Tortilla Soup

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Hello March!
Tomorrow, March 2nd, begins PWC’s Healthy Lifestyle Challenge!!!! Yay! We have a wonderful group of people from around the world who have joined the Challenge! I’m so excited to have found kindred spirits who are willing to work just as hard as me towards such a worthy goal of improving our lifestyle.

Tortila Soup

For those of you who haven’t heard of PWC’s Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, please visit the hyperlink. Until then, here’s a brief recap:

The Challenge will last 4 weeks beginning tomorrow, Monday, March 2, 2015. All are welcome to participate.

Daily progress and accountability will be measured by a point system. A perfect day will consist of 100 points. You won’t be expected to get a perfect score of 100 points each day (most of us rarely do), but the goal to do so is motivating and acts as an incentive to earn as many points as possible.

Tortila Soup

To make it easier for participants to support, motivate, get to know, and communicate with one another, Challengers have been divided into four fabulous teams named Earth, Wind, Fire and Rain. Accountability is the name of the game, meaning participants will enter their daily points on a web-based master spreadsheet that will calculate scores in real time.

Participants, particularly those on the same teams, will regularly communicate with one another for support and encouragement. Communication among fellow Challengers is one of the best parts of the Challenge!

The scorekeeping will be based on an honor system—integrity is essential. A perfect day includes the accumulation of points in the following categories:

10 points: Water
10 points: Communication
20 points: Sleep
20 points: Physical Activity
40 points: Eating Habits
100 points total, daily

Please refer to the post, Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, to see how participants are to earn and lose (due to penalties) points in each category. Opportunities to earn bonus points will be announced weekly on the blog!

If you’re interested in joining, there’s still some time! To let me know, please leave a comment below with your email address, or contact me directly at petitworldcitizen@gmail.com.

For those who have already contacted me to join, you should have received several emails from me already. If you haven’t, please contact me asap!

Finally, for those of you who have joined and are already set to begin the Challenge tomorrow, you have less than 24 hours to eat a “forbidden on the Challenge” treat!! If you have an urge to have any white sugar/white flour products, get it out of your system now! It’s less than 12 hours to Challenge time!!!!!

Tortilla Soup
This white corn tortilla soup is so simple to make yet full of fabulous flavor! It’s also quite versatile. You can choose from a variety of toppings to garnish, and you can cook it with or without black beans. We like it with a few toppings as they give added flavor and texture. Also, like many soups, leftovers of this soup are even better the next day!

Serves 6

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 five-inch (or two 7-inch) corn tortillas, plus more for garnish cut into 1-inch squares
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, diced
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1½ white corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 1½ pounds fresh tomatoes in season)
2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
¼ ground white pepper
¼-½ chili powder
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1½ cups cooked black beans (optional)
corn tortillas, cut in strips and baked*, for garnish (optional)
blue corn tortilla chips, for garnish (optional)
fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
avocados, for garnish (optional)
lime wedges, to serve

In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté tortilla squares in oil until golden and slightly crisp. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and jalapenos. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add half of the corn kernels (the other half will be added at the end) and tomato paste and stir. Add tomatoes, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, broth and water. Bring the soup to a low boil. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or high speed blender, blend soup into the consistency of a coarse purée. Return soup to the pot and add the black beans, if using, and reserved corn kernels. Bring the soup to a low boil again. If you like, you can adjust the consistency, adding more water or broth if you find it too thick. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve and garnish with tortilla chips, scallions, cilantro and/or avocados. Sprinkle with freshly ground white pepper and serve with a splash of fresh lime juice! So yummy!

* for baked tortilla garnish, preheat oven to 350F. Cut tortilla into small strips. Place on a parchment lined baking pan and bake until crispy, about 5-7 minutes.

Notes: The photos above show the soup served with various toppings and one bowl contains the soup mixed with black beans.

Tortila Soup

Ginger Almond Hemp Granola

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Do you know who are your friends? I’m not talking about social media “friends” you barely know, but real friends who know and care for you. Friends who are willing to listen, stand by you, and offer support when you need it most.

Today we revisit the last of the lessons from the Blue Zones. We’ve been reviewing them in preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge.The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Lesson Nine: Right Tribe
One of the most powerful things you can do to change your lifestyle for the better is to surround yourself with a strong social network—an inner circle of friends—that share similar values. Social connectedness is an integral part of life in each of the five Blue Zones. For example, Okinawans have moais—which roughly are social support groups. Originally created out of financial necessity, moais today are more of a vehicle for companionship. In communities where moais exist, young Okinawan children are put into small groups with other children with whom they share common interests or circumstances. The moai stays together throughout its members’ lives. They walk together, talk together, garden together, eat together, and share life’s joys and difficult experiences together. These moai communities are not made up of folks you call on just when something goes wrong. As their relationships have been in place for decades, moai members provide each other with lifelong support. Amazing.

Research supports the health benefits of surrounding yourself with the right tribe. Strong ties with friends, relatives, a spouse, club membership, and volunteerism all have an impact on how well people age. Members of longevity cultures often work and socialize with each other as this reinforces cultural behaviors. It’s much easier to adopt good habits when those around you are already practicing them.

Some speculate that a superior social network is one of the reasons why women live longer than men. Women tend to have stronger and better systems of support. They’re much more engaged with and helpful to each other and more willing to express their feelings.

Interestingly, Japanese women tend to live 8 percent longer than American women and their moai may very well be one of the reasons why. Chronic stress takes its toll on overall health and those who have an ingrained mechanism to shed stress daily, with friends and family, seem to fare better and longer.

Think about your friends and family. Reflect on the true meaning of friendship and identify your inner circle. Create your moai and reap the benefits of having a social network you can count on and who can also count on you. It’s much easier to go through life knowing there is a safety net of friends and family you love and who love you.

Tips and strategies to build your inner circle of your personal Blue Zone
Identify your inner circle
Know the people who reinforce the right habits, people who understand or live by Blue Zone secrets.

Be likable
This may seem like common sense, but to many it is not. Of the centenarians interviewed, none were grumpy. Elderly who are likable are more likely to have a social network, frequent visitors, and de facto caregivers. They seem to experience less stress and live purposeful lives.

