Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Black Box- Pro Cookery Final

Old fashioned Vegetable Beef Barley Soup

Roast Rack of Lamb with Corn and Tomato Risotto, roasted Zucchini and Beurre Blanc Sauce

If you watch Food Network (As far as I am concerned it is the only channel that exists, except for when Heroes or Grey's Anatomy is on) -then you are familiar with the show "Chopped" by chance. For those of you unfamiliar with this show I will give you a quick recap. Four different chefs complete for $10,000 by being presented with a black box- In the #1 round they find 3-5 mystery ingredients inside the box that they have 20 minutes to make an appetizer out of to be judged. Four chefs get Chopped down to three and Round #2 presents a second black box with another set of mystery ingredients and 30 minutes to create an entree to be judged. Once again a chef is chopped if their dish doesn't compare to the other competitors. Finally, the Final two chefs compete in a dessert round- 30 minutes- new Black Box and then they are judged to determine a winner based on all three of their dishes from the competition. Its a really fun show- my whole family loves it!

So in Professional Cookery we have a Lab practical that has a similar idea, except there is only one judge "The Chef Instructor" and you have a total of three hours to present a plated soup and entree from your mystery tray -"Black Box" The menu we have to create from all the tray ingredients must be presented to the Chef in the first 30 minutes after start time, so he can know what to expect. Then the soup must be presented two hours after the start time, and the entree an hour later. You can expect to have two different proteins (I was hopeful for Tofu or tempeh, but no luck) various vegetables, a starch, and things like butter, or a list with vinegar or white wine on it. The Chef has a certain expectation of what you might make with these ingredients but you are not deducted in points if you come up with something totally different. The major criteria is that you have a soup properly plated and garnished, and an entree that includes a protein, starch, vegetable and sauce properly and pleasingly plated.

Make sense???

So In my Black Box I had :
-Flank Steak
- Rack of Lamb
-sweet corn fresh
-a leek
-a pound of butter
-arborio rice
-white vinegar and white wine.

What I made was:
~~ A Old Fashioned Vegetable Beef with Barley Soup with the Flank Steak

~~ A Thyme and Cumin Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb with a Fresh Corn and Tomato Parmesan Risotto, Roasted Zucchini Moons and a Red Pepper Beurre Blanc (Butter) Sauce.

Whew- that was the fasted and most focused three hours in that kitchen all semester. Everything I did came together on time, and with the help of my classmates (who already did their black boxes on Monday) as food runners, I was able to successfully create the dishes that made sense to me with those ingredients for that moment. When I presented to the Chef, there were some good points to my dishes and some constructive criticism too- he acknowledged some of the timing issues with cooking the flank steak long enough to draw out maximum flavor which I struggled with for my soup. The Rack of Lamb dish came out pretty nice, though he said I may have overloaded the plate a little too much and added too much sauce- I knew he would say that- but he also said some restaurants do their plates like that and the clients love it- more bang for the buck for the customer, but as a chef you have to watch food cost and portion control. Good learning lessons.

The best part of the whole experience was that overall the Chef was very pleased with my work and it made me cry! No worries- it was a Happy, Relieved cry. It may have been all the emotion of not feeling well the day before and just being so worked up about doing well for this test, either way I am just happy to have made it through this first semester in Culinary school successfully. It is such a life blessing to know I am exactly where I should be right now. The shoe fits beautifully and I thank God and my family and friends daily for all your love and support. I couldn't do this without it. The daily encouragements, the hugs from my kids, Tod asking me about my day at school- all of it just energizes me and pushes me to do the best that I can. Yesterday worked out because of all these connections and the love and friendship in my life. Thanks again to everyone who sent encouragements yesterday, the phone calls and the hugs and love from my family.

Bring on the next Black Box- I am not afraid- and I am ready for the next challenge!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The FoodLover's Dream come True!

Culinary School? I have secretly hoped for this opportunity for a long time, but wondered if it was too indulgent and if I could make a career out of it. Now I know with certainty that this is what I was born to do!

Perfect Fit? - Absolutely!

Confident? -Totally!

Challenging?- Hopefully!

Inspiring?- Daily!

Steph will be a Chef! So if you know me well enough this will come as no surprise. Simply put, my love and passion for Food and every last detail that surrounds its origins, nutritional aspects and creative preparation is what I live and breathe daily. This has been the case my whole life. From the time I was old enough to make my own plate at the dinner table I have been in love with the thought of choosing my Food and questioning its role in my life. How does the Food I choose affect my daily ability to have energy and live? Where does my food come from? How do we make it taste so good! Some of you may know that I initially set out to achieve a degree in Dietetics, and I have not abandoned this approach, its just currently on hold for the moment due to logistics. Besides, nutrition will always be extremely important to me and at the core of my approach to creating delicious cuisine, but as I set forth on my path to greater knowledge I found myself being led towards the fundamentals of how to create "Good Food" and ultimately ended up at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. Now I have the wonderful opportunity and pleasure of spending my time in the classroom kitchen, actively achieving the skills that will allow me to have the credibility and knowledge to use Food to make a difference in the world. Becoming a Chef is my dream come true, and I have known for a while that it is truly the career I have wanted to pursue, yet somehow until now I had pushed that dream down- I think since I had committed to the Dietetics degree initially I thought I needed to see it through, but I truly believe that the desires God placed so strongly in my heart were realized when that plan didn't go exactly as I had hoped, and my acceptance to EMU didn't take place this year (I had the top spot on a waiting list, but it didn't open up)
Now I am exploring my options once I obtain my degree in Culinary Arts. I am interested in teaching, and in creating a community approach to discovering Food through its origins in Agriculture, its effects nutritionally, and how to prepare it all once you bring it home. I truly believe that a lot of these concepts would be a great benefit to all ages and most especially to children. If a child has the opportunity to learn "now" at an early age how to make Good healthy food choices they will be able to carry this knowledge with them for the rest of their lives as a foundation for a sustainable and vibrant future.

So now I invite you to join with me as I embark on a new journey and as I embrace the opportunity to learn and grow as an eager and excited Culinary Student. I can't wait to share with you all the details and what it takes to reach my goal- I have a smile on my face, I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I will be Successful!

A Stellar Life begins when we recognize this:

SWEET ACCEPTANCE- because today brings me by and by ever closer to my ultimate finale- (which is very hopefully decades beyond this day) So I plan to embrace my God given opportunity to LIVE, to SHARE, and to LOVE~ because I have FAITH that by being TRUE to my youthful ambitions, the world will notice a life can be wealthy with HAPPINESS~ You see my expectation is that every moment- even the tough ones- is a wonderful gift to be cherished. By God's WILL and GRACE I except my MISSION to live, and I will stay FOCUSED and THANKFUL on my life's journey- A new Day has arrived and with a happy heart and a smile I say "Welcome, now lets get going my friends!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Have You Ever Had to Face your Worst Fear?

