away from the rest of your produce, as the hormones they spit out as they ripen cause other fruits to oxidize faster. By taking the time to separate your produce, and learning what foods do not play well with others, you are maximizing your dollar by ensuring that the foods you buy stay fresher, longer.

When it comes to replacing what you’ve removed, try not to get overwhelmed. To start, make the switches that I have suggested: your sweeteners, your cooking fats. When you get to the store, go by the rule of sugar as the 3rd ingredient. You’ll find it easy, and probably realize that there are some pretty healthy alternatives for what you have been eating. Stick to whole foods: whole grains, fresh veggies. Stay away from anything overly processed or processed at all if possible. And remember, this isn’t an overnight transformation. As you follow my recipes, your collection of better products will start to build, and your understanding of what’s worth eating will soon become second nature.

With that, give this morning dish a shot. It’s great for weight loss and can be kept in the fridge for a few days and taste just as great.

Morning Musli

1 1/2    Cups Rolled oats
2    Cups Rice Dream, Vanilla Flavor
2    Tablespoon Agave nectar
1/4    Cup Chopped apples, red
1/4    Cup Chopped apples, green
1/4    Cup Dry roasted almonds, unsalted, chopped or sliced
1    Teaspoon Cinnamon
Rice Dream as needed

Instructions: Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. Check 1 hour after mixing, checking moisture content. Extra Rice dream may be needed depending on desired consistency.

Calories: 148.13

Oprah’s Books Are Made of Gold

Grab a mirror. Look at yourself. Look at yourself in the eye. What do you see? What do you remember? Who does that person identify themselves as?


I’ve never been a cheerleader and I’ve never been a motivational speaker. I’ve found it to be ineffective and void of any power whatsoever. So I’m not going to tell you what it is you should see. (snore) Regardless of what I say about YOU, you are the one staring back at YOU in the mirror.
So I’ll tell you what you most likely see. You see a person where most of their ideinity has become a product of their most consistent complaints comprised by a bunch of funny words that you think make up an individual. Too old, too young, too fat, not smart enough, wrinkly, tired, stressed, sometimes happy, not good enough, sometimes funny, un-lovable too serious, unheard…
We mistake a lot of things in life. The most common mistake is mixing up a feeling, with reality. It’s really crazy actually, if you truly start thinking about how nuts humans are.
Example: you go to a movie. It’s this dramatic love story and somebody DIES. You cry. You have tissues- you are handing them to your friends they are crying your neighbor is crying everyone is crying. Do you know how many times Bruce Willis has died in a movie? 11. Robert DiNiro, 12. But every time your emotions at that moment are CONVINCED that he is dying yet again.
Truth- you can have real feelings when nothing is going on. Do you really think that a movie theatre is the only place this happens?
So with that in mind, go back to looking in your mirror. Knowing that something as silly as a movie can have you convinced that someone has died, apply that to some of the events in your life that are even more dramatic and have lasted longer than 90 minutes.

We feel powerless because we think that experiences, feelings, opinions, others opinions, laws, rules, etc are a valid test of reality and who we are. So we become gullible. Bullying. Kids are ending their lives because other kids call them a “worthless fag.” Is that kid a worthless fag? No, but he thinks he is. Why? Because someone said so. At one point, women couldn’t vote. Was there some shift in the energy of the universe that said they can now? No. Someone said they should. We passed a law (we spoke) and it became true. Blacks-drinking fountains-someone said- “blacks should have separate drinking fountains.” Oh ok.
What’s the common demoninator here? Someone saying something and a human believing it’s true. If there is a strong enough consensus to something that is said, everyone follows. And the authority of who says it, makes it even more real. If I handed you a diet pill and said “and now, you may eat everything you like” you would probably believe me. Oprah recommends a book and 100 respectable middle aged women lose their mind in her studio when they get it for free, like the books made out of gold.
What is happening here is someone of authority on a subject is saying that something is good or bad and therefore it becomes a reality to those listening. If Oprah says it’s a great book, it’s a great book! This is why we have celebrities endorse products. They are a person of authority, and if they say it’s good, then it must be.
Unfortunately you are at a loss. A loss of power to be precise. Someone else is creating your reality. In REAL reality, you have all the power.
So ask yourself this question: How do I occur for myself?
Do you occur as overweight? Do you occur as unmotivated? Do you occur as someone void of knowledge and resources? Void of love? Support?
Answer that, and then really wrap your head around this sentence: Your actions are trapped by the way you occur to yourself.
If you occur to yourself to be unmotivated, then you act less upon the things you want to accomplish. Do you occur to yourself as void of knowledge and resources? Then you will act like you know nothing. And your results in life, in ANYTHING, are directly connected to your actions.

When you occur to yourself as powerful, you will, without a doubt, go out and make things happen.