Create time together
Spend at least 30 minutes a day with members of your inner circle. Establish a regular time to meet or share a meal together. Building a strong friendship takes time and effort, but it is an investment that can lead to not only added years, but also happier, more fulfilled years of life.

One to nine, our journey through lessons from the Blue Zones is finished. However, your quest to discover the secrets to longevity need not end here. Although a true fountain of youth does not spring from the ground, it has come to us through centuries of trial and error. How we use the wisdom and information from healthy and happy centenarians living in Blue Zones is up us, the choice is ours.

I’m happy our Moai for the upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge is growing! We’ll be supporting each other to start and reinforce healthy lifestyle behaviors. It’s much easier to adopt good habits when you have a “moai” to encourage you! Won’t you join us?

Ginger Almond Hemp GranolaI hesitated to share this recipe with you today because it’s only been a few weeks since I shared recipes for my Hazelnut Buckwheat and Superfood Green-ola granola bars. Quite a bit of granola happening in my kitchen. I’ve been in love with granola lately. I’ve been eating the stuff for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner!!! Yes, I know, it sounds crazy. I wasn’t planning on sharing that bit of my craziness, but then I read, I know a Mama Who, a recent post from the blog Dash and Della. The post has been circulating on Facebook the past few days and found it’s way to me yesterday evening, just before I was about to eat another bowl of granola for dinner! As soon as I read it I knew I’d share this granola recipe with you, just after I ate another bowl of it for breakfast this morning!

Feel free to alter this recipe as you wish. Each time I’ve made it I’ve added more or less oats, buckwheat, ginger, hemp seeds, sweeteners, coconut oil, etc. This batch does not make a huge portion. Try it out, if you like it, you can always double the recipe and save the rest in an airtight container.

Ginger Almond Hemp Granola
Makes about 5 cups

1 cup/100 grams rolled oats (use gluten free, if preferred)
1/2 cup/100 grams buckwheat groats
1/2 cup/ 60 grams sliced almonds
1/2 cup/70 grams hemp seeds
1/2 cup/30 grams coconut flakes
1/4 cup/35 grams sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons/25 grams pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon/10 grams flax seeds (I used golden and brown)
1 tablespoon/10 grams sesame seeds
1/4 cup/40 grams coconut sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the coconut oil and maple syrup. Pour into the dry ingredients. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, toss until well incorporated.

Spread to a 1/2-inch thickness onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Halfway through, toss the granola in order for it to bake evenly. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan.

Ginger Almond Hemp Granola

Raw Chocolate Orange-Cardamom Torte

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Nowadays, in many cultures, families are getting so busy that quality family time is becoming a rare commodity, if not a special treat. Although time for shared meals and activities is often hard to orchestrate as busy schedules make it difficult to get together, family time is an investment worth making. We spend most of our life making investments—education, professional development, activities/hobbies, etc. Why not invest equally or more in the lives of the people closest to us, our family?

In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting all nine lessons from the Blue Zones (BZ). The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Lesson Eight: Make Family a Priority
Successful centenarians tend to build their lives around family. It is their core. They marry, have children and consider familial duty, rituals and togetherness an intrinsic way of life. Zeal for family is evident throughout their whole life.

By the time they reach 100 years old and beyond, their lifelong devotion to their family is reciprocated by their children’s love and care of them. In four of the five Blue Zones, the younger generation welcomes the older generation into their homes and lovingly checks up on them regularly. For them, it’s a natural way of life. Studies show that elders who live with their children are less susceptible to disease, eat healthier diets, have lower levels of stress, and have a much lower incidence of serious accidents. They also are found to have sharper mental and social skills when living with family.

As I find ways to invest in my son’s life, I often think of rituals I want to establish in our home—meals together, holiday traditions, family vacations, weekend activities, daily routines, etc. As children thrive on rituals and enjoy repetition, every night either my husband or I read to our son as part of his bedtime routine. The other night however, I went in and sat with both of them. My son sat across both of us, his torso leaning against mine while his legs draped across my husband’s lap. The fact that both of us were there to read to him brought him so much joy that he looked at both of us and giggled in delight, as if he perhaps had arranged our little gathering. It’s not always possible for all of us to read together before his bedtime, but I thought perhaps as a family we should try to do it more regularly. An investment I’d like to try and make.

Strategies and tips to help put loved ones first
Put family first
Invest time and energy in your children, your spouse, and your parents. Play with your children and talk to them, nurture your marriage, and honor your parents. Unplug the electronics and spend quality time with each other. Successful families make it a point to spend quality time with one another.

Establish rituals
Make at least one family meal a day sacred and time to be together. Establish traditions and family routines.

Showcase family
Create a space in your home to display photos of family—deceased loved ones, parents, and children. Take annual family photos and display them in progression. Photos serve as a constant reminder that we are not alone and instead connected to something bigger—family.

Get closer
If you live in a large house, consider living in a smaller house to create an environment of togetherness or establish one room where family members gather daily. It’s easier for families to bond in smaller spaces.

I’m so excited!! Our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge starts next week!!! Won’t you join me!!

Raw Chocolate Orange-Cardamom Torte

Chocolate. Check! Orange. Check! Cardamom. Check! Delicious, vegan and gluten free. Check! Check! Check! After my successful batch of Chocolate Orange-Cardamom Cookies, I thought I’d use the same delicious flavor combination in a raw cake/torte. I hope you like it!

Raw Chocolate Orange-Cardamom Torte
Adapted from Blender Girl

Crust
½ cup raw whole almonds, hazelnuts, pecans (or a mixture)
4-6 Medjool dates, pitted
¼ cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Filling
½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup raw agave nectar
¼ cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least two hours
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
pinch of sea salt
chocolate shavings, to garnish (optional) (use vegan chocolate if preferred)
orange zest, to garnish (optional)
sliced almonds, to garnish (optional)

To make the crust, grease a 6- or 7-inch springform pan with coconut oil.

Put the nuts, dates, and cacao powder into your food processor and process until well combined and the mixture forms a dough. If necessary, add a little coconut oil to help it bind. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and set aside.