8-15-09 Lauren, Riley, Neil and Emma having fun- Uncle Pete watching over them.

I have witnessed countless miracles on a daily basis in my life, but none could compare to the magnitude of the most recent heavenly rescue and assistance that I am so sure took place this past weekend. Though I did not see the actual event with my own eyes, my heart and soul can speak of the moment with an abundance of faith that God's most finest work took place in the safe deliverance of my boy from a most possibly tragic accident.

There was nothing unusual about the moments that led up to the horrific portrayal of my worst fear. The picture that you see above is just a snapshot of pure happiness in four sweet cousins- the oldest kiddos of the younger side of the friendly bunch of us all. Lauren, the oldest at 7 years did the darling eye batting and sweet talking to her Uncle Pete in order to fulfill the "Must go with an adult" qualifications to be able to climb to the top of the platform which rose some 20 feet into the air. Up top they cheered and giggled, and even thought they were quite funny throwing acorns at me below as I tried to capture the height-filled adventure on my camera- thank goodness I got the picture I needed in one take! Surprised at the acorn launching precision of 5 year olds I decided to get out of range and make my way back to the bonfire about 100 yards away. I assumed Uncle Pete would give them a few more minutes and then they would be back to the fire pit ready for a second serving of yummy gooey smores.

Certain sounds, followed by certain vibrations in the earth's surface are not meant to go together kindly- and in the 2 seconds it took my nervous system to interpret what I was sensing, my heels were turning and I was in a frenzied run back in the direction of the platform. All this before I clearly could comprehend what had just happened. I heard nothing except the voice in my head sorting out the situation even before I truly knew what I would find. I was desperately resisting what I instinctively knew as a Mother would be the fear filled scene I would discover. I knew it was him before my eyes could confirm it. I knew that the sickening sound of gravitational forces pulling a falling human toward rain soaked soil, and the abrupt cessation of joyful chatter equaled only one thing- My Riley- Oh my God- My Riley fell off that platform!

My heart went wild, hitting the inside of my chest walls like a scared and irrational mad person in a room of mirrors. NO, NO, NO- Dear God not Riley- Please Lord he has to be OK! Dear God please help, he has to be OK. There he lay, quiet, not moving, almost like he was just taking a nap with his knees pulled up into his chest. I was upon him now, somehow calmly speaking to him while inside myself I was having the biggest meltdown of my life. "Riley can you hear me?" "Where does it hurt sweetheart?" "Riley its going to be OK, mama is here, you are going to be OK baby" "CLAUDIA!!!!" (I was screaming for Our friend who is a nurse, so to show my mind was in serious damage control action) "Riley Baby, daddy is right here too, can you hear us?" His eyes all of a sudden opened up real wide and a huge gasp of air was swallowed up as he recovered from having the wind knocked out of himself from the impact. At that moment a reassurance sprang up inside of me, a hope, a special optimistic knowing that he was going to be OK. I wanted to pick him up right then and there, but Claudia was there now and Tod too, and they wanted to make sure we weren't dealing with anything in which moving him at that moment would cause more harm than good. He said "My whole body hurts Mama" and as the reality of the situation settled in on him, he started to tear up, but even then I knew he was the bravest little boy in the whole world. He followed our instructions and answered our questions, he did exactly what we asked.

After the assessment was made that he was safe to move- not even three minutes after the fall he was in the safety of my arms. There was some blood on his knee, but other than that we couldn't find any physical evidence of harm on his entire body. We switched up and Tod, Daddy took Riley into his arms and carried him the rest of the way into the house. We did some further investigations of both Riley's status: He was walking and though still shaken up a bit seemingly and miraculously fine- Praise God! We then assessed the actual events that preceeded the fall: This is where the real miracle takes form by the way.....

Every night at the dinner table the four of us each take a turn to say a prayer of thanksgiving and thoughtfulness- we each always pray for health and safety for our family. This is where I am a firm believer and have Faith that God hears our prayerful petitions and goes into action when unfortunate accidents manifest themselves. As Tod put it, "Riley threaded the needle!" That child not only fell 20 feet from a platform- a rotted out piece of railing had gave way in which Riley had been leaning on- (Lauren actually grabbed him in an effort to save him from falling but was unable to hold on, I am just thankful she didn't go over with him!) but he also missed a solid metal tree stand that was attached to a post below, a steel barrel garbage can and a juniper bush, so to land in a place on the ground that from the looks of it was still moist from rain storms the night before. His body was actually underneath the metal tree stand! He said he never hit his head, only his side of his body- We never found not one bruise on him- Seriously!!! When I think of all the potential possibilities that could have happened, well I just can't go there, except to say our analysis of his fall seems almost impossible. By impossible I mean, the evidence just doesn't add up to our boy walking away from that incident almost completely free from all harm. The one of two scrapes on his Knee were actually from the platform as he fell! The only explanation to us is that there must have been a heavenly intervention. Riley had just asked us about the other day about angels and why we could not see them, this question leading to a lesson in faith we explained to him so that he could understand. So now those unseen heavenly crusaders, Swiftly had swooped in and quite surely softened his fall. There are no other logical answers.

So I share this story with you all to hopefully demonstrate what we all know about life. The part about life where we must realize that everything can change in an instant. The part that reminds us we are not invincible, though children are fortunate to have a little more pliability than an adult when it comes to there growing forms. The part about life that teaches us to appreciate moments like these dramatic chance happenings as an opportunity to count our blessings and be thankful for God's mercy and love. My sweet baby boy is going to be alright from all that we can tell. Once again I am going to fine tune my own perceptions about what is really important to me and my own life's purpose, most especially as a mother. God must have some special plans for Riley and his place in our world. I am just grateful to be able to continue being his Mama and to see that beautiful, now toothless smile, and hear him tell me "I love you Mama" every single day. My prayers have dutifully been answered, my expectations, my faith lifted to a newer level, and I can continue to do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and my family, and you too!

With all the love, thankfulness and joy a heart can reveal- Most Sincerely,

Stephie "Mama" Sheffer

My Birthday- three days after the accident

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Special Thank you to All Of You!

My beautiful Baby Girl- I am so glad she is finally getting better!

Today I am thankful and I feel full of happiness, to the brim and overflowing actually- despite the fact I have only gotten 13 hours of sleep since I laid my head down on my pillow Sunday night.  The past few days have come and gone in a flurry of emotion filled moments.  Each incidence might have been more than we could handle if it had not been for the assurance that there was a greater and most capable power in control- God was in control along with all of your faith-filled prayers and requests for supernatural healing.  We could feel each of your appeals in a way that allowed us to stay strong in front of our baby girl.  She needed us to be encouraged that everything was going to be alright, and amazingly we were able to convey the expressions of hope she needed to make it through.  We can honestly tell you that we witnessed with our hearts wide open a healing miracle at work.  It started with a confident doctor whose wisdom and discernment finally narrowed down a diagnosis and gave us some much needed answers.  We then watched Miss Lauren show us how to be extremely brave in the midst of unfamiliar scenery and foreign procedures.  Lauren was one tough cookie as she was inflicted with  painful experiences that I wish I could have stood in for her.  If I could have, I would have traded places with her in a heart beat to spare her all that throbbing pain in her little body.  Oh, but she was so strong, and fearless, and we felt so proud to be her Mama and Daddy.  

