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Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Diet Pitfalls to avoid during the holidays by Julia Havey

I wanted to share this little blurb I got in my inbox today. I think it has some nice tips!
10 Diet Pitfalls to avoid during the holidays by Julia Havey Turn the Tide Foundation Board Member, and  author - The Vice Busting Diet andAwaken the Diet Within
You have two choices this holiday season. ONE: to choose to remain steadfast in your commitment to improve your health and fitness and that of your family. Or TWO: to give into the temptations that will come your way. By choosing #1, you willplan ahead so that you come through the holiday season more healthful than you went in to it! For all those choosing choice #1, continue reading and together we'll get you and your family through the holidays happier and healthier. For those choosing #2, we'll, see you in January when you start back on your "diet", upset with yourself for not sticking to your resolve!
1) Don't bake Holiday cookies. If you bake them, you're likely to eat them. If you don't want the temptation to ruin your healthy way of eating, don't bake them. But if you must, bake them, wrap them up, and give them away that very day. Your kids won't live deprived childhoods, your mailman will still like you, and the teachers will probably actually use the gift certificates you give them instead!
2) Don't plan your celebrations around food. Focus instead on creating lasting family memories – have the children 'interview' the older members of the family and you'll learn stories from their lives that will carry on as family legend for generations to come.
3) Prepare your meal "light". Stuff the turkey with herbs, fruit and onions instead of breaded lumpy stuffing! Serve a hearty whole grain rice dish rather than mashed potatoes. Steam green beans with a touch of savory olive oil in the water, no butter. Serve whole grain rolls and make your pumpkin pie with stevia and egg whites.
4) Drink water as your beverage of choice at gatherings. Say "NO thank you" to high calorie cocktails and enjoy a glass of club soda with lime. Keep the calories and hangovers at bay!
5) If you are fretting over not being able to wear a size smaller 'little black dress' or tuxedo...not to fear! How you walk in the room, your posture, your confidence, your smile will be remembered by others long after the memory of what you wore fads. Your attitude and smile matter far more than the shape of your body or the style of your clothes, and keep reading!
6) Take time each day to do something positive for yourself. Exercise is a great stress buster. Be sure to get a minimum of 30 minutes of high intensity cardiovascular exercise at least 4 times a week. Enjoy the outdoors - go sledding, ice skating, cross country skiing--anything physical will be time well spent.
7) When going to a party, call the host and offer to bring a healthy dish. The host will thank you for your generosity and need never know that your ulterior motive is to insure that you will have at least one healthy item for you and your family to eat!
8) School parties - if you are the room mom for your child's class party, get creative! Take an apple for each child, toothpicks and construction paper. 1) Cut feather shapes out of the paper and glue to the toothpicks, 2).stick them into the apple for the turkey's feathers, 3) .use brown to make a turkey head, 4).black to make feet, and tada! - .you have a healthy treat! Arrange a kid-a-thon....walk the school track to raise money for a local charity. You'll provide memories that will last much longer than cupcakes can dare to dream of.
9) Don't add stress to your life. The holiday season is about enjoying traditions with your friends and family and helping those less fortunate, not about buying the perfect gift or having the perfectly decorated home. Consider donating to a food bank or giving toys to children in need. Life is what you make of it....make it great for others!
10) Stay on track. Keep this phrase in mind, "everywhere you go....there you are!" You do not go on vacation from your body; your body does not distinguish a holiday from any other day. Your system thrives on fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains and water, so make a pledge to yourself to limit the highly processed, high calorie foods this year. You'll thank yourself tomorrow!
Happy and healthy holidays!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Broccoli Casserole without the broccoli or the casserole

Well at least that is what this dish tastes like to me. Or maybe now that I have taken another bite it tastes more like stuffing. Which is good, but a bit weird. Hmmm.

As I am always experimenting it isn't unusual to have a dish that is a bit different. The only person that has to eat it is me and I don't mind since it has all sorts of fabulous healthy ingredients.