Make the filling. Put all of the ingredients into a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, and blend until rich and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. To achieve the smoothest filling, stop the machine periodically and scrape down the sides of the container.

Pour the filling into the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze the torte for at least 8 hours.

Transfer the pan from the freezer to the refrigerator at least 1½ hours before serving. Remove the sides of the springform pan and then cut the torte into slices with a very sharp knife.

Note: This filling will melt if left out at room temperature. I’ve made this with and without cacao powder in the crust. In the photos above, I did not include it. The cacao powder darkens the crust, which looks quite nice. However, the cacao flavor can overpower the flavor of the dates.

Freekah with Sundried Tomatoes and Almonds

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Today we explore the seventh lesson from centenarians living in the Blue Zones, unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also to a better quality of life. In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones (BZ). The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Lesson Seven: Belong
Healthy centenarians in the Blue Zones belong to and participate in a spiritual community. They have faith.

The simple act of worship appears to be one of those powerful habits that seem to improve your chances of adding a few more quality years to your life. Studies show that attending religious services—even as infrequently as once a month—may make a difference in how long a person lives. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu.

If you don’t subscribe to any specific religion, or if you haven’t had a positive experience with religion, you may want to explore a belief that is not based on strict dogma. Belonging to a religious community helps one develop large and meaningful social networks. This may help some to have a higher self-esteem and self worth as religion can often encourage positive expectations, which can improve heath.

When I first read about this lesson form the Blue Zones I thought about my aunt who is 93 years old. She has always been one of those active and elegant women who always looks put together–hair nicely coiffed, nails manicured and clothing quite chic. As she has gotten older, she has quite naturally slowed down. She doesn’t entertain guests or go out as often, but one activity that is like her life-line is going to church at the same time every week. I think it makes her happy to not only have the weekly continuity to participate, but also to experience the familiarity of her spiritual community.

People who pay attention to their spiritual side often have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and their immune system seems to be a little stronger. The faithful seem to be both healthier and happier.

Tips and strategies to strengthen your spiritual dimension
Be more involved
Find a spiritual community where you can belong. If you already belong to a religious community, find ways to be more actively involved. For example, volunteering and/or joining a choir.

Explore new tradition
If you do not have a particular religious faith, try a faith community. Explore your options including the faith communities listed above and other non-traditional communities

Keep an open mind

Next post: Lesson number eight from the Blue Zones. Also, Our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge begins next week!!! Won’t you join me? I really hope you do!!!

Freekah with Sundried Tomatoes and Almonds

Freekah with Sundried Tomatoes and Almonds
Freekeh is a whole grain food that cooks quickly and tastes delicious. Also known as farik or frikeh, freekah is the name for roasted young wheat, and is a traditional food of the Middle East and Northeastern Africa.

Serves 4

1 cup cracked freekah
2 cups water
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, chopped
1/3 cup pitted olives, sliced (I used a mix of Greek olives)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon non-pareil capers
zest of half an orange
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons, sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Add 2 cups of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add freekah and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooked freekah with tomatoes, olives, onions, oil, capers and orange zest. Toss and season well with salt and pepper. This dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

PWC’s Healthy Lifestyle Challenge

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Very little in life that is worth having comes easy, would you agree? A great marriage; knowledge or mastery of an art or skill; a happy home; good friendships, raising well-rounded children; and more, all require commitment and sustained efforts over a long period of time. Self-discipine and the practice of a healthy lifestyle are no different. The truth is, self-discipline is a muscle that most of us (myself included!) need help to strengthen through practice everyday, no matter what stage or season of life.

So today I’m really excited to finally share details about the awesome Healthy Lifestyle Challenge I have lined up for March! I’ve been planning and looking forward to this for weeks!!! I think the plan I’ve come up with is flexible while still being what it’s meant to be, a CHALLENGE! Since it will only be for 4 weeks, we will do some things that may seem a bit drastic, but I promise, WHEN (not if) you stick with it, you will feel results in many areas of your life. So, here we go…ready to join me in this Lifestyle Challenge? If so, please RSVP in a comment below with your email address and, if you like, please include your goal (looking for a new challenge, weight loss, practicing better habit, etc.) for joining this challenge! For example, my goals are to incorporate healthier eating habits into my lifestyle and to lose, ahem, about 6 pounds! Yep, it’s coming off!

Here’s how the Challenge will work:
We will measure our success by a point system. A perfect day will consist of 100 points. You won’t have to get a perfect score of 100 points each day (most of us rarely do), but it’s a goal that can act as an incentive to motivate us to reach as many points as possible.

Accountability is the name of the game, meaning you’ll need to track your daily scores and communicate with fellow challengers. The Challenge will last 4 weeks beginning on Monday March 2, 2015.

Hummus

Keeping Score
A perfect day is worth 100 points. The scorekeeping is based on an honor system—integrity is essential. A perfect day includes the accumulation of the following points:

10 points: Water
10 points: Communication
20 points: Sleep
20 points: Physical Activity
40 points: Eating Habits
100 points total, daily

Earning Points
Water (10 points)
You will earn your water points by drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces of water per day. Prepare to use the bathroom often!

Communication (10 points)
You will earn your communication points by checking in and touching base with at least one other fellow challenger each day. You can either post a comment on the blog and/or get in contact with other challengers daily—phone calls, e-mails, and text messages count. This is one of the best parts of being in a Challenge—meeting and supporting fellow challengers! As soon as I know the number of participants, we’ll plan on how we can all communicate either by email, in person or vide chat. It’s going to be fun!

Sleep (20 points)
You will earn your sleep points by sleeping (or being in bed trying to sleep if you have sleep problems) for a minimum of seven hours a night.

Physical Activity (20 points)
You will earn your physical activity points by engaging in any form of exercise for at least 20 minutes per day. You can choose to incorporate physical activity in your day through brisk walking, serious gardening, swimming, cardio, weight training, etc. Whatever the activity, you should try to challenge yourself! You may direct your exercise for your own body, but your choice of exercise must be legitimate. No, “I ran around while I chased my toddler or cleaned my house and got sweaty”, is not legitimate. If you would question someone else for considering it as exercise, don’t count it yourself.

