5 Tips for Falling into Autumn… Gracefully

It’s officially fall, which means it’s time to take a look back at summer, embrace the memories, and then embrace the present – chilly nights, sweaters, root vegetables, and all. As much as I love summer’s hot nights, muggy days, and piercing sun, there’s something about fall’s crisp air that reinvigorates you after the lazy, hazy days of summer. The sun is still warm on your skin, but the autumn breeze keeps you moving instead of napping (which I didn’t get to do enough of this summer).

fallNo matter if you’re looking forward to the coming season or looking back upon summer with regret, it’s time to bring your focus into the present. Feel the transition from one season to the next and enjoy it in all its glory. Watch as the trees slowly turn from bright green to firey reds, deep oranges, and bright yellows. Enjoy the vegetables of the season including some of my favorites such as butternut squash and pumpkin. And of course, enjoy those days where shorts and flip-flops are still permissible, with a light sweater of course.

To get your fall started off on the right foot, let’s focus on the present moment right now. Here are a few tips that will keep your body and mind steady as the days get cooler.

1. Practice yogaEven if you can’t get to class everyday, try practicing for at least 10 minutes. Whether it’s just on the floor in between your favorite fall shows or in the kitchen while you’re cooking up my Knock Your Socks Off Flavorful Fall Soup with butternut squash – just practice! In Ayurveda belief, autumn is associated with the lungs and large intestines. Incorporating twists, side stretches, backbends, strong grounding poses like the warrior series, and sun salutations to warm up the body will help keep you at the top of your game no matter what Mother Earth throws your way weather wise.

fall2. Get moving: Since I’m asking you to incorporate yoga into your routine, it’s also a great time to mention that adding in some more exercise will also help regulate and rejuvenate you. Try hiking in the woods for an up close view of the fall foliage, take the dogs for a walk, or take a bike ride along the coast. Cooler temperatures are the perfect excuse to get outside and move!

3. Ground Down: Now that I’ve got you moving, I also would love for you to settle down and embrace the stillness with mediation. As the leaves start to fall, the wind starts to blow and the temperatures change, there’s a lot of moving and shifting going on in the universe, which gives you the chance to embrace the stillness inside. Sitting for just 5-10 minutes daily has been shown to increase the grey matter in your brain if done consistently. By bringing your awareness to your inner self, your inner stillness will help you feel calm and relaxed, even if the world feels hectic.

“The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

4. Enjoy your roots: Eat grounding root vegetables, warm soups, raw vegetables, and apples to help your digestive system and to help you continue to ground. As we move from the light and airy foods of summer, which have helped us stay cool during those hot summer months, we can now transition to foods that will help us stay warm, ground down, and embrace the fall season. Try using spaghetti squash in place of your normal pastas while incorporating other root vegetables including beets, brussel sprouts, and leafy vegetables.

fall5. Take some hints from Mother Nature: Finally, and most importantly, embrace the change of the seasons. Watch as Mother Nature moves from one minute to the next. She’s always evolving, always changing, so her natural flow as a reminder for how you travel through life. So often times we get stuck in our ways and then when we’re forced out of them (after denying several hints from the universe) we lose our stability and really, ourselves. I’m not an expert, but one thing that I continually try to remember (and it’s hard… believe me) is that the only thing that is static is constant change. So this fall, try to change as gracefully as Mother Earth has been doing for millions of years.

The final, final note for you… enjoy a hot apple fritter with warm apple cider. No, it’s not the healthiest thing for your body, but it’s embracing the seasons in one delicious bite!

What are you tips for transitioning from summer to fall? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time, “bee well,”
Melissa

 

Top 5 Ways to Make Nutella a Part of a Healthy Breakfast – Just for Chrissy Teigen

Nutella The other day while watching one of my favorite daytime TV shows on DVR (The Chew!), one of my other favorite foodie celebs, Chrissy Teigen, happened to be on the show, talking about her love of food. Clinton Kelly then brought up some controversy that she had started with “Italian Hazelnut Spread” lovers. Teigen, in her very nonchalant way said that people need to just admit that they’re eating fudge for breakfast. No big deal, just admit it.

In honor of Chrissy Teigen’s comment, I thought of the top five ways Nutella could actually be considered worthy of a “healthy breakfast.” Because really, I’d do anything to have Nutella for breakfast everyday if it was actually healthy… and not like eating fudge at 8:00am on a Tuesday.