  • Bok Choy
  • 3 Potatoes
  • 2 Celery Stems
  • 1 Clove Garlic (I would have used more, but that was all I had)
  • 1 Leek
  • 2 Turnips (red)
  • 4 cups - Chicken or Veggie Stock (for a vegetarian version)
    • If you use less stock - 2 cups it will be more of a side dish then a stew
  • 1 tbsp of Butter or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (vegan version)

  1. Chop the garlic, leek, celery
  2. Heat your pan with some butter or oil
  3. Toss in garlic, leek, celery
  4. Quick saute then add the stock
  5. Chop potatoes (I left the skin on)
  6. Chop turnips (took the skin off)
  7. Add potatoes & turnips to pot
  8. Toss in some herbs (rosemary, sage, bay leaf, salt & pepper, whatever you have)
  9. Check the potatoes & turnips with a fork (maybe 10 minutes). You can tell they are ready if the fork can easily mash (or if you want a firmer consistency that works too)
  10. Chop bok choy & toss into pot with a bit of butter or olive oil
  11. Let the greens wilt a bit. Cooking for about 3 more minutes. If you have not added salt to the pot this is a good time to do it so that the greens keep their vibrant color.
  12. Turn off the heat
  13. Stir and taste to determine if you want to add any other seasonings to the pot. 
  14. I added a bit more sage, rosemary and I debated if I wanted to add more liquid to make it more soupy or if I wanted to puree it. I decided that if I pureed it the color might be funky so I left it as is.
Note - If you use less water it will be more of a side dish. The 4 cups of broth make it slightly stew like.

One other detail I would like to mention. While I was peeling the turnips I peeled off a bit of skin from my finger - ouch! This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme. Last night I splashed boiling water on my hands. Seriously I have never been this accident prone. Both of these incidents hurt and I decided to try using lavender essential oil to deal with the pain. In both cases it did the trick! The burns are not visible and the pain from the cut was gone as well as the bleeding lessened. Woo Hoo.

Friday, November 13, 2009

And the WINNER of the Coconut Oil Contest is........

And the winner is................(drum roll occurring as I type this). Michele Salami in California! Yay. I will be shipping the oil to her later this week. I cannot wait to hear how she enjoys the Tropical Traditions brand. I think she might be willing to share as well as maybe send a picture of herself with it. I'm hopin!

Thank you to all who participated! I am hoping to have another contest in the New Year. Not sure what I am planning on featuring just yet, but check back or leave a comment on what you would like to see.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Khoresht Gheimeh Badamjan ("ghay-MEH ba-dam-joon." yay farsi!)

I received a recipe submission that I wanted to make sure I posted ASAP. Michele from Berkeley, California is quite the cook and she wanted to share a delicious meal with us. We do not have a picture, but I based on her facebook profile it looks like others have made this recipe and think it is awesome! I can't wait to try it.

Khoresht Gheimeh Badamjan
(Eggplant and Yellow Split Pea Stew)

This is a Persian recipe typically containing meat. This is a
vegetarian version that is equally delicious, and can be made vegan
by simply replacing the butter with oil. Enjoy!

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter (or oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot
1 cup unripe grapes (ghureh)
2 medium eggplants
1 cup split yellow peas
2 12-ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
4 dried limes or lemons, pierced with the tip of a knife

1 large tomato, halved
1 large onion, quartered

1. In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic with 3
tablespoons butter over medium heat, stirring often,
until the onions are golden brown. This should take
about 10 – 15 minutes depending on the size of your
pot. Once brown, add salt, pepper, turmeric, saffron
water and stir.

2. Add 2 cups water, 2 cans tomatoes and juice, unripe
grapes, dried limes, 1/2 cup of the split yellow peas,
cinnamon, nutmeg & cardamom. Bring to a boil,
uncovered, over high heat. Once boiling, cover pot
and simmer over low heat for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

3. Peel eggplants and cut into chunks approximately 2” x
4”. Sprinkle eggplant with 2 tablespoons salt and set
aside in a colander for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

4. Brown the eggplant in a non-stick skillet in 3
tablespoons oil; set aside. (For an even healthier
version, you may broil the eggplant)

5. Broil the quartered onion and halved tomato until
charred; set aside.

6. Approximately 40 minutes before stew is finished, add
the remaining 1/2 cup yellow split peas to the pot and
stir. Press down on the dried limes with a spatula to
help them break down. Place the eggplant in the pot,
on top of the stew, and cover. Allow stew to simmer
until split peas are soft. Serve hot with steamed
basmati rice and charred onions and tomato as a

Copyright © 2009, Michele F. Salami

Let us (me & Michele) know if you try it & if you do post a comment.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Get Slow

Who doesn’t feel as if there aren’t enough hours in the day? We rush through the day, running here and
there, and end up exhausted. Somehow these days full of duties, obligations and busyness have begun to build up and become our lives. We spend our time doing things we don’t really want to do, yet feel we should. We’ve come to believe that being productive and crossing things off our to-do list is the ultimate goal.