Eating Habits (40 points, plus possible 10 point bonus)
The most daily points are allocated towards eating habits because such habits and nutrition play a significant role in our overall health and well-being. As each person has varying goals and dietary needs, I’ve decided that you can choose to follow your preferred diet style, (vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, paleo, gluten-free, calorie-counting, etc.), but do so in a way that incorporates valuable lessons from the Blue Zones. That is, eat plant-based whole foods and not too much. You will earn your eating habits points by doing the following:

  • Eat a balanced (including protein, carbohydrate and fat) breakfast within an hour of waking. An early breakfast helps maintain circadian rhythm, keep your insulin and blood sugar in check, and boost your metabolism. If you wait too long to eat in the morning, you may be more likely to choose high-calorie, low-nutrient foods out of hunger.
  • Eat at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at every meal.
  • Contain your eating to 12 hours a day, or less. See article.
  • Practice Hara Hachi Bu. That is, eat only until you’re 80% full. You can actually say this before each meal to remind yourself to not stuff yourself at mealtimes.
  • Eat meals free of distractions (electronic devices, magazines, books, etc.), especially if and when eating alone. The first few times you eat alone this way, you might feel uncomfortable. You’ll want to reach for your phone, go to your computer, grab a magazine, or something, anything…. This will be the challenge, don’t give in!!! Take a break to eat mindfully. With a little practice, you’ll realize how nice and enjoyable it is to savor your food and cut distractions at mealtimes.

When you accomplish all five eating habits in one day, you will earn a bonus of 10 points (50 points total, instead of 40, for Eating Habits). Otherwise, to earn the full 40 points, you should complete 4 of the 5 habits listed.

Hummus

Update: Partial points cannot be earned per category. For example, you must drink all your water to earn 10 points; you must be in bed at least 7 hours to earn 20 points;  etc. Points for Eating Habits is a bit different in that there are five tasks to complete. However, you only need to do four of the five to earn 40 points. If you do all five in one day, you will earn 40 points, plus a bonus of 10 points. If you only complete 3 of the 5, you receive zero points. It’s a Challenge…. It might be challenging, but it’s possible! 

Bonus Points
Throughout the Challenge, I will post weekly challenges that will provide bonus points and incentive to keep going!

Penalties
As white flour and white sugar are basically poor nutrition choices for anyone, there will be a 5-point penalty for the consumption of white flour and sweet treats during the Challenge. You will be allowed one day off (see exemptions below). Watch this one my friends! You will need to become a label reader if you eat a lot of packaged food. Anything with over 5 grams of added sugars is considered a “sweet treat” (naturally occurring sugars, like fruit or milk don’t count as penalties for this Challenge). Nearly all bars (even the “healthy” ones), canned fruit, cereals, even sauces contain added sugar. This really adds up to our over consumption of sugar. This is a strict rule for the Challenge. Avoiding sugar and flour will help steer your food choices naturally toward whole and nutritious food options, as well as teach your body to start burning fats as a stable source of energy rather than carbohydrates.

This will likely be one of the hardest parts of the Challenge for many of us at first, but you will soon start to see and feel the benefits QUICKLY!

Exceptions – THE WEEKLY DAY OFF
Each week, each player gets one day off from each of the rules! Days off may not be saved and/or carried over into later weeks. Your day off includes a respite from all the rules. This respite may be spread throughout the week (i.e., Monday can be your water day off, Tuesday you go out to dinner and eat dessert, stayed up too late Friday night, etc.; or you can take one whole day off from everything.)

This means, a perfect weekly score will total 600 points per week.

Eligibility
There are no eligibility limitations; making healthy choices is for everyone. All are welcome to join! However, I’d recommend you consult with a physician before starting any exercise or weight-loss program.

You may still have questions. If so, that’s great! Send them to me in a comment below! And please, RSVP (in a comment below or email me at petitworldcitizen@gmail.com) with your email address to let me know that you’re joining the growing list of awesome challengers no later than the suggested deadline, Thursday, February 26th, so that I can get an idea of who and how many people will join. Also, I will be communicating directly (off the blog) with challengers with more information about how will move forward as a group.

Are you excited?! I am!! Let’s do this! I’m looking forward to getting to know you better and participating in this Challenge with you!

xo, Martine

Hummus
Makes about 4 cups

1 cup/200 grams dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups water
3/4 cup/190 grams tahini paste
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup ice cold water

Some options for garnish
2-3 tablespoons, or more extra-vigin olive oil
chopped parsley
pine nuts sautéed in a little olive oil
capers
black olives
Spices: Za’atar, sumac, cumin, paprika, flaky sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper

After the garbanzo beans have soaked overnight, drain and place in a pot over medium heat and add baking soda. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add water and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook until beans are very tender, about 30-40 minutes. If necessary, skim off any foam that comes to the surface while cooking.

Drain the beans. Reserve a few beans for garnish, if you like. Process the rest in a food processor or high speed blender, like a Vitamix, until they become a thick paste. With the machine still going, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Slowly add cold water and process until very smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

Place hummus in a bowl(s). Garnish as you like with suggested options. Serve with pita bread, if you like.

Notes: When making hummus, there are so many ways you can adjust the flavor so you really have to make it a few times to know your preference. For example, some people like it with more tahini, lemon juice or garlic. Even I increase or decrease the amount of some of the ingredients each time I make it. This recipe is more or less a starting point and you can “doctor” it up with more or less tahini, lemon juice, garlic or salt. Also, to garnish, feel free to use spices and herbs, or serve alone. Either way, hummus is a yummy and healthy starter, side dish or snack!

Quinoa with Roasted Red and Golden Beets

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Ever feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done? There are emails to write, healthy recipes to try, the kitchen junk drawer to reorganize, gardening to do, books to read, rooms to tidy…and the list goes on. Sound familiar? Life can be hectic. We’ve got work, errands, kids, and more to keep us busy. With so much going on and so much to take care of, it’s important to remember to take time to slow down, cut the distractions, take care of ourselves and appreciate life’s precious moments.