(Warning: This post is for those that have a sense of humor and know that a balanced diet equals a balanced life.)

Top 5 Ways to Make Nutella a Part of a Healthy Breakfast – Just for Chrissy

  1. Nutella – Banana – Whole Wheat Toast – Flax Seeds : This lovely combination just highlights the hazelnut spread and glosses over its nutritional downfalls by adding lots of fiber thanks to the banana and whole wheat toast. Top with those brain saving omega-3s from the flax seeds and it’s a win-win.With this combination, no one will even notice that you put a little fudge, I mean Nutella, on your morning breakfast.
  2. Nutella Smoothie: When you blend up ingredients like fruits, some greens, hemp protein, cholera, and maybe even some tofu, no one will have any idea that you actually loaded up on the Nutella by 2:1. Just make sure the smoothie is green (you’ll look like you’re on your A game walking into work), but remember, don’t let anyone smell it because you’ll be quickly outed and then the jig will be up!
  3.  Nutella – Peanut Butter – Berries – English Muffin: This might be my favorite, especially if you’re going strong that morning with a long run. A slight variation on #1, but with a little more oomph on the nutritional front. Spread the Nutella on the bottom of the english muffin, top it with a bunch of peanut butter, than lots of berries, and no one will have any idea that you’re fiber rich breakfast actually packs a big sugary punch.
  4. Nutella – Oatmeal – Almonds – Pumpkin: This fall favorite will be your trick or treat all year long. Make a nice bowl of steel cut oats, sneakily add in a tablespoon of Nutella, then top with almonds and pumpkin puree. The key is to mix in the Nutella and not layer it on top, we’re trying to look healthy here!
  5. Scrambled Eggs – Avocado – Salsa – Nutella: No, not all together! When you wake up, take a spoonful of Nutella – no additions necessary – ingest. Then make your eggs, avocado and salsa and there you have it – a healthy breakfast that’s worth every single hazelnut calorie. (Just don’t let anyone see you spoon the Nutella right out of the jar… that’s definitely not healthy, but remember no one can judge if no one sees you!)

nutellaAs for me, I do love Nutella, but I tend to not eat it for breakfast. I will have it occassionally if I happen to go out for breakfast and that Nutella French Toast dish is just calling my name. It may be fudge, but it’s Italian fudge and they’ve been eating it since the 1940s… it can’t be that bad right?

My tip, just eat in moderation. And just admit to yourself, yes it is chocolate, but adding a bit to your morning breakfast in lieu of that chocolate hazelnut latte will most likely save you a few calories. Everything in moderation, right Chrissy?

Upgrade Your Taco Night With My Swiss Chard Tacos

Taco night. It can be a serious calorie buster that can give you a hangover the next morning without even drinking a margarita! However, I love taco night (and I’m assuming that most of you do too because you happen to be my kind of foodies). So, what to do? Continue to make tacos with beef, “taco seasoning,” fried tortillas, refried beans, and all the fixings to just deal with the fried food and salt hangover the next day OR make taco night delicious and satisfying so that you can wake up the next day with pep in your step. Yea… I went with the second option.

So, here we are. Now, I know this may not be a traditional taco, but hey, it’s delicious and believe me I’m totally into that juicy beef taco once in a while. But sometimes, I really just want the rice, beans, lots of veggies, and a tortilla. I mean, is that so bad?

No, it’s not. At least in my opinion. So what am I making here? How about a rice, bean, avocado, and swiss chard taco? Oh yea! I made this for the first time after visiting my local farmer’s market in late August. If it happens to be late fall when you’re putting this together why not try some butternut squash or take some fresh asparagus and beans in the spring. In the winter, just use up your leftover produce – I promise it’s so good.

Oh and because no taco night is complete without a margarita, stay tuned in the next couple of days for my husband’s margarita recipe. It’s fresh, easy, and will take you to that Mexican mindset no matter where you are in the world.

vegetarian tacosPep in Your Step Swiss Chard Tacos

1 can black beans, rinsed – half smashed
1 cup rice (I used Basmati just because I happened to have it on hand)
1 ripe avocado
1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 jalapeno (take the seeds and stems out if you want to dial down the heat)
3 Husks of Corn, corn kernels removed
1 red onion
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Aji Amarillo pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 handful cilantro
1 lime, zest and juice
1 lime, juice
Corn tortillas
Olive Oil
1 ½ cups vegetable broth and/or water

First make the rice. In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the Aji Amarillo pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Add the rice and let toast until you can smell the spices opening up. Add 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth or a combination of broth and water. Cook according to package directions (usually about 30 minutes).

