“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's Your Angle?

The other day, I went to New York to see the Yankees play the Kansas City Royals. My mom is in love with Derek Jeter, so for Mother’s Day this year, we got her two tickets to see him (and his team) play. Since my dad didn’t want to go, she took me. I was thrilled to go because I wanted to see the new Yankee Stadium and it gave me a chance to hang out with Mom. Plus I feel that the experience of being at a game is so much different from watching it on TV.

We had planned that when we got there, we would have lunch and then enjoy the game. It was hot and sticky outside and I felt like having something light and refreshing, but all we could find were burgers, fries, pizza, etc., and there was at least an hour wait at the restaurants. So we settled on grilled vegetable paninis that were pretty good, just heavier than I had wanted. After we had finished eating, I spotted a woman with a clipboard. I walked up to her to ask her a question and also learned that she was taking a survey about the food. I thought, this is a great opportunity to tell her how I feel. Just as I was about to talk with her, another woman approached her in a very huffy manner and began complaining about the food and the management. I was a bit surprised by her attitude and even more surprised by how long she carried on with her tirade. The poor woman that was working didn’t know what to do and finally two other women working at a cart tried to come to her rescue. I waited patiently until finally the woman with the clipboard somehow made her exit, approached us, and apologized for the unpleasant exchange.

OK, it was my turn. She asked us about our meal and the service. I told her the food was good and that the service was good as well. Actually, the gentleman who served us made us laugh so we walked away from the counter with big smiles on our faces. In fact, everyone who worked there was helpful and pleasant and made us feel comfortable, but I’m digressing. I went on to explain to her that the food was fine, but that I would like to see more healthy options for food at the stadium. She then invited me to fill out the survey, which I did, and then we parted very pleasantly.

Later, I thought about the differences between my encounter with the woman taking surveys and the woman before me. Both of us were essentially saying that we would like things to be different, yet we did it in very different ways. The woman before me went on very aggressively about what she didn’t like and what she believed was wrong and she took every opportunity to be insulting. I didn’t do that at all. I had no reason to and I never would anyway. I simply suggested things that I would like to see on the menu. Judging from the reaction to my angle versus the other woman’s, I would say that in situations like these, a positive attitude is taken more seriously than a negative one. Yes, there are cases where it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease–but I believe it’s often to simply silence the squeak. I don't know what happened with the woman's complaint and I really don't want to. As for my suggestion, will I be purchasing fresh fruit smoothies and vegetable juices at Yankee Stadium someday? Don’t know. But I have no regrets filling out the survey and making the suggestions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Moroccan Turkey Burgers

If you're like me at all, the intense heat and humidity transform the diet to mostly fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing wrong with this and every year at this time, I eat this way to cool off. The only downside is that I eventually need some heavier foods to ground me and to keep me from getting run down. This is precisely why I began thinking about Moroccan Turkey Burgers. I made these several years ago and loved them. I’m not sure why I never made these burgers again, but I revisited them over the weekend with the recipe below that I pulled together from a couple of recipes I found from Cooking Light Magazine and These burgers are tender, juicy, and flavorful, and eaten on a roll or not, they're great as is. For me, they simply don’t need anything else. The other night, I made these with 101 Cookbooks’ Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potatoes and Emeril’s Cold Cucumber Soup with cucumbers and chives from the backyard. This was a heavenly meal that brought me back down to Earth. The burgers and soup were also a hit at a family barbeque over the weekend.

Moroccan Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey

3 sweet turkey sausages, meat removed from the casings

3 T tomato sauce

¼ cup raisins or currants

1 shallot or 1 small onion, minced

1 t grated lemon rind

1 t cumin

½ t cinnamon

1 t coriander

½ t cardamon

½ t ground cloves

½ t sea salt

1/8 t black pepper

1-2 T grapseed oil

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the oil, and mix well with your hands without overworking the meat. Cover and chill the mixture until ready to cook. Form into 5-6 patties about ½ inch thick. Drizzle each side with the oil and grill or cook in a frying pan on the stove. Try to turn only once during the ~ 10 min cooking process. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and condiments (or plain!) on a nice multi-grain Kaiser roll. Or skip the bun and serve with grilled potatoes and/or a tossed salad.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What, This Old Thing?