The truth is, life on Earth is a brief gift, and our time is too precious to be used like this. If we want our lives to be balanced and healthy, we need to lessen our load and increase our down time. This means planning less in a day, prioritizing those things that make our hearts sing and de-prioritizing those things that are not imperative.

If we must accomplish many things each day, we can still change the quality with which we do things. How can we transmute that sprint to the train into something delicious instead of the usual gripping and tightening experience? Where can we find ease in the midst of stress? How can we cultivate the art of going slowly?

Take a few moments before you climb out of bed in the morning to remember your dreams and to think about what you want from the day. Leave your watch on the bedside table. Take the scenic route. Sit for a moment with your eyes closed when you start your computer. Check email only twice a day. Don’t pack your schedule so tightly that there’s no time for a short walk. Light candles before you start to cook dinner. Add one moment here and there for slowness; it can be done simply and will have a profound effect on your well-being.

Adapted from an article by Marco Visscher & Jay Walljasper, Ode Magazine, Issue #15,

Decision Making Technique

Last Saturday I participated in a day long workshop. The workshop was really interesting and I learned an awful lot about the importance of soil, setting holistic goals as well as making tough decisions. I wanted to pass on a snippet to you about a decision making practice that Atina Diffley of Organic Farming Works shared with the participants.

When you are planning on making a decision, say to buy a new vehicle (or shoes). Make the decision and then sleep on it and see how you feel about it the next day. Maybe sit with that decision for 3 days and see how you feel. Then switch your decision and be very concrete about it. Sleep on it again and maybe hold that decision for the next few days. By the time you have gone through both sides you should know what you really want to do about it.

Atina gave the example about buyers remorse and how using this decision making method helped her avoid that pitfall regardless of what she was purchasing.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any major decisions to be making in the near future and if this helped you decide.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Interview with a Kettlebell Instructor!

A friend of mine started using kettlebells last year. At the time I had no idea what kettlebells were, but it was the first time she was excited about exercise in a really long time. She felt strong and confident with her new physical fitness routine. As the months went by she would comment about how good she felt. She was building muscle, toning up and telling everyone about her new efficient workout.

This past summer was the first time I was able to take a kettlebell class. I had been looking forward to kettlebells for months. I had not been able to do weight training for a long time and I was nervous about injuring myself yet again. I told the trainer about my "issues" and she made sure to explain proper kettlebell form. After that first class I was hooked. Meet my trainer, Dawn Wittenberg.

Dawn Wittenberg is a Certified Massage Therapist, Personal Trainer, and RKC Certified Kettlebell Instructor

What is a kettlebell?
A kettlebell is a cast iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle.

ow is training with kettlebells different from other types of strength training?
It is uber efficient.  Kettlebell training taxes several bodily systems in one power-packed workout.  Along with muscular strength and endurance, a kettlebell workout also challenges the cardiovascular system, balance, stability, mobility, core strength and power.  All too often, I see people go to the gym and do their cardio workout followed by their strength workout followed by their core workout and two hours later they are finally done.  Seriously, who has time for that?

Do I need special training to use a kettlebell?
In short, yes.  As in all forms of strength training, form comes first but this is especially true with kettlebells.  Kettlebell training is dynamic by nature.  The weight is moved by swinging it back between the legs then out in front.  For some exercises the weight even finishes overhead.  Proper technique is imperative.  There have been many improvements in the "how to" videos out there, but a video can't point out the errors in your form or give the needed corrections.  The assistance of a certified instructor can set you on the right path.

Who should use kettlebells?
Training with kettlebells can benefit everyone from Olympic athletes to professional paper pushers.