Driving up to the E.R. entrance was the grand finale of sorts to a confusing and dramatic past weekend.  It all just happened so fast, a reminder that everything can change in an instant and to never take anything for granted.  How was I to know it could all change so quickly as I watched Lauren and Riley leap out of my car Friday morning, each of them running with there back packs flailing close behind.   I never imagined I would return in the afternoon to pick them up, only to discover horrifying symptoms, indicators of disastrous results all over Lauren's little legs and arms.   The progression of this attack all happened so quickly that within an hour she could no longer walk without tear-filled eyes, and unfortunately our first visit to the doctor in this surprising development gave us little hope, and no real answers.  In fact the terrible case scenario explained to us, which was meant to at least prepare us for the worst, was almost more than we could bear- finally enough to send us to our knees and do the only thing we could do....  We gave it to God- we put every ounce of faith and trust in his competent hands and vowed to be the love and caring support system here on earth that she needed to get through this event. 

 Sending out a prayer request to all of you was an absolute no-brainer and the responses were the blessed answer to our heart's cries for a pardon of Lauren's pain.  Saying thank you to you all might not be the right words to convey how deeply thankful we really are.  When Lauren was allowed to go home Wednesday night from the hospital and her smile was restored, we experienced the beauty of answered prayers.  I want each of you who prayed for Lauren and our family to know that it was an incredible moment when she walked back into her own home on her own two almost pain free legs.  We are still not completely in the clear, but the prognosis is good, and we have a restored hope in our hearts that with all of the love and support for her that everything is going to be alright.  It has to be!

So I am full.  Full of optimism, happiness and love!  Did I mention that Lauren's Daddy is amazing too.  You see Lauren is a "Daddy's Girl" to no end and what I love is that her Daddy went above and beyond this time to make her feel special, to be his princess.  God is good, I know and believe this with all my heart and soul.  Just like I know that Lauren is on the mend and her health is being restored back to her perfect beautiful and happy form.  Again, thank you for all your thoughts and prayers, we know they are so much apart of the calm and peaceful road to recovery for Lauren and our family.

A Stellar gift of hope and peace was laid upon all of our hearts over the past few days as we petitioned for the merciful healing of lil' Miss Lauren.  We feel that the ability to stay strong through the toughest of moments was due to the fact that we could sense each of your loving thoughts and prayers for Lauren. We are eternally grateful to you all.

All my love xoxo- Stephie

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Optimistic Point of View

So this is what it feels like when we really have to trust in the Lord.   I can confidently say that I know with all my heart His plan is perfect.  Each step we take reveals abundant blessings and answered prayers, but it also can bring unforeseen challenges too.  I am not afraid to press forward, and I can do so without fear because I know that it is all for a purpose.  It is this assurance I have that helps me retain my optimism and eliminate worry from my emotions.  I have lived, in my short life so far, through my different real life examples of how if it so much more efficient to lead a life to the best of my capabilities, with a healthy perspective, with compassion, and with thankfulness for basic needs that are being met daily for myself and my family.  I have learned that when we make requests in our prayers and daily conversations with God that we must not petition with expectation, but with trust in our heart and soul that God will respond and deliver all in accordance to his perfect will and plan for our life.  This means that when we pray for things like patience- instead of just receiving patience he may instead give us an opportunity to practice patience.  We may earn a life lesson that we will now carry usefully for the rest of our lives from this practice.  How good is God, that he knows our needs and has already put into action a perfect plan for us to display his power and love to the world.  That we may then experience beautiful joy and happiness if we are just willing to move forward in obedience, in trust, and have open hearts to receive his grace as a result!  Too many times in the recent months of this new year I have received unexpected news.  News that to many people could be a deal breaker in the ability to maintain a happy, healthy existence.  I have contemplated what I could have done better, or was there a choice that would have given me a more satisfactory result.  Sometimes the answers to these questions seemed extremely hard to pin down, leaving me to choose between only two variations of one important word: Hopefulness or Hopelessness.  I choose a Hope Full Life!

I pray for a full life, and the ability to see the opportunities to achieve and recognize the answer to my appeals.  I beleive Hopefulness in the only answer in every situation.  Do you search your day, with a hope filled heart?  Do you trust that He has a perfect plan for your days?  

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord-- Psalms 112:7

The verse above is the prayer in my heart today.  I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understandings and be thankful for the blessings abundant that he has already delivered to me and my family.

A stellar life begins when we remain faithful in our trust for greater outcomes beyond our imagination.  That there is a purpose being fulfilled with each step we take along the way.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Can I Have Seconds?

A Brand New Recipe was a Huge success tonight!!  No Name yet for it, but we will keep you posted on that one......


There are certain complimentary things that can be said to a Chef- or the CEO (Chief Edibles Officer) of the home that are as good as golden.  Us chefs know who our harshest critics can be too, because they are no where near afraid to tell us exactly what they think.  They sit down into their chair, and survey the plate on the placemat in front of them.  Sometimes they interrogate us about the ingredients, insisting that we are not revealing everything that went into our dinnertime creations.  If they decide the arrangement of cuisine looks in any way foreign or unappealing, then you have lost the campaign before you even turned in your nomination.  These young, fresh little judges will give you an early verdict if you don't plan ahead, or fail to pay attention to the details.  Ah ha, but if they do partake of your innovative cookery and you receive the thumbs up, now you are on to something.  

As CEO of my own domain, my new creations are always subject to my family's taste buds first.  Lauren and Riley have cultivated quite a vocabulary for describing how they feel about the meal in front to of them even before they take a bite.  The surest sign of success actually originates when they yell out to me from their bedroom, "whatcha making Mama!  It smells gooooood!"  The supreme, the ultimate flattery is born from these four simple words though: "Can I have seconds?"  These words are the surest sign of a winning dish and they deliver the purest feeling of success in my kitchen.

A Stellar Life involves learning to accept constructive criticism as encouragement to further refine your practices and come up with even bigger and better creations.  It sure is nice when a real winner surfaces easily though!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Could you take the heat if it meant a positive change for your life?

