How to Fight the Blues (even when rockets are falling)

We have reached a sticky wicket, my friends.

I write this blog as an extension of my health coaching business.  I write things that I hope will inspire others, as well as giving usable tools for living a healthier and happier life.  You read this blog presumably because you enjoy the content I write.  But of course, you also read because of me, the blogger herself.  Me, the blogger who lives in Israel.  Me, the blogger who might need to stop writing any minute to enter a bomb shelter at the wailing of an air raid siren.  Me, the blogger who will wait there until I hear the wall-shaking boom, mutter a prayer of thanks for the incredible Iron Dome, let the adrenaline drain away, and return to my seat in front of the computer to continue writing.

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Day after day, I look at the awesome content calendar I made to keep myself on track with writing and publishing, and I think, “How can I write about those subjects and not mention what is going on?”  But on the other hand, how can I mention what is going on, when to open my mouth at this moment, would unleash upon you a dark, vile blackness, that is the exact opposite of inspiration, health or happiness?

I know I am the only Israeli many of you know and you would really love to hear more from me about what it’s like here right now, but I’m not going to write that.  I don’t have the emotional stability to be able to say what you want to hear at the moment.  I’m too close and too upset.  I will say, because I know you are concerned, that I actually feel pretty safe right now.  What I am afraid of, is where things are going and of all the nightmarish scenarios I try not to even entertain.  And yes, in my better moments, I am afraid for the suffering of the very people who want to kill me.  They are still human beings despite it all.

It seems absurd to write glibly about the fact that I’m going to the gym every day, and except for one particularly scary night when I mistakenly thought food could help, I am still on plan and on track and gettin’ it done.  People are dying, but I’m achieving my personal goals.  I am ashamed to even write such a sentence.

But, maybe it is exactly what I am supposed to be writing?  Maybe seeing someone stay on track in the worst of situations, will somehow inspire you to stay on track in the face of lesser obstacles?  And for my fellow Israeli readers who are struggling to keep their heads up, may my words provide strength.

So today, like every single day, five days a week, I went to the gym.  I spent my usual 60 minutes lifting weights and then did 20 minutes of sprints on the treadmill.  Today was “leg day” meaning I did 5 compound leg exercises:  leg press, heavy squats, walking weighted lunges, lying leg curls, and deadlifts, about 4 sets of 10-12 reps each, then 2 ab exercises, bicycles, and crunches, another 4 sets of 20 reps each.  Then 1 minute sprint/jog  intervals on the treadmill for 20 minutes.

For those 80 minutes I thought of nothing else besides the burn in my buns and lungs.  There were no rockets, no hate, no depressed thoughts, no alarming predictions.  I built up the desperately needed rising endorphins which finally burst over me in a wash of well-being and even JOY.  If I didn’t have those 80 minutes, I do not know how I would cope with the remaining 22+ hours of frustration, fear and sadness the rest of the day will likely dispense.

Except for that one slip, when I was actually trying to avoid alcohol and chose cookies instead, I have been feeling my feelings and not eating (or drinking) them.  I am not rocketing around from sugar high to low (see what I did there? so puntastic).  I am sticking to my healthy food, eating when hungry, not eating when sad.

A good bit of this happens unconsciously because I have had years of practice and this is now my routine.  But there are still many times when I struggle as well.

-I have been reluctant to go to the gym some mornings for fear of a siren going off on my walk there.  Where would I take shelter?  But I remind myself that I am in a country of good samaritans (literally) and I would not be left alone and in danger.

-When I make the mistake of reading comments on the internet, pretty much anywhere, or watching a foreign news broadcast, I am overcome with the strong desire to drink alcohol  in order to dull the horror of the things people say about my country and my people.  But I remind myself that now we can defend ourselves.  That is the whole point of all of this.  And also, that if I focus on hate, I will see and feel hate.  If I focus on love, love is what I will see and feel. And ultimately, I’m a sloppy, depressed drunk anyway.

