Healthy Eating Tips and Recipes for the Holidays

Looking for advice on how to avoid holiday weight gain and still enjoy yourself for the next couple of weeks?  Or spending some time looking for new and inspiring recipes to fix for your friends and family?

Look no further than my Healthy Eating Tips & Recipes board on Pinterest!

I’ve got some pretty darn good choices up there, if I do say so myself 😉

This Macaroni & Cheese recipe has gotten rave reviews year after year when I make it for both Thanksgiving & Christmas meals.  No one knows that I use reduced-fat white cheddar cheese.  It tastes delicious!

Got a big crowd coming over for a casual holiday meal?  This Three-Cheese Baked Ziti is so good, you’ll have them going back for seconds (no problem, just double the recipe 🙂

Three-Cheese Baked Ziti recipe is courtesy of CanYouStayForDinner?

Stay tuned to my blog every Monday for a new vegetarian recipe in honor of Meatless Monday and FOLLOW me on Pinterest to see more Healthy Eating Tips & Recipes, as well as Hints for Achieving New Year’s Resolutions, and loads of Motivational Tips.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Redefining Health & Wellness 

How to Get Through the Holidays Without Derailing Your Diet

How Do You Know if You Need a Life Coach?

 

 

 

Being Inspired By The Ordinary

“Things don’t have to be extraordinary to be beautiful. Even the ordinary can be beautiful.”
― Wicker Park

When I was younger, it took something truly extraordinary to inspire me.  As the years have passed, I look for inspiration in the little things — the day-to-day.

Some ordinary moments that inspire me are:

1) Driving my car on the open road on a beautiful clear, sunny day.  I am truly blessed to live where I do. When I get past the road construction and traffic and find a stretch of road on a clear day, the feeling is something I can hardly put into words.  I was driving back from SFO airport the other day on the 280.  The views of the citylines and the hills and the sky were just breathtaking.  It made me want to go for a run and just enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

 

2) The smell of coffee in the morning  I am a sucker for a good cup of coffee.  I taste coffees like some people taste wine!  The smell of freshly roasted beans being ground is intoxicating to me.  I think I enjoy the smell more than actually drinking the coffee itself.

3) Bringing home fresh flowers.  I picked up the most beautiful dahlias and Bells of Ireland at the Los Altos Farmer’s Market yesterday.  It amazes me how something so simple can be so beautiful and put a smile on my face for days.  It’s like art in a vase — Love it!

fresh from the los altos farmer's market

Every ordinary day is filled with extraordinary moments.  What ordinary things give you inspiration?

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Here is an easy & tasty vegetarian pasta dish that is guaranteed to win over kids & adults alike.  Here’s what you’ll need to prepare 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound rigatoni pasta
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

First you’ll want to blanch the broccoli rabe.  If you are no familiar with blanching, you’ll want to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and set up a bowl of ice water.  Cook the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for approximately 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the broccoli rabe and immediately plunge in the ice water. This will stop the broccoli rabe from overcooking.

broccoli rabe is high in vitamins A and C

Drain the broccoli rabe in a colander.  Gently squeeze out any excess water & chop.  Place the broccoli rabe in a food processor and puree.  Add the toasted pine nuts and parmesan and puree until smooth.  Add salt to taste.  Add in the ricotta cheese & gently pulse until combined. Taste for desired saltiness again, and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  Cook following the al dente directions on package.

While the pasta is cooking, add the pesto mixture to a large skillet (over medium-high heat) with about one cup of the water from the cooking pasta.

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and combine with the pesto in the large skillet.  Stir and cook until the pasta-sauce mixture is heated through (about 1 to 2 minutes).  Garnish with a little extra parmesan cheese and serve!

Other vegetarian recipes you may enjoy:

Quinoa with Shiitake Mushrooms

Easy Asparagus Risotto

Cold Asian Vegetable Pasta Salad

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Check out my Pinterest page for Healthy Eating Tips, More Recipes, Motivational Tips, Humor, and much more!

 

The Benefits of Spending Time Alone

If you have been following me on Facebook this week, you will see that I have been exploring the city of Tokyo!

I think back to just a couple of years ago when I couldn’t bear the idea of eating lunch alone in a restaurant.  Now, I’m off all day exploring a foreign city on my own!  I’m not sure what I was afraid of before… Maybe I thought that people were looking at me or judging me?  I’m not sure… but I love the freedom of caring more about what *I* want and what *I* think than a random stranger that I’ll likely never see again.