I wore long baggy pants and an old polo t-shirt.  I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Why hadn’t anyone warned me?  Maybe they did actually warn me, and I just assumed that it couldn’t really be that hot.  I mean come on, 105 degrees, really?  Really.  We all can see what the first three letters of the word assume are, and boy did I feel like one about 10 minutes into the class.  I was already soaked with sweat and the armpit sweat stains were definitely unattractive, but I was determined to get through this.   I had really wished I had wore a different outfit, I thought a sweat band would have been nice for my now dripping with sweat hair and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of me.  How long would it take to be able to twist my body like the lady in the row in front of me?  She was at least 20 years older than me too, and not necessarily skinny, but radiant and healthy looking nonetheless.  If she could do this, then I most certainly could tough it out and make it to the end, and I did!  At the end of class the whole room clapped for all the new students, and at that very moment I felt a sense of accomplishment I had not felt in quite a while.  I had just endured 90 minutes of what most would compare to pure hell and like a women who completely forgets the pain after her baby is born and placed into her arms, I was euphoric and felt empowered once again.  If I could do this, I could do anything! 

People actually come back for a second, third and fourth class, and let me tell you why.  Bikram Yoga was exactly what I had needed at that moment in my life, because a week before my first class my doctor had tried to tell me that I might be depressed.  Who me?  Was he actually serious?  Not only that he already wanted to put me on medication.  Seriously?  I mean are you kidding me?  I am the optimistic, happy go lucky girl.  Nothing ever would get me down, and I was always one who could find the bright side in ever situation.  I just couldn’t except that he was right, and I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that I proved him wrong.  Also at the same doomsday doctor appointment, what he actually told me first (which is an important point as you will see in a minute) he diagnosed me with carpal tunnel syndrome.  The restless nights I was experiencing with my hands going completely numb, and also the numbness I experienced while snowmobiling was positive signs of a deterioration happening in my wrists. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome (a painful disorder caused by compression of a nerve in the carpal tunnel; characterized by discomfort and weakness in the hands and fingers and by sensations of tingling, burning or numbness)


Ok, so the doctor was at least right about that one.  We decided that it was most likely linked to my cleaning business and all the time I spent with my hands pressing against shower stall walls and floors while scrubbing and washing and cleaning.  Finding out that I would have to wear what I instantly thought were these ugly black braces all the time now in order to get any kind of rest at night, save having a surgery that would put me out of commission for weeks.  I can clearly discern now that may have been the instant depression that he tried to diagnose me with next.  I was completely crushed to find out for the first time in my life that my body was not indestructible.  I felt humbled, scared and completely confused all at the same time.  It was the worst doctor appointment of my life!  At this point I was only 25 years old, what was I going to do now?

The practice of Bikram yoga was a complete surprise to me and quickly offered a prescription for all of my recent troubles.  Was it fate that I found it during this low time in my life?  First it is chemical free, if you don’t count the natural release of all the symphonic biochemicals that seemingly begin to harmonize after the first breathing pose.  Every single class is taught in such a way that veteran and greenhorns alike can both feel challenged.  Within my first ten days for ten dollars (their special deal they offer for brand new students) I was able to go three times and after that point I had already stuffed those God awful wrist braces into the back of my closet.  My numbing wrist symptoms had completely vanished, and I was now a forever yogi, how could I ever not be?  As far as I was concerned I was healed!  The melancholy way of thinking that had so quickly set in a few weeks ago was easily swept away, and I felt like a brand new charged particle.  I felt like I could do anything and I loved the challenge of each new class.  I loved that it was a constant practice, there was always hope of going a little bit further.  Someday I would be able to do a full back bend, and the standing splits.  I had never experienced any type of yoga practice before I became a Bikram yoga student, so I had no biases, as far as I was concerned nothing could top this practice.  It had completely changed my life, and I was fascinated to see and feel how my body had the ability to heal itself. 


I also started to eat better too and my interests for food and nutrition once again returned.  It wasn’t long before I started to cook again, became a vegetarian and finally realized my dreams for working with people to help them find the same daily happiness I was experiencing.  I was like a sponge, my thinking so much clearer, and my desire to discover optimum health for myself and others continued to get stronger every day!  I could never get to class as much as I would have liked.  That’s the hard part about having more responsibilities than oneself.  Work, kids, house, and everything in between still existed and I could not attend class every day, but still enough to be receiving the healthful benefits I had grown to appreciate.  Pretty soon I was signing up for college again, feeling even more empowered and invincible than ever.  I could envision my future in a way that was undeniably full of real possibilities now, and my hope to help others realize their own truth and happiness was already beginning to happen.  My kids being the best example of this transition, their outlook on life continues to be so contented and joyful.


A Stellar Life begins when we face our fears head on and make a decision to take control of our emotions, of our lives.  Maybe Bikram yoga isn’t for everyone, even though I would highly debate that one on the side of the yogis.  The experience of a Bikram class is not the same for everyone, because we are all individuals, each of us has our own needs and expectations to be met.  I challenge you to at least give it a try, especially if you are facing any type of difficulty in your life, physical or emotional.  Be prepared to push your edge, because isn’t that really what we have to do if we want results, if we want a change?  God created us with this extraordinary ability to heal both inside and out.   If only when we give ourselves the right conditions and stimuli.  We are truly products of our environments and intakes- I have discovered Bikram yoga practice is a place to stretch out and dispose of all the garbage in my life, if any, and leave it behind so that I can take on the rest of my day, and my life feeling happier, healthier and lighter for it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Random Thoughts which always lead to Food Somehow

A Vibrant Display of My Version of  A Yummy Veggie Stew Inspired by a favorite local deli.

Yesterday I had an amazing day, but lets face it I can find amazing in all of my days.  I just choose to find it, no matter what I am faced with.  My morning started with three hours of cleaning at one of my client's office building at 3AM.  This is something I do every Monday morning, basic routine for me, so I am used to getting up that early.  I have decided it affords me the freedom in the weekend to spend more time with my family so I just do it.  Continuing in my routine I came home and snuggled in with my hubby for about 30 minutes before he had to get up and then I was busy again- making lunches, making breakfast, making sure everyone had the sustenance which would provide ample energy for their busy day ahead of them.   

Dropping the kids off at school, kisses goodbye, "have a good day" I say and now it is my time, time to just "be" for a little while.  I have the car radio all to myself now and turning up the volume on my favorite up tempo beat- I'm ready to sing my way into town as safely and quickly as possible because I am going to Bikram yoga!  The sooner I get there, the sooner I can let everything go and shut my mind off.  I always feel so peaceful when I have finished my 90 minutes of intense heat and stretching- such a feeling of accomplishment too and its all good.

Next I am on my way to the gym- no this is not the typical back to back thing that I do but the timing matched up and I would hate to miss my workout time with Tod.  It has been such a fun way for the two of us to bond.  I think he just enjoys kicking my butt during the weight lifting part, but its OK because I need it, and he doesn't let me cheat- not one little bit!