Today we explore the sixth lesson from centenarians living in the Blue Zones, unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also to a better quality of life. In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones (BZ). The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Quinoa with Roasted red and Golden Beets

Lesson Six: Slow Down
Although their bodies naturally slow down due to age, Blue Zone centenarians know the importance of slowing down and appreciating life’s most precious moments that can often pass by much too quickly.

To be honest, I find this lesson the hardest of all the BZ lessons for me to put into practice. I love to multi-task. At any given moment I can easily be working on multiple projects at the same time. It both energizes and exhausts me. I like to think I’m being super-efficient, and oftentimes I am, but it often comes with a price. I’m usually rushing from one activity, project, appointment, etc. to another and honestly, I don’t always take time to stop and “smell the roses”.

Having a little one has helped me to put things into perspective. Watching him grow reminds me of the importance of slowing down, so not to miss all the precious moments life has to offer. He plays well on his own, but there are times when he asks me to sit down next to him while he plays, or to read a few more books with him, or to just snuggle on the sofa for a bit. It’s during times like those where I’m forced to slow down and be mindful of his need for quality time with me.

I’ve heard that people who make it to 100 years old often seem to exude a sense of sublime serenity. They’re aware of the importance of improving their lives through simplification and not only wise enough to know how to take it easy, but also have a keen understanding of limitations of the body. Whether I live to be 100 or not, I hope to start learning how better to slow down and develop a more refined and serene attentiveness to the people and things that are most important in my life. How about you? How easy (or hard) is it for you to slow down?

Quinoa with Roasted Red and Golden Beets

Tips and strategies to find a quiet space and slow down.
Minimize the noise
Reduce time spent with T.V., radio and the Internet. It can lessen the amount of aural clutter in your life. Most electronic entertainment just feeds mind chatter and works counter to the notion of slowing down.

Be early
Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to every appointment. This one practice minimizes the stress that arises from traffic, getting lost or underestimating travel time. It allows you time to slow down and focus before a meeting or event.

Practice yoga | meditation
Create a quiet space at home that is not too hot, to cold, too dark or too light. Make it a comfortable space. Establish a regular time to meditate and/or practice yoga everyday, no matter what—but don’t stress out on the days you cannot!

Finding time for our spiritual side can create the space to slow down. Practices like meditation and yoga can also give the mind a respite. Regular meditation can allow us to slow down our minds, ridding them of the incessant chatter in our heads. It focuses concentration and allows us to see the world as it really is, instead of how we imagine it to be.

Quinoa with Roasted Red and Golden Beets

Quinoa with Roasted Red and Golden Beets
At first I was planning to use my red and golden beets to make a hearty soup, perhaps with an interesting grain like kamut or wheat berries. Then, the idea of a warm and multicolored salad came to mind. Quinoa then seemed like the perfect companion. The mild sweetness of the beets pairs nicely with the earthy nuttiness of quinoa. I love the combination of color and texture. This sale is flavored with a simple dressing that contains a hint of sumac that gives it subtle and nice tangy kick.

Serves 4
1 pound red beets, washed well
1 pound golden beets, washed well
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup quinoa (I used white, red and black quinoa), rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup baby spinach
a few sprigs of fresh dill, plus some for garnish

Dressing
4 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sumac*
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Individually wrap beets in aluminum foil. Bake until tender when pierced with sharp knife, about 35 minutes to an hour. Cooking times depend on their size.

Meanwhile, make the quinoa. Heat olive oil in a saucepan, add cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, a little less than a minute. Add quinoa and stir for another minute or so. Add water, and salt (optional). Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

When the beets are ready, unwrap them and peel with a knife while still warm. Cut into quarters, 1-inch dice, and/or slices. In a large bowl, combine beets with quinoa, dill, spinach and dressing. Toss well and taste. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Garnish with more dill and serve.

*Sumac, a dark red powder, is a spice made from the crushed berries of a small Mediterranean tree. It’s traditionally used to give a sharp, acidic and tangy kick to salads, roasted meat or fish, and hummus.

Notes: If you prefer, you can make a little more of the dressing if you find you’d prefer it with more. Or, make more and serve it on the side. Also, if you find the dressing is not as sweet as you’d like it, add a little more maple syrup. As my toddler eats what we eat, I like to keep things mildly sweet.

Hazelnut Mashed Potatoes

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Why do you get up in the morning? Is your life filled with purpose? What does a purpose-filled life look like and mean, actually? If you ask a hundred people, you’ll probably get a hundred different answers. However, most people would probably agree that a life of purpose is a life worth living.

Today we explore the fifth lesson from centenarians living in the Blue Zones, unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also to a better quality of life.

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In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones. The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Lesson Five: Purpose Now
Centenarians living in Nicoya call it plan de vida and Okinawans call it ikigai. It’s a strong sense of purpose that translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Research studies have shown a strong correlation between having a sense of purpose and longevity. People who express a clear goal in life—something to get up for in the morning—live longer than those who do not. This sense of purpose may act as a buffer against stress and help reduce chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke.

Purpose can come from a job, a hobby, seeing children or grandchildren grow up, or being the primary caretaker of a pet. A new activity can also give one a sense of purpose. Learning a musical instrument or a new language provides the added bonus of helping to keep your brain active, engaged and sharp.

A portion of a life with a strong sense of purpose should be devoted to something that inspires you, energizes you, and pulls your forward. A sense of purpose can come from something that responds to your unique talent or touch and makes a difference in your life and/or the world around you.

A purposeful life would naturally bring more meaning, love, laughter, wonder and adventure to your days and, at the end of your journey, you would look back on a life of significance, rather than regret. That strong sense of purpose is not just something we experience, it’s something we create.

If you currently don’t have a sense of purpose, how about starting to create yours by answering the following question in a single, memorable sentence: Why do you get up in the morning?

Tips and strategies to realize your purpose
Take time to see the big picture
Craft a personal mission statement. Consider what you’re passionate about, how you enjoy using your talents, and what is truly important to you.

Find a partner
Find someone—a friend, a family member, a spouse, a colleague—to whom you can communicate your life purpose, along with a plan for realizing it. Be sure that person can help you honestly assess your plan and successes.

Be adventurous
Learn something new. Take up a new instrument or learn a new language. Both activities are among the most powerful things you can do to preserve your mental sharpness.