-When I feel the dark, sucking maw of depression opening up below me, I remember my Tool Kit, which consists of the following steps. May they help you as well:

  1. TELL someone!  Depression loves to isolate us.  You don’t want to burden anyone else with your crazy thoughts, right?  Well, that’s a trap, people.  Find someone who doesn’t mind a rant and get it OUT of you!
  2. Get outside.  Sunlight is magic and free.  Get into it.
  3. Take your vitamins.  For me that is B vitamins, D and EPA/DHA.  Maybe it’s a placebo effect but who cares if it works.
  4. Write in a journal.  Face it, there are some things you don’t even want to admit to your bestie.  Paper doesn’t judge.  Write it out of you.
  5. Exercise.  See above.  Endorphins are good.
  6. Stop and eat a good meal: veggies, fruits, protein, carbs and fat.  Balance it up and munch it down.  If you need help, that’s what I do…
  7. Avoid sugar, booze and drugs – depression’s best friends. They are not welcome at your party.
  8. If you’re a prayer person, pray.  If you’re an artist, create. A dancer, dance. Etc etc. Force yourself if you have to.  This is an emergency.
  9. Close the computer!  My kids (and everyone I know) have downloaded an app to their phones called Red Alert Israel, which rings whenever there is an air raid siren anywhere in the country.  For the first few days of this, I had to run to my computer every 5 seconds the thing rang to see where the alert was.  I quickly went mad.  If something happens that I need to know about, someone will tell me.  It doesn’t help the residents of Ashdod or Kiryat Malachi or wherever, that I know they are running to their shelters at the precise moment they are running there.  Likewise, if you stay off of Facebook because it makes you feel like shite, the only thing that will happen is you feeling happier and having more time to accomplish things.
  10. Have faith.  The moments when I begin to lose hope that there is a solution here, I start slipping into the abyss.  I made the conscious decision that I will NOT give up hope.  I have a few phrases and psalms that I repeat when I start to feel hopeless.  They remind me that my life is tiny in the scheme of things and my people have endured through thousands of years of relentless hatred and persecution. Everything will somehow be OK.  You don’t have to know HOW, just believe it will be.
  11. Volunteer.  One of the best things you can do to stop feeling sorry for yourself, is to focus your attention on someone who needs help.  Don’t just send money either because that negates the mood effect.  You have to actually offer of yourself, your time, your talents, your love, your comfort.  = Instant uplift.  Plus the world is a better place because of what you did.  Win win.

Disclaimer:  Depression isn’t monkey business, loves.  I am talking here about “the blues” not clinical Depression, which needs professional, medical treatment.  If you can’t get out of bed in the mornings, don’t want to wash, eat or dress, or cannot raise your spirits no matter what you do, PLEASE call your doctor and get help!

I am shutting off the ability to comment on this post.  I know some of you want to send me your support and I REALLY appreciate that, but I can’t take the chance of other sorts of comments.

To better days!

How to Make a Buddha Bowl

buddha bowl (n). a bowl which is packed so full that it has a rounded “belly” appearance on the top much like the belly of a buddha

I started eating huge bowls of raw and cooked veggies, grains, beans, fruits, nuts and seeds for lunch back when I was first working on the Fuhrman philosophy that “the salad is the main dish.”  Now, these giant bowl meals are pretty much part of my daily routine. I don’t use recipes for my Buddha Bowls.  I usually just use whatever I already have cooked, chopped, ready, on hand.  There are veggies and/or fruits, a starch of some sort and a protein.  Here are some options:

1.  Starch: Roasted sweet potato cubes; Cooked quinoa, buckwheat, millet, rice, amaranth, barley, couscous, etc…; Cooked or raw corn kernels; Roasted white potato slices; Cooked winter squash, noodles or pasta

2.  Protein: Cooked beans or lentils; Cooked tofu, tempeh or seitan; Peas; Edamame; Leftover Chili; Cooked, crumbled or sliced veggie burgers or cutlets

3.  Extras: Any nut or seed; Grated coconut; Apple slices; Raisins or dried cranberries; A sprinkle of granola; Olives; Sun-dried tomatoes; Nutritional Yeast; Roasted Red Peppers; Pickles

4.  Veggies (cooked, or raw, or a combo of both): Lettuce, Kale, Spinach, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Mushrooms, Carrots, Zucchini, Peppers, Onions, Sprouts…