So can you just imagine my appetite after all this calorie burning.  Yes, I ate breakfast.  It was a beautifully yummy bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, cinnamon and bananas.  And I had a snack between workouts too, but I was definitely ready to eat driving away from that Gym so I decided to stop at Oryana/Lake Street Deli for a hearty bowl of soup or something.  It changes daily there so I wsn't exactly sure what I would get.  So the point of this whole story is that I did find exactly what I had hoped for and ordered a beautiful bowl of soup along with some yummy bread wedges to dip, and also some flame raisins and raw cashews as a side.  The soup was so delicious I could have walked out of there with the whole entire pot of it under my arm, but instead I decided to do what I always do and try to recreate it at home.  

Tonight my family will be enjoying a similar version of my yesterday's happy lunch, I even splurged on some Stone house bread to go with it and made a nice leafy green salad for the fresh side of the meal.  I just love when my little adventures turn out some wonderful creations and this one will definitely make it into my book someday.  I just hope I can recreate it since I am one to just throw everything in and not pay close attention to measurements- so my downfall.  Regardless tonight we will enjoy!

Enjoying A Stellar Life means giving thanks for your God given abilities.  The ability to interpret our own needs among all of life's responsibilities and the decision to find the brighter side with each new day, each new sunrise.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Save The Fishes!!!

"A picture I found online that I thought I was beautiful"

It always amazes me when small hints of influence surface within my children and husband.  It may have had something to do with wanting to avoid any preparation that neither Tod nor myself would want to do or it is my hope that it was a pure act of compassion.  While I was at my Tomaki/Homaki Roll Preparation class this past Saturday, Tod took Lauren and Riley to a Hunting and Fishing show at the local civic center.  While they were there the kids participated in a fishing pond and proceeded to pull out two rather large trout from what I understand.  As the story goes the fish were put alive into plastic bags with ice and sent along their way with their captors.  As the three of them left the show and made their way to the truck they all noticed that the fish's gills were still moving and they all decided that they should save them instead of take them home to die.  They quickly added water to the bags and made a plan.  Tod took them to Kids Creek which is located near our local hospital and they reintroduced these two lucky fish to their watery habitat.  Aha, but this was most likely a much different habitat then from where they originally came from.  Most likely these two came from a trout farm where they were probably fed pellet type food and forced to live in a body of water much too small for the amount of fish that were within it.  I hope that is not the case and I can't know for sure but I am thinking the creek was a relief in any case from the original place they started out the day within.  Anyhow, they carefully put the two fish into the creek which they had now named Finny and Freddy.  Both fish acted a little stunned and stayed in a small cove for a long time, probably reaclimating to the new surroundings.  To and the kids actually went to the grocery store and came back a short time later to the creek check and see if their two friends were still ok.  They were still in the same spot and seemed to be getting even better after an hour.  The Emancipators even went back the next day to check, but this time the two fishies were now gone.  Hopefully they are swimming around making new friends and will have the ability to enjoy a nice summer in their new home thanks to Tod, Lauren and Riley.

**A Stellar Life sometimes involves thinking outside the box, taking a step back to survey your options and then choosing the one that provides the maximum amount of happiness for everyone involved.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Minding our own Beeswax Sometimes

This pic doesn't necessarily fit to the entire post but shows fun love and care between two sisters who would do anything for one another- especially being honest and true!

Proverbs 18:2  A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions

I do not want to ever be a fool!  This verse hit me like  ton of bricks today and really called me out on something that I have always struggled with in myself and other people.  We are all so quick  to share our opinions and sometimes this can be a helpful, but other times it can be destructive and unfair, especially when it comes to gossip.  I am in no way perfect, because I have certainly done my fair share of talking out my opinions on people and things, but I try very hard to stay conscious about what I say out loud.  If I have a problem with someone or something I try to go to them first before I air out my thoughts, concerns or frustrations to the people who are uninvolved.  I truly believe that sometimes people can be genuine and caring in sharing their opinions (even though it might come across differently) for possible concern for a friend or family member.  It probably has even more to do with not understanding them or what happened.  We just need to talk out what we are thinking before we decide to either let it go or confront the concern we have with or for the person or situation that is upon us.  But when we simply want to share the newest, juiciest piece of info just because we know it, whether it is personal, something judgmental or just plain gossip- then I think their is a major problem.  I know if someone was talking about me behind my back, innocently, concerned or not, it would break my heart to find out.  I also know that we need to be respectful when sharing our opinions and realize that people might not always agree with what we have to stay and that is OK.  Its a free country we live in and thank goodness we are allowed to have an opinion on whatever we want.  I guess I just want to remember that just because we have an opinion, we don't necessarily have to share it all the time.  In the case of gossip of any kind- for goodness sakes just quit it- don't do it please if you can help it!

I am not writing this for any particular reason other than I am going to make sure to do my best to keep myself out of the gossip loop.  If it has nothing to do with me, then a good rule of thumb should be- it is non of my beeswax and zip it please!  Again, I in no way claim to be perfect and I am sure that I will catch myself from time to time in a situation where I am spouting out what I think of things that are non of my business, but I am just going to try my best to apply understanding instead for why things happen how they do.  Instead I'll try to give people a break when I am confused about why they would do something a certain way that I might not do it.  I am always grateful for how Bible scriptures communicate life lessons and I am thankful for a way to apply them to my life.  This one was a great reminder and I am glad for it.

**A Stellar life starts when we take a look outside of ourselves and have compassion and understanding for the people around us.  We should be promoting agendas that include love and care, and should guard ourselves from self-indulgent conversations that do nothing but add to the despair of and individual or situation that is not within our control.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Naturally Green St. Patty's Day Meal

"Leprechaun Soup"

I wanted to do something special for St. Patricks Day for my family tonight.  It is always a fun little challenge for myself to come up with alternatives to classic holiday meals that usually feature animal meat, by coming up with something that is as equally exciting.  So I opened up my fridge to see what I had that would meet the fun criteria of green that most people honor on this day.  Finding something fresh and green in my fridge is usually very easy and this afternoon was no exception.  A lovely large and luscious bunch of broccoli stood out right away and so I thought I would give it the opportunity to be the star of our meal this evening.

Last week while I was grocery shopping at Oryana Natural Foods Store they had one of there recipe features that just happened to be Creamless Broccoli Soup.  I must give credit where credit is due and I was thankful for the idea to give me a start- I thought this would be a fun way to create my "Green" featured food.  Like always I just started throwing everything I had into the pot- celery, potato, onion and kidney beans were the players in my cream base with a yummy veggie stock.  I got to use my new immersion blender that Tod had gotten me for Christmas to blend everything once it had simmered for about 20 minutes.  Have you ever used one of those high power wonders?  They are amazing!  When I think about how I used to scoop hot soup into my blender in batches, making yet another item to wash in the clean up - oh how I love kitchen technology!  