Next post: Lesson number six from Blue Zones centenarians. Won’t you join me? Until then, I wish you abundance and a beautiful life filled with a strong sense of purpose, love, and happiness.

Hazelnut Mashed Potatoes
Inspired by Saveurs Végétales

Serves 2-4

1½ pounds potatoes*
½ cup hazelnut milk (see recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
salt
freshly ground white or black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

Meanwhile, pour the milk into a 2-quart pot, add the bay leaves and thyme and set it over low-medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor (of high speed blender like a Vitamix) and add the hazelnut oil.

Purée the potato mixture until smooth. Season with salt and a few grinds of pepper, or to taste. Keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

* I made three variations using a different type of potato each time. I used Yukon Gold, Sweet Potatoes and Japanese Sweet Potatoes. I had several taste testers and each of them had different favorites of the three. So I’m presenting them all to you for you to try and try and decide which is your favorite.

Hazelnut Milk
225 grams or 2 cups hazelnuts, soaked overnight
4-5 cups water

After hazelnuts have soaked overnight, rinse and drain well. Place them in a high-speed blender (I use a Vitamix) with about 4 cups of fresh water and blend a few minutes. Add more water if necessary.

Using a nut milk bag or very fine cheesecloth. Strain milk and pour into an airtight container.

Notes: Your milk should keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. For other uses, you can flavor and sweeten your fresh hazelnut milk with vanilla, cinnamon, dates, etc.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

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The French poet Baudelaire said that if wine were to disappear from human production, there would be a void in human health and intelligence, and that would be worse than all the excesses it’s guilty of. Hmmm, would you agree?

Today we explore the fourth lesson from centenarians living in the Blue Zones, unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also a better quality of life.

In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones. The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

Soba Noodle Soup BowlLesson Four: Grapes of Life
A daily drink or two of wine has been associated with lower rates of heart disease. However, alcohol use has also been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. The secrets of the Blue Zones suggest that moderation and consistency are key. In Sardinia, for example, it’s common to drink a glass of dark red wine with each meal and whenever friends get together. In Okinawa, sake is drunk daily with friends.

Having a glass of wine with a meal helps make it easier to relax and eat more slowly. It lends an atmosphere of seriousness, refinement and luxury, all of which can help counter the tendency to eat mindlessly. For instance, if you open a bottle of wine, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll enjoy it while eating in front of the television.

When consumed with food and in moderation, wine can enhance your health. Aside from containing fewer calories than most alcoholic rinks, fine wine is full of nutrients and recognized to thin the blood and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Red wine offers additional benefits as it contains artery-scrubbing polyphenols that can possibly help fight arteriosclerosis. However, when daily consumption exceeds a glass or two, the risks and toxic effects of drinking alcohol outweigh any health benefits. Again, moderation is key.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

Tips and strategies of introducing a glass of wine into a daily routine
Buy high-quality red wine
The Sardinians drink Cannonau in their Blue Zone, but any dark red wine should do.

Keep it simple
Wine can be a perfect accompaniment to a meal. It can be considered a gift to be enjoyed, not abused. Drink it with friends, family and always with food.

Moderation
To reiterate, a glass or two of red wine per day is the most you need to take advantage of its health benefits. Overdoing it negates the health benefits. Drink in moderation.

Next post: Lesson number five from centenarians in the Blue Zone, won’t you join me?

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

We enjoy soba noodles quite a bit in my home. They’re easy to cook and even seasoned simply with just a little sesame oil and tamari, they’re delicious. I normally cook them in warm summer months as soba noodles taste great cold. But in the winter, they’re really nice to have in a hot spicy broth. Since my husband and son don’t eat spicy food, I often make the soup flavorful, but not spicy. So I can enjoy the spiciness, I later add a dollop of chili paste or hot sauce to my serving bowl. If you like spicy, feel free to add pepper, in any form, to your soup.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

Serves 6
10 ounces dry soba noodles
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion (I used half red and half white), chopped
1 head of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground pepper
1, 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup tamari
1 small head of red cabbage, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons white miso paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 bunch of baby spinach
avocados (optional)
steamed broccoli, optional
chili garlic sauce (optional)
cilantro leaves, for garnish
sesame seeds (I used black and white), for garnish
Roasted seaweed, for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add garlic, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, stir and cook another mite or so. Add broth, soy sauce, and cabbage. Bring to a boil, then simmer until cabbage has slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add soba noodles and cook until tender, but still al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse well and set aside.

Turn off the heat from the soup pot. Remove some broth (about 1/2 cup) and transfer it to a small bowl. Mix in the miso paste and stir until dissolved. Add miso liquid to the soup pot. Taste and adjust for salt. Add rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference, adding more salt, tamari or vinegar, if preferred.

Put a serving of noodles and some spinach leaves in a bowl, ladle hot soup on top. Top with avocados, broccoli, and chili sauce, if using. Garnish with cilantro, sesame seeds and seaweed, if using. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.

Notes: Although soba noodles are made of buckwheat, which is free of gluten, many soba noodles are made with a combination of wheat and buckwheat. If you prefer to eat gluten free soba noodles, be sure to look for soba noodles that clearly indicate they are gluten free.

Here are some more photos of the soup with avocados and roasted seaweed on top:
Soba Noodle Soup BowlSoba Noodle Soup Bowl

Kale and Grapefruit Salad with Quinoa and Hazelnuts

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The basic question of what to eat has gotten complicated. There are so many different diets—vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, pescatarian, fructarian, flexitarian, and the list goes on—that claim to be the healthier diet. What is a person to believe? What does a “healthy” diet look like? I like the way Michael Pollan, author and journalist, says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

The practice of eating mostly plants is a key lesson from centenarians living in Blue Zones, five unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also a better quality of life.

In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones. The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Kale and Grapefruit Salad with Quinoa and Hazelnuts

Lesson Three: The Plant Slant
Most Blue Zone centenarians never had the chance to develop the habit of eating processed or junk foods. Traditionally, many ate what they produced in their gardens and supplemented with staples like durum wheat, maize and sweet potato. They avoided meat, or more accurately, didn’t have access to eat except on rare occasions.