5.  Dressings:

Tahina + Apple Cider Vinegar + Stevia + Paprika
Tahina + Lemon + Garlic + Water
Peanut Sauce (peanut butter, vinegar or lime, maple syrup, soy sauce, water)
Salsa + Hummus
Olive Oil + Lemon Juice or Balsamic Vinegar
Here are some examples.  Some of these I made at home, some are from cafes. Quite often, I’ll have something at a cafe and then recreate it at home.  (And yes, we get food like this all over the place in Israel.  Every cafe listed here is in a Shopping Mall!  I know that in America, you would be pressed to find this kind of food at the Mall.  I am lucky.)
greg 2 bowl
Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Sweet Potato, Bulgur, Black Lentils, Cranberries, Fresh Herbs, a Granola Sprinkle in a Lemony sweet dressing
Cafe Greg, Canyon Arim, Kfar Saba
rice noodle bowl
 Rice Noodles, Greens, Red Cabbage, Tofu, Sesame seeds in an Asian Dressing
Fresh Kitchen, HaTachana, Jerusalem
bean grain bowl
 Salad, Mushrooms, Black Lentils and Red Quinoa to be topped with Tahina Dressing and Nutritional Yeast
kale tofu bowl
Sesame-Rubbed Raw Kale, sweet potatoes, tofu with Peanut Sauce
hummus salad bowl
Israeli Salad topped with hummus, tahina, almonds and pine nuts
a Hummusia in Zichron Yaakov
mexican bowl
Black beans, couscous, corn, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado in a lime dressing
orange greg bowl
Lentils, greens, beets, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red cabbage, oranges and onions
Cafe Greg, Canyon Arim, Kfar Saba
poleta eggplant kale bowl
Polenta, kale and eggplant
sabich bowl
The Sabich Bowl (my FAVE!):  Israeli salad topped with potatoes, chickpeas and eggplant, smothered in tahina!
Cafe Greg, Canyon Arim, Kfar Saba
salad bowl
Salad with roasted chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and Moroccan carrots
sandwich bowl
Toast Salad:  Green salad with slices of grilled vegan cheese and pesto sandwich!
Espresso Bar, Canyon Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv
What are your favorite Buddha Bowl combinations?
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Rose-Vanilla Overnight Oats

Forgive me.

I said I would blog twice a week and then I didn’t.  Excuses to follow…

This spring I taught several cooking classes and then a huge Detox group program at a yoga studio.  Exciting stuff, but I got drained.  I brandished about my utensil, forking fears as I said I would.  It was all brave and bluster and mostly success, but I gotta level with you, I also had one of my worst business fears come true.  Like when you ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and then it happens and you find out it was even worse than you had anticipated.  

BUT, some initiations are by fire and some lessons sting like heck to make sure you’re paying attention.  I took it on the chin, learned what I needed to,  and kept moving forward.

On the heels of that, my baby boy had a bar mitzvah last week!  Now he is my baby man.  It was brilliant and beyond joyful.  Some of my family came from waaaaay far away to help us celebrate.  Here are a couple of pictures of our pre-bar mitzvah trip to the Western Wall for those who didn’t see on Facebook. That’s my husband in blue, and my tiny father-in-law standing next to my boy (and then my older son after him) as he reads from the Torah for the very first time. Ferklempt fo sho!

bar mitzvah collage

#ProudJewishMama

As you can maybe see from those pics, my fitness program is going well!  I’m probably in the fittest and strongest shape of my life, although have recently been set-back by some injuries, so I’ll hold off a bit before I brag and carry on about how great it all is.

But, I wanted to mention it, because today’s recipe comes to us thanks to the coach currently in charge of my meal plan.  I’ll write more about all that later, including why I, a nutrition coach, would need to hire a nutrition coach, but suffice it to say for now, that Vegan Figure Competitor Claudia Lailhacar has been, and continues to be, the brawn behind my gym program, while Holistic Nutritionist and Trainer Lori Brannen-Graham, is now the brains behind my meal plan.  I promise I’ll explain it all, but in the meantime, the following recipe was given to me by Lori.  (And then, as usual, I messed with it mercilessly. But the idea was hers).

I initially resisted the idea of these uncooked “overnight oats” that were sweeping the healthy blogosphere.  The idea of cold, slimy, uncooked oats, turned me off completely!  But coach said “Try It”, so I tried it, and lo and behold, I liked it.

You do NOT cook these oats! You just stir everything together and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  The oats soften and the chia turns it all into a soft pudding.  You can just grab it and go for those rushed mornings, or layer it with fruit like a parfait, when you have more time.  It is cool and refreshing and packs a powerful nutritional wallop!  You will be like energizer bunny for hours after eating this treat!  And people, I will never again accept the “I don’t have time for breakfast” excuse, so just forget even trying it with me!

You also do NOT need to use the rosewater.  You can make this any flavor you want and use whatever liquid you want.  Nut butter or no nut butter, protein powder or no protein powder, the only thing that really matters is oats, chia and liquid.  This amount of liquid is used here because the protein powder absorbs a lot, so if you omit the protein powder, lower the liquid.

overnight oats 1 logo

Rose-Vanilla Overnight Oats

Serving Size: 1

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup water, or other liquid
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp almond butter, or other nut butter (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp vegan protein powder (optional) - I used vanilla flavor in this recipe
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • dash cinnamon
  • Fruit for topping. Above I used 1/3 cup each raspberries and blueberries and 1 Tbsp coconut flakes. Below, I subbed raisins for coconut and layered the oats and fruit before serving.