So, look at yourself in the mirror and make a decision of who you choose to be. Tell yourself, out loud. Tell your partner, your friends, your dog. Tell everyone. And just like Oprah promoting a book, it will become reality.

The Meaning of Food

Lewis Carol said “life is but a dream”… the other day I was sitting in my car, in traffic, (I live in Los Angeles, and some of my best ideas come from hours on the 101) and for some reason I really got to thinking about what that meant. We are constantly living in this story of past and future, making everything we do and see sacred in some way. Creating little landmarks in our mind. When you take the way we look at food, different types of food especially, in some way or another it triggers a memory. When we have an abusive relationship with food, the dream we relive every time we indulge is nothing but a volunteered repeat of our past.

I believe that the most difficult times for us as adults are the ones we create for ourselves. You have the power to change your approach about anything including your health at any moment, and what better place to start than with food. Don’t just change the way you eat, take it one step further and change the story, the dream, and the everyday experience you have with your food. This will make your experience so much more successful. Lets lay out a few simple rules that I apply to more than just my eating habits:

1. Don’t approach your diet, or change in general, as something foreign. Make an effort to really buy into what you are doing. A lot of times our most continuous and negative feelings insist to exist because we buy into them so much. One of my worst and I know is hard for a lot of people is disapproval. What we don’t realize everyday is by buying into our own disapproval we are PRACTICING disapproval. The more you do it, the stronger the quality becomes. You essentially become an expert at causing this harm to yourself and subsequently, others at times. Take this negative power that you have given yourself, and turn it on itself. Buy into the change you are making in choosing to eat better. When you buy into it, you are practicing it, thus strengthening the habit and becoming an expert on fueling your body efficiently.

2. Set yourself up for success. If you are trying to quit smoking do you leave packs of cigarettes laying around the house? Probably not. Ill say this a million times, you cant eat the bad stuff if it isn’t there, so get rid of it. Empower yourself by taking out the trash.

3. Make a conscious choice. If you are going to change the way you eat, do it and do it all the way. You don’t need to wean yourself off of McDonalds. I understand that sometimes food can be your go to- to feel safe, to become calm- but the point of choosing to become a happier, healthier you, is to create a new safe place for yourself. Take a deep breath, and find the safety in moving forward in a better way for you and those you love. This is a form of acceptance, and a form of respect for the legitimate fear you have in becoming a slightly different person. Embrace it, love it, and be proud of yourself for being ahead of the curve and doing what’s best for YOU.

As we start to work on cooking processes, you’ll start to realize what a few little changes can do, but more importantly, how good they can taste. Lets start with the recipe for today. Get yourself a fresh chicken breast from your butcher. When you buy fresh, you are able to maximize on the flavor of that product, and minimize the amount of calories consumed. Dust that chicken with a little salt and pepper and that’s all you’ll need. Toss the garlic on when its ready and pay attention to it while it cooks, making sure its never over done. When you don’t use a marinade or excessive seasoning, the only issue you can really run into is over drying of meat. Cook the chicken until it’s just done, take it out, and allow it to rest for a couple minutes before serving. Don’t forget that the internal temp of the chicken will continue to rise slightly after its been removed from the oven, and the cooking process continues as it rests. With the green beans, this is a classic side dish you’ll find at many restaurants. The process of blanching the green beans (which is briefly cooking in boiling salt water, then removing and placing immediately into ice) is a great way to get the perfect crunch to any veggie, while still hanging on to the nutrients. The almonds throw in a great taste and positive nutritional value, all together a great side to pair your juicy chicken.

Try this out tonight. Don’t be afraid to throw your favorite herb on your chicken. Going for maintenance and not so much weight loss? Season some cooked quinoa with salt and pepper and place ½ cup under the chicken before serving.

Enjoy and be well.
Cassandra

Inspector Gadget

Humans do not lack the power to change the world, we are just often blind to our tools to do so.

When we live in the mentality of being powerless, then we most simply are. The most influential people in the world aren’t made of a lighter weight, heat resistant, rust proof material. They all haven’t had the gift of a perfect childhood, above average IQ or a trust fund. The difference between a person in touch with their own personal power to change anything from their weight to the eradication of AIDS, and someone who has no power at all, is the awareness of choice. A healthy, productive, effective life is never impossible.

gadget [gaj-it]  -noun. a mechanical contrivance or device; any ingenious article. —Synonyms
contraption; whatsis, doohickey, thingamajig.

Options give us choice= power. Try this on: become your own version of Inspector Gadget. Put yourself in the frame of mind that you have the solution for everything. Something starts to fall apart- screw driver. Something you want is out of reach- go go gadget arm. You’ve become the Home Depot for life’s hurdles.

Even if just for today, use your imagination with this concept. It can be fun, but without a doubt effective.

Food Processes & Your Digestive Health

Hello my healthy bloggers!