Next my lovely broccoli florets danced their way into the pot and 10 minutes later dinner was ready!  It was so easy, and the chopped cherry tomato and green onion dressed it up enough to make it feel extra special!  The homemade baked pita chips are a family fave so I did a quick batch of those too!  Everyone loved it- and the kids said I was definitely not going to get pinched now since I was not only wearing green but cooking green too!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Zippy Zesty Zasta Zalad

This recipe was born out of my serious need to never waste anything!  I had put together a marinade for some tofu that I planned to bake later in the day. Once the tofu had soaked up what it needed from the marinade I had a ton of it left and I didn't want to waste it so I came up with my own little version of a Southwestern type of Pasta Salad, using the leftover marinade as my base for the sauce. My version took a little bit longer than if you already had the ingredients prepped and ready to go. (I soak my own beans and juice my own fruit, but canned is fine too) You can substitute with any veggies that you like. I choose an orange pepper for the color and mild flavor- but green would be good too. I added the zucchini for a little more of a green punch- lightly wilted spinach would be good too. The tomatoes I decided to add as a garnish since of few of my family members do not care for them- but I think you could mix them right in and it would still be yummy. Finely chopped Red onion would go well too if you wanted it, but I thought it had enough zest without it. (Onion is another thing that the family isn't crazy about) This zalad just reminds me of summertime family picnics with the refreshing hints of lemon and lime and the zest of the cilantro.
During a time of year when we are ready to sweep away the winter blues and welcome the new born beauty of all that the season of spring promises- this recipe just helped me deal with the impatience that I have grown accustomed to experiencing during the month of March in Northern Michigan.  I hope you enjoy it too!

Zalad Marinade-
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 heaping tablespoons of Tomato paste
1.5 tbsp chili powder (add more to your own taste- I added another tbsp)
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
Optional: Hot Sauce or red chili powder to spice it up

Zalad Ingredients:
16oz box of dry Rotini or Penne Pasta cooked, drained, cooled
1 can of Black Beans drained and rinsed
1.5 cup Frozen sweet corn thawed
1 cup of chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped green red or orange bell pepper
1- 1.5 cup of diced fresh cherry tomatoes
fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

Optional: Wilted spinich, 1/2 cup red oonion, 1 cup chopped tomatoes

Follow pasta cooking instructions, making sure not to over cook your noodles.
While the noodles cook you can start marinade by putting cilantro, orange, lemon and lime juice, maple syrup,chili powder, garlic powder, cumin powder,oil, salt into a blender and pureeing until well combined. Pour marinade into a glass bowl and add tomato paste. Whisk paste until it becomes saucy. 
Rinse, drain and cool noodles and put into a large bowl. Add sweet corn, black beans, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes (unless you want to use them as a garnish with the cilantro) Carefully mix everything together. Add the marinade and gently toss with pasta mix. Cool in fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.
If you are using tomatoes as a garnish, sprinkle them on top before serving and add a few fresh cilantro sprigs to add some fresh flair.

Enjoy and let me know if you try it. I will be featuring this recipe at one of my taste events coming up soon if you want to try it out before you make it! :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Homemade Goodies!

When all else fails, what can a girl do?  Make Cookies!!!!!! And Ice Cream of course!!!!

Well that's what this girl does anyways, and I can't think of anything else in this world that marries my passions more poetically than taking my creativity into the kitchen and combining my knowledge and love for whole food ingredients, vegetarianism, cooking and nutrition.  I am thankful for the gifts God has given me, and to be able to share them with my family and friends.

I am a creative modifier, definition being that if it is not a 100% original recipe of my own than it means that I may have looked at another recipe for ingredient portion advice- but then I completely change it up by using my own ingredients.   Its all apart of my learning process and usually it works out for me.  The flops come on the days when I am either PMSing or irritable.  I have had some pretty yucky hummus batches and have thrown away a loaf of bread or two on those particularly moody days.

This past week was a little bit tougher than usual.  As a family we four all arrived home after spending ten heavenly days in a far away land known as Florida.  We left short sleeved sunny days and flip flopped sandy beaches to return to prickly snow bunkers and icy arctic blasts of subzero tempered air.  Within one day we went from complete relief of real world responsibilities to full recognition of the weight of ALL our responsibilities and even the possible denial of a thoughtful request.  It was a lot to take in all at once but three days later we are feeling more balanced again and back to reality.  All that being said, when we finished dinner tonight all four of us agreed that a treat was in order for all.  So Riley an I discussed our options and decided on a peanut butter theme for our creations this evening- it was a good choice indeed and thankfully a healthy balanced mood had returned after a tough few days and was within me for the evening!

First we mixed the dough for our Vegan Gluten free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, then while our cookies baked we blended the batter for our Vegan Peanut Butter Maple Syrup Ice Cream and poured it into the ice cream maker.  Sharing my passions with my son Riley made the experience in the kitchen that much more special- I think he likes the taste testing part more than anything else- we make a good little team, him and I.  

If you would like the recipe, please feel free to write me and ask for it- I am beginning to gather my original recipes together for a future book so I may be a little more selective with what I share, but I am always looking for truthful taste testers  and recipe testers too!  Soon I will be inviting friends and family over for taste testing parties and cooking classes so I can get some feedback- if you are intereste din being involved please let me know!  xoxo for now please stay tuned......

How I Handle Bumps in the Road

A verse that showed up on my Daily Bible Verse on Facebook:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.   Romans 12:2

The word of God breathes out and I breathe in- completely wrecked by how the spirit of God can communicate perfect soul penetrating words from the scriptures.  Everything comes into focus, clarity of mind, revelations of infinite proportions, and once again I have no doubt that there is a plan for my life.  All I have to do is trust, heighten my level of faith and fearlessly step forward.  There are a thousand opportunities in front of me now, and awakening to this truth gives me a deep sense of hope.  A transformation has taken place in my heart and mind and I am no longer going to worry about what lies ahead, but take each step forward confidently- knowing that if I ask for guidance- it may not come in the form I expect, but my plea will be heard and answered.

There has been an uncertainty placed before me recently this week and it was one that initially made me very sad.  Thankfully that way of thinking is like a bacteria to my human system.  Damaging emotions detected and then blasted with antibodies to remove and replace with healthy emotions once again.  My optimistic tendencies quickly turned my frown upside down and once again hope was gently restored.  Yet, I still questioned, "what am I to do now?"  

Administering my own therapy techniques I went to my husband first- who most dependably reassured me that everything was gonna be alright.  Somehow his hugs and loving way that he shares his compassion are always enough to start me back out on the right track towards persevering a bump in the road.  Next I called my Mom.  I mean isn't that something we all instinctively do anyways?  Like Sunshine and water to a plant, her careful  listening and understanding agreements just nourished me on my journey towards achieving a brighter outlook. 