Instructions

  1. Stir all ingredients (except toppings) together in a bowl or jar.
  2. Cover and set in fridge overnight.
  3. In the morning, stir and eat as is, or mix in fruit of choice.
  4. If the mixture is too thin for your taste, stir in some more chia and let sit in the fridge for another 20 minutes. If it is too thick, add more liquid.
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Vegan Cauliflower Crust Pizza (gluten-free)

If you read a lot of food blogs, you will know that there are blogging food trends, such as the chickpea omelette, Sriracha-flavored everything, and chia puddings, just to name a few.  I am rarely one to start a food trend, but happily climb on board other people’s creative food ideas.

The cauliflower crust pizza however, nope.  Didn’t interest me.  It seemed to be sweeping the low-carb, no-grain, fad-dieter circles, and since I’ll happily eat carbs and wheat flour, I really had no need for a pizza crust made out of cauliflower.  My life was at peace.

But then it appeared on my meal plan from my vegan body building coach.  And despite what my clients may or may not do (ahem), if I hire someone to take charge of my fitness and nutrition, I do what she says.  But OK, so I actually tried avoiding that particular meal option for a few weeks. Yet after my seven thousandth portobello mushroom burger, I was getting a little bored, and suddenly a cauliflower crust pizza didn’t sound like such a bad idea after all!

The link to the recipe on my meal plan however seemed to have mixed results in the comments.  Many people said the vegan version of cauliflower crust didn’t hold together and although tasty, you just ended up eating it with a fork.  I don’t know about you, but when I spend a lot of time on a recipe only to realize it would have been just as good to eat a bowl of steamed cauliflower with tomato sauce on top, I am none too happy.

So I did a little blog hopping and discovered this version that combines the grated cauliflower with chickpea flour, ground almonds and ground flax or chia seeds.  Bingo!  The crust held together firmly.  It was tasty.  It was better than a plain bowl of steamed cauliflower with tomato sauce.  I shall be making it often and I hope you will too!

Vegan Cauliflower Crust Pizza (gluten-free)

Yield: Makes a large rectangle shape with about 8 pieces

Vegan Cauliflower Crust Pizza (gluten-free)

Original recipe can be found here: http://myvega.com/vega-life/recipe-center/vegan-cauliflower-pizza-crust/

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cauliflower (Israelis, I used a single bag of pre-washed cauliflower florets)
  • 2 Tbsp almonds
  • 3 Tbsp flax or chia seeds
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • olive oil
  • Pizza sauce
  • Pizza toppings of your choice (I used vegan cheese, black olives, onions, and jalapenos)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and then oil or spray with oil spray.
  3. Grind the almonds in a grinder or food processor. Set aside.
  4. Grind the flax or chia seeds in the same grinder.
  5. Mix the flax or chia seeds with the 1/2 cup water and let sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Add the cauliflower to a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  7. Add chopped cauliflower to a frying pan with a few drops of oil or water, and cook on medium for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  8. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and mix in all remaining ingredients, until it forms a dough. I did this with my hands, obviously letting the cauliflower cool a little first!
  9. Depending on the moisture content of your cauliflower, you may need to adjust your quantity of chickpea flour slightly to get the right consistency for your crust.
  10. Spread dough out onto baking sheet evenly with your hands.
  11. Bake crust for 30 minutes, until it firms up and begins to brown.
  12. Remove pizza crust from oven, add pizza toppings or your choice, and bake for about 20 more minutes.
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Training Update and Recent Vegan Eats

Firstly, you must know that this blog gives me major daily angst.  I can feel it sitting here, staring at me from my desktop, waiting to be written in.  The pressure!  The PRESSURE!

Then I calm the heck down and realize that I am probably the only person who actually notices a lull in blogging.  (oh, and Mom.  Mom notices).  The rest of you have so much hitting your readers and inbox that a little break is kind of a nice little breather.  Right?  So, you’re welcome for that.

“But no!  No, it’s bad for business!”  screams my boss lady (me)  “Sit your hiney down and write!” she admonishes the employees (me).

Twice a week is my new blogging goal.  One food post and one Deep Thoughts post.  Mondays and Thursdays.  I can do this.

So, it’s Monday and we’ll do a little food post, yay!  Except I don’t have any recipes because I haven’t really been cooking any different recipes, boo.  So I’ll just share some pictures of what I have been eating.