Five years ago or more now, I bought a dress. It wasn’t a planned purchase, just something that I saw and liked at the time. I thought it would be a great dress for going out or even for work. Time went by, and the dress hung in the closet. I remember thinking at one point, "Maybe this isn’t a good dress for me. Maybe it’s too young looking, or too form-fitting, or maybe the pattern was too busy. Maybe I should just return it." But it continued to hang in the closet.

The other day, I was looking for something in a garment bag and what did I find but the dress–still with the price tag on it. I took it out of the bag and stared at it for a long while. OK, I thought, what am I going to do with this dress? It’s too late to return it and it’s in perfect condition. So I slipped it on over my head. Immediately, I thought, WOW, I Love This Dress!! It’s so comfortable, it fits me like it was made for me, it won’t wrinkle, and it will be perfect for work. And the next day, I did wear it to work and I had the best day. Was it because of the dress? Probably not entirely, but I sure did feel different in it and I even caught myself bouncing down the stairs to go fill the parking meter : ) And I can’t wait to wear it again.

So what changed? The dress? Not at all. It hung untouched in a bag for years. When I took it out, it was still the same dress, thankfully that was still in style (I think : ). Personally, I think any article of clothing that puts you into a positive mood, makes you feel good about yourself, and is comfortable is in style­–your style. I guess it had to be me that changed. Five years ago I felt uncomfortable wearing the dress­–maybe because I didn’t have the confidence in myself to be seen in it. Maybe I didn’t want to be seen, period, and I knew this dress would draw attention to me. But today, I’m happy to put it on and show it to the world–and me too. There was a reason I held on to this dress. To me, it symbolizes my personal growth. Maybe this is why it “fits” me so perfectly now. This is something I’m so grateful for. We always hear, if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. I’m so glad I didn’t take that advice...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Corn and Bean Salsa

The other night, I grilled some corn on the cob. And instead of simply eating the leftovers, I decided to use them in a corn the bean salsa recipe below. This is a great, fresh, colorful summer recipe that’s full of nutrients and that can be whipped together very quickly. I’ve used frozen, roasted corn before and it works well, too. But while the corn is in season, I like to enjoy it in lots of different ways and this is one of my favorites.

Corn and Bean Salsa

2 cooked ears of corn, kernels removed

½ red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced

¼ cup diced red onion

¾ cup cooked or sprouted beans (mung, adzuki, black, etc.)

1 T chopped, fresh chives

1 T chopped, fresh cilantro, optional

juice from one lime and zest from ½ of it

1 t cumin, optional

½ t tumeric, optional

½ t sea salt

dash pepper

In a medium glass bowl, combine all the ingredients, mix well, and adjust the seasonings to taste. Pictured above, I used sprouted, raw adzuki beans and in the past I’ve used cooked black beans. In addition, I’ve listed the cilantro, cumin, and tumeric as optional. I’ve made this either with the cilantro and without the cumin and tumeric, or I’ve left out the cilantro and added the two spices. Chill in the fridge for several hours. Serve with chips, in salad, as a side for meats, poultry, fish, or Mexican dishes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carrot Almond Pate and Lemon Flax Crisps

Yesterday, inspired by the bowl of ground almonds sitting in the fridge left over from making almond milk, I made the following pate. I came across the recipe on, and at first, the idea of carrots and almonds together made me stop, but I am no longer a skeptic. I made a few substitutions yet it is still so tasty that I had it on toast this morning for breakfast. Yesterday, I teamed it up with the flax crisps pictured that are made with brown rice flower. The recipe is below as well. I had not originally intended to serve the pate with these crisps because the original recipe, printed on my bag of organic brown flax seeds from Whole Foods calls for a large dose of maple syrup. I followed the recipe exactly and they are fantastic by themselves and do work with the pate, but if you’d rather have a more savory biscuit, I would reduce the maple syrup a little bit, adjust the amount of flour, and add a little bit of salt.