What I should have done first comes to me now in hindsight: "Give it to God babe- he has a plan, and why do you always think you have to control everything."  Oh how I am thankful for Tod and my Mom though- they are definitely the catalyst in this new journey I have encountered.  Clarity of purpose, unafraid of the unknown, ready to boldly shed my scales of conformity and reveal a new self- Here we go again, but now I am ready, excited for all the challenges and rewards that await me in the future.  Bring on those crazy bumps in the road, my proverbial suspension is tough enough to handle it!  

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Foods

We all have to eat to live- it is essential to our survival. When we are younger we rely on our parents to provide the ingredients to sustain our lives. It is usually at this time when we discover some of our most favorite foods- you know the ones that even to this day when you sense them- an instant memory of happiness blossoms and you just have to find it and eat it. What I also find interesting though is that heir are new tastes we develop as we get older too. My example of this is tomatoes. I could never understand how anyone could enjoy the taste of a juicy tomato unless it was in a spaghetti sauce, ketchup or salsa- but now- Ah yes- heaven has more recently become a vine ripened ruby red sphere, and I can’t believe I never appreciated a tomatoes delicious flavor until later in my life. 

So what I would love to know is what are your absolute favorite foods. If you could have any food in the world what would you choose? One benefit to being an adult is we have the ability to eat whatever we want- or make what we want- and savor it to our hearts content. I am a self-proclaimed, foodie, food-a-holic, food lover- and I don’t plan on changing this status anytime soon. As I learn and prepare myself to become a Registered Dietitian I am curious to learn what other people love and take pleasure in eating. 

So please share with me and post your top ten most favorite foods or drinks-(yes I’ll let coffee count as food I guess) There are no rules to this thing and if you even have time to tell me why I would love to know that too. At the end of the list I think it would be fun to name the single food or drink that you think is disgusting, or maybe you tried it and know you can live without it. When you are done- if you want to post the note to other friends and learn about their favorites too then go for it. I know not everyone is as passionate about food as I am but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have favorites- and maybe we will discover some new favorite cuisine as we read each others list. 

Eat well and prosper my friends!

Here is my top ten - which only will scratch the surface of my favorites:
1. Sweet potatoes. They can be in any form and I am in love. Baked, oven fries, in bread, in soup, even sweet potato burgers. As a treat sometimes I can hardly resist ordering sweet potato fries at Firefly Restaurant- sooo yummy!

2. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I am not aloud to make them anymore because I will consume more batter than should ever be allowed. This is the only food that can strip me of all my willpower. (Don’t worry I make then eggless and they are AWESOME!)

3. Blueberries. My mom used to call me the Blueberry kid since my birthday is in August when blueberries are ripe for picking. I love to freeze blueberries and then eat them like candy!  And the health properties are endless which makes them even more awesome!

4. Smoothies. Frozen Fruit, vegetable, soy milk, the icier the better. I love to concoct new and exciting flavor combinations all the time. My newest favorite is a strawberry banana carrot smoothie, or peach, flax, vanilla and cinnamon. I put things like bok choy and kale in there too, the kids never notice and it is another great way to get your greens!

5. Celery with Peanutbutter. I could seriously eat this every day and be happy. Apples with peanutbutter is a close second in this category for sure. This would be my go to snack everytime.

6. Avocados are amazing and I love them. I just love them.

7. Ginger. Used to not be so fond of this flavor- or maybe I just didn’t understand it- Now I wish I could put ginger in everything- As a treat I love Ginger spice cookies!

8. Rice Pilaf. This is a family tradition and no one makes it better than my Mom. I love the smell of it cooking- I love it reheated with a little pepper on top. I love that my kids love it just as much as I did when I was their age.

9. Ice Cream. I used to work at Wares Brothers for anyone that didn’t know and loved being able to create my own mixtures of sundaes and flurries.  I don’t eat dairy anymore- so I have started to make my own great alternative ice cream at home with the ice cream maker that Tod and the kids got me for Christmas. It is a ton of fun and our favorite so far was a chocolate rice ice cream that was out of this world! I always challenge myself to come up with healthier versions of everything we eat and this category has been the most fun to experiment with.

10. I am sorry but for me ten is not enough so for this last one I am going to say this: If it is a green and growing, a sun loving plant that is safe to eat then I am most likely in love- In its fresh unprocessed whole form though- this includes especially peppers, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, kale, bok choy, zucchini, raspberries, blackberries, pears, cherries and then list goes on into infinity…..  Oh and Quinoa!!!!  I can't leave that one out because I just think it is the coolest grain ever and so healthy as an added bonus! 

The Food I could live without:
The one food that I can live without most obviously for anyone that knows me is any animal/animal byproduct.  The more I learn about being a compassionate eater, it only makes sense to me. I have lived more happily and healthily this past year since I made the choice to eliminate this source of what I don't even consider food anymore.  While I understand that this choice might not seem to be for everyone, I challenge people to take a deeper look at what animal food sources really are and where most of them come from.  Having such a deep love for animals as I have had my entire life, and then stripping away the desensitization of many years of just eating what I was taught was OK- well it comes down once again to how I cannot ignore what I know.  What I know is that my new truth says it seems completely unfair that someone should suffer for my own eating pleasure.  Just watch any wildlife show or right out your back window if you have a yard and you will see that animals have the same capacity as we humans do with a will to want to live.  In nature they only take what they need to survive, and they only produce as much as is needed to nurture their own babies.  I don't believe that God put animals on this earth for our own pleasure, other than the happiness they bring when witnessing their own curiosities and silly frolicking. I mean isn't that why we have pets, the simple joy that they bring to our families and lives?  Farm animals only exist because humans chose to put them there, and I think if they had a choice most of them would not choose the type of service they have been forced into doing or dying for.  Please understand that I have been on the other side of the coin and that I didn't always think this way.  There was a point  in my life when I would have proudly called myself a "meatatarian."  The thought makes me shutter just a little now, but that is OK because it is a part of who I am and what helps me understand why people make the choices that they do.  I am in no way perfect either, but I only try my best to live my truth and share my truth with anyone who asks.  

A Stellar life includes standing up for what you believe in and not being afraid to be a shining beacon of love and compassion.  Be Bold, Be strong, and smile- and in the words of Ghandi: Be the change you want to see in the world.
xoxo- Stephie

Monday, February 16, 2009


I was finding my self very discouraged this morning, but like most times when this happens to me I am able to either move on and let it go, or I decide to do something about it- In the case of the later- my discouragement usually turns into a passionate crusade to come up with a solution that helps me manage my feelings and determine how I can learn something new, possibly make a difference and move forward.  All of these thought processes were traveling around and around in my mind this morning before I finally said aloud: "Enough!!"  I turned my ipod off, which was playing a podcast that I truly enjoy and love (Vegetarian Food for Thought) and turned on the radio.  What usually happens when I make this electronics switch from the transmitting ipod to the car radio is a volume difference which makes the car radio very loud if I don't catch it right away.  BOOM- The first words of the song that happened to be playing at the switch were Steven Curtis Chapman's - "So la, la, la, la, live out loud" and instantly I knew that those lyrics were my answer.  As much as I have come to realize one of God's loving ways of communicating with me is through music- it still wonderfully takes me by surprise every time, and this morning was no exception.