Now, just a little update here before I share pictures:  As I mentioned a few posts back, I have been working with a vegan body building coach.  She has been in charge of my food and my workouts for the past nine weeks.  In those nine weeks, I have never worked harder and never been prouder of myself!  The workouts take my ALL and when I start them I think “I can’t!” but I DO and then I get to feel like a hero for the rest of the day.

My body is changing too.  I have dropped some fat and built some sexy muscles. I feel so fit and strong, energetic and confident.  My clothes are sliding on easier.  My upper arms don’t flap around like flags anymore.  My knees no longer sag.  I am LOVING this training!  I will share some photos soon I promise.

The food plan is not restrictive because I’m a vegan and that means large volume of lower calorie plant-based foods.  I am not hungry but am often saying “no” to things like bourekas (I know!  Can you believe I eat those in the first place?!), wine, bread, handfuls of nuts, bites (ahem, snarfs more like) of other people’s desserts – things I was eating prior to hiring Claudia.  It requires self-discipline, it really does.  But the pay off is SO worth it!  More on that later.

So here are some of the yummy things I’ve been eating:

Here I am this morning, post workout, drinking a banana-raspberry protein smoothie.  Can you see how my face is slimmed down and glowy?  OK, so the glowy is probably just an instagram filter, but my face is definitely less puffy!

photo (2)

So that’s one banana, 1 cup raspberries, 1 1/2 cups water and 1 scoop of this vegan protein powder I found here at Eden Teva:

pea protein

This is Vegan Pea Protein and it’s made here in Israel and is Kosher.  It is also 120nis for 600g, ouch!  I usually order PlantFusion from Vitacost and it’s cheaper, but this one is kosher so might be a good choice for some of you who need that kashrut.  (By the way, I don’t think protein powders are necessary, even for vegans, but I LOVE them and find that I’m building some nice muscle, so I’m keeping the powder!)  This one has ingredients comparable to Plant Fusion and it tastes and blends great.

red rice

This perhaps unappetizing bowl is my new meal obsession:  Red rice with roasted eggplant and broccoli, tossed in tahina sauce with nutritional yeast.  I could eat this every day.  Seriously.  Try it, you’ll like it.

photo (4)

This is a chickpea flour omelette topped with a bunch of veggies (kale, tomato, mushroom, who knows what else) and a side of avocado. 

photo

Tofu scram, sauteed portobellos,  and peas.

photo (3)

And Heaven forbid I should write a food post and not include my most favorite of the 5 major food groups: Hummus!  The reason it is not served with pita as usual here is because this was over Passover when bread is prohibited.  These were I don’t know exactly what – potato starch rolls or something.  They sat in our bellies like waterlogged bricks, so we won’t be doing that again!  But the hummus made up for it.

So, I hope the above was helpful and entertaining?  Showing you some ways to get a good amount of vegan protein with a small amount of cooking and fuss.

 I’ll see you back here on Thursday with some Deep Thoughts on the mental patterns that stop people from losing weight permanently. Ooo, that’s big!

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Everywhere But Here

Hi my friends.  I have been writing up a storm lately – just not here.  I wanted to share with you some of the articles I have written that you may not have seen:

Interview-with-Dr.-Neal-Barnard-186x1071.  I edited an amazing article for Sivan at TheVeganWoman.com about an interview she did while on the Vegan Cruise with Dr Neal Barnard.  Wow, I knew that Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is an incredible organization, but I was SO impressed when I learned more about just how incredible they are!  Talk about going way out on a limb, being maligned and misunderstood, and still staying strong and true to the message you believe in!  I was massively inspired by this article and interview and really, really needed to hear it.  (I get discouraged sometimes, you know).  You can find that article here:

Exclusive Interview with Dr. Neal Barnard

2.  Also over at The Vegan Woman, I applied the Stages of Change to 41517627785129667_trHrtvaA_fveganism, to help us all understand why some people are not ready to turn to a healthier diet even when their life is in danger.