Carrot Almond Pate

4 carrots, shredded

2 c almonds, soaked overnight (or about 1-1.5 c ground almonds)

¼ c green onions or chives (something green and onion-y : )

3 T fresh lemon juice

2 – 3 T olive oil (or carrot juice if you have)

1 – 2 t ground kelp (optional, a little goes a long way)

Grind the almonds if starting with whole almonds, then add everything except the oil to a food processor or blender and process/blend. Add a little bit of oil at a time until a smooth, even consistency is achieved. Transfer the mixture to a wax or parchment paper-lined bread pan or other dish, depending on the shape you’d like to form. Refrigerate for at least two hours. To serve, place a serving plate face down over the bowl, flip it over, then carefully remove the paper. Serve with crackers, bread, or a spoon : ) I enjoyed this so much that I had it on toast this morning.

Lemon Flax Crisps

5 T butter, melted and cooled

½ c maple syrup

1 t vanilla extract

1 T lemon zest

1 T lemon juice

½ c brown flax seeds

1 c plus 2 T brown rice flour

Preheat the oven to 350°C. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Drop tablespoons full onto a parchment paper-line baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter into ¼” discs. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, or until browned on the edges. Let cool completely before removing from the paper (they will be a little crumbly until cooled).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where's the Time?

Not too long ago, the following occurred somewhere on the planet…

Jack and Jill were having dinner with Jane the night before they were leaving for a vacation to visit family.

Jill said to Jack, “We should visit John while we’re away.”

To which Jack adamantly replied “I say that every year and when we are there, you say no.”

Jill: “Are you blaming me? We never have the time.”

To which Jane said, “You should take the time…” And then the room went silent.

So much happening beneath the surface just from these few sentences and since I’m not Jack or Jill, I can only speculate what thoughts and emotions were going through their minds and bodies as a result of that exchange. But the bottom-line question I asked myself was this: Do either Jack or Jill really want to visit John, or deep down, do they really feel that they are obligated to do so?

We don’t find time for things. Extra time is not hiding in a closet somewhere and it doesn’t suddenly appear when we wave a magic wand. And I don’t believe we make time since all the time we will ever have already exists (so to speak). As Harvey MacKay said of time, “You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.” In fact, we are always spending time, whether we like it or not. Therefore, we must take or use time for the things we care about by putting them into our schedule and doing them. If we care about our health, we exercise regularly and prepare and eat healthy food. If we love to read, we read daily, if we have hobbies we love, we put them into our calendar. And we make it a priority to see or at least speak to the people we care about. Should Jack and Jill visit John? I would say only if they really want to. Otherwise, I would suggest that they spend their time doing what truly matters most to them. Because as Ben Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

The other morning, I walked into the yoga studio and the first thing I noticed was the big, beautiful sunflower in the picture. After class as I was walking out, I asked Laurie, the owner, “Would you mind if I took a picture of your sunflower?” “Of course”, she said, “do you know where it came from?” I asked her what she meant. She told me that it mysteriously appeared on the counter and she hasn’t been able to find out who put it there. I wasn’t surprised that it showed up, simply because Laurie and her partner Richard always make the effort to add personal touches and beautifying accents to the studio, such as fresh flowers and candles in the dressing rooms, beautiful photos on the walls, and inspiring quotes throughout the studio. Maybe the flower was someone’s way of saying thank you to them for caring about their customers. Or maybe it was put there “just because” the person knew that everyone who walked in would have the opportunity to enjoy it.

What would the world look like if everyone regularly performed random acts of kindness–expecting nothing in return? There are some people that do, probably because they get that the act itself is the gift back. As the Buddhist saying goes, “If you light a lamp for somebody else, it will also brighten your own path.” Freely and willingly giving to others opens our hearts, which in turn, lets more love in. This is just an example of the point I was trying to make in my blog about loving others as we learn to love ourselves. I believe these two forms of love grow simultaneously, and random acts of kindness are just one way to make this happen.

