Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Healing Foods: Quinoa, Spinach, and Red Cabbage Salad

This is my go-to weekday lunch. I prepare it in the morning while my instant oatmeal is steeping; it takes about 8 minutes to put together. The recipe is flexible--you can change out the spinach for arugula or other dark greens, and the pepper and cabbage for other raw veggies you like. The quinoa adds protein, makes the salad more filling, gives me energy to get through the afternoon, and is incredibly delicious with the raw veggies. The red cabbage gives it a wonderful crunch, and the yellow pepper adds a touch of sweetness that plays off the bitter greens nicely.

I make a pot of quinoa (1 cup quinoa + 2 cups water, no salt or oil) store it in the fridge, and then use it all week in this salad.

QUINOA, SPINACH, & RED CABBAGE SALAD

(Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-free. 1 serving for me - adjust all amounts for what you need!)

1/2 cup cooked plain quinoa
1 TBS sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 cup shredded red cabbage (the thinner you can slice it, the better!)
Sea salt or Himalayan salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 TBS flaxseed oil (or olive oil, but I honestly think flaxseed oil tastes better!)
1 TBS fresh squeezed lemon
1 - 2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Layer quinoa, green onion, yellow pepper, and red cabbage in bowl or lunch container. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the veggies, then drizzle oil and lemon over the top. Drag a fork or spoon gently through the top layer just to lightly distribute the seasonings (that's what I do, but you can stir it all up together if you want.) Chop and lay the spinach or arugula over the top of that, then close the lid. (In Colorado, I don't have to refrigerate this salad before lunch. It sits in my work bag all morning until I eat it. If you live in a hotter, more humid climate, you might need to refrigerate it to keep the greens from wilting too much.)

At lunch time, open the lid, mix it all together, and enjoy. You can eat the salad immediately after preparing it, but to me it tastes way better after it's had time to sit for a few hours and come to room temperature.)

If you find that the salad isn't filling enough with only 1/2 cup quinoa, try a full cup or more. As I said, this recipe is very flexible! You can pretty much eat as much of this salad as you want without worrying about it dragging you down in the afternoon or making you gain weight, so feel free to double the portions.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

5 Steps to De-Stress and Re-Energize After a Long Day at Work

I'll be honest. I used to have a nightly glass of wine to unwind after work, and besides the fact that it sapped every bit of motivation I had to do much of anything else, every morning I needed a jolt of caffeine (or two) to wake up and face another day. Little areas of my health started declining, and I found it harder and harder to keep my weight under control and my body fit.

So I developed a healthier after-work routine, and no matter how exhausted I am or how tense my back muscles are, if I follow all 5 steps, it's a no-fail route to feeling relaxed yet alert and ready to enjoy the rest of my evening.

STEP 1: Re-fuel (15-20 minutes.)


Put your briefcase or bag down, and right there in your work clothes, go to the kitchen first thing. Just go. Either juice veggies (here's my current favorite combo, or you can just do carrots alone if you're in a hurry) or make a healthy smoothie. Healthy smoothie = no refined sugars and no chemicals by my definition. I like frozen fruit, a little almond or coconut milk, monkfruit sweetener or stevia, spinach, a little spirulina, chia seed, and sometimes cinnamon and vanilla.

STEP 2: Decompress (15-20 minutes.)


I often arrive home with tension in my back muscles, and a 15-minute soak in a hot bath always works magic on it. I add Epsom salts sometimes, and a scented shower gel for some aromatherapy. I also sometimes dry-brush before getting in the tub.

I also drink a full bottle of water while I soak to re-hydrate and flush my system. (I admit, I do also check social media on my phone while I soak, because I have a hard time sitting still and I love to multi-task whenever possible.)

I live in the mountains in Colorado, so a hot bath is a welcome warm-up in our cooler temperatures. If you live somewhere more humid and hot, you might just do a quick hot shower to get that tension out and reset your system for the evening. If you're not too hot, close the bathroom door and let it steam up for your own little home sauna. Or, if you're lucky enough to have a real sauna, do that first and then hop in the shower. (If I ever get rich selling novels, a home sauna is definitely on the wish list.)

Question: "But Jayla, if you soak in a bath every day after work, do you shower again in the morning?"

Answer #1: No, because I am female and I don't sweat a lot. So this bath saves me time in the morning as well.

Answer #2: Yes, if I need to wash my hair.

STEP 3: Make Yourself Comfortable (2 minutes.)


Put on loose, soft, comfortable clothing. Pajama pants are totally allowed. I usually put on yoga wear, stretchy leggings and a loose, soft t-shirt.