How to Help Others Go Vegan by Meeting them Where they Are

 

 

image3.  Lastly at The Vegan Woman, I wrote an article about Vegan Women Body Builders.  As I have mentioned on the blog, I have been getting more and more into strength training and am working with my own lifting coach.  I had such a wonderful time interviewing these inspiring, ethical, women athletes with  for my article!  The article also showcases the all vegan Plant-Built Team that swept a recent body building competition, beating out meat eaters with their incredible 100% vegan physiques!  The fact that no animal suffered or died to build those physiques just goes to show that we do not need animal flesh or secretions to live our healthiest and strongest lives. (photo of, and with courtesy of, the incredible, compassionate, and kind, Yolanda Presswood)

Plant-Powered: Vegan Women’s Body Building

4.  Along the same lines, I was privileged to be asked to submit an article to the new Vegan Women’s Fitness Magazine, Definition.  Definition is a free online magazine that came out yesterday and it is SO BEAUTIFUL!  Filled with wonderful content, I have my weekend reading lined up!  My article was on some common pitfalls in the vegan diet and how to avoid them – content I also discussed in the recent Vegan Nutrition classes I gave in Kfar Saba and Tel Aviv.

Download Definition Here

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.24.24 AM

As for food, I’m sorry I haven’t been posting recipes much. BUT, you can see what I’ve been making and eating over on my instagram page!  All kinds of great stuff like this…

instagram collage

If you want to know what all those yummy looking dishes are and how I made them, you have to meet me over here:

Triumph Wellness on Instagram

So that’s a whole lot of “over there”, but don’t worry reader dear, my home will always be here on my blog where I can publish my posts full of typos and heart, frank honesty and made up words.  More soon…

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Kitchen Alchemy

The other day my mom sent me an email asking me if everything is OK, because she hasn’t “heard from me in awhile.”  I was kind of stumped until I realized she meant here on the blog, not in real life!

Everything is wonderful dear readers.  The blog has been quieter than usual because I have simply been busier than usual!  As promised, I have Forked My Fears and started teaching live classes again.  Now I am wondering if it was “fear” so much that made me stop teaching, or rather just FATIGUE?  Whoa, a lot of work goes into these things!!

Here is a picture I snapped of all the stuff I had prepped and packed to teach a class in a private home in Tel Aviv:

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Despite the work, in my classes I am delighted to teach people about nutrition, about what to eat, how to cook it, and how to plan meals to suit their busy lives.  After one class, I got an email from a participant who said that she felt so good, full, and fed after the class, that she had the best night’s sleep she has had in a long time.  We all know how we feel after a good night’s sleep, right?  We are happier, more productive, more creative – basically, thriving, not just surviving!

That got me thinking.  Obviously I know the power of good food to transform one’s life, but do the rest of you?  I mean, do you really know?

Today I want to talk to you about your kitchen in a way you may not have thought of it before.

They say the kitchen is the heart of a home.  Your kitchen is really the most important room in your entire house. In your kitchen, you create the food that nourishes you, and that nourishes the people who you love the very most in the whole wide world.  And I mean “nourish” in the sense of physical AND psychological!  When we eat well, we FEEL well.  We feel cared for, relaxed yet energized, satisfied, focused, productive, and strong.  When we don’t eat well we feel scattered, tired, moody, sad, angry, headach-y, tummy ache-y and pretty all around bad.

In your kitchen, you can also make food that will hurt yourself and hurt your loved ones too. But why would you want to do that? Why would you want to give someone poor health, unclear thinking, energy crashes, weight issues, bad skin or indigestion? Why would you want to give yourself those things?

Of course, you don’t. But because we have forgotten to view food in such a way, we have lost this clear motivation, and prepare things we think our loved ones will like the taste of, nutrition be damned.

And yes, there is a time for treats. But it is occasional. Much less than most of us are currently consuming or preparing.

Your body is built in your kitchen – down to your very cells – even your thoughts and moods!

Your children’s bodies are built in your kitchen, including their ability to think well, behave well, and feel well!

Your partner’s body is built in your kitchen – your love, your passion, your most important relationship!

I posted to Facebook a few days ago a blurb about the kitchen being a sacred place, but I made a typo and wrote “scared place”. An astute friend pointed out that perhaps, that is really the problem. Some people have come to fear the kitchen because they never learned the skills needed to feel comfortable there. Or because they are confused about what to actually cook.

And many of you just simply don’t have the time to spend on kitchen endeavors. You work all day and come home for your second shift – home and family. I know. But healthy cooking really doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can keep things really simple and be very organized, cook things ahead on the weekend, and meals come together in a snap.

I am really enjoying teaching people these lost skills.  I think of it as the art of building humans.  It is truly Kitchen Alchemy.

Now go in there and cook something good!

(I am bad about remembering to take pictures during events, but I got some this time thanks to my amazing assistant Andrea (pictured upper left corner):

class collage

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Super Easy Soft (and Ugly) Wheat Rolls

What do you do when you have an amazing recipe to share, but the finished product, although delicious, is shockingly unphotogenic?

rolls in basket

Do not let their homely appearance deter you!  These yummy and SUPER easy rolls are going to change your life!