You see the thing that I was struggling with so badly this morning was "why can't I just live my truth?"   -My truths, because there is more than one I am struggling with.  I was finding myself in a place where I completely know exactly what I should do, but no matter how much I say I don't care what people think- I was afraid.  I was afraid that while trying to not be disrespectful, or in that one moment when I just want to fit in that I would abandon what is truly most important to me.  Notice that I used the word "was" in the last two statements.  I Do know better than to let this mentality take over.  The hope which was so beautifully delivered in the message of that song this morning just reminded me that this world is so much bigger than me, but I still have the opportunity to talk, walk, live and be what I know is true in my heart.  The people in my life- the ones that mean the most to me- well I have faith that they will accept me no matter what.  They may not always agree with me, but they don't have to.  I shouldn't be afraid to be me, EVER, and starting right this very moment I, Stephanie Lee Sheffer am making a promise to myself To Have No Fear of standing up for what I believe in.  

So what do I "believe in" you might ask?  Well... I invite you to ask me sometime.  If you want to hear a testimony about life transformations, with happy and healthy discoveries for a joyful existence- I am always happy to share- and I would love to hear your story too.  Are you holding back something in your own life- for fear of the unknown?  I am someone who would rather be brave and uncover what is real, than not know or be ignorant- I always say KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and with that comes responsibility- because you should not ignore what you know- ever!  It would be too much of an injustice to your heart and soul to hold yourself back on anything that really moves you.

A Stellar Life begins when we decide to be thankful for each new day, and also when we practice joy, discovering happiness in the wonderful treasures of our families, friendships, and the unconditional love of God.  Be bold, be strong and smile- And Remember one of my favorite quotes: "Be the change you want to see in the world!"  

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Food Lover's Dream Valentine

This has got to be one of the most thoughtful Valentines I have ever received from my family.  I had been out with some girlfriends earlier in the day, while my Handsome Husband Tod took the kids out ice fishing.  I arrived home before they did and went straight to my studying for a big Nutrition class exam I had to take the next day.  About an hour later I went out to the kitchen to get something to drink and noticed this heart shaped box on the table.  Tod and the kids had gone to Oryana (our Local Food Co-op) and filled this box with all kinds of yummy, organic treats.  Dried fruits, nuts, granola and carob chips (my favorite)!  

I guess the reason that this meant so much to me is that it was so wonderful to see my family embrace all the details about food I am so concerned about.  They took a holiday tradition and made it even more special by not only making it healthier, but personal and unique- ultimately highlighting what they know is most important to me!  I feel so special and loved.  This is truly the best Valentine ever!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Deciding What Works Best for You, but Respecting The Choices of Others

Tod and I making Christmas Breakfast for Family
(I made vegan (egg and milkless) pancakes that everyone liked)

The following is a posting I did for a discussion in my Nutrition class. The question was related to what is a better choice: A Plant Based diet or an Animal- based diet, and would I ever choose a vegetarian diet. I held back a lot of my views about the treatment of animals, but tried to answer the question in a way that addressed a lot of the classmates who had posted before me. I was very frustrated in reading a lot of their responses, because they were very negative about vegetarians and so much of what they wrote to me seemed ignorant. Instead of getting upset though it taught me that we all need to be careful when we are making statements about topics we do not know a lot about. It can be so easy to form an opinion without having all the facts, but I think that it only limits us in our ability to explore and learn new things if we just always believe everything we are told. We should question where our information is coming from- could there be a better way to do what we have always just done? For some that might be a scary question to answer- it may just take us out of our comfort zone- but if it means a better way to live then why wouldn't we want to explore new options? So with all that being said, please know that I am in no way perfect when it comes to making the best choices for a balanced healthy diet- I have my days and binges just like everyone else- but I think it stands to be noted that I have not given up even when it does get a little bit tough. Do the best you can, that is all we ever need to really try to do.  

Stellar Nutrition starts with beautiful curiosity, a wanting that comes from within to do something good for yourself. Live, Learn, Discover and Enjoy your Life Deliciously!

I have a really hard time with putting myself or other people into a dietary label or category based on what we eat. There are so many ways to achieve a well-balanced diet and it is always going to be a personal opinion on what is the best way to survive nutritionally. As some of you have mentioned, the term flexitarian is probably an adjective that would most easily describe what most people strive for in regards to their diets. That being said, and to answer the discussion question: In my opinion a Plant- Centered diet is more healthful and compassionate than an animal-centered diet. The essential nutrients that we must consume in order to be healthy- this includes all amino acids can be obtained from a diet rich in plants, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc.... The only reason I can imagine that anyone would believe that eating this way (vegetarian) would be harder is because we have been led to believe the only way we can get certain nutrients is by concentrating on certain products or choosing foods that have been enriched with vitamins and minerals, known as processed foods. Fresh meat is just as processed as a box of Mac and cheese, when you consider all that went into raising that animal- including antibiotics, and a regimented diet for that animal- enriched with nutrients in order to be passed on to the humans that eat it.
I can understand how it would seem impossible to eliminate certain staples like animal products and byproducts from your diet just to convert to a vegetarian lifestyle. When someone does not have the knowledge behind making a significant change- especially in their dietary intake- I think there is a lot more reason for concern and their health. Any time you make a change- your body, your cells are affected in a way that they must adjust to receiving new energy sources- it is much like riding a bike for the first time- where you are training your body to do something new and different. It is tough at first but after much practice it becomes second nature, easy, and in regard to choosing to eat a plant-based diet you are able to sustain yourself just the same without feeling like you are lacking or deficient. It is so important to have researched your new choice and know what will help you be successful though.
When it comes to nutritional information, please be weary of the source. It makes sense that the dairy and meat industry, even the United Soybean Board would be touting their products are the best way to get protein- its their business to sell their product. Who's best interests do you think they have in mind- as long as their product sells? Yes, everything in moderation is still the key here no matter what dietary label you assume to live under.

A whole foods, mostly raw vegetarian diet is the one that I choose, and I could go on for hours why I have made this choice, but mostly it comes down to the fact that I feel the healthiest and happiest in this type of lifestyle. I have also spent a lot of time researching, wading through all types of information, recipes and podcasts. I know that this isn't always ideal for everyone, and I believe that I am successful in this diet mostly because it is important to me to know the sources of my foods and to have a well balanced diet. I have a family to support nutritionally, and so I want to make sure I am giving them the best start possible. We are all thriving, and my kids love the fact that our fast food comes from the supermarket, or right off the tree- just as easily as going through a drive thru at Burger KIng. It just takes a little creativity and planning ahead sometimes, but our bodies are accustomed to this way of eating and we enjoy it!