STEP 4: Essential Oil Treatment (2 minutes.)


Get some essential oils that you like at the health food store. Look for blends that say things like "Relaxing" or "Energizing," plus a Peppermint to open your sinuses up and get you breathing better. Rub 1 drop on the sole of each foot, covering as much sole-surface as you can. Use the peppermint oil last, after the other oils. Then, rub your hands together and inhale deeply a few times. Trust me, you will love this.

I explained my favorite after-work essential oils combo in this post.

STEP 5: Stretch and Breathe (10-15 minutes.)


I have a 15-minute yoga routine that I do, one that involves alternate nostril breathing to open up my airways as well as reset my mind/emotions. If you're new to yoga and want to try it, look it up on Youtube and you should be able to find plenty of videos to choose from in the 10 - 15 minute time range.

If you're not into yoga, just do some relaxing stretches and deep breathing, and again, you can probably find videos to follow on Youtube if you need ideas.


And that's it! (Total time investment: 45 minutes - 1 hour.)

By now, you should be reasonably relaxed, have a bit more energy than you did when you first got home, and be ready to tackle the rest of your evening (making dinner, cleaning up, etc.) You should also sleep better when you go to bed later.

I know that an hour commitment after work may seem like a lot, but if you're honest with yourself, you probably fritter it away more often than not, on social media, zoning out, drinking that beer or glass of wine, opening mail, etc. If you invest a little time in your physical and mental health instead, I promise you, it will pay off big time.






Thursday, April 21, 2016

Healing Foods: Carrot, Beet, Parsley & Ginger Juice

If you really want to rev up your metabolism, energy level, and daily detoxification, get a juicer and start juicing fresh vegetables. Your digestive system, hair, skin, and nails will thank you. Heck, every system and cell in your body will thank you.

If vegetable juice sounds gross to you, I'd be willing to bet it's because you've never tried freshly juiced versions of it. Carrot and beet juices are incredibly sweet and delicious; I promise you, you won't feel you're torturing yourself to get it down. In this version, the parsley tones down the sweetness of the carrot and beet, giving the juice a wonderful green/herbal note, and the ginger gives you a spicy burn in the throat that you'll love.

Juicing fresh veggies allows the vitamins and minerals--the real nutrition--to digest and assimilate into your system in a matter of minutes, with minimal effort or exertion on the part of your digestive system. That's why you'll notice a subtle "lift" in energy right after you drink a glass of fresh veggie juice.

Carrot juice and beet juice are a wonderful source of potassium, phosphorous, sulfur, and other alkaline elements, abundant Vitamin A, and vitamins B, C, D, E, and K. They are natural builders of the blood cells. Parsley juice helps maintain the normal action of the adrenal and thyroid glands as well as strengthening blood vessels, and is good for kidneys and bladder. Ginger juice has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties, and is good for sinuses and digestion. All of these veggies are excellent cleansers, and they will make you more regular.

I use an old-school Champion Juicer that I've owned for 15 years. They sell on Champion's website for $265. If you're just starting out and that's way out of your budget, you can get less powerful juicers at Walmart in the $60 - $80 price range. Just be sure to get one that separates the pulp from the juice, or else you'll be drinking fiber with the juice which makes it slower to absorb. (What you want here is for the nutrition in the juice to absorb as quickly as possible, with all its living enzymes intact.)

CARROT, BEET, PARSLEY, AND GINGER JUICE
(Vegan, Raw, Gluten-free, and Sugar-Free other than the naturally occurring sugars in the veggies)

4-5 medium to large carrots
1/2 small to medium beet
1 - 1.5 cup parsley leaves
1x1 inch piece of peeled ginger root

Wash or peel carrots and trim tops and bottoms. Cut thick/big carrots in half. Peel the beet and cut into one or two pieces. Coarsely chop the parsley, leaving it somewhat large but no long stems (they can get caught in the juicer parts and bog it down.)

I always start with 1 carrot piece, then a small handful of the parsley, then a piece of beet, more parsley, a piece of ginger, more parsley, piece of beet, parsley, more ginger, finish off the parsley, then juice the rest of the carrots. Parsley gets stuck in the machine if you don't chase each bit down with the harder veggies. Finishing off with the carrots pushes everything else through all the way.

Strain if desired (you'll probably have a foamy "head" on your juice if you don't--no biggie if that's okay with you) and drink immediately.

Clean the juicer parts immediately unless you enjoy scrubbing a lot.