I found the recipe HERE.  It is apparently one of those legendary recipes passed down from home-baker to home-baker, grandmother, to daughter, scribbled on the back of shopping lists and post-it notes.

The rolls take just a few minutes to put together.  You basically just dump all of the whole grain, vegan ingredients in a bowl, cover it with a plastic bag to rise, and then plop onto your baking tray and voila, done!  No kneading, no proofing, no fussing.  Yet, my kids?  Crazy about ‘em!  “Make ugly rolls Mom!” is a common request heard here.

Do it. Make them. Make people happy. Looks don’t matter.

Super Easy Soft and Ugly Wheat Buns

Yield: Makes 25 rolls but they are great for lunch the next day too if they make it that long!

Super Easy Soft and Ugly Wheat Buns

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dry yeast
  • 1 cup oats
  • 7 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6 cups water

Instructions

  1. Mix flour and yeast in a very, very large bowl.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix until the ingredients are combined. The dough will be very liquidy and gloppy. Just keep the faith and follow the instructions.
  3. Cover the bowl with a plastic supermarket bag and set in a warm spot.
  4. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour. It will be almost spilling over the bowl at this point!
  5. Preheat oven to 200ºC.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray
  7. Wet your hands with water, and grab a handful of the dough and simply PLOP it onto the baking sheet.
  8. Continue plopping the dough onto the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches/5 cm. apart.
  9. I top my rolls with a spray of cooking spray and then a sprinkle of Zaatar and Nigella seeds, but any seed topping will do, or none at all.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes, until the rolls are golden.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before taking off of the parchment paper.
  12. Here they are as part of a more photogenic meal that included lentil soup, salad, ugly rolls, muhamarra (Turkish red pepper spread) and sauteed kale with onions.
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Getting Started with Weight Training

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I received the following email the other day and it made me realize I have yet to really explain on the blog how I made the transition from flabby Cardio Queen to firm and fit Lifter of Heavy Things:

 Hi Emily.  I read your recent post about the importance of strength training. Nothing new. I KNOW all that.

But I can’t get myself to do it on a regular basis. Cardio, on the other hand, I do.

Why is it easier to do cardio? Because I feel the benefits immediately. If I’m stressed, even a brisk walk helps. Between forcing changes to respiration patterns and getting to the endorphin level, I have results when I step off the treadmill, and they can last for hours.

With strength training, well, first of all, I just don’t enjoy it as much during the workout. I don’t feel much immediate gain, in general. Maybe some, but not enough that I remember it as “gee, gotta do that again”. Then the next day, there’s likely to be pain. If I’m just starting up again–it might be even worse two days later. Now there’s a disincentive…. It’s not that the benefits aren’t there–but they’re far enough removed from the actual workout that it’s harder to link them for motivation.

Suggestions?

So hey.  I could have written that five months ago.  I actually DID write that, right here on this blog, heaven have mercy, FOUR years ago! And yet, although I knew I needed to do less cardio and more strength training, I resisted and resisted and resisted.  And I resisted so much that it actually grew into one of those horrible things I started having anxiety about!

At the end of September 2013, an off-shoot FB group sprung out of the main Vegan Body Building and Fitness FB group.  A group only for women.  A group, that at the beginning, was small and intimate enough, that I felt comfortable to reach out for help.  My first post was something pretty much like what my reader wrote to me above.  “I know I need to lift weights but I can’t make myself start, and by the way, I think I have an actual phobia of the weight room.”

Support and accountability – forever the two things that have been behind every change or success I have ever accomplished.

I got both.  The ladies told me to hire a trainer so I wouldn’t feel like a fish out of water in the weight room, and I challenged myself to do so by the start of the following week.

I was almost paralyzed with fear, but since I had said it publicly, I felt I had to follow through.  I did.  It was fine.  Of course.

We are now five months later and I am on my second trainer, this one now virtual and vegan herself. I have seen my body change in ways I never knew possible. I’m not quite ready to share a Flex Friday photo, but hopefully by the time warmer weather rolls around, I shall be rockin my swimsuit with a confidence I have never had before!

Strength training, or body building if you will, does not mean turning into a muscled out Arnold. It’s actually pretty hard for women to build serious muscle. What lifting weight does do is give everything an overall firm and yummy appearance.  I used to rue the fact that after training six months for a marathon, I would stand at the starting line with flabbier thighs than when I had begun training!  That is because I lost muscle doing all that cardio.  How sad is that?