A Wholesome Snack - Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas: They are a good source of plant-based protein, calcium, iron, and fiber and I love them in salads, curries, and ground in hummus. Recently, an online friend posted a recipe for roasted chickpeas that sounded easy to make and delicious. Her recipe called for a canned chickpeas, but I no longer buy food in cans, and since I’m on a mission to find ways to not only use fresh ingredients but to also save time with them, I decided to modify the recipe a bit. Dried chickpeas can be found in bulk at local natural foods stores or at markets such as Whole Foods. Using these as the starting material, this is what I did:

Roasted Chickpeas

1 cup raw, dried chickpeas, picked through

Lots of filtered water

2 -3 T Grapeseed or another high smoking point oil

Spices or herbs of your choice to taste, such as garlic powder, cumin, tumeric, pepper, sea salt, etc. ½ to 1 teaspoon per seasoning works well

1. The night before roasting, place the dried chickpeas into a glass or ceramic bowl and add about 3 cups of water. Cover the bowl and soak overnight. If you’re going to extend the soaking, then put them in the fridge.

2. The next day, preheat the oven to 425 °F. Drain, rinse, then drain the chickpeas again. Dry them well with a clean towel.

3. Place the chickpeas well-spaced onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Roast for ~10 minutes, shake the pan to turn the chickpeas, then roast for an additional 10 minutes. Careful here, they started to pop in the oven if left for too long : )

4. During this 10 minutes, mix the oil and seasonings in a bowl big enough to fit the chickpeas. Remove the chickpeas from the oven, mix them well with the oil and spices, then place them back on the cookie sheet and roast for a final 10 minutes, or until crispy but not burned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

These are great alone as a snack or would make nice croutons for a salad. I’m thinking they might also make a nice roasted chickpea hummus. My next experiment with them…

Friday, July 2, 2010

Loving Others as We Learn to Love Ourselves

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “To love others, we must first love ourselves.” And in some ways, I guess this is true. If we were to walk around despising ourselves, we wouldn’t be of much use to anyone else and we certainly wouldn’t be able to offer any sort of compassion, tenderness, or love. But the following has made me rethink this idea.

I’ve been reading, The Little Book of Letting Go, by Hugh Prather. It’s a very insightful book that explains how to free our minds from things such as worry and conflict, and it outlines a 30-day program with useful exercises to help achieve this. The other day, I read the following passage:

“Even when you pray, if you pray without love or connection, you may have a temporary sense of peace, but you will not touch the eternal peace within your heart. There is no kindness in first thinking of yourself, then trying to be kind to yourself alone. Love is not an act of isolation, and “loving yourself first” is not a step toward happiness. Your will never satisfactorily nurture just your own wounds or your own needs, because those concepts include no unity. Only what joins us to another can make us happy.”

I thought for a while after reading this and understood exactly what he was saying. No amount of praying, meditation, visualization, or positive affirmations will ever get us to true happiness unless we put the results to practice. And I’m not talking about accomplishing our daily or monthly goals at the gym or what we’ve deposited into our savings accounts, or how effective we’ve become at work. Accomplishing these personal objectives may help us to feel better about ourselves, but they won’t ultimately allow us to reach the point of self-love because it’s the relationships we have with others–how we act with and react towards others–how we make them feel and how they make us feel, that will ultimately lead to us loving ourselves. It’s the feeling or the realization that we do have the ability to participate in meaningful and significant relationships with others and the unfolding of those interactions that leads to us loving ourselves. Love can’t exist for long in a vacuum. What’s to love there? Love is meant to be shared. The idea of saving up our love doesn’t work. I can’t even think of a way it can be put away for later or hoarded. If we’re not loving others, then we’re simply not loving at all.

Therefore, I suggest that learning to love others, and the acts of loving others, are what teach us to love ourselves, and if we wait to love ourselves before we try to love others, it will never happen…