And enjoy your healthy life!






Monday, April 18, 2016

Healing Foods: Easy Spinach Salad With Dulse, Garlic, and Lemon

I try to eat as much raw veggies as I can each day, and have become a huge fan of dark leafy greens in the past year, to the point that I really crave them. It's a happy place to be, because I feel great when I eat my greens, and you will too.

The huge serving of raw spinach in this salad is is high in fiber and protein, as well as niacin and zinc, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Another key ingredient here is dulse, a sea vegetable that you can find in health food stores, or order online. It tastes amazing in this salad and is rich in iron, potassium, and other minerals. It is also a source of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids as well as vitamin B-12.

Flaxseed oil is really delicious on this salad, and in my opinion tastes even better than olive oil on it. Flaxseed oil is rich in essential fatty acids and also promotes good digestive health as well as healthy skin, hair, and nails.

I've been addicted to this salad for months now, and I eat a huge bowl of it pretty much every night while I make dinner. It was inspired by a recipe in Healing with Raw Foods by Jenny Ross, which I greatly simplified to make it fast and easy.

This salad takes me about 5 minutes to put together.

SPINACH SALAD WITH DULSE, GARLIC, AND LEMON
(Vegan, Raw, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free)
(This makes 1 serving for me - adjust all amounts as needed)

4-6 cups fresh baby spinach
1 tsp dulse flakes 
1 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 TBS organic flaxseed oil (I like Barlean's.)

Place spinach in large bowl and sprinkle the dulse flakes over the top. Squeeze the lemon over it.

Whisk the minced garlic and the flax oil together in a small bowl and drizzle over the top of the spinach, dulse, and lemon. Toss and serve. Needs no additional salt.

Delicious (but not low fat, and not necessary) additions: chopped walnuts, kalamatas, tahini dressing.

Trust me, dark green looks good on you, baby!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Healing Foods: How to Make Perfect Brown Rice Risotto


I don't know about you, but I love the idea of brown rice. It's a healing grain (rich in fiber, selenium, manganese, and anti-oxidants) that digests well, doesn't pack on the weight or drag down your energy level (like say, a big bowl of pasta does,) and it's the perfect pairing for a bunch of other healing foods like steamed or roasted vegetables.

BUT.

I said I liked the idea of brown rice. Making good brown rice is tricky and time-consuming. My brown rice is usually dry unless I overcook it, actually, and laborious to chew. Also, it's bland, and more salt doesn't always do the trick. Then I just have over-salted, dry brown rice that doesn't do much for the healthy steamed vegetables I was trying to spruce up with a grain. So the reality ends up being...brown rice was "all right" as part of a meal but not amazing.

Until I discovered this method of cooking it. It's vegan, but it turns out so creamy and delicious you'd swear there was cheese in it. It's delicious by itself, and not too dry and bland to be the grain backdrop to a vegetable entree. This has now become one of my weekly staples to keep on hand because it reheats well and goes with everything else I eat.

Here's the recipe. You may need to tweak the water amount for your altitude and type of pan or pot you're using. I'm at about 6,000 feet elevation, and I make it in a wok with a fitted lid.

BASIC BROWN RICE RISOTTO

(Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free)

1 cup short grain brown rice
4 cups water
½ - 1 cup chopped yellow onion
1-2 minced garlic cloves
1 TBS olive oil
1- 2 TBS Chopped or dried parsley
Salt & pepper to taste (I use 1 tsp coarse grey sea salt)

Heat oil in wok or large saucepan. Sauté onions and garlic until onion is translucent and starting to caramelize. Rinse rice, add to pan, and sauté until rice soaks up oil. Add parsley (you can add other herbs here as well, dill, thyme, rosemary, chives, etc. would all be good) and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, lid it, and turn heat down to low. Simmer 50-55 minutes. Rice should be tender to bite at this point (check to be sure,) but there should still be water standing in the pan. If not, add more water 1/2 cup at a time. With the lid off, keep cooking and stirring occasionally until most of the moisture cooks off, or until the risotto is to your desired level of creaminess. Serve with more fresh herbs of your choice. (I like to only put the parsley in my basic risotto, and then I can mix in or garnish with whatever herb fits the meal I’m having. Example: with steamed carrots, dill is good in the risotto and on the carrots.)

You can also use this basic recipe as the base for mushroom risotto, roasted red pepper risotto, vegetable primavera risotto, or just about any risotto variation you like.