Aside from making you look flabby, want to know why else losing muscle sucks?

  • Because muscle is metabolically active, it burns calories.  Fat doesn’t burn calories.  So trading a pound of fat for a pound of muscle means you GET TO EAT MORE!  I am eating a crazy delicious amount of food and getting trimmer and slimmer, yay!  Contrast that with before when I was gaining weight during marathon training while feeling hungry all the time!
  • We lose muscle as we age. That lowers metabolism but also makes us weaker.  If we don’t actively work to build it, we will get flabbier and weaker naturally with the passage of years.  That ultimately can lead to falls and we know where falls in older people lead to…
  • We lose muscle when we diet too!  Then, because our metabolism has slowed, re-gain is SO much more likely!  Strength training is a MUST for permanent weight control efforts.

To answer my reader’s issues above – not getting that cardio endorphin rush and getting sore and achy from lifting:

a.) You WILL get an endorphin rush from lifting weights if you lift vigorously enough or if you do active recovery such as jumping jacks etc in between lifting sets.

It turns out that iron makes me just as high as asphalt ever did!  woo!

b.) Sore and achy does happen, usually after 2 days (DOMS = delayed onset muscle soreness), but it’s a great excuse for booking regular massages!  Soreness can also be reduced by stretching, foam rolling, eating enough calories and protein between workouts, getting enough sleep, taking glucosamine and using turmeric to spice your foods. And then there’s this bad assery factor whereby lifters come to perversely enjoy the fact that they can’t blow dry their hair two days after a shoulder workout b/c they are too sore to hold up the hair dryer!

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Sore muscles mean you’re working and growing!

So, there my secret is out.  I promised there would be a new incarnation and a new sport after marathoning, and this is it!

Assuming I have convinced you to give strength training a try, how to begin, you ask? You can do what I did and hire a trainer at the gym to show you how everything works. Or if you have a basic gym vocab, you can start with Jamie Eason or Erin Stern’s free programs on bodybuilding.com (Those link directly to the programs. You’re welcome).  No gym?  Try body weight workouts such as Betty Rocker or Zuzana. There are plenty of free workouts on youtube and pinterest.  Or hire a trainer to your home or to meet you in a park where she will take you through the paces using playground and/or TRX equipment!

Let’s get out there with some sexy, yummy muscle ladies! And if sexy yummy doesn’t motivate you, did you read the part where I said you get to eat more food??

Here’s a little visual motivation:

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Vegan, Gluten-Free, Personal Pan Sausage and Cheese Pizza!

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On most of my social media profiles, I have dubbed myself “Kitchen Magician and Sorceress of Supper.”  A lofty and ambitious title.  But on normal nights, as I prepare my ten thousandth bowl of lentils, I often wonder where the fairy dust has gone.

Luckily, inspiration can still strike and a new wonder can be born.  Behold, such a wonder!  The Sausage and Cheese Personal Pan Pizza – veganized and de-glutened!

The base is just my chickpea flour omlette.  The “sausage” is pre-cooked, crumbled tempeh.  If the tempeh is ready, the whole thing comes together in 10 mins and cooks in another 15.  I have literally eaten this every single day for the past week!  Yummmmmyyy!!

This dish is also a nutritional powerhouse.  With just 360 calories, it has 28g of protein, 8g of fiber, 1/4 of your daily requirement for iron and 1/3 your daily requirement of calcium!

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Personal Pan Sausage and Cheese Pizza!

Yield: serves 1

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 Tbsp salsa or tomato sauce or water
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • Topping
  • 50 g crumbled and cooked tempeh (just crumble in a pan and cook until lightly browned)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 slice vegan cheese or 2 Tbsp vegan cheese shreds
  • 2 Tbsp onion, sliced (or whatever veggies you like on your pizza)
  • several slices jalapeno or other hot pepper

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C / 400F.
  2. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Mix chickpea flour, salsa or tomato sauce and water in a bowl and stir until combined.
  4. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high and spray cooking spray or add a few drops of oil to coat.
  5. Pour batter into hot pan, gently smoothing out from the center, until you have a round about 6 inches (15cm) across.
  6. Let cook for a few minutes until bottom is browning.
  7. Gently flip to other side and cook a few more minutes until lightly browned.
  8. Slide omlette onto center of parchment paper covered baking sheet.
  9. In a bowl mix tomato sauce and tempeh and then spread it on top of crust.
  10. Add vegan cheese, onions, peppers and any other vegetables you like.
  11. Bake 15 mins until all crisp and melty. You can broil for the last few minutes if you wish.
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