In a separate bowl, toss the halved grape tomatoes, half of the cilantro, juice and zest of one lime, salt and pepper to taste, and half the jalapeno in a bowl. Reserve.

In a pan over low to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil with the chopped red onion. Let cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Crank up the heat to medium and add the stems of the swiss chard, reserving the leaves, the corn, and the other half of the jalapeno. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper. Let cook for 5 minutes then add the leaves. Stir until wilted and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

In another pan over medium heat, combine half of the can of black beans with 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Mash the beans and then at the end add the rest of the can. (I added additional cumin and cayenne pepper here, but just a teaspoon for additional kick – totally optional!) Take off heat after 5-10 minutes (until a little brown and warmed up).

Over a low flame (if you have gas – if you have electric put in a skillet), add the corn tortillas. Cook about a minute on each side (just be careful you don’t burn them! It’s super easy to do!)

Now it’s time to make the taco! Take the corn tortilla, add a tablespoon of rice, beans, and two tablespoons of the swiss chard mixture. Top with the salsa and some piece of the avocado. Squirt some lime juice over top and there you go! A vegetarian and healthy taco night that will stand up to a beef taco any day!

My mouth is watering just writing this…

Not Your “Plain Jane” Veggie Burger (It’s Gluten Free Too!)

veggie burgerI’m not a vegetarian, nor am I a vegan, however I try not to consume meat unless I’m craving it. However, sometimes I just want a hamburger – no meat included. And to be honest, it’s a little difficult to get that meaty texture that’s packed with vegetables instead of those soy based substitutes because seriously, trading meat for GMO soy might not be the best thing in the world for you.

veggie burgerAfter bowing to my craving of a meat hamburger, I still felt a little unsatisfied. As I continue to grow, my love of animals also grows and it’s getting harder and harder to eat meat. So maybe that was it. But, I’m not bashing omnivores or vegetarians – basically what I’m doing is saying that sometimes you just want the meat, surrounded by a potato bun (an absolute must), without having to feel bad about it. It’s not soy based… it’s not meat based… it’s just plain awesome.

Actually, it’s not really plain at all! What’s not plain you ask? My Plain Jane Burger that hits all of the notes you’re looking for in a burger – taste, texture, and quality. My husband, a big omnivore (he loves both meat and vegetables) told me it was the best veggie burger he’s had. “It’s really good, Melissa!” (His reactions have become interesting as I cook almost every night and sometimes receive no comment at all… so I cling onto these comments when they come!)

My secret ingredient? Maybe the millet? It’s an underused grain that I discovered a few years back. Made the wrong way, it becomes a little mushy, but made the right way, it’s perfection. Similar to quinoa, but reminiscent of whole grain wheat varieties. Packed with B-complex vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. And guess what, just like quinoa, they’re gluten-free.

So, with some key pantry ingredients, an unused grain, and lots of flavor, I introduce to you my version of the vegetarian burger and it’s pretty damn good (if I don’t say so myself).

Plain Jane Burger
Makes 6 Burgers

1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup millet (cooked)
2 ½ cups water or vegetable broth (I like using a 50/50 mixture)
1 egg
¼ cup bread crumbs (you can use panko or gluten free)
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup corn kernels
Choice of cheese (I used Iberico)
¼ cup mayo
1 tablespoon Harissa paste
1 cup chopped and massaged kale
6 potato buns
Salt and pepper to taste

veggie burgerIn a medium pot, combine the millet with the water or broth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the millet is fluffy, around 12 -15 minutes. Drain the millet in a strainer and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, take half of the black beans and blend in a food processor. Combine with other half of beans in a large bowl. Cook the onions until translucent and the garlic until fragrant.

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Form six patties and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow them to set.

Once set, heat a skillet to medium low. Add olive oil and cook each burger 7 minutes on one side, then flip over, top with cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another 7 minutes.

Mix the mayo with the Harissa paste, smear onto both sides of the potato bun, add the burger, top with the kale, and then be prepared for a little bite of food heaven.