To reheat without a microwave (just in case you're an anti-microwave freak like me): cover the bottom of a small saucepan with a thin layer of water, heat over medium heat until it starts to bubble a little, then put your serving of brown rice on top. Lid it and turn down the heat. It will steam up nicely in about 5 minutes. Check and stir to make sure it isn't sticking or burning. (If it is, you have your heat up too high.)



Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to Go on a Healing Vacation


A healing vacation is what I call it when I travel, usually solo, with the main purpose being rest, rejuvenation, healthy lifestyle, and as my budget allows, healing (or pampering) treatments of some kind.

Last summer I discovered a holistic-medicine-oriented chiropractor in Huntington Beach, one who's so good his office is crammed with clients from all over the US and some from overseas. I spent three total weeks there last summer, including two weeks in July on a solo trip, getting back treatments every day. Then, I went back last month for the week of Spring Break. After all those trips, I learned a few things about how to pull off the most amazing healing vacation I could.

First, I recommend choosing a vacation spot where you have access to sun, warmth, and some good healing practitioners, or at least a good massage therapist/spa/gym. If you live in sun, warmth, and humidity all the time, you might enjoy a summer stay in the mountains instead, with drier air and cooler temps. And if you're on a tight budget, take off a few days of work and do a "staycation" at your own place. (There's actually more room for creativity than you think just planning a vacation in your own town.)

Second, pack correctly. Not too much, not too little. A few of my basics: comfortable clothes and shoes, essential oils, my journal, vitamins and supplements, teas, and plain instant oatmeal with the necessary seasonings to make it. (I pack Love Grown Instant Oats and/or Quaker Organic Plain Instant Oatmeal, plus small containers of Lakanto, cinnamon, and salt, and then make it with water heated in the coffee maker. Much lighter and healthier than the complimentary breakfasts served in most hotels.)

Try to plan your arrival time so that you have plenty of time to unpack and get situated at your hotel when you arrive, and plan your departure time so that you have plenty of time to get back to the airport, all checked in and ready to fly home. The idea is to avoid creating stress as much as possible. Have your treatment appointments scheduled in advance and spaced out enough that you won't be rushing around last-minute.

Eat well. By "well" I mean healthy and delicious. I always make sure I have one or two small vegan sugar-free snacks in my bag for the airports/flights coming and going. When I arrive in Huntington Beach, I head for the health food stores right away to scope out the goods and plan some snacks and meals that I'll want during my stay. Mother's Market in HB has an awesome juice bar and deli that I'll be hitting at least once a day, plus a vegetarian/vegan restaurant with absolutely delicious offerings. (I found them and several other amazing vegan places with my "Happy Cow" app on my phone. It will locate any vegetarian, vegan, and/or veg-friendly places near you anywhere you are. Highly recommend!)

Another staple for me in Huntington Beach is the hot food bar and the fresh salad bar at Whole Foods. My usual lunch is a big container of salad greens and raw veggies with a splash of olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon (you need to pack a small knife in your check bag to cut up your lemon, or find lemon wedges you can steal somewhere,) and a little Himalayan salt sprinkled on. I sometimes add a few olives from their olive bar for some decadence.

Side note: I always reserve hotel rooms that have fridges so I can store my deli purchases, leftovers, and probiotics (I buy a very small bottle of probiotics when I arrive, then take as much of it as I can before I leave.)

Plan some daily exercise. When I'm in Huntington Beach, I go in 4 times a day for back treatments. My staple exercise is yoga, between the first and second back treatment, while my oatmeal is soaking in hot water. I sometimes also hit the hotel gym, and if I can fit it in, I'll go walk on the beach a few times during the week. There are also some nice parks to walk in, and there's always the pool at the hotel (although I confess I'm not one for getting my hair wet in pools since I passed the age of 14.)

Journal and reflect. How's life going? What are my next big steps? Am I being authentic to what my real goals in life are? How's my spiritual connection been lately? What changes would I like to make? What am I grateful for? I love pondering all of life's questions, making plans, making lists, thinking about everything and asking myself what areas could use some attention.

Just relax and be. I'm not going to say don't stay connected to the outside world - Lord knows I love my Facebook when I'm on vay-cay with no pressing demands - but I also take time to just relax and soak up the sun, breathe in the fresh air. I've been known to go for an early morning green tea at the Coffee Bean in HB after my first back treatment of the day, and then just sit sipping it in the parking lot in my rental car, leaning my head back against the seat, and watching the morning sun rising up over the palm trees.

The best part about a healing vacation is that when I return home, I feel energized and rested, not worn out from the trip. That's what I call a vacation.


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