Studies of thousands of vegetarians have found that those who restrict meat are associated with living longer. However, that is not to say that all vegetarians are equal. There are many vegetarians who take in more cholesterol through dairy (cheese, milk, etc.) and other processed foods than some non-vegetarians who eat meat at modest levels. I personally experienced this many years ago.

I’ve been a vegetarian most of my adult life. As a child, I just never liked meat or fish very much, so when I became an adult I just removed it from my diet. Many years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was surprised to find out that I had slightly high cholesterol. How could this be? I asked my doctor, I’m a vegetarian! I was shocked; and, so began my education to eating wiser and making healthier food choices.

Finding out my cholesterol was higher than I would have liked shook me up a bit. Like inspector Renault’s famous line in Casablanca, I decided to “round up the usual suspects” and identified the “offenders” in my diet. Although I was not eating meat, I was eating a lot of cheese, ice cream, milk shakes, junky chocolate, processed foods and french fries. Hardly any greens or fresh fruit were passing my lips. I analyzed what I could remove from my diet, or at least eat less of, and did some reading to find out what I needed to include to bring more balance to my diet. I immediately increased my intake of a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and legumes, got rid of many of the “offenders” and started moving (exercising) more. By my next doctor’s visit, I was happy to find my cholesterol levels were great!

The key to eating well is not just to eat less meat, but also to find a healthy balance—consume what your body needs and avoid the extremes. Although not all Blue Zone centenarians are vegetarians, they consume limited quantities of meat. Beans (legumes), whole grains, and garden vegetables make up the bulk of all longevity diets.

Also, studies indicate that nuts, eaten in balance and moderation, may help protect the heart by reducing total blood cholesterol. Studies also showed that persons eating nuts at least five times a week, in two-ounce servings, lived on average about two years longer than those who didn’t eat nuts. However note, a one ounce serving of nuts typically ranges from 165-200 calories, so two ounces could easily be almost 400 calories. Think carefully of portion size if you have concerns about weight.

At home, we add organic nuts to our oatmeal/breakfast porridge every morning. I don’t always eat as many fruits and vegetables as I should everyday, but thinking about the upcoming Health Challenge and reviewing the lessons from the Blue Zones have been a gentle reminder for me to try harder.

So far, I’m raising my son as a vegetarian. When he is older he can later decide if he wants to add meat to his diet. For now, I’m happy to train his taste buds to love and appreciate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes from an early age. Fortunately, he likes a variety of healthy foods. I can’t help but smile every time he picks up his vegetables and puts them in his mouth with his little pudgy fingers and says, “I like it!” I hope his early love of plant foods remains with him throughout a long, healthy and happy life.

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Tips and strategies to incorporate more plants in your diet
Eat four to six vegetable servings daily
Blue Zone diets always include at least two vegetables at each meal.

Limit meat intake
Try to limit meat intake to twice per week.

Lead with beans
Make beans and legumes the centerpiece of lunches and dinners.

Eat nuts everyday
Although all nuts are considered good, the best nuts for longevity seem to be almonds, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, and some pine nuts. Others such as Brazil nuts, cashews, and macadamias are less desirable as they have a little more saturated fat. Toss nuts in salads, pasta or yogurt. A small handful of unsalted raw nuts can make a nice snack, but as nuts are a high-calorie and high-fat food, practice eating them in moderation.

Next post: Lesson number four from the Blue Zones, won’t you join me?

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I love citrus salads; I find them so refreshing. Here, the addition of quinoa and toasted hazelnuts adds a boost of protein and a satisfying crunch.

Kale and Grapefruit Salad with Quinoa and Hazelnuts
Serves 4

1/4 cup quinoa (I used a mix of white, red and black), rinsed and drained
1 bunch (about 5-6 ounces) kale, chopped thinly into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin Olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup or other preferred sweetener
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
3 Ruby Red grapefruits
4 oranges (I used Blood and Navel)
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped coarsely

Add quinoa to a saucepan of about 1 cup of boiling water. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and place in a bowl or spread onto a baking sheet to allow to cool.

In a large bowl whisk to gather the olive oil, vinegar and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped kale and using your fingers, massage the leaves until they are well coated. Allow leaves to absorb dressing and soften.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the grapefruits and oranges. Cut in between the membranes of the grapefruits to release the sections; discard the membranes. Cut the oranges into thin rounds. Set the grapefruits sections and orange slices aside.

Add quinoa to the bowl of kale and toss. Gently add grapefruits, oranges and hazelnuts and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and serve.

Supergrains Porridge

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In the mornings, how long do you wait before you eat breakfast? Do you eat breakfast? When pressed for time or just not feeling hungry enough to eat, please don’t make the mistake of skipping breakfast, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, avoid weight gain, or trying to eat for optimal energy. Eating breakfast not only provides the fuel to start your bodily engine, but also can help improve mood and cognition. Nutritionists tell us that a good way to break the fast and gain high energy in the mornings is to eat 1-2 servings of fruit with high-fiber foods, including oatmeal, whole grain bread or high-fiber cereal. Adding a low-fat source of protein will give your breakfast added staying power and help level out blood sugar levels. And no, my friend, your almond croissant and Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte from Starbucks won’t do.

Supergrain Porridge

The ideal time for breakfast is within an hour of waking. You can start the clock once you get out of bed, not the first time you hit that snooze button! However, the sooner you feed your body, the better. When you don’t have something to eat within the first hours of daily activity, you’re much more likely to over eat later in the day. This brings us to lesson number two (Hara Hachi Bu) of nine from the Blue Zones, five unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also a better quality of life.

In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones. The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Supergrain Breakfast Porridge

Lesson Two: Hara Hachi Bu
As children, many of us were taught to clean our plate before leaving the table at mealtime. The reward for doing so was dessert or simply the ability to leave the table. I was a picky eater as a child, so I never did like this rule as the amount on my plate was often determined by someone other than me.

I try not to follow this practice with my son. I don’t believe that style of eating has anything to do with what his body needs, how full he is, or how he would feel if he took one more bite. Instead, I want him to learn from an early age the practice of listening to his body and following its cues when it comes to food.