So I am confident that you have all done your homework and cleared out most of the junk in your kitchens. From there I want to jump straight into the most important practice of quality nutrition, and that’s the way in which you cook your food. 90% of the time it is not what you eat, its how its prepared that makes it higher in calories, hard to digest, or lose nutritional value. These three things are the main focus of cooking and eating better.

Think of your body as a car. Food=Fuel. When you eat a slice of bread, the flour from the bread breaks down into sugar (glucose) in your body to provide you with energy. The same thing happens when you eat a piece of fruit, drink a glass of milk or eat a chocolate bar. Each of these foods contains a different kind of sugar. Fructose is a sugar in fruit, lactose is found in milk and sucrose is found in the chocolate bar. All of these sugars are broken down during digestion and provide you with energy. The higher quality energy, and the better it is prepared, just like gasoline, will predetermine your bodies ability to absorb nutrients and function not just efficiently, but exceptionally.

Lets start with vegetables. When it comes to nutritional value, boiling and steaming your vegetables makes them lose a remarkably high amount of vitamins. The saturation of heat from the long term high heat process breaks down all water soluble vitamins such as B6, B12, Vitamin C and thiamin, just to name a few. In their highest content, some of the most essential vitamins are found in fruits and vegetables, so those boiled and steamed carrots, broccoli and asparagus have basically lost all value once they hit your plate. From now on, try a better and essentially quicker form of cooking called ‘blanching’ which I will use in almost ALL cases when preparing vegetables.

Here’s what you need:

A small saucepot
Salt
A bowl of ice water
Small sauté pan dusted with 0 calorie non stick cooking spray

Boil the water with about 2 teaspoons of salt. Place whatever vegetables you wish to cook in the boiling salt water, no longer than a minute. Transfer vegetables into ice water to stop cooking process; reheat and season briefly in sauté pan before serving.
This method cooks the vegetables to a crunchy, slightly seasoned perfection. However, you have also preserved the nutrients in each product more so than if you had boiled as usual.

When it comes to digestive health, it’s the small changes that really make the difference. Food that is difficult to digest can directly effect, regenerate, or even cause any health issue from constipation to arthritis to heart disease to diabetes or fatigue. The goal is simple: Get food from point A (your mouth) to point B (the toilet) as quickly as possible while absorbing the maximum amount of quality nutrients available. When we eat foods prepared with unhealthy oils, unnecessary fats, sugars or carbohydrates, our body is justly challenged in its abilities to transfer any nutrients from the food into useable, quality energy. In addition, after any nutrients have been absorbed, these products and the processes in which they are commonly used are extremely hard for our body to get through our system in terms of waste, and can cause inflammation of the digestive tract, liver, colon, appendix and pancreas. This again, can be prevented with simple changes:

~ Use your non-stick cooking spray instead of oil to lubricate pots and pans. It’s just as effective.
~ Use what I call ‘smart’ sugars and sweeteners. agave necter instead of sugar in baking. Stevia extract in replacement of Sweet and Low and Equal.
~ Instead of frying that chicken breast in a pan with oil and all its fats, stick it on a broiling rack, dust with salt and pepper and little olive oil, and put it in the oven at 375 for 20 or so minutes, until done. It will be juicier and tastier than the fried version, but much better for you and easier on your body.
~ Regulate your intake of everything. If you aren’t cooking at home, order dressing on the side. Ask for no oil when ordering anything where it might be used. If you make a salad at home, grill up some chicken, throw in a splash of balsamic vinegar with some tomatoes and you have a perfect salad.

With that, lets move on to today’s recipe. I LOVE it because you can change it up to be whatever you want. Blend it, leave it chunky, make it spicy, keep it mellow, serve it cold, up to you! Get creative with your diet and make it work for YOU.

Kale Pea Soup

3    cloves garlic, sliced
1    Large carrot, diced
1    Sprig fresh thyme
1/4    Teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1    Large stalk celery, sliced
4    cups low sodium vegetable broth
1    15 ounce can diced tomatoes
5    cups kale leaves, stems removed
1    15 ounce can black eyed peas, rinsed

Instructions: Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and cook, stirring until just tender, 5-7 minutes. Add sliced garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring frequently. After about 30 seconds, increase heat to high and add vegetable broth, tomatoes and the juice from tomato can. Bring to a boil, cleaning any bits off top of soup that float up. Stir in kale and black eyed peas, reduce heat to simmer, stir occasionally. Cook until greens are soft, about 5-10 minutes.

Serves: 4
Calories: 293.47
Cholesterol: 2.4 mg
Fat: 4.295 g
Saturated Fat: 0.782 g
Calories From Fat: 24.8
Protein: 16.603 g
Carbohydrates: 54.985 g
Sodium: 953.39 mg
Fiber: 11.370 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Sugars: 4.687 g