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!