One practice of eating we can learn from Japanese centenarians in Okinawa, a Blue Zone, is hara hachi bu. This old adage means to eat until you’re 80 percent full. Most of us have no idea what 80 percent full feels like since we often eat until we’re 100 percent (or more) full. Okinawans centenarians say hara hachi bu before every meal to remind them to eat moderate amounts of food.

Cereal/Porridge Breakfast toppingsWhile most Americans eat until their stomachs feel full, Okinawans stop as soon as they no longer feel hungry—an exercise in mindful eating. As Okinawans instinctively know, the amount of food we eat is less a function of hunger and more a matter of our environment, that is, what’s around us. Overeating is often due to not eating healthy balanced meals at appropriate times and is also made convenient due to circumstances—friends, family, smells, emotions, holidays, occasions, distractions, containers, cupboards…the list goes on and before we know it, we’ve eaten a whole bag of chips! Mindless eating. Yes, sadly I’ve been there….

As the secret to eating right for the long run is emulating the environment and practices of the world’s longest-lived people, my husband and I now practice hara hachi bu. It serves as our reminder to stop eating when we no longer feel hungry and believe to be 80 percent full. Of course it helps to eat healthy food as well, but simply learning to eat until you are 80 percent full can do wonders for your health and well-being!

Supergrains Porridge

Tips and strategies to help you follow the 80 percent rule
Serve and store
People who serve themselves at the counter, then put the food away before taking their plate to the table, eat about 14 percent less than when they take smaller amounts and go back for seconds and thirds. Learn to recognize wen you have enough on your plate to fill your stomach 80 percent.

Use small vessels
Retire your oversized dinner plates and big glasses. Instead, buy smaller plates and tall, narrow glasses. The size of our plates and glasses are said to have a profound impact on the amount we consume. With smaller plates, you’re likely to eat significantly less without even thinking about it. You might notice that antique china plates are much smaller than dinner plates often made today. Be cognizant of the size of your plate.

Make snacking a hassle
Avoid tempting foods. Don’t stock the offenders. Some foods we eat automatically in whatever quantity we have on hand. If you can’t be content with just a handful of nuts, don’t keep them around you! Wrap tempting leftovers in an opaque container.

Eat more slowly
Eating faster usually results in eating more. Slow down and allow time to sense and react to cues telling us we’re no longer hungry.

Focus on food
Do not watch T.V., read the newspaper, send emails or surf the internet on your computer, iPad or any other electronic device while you are eating. If you’re going to eat, just eat. Think only about what you are eating, smelling and savor every bite. Practice putting down your utensils between every few bites, describing to yourself the flavors and textures in your mouth.

Have a seat
Many of us eat on the run, in the car, while walking or while standing in front of the refrigerator or kitchen sink. This often means we don’t notice what we are eating or how fast we are eating it. Make a habit of eating only while sitting down—eating purposefully. This helps to better appreciate the tastes and textures of our food and we’ll eat more slowly and feel more nourished after a meal.

Eat early
All Blue Zone residents eat their smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or early evening. Their biggest meal of the day is typically eaten during the first half of the day.

Next post: Lesson three from the Blue Zones, won’t you join me?

High Antioxidant Blend: raisins, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, goji berries, cranberries, mulberries

High Antioxidant Blend: raisins, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, goji berries, cranberries, mulberries

I make oatmeal or some form of a supergrains porridge for my family every morning for breakfast. My son loves it, often wanting to eat it several times during the day. The recipe here is gluten-free. If you have issues with eating gluten, be sure to use gluten free steel-cut oats and rolled oats. As steel-cut oats require more time to cook than regular oats, if you start with unsoaked steel-cut oats, it will take about 35 minutes to cook them thoroughly. Cooking time can be lowered to less than 10 minutes if you soak oats overnight. As quinoa is added into the mix, it is important to rinse your grains before cooking, if you will not be soaking overnight. Also, amaranth (a pseudo-grain, like quinoa), a supergrain used here, is packed with vitamins and minerals and is great for making porridge because it turns slightly sticky when cooked in liquid.

I added a large variety of toppings in the photos here. Feel free to add as little or as much, in whatever combinations, that suit your preferences. For my two-year-old son, I often add ground walnuts or nut butters to his porridge for added protein.

Supergrain PorridgeSupergrains Porridge
Serves 2

2-3 cups plant milk, plus more to serve (I use hemp)
1/2 cup Supergrains Cereal Blend (see recipe below), rinsed and drained (soaking overnight is optional)
1-2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
pinch of nutmeg
1/3 cup fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds
maple syrup (or honey, if preferred)

Combine 2 cups of milk, supergrains and chia seeds in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and simmer, stirring occasionally until milk is absorbed and oats are cooked thoroughly, about 35 minutes (about 10 minutes if grains were soaked overnight). If necessary, add milk as it cooks to achieve desired consistency. The porridge should be thick and creamy, and the grains tender.

Serve the porridge topped with a combination of your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried and fresh fruits. Some options include dried raisins, apricots, currants, dates, cranberries, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and sunflower, flax, sesame and pumpkin seeds, etc. Drizzle with more milk, if you like, maple syrup or honey.

Supergrains Cereal Blend
(makes about 40, 1/4 cup servings)

2 cups/175 grams raw steel-cut oats (gluten-free if preferred)
2 cups/160 grams rolled oats (gluten-free if preferred)
1 cups buckwheat/170 grams
1 cup quinoa/170 grams (quinoa flakes are fine too)
1 cup/190 grams amaranth
1/2 cup millet

Place all ingredients in a container with an airtight seal. Stir until combined. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place.

Notes: If you soak your grains overnight, you can start cooking them with a little less milk (1 1/2 cups). If you don’t have issues with gluten, some other grains I sometimes use in my blend are oat brain, and wheat, barley and kamut flakes.

Sometimes, I grind a combination of pumpkin, sesame, flax and sunflower seeds—in equal portions—before adding it to my porridge.

If you would prefer to cook your dried fruit with your porridge, feel free to do so. Make this super healthy breakfast porridge your own so it really works for you!

Supergrain Breakfast Porridge

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