How do I get started?
Begin by finding a qualified trainer.  The trainer you choose should have a kettlebell certification such as RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) or an AOS (Art of Strength) Kettlebell Certification.  Then you need to decide if you want to work one-on-one with the trainer or if you would prefer a class setting.  If you have special considerations such as a back, knee or shoulder injury, beginning with one-on-one lessons is recommended to ensure that you get the necessary attention.

What is your background and where do you teach kettlebell training?
I am a Certified Personal Trainer, a nationally licensed Massage Therapist and an RKC certified Kettlebell Instructor.  I love what I do and it comes across in my work.  I train and teach kettlebell classes at the Midtown YWCA in Minneapolis.  Kettlebell classes and personal training are available to members and non-members alike.

OK, last question.  Why do you like kettlebells?
Kettlebell training is a learned and practiced skill.  I love seeing the pride people take in improving on their form or learning a new drill.  Training with kettlebells is also really fun!  The number of exercises and drills that you can do with them is limitless.  There is no excuse for getting bored.

(In this photo Dawn is showcasing the windmill move. She is pressing a 16 kg bell in her right hand and holding a 12 kg in her left)

Dawn's Contact Info:
dawn wittenberg
personal trainer
ywca of Minneapolis
NSCA Certified Personal Trainer

Nationally Licensed Massage Therapist, NCBTMB
RKC, Russian Kettlebell Certified
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) Certified
voicemail (612) 215-4357
cell (612) 770-4604

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sick of oatmeal? Try this!

Brown Rice Farina from Bob's Red Mill is a tasty breakfast. This hot cereal is a great alternative to steel cut oats or rolled oats in the winter. Plus, this cereal can be really versatile -  you can make it savory, sweet or thick or on the thin side. Whatever consistency you want your breakfast to be is up to you. This version is a bit on the sweeter side.

  • The night before:
  • Soak a 1/4 cup of the grains in a bit of water in the pot you plan on cooking them in. This process makes your grains easier to digest (happy tummy). Note that these grains are too tiny to strain the water from.
  • If you like flaxseeds you can take 1/4 cup or more and place in a small bowl and cover with water. This process will break down the flax for easier digestion the next day. Do not be alarmed the flax becomes gelatinous - it is pretty cool. However, you can just as easily grind your flax the morning of in a coffee grinder which is quick and easy, but requires a bit of clean up. Or go flax-less and don't add this ingredient.
  • The morning of:
  • Turn the heat up to high on the brown rice grains, toss in a pinch of sea salt
  • Bring the cereal to boil
  • Turn down the heat and add some almond milk (I put in about a 1/2 cup), rice milk, coconut milk - whatever is available (1/2 - 1 cup depending on how thick/thin you like your cereal - experiment with the consistency)
  • Add a tsp of coconut oil (dairy-free) or high quality butter 
  • Continue to cook - stirring frequently
  • Should be ready in 5 - 10 minutes
  • Pour into a bowl and add lovely fixings like - Maple Syrup (try a little bit and add if necessary), Walnuts, Flaxseeds, Berries, Cinnamon, Ginger...
  • I choose to add walnuts and flaxseeds today for a boost of omega-3's 

*I buy flax seeds in the bulk section at the store and store them in the fridge.

What's your favorite hot breakfast?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas

Fabulous holiday gift Ideas. Really the list could be endless.  But, here is what I have come up with so far I will keep adding to it:
  • Donate to Heifer International - Give a gift that keeps giving! I am really excited about giving a goat or sheep this year or maybe a flock of chickens. Seriously how awesome would it be to receive a cow that fed the family and also brought income to the household? 
  • Essential Oils Young Living has fantastic seasonal gifts that are already gift wrapped!*
  • Preserve Razors, tooth brushes, tongue cleaner, etc they are sustainable and you can send them back to the manufacturer to be reused. Check out how on their site.* 
  • Audio Books - no waste, listen in the car, on the subway, at the gym...
  • Envirosac super cool fashionable reusable bags. If you check out the link you will see they are donating $$$ to save pets that have been left behind in foreclosures.*
  • VitaMix the ultimate blending machine on the planet! I am hoping to get one for the Holidays too ;)
  • Smartwool socks are always a delightful gift!
  • Various Recycled gifts
*Great stocking stuffers

So tell me what are you hoping for this year? What are you planning on buying?