On Monday, I joined a Nia class with the lovely Black Belt instructor Yuki Maezawa.  The biggest challenge was getting from my home base in central Tokyo to Suginami, which involved switching to a local train at Shibuya.  Shibuya is by far one of the most crowded busiest places that I have ever seen in my life!  It’s like the Times Square of Tokyo.  The crossing outside of the station, known as the Scramble Crossing, is known to be the busiest crossing in the WORLD!

Photo courtesy of theguardian

The Nia class was very enjoyable!  Everyone was very welcoming and spent the first minutes of class introducing themselves to me.  The class was taught in both Japanese and English, but with the familiar moves, it was almost like no words at all were necessary. It was a wonderful start to my week!

On Tuesday, I spent some time exploring an area of Omotesando/Aoyama that I hadn’t seen before.  I set off in search of Cafe Madu, which I’d learned of by reading a wonderful blog called The Expat Wife who has written wonderful reviews of area cafes & restaurants that I have found enormously helpful!  (Expat Wife… if you are reading this, perhaps we could meet for a tea sometime? 🙂  The setting and the food were very nice and afterwards I found two other places that I’d been searching for & unable to find before:  The Aveda Salon & Aveda Pure Cafe (I peeked inside, but since I had just eaten, I added it to my to-do list…) & Nicolai Bergmann, another cafe where I’d like to have an Afternoon Tea/Cake set, which is adjacent to Nicolai’s incredible flower shop.

nicolai bergmann omotesando aoyama flower shop tokyo

nicolai bergmann florist tokyo aoyama omotesando

Yesterday, I decided to head to Ginza – probably one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world – for lunch at the Gucci Cafe.  I’ve passed by this Gucci store several times on previous trips to Tokyo and always wanted to stop here for my afternoon cake set fix 🙂  When I learned that they served lunch, I was off!  The lunch set did not disappoint!  My waiter was super-friendly and spoke excellent English (a huge plus for a struggling tourist).  The food was incredible right down to the last drop of pistachio sauce along side my strawberry tart and fresh vanilla bean ice cream!

Gucci Cafe lunch set afternoon tea dessert cappuccino

All in all, it has been a pretty great week.  A few years ago, I would not have had any of these experiences because I would not have wanted to go off on my own & explore.  Now, I look at it as an adventure!

My words of self-care wisdom for the week?  Don’t let the idea of doing something alone paralyze you.  It can be scary and overwhelming at times, but don’t be afraid to spend a little quality time with yourself.  Life experiences are waiting for you!! 🙂

Easy Asparagus Risotto

Photo courtesy of Sunset Magazine

Looking for new dinner ideas?  This hearty and easy asparagus risotto recipe is rich and delicious – a treat for both vegetarians & meat-eaters alike.  This is a perfect recipe to try this spring while there is plenty of fresh asparagus around!  This recipe makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients:

4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preparation:

In a saucepan, bring broth to a simmer.

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add the rice, and cook, stirring, until rice is browned (about 5 minutes).  Stir in the broth about 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly until almost all of the broth is absorbed before adding more.  Cook about 20 minutes, or until rice is al dente; add hot water if you need more liquid. About 5 minutes before the rice is done, add asparagus, butter, and parmesan. Cook until the asparagus is tender, but still crisp.  Enjoy!

Other vegetarian recipes you might enjoy:

Sweet Potatoes with Coconut, Pomegranate, and Lime

Vegetarian Skinny Cowboy Soup

Cold Asian Vegetable Pasta Salad

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Risotto

Want to learn more about Meatless Monday?  Visit their site by clicking here.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was filming a video today that demonstrated exercises to release tension in the hands, wrists, and forearms, and I started to think about emotional stress and tension.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how difficult it can be to stand up for yourself when you are a people-pleaser by nature.  How is it that the fear and anxiety that comes from saying “no” to someone else can be greater than the stress and anxiety that we are placing on ourselves by saying “yes”?  I have wondered this for many years.

I decided to do some research on the “fight or flight” response.  While these days we aren’t typically running from wild animals who want to make us their dinner, emotional stressors such as being forced to work 60 – 80 hour weeks for fear of losing our jobs can illicit the same response — rapid heart beat, a surge of adrenaline, stress hormones pumping throughout our body.  All of the same things that would prepare us to fight or run away from a predator are engaged, and we lose the ability to thinking clearly and rationally during that time.

In most situations today, once our fight or flight response is activated, we can’t fight or run from these threatening situations.  We have to figure out how to regain control and deal with it.  In fact, there are so many of these modern day stressors – feeling overworked, missing a deadline, sitting in awful traffic every day – that our fight or flight response can stay triggered for days on end.  This leads to aggression (like road rage) and overreaction; every little thing feels like the LAST straw!
So what do we do?  How do we deal with this emotional stress?
I have to say, I absolutely learned this lesson the hard way.  As far as traffic is concerned … let’s just say I’m still working on that one. 🙂
One thing we can do is give ourselves a time-out.  Change your environment.  If possible, remove ourselves from the situation by going for a walk or stepping outside for a few moments until we feel calmer and our rational thinking returns.
Another option is to surround yourself with positive people, people who are grounded.  Discussing the situation with people in the same boat adds fuel to the fire and keeps your anxiety level high.  Try talking with someone you trust who is removed from the situation and can offer perspective.  Maybe you DO need to change jobs, so “no” to a new assignment that is going to keep you away from your family or go against your values.  A reality check from a positive supportive person can be just what you need.
When your nerve cells are not firing out of control, practice mindfulness.  Try techniques like taking deep, relaxing breaths or a short meditation.  Finding ways to promote relaxation are helpful, as you can cue them during stressful times.  You can read more about mindfulness in my post, “Multi-tasking vs. Mindfulness: The Science of Stress.”
How often do you feel your “fight or flight” response kick in?  Do you ever wonder if you should stay or go?  
I’m sure you have found other ways to deal with the anxiety-provoking feelings.  Tell me about it in the comments below — I want to hear from you!

Other posts you may like:

work-life-balance | how to have it

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Steps to Bring Wellness Into Your Life

 

Have You Told Someone Why They Are Awesome Today?

It usually feels pretty good when someone tells you that you’re awesome.  I mean… who doens’t like to be told what they are good at?

About six years ago, a previous employer of mine decided they were going to shut down a pretty large operational facility on the west coast.  It happened to be the office where I worked, as well as a couple thousand other people.

My boss at the time decided that we should do something meaningful for the hard-working people in our department.  She showed myself & the other managers in our group something she had received while working at another company that had decided to shut down a facility.

In an 8 1/2 x 11 frame, she held a document entitled “YOU ARE VALUED”.  Below that, there were bullet points listing things that each person in the department had contributed that they appreciated about her.

We all thought it was a great idea.  We had a group of about 60 people who I can honestly say worked incredibly well together, supported one another, and has been the best group of folks that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  We knew, given the closeness of the staff, we would really be able to give people a meaningful gift to take with them. And it really felt good when we were presenting them to people.  Everyone was really moved by the kind words that their friends & colleagues had to say about them.  It made them smile!

This is mine below 🙂  I have proudly displayed it in every office that I have had since then, and it now hangs on the wall in my home office.  Any time I need a boost of self-confidence, I take a look at it and it always makes me smile!

 

 

Want to create your own DIY “You Are Valued” certificate to give to a group of employees or volunteers you manage for recognition of a job well done?  I created a free image of a blue ribbon that you can use.  Just add the image to your own Microsoft Word document or whatever word processing software you use.  

 

free image blue ribbonHave you ever gotten a gift like this?  Did it make you smile? Did it inspire you?  Tell me about it below!

 

Other posts you might like:

What Makes You Smile?

The Science of Gratitude

 

 

 

5 Steps to Bring Wellness Into Your Life

Who couldn’t use a little more wellness in their lives?  It can be hard to prioritize self-care in our busy lives.

Here are five easy steps to start to bring wellness into your life:

  1.  When you wake up, give thanks!  Start off each day thinking of all of the wonderful things in your life.  Do your best think positive thoughts.  Positive thinking invites positivity into your life.  Try it, and see what happens.  It will change your whole day!
  2. Before you go to bed, write down the 5 best things that happened to you during the day.  If you make this part of your routine, you will find yourself looking for things to write about during the day.
  3. Discover your Inner Passion.  Did you used to dance but haven’t been on the dance floor in years?  Maybe its time to try a class?  Even you can only spend a few minutes a day doing what you feel passionate about, it can make a HUGE difference.
  4. Do 5 good deeds every day.  Doing nice things for other people is hugely rewarding.  It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone.  Any selfless, positive act can be included.
  5. Embrace a healthy, active lifestyle.  Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water every day.  Talk a walk with a friend or your spouse.  The more active you are, the more energy you will have.

 

Try these 5 steps, and you will invite wellness into your life.

 

“The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything but they make the most of everything.” – Sam Cawthorn